Let’s talk about the character you’re going to play for this campaign game. I think for a lot of people, that’s up there in terms of what people are looking for with a campaign game. You want a good story, but you also want to …
Tag: Board Games
So last week Amazon did their Prime Days, and like normal, the board game sales were suspect at best. While Amazon can be a decent spot to find a smaller business selling stuff through Amazon to get good board games, Amazon’s selection and sales are …
So, I’m starting a new series, I’m going to be talking about and kind of designing a prototype game based off of SAO, Sword Art Online. SAO is one of my favorite anime, I think that I’ve watched the first season now three times and am working my way through the second season for a third time. This is all because there is third season out and a fourth season started now, so I wanted to watch that and figured since it goes so fast I might as well start from the beginning again.
Why am I making a board game around this idea though, and what is the idea?
We’ll start with a brief synopsis. In Sword Art Online, the first season, the main characters, Kirito, Asuna, and others spend most of the game trapped in a full dive MMORPG, Sword Art Online. In fact it was a couple of years that they were trapped in the game. The creator of the game had decided to create a death game, where the only way to escape was if someone beat the final boss and you had survived, if you died in the game, you died in real life. So the players both had to be careful to survive because of the stakes of the game, and also still forge forward to try and clear the game.
So, you can start to see how this could work potentially as a board game and in particular a campaign game. But let’s pull out the pieces that interest me out of this anime.
Firstly, we have the general idea of basically a level based dungeon crawl, this is fairly common in games so we have to ask how would we differentiate it. I think that leveling and all that is fairly normal. But I want to make it about advancing further and further in and less about specific battles and more about the different floors or levels.
Next I think the idea of no respawn, no retry is interesting. It definitely wouldn’t be the only game to do something like that. But that would suck for a player to have played through a game with their character and then lose everything and be out of the game. But this was an MMORPG, so in the show there are 10,000 users, most don’t climb up levels and try and clear everything because they aren’t experts at MMORPG’s. In this game I’d want to have somewhat if not nearly as leveled characters available for the players to take over, so it isn’t the end of the world if you lose your character, but it is a setback.
Sword Art Online is also less about the boss battles, though there are several that are shown in the first season, and more about how people are surviving and interacting in the world. This is something that I’d want to emulate in the game as well. I do think there should be a boss battle per level, but it would be the second part of each level. The first part, I would want to give players different things that they can do on a level. Questing, interacting with other players or NPC’s, shopping, fighting monsters, and researchign the boss with it eventually leading to facing off against the boss for the floor.
There also is an element of guilds and teams, though Kirito through most of it is a solo player. And I think emulating that is something that I’d want to try and do as well, make it so you have a nameless team behind you and you grow your guild or lose some of it, and you have to balance risks of how you use these guild members, how you balance trying to do the most that you can so you can level up and be ready for the boss battle, but also not pushing your guild members too hard that you lose some due to them dying or that you exhaust them too much and push them away. Plus, you might also want to recruit more.
There is also a concept of unique skills in the game, Kirito, as the main character, gets a dual wielding skill. That is a unique skill in the game, so I want to create a way to create unique skills and to handout skills. When leveling, except for maybe at a few specific levels, you shouldn’t be getting skills, just stat increases that you can spend. Skills I think should be unlocked or gotten as you complete quests or keeping track of actions kills, things like that. You can then unlock different skills, and some skills can be combined with other skills to create improved skills. I’m still trying to figure out how that might work.
Finally, with the boss battle, I want the bosses to feel like they did in Sword Art Online. Bosses had multiple health bars that players had to get through, and as they got more damaged, they could add attacks and change up their attack patterns. This is something that I want to emulate as well. Have it so you can plan and figure out the patterns of the boss if you want to, and you know what they are going to do, but as they knock out bars, new attacks will be added, maybe some will be removed and you have to be able to learn the new pattern of what is going on again, at least if you are going to do well.
So, what’s next for the Design Diaries? Well, I’m going to start taking each part and working out how I think they would work well or interesting as a board game mechanic, as well as talk about some things I didn’t cover too much, like combat and how that would work.
