Sunday, 9 February 2014

Action stations!

Anything can happen in the next 30 weeks 

Having pondered my priorities for the year I have made a decision. The target is to design two games. Last year I had considered entering a game to the BGG solo game design contest. My chosen subject was Kursk. In fact I started out on this really well but got severely bogged down in the sizable data about the battle. I missed the deadline but, never mind, it is still on the list, perhaps number 3. 

I have carefully thought through my strategy for this year (on the back of an envelope). My two subjects will be Tannenberg 1914 and Neuve Chapelle 1915. The reason for these selections is:
  • They are both relatively small actions. Although Tannenberg is bigger in both geographic scope and numbers of troops, the numbers of formations is limited as is the geography.
  • Although games have been published on both subjects, neither are big name battles and there is plenty of scope to take another look (Kursk is, of course, the subject of huge numbers of games and therefore it is difficult to do something really new).
  • They are both WW1 battles and therefore there will be a ready current interest which will keep me going. 
So which one first? Well obviously Neuve Chapelle which is why, after making a good start I have suddenly reverted to Tannenberg as the first item. Why? Because I found this brilliant little game on BGG which deals with the whole battle in four "tiles" (i.e. one map and three counters!). This has given me some real inspiration and insight into how perhaps I might pull this one together.

Tannenberg 4 game

The way that I plan to design these games is inside out (top down might be a better way of describing it). The following are my key design parameters:
  • The game should be playable on a small surface and fit a 13 by 9 hex (or area) board. This is because I have not yet decided how the game will be presented. It could, perhaps, be a type of Memoir 44 (M14?) game with toys or it could be a very tiny hex and counter game. I'd really like to use some toys on this but will test out the game concepts using counters.
  • They should be real, playable games, not just wargames. They should be games that my children would enjoy playing for fun without having to understand early 20th century technology or obscure military terminology.
  • One side should be playable by primitive AI (of some sort) making the game an enjoyable solo experience.
  • The game should be playable quickly so that balance can be tested out over a large number of plays.
  • The towns, terrain and general geography as well as the key units and formations should be instantly recognizable by anyone playing the game who has read one or more popular works on the subject. So if you pick up Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August you should be able to relate the game and the game play to the descriptions in the book.
  • An historical outcome should be achievable in up to 50% of plays so the outcome is not pre-determined.
So far so good...and here is some evidence!

My first attempt at the map using the general map from Barbara Tuchman's book. At last, we have some action.....

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