A Change of Plans: Wind, Snow, and Drafts

This weekend I had planned to take a trip to London for a Playtest UK meetup, as is my wont, but our more-wintery-than-usual winter came back and did its thing, so I decided that it would be more sensible to stay at home for the day than risk the roads. So that was a general scuppering that I would have been happier with, but I did get the opportunity to spend a chunk of the afternoon discussing various projects (via a Google hangout) with a friend had also been planning to go playtesting and had opted to stay warm and safe for the day.

Anyway, this friend and I had previously discussed the possibility of designing games based on multiple types of drafting mechanics.  Drafting is basically where players select resources from a shared pool, and this can take many forms like the system we used to have at primary school for picking teams where each team captain took it in turn to choose one player from those so far unselected (I was invariably in the last few chosen), or a "pick and pass" system where players simultaneously choose a card from a selection they hold, and then pass the rest to the next player. There are many other mechanisms that could be broadly described as drafting.
As I keep telling people: stop thinking about making a game, and just make a damn prototype,
even if it is not a complete one. Sometimes I do take my own advice!

After a load of chat about this type of mechanism, we each had an idea for a game that could exploit the multiple draft concept. If either of these games comes to anything in the future, I think we can be clear that they were "mechanic first" designs, in case anyone asks.

My idea was based on the not-massively-exciting concept of settling and developing an area of land, building production facilities and exploiting them for profit.  Each round would consist some event or action that would allow for a different variant of drafting to resolve. In other words, each round there is something to distribute between the players, and that distribution is done in assorted ways.

I made a load of notes about this after our original discussion (and we kept the discussion going online for a little while) but I moved on to other things before I actually built a prototype.

Our discussions again this weekend did a good job of reminding me of this project and set me off again. A short while with some index cards, Sharpies, and assorted components from stock, and I had the beginnings of a prototype. It's not yet enough to play, but once I start handling physical components, new questions and answers start presenting themselves, and I start needing to make decisions which will inform how the game will develop.  Like, for instance, how do I handle resources? There are many ways to do this, but I have decided to use a short track on individual player boards to mark the quantities of each commodity held by each player rather than, for example, having tokens to represent quantities.

I don't quite have enough made to allow me to play a full round of the game, but I know what I need to do next, so once I've finished blogging about it, I'll get back to construction for a couple of evenings, and solo test parts as I am able.

Kinda related, Toucan Play That Game recently shared a good video of a panel at the recent Airecon on how to teach games to people. Paul Grogan (of Gaming Rules!) talked about the method the CGE team use for demonstrating their games at conventions by explaining just enough to get going and revealing the rest of the rules as it makes sense during play. This may be terrible if you want to construct and execute a winning strategy on your first play, but it can be a great way to learn the game.  Similarly, last year, a friend and I played our way through the card game, Fast Forward: Fortress, which doesn't has a rulebook but instead gradually reveals the rules as you work your way through the deck over the course of a dozen plays. This works well and we really enjoyed playing that. 

The reason I bring that up is that my drafting game now looks like it will involve a series of rounds, during which, players each choose one of a selection of available event cards.  These events then trigger the main actions of the game, so one gives everyone an opportunity to build production locations, another allows locations to produce goods, and another allows everyone to sell to the market.  Because of this, it looks like the game will be playable by simply explaining each of the events revealed in each round as they come up, and learning the game could be an organic experience where play can start almost immediately after sitting down for the first time.  I rather like that and hope I can pull it off.

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