Post by: Grant Rodiek
About this time last year I conducted my first test of General Staff, which became Field Marshals, Empire, Empire of York, and currently, Dawn Sector.The test was held with index cards and a really shoddy map scribbled atop cardboard. The game was horribly tuned and only lasted 15 minutes, but hey! We finished! Most importantly, I saw something special and spent the next year working on it.
70+ tests, Protospiel, GenCon, and a little PPP exposure later, I’m very happy with the game and how it plays. Every designer says this, but I enjoy the game. I really have fun playing it and it seems most people with whom I play it enjoy it as well.
A month ago I bought a game called Kemet. The game is an area control/war game hybrid with spectacular components and a lot of good reviews. I bought it for those reasons alone, but it also stood out to me as it is a diceless, card driven, area control/war game. That’s competition, so I wanted to see what they were doing.
As it turns out, they were doing a lot of what I’m doing. It seems like they approached their design with my same goals and in many cases solved problems the way I did. Their meta-game is almost identical: a fuzzy hybrid of holding territory and battering opponents for points. While not faction based, players have unique abilities based on a tech tree to differentiate themselves. Combat is card driven. Rounds are broken down into players taking a set of actions. They even have an atypical turn order mechanic, I’d wager for the same reasons my game has one. Hell! They have the same disclaimer/strategy tips in their rules that I’ve been working on with a potential publisher.
It’s disappointing, for sure. But also, somewhat comforting that perhaps I wasn’t going the wrong way all along. It seems I was just a little too late to the party. How crazy is it that two teams of designers could arrive at so similar a solution to a design thought/problem?
I have a few options:
- Continue seeking a publisher with the awkward, “Uh, you haven’t played Kemet,have you?” in the pitch. I don’t think that’s the way to go about things! I think it’s wrong to mislead potential publishing partners and I don’t think my game is unique enough (now) to do a full publication run for it.
- Continue tweaking. I don’t think this will change the game sufficiently and frankly, I like the game where it’s at.
- Take the core mechanic (dual use cards) and apply it to a new game. I think I’ll do this — later. I need to move on for now, though.
- Just release it.
I’m going to do the last option, or at least try. I can greatly scale back the art asset needs so that I get a little bit of card art, a few icons, and then I put it together myself. It won’t be a mind-blowing tour de force but it’ll look respectable and I’ll be pleased. My hope then is to put it on Print & Play Productions. I think they’ll be able to make a nice game with a nice board, box, and all the things needed to make the 1 or 2 of you who buy it pleased. Wood pieces, linen cards — I’ll do my best.
I’m also returning to the faux-Napoloenic theme. It was my favorite all along and now that I don’t need to pitch it to thousands, I’m doing what I want to do.
Imagine that, but awesome and ridiculous.
Not every game needs to be published. Not every game needs a massive Kickstarter project. Frankly, some games just need to be thrown away — thankfully, this game isn’t one of those. I honestly hoped and thought this game would be my second published game and I thought it would happen this year. That’s no longer the case, but I’ve learned SO much about…
- Faction design
- Game balancing
- Map design
- War game design
- Randomness, variance, and player decisions
- Balancing a more complex scoring system
- Pacing pacing pacing
- Graphic design
So this wasn’t a waste of my time. In fact, the fruits of this year will be seen not in Battle for York, but in the next game I make.
I’m going to quietly pursue a nice Print on Demand version of Battle for York. I’m going to test a few more slight, final tweaks and hopefully before too long I can share a link to buy it. Hopefully one or two of you pick it up. At the very least, hopefully you’ll play it with me at GenCon or wherever else our paths cross.
Thanks for helping me make this game. It’s been awesome. Now, go buy Kemet!