Following on from yesterday’s post about publishing some stuff myself, I said I’d talk in a bit more detail about the first wave of products.
It’s been hard to keep myself from going a bit crazy with the freedom to produce anything. However, by applying a little bit of steely will (and adding a generous sprinkling of common sense) I’ve decided to focus on three areas to start with.
- Game Design Theory.
- Board Games.
- Skirmish Games.
Game Design Theory
I’ve written quite a lot about this and have had lots of very interesting conversations with people about it on various threads both here on Quirkworthy and elsewhere. It’s a subject that I know a fair amount about and definitely have opinions on. Sometimes I’m even right
So, I thought that it would be useful to collate all of the concepts that I’ve been discussing in a disparate and somewhat scattered manner and put them together in a single volume on Game Design Theory. This is being written from scratch, although it obviously touches on topics covered here. My aim is to provide a reference so that further discussions can build on the basics and use a common set of terminology as a reference point. It won’t stop me posting and discussing things on Quirkworthy, and I hope it will allow us to collectively move things onto a new and deeper level of debate. I realise that this will set me up as a target to disagree with too, but that’s part of the intention. By defining a standard point of reference folk can agree or disagree with something without having to define a datum each time.
These are a little tricker to do as PDFs, but people manage it so why not me? “Print and Play” is a recognised subset of board gaming, and with the increasing simplicity of Print On Demand (and a couple of POD sites specialising in games) I see this as a very reasonable way to get things into print which have languished far too long unpublished.
To start with I’ll be rolling out a simple little Euro style family game. Others on the blocks include empire-building fantasy games, an abstract or two, more Euro games of various levels of complexity and much more. It’s a big list. As ever, artwork for nice boards is a large part of slowing these down. We’ll see what I can do about that.
To be more accurate, a skirmish game, singular.
For many years I’ve been tinkering with a skirmish system that would allow me to learn one set of rules and apply it to any period. It’s not my idea and has been attempted with varying degrees of success by a number of folk over the years. For me though, every attempt has failed in one regard or another. This is mainly a reflection of my very high expectations rather than a real failing of the other designs. However, if I was going to print anything of my own it was going to have to live up to a very difficult brief.
The core challenge is that the system is being asked to simultaneously be both generic and specific, and that’s obviously not easy. It has to be generic so that the game can be learned once. It has to be specific because each period needs a load of character (otherwise why bother differentiating?). I am a very theme-led designer and so capturing the essence of what makes WWII combat different from Aztec Flower Wars, ACW skirmishes, Bronze Age raids in the Aegean, Prohibition bank raids, let alone any SF or F options is very important to me.
Of course, anyone who is familiar with my designs knows that I like clean and simple mechanics that promote a great deal of choice and consideration. What I found time and again was that in order to include all the variables I wanted (for the specific part of the brief) I had to make the rules too complex to be clean and slick. Alternatively, I was almost learning a new game to do each period, which defeated the object. Other options were to try for a very minimal system and this tended to suffer from being too bland. Adding a handful of skills for each period doesn’t constitute enough character in my book (though it seems to be enough for some).
Anyway, like I said, I’ve got to be happy before it gets published, regardless of what’s “good enough”. Actually, that reminds me of a saying my grandfather had, which (translated from the broad Lancs) goes: anything that’s “good enough” isn’t. It’s a concept that I took very much to heart and to which I always try to work. If it’s “good enough” then you haven’t finished yet.
As you will have gathered by now, I think I’ve cracked it. I’ve got a simple system that models how humans work in battle and which replicates things I’ve read in first hand accounts of battle in every period. This is my reference point. Can the things I read happened actually happen in my game? For every skirmish game I can think of I can easily find a number of things that are not modelled well or at all. For specific skirmish systems set in a single environment the omissions may not matter. For a generic system to truly cover all the bases then everything matters.
So far what I’ve got seems to deal with Soviet wave assaults and the gunfight at the OK Corral; with revolts by helots, medieval peasants or downtrodden colonial lackeys; with every kind of battle across the spectrum of History to Hollywood. In short, I’m feeling rather pleased with it all