Arcane Academy (in development): a dice-placement boardgame about managing a wizard university.

Arcane Academy is a euro-game (a board game mainly around economic/resource management) that I’ve been designing for a while now, and it’s finally reached a point where I think it needs it’s own page. I’ll give a description of the top-level features of the game up here, and then step through images and caption them with what they show.

Thanks in particular to the #tabletop community over on the Ranged Touch Discord server. The server in general is fully of lovely, smart, supportive folks, and the tabletop community there – despite being mostly interested in TTRPGs and sometimes wargames – have been very tolerant of my cube-pushing rants, my photo dumps, and my idiotic claims to have “just done a procedural rhetoric!”

Speaking of procedural rhetoric, I would say this game is intended as piece of interactive satire, but that is secondary to me trying to just make a good game with a unique theme. I love eurogames with unique mechanics, a bit of mid-game engine-building and multiple paths to victory, and I think that given my current occupation I am uniquely placed to make a game which is, under the veneer of fantasy, about how universities operate.


Designing around a theme like this always hold the challenge that you have to meet the player mid-way between the way they perceive the thing/place/system being represented, and how you want to model it. What I’m hoping for here is that players will approach Arcane Academy thinking that it is just about teaching and learning and training wizards, and walk away with a slightly more rounded and perhaps critical view of universities. If I get to the point where I need to write up more academic research papers around my own designs, I will probably be putting this process in conversation with Anne-Marie Schleiner’s “broken toy tactic” for creating political games, which you can most easily read about in an excerpted format here.


The game is played over multiple two-semester “years”, and at the end of each year, conditions are checked to see who receives what funding, and – more importantly overall – who has received the favour of the Archmage. Players win victory points for meeting certain conditions at the end of the year, and when one player (/department) is a certain amount ahead of others, the game ends with them ascending to the role of Archmage.

I know that in a lot of games, “victory points” are given out in large chunks. This allows for replayability insomuch as players who have clocked dozens of games of Carcassone, or Lords of Waterdeep or Great Western Trail are then able to compare their scores between games. While I understand this particular function of victory points, I am not particularly fond of it as a standard, and I will explain the reasoning for my use of single, chunky VPs (closer to what Catan does) a bit further down when we hit the appropriate image.


Each player starts off with two wizards (tutors) each of whom gets given a teaching die (coloured) and a research die (white). They roll these and place the teaching die in descending order left-to-right, and the white die in ascending order left-to-right.

They also start with a small set of cards representing spells which can used to teach classes.

Each player’s four starting spells can be taught in a classroom which is specialist to their subject:

  • Necromancy (black) teach in the Catacombs.
  • Destructive Elements (red) teach in the Target Range.
  • Enchantment (blue) teach in the Workshop.
  • Alchemy (green) teach in the Abortorium.
  • Illusion (purple) teach in the Lounge.

Each of these “classrooms” is really just a symbol on the board which corresponds to the player’s spell-cards too. However, every player’s school of magic shares one of their cards with another school…

  • “Curse” starts with both the blue and black player and can be taught in either the Catacombs or the Workshop.
  • “Corrode” starts with both the red and green player and can be taught in either the Target Range and the Abortorium.

… and so on. This creates a situation where sometimes it may be advantageous to “book” another player’s primary classroom to teach your class.

I won’t go into loads of rule specifics because ultimately I’m just trying to describe gameplay here rather than actually write the rules…

Eventually I’d like the board to resemble one of those kids books you used to get with a cross-section castle… so far, every time I try to focus on layout I get waylaid from thinking about rules, so it’s gonna have to wait until later!


On a given turn, a player will place both/all of the dice of a specific one of their wizards at once. Because of the way the dice are arranged, this will – at the start of the game – usually mean that they are placing their highest-numbered coloured teaching dice at the same time as the lowest-numbered white research dice, or vice versa.

Because teaching dice can only be placed on teaching spaces (booking classrooms or recruiting students) and research dice can only be placed on research spaces (writing publications or learning new spells) this creates a situation wherein going “high” on one area of activity leaves better spots open to the next player on the other area.

When players book classrooms they play as many cards as the value of the die which bare the symbol associated with the classroom. For example, a teaching die of three placed on the red “target range” classroom enables the player to play up to three cards with the red comet symbol on. Each symbol played this way with create a point of teaching power, which is used to push students up a set of towers for each of the 3 years of their “degree” in magic. Students who remain at the bottom of these towers at the end of the year become drop-outs.

