One of my various creative hobbies is working on board games and card games. I’ve come up with dozens of ideas over the years, but the three that have gotten the furthest are:
- 1-2-3-Flag: An abstract two-player strategy game; similar to chess in that everyone has full information at all time. Co-created with my friend Ross, we actually prototyped this one and then played it for hours and hours…annoyingly, it doesn’t quite work, and even more annoyingly, we can’t work out why. It’s (almost) a lot of fun though, and we’re thinking of having a “playtest day” where we invite all of our game-loving friends around to see if anyone can work out how to fix it. It’s so close to being amazing, but it’s not quite there.
- Zombie Grandmas from Hell: One of the problems with 1-2-3-Flag was the complete lack of theme – if we ever “make it”, it’ll probably have an ant theme (even though that makes no sense for its mechanics) but it could be anything from virus-themed to unicorn-themed and make just as much sense. This game is the opposite of that – we started with theme, and built a game around it. It’s a co-op game where you play a group of survivors in a house, protecting yourself from the oncoming hoardes of zombies.
Again, it almost works. The strongest part of the game is execution of theme – it really feels like you’re working together to fend off zombies; as the game goes on, they begin to feel overwhelming, and you really need to work together to stop your
brains from being eatentea from being drunk. I identified the problem with it almost a year ago – it’s too finicky and logical, and you spend so much time moving the zombies that it slows the game right down (a problem which increases as the game goes on.)
- Harvest! – the only game on this list that I have just worked on by myself, over the last few years, it’s set in All-That-Is and it’s a deck-building game about running a farm. I’ve not yet prototyped this one, but I’m hoping to in the next few days – my big fear is that it’ll be too much of a solitaire-esque game, or possibly a little dry. I’m hoping that there will be a basic element of fun that I can build on, but I won’t know until I take the time to write out the hundred-odd cards that I’ll need (ugh, deck-building games…) and playtest it with myself a few times.
I like making games, because it’s a different form of entertainment to the types that I normally work in – instead of “audience” and “entertainers”, you want the players to both drive the action and have fun. It’s setting up an enjoyable framework instead of simple entertainment, and it’s different enough from what I normally do for my brain to consider it “rest”.
Ross and I (just due to our incredibly busy lives) haven’t hung out in quite a while, so Harvest! is the game that I’ve been working on the most lately – it doubles up as a productively-relaxing hobby because I need to develop All-That-Is for parts of it to make sense – as a farming game, the seasons are incredibly important, and so a few weeks back I sat down and fleshed out the seasons (there’s five instead of Earth’s four, and I think they’re distinctly different from “summer/winter/autumn/spring clones).
Yesterday I was fleshing out some of the mechanics, and realised I’d made that classic mistake of over-complicating it. I quickly removed half the game, put it aside as “expansion fodder”, and suddenly it’s a lot more elegant. I’m keen to try it out with other people, but I know that the first two steps are “making it” and “playing it with myself numerous times”.
My cousin Gavin moved in just under a month ago, and he’s been developing a game too – Apocalypse: The Board Game*. My idea of a lovely Sunday evening – the both of us sitting next to each other, each developing our games, bouncing ideas off each other…
*is my suggested name for it, but certainly not its definite title.
It’s entirely possible that these games will never go past fun ideas, but that’s okay by me – fun ideas are, as you may have guessed, a lot of fun. And no matter what you may have heard, I quite like fun.
Today is going to be productive…and if I work hard enough, maybe I’ll have time to sit down and doodle card ideas for Harvest!