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Subject: Design for a game that came to me in a dream... rss

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Tiger Wiccan
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I guess I've been playing board and card games too much lately, because I had a dream that I was playing a game, although it was not a game that I had ever played in real life. It had elements of some games that I had played recently, so it was probably an amalgam of those. But anyway, here is the basic idea:

The game is a fantasy themed ship race, where the track is a simple starting line and finishing line with a number of spaces between them. Each player has a ship counter that they start on the starting line, and when they get to the finishing line, they win.

That sounds simple enough, but here is where my dream comes in. Each player has a personal board that represents their ship, and has a number of empty spaces that represent different areas of their ship, like a spot for the captain, a number of crew quarters, an engine room, and slots for weapons.

Each player has a stack of counters, that represent different things that go in each slot that give them special abilities or enhancements. These would include weapons that you can put into your weapon slots, crew members that go into your quarters (these will give bonuses or enable special abilites), engine enhancements, or other things that would fit onto your ship with various game effects. Also, each counter will have a resource symbol on it, and each counter takes a certain resource or combination of resources to play. Each player would start with a captain in their captain slot.

Basic gameplay would involve, at each players turn, first drawing a counter and either playing it as the resource indicated or the actual item on the counter itself (by discarding the appropriate resources), by placing it on the appropriate spot on their board. Then they would get one action where they can either move their ship one space (or more if they have certain items on their ship) or use one counter's given ability, including firing a weapon or using a crew member's active ability.

Players would try to balance moving, enhancing their ships, and attacking the other player's ships until one ship reaches the finish line and wins. If there are more than two players, they can then go for second and third place if they wish, and maybe even get points based on their finishing place in some sort of league play.

So does this sound like possibly a good idea for a game? Is there a game out there that sounds alot like this? If not, would it be something worth developing further? Thanks to anyone that reads this and gives their input.
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Paul DeStefano
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This sounds very much like a fantasy variant of the scifi Starship Catan, except there is no 'finish line', just each players ships and goals.
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Tiger Wiccan
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I'll have to check that game out, thanks.

Edit: That game looks cool, but different than my idea in several ways. For one, it's a straight race with no other goals. Also, those starship boards look pretty awesome, but my boards would be a bit simpler. I'm looking to make a more streamlined game if that is at all possible given the theme and mechanics involved.
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Man thinks, the river flows.
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    You know, as much as I hate worker placement, I think this is a neat idea. When I first read it I imagined a sailing ship with limited crew, and you needed to dedicate your staff to different tasks to win the race. Steer the ship, adjust the sails, prep gear, etc. Eight crewmen and twelve jobs to do, some jobs requiring multiple turns, each producing a result of different intensity. That intrigued me.

    That's how people think in Annapolis.

    As I read farther you went in a bit of a different direction, but the core concept is the same. This is your chance to make a million thousand dollars!

             Sag.


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Martin Boisselle
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Kinda in the vein of Galaxy Trucker also....
 
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Rob Bradley
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I wish I had cool dreams like that. The closest I came is one time I dreamt I was hunting lepricons with a samari sword.....I don't think there is a game in there anywhere.
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Tiger Wiccan
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Well, I've gone through a revision process of sorts in my idea, and have turned it into what I think is a tightly formed game. I've substituted the total randomness of drawing counters to a semirandom game where you roll to see what resources you get and also roll when you want to recruit a "hero" onto your ship to see what you get out of a possible 4 types. But you can buy any basic building and crew units and build any structure you have the resources for. I'm hopefully going to playtest it with my brother in the next few days, then should have a PnP version for those interested.
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Markus Rathgeb
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Just look at this:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/14304

Here you construct your spaceship from scratch: hull, reactor, engine, weapons, computer, even different software for your computer, etc.

You have a limited amount of money to build your ship. When it's finished, you lay out a race course on table (we always did it on the floor) an start your engine. Makes a lot of fun, and the more players, the more fun it is.
 
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Brad Weage
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In the early '80s I helped design a computer game (concept - battles between metal boats that floated on a lake of mercury - we had the first chrome simulations). Each player started with a blank hull with specific locations to mount weapons, etc. and added their choice of weapons, defenses, speed enhancements, maneuverability enhancements, etc. There was a maximum total expenditure (could vary by game) and each possible enhancement had a price. It ended up playing a bit like Starfleet battles, without the limitation of movement to an artificial hex grid, and with an excuse for why it was all happening on a plane.

Key point - building your ship was done prior to battling it out. Your dream idea would make this a continuous process. Also, yours becomes a 1-D linear race (not a 2-D battle). A lot of research suggests that the pre-battle customization mechanism limits the audience as compared to a "during the play" approach. I see no reason why a linear race would be any less interesting than a planar battle. So overall I think the idea is sound depending on how you develop it.

