Board Game Design Diary – The Board
One of the most important parts of a board game is the board, not really. But a board is a really good spot to start to talk about, because that’s going to influence a few parts of the design.
Like a lot of dungeon crawl-esque games, this game isn’t going to have one central board that you go around. In fact my current thought process is that you will have no central board that you play off of. Instead, we’re going to use what something that I’ve seen in games like Forgotten Waters, Stuffed Fables and Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, which is a book.
There are a few reasons for the book, but the biggest is that we want the different levels to feel varied. The amount of tile pieces would be epically high to make a completely varied board. There are a lot in Gloomhaven, and those can seem somewhat limited at times, so to make something feel truly unique for different levels, you’d need a ton of pieces of terrain, and map tiles, and more to really keep it varied, but in this, I want to make it so that each level can be unique. Especially for the boss battle, I want to work with the idea of space in the game. I think that the new Descent game does an interesting thing with that where you build up vertically at times and can push people off of towers and things like that, I want to be able to do that. And some of that can be done with negative space on a map that’s drawn easier than map tiles that just create more random empty space on the table.
Besides the boss battle, it’ll help me be able to change up the level part of the floor, where players can go on quests, fight monsters, shop, and recruit to their guild. I could completely drop off one of them if I wanted, or I could add in additional spots where players can send people to go questing. This will allow each level to again feel different than the previous ones and give hints as to what might be more important for a level, or I really like the idea that some levels might not allow you to do things, maybe like recruit, so you need to plan accordingly, and you might not get that researched or figured out, but you need to have that in your mind that the next level might not have everything you want, or it might mean you can all go questing and pick up story and lore of the world.
But there are going to be a few actual boards in the game. The first will be the player boards. Each character is going to have their own board. This will have their stats as to what they are good at on it. Those stats are going to then influence how good they are at other things. Someone who is average at everything might do okay on all the tasks and tests, but they aren’t going to get the best outcome and I’ll be talking more about that in the future. But players will have ways to keep track of their stats, but along with that, this is where you’ll keep track of skills and equipment, conditions, and things like that which are common for dungeon crawlers. In my mind I want something closer to the Neoprene mats from Midarra versus something like the paper board from Sword & Sorcery. Gloomhaven does it a little bit better, but I want to build even upon that, because I’ve seen some nice custom ones for Gloomhaven that would hold things better. Also, with cool down and tracking skills, I feel like that’s something that Sword & Sorcery tries to do decently well, but ends up not really doing that well, so I’m curious to see how I can improve upon that.
The other board is going to be the guild board, and this one I have more of an idea of what I want on the board. This board is going to be fairly simple. You are going to keep track of a very few things on here. The two primary ones are going to be guild members and morale. Morale is going to be important for a few things, it’ll be about the attrition that you have with the guild or maybe how it’ll grow naturally. The better your morale the more that you’ll also be able to recruit on a floor. The other big thing, as I said, is guild members. Tracking them will be important because as you hit numerical points, that’ll give you more groups of guild members to use on levels. So if you have a ton of them, you’ll be able to cover a lot of ground, but you’ll also be sacrificing opportunities to level up by doing that. Again, building that tension, but also we’re on boards here, so that’s going to be important to track for that reason. Finally you’ll be tracking a few other things, gear level of the guild, statuses that you’ve found, deaths in the guild, and population left in the world. The statuses that you have found as a guild pertaining to the game can influence your options going forward. Gear will make a difference in battle, deaths in the guild will influence left total in the game, so important things, but will be less often you’re checking those things.
For a game this large there was always going to be a bunch of things to keep track of, but I want, with the book for the board, to make it so that part of the game is an easy flip out and play because that’s going to make the game way more accessible to players if they only have to keep track of their own stuff instead of helping set everything else out. I do think that there’ll be some tokens for the boss battle, such as placing on terrain, though I’d love to be able to make as much of that 3D terrain as possible, either 3D molded terrain, but that might be an add-on if it goes to KS or carboard pieces that can be put together to create height and visual appeal. I might pull a bit from what Oathsworn is doing where you can either get minis for the bosses or you can standees as well, but keep the bosses, and any terrain items, hidden away in either envelops with punch out stuff, or something like that, but ways to bring more surprises to the game. But that’s probably something for another time to talk about.
What do you think of the game thus far, definitely still in concept phase with this one, but I’m going to try and tackle some more specifics this week.