Part 1: What Has Come Before?
An idea for a GeekDad project came to me recently: how about I make my own board game to play with my daughter. My daughter is 13 and, like her Dad, loves horror movies. In particular she is really into stories about vampires and werewolves (Team Jacob, if you were wondering). Most of the games on the market for families are aimed more at being inclusive of younger children, and thus lack a certain edgyness of content needed to keep a teenager such as my not-so-little girl entertained. While there are some games out there which would suit my particular needs, I thought it might be fun to take a stab at making our own.
My basic idea was that I wanted to make a sort of horror-themed, quasi-RPG which doesn’t necessarily require a lot of roleplaying, but uses some of the same basic mechanics of character attributes modified by cards that come up during the course of play. Something like Betrayal at House on the Hill, Talisman, or the old Judge Dredd game (am I dating myself yet?). So, where do I start? How do I arrange the board? What kinds of card do I make? What kinds of character attributes do I use? What’s too much detail? What’s too little? What kind of dice do I use? I’m sure someone out there in the World Wide Series of Tubes has done some of the homework for me. Google, do your magic…
Running searches on “game theory” and “game design” either turn up articles about designing video games, or about Game Theory. While the latter might have some useful information, it is too academic for my purposes, and frankly mostly over my head. So, I put a mental bookmark next to it and moved on. Wikipedia also has a good article about Game Mechanics, but it’s more taxonomic than a how-to article. Googling, “design your own board game” yields various how-to articles that say a lot about the physical craft of printing and cutting out the pieces and such, but nothing about mechanics. There’s also an article from Microsoft with game board templates, but again nothing about constructing rules and mechanics. It’s worth a bookmark for later, but that’s about it.
While, I’m sure many of our readers will have articles they could point me to (and please feel free to post them in the comments), it seemed to me that this was going to be a trail best blazed myself. So, like the faithful old RPG-er that I am I sat down with the most essential tools I know: pen and paper.
I sat down to write out my ideas. I know enough about dice-related probabilities to know a fair fight. I also have a ton of friends with decades of gaming experience each, to play-test with me. And most important, I have a teenaged daughter ready on hand as a lameness-detector.
Next Stop: The Beginning…