Monday, April 7, 2014

Tabletop Deathmatch: The Series Begins

WHO RUNS BARTERTOWN?
As I mentioned last year, back in April of 2013,  Cards Against Humanity announced their Tabletop Deathmatch competition. On a whim I submitted the board game I’ve been working on and playing for the last couple of years, Right of Succession. To my shock, I made the cut for the final 16. I went down to GenCon in August and pitched the game to a panel of 16 judges. They also had the team from Loading Ready Run film the competition. Cards Against Humanity planed to make that into a web series. They told us they hoped to have the series up by the end of September, but it didn't quite happen that way. 

Last week they put Episode Zero of the series up for viewing. Over the next several weeks they will be release up episodes featuring each of the designs. My episode's scheduled for May- I have no idea what that's actually going to looking like. It could be great- or if reality shows are any indication, I could come off looking truly goofy. At least I didn't slap or yell at anyone (I'm pretty sure). I'm nervous to see what this looks like. They're doing a showing of all the episodes in Chicago, so I hope to go see that. I'll give details if I catch that and once my episode's up online. We will be Kickstarting the game after the series wraps. So wish me luck with all of that. 

You can see the prologue video here and find out more information about the competition. CoH will be running another of these in 2014. 

SO WHAT’S THE GAME?
(Repeated from my earlier post on the blog) I’m glad you asked, fictitious voice in my head. In Right of Succession you take the role of a noble house, trying to rise and gain influence over several generations. You do that in a couple of ways. You add new branches and key leaders to your house, eventually marrying and creating new lines. Each key person has an area of expertise and a rating- so you might have a branch with a Grand Dame (Society 3) and a Pamphleteer (Activism 1). Those roles allow access to different actions which can be used to modify your house, gain influence, generate money, or affect other player’s houses.

More importantly, you’re trying to build up values in the different areas to match the agendas of the current “Real Power,” the figure within the royal household who actually has power. That may be the king, a sneaky vizer, a young prince, the grand inquisitor, or even the royal consort. Each has differing interests. By matching your house’s development to that, you gain more influence (aka VPs). But the trick lies in the way those royals operate. In each generation, one of three people may be the “Real Power”- and through actions and money you can affect who has command. A generation lasts for two turns, and then another rises and takes its place- forcing you to calculate how to match their desires. You can see a couple of turns ahead, allowing for strategic planning.

I enjoy board games, but I’ll admit I can get burned out of even a good game after a half-dozen plays. I’m hugely biased, but we’ve been playing this game for the last couple of years pretty much every week and I’m not tired of it. I still find new approaches and I still look forward to playing. I’m managed to build a game that really hits the sweet spot for elements I enjoy when I play.

ORIGINS
Right of Succession came out of two distinct game elements I enjoyed. The first came from classic board games which had better ideas than execution. GW published an epic kingdom-building game called Blood Royale in a giant box. We played it, I think twice. It ended up too long and too boring. It had some great ideas in it- I loved the concept of the goods and treaties. I used that to craft a "Model Feudal Council" at an academic summer camp. It allows me to bring together some fantasy elements with training in Robert’s Rules of Order. I figured that would serve them well if they later wanted to do Model UN, Arab league, or the like. The more interesting idea from Blood Royale was the creation of a lineage- with marriages, family evolution, and the changing of generations. I wanted a game with more of that. I picked up Avalon Hill's Down with the King, hoping it would do that, but it was just a weird hyper-long and detailed game. (That’s one that needs to be reworked and rebuilt for a new era).

So I knew I wanted a game with multiple generations of families. To that I brought another mechanic that I really loved: Demon Fusions from the Shin Megami Tensai video game series. In that, you can merge two demons to create a higher rank one. What you get depends on what you combine. More importantly, there’s a game to trying to carry over the right skills to the new beast. When you play, you try a merge and if it doesn’t exactly give you the right combo of abilities, you back out and try again. And again and again. It’s a weird grind that’s strangely satisfying. I worked trying to figure out how to use that mechanic elsewhere. In the end, I used it as the basis for the marriage system in Right of Succession.

Which I hope doesn’t say anything bad about me.