Players can also use teaching dice to recruit students for the next academic year. Spending 3s and 4s in this way enables the recruitment of students who start higher up the Year 1 progress tower and therefore require less teaching. Recruiting students is important because, even if a particular player wants to aim for quality over quantity, total amount of students currently enrolled is an important way for their school of magic to get funding each year.

With their white research dice, players can write scrolls and grimoires (which correspond to journal papers and monographs in “real” academia). Enough of either can get your department regular funding, but only grimoires count towards your victory points for impressing the Archmage. Alternatively, players can use their white research dice to take new spells from a small market on the board (from spaces marked 1, 2, or 3, using a die of the corresponding value, or using a fourth space to “draw 4, keep one”).

So, each colour of dice has a couple of things it can be used for. A higher number is usually marginally better, which encourages you to use it earlier to avoid the space you want being blocked.

After each two-semester-year, players accumulate funding based on number of students and number of publications. Throughout the year, they can also spend this on:

  • hiring new staff (some of whom will be cheaper and only provide one die; teaching or research, some of whom will be more expensive and have simple special skills, such as adding to the value of teaching in a specific location)
  • building additional classrooms.
  • buying one-off reagents (mushrooms/herbs etc.) used to enhance teaching.
  • buying staff equipment to give them continuous benefits.

After funding is allocated at the end of the year, the Archmage reviews the departments’ progress, and awards VP for:

  • Whichever department has the most students who have graduated with top marks.
  • Whichever department has published the most Grimoires.
  • Which department has finished the year with the most remaining unspent funding (this is going to need some tuning to ensure players don’t exploit it by just never spending anything).

… and deducts VP for every x drop-outs in a discipline too.

As you can guess, the above is modelling the following ideas – which I think are probably an exaggeration to some extent, but as I said further up – this is a cynical satire:

  • The institution cares more about the “top” and “bottom” results than anything else.
  • The institution cares about income generation and the problem of “how do you have as much $ as possible from enrolment without jeopardising teaching?” is a problem left to teaching staff to deal with.
This is very out-of-date by now, but it’s useful for me to put here as a reminder of this process; I’ve designed a bunch of board games over the years (none published yet) but never before have I thought of just ignoring the board part out and just thinking about component density before I start drawing out the board. Seems so obvious now!
This version looks like it came later than the ones below, on account of having slightly more worked-up graphics, but it’s actually earlier. I tend to prematurely polish things, and then have to go “back to the drawing board” with a fail-fast paper prototype, but I’m the sort of person who loses motivation to work if I’m not occasionally dipping into and seeing what the end aesthetic might look like.
Back to basics prototype (mid April 2022?). More recently I find myself ignoring the idea of a “board” early on and using large cards like these to work out what the board areas would be, then worrying about how they inter-relate later. This has really sped up my process.
Prototype from the middle of May 2022; getting ready for the UK Games Expo. This is set up for 3, but I may try to make it ready for 4 or 5 before then.

Kitbashing my way out of Bad Habits

Kitbashing is the practice of taking components from a pre-existing game to use for your prototype, as opposed to purchasing them or making them from scratch.

I’m one of those designers who also dabbles in graphic design and, as a result, often finds it difficult to do proper “fail fast” prototypes.

So I’m making this area control-deckbuilder mashup about the 1970s NYC graffiti scene and instead of constantly agonising over the map I went and got the El Grande board out.

Turns out that this quick bit of kit-bashing helped me really quickly come to the realisation that I needed to have the territories to place control cubes into, but have the player-characters actually do point-to-point movement along the edges of the territories, because it means whatever position your character is in you have a choice about where to “tag” into.

Kitbashing can be a useful to help designers get around the bad habits we develop (I’m looking at everyone who posts graphic design questions on designers forums, about beautiful cards for games which may or may not deserve to see the light of day!)

When I worked in videogames we used to separate our systems and mechanics design from “content” design (i.e. level design, items, characters etc.).

Content design in tabletop is stuff like “we need x of these cards” or “the board needs to have x areas/be shaped like this”, and it can be seductive to jump into it too early because it’s more satisfaction for less work than fixing whatever the core issues of your game are.

That’s why kit-bashing like this example is a really good way to avoid getting bogged down in premature content design. You don’t need 120 different cards to see if your Deckbuilder engine has legs, and you certainly don’t need to custom make a map of the NYC transit system when medieval Spain will do just fine!

Dinky Lil’ Dungeon (2018): a roll-and-write mini Dungeon Keeper.

