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Subject: Designer's Notes About Castle Danger rss

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Matt Worden
United States
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publisher ... check it out! ;-D
The idea for the game "Castle Danger" came to me one evening as I was driving home from work. I had the board design and the basic rules down by the next day, and had a working computer version of the game by the end of the next week.

The first concept that struck me as interesting was having a smaller-sized board, where the space on the board would become a vanishing resource. This lead to the add-a-piece-each-turn idea. I've also always enjoyed the concepts of building up your own defenses while trying to find a way to punch a hole through your opponent's -- and the need to balance offensive and defensive capabilities. Finally, the piece that really made this puzzle fit together was having the Wizard units determine your operational capacity -- trading valuable spaces on your half of the board for the ability to do 3 more moves. After that, I just tried to keep everything as simple as possible, figuring the mind of the players would add the right complexity.

Not much has changed since that first version of the design. There's been a minor change to how the game is first setup -- originally, there were four walls on a side instead of two. However, this only left 1 space in the middle of the board to get pieces out from the back row -- and players would lob cannon balls in front of it to greatly limit the opponent's movement. More recently, a blues-first-move limitation has been added to even-out the starting advantage, since the game has a strong momentum element to it.

In the past couple of months, an Oxford student by the name of Christopher Fitzsimons suggested a variant of the game, where the type of new pieces added to the board wouldn't be revealed until the player wished to use the piece. After a handful of discussions on the idea, the "Hidden Danger" hidden-information variant of the game was born. I need to give thanks to Clark Rodeffer also for talking through the idea with him.

The computer versions came first. v1.0 was only out a couple of months before v1.1 was released to change the start-of-game setup. These first versions allowed for "hotseat" games (2 players at the same computer) and for play-by-email. v1.3 took a little longer and only added a play-by-network feature, so people could play each other across the Internet. I'm currently working on v1.4 (without an official ETA at this point), which will add in a few new features: a new default graphics set by Clint Franklin, user-customizable graphics, user-customizable start-of-game setups, a couple blues-first-move limitation options, the ability to play the "Hidden Danger" variant, a better mouse-based user interface, and a more robust play-by-network system. It's still pretty much the same game though. I'm not sure when/if I'll get to a v1.5, which would add a computer opponent.

The tabletop board game was developed more recently. The first production version I made used a board printed on photopaper and then cold laminated, with each piece being of a unique shape and spray-painted red or blue. The newer production version has a better quality board and mostly neutral-colored pieces. The Wizard, Builder, and Cannon pieces are now all wooden cubes with an identifying icon on one side. This allows a bit more flexibility with the pieces in a "central stash" instead of being specifically assigned to one side or the other, and it also makes it possible to play the "Hidden Danger" variant.

I do have a follow-up game called "Thrones of Danger" in the plans (you can read initial concepts on my website's message board: ). This game is a bit more complex and may work best as just a computer game -- we'll see how that goes.

Finally, for those folks who find this kind of thing interesting ... "Castle Danger" is named after a small community along Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior. I saw the road sign for it a number of years ago and when this game design came to me, I thought it made a catchy title. ( )

-Matt Worden, November 2003
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