I’ve just finished my 20 days of prototypes challenge and come up with 10 brand-new prototypes for the next BrainGoodGame (or games!) The idea is to be able to be able to make them quickly and then draw from a larger pool rather than getting stuck trying to “force” one idea. Anyway, I thought I’d describe each to you so I could get some feedback! (Feedback notes and challenge reflections after the list of games). Anyway, here are the prototypes!
- “Lawnmower” – A simple real-time game where you attempt to control multiple lawnmowers and keep them cutting grass! You can also play new lawnmowers. This is supposed to sort of capture the feel of Mini Metro. (Non-panicky real-time)
- “Blob-Commander” – A game where you pick an “order” die (on the left) and combine it with a “selection” card (on the right) to give an order each turn. So you might “move forward twice with all archers, or move left and attack with all units that are connected in a “blob”. An interesting idea but has problems in terms of “action parsing” or proofreading.
- “Protector” – An idea where you have 3 energy or action points to spend each turn. Most commonly you spend it moving around the map (up,down,left,right), but you can also spend the energy points on cards in your hand. Enemies move after you’re done and can be fast and slow. This one seems particularly open ended in terms of extending it. Lots of possibilities for enemy types, card types and even objectives (although I like the idea of a “there and back again” type objective because if you rush ahead and don’t fight much it’ll be harder on the way back but not impossible). Also tends to have a playful feel at least for me, as I find a lot of the time I can hit the arrow keys by intuition.
- “Dominion Lord” – The idea here is that for both you and your opponent, the cards in your hand correspond 1:1 with units on the board. So the action funnel is pretty explicit. If the unit is not on the board, the card becomes a “summon” action instead. One downside of this approach is that it seems much more fun to order units “near the front”. Maybe it needs a double move option for guys in the back like XCOM, or a different kind of objective. This is sort of like Undaunted.
- “Farmer Dan” – This one is about moving around a single avatar on a map again (like #3). However here, as you move around a couple things can happen. If you move into a grass space, you “till” it, making it ready for new crops. If you move into a weed rock or stump you work on clearing it (some take more than one action). Then you have tetris pieces in your hand representing both crops and watering actions that you try to line up with the shapes on the board you have cleared with your farmer. There is a whole efficiency game about farmer actions, about lining up the crops properly and trying to refill water without wasting it. Pretty interesting. What this one seems to need is longer strategic arcs or something to “build towards”. Not quite sure what that might be.
- “Deus Lines” – This one is fundamentally about building out action chains on the board. You place buildings that have an action on them and also allow your workers to “turn” as they activate them. Crucially, each turn you place a building and then send a worker in, but you can only send a worker from each side once. You can reactivate abilities by cleverly positioning your turns. Sort of a riff on the Deus/Wingspan “action-chains” type of thing. This one is pretty complex though to get started with, so needs some simple goals to work probably.
- “Minos Mana” – This one is roughly about building off of matched colored pieces on the board to make shapes. So sort of like Through the Desert network building and sort of like Minos Strategos (or Tash Kalar) shape building. Needs more definition to what shapes you’re trying to build, and whether those are explicit goals, or patterns that always work, or cards that you draw. Has a couple cool twists. One is that you pick up new dice off the board as you go. Two is that the enemies spawn based on an intersection of row and column, and it alternates whether the spawn row or spawn column switches. Three is that you are working against the “enemy score” and they score by capturing your placed pieces. Therefore there is an upside for spreading out (more patterns) and a downside (more vulnerability).
- “Dungeon Beans” – Called “beans” because of the name our group uses for Bohnanza, which is a game where you can’t re-order your hand. The premise here is that you have a set amount of energy. Playing the left most card in your hand costs 0 energy, but each card to the right costs 1 more (so it’s more expensive to skip ahead). You can also always just do a “default” up down left or right move/attack by discarding the leftmost card. This one also seems super extensible and easy to see as a full game. It takes a lot from roguelikes/broughlikes in terms of structure (slay enemies, be efficient, get to the exit). Seems to be a lot of room for deckbuilding, card types, treasure, monster types, etc.
- “Card Maze” – This one is about moving on a grid using standard playing cards. If you match “suits” you get to move and go down a card. If you match “rank” you get to re-draw at the end of the turn. If you match both you get to draw 2 (plus one card). You can also collect totems on the board that let you discard and re-draw your hand. Once you collect 3/4 totems you head for the exit. Already quite fun and very extensible with enemy types, different suits, special powers for Jacks (there are no Jack spaces on the board), pickups, starting characters etc etc. With the playing card metaphor I think it is a bit more approachable than most BrainGoodGames for non-strategy gamers. Very intriguing!
- “High Seas” – The final prototype is kind of the inverse of the previous. By stepping onto ocean spaces you draw the indicated card. You’re trying to make sets of cards, runs, basically typical poker card hands and use them to “battle” other ships. Lots of ways this can work, and it’s fun to collect the hands and scout out the best cards to collect and asses the diminishing returns (you have limited time, can’t take em all and have to make your way north!). I have some ideas about how different enemies can work, different pickups and sub-goals and selling big sets at “markets” for a lot of points. Goal being have X money and get to “port” at the north of the board to bury your treasure/buy the port/retire etc. Promising!
So those are the 10 prototypes from the 20 day experiment! It took about 2 days for each prototype, and the process ended up mostly being
- Day 1: Brainstorm ideas by reviewing design notebooks and mix and matching game mechanic cards that I’ve drawn up/seem interesting to explore.
- Day 2: Make the digital implementation of the prototype.
One thing that stuck out to me was that my prediction of how promising each prototype would be was often very far from my evaluation after making it. Some were much better than I thought they’d be, others much worse. Takeaway: you gotta make em and see. Don’t get hung up looking for the “perfect idea”, because it’s hard to identify!
The goal of the digital implementations was mostly to assess each idea for how promising it seemed, and how easy it would be to take it from the current state to a released BrainGoodGame. I have ideas about the potential of some of them, but I’m curious what you guys think with just the gifs and the basic descriptions to go on. Which ones jump out at you? Let me know on the Discord or on Twitter.
If you’re interested in the games I end up making with these prototypes, please sign up for the BrainGoodGames mailing list here.