Wednesday, January 8, 2014

V. Broken Contract - Board Design and Scenario Development

Four new prototype board sections that I'm using to play test Scenario #2.
I finished the rough draft of the rules to Broken Contract back in November. I've made tweaks here and there since then as I've gotten feedback from friends, but most of the tweaks I've discovered in the heat of battle when I hit a situation, read what I wrote, and say, "Hmmm. That doesn't make much sense." That's what alpha testing is for: tightening up the rule set before it gets exposed to a larger group of play testers so that the obvious errors don't ever muddle their play testing. In order to expose myself to a variety of circumstances, I needed some boards and missions to play on, so I set myself to crafting some.
An early play test game for 'Its Time!' the introductory scenario and initial Break attempt. The white counters represent ore carts meant to be barricades/obstacles to hide behind or get in your way.
Originally I designed two 12"x12" board sections, drew them out on some heavy card stock, and started playing. I wanted to the Introductory scenario to be the initial Break attempt, dubbed 'Its Time!' Five laborers rise up to over take their masters. It was based on a tiny piece of fluff I had written to open up the "Actions and Interruptions" chapter of the rules. 

“Open revolt. One of the miners in your crew, Trest, has overtaken one of the guards. You had discussed this. You planned for this. The moment is upon you and all those plans are blurred by fear and adrenaline. It’s time to act. A Security Officer moves past you with his shock baton charging towards Trest, demanding that Trest stand down. You step forward and swing your shovel, connecting with the Security Officer’s head. You instinctively anticipate gunfire from the Overseer’s position and drop to the ground to take protection behind a bin and plan your next move.” 

Overall, I was happy with how the rules were playing out but the scenario ran a little long for an introduction (Note: It took an hour and I was hoping for 30 minutes.) Also, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the large board sections made it more difficult for the Breakers to flee off the board and escape into the mines. Additionally, 12"x12" board sections would be difficult for me to turn into PDFs for my play testers. Over time, the board evolved into a more compact 8"x10" and the mission objectives and victory conditions evolved too.

I played out the opening scenario a dozen times using the various skills, special rules, and equipment to see how they interacted with scenario special rules and board. I think it came out fun, and as I hoped there were lots of options to choose from. It isn't a finished product, but its something I was happy enough to share with my friends who were interested in play testing.

Once I had 'Its Time!' up for them to download with the board sections I had to ask myself, "Wow. What happens next?" "What do I want the Breakers and Security Officers to do?" "What do mines really look like?" "How do I want the expanding board to be as a result?" Then came a mix of brainstorming and research. I needed to come up with a series of challenges, from people the Breakers might want to go back for due to friendships or to expand their available skill set. I needed to think about the role I wanted the Security Officers to take and how tooled up I would expect them to be. And I needed the board to be interesting, and a straight line mine shaft didn't seem to meet that criteria even if I added debris, chasms, and check points. Then I discovered room and pillar mining and I knew this would make for a cool section of the board. Room and pillar mining is where they weave a grid leaving of massive columns behind to support the roof of the mine. For a game board, it felt more interesting than a horizontal drift mine, though I'll likely combine elements of various sorts of mining. The internet is fantastic at times because it even gives approximate sizing of the rooms and pillars and I was actually able to design the board sections to the smaller end of the actual scale.

Out came the card stock and pencil. I drew out 4 board sections to try out the rooms and pillars. I played out a game on it based on the assumption that the alarm had been raised and the Breakers would need to weave through the rooms and pillars to get to their next destination as Security Officers come running. I was happy with the results so the craft paints came out and I detailed my prototype sections.
Heavy card stock, you've been a valuable friend. These board sections also line up with the board sections from the introductory scenario so that you can combine them.
Here are the room and pillar board sections with the photo taken halfway through Turn 1. The Breakers are on the bottom 2 sections and they need to exit through the Security Officers in the upper right quarter as they head to a variety of stops along their way out of the mine. What happens next? Well, I have a lot of ideas jotted down. I want to have at least 5 or 6 scenarios take place in the mines and an equal number take place after the initial escape out in the desert wilderness, so I have a long way to go. Thankfully, I have a lot of ideas.


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