I’ve been playing and reading about a feel Roll & Write games recently. A Roll & Write is a game which, essentially, involves people rolling some dice and then using the results to draw something on a grid.

I wanted to make a condensed little version of the old Dungeon Keeper games using this set of mechanics, so here it is! It’s going to use a couple of revisions, and I’ve already run into a few questions about the rules (trying to get clarity onto a single A4 rules sheet was a bit of a reach). Clarifications below.

All you need are some yellow and red dice (one of each per player) and some squared paper. It can support a large player count and probably solo play too, if you set yourself a score target.



  • Traps and Loot can be placed anywhere in the dungeon, not just on the Tunnel you just drew (although the latter approach could be tried if you want a more hardcore variant of the game).
  • Loot goes into Tunnels. Boulders and Minions also go into Tunnels. Arrow traps point at the walls they shoot out of. Imagine the arrow you draw is a bolt inside the wall, ready to pop out when someone walks past!
  • When I say “each ARROW TRAP scores *2* if it is able to hit a LOOT symbol” I mean that the arrow must be able to travel through the wall in a straight line and hit any loot symbol without any other walls being in the way.
  • In future I’d like to convert the rules sheet into a landscape 2-page split with smaller writing, so there can be diagrams for some of this stuff!
  • Scoring is pretty arbitrary at this stage. It might make sense to have an Arrow Trap score more for each loot symbol it can hit in a row, but all of that will be revisited at a later date.

The Dangercube Rulebook is here!

I made it into the 2nd round of the Board Game Design Lab’s contest, which is great! So here’s’ the Dangercube Rulebook I’ve been putting together this week. Far from perfect, but I’m hoping it’ll do the job enough for the game to shine through.

the Game Crafter “hidden movement” design challenge – semi-finals results

So, results are in from the semi-finals of the Game Crafter challenge to design a hidden movement game – a game in the vein of Scotland Yard or Letters from Whitechapel in which one or more players have limited information about where another player/s is/are on the map!

I already wrote about the overall experience of taking part over here, so this post is about reviewing the feedback I received.

Unfortunately, my entry – Maid in Sherwood – didn’t make it to the finals. Both judges game the game decent scores for meeting the criteria of the contest. along with the rules, theme and description. However, as I was not able to construct the finished form of the game, it was marked down for being lacking in action shots – a totally valid criticism, especially on a site where it’s so easy to see or watch many of the available games being played.

My lowest scoring area was for the game’s art, which I have… mixed feelings about. I still think the board does a good job of “4 our us are medieval tacticians plotting over this map of the woods” and is pretty evocative, but I’ll certainly take this on board.

I think my biggest takeaway, as is often the case with these things, is that I’m not necessarily the best judge of my own ability in different areas… for example, I *thought* I was terrible at writing rules and laying out rulebooks, and better at graphic design… but I think there might be some cognitive bias there based on which of those activities I enjoy doing more.

Overall it sounds like I should have more confidence in my ability to produce a rulebook… after all, it’s just a user-facing version of the design documentation I’m used to doing professionally.

Casting the Runes

This has been a sketchbook idea for a while but I’d never worked up the drive to produce it as a playable prototype.

The elevator pitch is “Scrabble meets MtG, using runes”.

Each player has a unique deck of Spells and Minions, which require them to play certain sequences of runestones. Essentially, the mana/resource management element of a TCG/CCG becomes handled by a familiar scrabble-board tile-laying mechanism, with all the tit-for-tat of creating opportunities for the other player which comes along with that.


I’m not massively enamoured with vikings as a theme at the moment… That’s not to say that I’m not drawn to it on a personal level… I remember playing Heimdall on the Amiga a LOT as a kid. I just think it’s a bit overused in games – particularly tabletop – and I do warily associate viking-fetishism a bit with nazis. BUT as soon as you introduce runes as a component, the whole thing starts to evoke a type of fantasy that’s closer to Skyrim than Middle Earth.

In some previous designed I might’ve prematurely tried to come up with a balanced set of cards for the runes to trigger, but I think in this case I’m just going to roughly simulate two players laying down call-and-answer tile sequences and then throw in some rough card ideas which thematically match the runes, trying to model which spells and minions two opposing sorcerer types (e.g. ice queen vs pyromancer) might be throwing down at different stages of the game.


Dangercube: New 80s-VHS-Style Sellsheet!

It’s been a little while since I blogged, but I’ve been making progress on the game and am preparing to enter it in the Board Game Design Lab’s upcoming challenge, as well as publisher speed-dating at UKGE. It tested well at UNCON this month and I got some useful insights from watching people play again.

