Cody Forsberg
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South Bend
Indiana
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I am working on a 1 vs. Many Sci-fi/Fantasy tactical combat game that is primarily campaign-focused, like Descent or Imperial Assault. From the start I used the Imperial Assault system, to some degree of success. A lot of additions and deletions have occurred during development, but the core mechanics of the game are pretty much intact:

1. Players take turn taking actions with figures/groups of figure.
2. Players can use actions to get movement points, attack, interact with things (per mission guidelines), and use special abilities of various sorts.
3. For attacking, dice are rolled, and damage is done according to how many damage/dodge icons are rolled. Also, special attack abilities can be used based on rolling special icons.

Changes include:
1. New weapons which come with more more types of dice--including 6 new types of dice for different types of attacks and defenses.
2. More types of equipment, which add some new mechanics.
3. A new kind of mechanic for using special abilities.
4. A new mechanic for how dying affects characters.
5. A complete reworking of conditions

And that's just it so far. So my questions are these:
1. Is my core gameplay too similar?
2. Would people negatively judge my game for being too similar to Star Wars: Imperial Assault or Descent, even if my game were as good or better?
3. I know gameplay in general is not subject to IP law of any sort, but would I have to be careful to rename every mechanic that I kept from IA, just to be safe?
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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Most of the stuff in Descent is fairly standard in wargames and/or RPGs (which, you may recall, evolved from wargames) and I think you could copy large swathes of its gameplay without turning anyone's head. Some of the specific stuff you listed is even more common than that (your similarity #2 is basically just describing an Action Point Allowance System).

People are probably going to be less excited about your game if it looks like you've directly copied the Descent engine than if you do something novel, and your chances of being as popular as an FFG title are basically nil even if your game is way better, so you'll always be in their shadow. I'm not sure that's wise from a marketing standpoint, but I don't think people are going to look at you as a bad person or anything.

I suspect you'd have a tough time finding a publisher, though. You're talking about a big, complex game that requires a lot of expensive components and a lot of after-market support, in a genre where consumers tend to have high expectations regarding component and art quality; a lot of publishers are going to reject it on that basis alone, before even considering that you're also directly competing with an established game line from a giant publisher specifically known for having lots of high-quality bits. (Of course, if you're making this primarily for you and your friends, you can disregard all that.)
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While i haven't played Imperial Assault, i have see 1 and 3 in your similarities list in many other games. So Imperial Assaulty itself borrowed from other games.

Having similar game mechanics can be a plus, as it makes it easier for players to learn your game: they've done it before. On teh minus side, yes, you are going to encounter comparrisons if it's too similar to an already popular game.
 
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Cody Forsberg
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I agree that making this with lots of minis probably won't fly against Imperial Assault, with the twin giants of Star Wars and FFG dominating the tactical minis market. I was mostly working on this for me and my friends, but thought that it might be feasible to publish (a long ways down the road, after much tweaking and testing) with cardboard stand-up figures or just unit tokens rather than minis. I guess the only other way this could compete in the minis market would be to get permission to use another big IP and tweak the system for that.
 
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