April 1997, by Bruce Biskup
Works in Progress
This month’s Ramblings offer a preview of BoneGames’ upcoming game releases. As most readers are aware, both Joshua and I run BoneGames as a hobby. This severely limits what we can accomplish when our paid employment requires most of our free time. Unfortunately, 1996 was a very busy year for both of us at our regular employment. As a result, we were not able to develop and play test our game ideas to our satisfaction. It is for this reason that the majority of our 1996 releases were beta releases and not final games. This year we hope to do better.
I will make no promises but it is our intention to bring at least one of our games to final print this year. What follows is collaboration between Joshua and me as to the status of our current game projects.
Freefall: The Battles for Mars Independence
Freefall is an evolution of our previous game titled LNL – Laplace, Newton & Lagrange. Progress on Freefall has been swift especially after reading David Weber’s Honor Harrington series for the second time. Freefall is not a simulation of David Weber’s universe but an evolution of our LNL game design. In LNL, we designed the ship movement system to mimic Newtonian mechanics. Basically, each ship has a pair of thrust vectors which must be changed at the expense of propellant to change course. Beyond a name change, Freefall adds a much needed design your own capability to the game. This allows for players to design one off fleets for tactical engagements. A campaign system has also been added where players use a simplified economic system to construct ships on a turn by turn basis. Freefall will also add a technology improvement feature. It is still in work but it is not like the technology systems used in StarfireTM by Task Force GamesTM or in Masters of OrionTM by MircroproseTM. I am almost finished with a playable version of the game which I will then present to my playtesters for review and comment.
Game of Kings
Game of Kings is another card based game that is best compared to our older title Barons of Fyn. Both use cards but that is where the similarity ends. The idea with this game is to create a competitive game based on feudalism. Each player takes the role of a king who is out to conquer the region represented by the board. The board is made up of land cards which are used to randomly construct the board. This allows for unlimited replay and for some interesting game variants. The players will have to find and attract knights to increase their power. Each player must carefully balance Royal power between that of their vassals. A simple economic system is featured in the game as well as a Random Event system that is based on Random Event cards.
The Random Event cards are used to change the normal progression of the game or force abnormal events. I see using the cards that will actually tell a story of sorts when taken together. For example, although religion is not directly represented in the game, I might have a Random Event card that says player X converts to religion A. There will be a benefit for this conversion but also a potential penalty. Player X may be in alliance with Player W who is at conflict with Player Z. Player Z may then play a card on player X which says: “Pope declares a Crusade against a player of choice.” Since Player Z played the card, he chooses player W to be the object of the Crusade. Player X must now prosecute a crusade against his former ally and must meet some minimal requirements in order to avoid the penalties for not fulfilling the Crusade. This is just one of several examples that I have picked up out of history and I like the concept.
Another aspect of GoK is that it is expandable. The card based design facilitates updates and genre changes. No, GoK is not going to be a trading card game. However, the design is amenable to expansions. For example, the game has been written in a decidedly Feudal Europe basis. With a little research and some changes of the cards, the game could portray Feudal Japan or even a truly fantastic setting.
GoK was my major focus prior to my distraction with Freefall. I see the game as along the lines of King MakerTM and DiplomacyTM by Avalon HillTM when it comes to player interaction.
Combat Operations is my attempt at a diceless and generic game system. The game is complete and undergoing review by Joshua. The diceless system has yet to be tested and many things remain to be worked out. The intent of the design is to be flexible enough to portray many different period in military history.
I am hoping to use the system to portray combat from the Age of Alexander the Great to conflicts in modern times. The dice-less concept is my attempt to make a thinking man’s game rather than an “odds” game. The game is small both in map size and in number of counters. Units have hidden strength and by necessity double sided. This is the last time I will do this until we can professionally publish our games. There is even a variable (again using event cards) reinforcement system. This game should hopefully enter our beta page soon.
Queen Victoria’s Navy
This was to be a grand game of strategic/tactical naval combat from 1860 to 1905 with plans to include WWI, the inter-war period, and WWII. Well, so much for the plans. Play-testing of the prototype game revealed too many problems. Not the least of which was that I kept losing at my own game. QVN was an evolution of my Sovereign Seas design where I tried using counters instead of ship logs. While it worked, the counters needed to be double sided and I had too many utility counters. I took me three days just to cut out the pieces. The biggest problem with the prototype was that the game was too bloody (ships sank real fast) once you factored out my poor dice rolling. In addition, I was never able to construct a satisfactory campaign game.
Needless to say, QVN is undergoing major revisions. The plan now is to use larger, single sided counters and ship data cards. The ship cards will replace the ship log as in Sovereign Seas and the second side of the counter in the prototype game. The nice think about using the cards is that I might be able to put the ship silhouettes on the cards to make them look nice. I would not count on it but it is something I am looking into doing. The combat system works but will be tweaked as I obtain better information on gunnery characteristics. I will probably keep the impulse movement system unless I think of something better. I also hope to trim the rules down a bit to keep the game simple. This is turning into a long duration project so bear with me while I work the bugs out.
Well this is it for now. Hopefully we have wetted your appetites for our games and hopefully we will not let our ideas turn into just so much vapor ware. I would like to be able to give release dates but both Joshua’s and my current employment conditions prohibit us from committing time to our games on a regular basis. Unfortunately, we will get to them when we get to them. Thanks for the interest.
Note from Joshua
Everything Bruce mentions above represents works in progress, and in no way should be read as a commitment to deliver any specific title in any specific timeframe.
Note #2 from Joshua: EOR Question
Last month Bruce described a bit about EOR, and I asked for mail regarding the specific formula one could use to determine the percentage chance of any given EOR event. We had two solutions sent in, both essentially the same. Our thanks go out to Giles Duffin from the UK and Anthony Kam at MIT.