23rd July 2020 - The Cardboard Designer

23rd July 2020

I don’t write this in isolation and I am always keen to get feedback and ideas from anyone who reads this. Be sure to drop your email address in at the bottom to get notifications of all the dev diaries and lessons as they go live!

Wherein I talk even more about For The Hive. I want to share with you how some of the mechanics have evolved, how the tiles have evolved and how the game play has evolved.


I drew this page out to talk with friend about For The Hive when I didn’t have it on hand and figured it was a good starting point for this post:

It’s being driven by it’s core mechanics rather than a theme, but I am still very happy with the theme that has organically arisen out of play! So let me take you through what’s going on here 🙂

Tiles

For The Hive’s cornerstone is it’s variety of tiles. I had mentioned chess in my last post, and if we think of that as very horizontal in terms of it’s strategy – that it focuses on a simple board with a lot of variety in it’s playing pieces. I wanted For The Hive to be more vertical in so far as it focuses on simple playing pieces and a highly varied board.

My thinking is this will still provide complexity for the older player, but give a lot more accessibility to the younger board gamer / war gamer.

The base tiles come in 2 flavors, the Mind, which acts as the base for each player and the Spawner which is where players can add new drones onto the board. Beyond this, there will be an array of more advanced tiles that players can choose to use and swap in and out as they see fit:

  • Feeder Tiles – which provide players with VP (victory points) when they are occupied by that player.
  • Node Tiles – which will act as capture point tiles for an alternative game mode that is more in the style of King of the Hill.

Further tiles that I am currently refining – looking to provide small expansion packs to the game are the Tower tile, which allows for ranged attacks, and the Evolver tile which allows players to create “soliders” that have slightly upgraded combat roles vs the regular drones.

Everything I am making is intended to be switched in and out as the player desires so that no 2 games are alike, and players can create more challenging maps depending on skill level. It also means they can increase the length of the game from 20-30 minutes to 2-3 hours if they want too.

Walls and Spawners and Victory Points

3 elements of the game that have changed a lot through iterative design are the walls, spawner tiles and victory points.

Walls provide opportunity for players to create choke points and corridor fighting on the board. I’d initially planned to print a variety of tiles that had different wall locations on them, but it quickly became apparent that this was too restrictive. Playing around my house, we busted out some toothpicks and used those instead. It seemed obvious with hindsight, but at the time I was so focused on keeping the component list down I didn’t consider this small payoff – which is very worthwhile. Players can no create very open expansive maps whereas they couldn’t before, but also much more restrictive corridor maps.

The game also started without the Spawner tiles. The intention was that from any tile, players could carry out the Multiply and just double the number of drones on the tile. This negated a lot of strategy, and the game just became about rushing to the enemy players area, multiplying and hunkering down until you where powerful enough to take on the Mind. Now players are only able to carry out the Multiply action from a Spawner tile, making these strategic areas to fight over.

The third thing that was really born out of play testing was the development of victory points. I had taken for granted how long the game could become when the only goal was to defeat the other player (especially in the case of 3 or 4 player games). Whilst some players wanted to get that sense of destruction through defeat, there were many that wanted a game they could play for 30 minutes or so, and I wanted to accommodate them as well. So we started to provide victory points when a tile was taken from the opposing player. This made the game much quicker and also more strategic. It also created the idea of the Feeder and Node tiles that provide victory points when owned, and act as points on the map that must be captured to win.

Advanced Rules

You are never going to please everyone with a board game. I know plenty of people that don’t like Gloomhaven because it’s not their type of game, despite all my evidence of how it’s the best thing since sliced bread. It’s better to know who you are appealing to and focus your player experience on pleasing those tabletop gamers.

I wanted my game to be accessible. To be something that parents could pull out and play with the kids, but I also wanted it to be a strategic game that was relevant as the children got older, or the grown ups wanted to play on their own.

For me, the solution is the inclusion of a few advanced rules to create deeper game play.

  • Flanking and Support Modifier: During combat phases, for each surrounding tile where the player has a soldier or 2 or more friendly drones, they receive a +1 modifier to each of their dice rolls. For each surrounding tile that has a soldier or 2 or more enemy drones, they receive a -1 modifier to each of their dice rolls. These modifiers do not increase with more soldiers or drones on the surrounding tiles.
  • Cutting Off the Mind: If players do not maintain a link with their Mind tile by ensuring they have at least 1 drone on each tile between them and their Mind, the player receives a -2 modifier to their dice roll during combat.

By including these added rules, the player has to think more strategically about where they head, being careful not to stretch themselves too thin in case they are cut off. They also can’t afford to waste drones where they can’t provide tactical advantages.

I was originally limiting the modifier maximum on combat rolls, but to be honest, it’s pretty epic when one player thinks they’ve the other beat with a +4 or +5 and then the other player lays down a mutation card that beats them out. It gets a lot of laughter and groaning when that happens, and that’s always a good sign.

I am very close to sharing my rule book on here and with the twitter sphere and there is a mist of excitement and dread for doing that. That being said, if I don’t do it and not putting my game up for scrutiny, what sort of game designer would I be? 🙂

–Tom
“Why didn’t the skeleton go to the party?” “Because he had no body to go with”

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