Game Design · One-Player Only · The Honor of the Queen

The Honor of the Queen – A Solo PnP Game

A few of you may already be aware, but it is time to open that awareness up to a broader audience. Last week I had a game design idea reach fruition, and thus The Honor of the Queen was born. 9 cards, 15 counters, and 4 pages of rules is all you need to print out to try this out. But I’m getting ahead of myself a little here.

The idea for the game’s constraints came from Button Shy Games, actually, when they tweeted out a few weeks ago that they were on the lookout for designs that use 9 cards and a few components. Challenge accepted. I also happened to dialogue a little with Alf Seegert, designer of games such as Fantastiqa and The Road to Canterbury, regarding our shared love for literature. He encouraged me to attempt a design in the future with one of those stories in mind, and there was where the theme eventually came into play.

Story

Lancelot, the greatest of all of King Arthur’s knights, was accused of having romantic trysts with Queen Guinevere. First to accuse him was Meliagaunt, whom Lancelot challenged in combat to prove the Queen’s innocence. During the contest, Lancelot cleaved his opponent’s head in half and cleared the Queen of those charges. However, rumors continued to abound and soon other knights became suspicious. Sir Agravain and Sir Mordred gathered twelve knights and stormed Guinevere’s chamber, finding Lancelot there with the Queen. Now you, as Sir Lancelot, must try to escape and fight your way out of the castle and prove the innocence of Queen Guinevere before King Arthur has her burned to death for infidelity.

Object of the Game

You are fighting to escape the perils of the castle and, at the same time, trying to defend the Honor of the Queen you love. You will test your Knightly Virtues against those of the 14 knights standing in your way and fight to emerge victorious. If you can defeat 8 of the 14 knights along your path you will clear the name of your Queen and escape into the night. However, all is not as easy as it may seem. With every failure to defeat a knight, your Knightly Virtues will decrease and the Honor of your Queen will move one step closer to peril. Should you lose to 7 knights, or have two of your Virtues reach a value of 0, Lancelot will be banished from the lands and the Queen will burn for her sins.

***

There was a sliver of time left to slip this one into the BGG Solitaire PnP Design Contest, and so a thread for the game is up and running where you can find the files to print the components and the rules. I can make changes until the 16th, and after that the game is locked in for the contest.

So my hope, dear readers, is that you might find some interest in trying out the game. Even if you cannot get to it by the 16th, every little bit of feedback will help this game grow and evolve before I send a final submission over to Button Shy.

So check out the thread, and be sure to post there and let me know any feedback you have regarding this quick-playing solitaire game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/2055540/wip-honor-queen-2018-solitaire-pnp-contest-compone

Advertisements
Game Design · Monster Hunters

Design Notes: Monster Hunters

Over on BGG I have a thread for my current (and first) WIP board game. If you’ve followed along for a while, you might have heard that I had several ideas kicking around and that I was planning on going with a smaller and simpler design as my first game. But I decided, in the end, to go after the one I was most passionate about and so Monster Hunters earned my focus.

You can follow along on the BGG thread here: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/2011918/wip-monster-hunters-2018-solitaire-print-and-play

But I will also occasionally make updates here as well for those not following on BGG.

***

Monster Hunters is a deckbuilding and worker placement game where monsters are threatening to destroy a town and, as a Monster Hunter, you have been hired to help take care of the threat. Unluckily for you, there is more than one monster descending upon the town and, making it even more unlikely that you can vanquish the beasts and make sure the town doesn’t get destroyed…too much, at least.

Components required: TBD, but will primarily consist of cards, a main board, a player board or two, and some small cubes/discs.

Playing time: TBD

# of players: 1 (eventually may scale up to 1-4, but right now focusing solely on it as a solo game and building up from there!)

Categories in which this game is competing:

d10-1 Best Overall Game
d10-2 Best Rule Book
d10-3 Best Regular PNP Build
d10-4 Most Thematic Game
d10-5 Best Game Designed in Contest Timeframe
d10-6 Best Game by a New Designer
d10-7 Best Deckbuilder, should the category be created
d10-8 Best Worker Placement

***

Want to know a little more about Monster Hunters? Here are some initial ideas:

1) The deckbuilding adapts the mechanic from Aeon’s End where you select the order in which you place your cards in your discard pile and do not shuffle the deck. Any cards not played on a turn can either be discarded or remain in your hand and you draw back up to 5 cards. This allows you to save up for those important combos, but also slows down how fast you’re cycling the deck. Some cards are one-time play cards that go to the discard after use, while others are equipment that you can add to your character to gain permanent boosts until forced to discard.