Also, finally, why am I doing this, for me, it’s a fun thought exercise even if it’s something that I never prototype or if it doesn’t work as an idea. It gives me something I really like, board games, and allows me to dig more into how games work, what works, and what I think would be interesting in a game, whether or not it’d work. Now, do I hope that it’s awesome, sure, but this is more trying out ideas and see what could be fun and what might work and just if game design is something I might have fun with in my spare time.
Last night was the first official stream at the new place, keep in mind, I obviously did a test stream already this week, but good news, I’ve figured out a few improvements for this new one. The game was Marvel Champions as I took the …
You’ve been taken to the lands of the fae, will you be able to find a portal and escape in this narrative and exploration game by Greenbrier Games?
- Solo game play
- Not a campaign
- Story elements
- Price for Retail
- Established Company
- Retail vs Minis Pledge
- Old style feeling stretch goals
This is a company that has run Kickstarters before for their Folklore: The Affliction and Champions of Hara, so they know what they are doing. With that said, I think it’s an okay laid out page. You get the idea and theme of the game well at the top, but in terms of actual game play, you get way more from the video at the top than you do from the game play section.
I will also say that there are parts of the page that don’t feel like a more recent Kickstarter, even two years ago this would have made sense, now it feels like it’s a bit out of date. The pledge levels for example, there is the retail pledge and the minis pledge. Honestly, nothing too odd about that, but the minis pledge level has more game play to it as well. So if I want to get all the game play, I need to get the minis as well. This then continues into the stretch goals where some are just for the minis level and some will also be in the retail level. It feels like there is a level missing, like it should be retail which is just the game no stretch goals unless it’s a cosmetic upgrade, linen finish on cards stuff like that, standees version, cheaper than the minis version with all the game play additions, and then one with the minis. At least that’s what it seems like a lot more are doing, instead of me now guessing what stretch goals I might get or not. I can understand why a company would do it that way, I just think it’s a bit messier than some other ways of handling it and feels like there is more of an upsell going on with this one.
The artwork, though, is outstanding on the game, and definitely provides that classical fairies and magic feel to the game that it really feels like they are going for.
So the game itself has a lot going for me, I like that this is a narrative driven game where you have branching choices of what you can do and depending on what you find and what skills you’ve used before, your options might be limited because of that. I really like the fae setting, that is something that I’ve always really enjoyed in books and movies and games even other games. Stuff like The Dresden Files leans into it heavily or anime The Ancient Magus Bride, I’ve even picked up a fae book for D&D monsters.
Beyond the theme, I like the push yourself element to the game where you have skills or abilities basically that are cards you can play out of your hands. As I talked about above, you spend those, you don’t have them potentially for a narrative challenge you need to deal with and you’re going to be dealing with that in a different way than you’d have preferred. Not only that but they don’t refresh automatically, you need to find a place to rest, basically, and then you’ll refresh your cards back to your hand. This almost has a bit of a 7th Continent vibe in how you are pushing forward but trying to balance card use with the risk, and the exploration element also lends itself to that vibe as well.
There are a couple more things game play wise that are interesting and maybe slightly concerning. The first is that this is not a campaign game, normally I get really excited about campaign games, or this sort of theme would be a campaign game, but I love that this is a game that takes about an hour to an hour and a half to play, and you still get some narrative with the encounters you have and what you find. But with that, I’m slightly worried about long term replayability. I’m worried that if I see 60-70% of the tiles each game, even with me potentially not having all options open for that I do, that the narrative will run out or I’ll start to know, giant green mushroom, don’t eat it, little blue mushroom, eat it, yellow mushroom, eat it if you play this card but not this card and it either won’t be as interesting or it’ll become something where I try and optimize the game, and this doesn’t feel like that sort of game.
Back or Brick
This one was a pretty easy Back for me, the theme and the exploration really make the game interesting to me. I love fae stuff, I think that’s an element of fantasy that is not delved into nearly as much as it should be. The only thing I don’t like, right now, is the upselling that is going on with this, you get more if you get the minis. I get that they have a super deluxe version that comes with extra games, but I want the game play for this without the minis, though I get it, it the minis look amazing. It makes me wonder if this is something worth backing on here, or how much I’ll actually save versus buying this later retail. With that said, and with my concerns about replayability, everything else sings to me about this game from the artwork and theme, to the game play itself, so I’m backing this now that the retail level with maybe getting pressured into the minis level.
