I’m currently in the process of getting a nicer prototype ready for Uncon – a new local convention in Kent where I’m going to be teaching games and demoing my own. The last round of public play testing at Geek yielded a lot of useful insights and I’ve spent the last month or so putting these into action. My current goals are:
- to attend Uncon with prototype which looks a lot closer to a finished product, that more people are going to want to play
- to present a version of the game with less “unknowns” in the game design; essentially to have everything nailed down except for perhaps the odd item card’s rules
- to present a version of the game with no copyright-infringing placeholder graphics
A Note on Printing/Fulfilment Sites and Services
I’m currently planning to use Cartamundi’s MakeMyGame.com for this one-off prototype. The range of printable components they offer is a lot narrower than TheGameCrafter or BoardgamesMaker but I was particularly attracted by the company being based in Belgium; cutting down on UK shipping times. They also accept .pdf uploads and the site allows you to easily drag a design around to get it lined up properly.
The other companies mentioned above look like either could be a better option once this gets to the point where I want to produce more than one copy at once, and I would definitely use TheGameCrafter for my one-off prototype prints if I lived in the US.
Out of the 3 I found BoardgamesMaker’s art uploader the least intuitive, but I’ll certainly be revisiting it again soon.
I’ve also ordered some small extras like card stands for standees and wooden discs from bgextras.co.uk.
Replacing the Art
Well, I’m no illustrator, but it turns out a little iOS app simply called “sketches” is pretty great if you want to just dump a photo into it and draw block colours over that. I have no intention of keeping my own character designs for the final version of the game, but for now, the Blue fighter has a rather fetching Fallout-style jumpsuit.
Below is a rough design for the board in MakeMyGame.com’s uploader. Contestant portraits were added at the last minute for some redundancy as colourblind players might have trouble with red/orange or blue/purple. I still want to do something else with the negative space around the contestant portraits and I’m still undecided on the light metallic background or something darker and glossier – but I’ve sworn myself off of tweaking this until every other component has its graphic design ready to go.
That’s the thing I’m really having to repeat as a mantra; with less than 2 weeks to go until I realistically need to push the button on printing this prototype, I can’t afford to waste time to-ing and fro-ing between, say, designing a layout and determining the content/rules for the same item. I spent a lot of time deliberating on the maze layout below before realising I should just go with the simplest option, too.
For that reason, I’m not going to be touching the item decks until the very last minute, when I have graphics ready for everything else.
Scoring and Balance
What are scoring systems for? Part of the role of the scoring in this game is to encourage players to feel like they’re playing the role of the producer of a bloodthirsty cyberpunk gameshow – a person who *may* have taken a backhander from a particular contestant’s sponsor!
The tables below are the output of a model I built in a Google Sheet to simulate different likely outcomes of a 6-player match. 6 is the upper player limit, as it allows every player to have a unique combination of the 2 contestant colours on their “secret wager” tile.
The yellow bars represent the points scored for your secret wager characters coming 4th (0vp) 3rd (5vp) 2nd (10vp) or 1st (20vp). For the most part, a player who manipulates the game so that their fighters come in 1st and 2nd place (i.e. are the lone survivor and the last fighter killed) will come out top on this, scoring 30vp.
However there are also a series of bonuses represented by the red bar. The player responsible for the 1st kill instantly takes a 15vp token, 10vp for 2nd kill and 5vp for 3rd kill. This encourages them to prioritise combat over safety; making the fighters you want out of the match fight during your turn should generally be a higher priority than keeping your own safe.
The purple sections represent VPs rolled on the combat die. To try and bring the game in a more euro direction I recently made it so that the zeroes on the combat die had the “eye” symbol used for audience ratings; so rolling zeroes in combat would give the controlling player points; again incentivising aggression and trying to create a bit of tension around whether to focus on survival or a good show. The current layout of the combat die is simply vp/vp/1/1/1/1 damage, with contestants generally rolling 4 of these custom die, minus 1 die per injured arm. An additional “supercharge” die will be added into the mix by certain upgrades, whose possible results are vp/vp/1/1/x2/x2.
The supercharge die could, therefore, deal 8 (1,1,1,1,x2) damage – that’s 2/3s of a contestant’s available wounds! The important thing to note is that the upgrades which give one of these die will always require a certain condition to be met (e.g. attacking a fighter with more health, attacking from behind, attacking after running through traps, and so on). This maintains the emphasis on spatial puzzle which is core to the game – I’ve never wanted it to become a modifier-laden dice-fest.
The turquoise represents VPs added alongside cybernetic upgrades. I’d initially planned an excessively fiddly system for this, which involved upgrade tracks next to each contestant’s injury tracker. What I’m planning now is simply to have each player have 3 item cards which can be bestowed on a contestant when they move them to a dispenser; with the contestant then leaving a coloured token there to note that they can’t use that dispenser again. Each of these item cards will carry an instant Ratings (vp) boost for the player who equips it, but this will usually be proportionate to how risky it is to play. This feels both fair and thematic; something guaranteed to help a fighter (such as a defensive or healing item) should carry a low bonus for balance reasons and because it make for less exciting TV… whereas the player who equips a contestant with some sort of internal bomb which incentivises killing them, well they should get a bonus.