Molly's Last Hope

I spent a few months "in the weeds" of brainstorming, design, and thought, not emerging with much more than frustration and a pile of bad ideas. A month ago I wrote about one of those ideas, Insurrection. The idea had some merits, but I hit a wall regarding the team mechanics and the combat mechanic and shelved it.

Fast forward a few weeks. I bought several sets of assorted wooden game pieces for about $2 apiece from the Fantasy Flight holiday sale. I also read Paddy Griffith's Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun while stuck waiting for my car to be fixed.

I really wanted to make a table top tactics game.  I  also really wanted to make something with the wooden pieces, so I sat down at my kitchen table, grabbed some index cards, some dice, and just started...playing.

If you look on the top picture, you'll see there's no board or grid. Like a traditional table top game, I was using simple rulers to lay stuff out and players would place 1 inch wooden pieces (roads from Catan) to measure out their movement. Ultimately a friend said it was tedious, so I shifted to a simple hex grid using Heroscape pieces.

The game that emerged was a simple, squad level tactics game involving dice. Players would roll a number of d6, which would indicate how far the player could move, whether they could shoot, or suppress the enemy. The board only contained blank spaces and cover, the latter provided a slight advantage against being shot.

Because the tactics game used dice exclusively (i.e. public information), I was able to play against myself over and over. The result is that I slowly built upon these very basic concepts and iterated in a way that made sense. I added Flanking to improve your hit chances. I added the ability to charge an enemy to oust an opponent out of cover. I added a way for drop troops to enter the battle randomly. I also was able to quickly tweak and improve the basic probability of hits and things like that, which meant I was able to bring the game to a solid state without having to waste a friend/tester's time.

At this point I had a quick, super distilled, dice-driven tactics game. It wasn't meaty enough to be its own game, however, and I didn't see much point, at least in this stage, of beefing it up on its own. It seemed to defeat the point and the world doesn't need me to create a Memoir '44 clone. I realized I needed more game, then thought back to Insurrection. My main problems with that game were the team mechanics and the missing battle mechanic. I had an idea to combine Insurrection's meta-game, use this battle game for its battles, and remove the team elements.

Insurrection had a few elements I really enjoyed. The map was a randomized grid of simple territory cards. But, instead of needing to memorize or read rules for the territories, I baked the functionality into the cards. For example, I can't drop orbital troopers onto the Mountain or Forest territories. This info was just listed on the cards with a simple icon. This gave me territory gameplay without forcing players to memorize the rules of every territory like one must do in games like Memoir '44. 

Insurrection also had a nifty mechanic regarding fleets orbiting this grid, which enhanced or restricted the cards you could play. Ultimately, the territories and orbit rules were smoothly incorporated to make card play varied and interesting.

Therefore, I fused the battle system with Insurrection. I realized I could create varied battle map layouts. When players fight over a territory, they flip the territory card to see the battle map layout. They then quickly build this on the battle board (takes less than a minute) and fight it out to resolve the combat.

Below you can see the 3x3 grid of territory cards on the left with a battle setup on the right.

To me, this presented an interesting combination of features. On one side, players have a more strategic game of quick card play. Players play cards to move their units, land new units, shift their fleets, and hinder their opponent's efforts. Then, when a battle takes place, players quickly build a simple map and fight to resolve the actions. Every battle can have a unique and thematic layout as well as objectives based on the site. For example, assaulting a command center could and should play out differently than a quick skirmish in the forest.

Aside from my own tests against myself, I've only tested the game a single time so far. My friend really enjoyed the premise of the mechanics and we had fun playing a few rounds. I made some easy tweaks as a result of the test and I'm ready for a second test. My hope is to develop the game sufficiently in the next few months to enter it into The Game Crafter's Map Builder Design Challenge in March. The requirement is that you have some form of dynamic or randomized map and this game has a few.

Beyond that, who knows? This game is more of a personal project, an itch I wanted to scratch. Whereas I wanted a publisher for Farmageddon and Empire from the start, here I mostly want to make a neat tactics game. If it leads somewhere, awesome! I also hope to enter it into the PPP once the design is stabilized and solid.

For now, I would love your input and feedback. What do you think about the concept and the ideas? You can read a full set of rules here and all are allowed to comment. The rules are still new, but I have created rough diagrams and examples for most concepts and have had 3 proofreaders.

Thoughts? Thanks for reading!