In this blog I'll talk about my experience in developing “The Golden Ages”, a boardgame that will be released in Essen 2014, published by Quined Games and Ergo Ludo Editions.
When I started thinking about the game, it was February, 2010. For a long time I was mumbling about “civilization” games, a kind of games that I love since the first Sid Meier’s Civilization for PC. I was thinking about how the board games taken out from this kind of videogames was never without flaws, like the game’s length or the high downtime. These flaws are of course merely subjectives, depending from the friends with whom I usually play… someone have shortage of free time, and someone have the habit of thinking too much about his moves!
The players mat: I’ll explain it in a future post!
In conclusion, I felt like it was missing a game that reproduces the main aspects of the civilization games, but with a short play time and game mechanics making easier competing with players suffering of “paralysis by analysis”. I haven’t found this games around, and then … I tried to make it myself!
The first consideration that I feel I can do, and that is perhaps obvious, is that in a civilization board game you cannot have the same complexity of a computer version. And on the other hand it is necessary that the interaction with other players is tighter, because otherwise the game becomes a multi-solitaire for at least half of the match. For this reason, something of the original experience must somehow be sacrificed. Many games typically sacrifice the map; others sacrifice urban development; still others sacrifice the variety of the strategies, which are almost always heavily influenced by the military choices of some of the players; others sacrifice the historical extension to a single historical age. Some games, finally, focus on just one aspect of the matter, such as the tech tree, and leave out all the rest.
I realized the need of leaving out something only after the first 2-3 versions of the initial prototype. At first, there were 5 different kinds of resources, a more complex technology tree, and the game was still too long and chaotic. But the base structure was there and it worked well enough, so the development process went for stepwise refinements (for the curious: 16 main versions of the prototype, plus a few minor releases), some of which have proved to be much more difficult than others. I think it’s worth exposing at least some of these steps, because each of them has taught me something and maybe it could be useful to other game designers.
If you’ll have the patience to keep following me, I’ll get in the next posts.
(and sorry, but my english skills are not so great... please forgive my mistakes!)