(Edit: Added a bit more nuance to the mechanics of Dungeon Power)
This weekend, there was a Board Game Jam at the Wits Game Design Lab – open to all and sundry who wanted to try their hand at creating a game with not code and pixels, but pencil and paper. I was there, along with a few members from makegamesSA, and had an amazing time inventing, musing, playing, and re-inventing
I had gone into this jam with certain expectations, having a game in my head that I wanted to make already. The first half of the Saturday was consumed by this one – A deck-building game about advertising where you are an agency morgul, amassing fortunes, hiring employees and pitched for clients. We prototyped it up quickly and had many arguments over it – in the end it was deemed too complex and too similar to existing mechanics (Thunderstone) for a short jam and I abandoned it. Ernest picked it up and turned it into another game.
But then I made something else! Everyone worked on a couple prototypes, but in the end this one grabbed my imagination and interest the most: The Rogue-Like Card Game (RLCG)
How to make a game
Before I tell you about RLCG, I just have to give a big shout out to the Wits Game Design peeps, who organised the Board Game Jam. They had a cool lab, complete with all kinds of cool stuff – tiles, counters, dice, tokens, a guillotine with which I cut my cards, and all kinds of little bits, which really drove home the essence of game making – it’s not about the code or the graphics, but the game – the set of considered, defined, and tested rules which make an interaction fun.
It’s about challenging people and creating tension between players, and creating choices which turn into opportunities for everyone involved to feel thrilled and invested. This post on the Board Game Designers Forum describes it very well, and you do it with naught but writing some stuff down on bits of paper and some more bits to keep count of something, and then it’s all in the rules of the game, followed by a lot of playing and testing and tuning.
So if you wanna make games, give it a shot. Try it, stop imagining that it’s hard, imagine instead what you want to show people!
Introducing The Rogue-Like Card Game:
RLCG is an asymmetrical card game that pits an Adventurer against the Dungeon Master (with multiplayer to come!).
The asymmetrical play means that the two players play differently. The Dungeon master lays out the dungeon for the adventurer to move in. There is a certain ratio of boons and banes in the Dungeon Deck (following deck construction rules), so the adventurer is never completely overwhelmed. The dungeon builds Power over time, and its master can make use of the stockpile of Power to wake slumbering evils, or he may choose to save his power to assault the hero in another way. Power tokens can be taken into the dungeon’s power stockpile, or be invested on the board, over face-down cards. When an adventurer slays a minion, the dungeon loses power from its stockpile equal to the cost of the monster. This creates an interesting choice for the dungeon – does he hang onto the power, where it could be lost, or does it invest it on the board, where it’s safe from the adventurer’s attack? The dungeon may also create disinformation by investing power onto cards that aren’t monsters, creating the illusion that they are indeed monsters.
Each turn, the Adventurer moves through the rooms of the dungeon. If the dungeon has enough Power in hand and on the hidden room, it may spring the room’s evils on the Adventurer… Or it may choose not to. The Adventurer may then choose search the room: if it’s something bad, the dungeon need not to pay Power to wake it, but if its a boon, the adventurer claims it. If it’s a monster, a battle ensues.
The game is one of bluffing and calculating risks, for the adventurer knows not what is in his surrounding, but must discover the treasures and slay lesser monsters to build up skills to tackle the bigger fiends, before the dungeon gathers enough power and overwhelms the adventurer.
The hero’s task is to steel himself in the dungeon and defeat enough minions, before assaulting and destroying the Heart Of The Dungeon. The Dungeon seeks to defend itself and kill the intruder.
A varied mix of character cards, dungeon features (monsters, traps, treasures, etc) and skills round off the game by making each combination a unique experience, with some features being stronger against some than others.
Eventually, this will have multiplayer – with multiple adventurers competing to be the first to slay the dungeon heart – but the dungeon may just slay them all first!
I’ve still got a lot of polishing and testing and tuning to do, but the game is making me very excited So hopefully this will get a name as well – I’m not sure what I wanna call this, if you have suggestions please let me know! All suggestions welcome!