Thursday, August 15, 2013

Two Other Prototypes that Don't Want To Be

It's been a bit one-note round these parts lately, no? With Cultivate as my first serious attempt to complete a game and submit it for a design contest (albeit only a BGG one), I've been focused primarily on the umbrella design of the game.  While my mind and hand have wandered between Prototypes, I've had my eye on the prize; to the neglect of Clear Black Sky, The Plan, and the fun little idea that popped onto the page during a Cultivate doodle session: Rail Against The Machine.  The spark for that idea came from a BGG thread about under-utilized themes, wherein, of course, many folks chimed in playfully with combinations of the usual tropes.  I felt a desire to really make the behemoth snowball generic design they all nibbled at the edges of: A zombie train deckbuilding game with worker placement and hidden roles.  In space.
And so Rail Against The Machine began to percolate.
But percolate is all it has done, as I've tried to focus on Cultivate.  Today I tried to chip away at Projects Honeycomb and Buckeye.  Buckeye looks to be the most different from its siblings.  My thoughts are that the board will represent one individual plant with multiple branches, as opposed to the bush of separate seedlings in the other protos.  I've been tinkering with a focus on the pruning aspect of basil; you're supposed to clip it regularly down to the first bud, which encourages bushy, explosive growth.  Dice also presented themselves to me; any time I think of using cubes, my mind leaps to use dice instead, as you can track an additional dimension of information with them.

Dear God, this basil plant (in real life) is on its last legs.

All the more reason to soldier on.  Anyhow, cubes (and then dice) popped into my head because I thought it might be cool to have the dice represent leaves/branches that had grown, and their numbers represent how old they were.
Then I realized that this meant that every turn, the player would have to rotate each of those dice manually.  On a crowded board... Yikes.  Super-fiddly, and the whole reason I came up with my plant-growth-board-rotation mechanic; to avoid such fiddliness.  My latest thought is that perhaps the dice never change face on the board, but rather that growth is mostly a set process, and that you prune branches to collect different types of resource dice, say, water, fertilizer, and sun.  The magical basil plant that grows everything it needs.  This, then, would use a system that I kicked around for a while; resource management to keep the plant healthy and alive, perhaps having to roll a certain water amount that increases, the larger your plant gets...
All in all, there's some seeds in there.  But it's a lot, and it's different from the game that all of the other Prototypes seem to be heading towards.  I've got some time to figure out if I want to keep it in the running for this parallel design process, or if it wants to be its own spinoff.  But right meow my guess is that it'd be a companion plant-themed resource management game.
For Project Honeycomb, I took a good long look at the Catan board after messing around all week with the chessboard; 64 squares ALREADY feels restrictive.  I want to have multiple plants on a board with NINETEEN spaces? Sedus lapedus.  Some possible thoughts occur.
- I add another ring of hexes to the outside, un-numbered, so that plants on the outer edge of the Catan board have room to grow and stems can't grow in places where they'll be "cornered in".
- I make each hex a potential stem, and this prototype becomes much more vertical/stacking based than the others.
- I could drastically cut down on the number of stems, and the number of actions.  A micro version of Project Chestnut.

I may end up combining options one and three there, for fast-prototyping.  Or the vertical game could become its own thing.  We'll see.

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