Design Progress – March 2014

I feel like I haven’t made any progress on games lately, except for coming up with more ideas than I have time to develop them.

I got a second and third test of the first part of my 3-part game, and it has definitely gotten more interesting. Players are competing mine owners and must balance working the mines with running the company. Players have boards to track the levels of fresh air, labor unrest, and danger of collapse. The game is worker placement based, but the board is split into two parts: management and mining. On the management side, players can buy machinery to make mining more efficient, negotiate with workers to keep costs down, and run the fans to keep the miners happy. Or steal from the workers and ignore the fans to run more profitably. At the end of the day, they always return home. But workers can also be sent down the elevator into the mines, where their only options are to build reinforcements (if management has provided wood), mine, or return up the elevator with resources. In mining, resources are pulled from a bag, but their quality degrades with every mining action. Players can drill safely, cut rock which is more efficient but carries the risk of a cave-in, or blast which is the most profitable but greatly increases the risk of disaster. Each cutting or blasting action can cause a cave-in if the die roll isn’t more than the current danger level. And each time there is a cave in, the risk of total collapse increases and labor gets closer to unionization, either of which can end the game. And every mining action uses up precious fresh air, and fans are expensive to run. Players must choose how safely they run their mines to make the most profit.

There are some neat mechanics at work that allow for clever gameplay, but the depth is lacking, even after improvement. I was already planning on eliminating the second part of the game, and the third part hasn’t really left the concept stage, so I’m looking at making the first part a standalone game. It has a few too many components to be a micro-game, but it might make a decent small-box game if I can improve the depth. It also only works with 2-players at the moment. For now, I will probably try to enter it into the BoardGameGeek 2-player Print and Play contest. In the mean-time, I still plan to develop the portion of the game that incorporates a route-building game with a betting and bluffing aspect. But I want to be able to tie them together thematically.

Where are my other projects? My bigger-box sequel to New Bedford, Titusville,  is ready for some more testing. I need to continue development on some extra buildings for New Bedford, too. I have a few small game ideas that are progressing. The first is a micro card game that uses the concept of non-transitive dice. The second is inspired by Love Letter, but with more strategic choices and a larger deck. I can see why micro games are so popular now, because the development cycle is shorter and easier. I don’t know if you have to give up strategic depth for a micro game, but I think that is usually the second casualty. The first is thematic depth, because you just don’t have enough components to provide the same amount of theme as a larger game.

After 10 Acres and my 3-part game, I want to change how I present my games on this site. With New Bedford, I had a game that was mechanically and thematically complete when I started showing it off. In other words, it had a fixed identity–something that my mining game and 10 Acres didn’t have. The current version and original version of New Bedford would still be easily recognizable as the same game. So I’m still going to share my ideas and my development work, but I won’t give it a page until it has a real identity. I keep alluding to a role selection game with 100 unique roles, but the theme isn’t fixed yet. For now, it’s called Terracotta Warriors.

I’ve got a lot of testing ahead on a lot of games, so I’m looking forward to sharing more progress over the next several months.

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