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Subject: Releasing a trilogy of games out-of-order? rss

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Jeff Warrender
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Disclaimer: This is not the most important discussion in the world; BGG'ers who prefer to avoid quibbling over minutiae, you've been warned!

I've been working on a series of three historically-themed games that fit into a chronological sequence. Let's call them A, B, and C, and obviously, A is set in a time chronologically earlier than B, and similarly for B and C.

Development-wise, A was close to done but is probably going to get a big overhaul, B is in the idea stage, and C is moving steadily towards completion.

Because they go together, I could see labeling the game boxes with "Game X in the ABC Trilogy". But since C is the closest to done, it would likely be the first to release, and as such, I'm unsure how to label it. Labeling it "Game 3" seems like the obvious choice, and perhaps pays homage to Star Wars as well as stoking completist appeal for the other 2 games. But on the other hand, I can imagine that some people would find that annoying.

This thread is open for anyone who wants to chime in, as well as for anyone who has designed or contemplated a multi-game series to discuss any issues or insights.
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John duBois
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Are the games a trilogy, or do they merely follow in chronological order? Are the topics in the game related? Mechanisms similar? Linked in any way that players would know they're a trilogy apart from being set in history and done by the same designers and publisher?
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Pan being a notable exception, the world seems to like prequels, so if each subsequent game builds on the previous one mechanically, it may be a tough sell but not an insurmountable one. (And yes, they may have not been part of the same trilogy, but I still like the idea of reading Sophocles' Antigone before the two Oedipus plays)
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I'd say release them as you feel they are ready.

They don't HAVE to be released in Chronological order.

UNLESS, they build on each other rules wise.
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You raise an interesting question -- what makes a trilogy in the first place?

These games are definitely related thematically, as they follow three different periods in the 1st century church (30 AD, ~50AD, and ~65AD, respectively).

The mechanisms are...related, but there aren't any exact mechanisms that are used in all three (so it's not quite like the Mask Trilogy), but they certainly share some mechanical ideas.

My original intent, actually, was to have a campaign mode whereby you could play all three games in series and the end state of A would affect the setup state of B and similarly with B and C. I think the designs have diverged a bit too much for that to be possible now, though.
 
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Guantanamo wrote:
I'd say release them as you feel they are ready.

They don't HAVE to be released in Chronological order.

UNLESS, they build on each other rules wise.
That's a good point generally; in a series in which there's strong mechanical overlap, there may be value to release the "simplest" one first and then let the more complex games come later so that fans of the first game are more prepared for them. I'll definitely keep that in mind here, thanks.
 
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John duBois
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I don't think that labeling them as a trilogy would help you unless you can do the campaign-style setup you describe. Also, there's no need for them necessarily to be in order - just make sure you include the "campaign setup" rules transitioning from one game to the other in the latter of the two games to be released.
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jwarrend wrote:
That's a good point generally; in a series in which there's strong mechanical overlap, there may be value to release the "simplest" one first and then let the more complex games come later so that fans of the first game are more prepared for them.
Maybe. In some cases, a later release will be a streamlined and simpler version of an earlier hit. This is sometimes the case with dice-game riffs on popular games. Depending on how you view it, also At the Gates of Loyang as compared to Agricola.

What really needs to be the case is that the first one released be a sensible place to start for people who haven't played the others.
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Steven Tu
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Prequels and sequels used to appear all the time, have we forgotten all about those with the megalomaniacal shotgun approach the big studios are pumping out movie trilogies?
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pmagnus wrote:
What really needs to be the case is that the first one released be a sensible place to start for people who haven't played the others.
Agreed, that's probably a better way of putting it.

Tuism wrote:
Prequels and sequels used to appear all the time, have we forgotten all about those with the megalomaniacal shotgun approach the big studios are pumping out movie trilogies?
Has this been done very much in games, though? Specifically, a set of games that treat the same subject? I already mentioned the Mask Trilogy as a set of three games that use the same mechanism, but are there examples of sequels or prequels where the games all fit together as components of a single "story"? I'm sure it's been done but can't think of anything off the top of my head.

I think it could be a potentially interesting design space (I mean, obviously it interests me since I'm working in that space!). For example, rise-and-decline; while a game like Vinci does a great job capturing a single game rise-and-decline feel, one could equally well imagine a pair of games, one about the rise of civilizations and another about their decline, and playing both in series could provide a fun experience -- a grand story.
 
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Tuism wrote:
Prequels and sequels used to appear all the time, have we forgotten all about those with the megalomaniacal shotgun approach the big studios are pumping out movie trilogies?
You'd have to be Dumb, Dumber, and Dummier, or Dumbest, or Dumbestess to not see Hollywood doing that from day one. And as for mechanisms, like actors, you don't need to include the star that made the movie/game great to pump out another one.

