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Subject: Dystopia - a work in progress (updated) rss

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Daniel Nelson
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Update: Added quest card pics (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/3754932#3754932 )

I thought I’d post some pictures of a game I’ve been working on. It’s called Dystopia for the time being, although I don’t know if that name will stick. I make games professionally; but video games, not board games. This is my first serious attempt at a board game.

Let me know what you guys think!


Players are assigned asymmetric goals they must accomplish to grow in power, with the ultimate goal being the death of the other players. Each player moves about within the game’s maze, working to advance his own quest by opening crates and investigating the other players. At the same time he attempts to frustrate his opponent’s progress and soften them up for an inevitable showdown at the climax.

As a huge fan of Wiz-War in my youth, Dystopia borrows some of that game’s core elements. Dystopia diverges significantly, but you can still see its origins in several places, such as the game board.


The game has gone through about three major rewrites. This particular version seems to be working out well. I’ve done a number of rounds of play testing, with many more still needed. The major bullet points I’ve taken away from them have been pretty consistent:
- simplify, simplify, simplify
- reduce game length
- learn what players are expecting, and don’t fight it
- learn common questions that are worth spending valuable card space to answer

Gradually testing has gotten smoother, with games clocking in at less than three hours and very few glitches or hiccups in the rules. I also had the chance to demo at Protospiel West this year, and the game was well received.


As far as the ultimate goal of any game, people do have fun when they play it! Of course, there is always the danger of seeing one’s own game through rose-tinted glasses.

I’ll post more details, including rules snippets and card images, when I have more time.

(Everything in the pictures is original work, except for the miniatures which are from D&D.)
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J. Green
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Re: Dystopia - a work in progress
I am always leery of games with an endgame condition of "destroy all the other players." This is an out-dated game design goal that tends to make for very long games. Modern games use victory points or other indicators of success to prevent the unsatisfying outcomes of player elimination. Wiz-war was innovative in some ways and typical of its era in others. You might want to re-think the goal of the game while preserving the flavor, theme, gameplay etc of what you already have.
 
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Tim Harrison
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Re: Dystopia - a work in progress
bookgnome wrote:
Modern games use victory points or other indicators of success to prevent the unsatisfying outcomes of player elimination.


Don't be discouraged, Daniel, because that's an awfully bold statement. Sure, most Eurogames do not have player elimination, but that hardly means that player elimination is unacceptable. Many wargames have player elimination. Many FFG games (or Ameritrash) games also have player elimination. The bottom line is personal preferences.
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David Winter
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Someone gave me 88gg for a rules translation and all I got was this lousy overtext
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Re: Dystopia - a work in progress
bookgnome wrote:
I am always leery of games with an endgame condition of "destroy all the other players." This is an out-dated game design goal that tends to make for very long games.


The idea that modern games cannot have "eliminate the other players" is outdated.

Judge each game on it's own merit, as yet you have NO idea how the game plays. The old spectrum game CHAOS is an awesome computerised boardgame that features the concept, and works very well, (though it does play in 10-20 minutes)

Recent games that have used the idea include Monsters Menace America and Runebound: Crown of the Elder Kings, though both feature a timer leading to and all or nothing endgame battle. Talisman (Revised 4th Edition) also features last man standing and comes in at 1-2 hours.

As long as the game doesn't boil down to an hour long 2 player cat and mouse to determine the winner it could very well be fine.

The game sounds very interesting.

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Martin Gallo
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Re: Dystopia - a work in progress
Interesting. I was working on a game called "Dystonia" which only shares a similar sounding name to yours. I found that the playtesting was cramping my style.
 
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Tim Harrison
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Re: Dystopia - a work in progress
Oh, and last time I checked, one of the most popular games in the country has player elimination. And at big events, games can go on for days!

Poker!
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Daniel Nelson
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Re: Dystopia - a work in progress
Unlike a few games I've played that involve player elimination, Dystopia builds to an unavoidable climax. Players do not have the strength to eliminate each other at the start. They grow over the course of the game, and during the last few turns their offensive power ramps up significantly. Thus, player elimination is very unlikely during the beginning and middle of the game, and comes fast and furious near the end.

Hopefully that dynamic mitigates some of the issues that player elimination can cause. I definitely don't want players sitting out, waiting for the next game to begin.

Also, since offensive power ramps up but defensive power does not, the cat-and-mouse issue is minimized.

Of course, it's a balancing act. There have definitely been drafts of the game where the above ideas broke down.
 
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Matt Sargent
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Re: Dystopia - a work in progress
Congrats, the game looks very cool. Don't worry about player elimination; done right, it's a pretty refreshing alternative to having players keep playing after it's no longer possible that they'll score more points than the leader.
 
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Jack Neal
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Re: Dystopia - a work in progress
I like games where you can basically fork the leader and potentially make a comeback. I prefer games with alliances which may result in mathematical elimination. Downturn (mine) uses this to great effect.

 
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Vincent Appel
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Re: Dystopia - a work in progress
Daniel:

Care to elaborate on the story behind the game? Why do the characters have to kill each other. Is this a dystopian society in the future, or a dystopian world on another planet?

-v
 
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Daniel Nelson
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Re: Dystopia - a work in progress
I haven't yet put together a full backstory for the game. However, each of the game's quests has a small piece of fiction attached. Together they paint a picture of a fairly dystopian world.

A player's quest gives him the kernel of his character's identity. These characters include faceless corporate operatives attempting to suppressing the freewill of the people, mad men indent of citywide destruction, and lone heroes on a personal quest. A player's character is further fleshed out by a small set of random "story" cards they are dealt at the start of the game.

I'm only refining six quests during development, but I've got notes for many more. It would be an obvious direction to expand on the game.

Below are two of Dystopia's quest cards:

 

The left text box contains the quest's rules text. Any special powers or abilities that the quest grants are listed there.

The upper-right text box contains the backstory fiction of the quest: the favor text.

The lower-right text box gives a description of the steps to complete the quest. It's a useful reference for the player, and is not rules text.

The smaller boxes along the bottom are the quest's checkpoints. As a player completes those checkpoints, he earns experience points. Those points can then be spent to increase a player's potency in one of the four decks.

 

(In earlier versions of the game, some of the quests won the game immediately upon completion. I found that led to somewhat unexpected and unsatisfying game conclusions. Now all quests result in the player obtaining very strong offensive power. Unfortunately, I haven't updated all the quests' fiction to reflect this.)
 
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