2) Every game you begin facing the 1st tier enemy, which has its own deck of cards that it will play against you to add monsters to deal with, boost its own effects, or drop one-time actions that threaten the village. Tier 2 enemies are progressively more challenging, and the Tier 3 enemies are equivalent to boss fights. So while you might be powering up your own deck as you go, the enemies are getting stronger to compensate and challenge you.

3) Each tier of enemy also comes with two different “quest cards”, one demonstrating what you need to accomplish to eliminate that enemy from play and the other containing the monster’s timer objective. If you complete your objective first, the enemy is removed from the game and you advance to the 2nd enemy with a small advantage going into the next encounter as well as a card from your hunter-specific Feat deck that provides a powerful one-time-use ability. However, if the enemy’s timer triggers first the next enemy deck comes into play, effectively forcing you to face two monsters and both of the nasty things in their decks at the same time. If you get REALLY unlucky, you could be forced to face all three of the monsters chosen for the game.

4) The ultimate idea is for there to be multiple “stages” to play through, where you get to add in special upgrades into your character’s deck after facing down the trio of monsters and then you thin your deck back down to a preset number of cards in each category (Weapon, Armor, Spell, Item, Ally, & Character-Specific). Each hunter or huntress has a different distribution among those cards to where one might be able to stack their deck full of weapons but not get to keep many allies or save any spells.

5) The worker placement board, in the solo game, will have three token that travel clockwise in a set path around the board and block certain worker placement spaces. You have one worker (representing your hunter or huntress) to move throughout the town in order to shore up the town’s defenses, find items, recruit allies, draw more cards, trash cards from your deck, and interact with the monsters in various ways such as sneak attacks, shooting from a distance, or facing it head-on. Each space you move around on the board advances the small time track in the center and, when it circles around, the monsters act and wreck havoc as well as place a token to advance their progress card. So depending on how well you plan, you might get to do several things before they act or just one or two actions. Your final action before it triggers can make it go past that trigger space, making your next batch of actions have even less time you can spend before they act again.

6) You’ll need to consider your position and the state of the town as it gets closer to the time when the monsters act. Your current position on the board could make it so you take all of the damage of their actions, or it could make it so they hit the town with all of their damage. If your hunter/huntress, or the town, ever runs out of life then you instantly lose the game. Additionally, if the 3rd tier monster’s track ever reaches its completion you will lose the game.

7) Certain cards in the monster decks, as well as a few that can enter your own decks, may get boosted effects if certain cards are currently in play when they are used. For instance, there could be a card titled something like Marksman that doubles your damage dealt this turn if you have a Bow equipped and otherwise might simply add +1 or +2 to an attack. There will be a lot of them in the monster decks, especially in the higher tier monsters.

8) Certain cards and actions will gain you Glory, which is the victory point currency of the game. When the game gets to a point in the future where more players can be added, this will be the way of determining the winner of the game regardless of the outcome of the town’s defense. Certain scores, however, may unlock extra bonuses for your character between scenarios in order to help them progress to even greater levels of strength so that it remains a relevant factor even in a solitaire game. However, this is likely to be among the last things to be tuned and implemented in a meaningful fashion and may serve, in early playtests, as a way for me to gauge the range of scores so I can tweak values and determine where those bonus thresholds should reside.

9) My goal, for this contest, is to get at least one huntress and a trio of monsters to face. Once that is in a state of playability, I will focus on creating 2-3 more hunters/huntresses, and then new monster decks. If I progress far enough, I’d like to have 4 characters, 3 sets of monsters per tier, and the cards to progress through everything in a mini-campaign where the monsters, your character, and the decks to purchase from all get slightly stronger after each set of encounters. Long-term goals include making a narrative campaign to tie in with the progression of the game.

Hopefully this all sounds interesting to you! So far this is 100% idea and concept, and I will be spending the weekend working on some very small decks to use for the cards during the first encounter, both for the initial monster and for the town’s decks that can be purchased from. These are likely to be small in number and mostly to test the initial mechanics and see how that flow goes. Next will come adding in the other two monsters and initial attempts at determining the progress cards, etc. before fleshing out all of the decks with a full range of cards (I’m thinking 40 town cards and 20 monster cards per monster as the ultimate goal). I’ll be sketching the board, as well, and sharing pictures of that and some cards over the weekend! All hand-made, so be kind!!!

***

Okay, first off a sneak peek at the first huntress: Ava. She’s modeled after the protagonist from my first book, Monster Huntress, which is the obvious inspiration for the game. I may give each character card a one-time-use ability that can trigger and then flip the card, but I haven’t decided yet. Also shown are her two initial ideas for the character-specific cards in her starting deck. Note the double usage cards – that will likely be a feature on the majority of cards outside of the starting deck.