The biggest win for me recently is finally feeling like I’ve nailed the whole card-sharing aspect that create a sense of scheming/plotting and a bit of a trust-game between players. I’m trying not to expound in-flux rules here in the blog as they change so quickly, but if all goes to plan with the Board Game Design Lab submission process, I’ll have a rulebook drafted in the next few weeks and that’ll get shared here.

Below is the sell-sheet I’ve been working on for the game. I’d like to be able to sub the PREMISE paragraph down a bit more, but I think it sells what’s unique and interesting about the game without explaining the rules too much. What do you think? I know the 80s-throwback thing is a bit “done” at the moment, but I kinda love it.


Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 16.15.17

Dangercube: the Pre-Con Prototype-Polishing Braindump


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 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.

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 13.20.00.png

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

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’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.


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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.

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 13.00.52
a rough design for the “Ratings” (victory point) tokens. The top four are given to specific players for their achievements, while the bottom 4 are placed on contestant’s injury trackers when they’re KOed, and represent what players will win at the end of the game if they were secretly backing that contestant.




Dangercube: Finally Finding the Fun

Sooo, the past couple of months have involved taking my game Dangercube to my local gaming group a bunch and reluctantly asking people to test a shambled mess of a game! Despite the intensely anxiety-inducing process, it’s been worth it, and I ended up with something I was happy to take to a local convention, where further playtesting gave me something I was even happier with.

Where we left off on the last blog post, I’d been working my way through a bunch of different ideas for “arena combat game set in the future” without much direction really, except for the central idea that players would share joint control over the fates of fighters, and that there would be some secret bets and possible alliances involved.

For the rest of this post, I’m going to let the photos do most of the talking, and then just write captions to explain what you’re seeing a little…


This build was a bit obsessed with the idea of a modular sliding-puzzle maze… it was okay but it wasn’t where the fun was.

I wanted to encourage players to move the fighters all over the map, so I had set-collection based on triggering the largest variety of traps, and trying to injure all of the different fighters… The thought behind it was sound but the solution was too fiddly.

I’d gotten the game to a point where it was possible to deduce other player’s bets, but there wasn’t really much players could do with that information. So, instead of publicly drafting their Fighter Action cards from a public market, I changed this element of the game so that each round of the game began with players drawing 2 cards and passing one to each neighbor. This meant they could actually act on suspicions about their neighbors bet’s by giving or denying them the cards they needed.

It should’ve been obvious really, but somewhere along the line I forgot to ask “and then what!?” after “players should be able to deduce eachother’s motives”.

Once it became clear that players needed something “positive” to do with their preferred winners, I added hidden upgrades which had to be unlocked by collecting cubes. Later on I replaced these with fighter-specific pick-ups to encourage more movement around the map.

Apparently it’s remarkably difficult to create a map using rotational symmetry which doesn’t end up looking like a swastika.

These dual-use cards served their purpose but are gone from the current design. Initially I told people to “play the top action [move] from one card and then the bottom action [rig traps/heal/barriers] from another”. I’ve now split out the trap rigging into its own phase before the fighter movement.

Players get to decide where the injuries go, for ANY fighter injured during their turn. Placing two injuries on an arm reduces the fighter’s possible damage output, while injuring the legs reduces their movement potential. Damaging the head/torso confers no penalty BUT that set of wounds can’t be healed. Interesting decisions abound, I think? I’ve also found that placing the injuries, while a bit of an unusual concept, really gets playtesters into the brutality of what’s going on more than something more abstract (like standard hit points).

The concept of “audience as Victory Points” came back in a big way… Players are rewarded for how exciting they make the match, and earn VPs by starting fights on their turn (the zeroes on the combat dice reward VPs) killing combatants on their turn, fulfilling their bets, and passing up on opportunities to disarm traps or heal the fighters.

A first draft of some card designs for “Control Room” cards. These are essentially an event deck like the Round cards used in Colt Express. Players are told to take an amount of cards, and then usually make a decision about whether to take another card, set up a trap, or rearm an existing trap. There are also some where users get to choose between doing something “nice” like healing a fighter or disarming a trap, or receiving Victory Points for opting out of the Nice Option. Hopefully, starting each round with this setup phase will help to get players into the mindset of a fight controller as opposed to combatant.

Here’s an alternative Control Room Card cardback design… I think this gets the general idea across pretty well… ideally all of this plastic would be closer to Amstrad black (I like the idea that the televised elements are shiny and white and the behind-the-scenes stuff is darker)… but I keep prototype stuff to mostly lighter colours to avoid blowing up my home printer.