Is this a back or a brick for you?
We’ve made it through another list this year. No spoilers as to what’s to come, what might have moved up, what might just be a new game on the list, so let’s get into this. 100 to 91 90 to 81 80 to 71 70 …
So, two posts today and not going to be doing Friday Night D&D, because I got a new game to the table a few days ago, and that’s the first ever flick and write game, Sonora by Pandasaurus Games.
This game is split into two parts and six rounds. The first half of each round players are flicking discs onto a board, depending on the number of the disc and where it lands, at the end of the flicking phase, you will get to use it on the second part of the round. That is where you are using the number and location to determine actions on your player/scoring board. The game has you doing a few different things, four in fact, depending on the area where you flicked your discs. The first one, the lizard, is simply filling in areas as fast as you can based off of the total number on the discs that you’ve flipped, the bigger area you fill in, the more points you get when you complete it and the better bonus you get if you’re the first person to complete it. The eagle is a bit trickier, you are using the numbers you flicked into that section to fill in cross out and then circle spots for either bonuses or scoring. Then in the fox, you are tetrising in pieces to get points by covering up cacti, and the more you get of a given type, the more points you get, plus you can circle bonuses as well. Finally with the rabbit, you are totaling up the discs in the area and using them to cross of intersections which will allow you to connect vertices which again gets you points for cacti you’ve surrounded as well as bonuses. After six rounds, the player with the most points wins.
So, we know from my Top 100, which is going on now, I like roll and writes and flip and writes, so how about a flick and write, does the flicking part work for me? I’d say yes, I think I can get better at it, I got good at ICECOOL, but I think that it works for me, it’s a fun randomization aspect of the game. I almost wish there were more ways to lock in a disc once you’ve flicked it, other than hitting the middle wild spot, but there are bonus double spots on the board and I do like trying to knock other people off of them. My flicking was bad enough that I think in two games I only hit the double once. That said, I was always in the games. So while the flicking is important, utilizing the bonuses on the sections most effectively and you can really create massive combos is just as important. So I think that both parts of the game works well.
I think another thing that works well is that this game has little to no downtime. Sure, it might take a minute to get back to flicking again, but the flicking portion of the game goes fast. And then when filling in your board, you are doing that all at the same time, minus the lizard just because with the lizard the first person to complete a section gets a bonus. So everyone can go at the same time and while my scoring, if I don’t do many combos and get bonuses might go faster than yours, generally it isn’t a massive time difference and you’re not waiting for one person to do theirs, then the next, and then you. I think that’s a smart thing we’re seeing in a lot of roll and flip and write games is that they are trying to keep down time between turns to a minimum and Sonora does that as well.
If I had a knock against the game, I do think that the discs you are flicking could be slightly higher quality. They are wooden, which is nice and screen printed, but they are very light, just for me, I wish they had a little bit more heft to them. And the biggest thing, I wish that they had the numbers on both sides. It’s possible for the disc to flip when you shoot it, so you are having to reach in and flip it over so everyone can see, and probably moving it slightly. I think that the extra heft too would keep them from flipping as much or flying off the board as much, but then again, they do give you reflicks for it it does fly off the board, or maybe lands where you don’t want it to stop after you’ve flicked it.
Overall, this is a really fun game. I think that I’d say it’s a bit more complex than some roll and write games, but not too complex. Once you learn what each section does the game really goes fast, and I think playing two rounds for learning rounds is about all that you need before people really start to get it. There is strategy to the game, and I think that any of the different options are going to give you a chance to win. There are a few different ways that you can play it, you can play long, regular, or short games, and you can play basic or advanced rules, and I like the advanced rules where you can’t just flick to the section in front of you, you have to bounce off of something to either stop in that section or bounce back into it, it adds in some more strategy. Really good game and something that feels similar but different in the [blank] and write genre.
Overall Grade: A
Casual Grade: A
Gamer Grade: B+
Is this a game that you like, one that sounds interesting to you?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!