Tuesday, January 31

A First Look at Codename: Vacuum

As I've mentioned over the last few blog posts, I'm working on a new board game design, under the moniker: Codename - Vacuum. It's been a slow process, I first had the idea back in December, but finally, the game has seen the light of day as a finished first prototype:

This is a very early prototype, the first one to be played properly (though I did start a game of an earlier version made out of torn paper!). This one will hopefully get a run out at Games Night on Thursday and this weekend when I'm down south seeing several of my gaming buddies and previous playtesters.

The first idea I had about the game was a deck-building game with a Race for the Galaxy-esque player tableau set in a classical space setting. About a week later, once I'd had a chance to think things over, I realised there were too many of those floating around at the moment (I'm thinking Core Worlds and Eminent Domain which I got for Christmas "for research" ;-) ) and other big name sci-fi games (Eclipse I'm looking at you [... on my shelf ;-)]). So it was time for a slight theme-tweak. Instead of sci-fi, I was thinking Steampunk Space Opera. Sounds great doesn't it? I have my mate Ben to thank for that one. He asked me what it was about. My answer?

[long pause] Um. I don't really have an elevator pitch for it. It's steampunk. In space. Forming an empire in our solar system.

Ben's "Steampunk Space Opera" is a lot punchier!

The original idea was typical space opera, locations spanning multiple star systems, large scale battles. This one is a little different - the locations are real/fictional places within (and just outside!) our solar system, and with all the funkiness that steampunk brings: brass! gears! monocles! cavorite! The idea is that you take one of the great powers of the world in an alternative 1900 (set in a world where all those cool things in fiction are real: Martians! Men in the Moon! Cavorite! Dinosaurs! - I've been raiding Conan Doyle, Burroughs, Wells and Verne for ideas :-) ). Unlike most steampunk games I'm aware of, there will be a progression: early techs are pure steampunk then things will evolve during the game to modern and then futuristic technologies.

Again, in addition to the theme changes there have been changes to the mechanics as well. These changes have happened more recently. Like this week, while printing the prototype! Initially I was thinking a pretty standard deck building game, but with a tableau in front of you where you kept the locations you had captured.

I'm now thinking a combination of hand-management of your tableau and deck building. I'm thinking four types of cards: locations, units, population and technologies. Cards can be played into your tableau or into your deck. Cards in your tableau can be used every round, those in your deck will be available some rounds and not in others. The tableau is of a limited size so you need to choose which cards to keep there. There are some restrictions of course: locations can only go in your tableau, population in your deck or attached to a location, only one of each type of technology can be used in each turn.

This is of course a very early prototype. It will be unbalanced and probably broken. The cards might not make sense, definitely have typos and the rules are way too complex and will need simplifying. The reason I've not invested much effort in the card art yet is that I expect these cards to be changed frequently. New titles, new rules, new mechanics, the version I have in a few months is likely to be completely different from this one, so I don't want to invest too much effort in it. After a few plays it may turn out the whole game is a write-off. Only time will tell...

Here's a little teaser for you until I've played it a few times and got something to report:


Unknown said...

Hey Jack. What do you think of this board game flow chart?

My colleague made it at work and I told him id pass it along to you since ive had your blog bookmarked for a while



Paul said...


How do you print out your prototype cards?

Do you just use a normal printer? If so, what sort of card do you use?

I'm trying to make a card game and have hand crafted cards - but I'd rather print the next...



Jack said...

Hiya Paul,

I use a colour A3 inkjet printer and print onto 220gsm thin card bought from a craft shop. I can fit 20-25 cards on a single A3 sheet.



Paul said...

Thanks - I'll give that a whirl...

It's Paul from TP btw :-)

Jack said...

Hiya Paul,

Mr Kerrison? Didn't realise you were a gamer while I was there! Good luck :)



Paul said...

Yep - that one...

I'm not particularly - but thought I'd try and and make a simple card game...

...turns out there's more to it than I thought :-)

Thanks - I'll let you know if it works!