I guess the next step, after testing the last additions above, is going to be to start trying to write down the rules properly so they can be blind-tested in print and play format.

Dangercube’s Development from Prototype to Beta

Here’s more of a quickfire “blow-by-blow” account of early iterations of the game. I’m going to try to keep these brief and focussed on the takeaway learnings.

V.01 (March ’17)

    • Heavy emphasis on the “metagame” element of 8 fighters gradually eliminating each other in a “league”, with 7 quick matches adding up to a 30 minute game.
    • Combat resolution handled by simultaneous draw from decks of cards which all players were able to tamper with in a pre-fight preparation stage, each card representing man oeuvres or weapons with Rock-Paper-Scissors type interactions.
    • …It didn’t feel very involved; it was just a couple of mechanisms with not a great deal of interesting decisions. But making it and playing it still let me get my finger on what people found interesting about the core premise.

Who’d have thought that building decks of cards which fight each-other without any real player interaction is incredibly dull!

Pro Tip: this is too early in the design process to build a randomised spreadsheet sim “for balancing”. Yep.

V.02 (May ’17)

  • Players take turns to navigate a push-your-luck type maze built by the other players. They do this by rolling and spending a pool of dice which are unique to their player (black/snakes for cunning, yellow/scorpion for toughness and red/bull for strength). During the set-up phase, other players can add worse hazards, but doing so increases the prize pool.
  • This one didn’t make it to play-testing…
  • Side note: I think you can already see how much builds of the game jump from one early iteration to the next. I had a theme I wanted to work with and a feel for the player experience I wanted, but I still needed compelling central mechanics for things like “betting” and “rigging” to be enjoyable.

… in which much time was wasted on making custom dice, for no good reason.

Time spent getting slightly less-shit at graphic design is never wasted time. NB: this version was before I realized I don’t like dice much.

V.03 (May ’17)

  • This build pitted two fighters again each other in short confrontation, where augments were played out by gradually revealing a flower of hexagon cards around each fighter.
  • I tried this version with dice, and with 3 tug-of-war style stats where the fighter with the most points in 2 stats would win.
  • There were some interesting things here about spatial interactions between hexagonal cards, but not really what I was looking for… also, just getting a bit obsessed with hexes as a design motif because, y’know, cyberpunk.


in one version, you’d have this triple-stat “tug of war” scoring track as augments were revealed for each fighter. It was an attempt at letting the card order do the randomness and avoiding any post-card-reveal randomisers like dice. Another example of a system that could’ve been fine but just didn’t have any game to it.

at one point I got a bit obsessed with token-flipping as a combat-resolution mechanism, for some reason

V.04 (Sept ’17)

  • This version of the game veered a bit more towards the Spartacus side of things, with each player now representing a corporate agent, investing in different fighters, sending their fighter-upgrades to market for other players to buy and so on.
  • Ultimately I was trying to do too much at the same time… there were some awesome advances about theme here, but in trying to get it all in I was still focussing on a meta-game about a league of fighters as opposed to an individual fight itself. It didn’t really convey the brutality of the fight.

Pro Tip: your game probably doesn’t need Lore before Beta.

Later versions of the game abandoned this 1v1, 8 fighter league structure in favour of a closer focus on a single fight.

V.05 (Nov ’17)

  • This was the first iteration of the game where Dangercube became more about the blow-by-blow brutality of an individual fight. I also took the onus away from players to judge a possible outcome and place a bet, and the game started to become more about the spatial puzzle of navigating a maze of deadly traps.
  • In this version, players were given a blue or orange betting chit at the beginning of the game. They then rolled several action die and used the results to move either the orange or blue fighter, or to draft traps into the maze.
  • I experimented for a while with using a draw-bag to resolve the fights themselves. You’d draw out color-coded lightning bolts for attack and skulls for wounds; an orange lightning bolt would activate a drawn blue wound, taking it out of the bag, and the fight would end when one of a fighter’s wounds were all out. It was a nice probability scale for a betting game because it effectively meant that landing a hit on a fighter became more difficult the closer to death they were… but it just didn’t really lead to interesting decisions.
  • this was a steer in the right direction which lead me towards an “anyone can control any fighter” approach; the USP of the current game.

Orange vs Blue, because it’s The Future(TM)

early incarnation of the “number of viewers as scoring mechanism” which crops up again in later versions of the game


That’s it for now… my next Dangercube post will cover the version of the game I consider to be its Beta.