Most of the remaining cards in the starter deck will be simple ones such as +1-2 Atk, +1-2 Def, +1-2 Infl (Infl = Influence, which is your purchasing power)

And now for the board! The dimes represent the shifting spaces that are blocked each turn, and the penny represents the Huntress character of Ava. For her first turn, she visited The Forge (market of cards containing weapons & armor).

Her turn ends and the dimes all shift one space clockwise, following the arrow pattern shown on the board regarding where they move to next.

Next she chooses to move over to the space temporarily titled Refresh Markets, which lets her wipe the display of one, or both, of the markets of cards (The Forge has weapons & armor, The Council has allies and items). That space is 3 away from The Force, so the Time Marker moves ahead three spaces (shown by the eraser).

At the end of the round the dimes all move another space, but one of them was slated to go onto Refresh Markets next. Since Ava was there, it skipped that space and shifted to the next one in line. Thematically, you can think of these tokens as representing pockets of chaos or conflict created by the monsters. They seek opportunity at wrecking havoc on the town and try to avoid the huntress, but are a minor threat to where the townsfolk should be able to fend them off for a bit while she deals with the larger threat of the main enemy forces.

Finally, Ava decides to go to the Scrap action to remove a card in her hand from the game. Is that a likely choice this early? Not really, but it is a good demonstration here. That space is six away clockwise, but only four going counter-clockwise. So the timer moves up four spaces since she wouldn’t likely go the long way through town in order to get to this area. Her time is nearly halfway through before the monsters attack, so hopefully she’s getting set up to drop some major damage soon!

***

And as of today (6/29) over the lunch hour here’s the component progress for me to be able to run my first tests of the first monster in the game:

Game board: Done
Huntress player board: Done
Huntress starter cards: 10/10 Done
1st Monster cards: 16/20 done
Equiment cards: 0/12 done
Item/Ally cards: 0/12 done
Feat cards: 0/3 done
Setup card: 0/1 done
Progress Cards: 0/2 done

Board Gaming · Game Design

Advice to New Game Designers

I took to Twitter a few times in the past weeks to seek some advice from current game designers. After all, now that I’ve been bitten by the design bug, I want to try and avoid some of the same pitfalls that others may have encountered along the way. I wanted to soak in their wisdom, as much as possible in the character limit that Twitter restricts (although some completely ignored Twitter, such as the wonderful and prolific Tom Russell from Hollandspiele). But rather than hoard their advice for myself, I thought it would be a fun thing to pass it back to the community as a whole.

Also, at the end, I am sharing the game I’m currently working on along with the other game ideas that have come my way. The massive project in there will be a slow undertaking, which is why there are some smaller and a mid-range design in there to keep things progressing.

So here is the advice that I was given for a new designer, courtesy of these great designers:

 

From @tomandmary

Everyone’s process is different, sometimes radically so, so good advice is of necessity going to be idiosyncratic & might not apply to your “friend”. (Bad advice, like “find the fun!” abounds and you don’t need my help finding it.) That said…

I don’t tend to start serious work on a project until I have a reasonably clear picture in my head of what I want the game to be and to feel like. Then I start working on it, and I keep working on it until it looks and feels like that picture.

I design wargames, which depend on historical research. The best advice I can give about that is to avoid going into the research phase looking for mechanisms or things to jot down. Too often you end up distorting further research to fit those things…

… it’s better to let it simmer for awhile, so that when it’s time to start putting together mechanisms, you’ve already got a good grounding in the topic and can now go deeper as needed. And that being said, only go as deep as you need to at that point;

if each turn represents a year, you don’t need to track what was happening week-to-week. A big problem with first time wargame design in particular is that the designer tries to cover details that aren’t appropriate for the game’s scale.

IMHO, strong game design has a focus and a point of view, looking at its topic through a particular lens (e.g., in the case of one of my games, looking at the American Revolution thru the lens of supplies/logistics).

Two final pieces of advice, the first of which sounds goofy and useless: design the game that only you can design.

The second piece of advice is either very, very good or very, very bad, and that is not to be afraid to be weird, idiosyncratic, even off-putting. It’s very, very good in that it made me a full-time game designer. Very, very bad in that it probably doesn’t work for most others!

From @WeirdGiraffes

Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work or isn’t great to start out with. Don’t focus too much on how things look, things will most likely change a lot as you iterate. If you keep at it, your game will be great, but it could take a lot of time!

From @erik_a_sunden

Try to make a prototype as soon as possible, rather than pondering on the idea too much. It is so valuable to be able to play with the game bits and it will make the progress rate increase by so much!

From @AwithoutP

And if the game is big, playtest small chunks on their own. That way, when it breaks down, you know if it’s Chunk A, Chunk B, or the interaction between the two.