Some key things to decide or explore.

Do you want a "growth" element as in many modern games from settlers on. I refer to a system where improvements mean more resources which allow more improvements, etc. From your description it sounds like you want each player to obtain one new counter (resource/enhancement) at the beginning of each turn. The dual nature of a counter is a bit of the San Juan "card used as building or as payment" though the payment here would be flavored (need the matching resources). If that start of turn draw is the only way one gets resources, then if a player only added items that cost one resource - he would in general take two turns per build. This rate would be altered downward by any item that costs more than one resource to build, altered upward by any growth element or by the set of starting counters. You could change your basic idea to one in which you start the game with a set of resource counters that are all you will ever get, and you acquire item counters during the game, having to pay for them from that initial set of resources. You could go the other direction toward a full growth mechanism (this requires two or more different scalars that form a cycle - improvements mean more stuff you can do to generate resources which mean you can afford more improvements, or more complex three and four scalar cycles). Even if you use only one element it can represent two or more scalars - such as San Juan where a card can be a building that reduces all future costs or can be a part of the cost. One common feature of the "growth" mechanism is that it can tend toward a game in which players first create some kind of resource generator, then exploit it - and I don't think that would fit that well with your linear race concept.

I think a minor growth element might fit - not something that forms the basis of the game, but rather a small tactical add-on. In theme terms, I'm not sure how you get a counter each turn. Does your boat dock each turn and take on supplies? Sounds like a stupid way to run a race. Theme would suggest to me more of the "start with all your resources" on the ship before you enter the race. But I like the idea of having stuff show up during the game (at least items if not resources) - so how does that fit the theme. There are some resources you could naturally acquire while boat racing - some kind of a trolling net that trapped fish and allowed you to feed them into an engine enhancement that runs on fish oil. An enhancement that gathers a resource from the water and a way to put that resource to work could be a theme-valid growth mechanism but to keep the emphasis on the race you would want such mechanisms to be minor add-ons, something only half the players choose to do. (It may be just that I am finding the "everyone must build a generator" concept a little overused of late, but my gut feeling is it doesn't fit this game.)

You also mention each player having a stack of counters at the start. You don't indicate if you are thinking of that as a "matched" set where each player has an equivalent set (like Cave Troll or King's Gate). I also couldn't tell if this was a starting set of usable resources/items (in hand) or if this was the stack you would be drawing from during play. I think I would favor a common stack to draw from rather than individual equivalent stacks as long as the difference in value of the items is adequately reflected in their resource costs. I think having a starting set (in hand) of resources could be an interesting element - especially if each player could select their own distribution based on what type of items they hope to obtain during play, their strategy, and their preferred play style. Something to think about, anyway.

Also you mention using your action to move 1 space OR to do something else like attack or use a crew member. I think either you want multiple actions per turn or you want to always have a move 1 (possibly modified)and then a non-move action you can use as you see fit. Otherwise you risk downplaying the "race" nature of the experience (and of allowing it to drag out forever). Turns might cycle through much faster with a move or do something concept - but I think it will be harder to maintain balance across different numbers of players. (Whenever you take an action to attack one specific other player you may let all the other players get ahead - and balancing that cost is harder when the number of other players changes.)

From a thematic standpoint, I could see each player starting with not just a captain, but with some small number of active crew - a captain, a provisioner, and one other of crew of the player's choice. The captain runs the ship (move 1 - not your action). The provisioner is not on the ship, but travels on shore to the side, acquiring something each turn (also not your action) and tossing it to the ship (or having it delivered there by his pet owl, mini-dragon, etc.) That could explain stuff showing up while the race is being run, and it could also supply a tactic of attacking an opponent's provisioner. A successful attack would probably only lay him out for one turn - he spends the money from that turn on getting healed rather than on acquiring one item. (BTW - the money could be implied in the "he does one thing each turn" - buy or heal himself, or it could be an entirely separate resource, which would be especially useful if the counter he gets each turn comes from a face up pool of X items and you want the costs to vary. Then choosing not to acquire something can have value, and you can have actions that allow one provisioner to steal one gold piece from another, etc.)

As a last consideration (for now) - what does the play surface look like? Do you really want it totally linear? You could use a narrow river where left/right placement could also be important. Different provisions might be available on either shore but you have to have your ship within range of the correct side. Are there obstacles in the river? See Mississippi Queen for left/right placement and obstacles, or Arena Maximus for linear with obstacles. Can players deliberately affect the play surface (drop floating logs behind them, conjure a great sea turtle ahead of a ship ahead of them)? Does moving affect the play surface without additional intent? (Each ship might leave a wake that helps or hinders depending on where another ship is.)

I hope the ammount of ideas above suggests that there is a lot of room to build a game like this - and that you decide to pursue it. I'll be looking forward to the result.


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