Post by: Grant Rodiek
Crafting an exciting, coherent story is something very important to me for Blockade. I honestly believe the game can stand on its own without such a feature, but I think the game lends itself to scenario gameplay and therefore, why not try to craft a story? It’s a creative challenge I wish to undertake and a way to differentiate my offering.
RPG gamers will giggle and scoff at my efforts as they’ve been embracing story for decades. But, it’s still not a terribly common feature for many board games. The games I’ve played that incorporate story heavily are:
- Risk Legacy
- Mice and Mystics
- Memoir ’44
All of them do so in a very different way, so before we move forward, I’m going to succinctly break them down.
Risk Legacy’s story is built entirely by the players. The designer brilliantly crafted plot points, laid the foundation, then put it on the players to enjoy it and experience it. YOU are the characters and villains. In the game, when specified events take place, you crack open envelopes that permanently change the world and introduce new mechanics and scenarios. Little fiction is presented in the traditional sense, but it wholeheartedly embraces the notion that the game is an interactive experience and instead of telling you the story, you are the story.
Mice and Mystics is probably the most traditional example of game storytelling out of these three. You control characters who are a part of the story and move through a predetermined narrative path. Now, being great designers, Plaid Hat fills the story with opportunities for variance. You’ll fight different enemies, the dice will cause you to fail dramatically or succeed decisively. You’ll alter the makeup of your adventuring party. My favorite, is that you’ll have epic boss fights, like the appearance of Brodie the cat, or be given side-path opportunities within the mission.
Memoir ’44 is an interesting hybrid of pre-determined narrative structure and mechanical variance. The game is historically based, but the historical scenarios could be swapped with the fictional stories of Mice and Mystics. Where Memoir is most interesting is that, like Risk, there is persistence between your missions. Mice and Mystics is largely binary: you move forward or you don’t. In Memoir, your performance will dictate the next scenario in how many extra units you can bring forth, as well as your need to gain more points (play riskily and aggressively) or play it slowly (more conservatively).
For Blockade, I seek to merge a bit of a mix of Mice and Mystics’ narrative style and optional objectives with Memoir’s streamlined, persistent progression. As much as I love Risk, I want to be a bit more heavy handed with my narrative AND avoid the “one time use” component issue (which didn’t bother me as a consumer, for what it’s worth).
Here are the details and style choices I’m working with so far.
- I will create nameless main characters who have ranks (to recognize them), but no gender or names. My hope is that YOU feel it’s YOUR story.
- The point of view may alter between sides. Sometimes it’ll be from the perspective of the Martian player, others the Terran player. And perhaps, even other characters, like members of the Jovian Confederation and so forth.
- Other characters in the game WILL have names. I will try to make you care about them so that if I kill them (from your actions), it means something.
- Every mission will be designed to be played by two players squaring off, or 2 teams of 2 players. In some cases, I may alter the tuning to be more fun for more players (typically just more Units to control).
- There will be (hopefully) 2 main campaigns. Each campaign will feature a series of 3-4 short stories, which will be 3-4 scenarios apiece.
- I intend to design more campaigns over time. Even better, I’d love to work with a community to do so as well (wishful thinking?).
- When you play a campaign, you will play the designed missions in order.
- Players can play these short stories individually or full campaigns that tie them all together.
- Your decisions and performance in previous mission will alter these missions. So, you start with Mission 1, then you’ll play Mission 2a or 2b, then play Mission 3a or 3b or 3c, and so forth.
- Variations can be pre-defined (you get this many ships because you won) or varied (roll this many dice, for every direct hit, add a gun emplacement to the map). My design goal is to reward you for your successes and add reasons to replay the scenarios. Note I don’t intend to have a runaway leader issue.
- The scenarios will be made available in a PDF or, depending on manufacturing options, in a book. Players will scan/copy the pages and mark them up to log progress and info as it’ll factor into the campaign.
- Scenarios will vary gameplay by altering fleet compositions and starting positions, objectives, environmental affects (asteroids blocking sections, hitting ships, nebula scrambling radars), new objects (merchant ships, a ship to salvage or capture, defense platforms, star bases).
- I’ll be using games like Starcraft and TIE Fighter as inspirations to alter the scenarios in tiny ways. The game will still revolve around blowing up enemy ships, but with simple twists.
- Setup time will be quick. Place these ships. Place this small handful of environmental things. GO.
I previously sought to create an incredibly open, varied, choose your own adventure style campaign. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t very feasible for a variety of reasons. I wrote the first three missions, which I’ll now edit and modify to work with the new direction. If you want to read them, with the understanding they are works in progress, feel free to do so here!
Read the Current Campaign
Thoughts? Concerns? Questions?