Ikim's Boardgame designs

In this blog I will talk about my current design projects. The complete games featured in these pages are: -Shadow Agent -Dystopian: the manhunt plus random ideas and WiPs
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Shadow Operations: squad level Shadow agent : is it actually something new? read and see...

Michele Esmanech
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Dystopian:the manhunt: a worker placement game of investigation, murder and mystery, set in the futuristic megapolis of DYSTOPIA
I have been going back and forth on this.
I have come up with a decent mechanic, which, as far as I know, at least, is something new to the genre, and can be quite challenging.
Though, the market is flooded with squad level tactical/strategic boardgames, so how can this one bring something new.

Shadow Agent is new, in the sense that it combines lots of mechanics, already seen in other games, into a game that simulates a stealthy agent (which is something that I never played with).

But what about a squad level game? apart the mechanic, what can Shadow Operations do more than what existing games already don't?

What I wanted to create, was a sort of dungeon-crawl ala Space Hulk (third edition), but that didn't use Action Points.
I am FED UP (yes, I said it: FED UP, totally!) with dungeon crawls that use an Action Point Allowance System: there are far too many of them, and most of them are copy cats of Space Hulk (third edition) (see, for example: Forlorn: Hope, to name one).

Then there are pure squad level wargames, that don't take place in dungeons (or space stations... the difference is only aesthetic), but that still use Action Point Allowance System, like Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! – Kursk 1943 (which I used to own, and enjoyed quite a bit, BTW).

Having yet another squad level game, with action points, wasn't going to be innovative; so why bother!
Ok, for the shadows: wow, now I can have my guys hide in shadows... but hidden deployment is not innovative...
Ok, I can have my men do crazy cinematic actions... but will this be something that will make the game stand out?

I then thought of a mechanic (the one I was talking at the beginning of this post), and I thought: what if the player is not the leader of the squad... what if the player cannot decide for his men, but only for himself... what if the actions a man can perform are fixed, and the order in which these actions are performed is radomized?

NOW we have something NEW!!

So, I came up with an idea.

Game set up:
the player will choose a character (a named shadow agent, with a specific knowledge - aka power and an array of actions he can perform) and his team of 5 agents.
He then takes, for each agent (not himself) the corresponding card (in some cases, like for the scout, 2 cards) and shuffles them, forming a so called INITIATIVE DECK.

The game starts with no enemies, so the Inititive deck only has cards from the Shadow Agent team.
At the beginning of the turn, the player will draw the first card of the Initiative deck, and see which agent is activated.
Say that I drew the card corresponding to Agent n.1. Agent n.1 will be able to do one of the following options:
- move 2 areas, and shoot once;
- move 3 areas, and hide;
- shoot 2 times;
- make 1 head shot

(keep in mind: I am coming up with the actions for each team member as we speak, so everything is still in the playtesting phase).

So, I choose to make Agent 1, move 3 areas and hide, since there are no enemies around, to shoot at.
Moving the agent, will reveal the next map section, which will show us enemies (2 yellow guards and 1 green guard), placing the miniatures on their spawning points.
Therefore, I take 2 cards from the yellow guard deck and 1 green card from the green guard deck, and place them, face down in a place on the table, to form the ENCOUNTER deck.
Agent n1's card is then discarded.

I then flip another card from the INITIATIVE deck, and reveal the card corresponding to Agent n.4, which is the one carrying an RPG, so he can:
-shoot once and then move 1 area
-move 2 areas
-move 1 area and hide

(again, the actions aren't definitive, yet).
I then decide to shoot with agent n.2 (checking the RPG's range) and roll to see if I hit. I hit, so I remove the target, which was a green guard (I don't remove anything else, so the cards previsosly placed in the ENCONTER deck remain where they are, for now.
Agent n.4's card is also discarded.

So, I keep on flippint cards from the INITITIVE deck, until the deck is depleted, and a new round begins, discarding the used cards, in a discard pile.

At any moment, INSTEAD of flipping a card from the Encounter deck, the Player can activate his Character, once per turn, which has, pretty much like the other team members, an array of actions he can choose from, to perform.

When the Initiative deck has been depleted, the turn ends, and the player takes all the cards from the Encounter deck, and shuffles them with the Discarded cards, to form a new INITIATIVE deck (only that, now, there are also enemy cards, in there).

Just as before, the player will flip the first card of the Initiative deck, and reveals Yellow Guard card, which dictates the player to do something (usually something like: MOVE all yellow guards X areas and shoot once at the closes visible agent, or shoot twice, and so on).

The second card the player flips is a green guard card. Say there are no green guards on the field, because you killed them all, place the card in the DEAD pile.

Game continues until the mission objective is reached, or all the Shadow Agents are dead.

As you can tell, the game is a lot different from already seen squad level urban combat.
The actions are predetermined (and are typical and different, according to what the team member or the guard is specialized on).
The variable is when each agent or guard will be activated, so planning ahead is crucial, as you might get 2-3 guard activations in a row, but you might also get 4 subsequent Agent activations in row later on.

This randomness will be mitigated by the player, who plays an agent,with his own will, and he can decide when to activate HIS agent.
Plus some equipments and special powers can also bring a deck manipulation aspect that can give a strategic aspect to the game (in contraption with the tactical aspect, seen up to now).

Add the fact the the agents will be able to hide in the shadows (just like in Shadow Agent, but they will also be able to hide behind walls and make corner shots; given the possibility to outmanouver the enemies with some strategic planning... I think we have a winner, here.

So, as I said, the main game mechanic is under play test, and is working quite fine, actually.
BUT, here's my problem: the maps... I HATE, I DESPISE card board chits for units, as much as I don't like HEX boards (which are too wargame-y...) so I decided to use the same tiles I created for Shadow Agent, or something along these lines, where each area is aproximately 2-3 meters, opposed to the 20-30 meters, seen in many wargame hex boards.

The action will have to take place in more open spaces, as the mansion is not the BEST, but I think I'll have to make due, until I get it straight exaclty what I am aiming for.

If you have ideas, please post them.
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