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:

Monday, January 23

Gaming Buddies

I've not made a huge amount of progress on Codename: Vacuum the last few weeks - it has been fairly hectic for a number of reasons. In the meantime, a trip to York made me think of something.

In the last seven years I've lived in five houses in three towns over 250 miles apart. During that time I've made a bunch of really good friends - the sort of guys you stay in touch with despite living hundreds of miles apart and try (not as much as I'd like!) to make the effort to visit them despite the distance. And I've made all these friends through gaming.

This weekend we had to pop to York (90 miles away from our new home in Newcastle upon Tyne). While there we popped in to see my friend Paul. Paul responded to a request for Border Reivers playtesters back in 2006, and I then joined his twice weekly games night and he became one of my best mates and Reiver Games playtesters. While in York I also met Dave through the local games group Beyond Monopoly!. Dave and I shared an interest in gaming (I think it was Space Hulk that first drew us together, but we liked very similar games, and liked the same things - except the Star Wars prequels!). Sadly, after a couple of years Dave moved to Plymouth (350 miles from York) and I haven't seen much of him since (though it's definitely my turn to visit (now 410 miles away!).

Then we moved again, 160 miles further south to near Bedford, and I joined a new game group. Terry, Graham and Andrew were available during the day on occasion, so we formed a playtesting group. As Reiver Games slowly withered and died our group changed from a playtesting group to a regular gaming night.

In a couple of weeks we're going down south to spend a weekend playing games with Terry, Graham and Andrew. We saw Paul and his family yesterday, and have agreed to see them on the way down south for another catch up and some gaming. I'm hoping to arrange an epic trip down to Plymouth to see Dave in the next few months (which will probably involve, you've guessed it, some gaming).

We moved back to Newcastle at the end of last year, where we still have some really good friends (several of whom come to my games night), but through the local games club (which I've hardly made it to yet) and a games night at the local games shop: Travelling Man I'm hoping I'll make some more excellent friends.

I'm really glad I have gaming as a way to meet new people, and that the people I meet share my interests and often turn into some of my best mates. Who have you met through gaming?