a series of interesting choices thoughts on game design from paul sottosanti


indiecade + board game designs update

On Friday I'll be giving a talk at IndieCade alongside Chris Hecker entitled A Dialogue on Depth. It's rather surreal to see my name in a list with a bunch of indie luminaries, but hopefully I'll be able to live up to expectations. As Chris pointed out, though, we're in a timeslot opposite the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, and pretty much everyone in their right mind will be over there, so it should be a small and intimate gathering. Thanks to that we're planning on involving the audience during the talk.

Also wanted to give a quick update on my various boardgame designs:

City Draft - This 7 Wonders inspired drafting game is consistently liked in playtests and has been improving slowly and steadily. I've recently changed the rules to allow players to buy resources from any other player at the table, which opened up the possible strategies nicely and evokes a more interactive feeling in the gameplay. I'm also playing around with adding more "build around me" tiles that come early in the game, so that players can have a direction and get especially excited about tiles that they might be able to pick up later. At the most recent playtest, one 7 Wonders fan said that he actually liked this game better, and another player mentioned that she couldn't wait to buy it in stores, so hopefully that will happen sometime soon.

Prison Break - This is the experimental cooperative game with restricted communication (for the first half) and realtime aspects (for the second half). I thought I was onto something here after I hit a design breakthrough a few weeks ago but I'm getting discouraged again based on recent playtests. The game feels too easy, doesn't have enough strategy, and doesn't seem to quite evoke the feelings that I'm looking for. I think I need to go back to the drawing board on some of the core mechanics and try to find something that's more interesting and involved. Maybe I'll get a chance to playtest it at IndieCade and see if people have some ideas.

Dungeon Game - This 1v3 competitive game has a great core mechanic and then a thick layer of RPG elements and high variance on top of it. I'm currently torn as to whether or not the added complexity from the RPG elements is worth it. Dan Kline was already inspired by the core mechanic to work on a much simpler version of the game with a different theme, so I think I'm going to keep this as a dungeon crawl for now, and look for ways to simplify the game without losing much of the flavor and depth. I think the greatest chance of this design seeing the light of the day is to pitch it to Wizards of the Coast as a good fit for the D&D IP, so I'll be looking to do that next time I'm in Seattle. People who enjoy RPG experiences tend to have a great time with it.

I also have one more design that's currently in Cryptozoic's queue for publication, so with any luck I'll have a couple more games out in the market in the next year or two. Good times!

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  1. A potential problem I see with pitching the third game as part of the D&D IP is that there are already contemporary D&D dungeon crawl board games.

    • It’s a good point, however my game differs in a few key ways (I think, anyway, as I haven’t played all of the new D&D board game offerings). One is that it’s a competitive dungeon crawler, with a player DM trying to best the heroes, rather than pure cooperative like Castle Ravenloft. And maybe more importantly, my game is pretty much purely card based and doesn’t really require any minis, so it could potentially be packaged similarly to games like Three Dragon Ante and Inn Fighting, hopefully at a much lower price point.

      It plays pretty differently from a game like Castle Ravenloft too. More like Munchkin in a way, except with none of the things I hate about Munchkin. :) So I think it could fit into their lineup pretty well.

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  3. A quick note, regarding your ‘depth talk’ at IndieCade. You spoke of playing around with Desktop Dungeons mechanic in a civ theme. Have you seen or tried Oasis?


    • I have, yeah. Someone else actually mentioned that to me after I showed them a prototype, so I got the iPad version and tried it out. There are definite similarities (move a single settler around, victory condition is to survive a barbarian invasion) but the gameplay ends up being rather different. I do like how streamlined the turns are in Oasis though.

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