So, this Wednesday I’m going to be going over a few upcoming board game design contests, and come up with some rough ideas for each of them. I’ve been having a ridiculous amount of fun with The Monday Game, and figured I might as well jump in feet-first into game design contests to try and get my name out there a bit.
Before we jump into that, I will be working on Mistgore later this month, but it’s currently on a temporary hold as I work on getting the Ironwatch Annual year One rough draft ready, and get acclimated through the (very minor) teething pains of my new 3D printer; No, not that shitty paperweight, an actual good printer (MakerSelect)!
All this in addition to writing more for my Hardwired series; I’ll be starting to post these on Wattpad in a bit, after I hit the halfway point of public chapters and am writing more on the unpublished second half of the book. Anyways, enough with all that, and onwards to the game contests!
So, the list of contests is as follows:
- Cardboard Edison Award: January 31st
- Trick Taker Challenge: March 6th
- Thunderglyph Survival game contest: April 30th
- Big Box Challenge: June 5th
Obviously the Cardboard Edison game is the one with the most-pressing timeline, but I’d like to make sure for these designs that I’m looking ahead as much as possible. As a result, the stages I’d like to have for each game will be as follows:
- Game parameters/concept outline (akin to what I do for The Monday Game)
- Full part list and prototype creation
- Playtesting and refinement
- Blind playtesting and final copy
Ideally each game advances a stage or so each week or two. Luckily, the game I have in mind for the Cardboard Edison Award is Holy Press, which is playtest-ready and just needs some refining and blind playtesting, and the final art/design, so it should be ready in time. The specific rules for the Cardboard Edison contest indicate the game doesn’t need to be final, but it does need to be playable and playtested, so it sounds like getting it to the point where it’s just waiting on final artwork would be perfect.
This week I’ll be going over the game parameters and concept outline for the next upcoming contest, the Trick Taker Challenge from TGC. They have a set of parameters over on the link to the contest rules, along with a good video breakdown of what a trick-taking game traditionally is, but there are two contest rules I want to highlight:
- Your game must be a trick taking card game with a twist.
- The cost of your game cannot exceed $19.99.
Now, $19.99 seems low, but on TGC, a deck of 86 cards, a tuckbox, and a 20-page rules pamphlet won’t cost more than $15.99, so there’s a little room to play around there for additional components (not much though, as the cost for boxes skyrockets once you move from tuckboxes to regular game boxes). The “twist” part is highlighted, because I’m going to be using our old friend Boardgamizer to help generate ideas, and their ‘Constraint’ section has consistently helped give games a really nice and unique flavor element.
With that, onto the designing:
The Unused Parameters
I figured since the event was a bit more special than the typical Monday Game, it would be worth it to maybe use 5 prompts instead of just 3.
The theme for this one isn’t really grabbing me, and on top of that, the mechanics don’t mesh especially cleanly (in my mind) with trick-taking. Typically, trick-taking is a “gotcha” sort of gameplay, and adding negotiation into that could be really difficult. However, the primary reason is the Theme, as it feels a bit too much in spirit like what we just did for Eagle Academy.
I am suddenly very glad for having picked 5 parameter sets instead of 3; that Theme is atrociously complicated. Any 2 of those I could get, but I can’t begin to think of how I could incorporate all three into a game that’s not, at best, gimmicky and shallow as hell.
Immediately, I’m not a huge fan of word games. The Theme seems fine, but I’m not sure where the trick-taking aspect would come in for the idea that comes to mind: some sort of word-exclusion game, where you get bonuses if you can make some mystical made-up word, but then other player score points on their secret objective if you say words that are on the list on their Secret Objective goal card.
I like the idea of the theme and victory here, as this has a really interesting aspect of exploration and daring Crimson-Skies-esque pilots and such to it. However, the things that kill this concept for me for this system are the tile placement and the board; combining those with a game box, and somehow fitting the whole shebang into $19.99 just doesn’t seem likely to me.
The Winning Parameters
The Theme this time is fine, cool even, but the constraint of Cooperation makes this a weird one to try and figure out how to incorporate trick-taking into. I know I rejected the earlier one for the betting/negotiating mechanics and how those could result in a semi-cooperative state that might not mesh well with trick-taking, but for this one I also like the Mechanics, theme, and Victory much more, so this set of parameters wins it.
I think I’m going to massage the theme from African Jungle specifically, to a general “jungly” theme, but with tons of people of color every time there are people in any pictures (because the world could always use more cool cyberpunk POC pics). My thoughts are that there is a distinct division with effectiveness of two gameplay styles: cybernetics, and jungle herb medicine. The Cybernetics is powerful, but if overwhelmed in some way, it loses most or all effectiveness, while the herbal medicine is notably less powerful, but in sufficient amounts it can be as effective as cybernetics and when defeated or overwhelmed, it maintains a significant part of its effectiveness.