 
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jwarrend wrote:
pmagnus wrote:
What really needs to be the case is that the first one released be a sensible place to start for people who haven't played the others.
Agreed, that's probably a better way of putting it.

Tuism wrote:
Prequels and sequels used to appear all the time, have we forgotten all about those with the megalomaniacal shotgun approach the big studios are pumping out movie trilogies?
Has this been done very much in games, though, specifically a set of games that treat the same subject? I already mentioned the Mask Trilogy as a set of three games that use the same mechanism, but are there examples of sequels or prequels where the games all fit together as components of a single "story"? I'm sure it's been done but can't think of anything off the top of my head.

I think it could be a potentially interesting design space (I mean, obviously it interests me since I'm working in that space!). For example, rise-and-decline; while a game like Vinci does a great job capturing a single game rise-and-decline feel, one could equally well imagine a pair of games, one about the rise of civilizations and another about their decline, and playing both in series could provide a fun experience -- a grand story.
You asked:
Pirate's Cove leads to finding the sunken treasure in
Key Largo, released posthumously, by his fellow designers/friends.

edit:Now, someone close to him could make another that is about taking the killed seabeasts to the fish market. devil
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ropearoni4 wrote:


You asked:
Pirate's Cove leads to finding the sunken treasure in
Key Largo, released posthumously, by his fellow designers/friends.
That's a good example, thanks.
 
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I know there are games that encompass a general world, with stories/settings within that world/setting that are not necessarily in chronological order at the time of release.

Boardgames don't specifically do storytelling within each release like books or movies.

Magic, for example, has a story arc built into its lore, without explicitly telling the story in its components. Same with Netrunner now, there are world arcs but not specifically beginning, middle, end, etc.

I don't see why not make prequels and sequels and jump in and out of a story wherever, as long as they fit each other and aren't stupid (stupid e.g. the grand reveal of one game was the first 3 lines of an earlier game)
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I think of board games as typically making expansions rather than sequels.

Or, if you have a collection of related games, they will share either a theme or a mechanical system, but not both. Not so much a sequel as a spin-off or tie-in.

Happy to hear counter-examples, though...
 
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Antistone wrote:
I think of board games as typically making expansions rather than sequels.

Or, if you have a collection of related games, they will share either a theme or a mechanical system, but not both. Not so much a sequel as a spin-off or tie-in.

Happy to hear counter-examples, though...
The closest thing might be something like Ticket to Ride and TTR:Europe, with the latter clearly a successor game to the former but unlike, say, Carcassonne and Hunters and Gatherers, they also live in the same thematic world.

But, it's a super thinly-themed thematic world so it's not a strong example.

What I guess I'm talking about would be something more like, say, if Thebes had a couple of sequel games that were set in 1913 and 1927 (arbitrarily); maybe these add a couple of locales or a couple of details about how the digs work or whatever. But anyway, maybe you could see playing those games all in succession in a night or over a span of nights, and collectively they tell the story of early 20th century archaeology.

Even that probably isn't a great example, though; I think what a "thematic trilogy" really wants is a setting that is intrinsically episodic; where there are different aspects to the action that happens in each of the games, because there's an evolution in the "story".
 
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I agree with Steven: the movies do it all the time. Novels also.

I have a game design on this topic too so am quite curious what you've created. Maybe I won't even need to make mine.
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heli wrote:

I have a game design on this topic too so am quite curious what you've created. Maybe I won't even need to make mine.
I've posted a little bit about each of them; Game 3 (Evangelists) is looking the most promising at this point (*), Game 1 (Disciples) is essentially "done" but I think I can do better and will probably try to overhaul it, and Game 2 (Acts) is brand new after a couple of previous incarnations fell pretty flat.

Would be interested to hear what you've worked on as well; plenty of room in the world for multiple games on similar subjects!

(*)Picture of Game 3 in action courtesy of Gil Hova:

 
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jwarrend wrote:
as well as stoking completist appeal for the other 2 games. But on the other hand, I can imagine that some people would find that annoying.
As one of the afflicted completists, I can say that games designed to "stoke" that appeal are almost always seen as annoying, or at least exploitative. Of course, we're not talking about all series or heavily expandable concepts, but rather those that are designed with the explicit intent that consumers would feel compelled to chase subsequent content.

If I saw "Game 3 of Series X" on a box, I'd look for Games 1&2. If they were unreleased, I'd very likely wait to acquire Game 3 so that I could assess it in terms of the series. That is one of the challenges of related material in a completist realm: Generally, we don't buy "part 3" without internally committing to acquiring the other parts (obviously, exceptions apply). Anyone who has been around the track a few times with other franchises quickly learns to do their homework before jumping into a new and possibly deep title series.

