K Riovanes
Canada
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New idea for a game called Kill the Messenger. I've wanted to make a game that simulates the chaos and disorder of being a commander in the days before radio, and last night I had that "bolt of inspiration" where the entire game presented itself to me almost fully-formed in my head. It's a strategy wargame where the only thing standing between you and crushing your enemies is your motley crew of idiot couriers and their inability to deliver a simple message.


The game takes place on a grid board; first guess is chessboard sized (8x8). Two players' armies of relatively simple units meet in the center and clash for supremacy. In almost any other game, you decide to move your Bishop or Captain, and you just do it. The twist in this game that units cannot be ordered directly. In Kill the Messenger, the order must be DELIVERED to the unit. That's where the title messengers come in. On their journey, the courier or message can be waylaid, misled, misplaced, altered, injured, or horribly killed in all kinds of entertaining ways, leading to chaos on the battlefield as units receive the wrong orders, break formation, march in the wrong direction, or even attack the wrong side.


Players draw cards each turn - probably draw up to a certain hand size each turn, or possibly a Munchkin-style "risk and reward" double draw. The Reward Cards can be Orders, Spells, or Items.


Orders are usually movement: "Move 1 space forward" "Move 1 space right and 2 spaces forward". Orders have to be attached to a courier and sent out into the field to be delivered to the unit you want to move. On their journey, the courier or message can be waylaid, misled, misplaced, altered, injured, or horribly killed in all kinds of entertaining ways. Each player will have a "pool" of 6 couriers and 1-2 Flying Couriers - these can move slightly faster and avoid certain hazards, but are more vulnerable to others, and present tempting targets for your enemies. Couriers will automatically move 1-2 spaces forward each turn, and will deliver their Order to the first unit they encounter (not necessarily the unit you hoped would receive it!) Then they'll automatically scurry back to their general for more orders.

Other useful cards include Spells, cast once only but at any time to do things like injure an enemy's courier or win a battle you might otherwise lose; and Items which can be delivered like Orders via courier but provide a unit with a consistent bonus (Flame Sword: bonus attack, Guardian Amulet: immune to enemy spells, that sort of thing)


To cause consistent courier mishaps I think I'll have a "risk" deck which you are forced to draw from. I may allow players to "assign" their various disasters to the courier of their choice, giving them some chance to mitigate the damage done. Hoping to have some funny art and flavor text for accidents. The alternative, or possibly addition, is to have "behind enemy lines" units like Spies whose only role is to mess up couriers.


The combat itself I want to keep fairly simple to keep the emphasis on murdering couriers in inventive and hilarious ways. I'm thinking three units: infantry, archers, and cavalry (possibly a 4th, siege). Archers can attack from 1 extra space away, cavalry can (if the player chooses) move +1 space than their Order told them to, and Infantry will be either generic or slightly tougher.

As stated, units will not engage in any movement on their own initiative. However, they don't have to be ordered to attack: melee units will automatically engage in combat any enemies they find themselves adjacent to. I'm not sure how I will do ranged unit "aggro". Anyway, combat will be determined mostly by positioning, flanking, and multiple units ganging up on a lone defender; I doubt there will be any dice involved.


Theme is not set in stone yet. Iron Age combat was the first theme that suggested itself to me, or perhaps Medieval, but I think that regardless of the setting, the 3 units will probably be the same.


Thoughts, BGG?
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Rocco Privetera
United States
New York
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I think I came up with this very idea in the "choose a new theme already" thread. It's a good idea!
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Kent Reuber
United States
San Mateo
California
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Using couriers to transmit order changes is used in a number of "old school" miniatures rules and in some new ones. For example, have a look at the online rules sample from Command Combat: Civil War (have a look at page 18 in the sample doc).

http://www.commandcombat.com/Command_Combat_Civil_War_previe...

These days, this sort of thing tends to be abstracted out rather than using physical couriers. For example, in Warmaster and its variants, you dice for a unit to obey an order with a penalty if the unit is too far away. Or, in De Bellis Antiquitatis, it costs extra command points to move a unit which is too far from its general.
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K Riovanes
Canada
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Rocconteur, I probably saw your post in that thread! My brain must have combined it with my ideas of "wargame + mishaps" and later provided me with this game. Thanks for the inspiration.


Mr. Reuber, that Civil War game looks really interesting, and I really like its "Orders" rules. However, I'm aiming for something much simpler and more comedic. It was perhaps a mistake to call my game a "wargame", since, although it's a strategy game about war, it doesn't involve any of the miniature-painting, terrain setup, or realistic rules that normally are associated with that word. What I have in mind is a game you could probably play with a chessboard and chess pieces, as long as you had the card decks, and you could probably play it with casual gamers.


I can see why this sort of "delivering orders" rule has been abstracted in most games: like supply chains or encumbrance, it's one of those things that's realistic but rarely fun. However, in this case, the couriers themselves are the focus of the game. Strategy isn't so much about how to maneuver your units as it's about where to send your couriers and with what, laughing as they die horribly, and how to minimize the damage when your units maneuver incorrectly, which they will. Combat might even be as simple as Diplomacy, where "more units involved in this engagement = win".

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