Brainstorm: The Mechanics
So moving away from the core gameplay loop mechanics/ideas for a sec, I think I’d like the “boss” to be one of four possible “enemies.” I’m using quotes here because not all of them will be singular things, and not necessarily people either. I’m thinking there will be a set of “boss” cards, in 3 stages with 2 possible cards for each stage. After the first three turns, the first stage card is drawn as either “Biological” or “Artificial.” It reveals a narrower pool of possible “bosses,” and then the second stage card is drawn from a pool of 2 more cards (indicated on the back as being for Biological or Artificial. Those are “Disease” and “Humanity” for Biological, and “Hardware” and “Infiltration” for Artificial. Finally, those four results each have two cards determining what the boss threat is: Plague/Mutation for Disease, Rebellion/Tyrant for Humanity, Singularity/Sabotage for Hardware, and Virus/Hackers for Infiltration.
These threats are easier or harder to overcome with players that have collected more herbal medicines or cybernetics, but all of them will require at least a token amount of the other category. Cards are easier to acquire earlier in the game, and are worth a number of points based on their strength and specificity of category with the point value able to be increased in later rounds as well. As the game progresses, it becomes harder and harder to shift an initial game strategy, but at the same time if you focus on one strategy to a high degree, it will be worth more points if the game is successful. And of course, if the players collectively fail to overcome the boss, everyone loses.
For Voting, let’s have it be where the players vote for what cards they want to be available for the next round of trick-taking/purchasing. Draw 3 cards from each deck, and let’s have decks for the three phases as well (with increasing costs and possibly increasing card effects/complexity too). Players vote on whether they want the plant or cybernetic card to be available to place tricks on, and a tie means the two cards are shuffled and a random one is selected. After each round of trick-taking, the drawing of new cards and voting repeats.
Lastly, the trick-taking itself. Let’s give each player a deck of starting cards with values 1-10, and players have hands of 5 cards at all times, drawn back up to 5 max at the end of each phase (3 rounds of bidding). Each player picks one card for a bid on the trick (the current plant/cybernetic card up for sale) for the first phase, and the highest card gets the plant or cybernetic card. If two players tie, they can either bid a second card or not, and the winner gets the plant/cybernetic card. If only one player bids a card, they automatically get it, and if neither player bids, the player with the next-highest non-tie card wins the trick. If for any reason there’s a card no-one can bid on because nobody else has cards left, it’s discarded.
However, the second phase requires players to bid with two cards instead of one, and the third phase requires bids of three cards. Later phases will be more expensive and difficult to bid on, but also more lucrative as the cards get more powerful and it’s easier to anticipate what power of plants/cybernetics will be needed to defeat the boss.
Overall, I’m seeing this as a 4-player game, max, due to the card count. There’s 40 cards for the four bidding decks, 14 Boss cards, a 4-card-thick 20-page rule booklet, and 15 plants and 15 cybernetic cards in the deck, 5 for each phase.That leaves us two cards, which I think I’ll dedicate as rule reminders.
Brainstorm: The Story
Oh, there’s so much meat here that could be touched on. I think I’d go with some sort of Overwatch-type paramilitary group, working together to try and overcome some threat. they’re benevolent mercenaries, basically, but they’re still mercenaries, so they want to try and get the best loot out of this cooperative venture. They’re not stabbing each-other in the back, necessarily, but they’re also not falling over themselves to try and be completely generous either. My mind is putting this somewhere on or near the Ivory Coast of Africa, so I think I’ll end up sticking it there in the story blurb.
Also, we need a name still. I’m not sure Overplant or Plantwatch would be the right approach, but how about The Green-Circuit Mercs as a name?
Yeah, that will do nicely.
Brainstorm: The Elevator Pitch
You are part of an elite group helping to save the people, and get rich in the process. You and your fellow mercenaries will be competing to acquire the most prestigious and powerful cybernetic enhancements, as well as the medically-lucrative and potent tinctures and extracts from the jungle surrounding you. Swoop in and claim the riches with careful strategy, but remember to plan ahead and work with your other mercenaries so the threat you were hired for can be overcome: otherwise, you don’t get paid a cent! Can you maneuver your way to riches and greatness as one of the Green-Circuit Mercenaries?
I am definitely excited to do this, and during the process of writing this article, I was able to secure a set of playtesters for the immediate future! I’m definitely excited to give Holy Press a shot, and I can’t wait to see what other players think.
Next week I’ll work on getting the cards figured out and ready for testing for Green-Circuit Mercs, and see where the testing for Holy Press has taken the game. Please let me hear from you in the comments or reblogs below, of what you think of Green-Circuit Mercs and what you would have liked to do with the prompt parameters available. Cheers!