So, National Game Design Month (also known as NaGaDeMon) trundles on and the ideas keep on ticking over. If you have no clue what I’m talking about you can get a heads-up here but the shortform version is this; design a brand new game of whatever stripe you please in the month of November, bringing it from concept to a fully playable version in those thirty days. We’re not looking for perfection, just something that works and you’ll happily play with someone else. I’ve heard tales of anything from 2-player dice games to full on RPG systems being created; my idea is kind of pitched halfway between that.
I wanted to create a simple tile based game that is playable in about 30-40 minutes for up to four players. After scribbling a load of notes down for the first couple of days, ideas began to coagulate and come together as I kicked off with some basic concepts of theme and how the game would work. Realising that it would be pretty boring if it was just moving around a board, I came up with a scoring system that seemed pretty solid. Still, the game wasn’t entirely there, but I wanted to get something solid down and began writing the rules.
I have to admit, I’m not the best at rules creation, but this time around seemed to go reasonably well. Even now (after a couple of revisions) I’m not entirely happy with them, but I have faith that it’ll come together. Actually, getting the rules on paper – or on screen at least – helped a lot in getting my mind straight on how things should work. After completing the first draft, I now knew how the engine of the game would run. Players control a small spaceship that flies around a universe made up of two-sided hex tiles, seeking four types of resources that are worth different amounts of points (5, 3, 2 and 1) dependent on their rarity. A set amount of actions per turn let the players move around the board, hopefully revealing new planets for them to raid for resources that they stash back at their bases. Whoever has the highest points total at the end wins (yes, I know, very traditional).
So far, so… OK. It wasn’t “good” yet. I felt there was something missing. I wanted an element of conflict in there – it’s no fun having a bunch of players flying around all happy and lovely, sharing space in a smiley fashion. I needed a backstory, so I came up with a little tale of four races who were looking to keep ahead of the others. Initially working together, they came up with a device called the Pocket Universe Generation System (I’d been looking at videos of boggly-eyed Pugs being odd – amazing where inspiration comes from) and finally I had a name for my little creation: Pocket Universe.
The conflict element came from players being able to spend their collected resources on attacking each other (as well as a bunch of other special abilities that encourage exploration). I still think there’s work to do on this, but a few playtests in and this system seems to work. Sure, people can choose to just race about and collect resources for points, but there’s much more fun in going around shooting people in the butt.
Yes, there has been playtesting. In fact, I’m pretty happy with the first version of the game I’ve made up – a couple of evenings of some highly amateurish Photoshop work and lots of cutting and sticking saw the creation of a set of sixty double-sided tiles and some player boards…
(Note to future self: Always make sure you have enough glue. Running out with 20 tiles left to make is VERY annoying.)
The following day, I had a full set completed. For resources tokens I raided an old Risk set, grabbing four different colours to represent the precious elements of the Pocket Universe. For playing pieces, four different coloured houses from a Monopoly Junior box will have to do for now until I can find some spaceships in the correct colours!
After playing a few games and seeing what worked (and more importantly, what didn’t) I did another rules revision and asked on Twitter for external playtesters. At this moment I have ten different people and groups signed up, many of whom are providing some excellent feedback – rules are still being replaced and rewritten, the main thing being clarifications of the more vague areas. I honestly think I’m on to something with this game and am thoroughly enjoying the creative process – with a few tweaks I reckon Pocket Universe could be a winner.
For now though, it’s more playing, more fixing any issues that come up and more making it perfect. I’ve got a few more ideas of things to bring in to the game – I’d love to bring the four races in there a bit more, for example – but there’s still three weeks of #NaGaDeMon to go. Who knows what will happen between now and the end?