Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Monster City update

Still working on this design. I've got some stuff in place that I think is generally working, but I think I need some outside input. I am just too damn involved in the design to be able to think about it rationally any more, too invested in particular avenues and concerns, and I need a fresh set of eyes to say "well, obviously this part is the problem."

The basic innovations of this version are:
- A more interesting city map. No more straight grid, but a series of city blocks and alleys with some character. I should have done this in the first place, it is already much more interesting.
- An unconventional movement model. The city is broken up into 6 districts. Each unit can undertake "normal movement", moving X spaces on the board. But they can also use "strategic movement": if they are outside the district the monster is in, they can move directly to any other space outside the monster's district. What this means is, your units are never completely out of the fight, they're always a move away from the border of the area where the action is. So far this looks to have some very nice emergent strategy as the monster considers when to change districts, and the city player tries to prevent or anticipate these changes. Credit Europe Engulfed for inspiration on this matter: thematically it means that its easy to move through uncontested areas, but a lot tougher when you're implicitly being careful, being attacked, or otherwise moving through a warzone.
- Finally! The "damage" model. As I mentioned previously, the monster can't destroy buildings when its within range of a unit's attack. This feels really right, giving the city player just the right amount of control over the monster mechanically and thematically.
- Card-based movement. This is giving me the kind of semi-predictability I wanted, I think, though this is the part of the game I am least certain of.

The game feels a little slow right now. but I need to playtest a bit because:
- Games always seem slower and more boring when you're self-playtesting, need to see how much that carries over.
- I think the basics are in place, and I think it could just be missing some changes to the board and cards, rather than fundamental rule changes. This is something I definitely need another head for.

Things I'm looking for:
- Keeping the pace brisk
- Balancing the sides
- Avoiding a runaway winner
- That pop. Right now, each turn is a bit like the last, needs some ramping tension, som buildup of power, some unexpected turns. This is probably my biggest issue, but one that should be fun to try to fix.

Maybe I'll employ Robin for this, though I will certainly bring the prototype to Seattle for some poking on my visit.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

slow days

Between the holidays, workshop papers, and general turmoil, I've not been on the game design train lately, but hope to be back next week. In the meantime, I started this blog. It's everything this one isn't, and will hopefully help keep the toxins away from here. Until soon - Alex