From @Level99Games

Build a roadmap to make sure you remember what the original concept, vision, and desired play experience is. It’s often easy to get lost in mechanics and forget what experience you were trying to create once you get into prototyping.

From @ReflectiveTree

Don’t worry about starting off too complex. In fact, go for it. Make it as complex as you possibly can, then whittle away at that mass of complexity until you find the sculpture in the marble.

From @SeventhSonGames

Get your idea into prototype form as quickly as possible so you can get it on the table in front of others. A LOT of time can be wasted between initial design and this step.

From @rf_seattle

There is no one process for designing a game. What works for others may not work for you. What works for one game may not work for another. Even the best advice from amazing designers will need to be ignored or flipped around at some point.

From @anarchytabletop

I am the only game designer I know who does big upfront design. All of the others tend to iterate quickly.

Designing a game is similar to writing a novel/novella for me. Most of the same ideas apply. I imagine it might also be similar to a making a painting or a sculpture. Two ideas come together in my head, and they propagate more ideas. I create space for them and feed them energy.

Then I get to work developing them.

From @Gregisonthego

Make the game you love! It may lead to / spin off into something else, it may not be marketable, it may be a sprawling mess, but something pushed you to get into design, and you gotta roll with that thing.

From @PhongOdin

Read three blogs: James Mathe’s, ‘s and they’re all chock full of great information.

From @asislavender

Write things down and save older iterations. You never know when yoy want to revisit an idea. Also bring in friends to playtest as soon as you get a prototype working. Even if it’s not for the whole game.

From @Dravvin

Prototype it a soon as you can. Ideas that are great in your head can be awful on the table!

****

And now for my design concepts. These are all in the pre-prototype phase with code names in quotations to represent initial concept titles. Hopefully at least one of them sounds interesting to you. Let me know which one(s) you’d be most interested in. Would you be interested in design updates as blog posts?

 

1. Monster Hunters – (1-4 players) A deckbuilder game with a worker placement mechanic. You are one of the hunters working to defend a town from monster attacks. Each “level”, so to speak, would have three monsters to face, each having their own small deck of cards they play from at the end of the round (think Sentinels of the Multiverse), except only one starts in play and more get added over time. There are progress markers for both players and the monsters, representing the successes of the hunters/the growing threat of the monsters. If the monster threat grows too fast, the players could be facing 2-3 monsters at once instead of the one. Players move from area to area, doing actions to improve the cards in their deck by recruiting allies, finding equipment, or gaining events (discarded cards can be placed in any order, the deck isn’t shuffled much like Aeon’s End). Players win by killing all three monsters, at which point they can thin down their deck to a preset number and advance to the next “level” (three total in the game). Monsters win if all hunters are dead, if the town is too damaged, or if the threat grows too far once the third monster appears.

2. “Out of Gas” – (1 Player) Tentative name stemming from the Firefly episode that inspired the theme. Solo sci-fi game where you are injured and regain consciousness in your ship to find that you’re locked in the back part and all life support systems here have been shut off. There is a limited supply of oxygen, you’re bleeding out, you need to find a way to regain heat before you freeze, and there are some goons you’ve got to get even with who have commandeered your ship. This will combine the excellent deckbuilding design of Friday and add several levels of resource management, movement throughout the ship, tough decisions to make, and all leading up to one big battle.

3. “The Battle of Hattin” – (1 player) A historical wargame recreating the historical Battle of Hattin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hattin). It would be fun to dive into the history of this, and challenge myself to come up with a solo wargame that can be played using either 9 or 18 cards (see the microgame contests that are held annually. I missed the official timeframe for the 9-card contest, but that shouldn’t stop me from trying this out!

4. “Viking Raiders” – (1 player) A semi-historical game representing Vikings landing on the shore and raiding into the countryside/towns. You have multi-use cards to let you move/interact as you raid in deeper onto the map. It would borrow an element from Clank in having plunder on spaces of the board to try and gain, and the further you go in the higher the value but also the greater the risk in making it back to your ship. There will be “guards” patrolling the paths whose movements are dictated through a very small deck of multi-tiered cards that increase in threat as the deck gets reshuffled and serves as the timer. I’m thinking something like an 18-card microgame here, or another candidate for a Mint Tin design as this could conceptually be done with a few cards and some cubes.

5. “Wreck-It Ralph” – (1-2 players) Not going with this as a name, but as a placeholder name for the poll. A twist on your typical dungeon crawl game – instead of being heroes fighting monsters to level up, you are monsters invading towns and fighting heroes to level up. Beyond this initial twist, I haven’t given any thought to the design or system, but it could be fun to do in a small format (mint tin design, perhaps?)