That said, you mentioned the concept of doing a campaign game which progressed through each of the chronological releases. THAT is a cool idea which would compel me to take a deeper look. Very rarely does a game series offer such a cohesive reward for the collector. Sure, having all of the Eclipse expansions makes for a deeper experience, but it is still the same 9-turn struggle with the same relative backstory and goal. Linearly progressing through a timeline over the course of several mechanically distinct games is a brilliant idea, and I would consider putting money behind the experience.
(You later say you may scrap the idea; I hope this helps you reconsider it)

Anyway, I can't argue the advice of others here - If a game feels ready, get it out there! But you may very well face a lukewarm reception from the completist crowd, who at best will want to start at the beginning and at worst will interpret the out-of-sequence release to be a cash-grab exploitation of their loyalty.

Other notes
- If the game is absolutely amazing in its own right, little of the above applies, as it is hard to deny the undeniably awesome.
- If the series is only loosely related and each game conceptually stands very well on its own, then you're fine too (Example: GMT's COIN series - Thematically related but entirely stand-alone; they do not integrate with each other and therefore the experience of any given game is entirely unaffected by the ownership of other series titles).

Best wishes on your design project(s)!

EDIT: Typos
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jwarrend wrote:

I've posted a little bit about each of them; Game 3 (Evangelists) is looking the most promising at this point (*), Game 1 (Disciples) is essentially "done" but I think I can do better and will probably try to overhaul it, and Game 2 (Acts) is brand new after a couple of previous incarnations fell pretty flat.

Would be interested to hear what you've worked on as well; plenty of room in the world for multiple games on similar subjects!
Aha, very good, thanks. Looks interesting. Actually my design focuses on a slightly later period in which the Church is growing and trying to decide its chief tenets. But it's a very different approach than Credo!: the Game of Dueling Dogmas, an earlier game on the topic, or its successor Credo!: The Game of the Early Church.
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jwarrend wrote:

My original intent, actually, was to have a campaign mode whereby you could play all three games in series and the end state of A would affect the setup state of B and similarly with B and C. I think the designs have diverged a bit too much for that to be possible now, though.
This answers your own question. Release order no longer matters.
 
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I would just publish the game that seems to have the best chance of success. If and when it does achieve success, then you can go ahead with sequels, prequels or whatever.
 
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thegreybetween wrote:


As one of the afflicted completists, I can say that games designed to "stoke" that appeal are almost always seen as annoying, or at least exploitative. Of course, we're not talking about all series or heavily expandable concepts, but rather those that are designed with the explicit intent that consumers would feel compelled to chase subsequent content.
Thanks for your perspective on this!



Quote:
Linearly progressing through a timeline over the course of several mechanically distinct games is a brilliant idea, and I would consider putting money behind the experience.
(You later say you may scrap the idea; I hope this helps you reconsider it)
Fair enough, I'll see if it's possible to make it work!

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heli wrote:
jwarrend wrote:

I've posted a little bit about each of them; Game 3 (Evangelists) is looking the most promising at this point (*), Game 1 (Disciples) is essentially "done" but I think I can do better and will probably try to overhaul it, and Game 2 (Acts) is brand new after a couple of previous incarnations fell pretty flat.

Would be interested to hear what you've worked on as well; plenty of room in the world for multiple games on similar subjects!
Aha, very good, thanks. Looks interesting. Actually my design focuses on a slightly later period in which the Church is growing and trying to decide its chief tenets. But it's a very different approach than Credo!: the Game of Dueling Dogmas, an earlier game on the topic, or its successor Credo!: The Game of the Early Church.
Sounds interesting! A few years ago I had corresponded briefly with Jason Matthews and suggested (or maybe he suggested) that his "Founding Fathers" could be ported to a Nicaea theme; maybe you're working on a similar idea with your Founding Fathers game! Either way, will watch for updates on it with interest.

(A good book for this period that you may not have come across is "Constantine's Bible" by David Dungan).
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jwarrend wrote:

Sounds interesting! A few years ago I had corresponded briefly with Jason Matthews and suggested (or maybe he suggested) that his "Founding Fathers" could be ported to a Nicaea theme; maybe you're working on a similar idea with your Founding Fathers game! Either way, will watch for updates on it with interest.
(A good book for this period that you may not have come across is "Constantine's Bible" by David Dungan).
Hey, appreciate the tip! It's really the period before Constantine so maybe I shouldn't have mentioned Credo actually. But no, this is a completely different system unlike his, or any of my others. When I have something more definite I'll be happy if you'll take a look as it sounds you have plenty of expertise in the area.
 
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