Recommend
85 
 Thumb up
 Hide
9 Posts

Root» Forums » News

Subject: Designer Diary - Playing with Hearts and Minds rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Cole Wehrle
United States
St. Paul
Minnesota
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
"Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation"
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I really like Eclipse. I recognize the flaws in the design, but, as a once-dedicated player of Twilight Imperium, Eclipse hit me at exactly the right time. I had been disenchanted with how the third edition was handed and developed. I felt like Fantasy Flight was just generating content and asking the players to figure out what was good. Thankfully, the 4th edition has fixed all of these problems. But, back then, every group I played with had their own set of elaborate house-rules, and, if the prospect of introducing new players to the system was exhausting, it was at least better than trying to convince established groups to adopt your specific rule-set. Eclipse was a revelation. Here was a game, well-developed, interesting, and about as smooth playing as anything in its weight class.

Of course, there were problems too. The victory points from combat could be a little wonky and the dominance of plasma missiles dulled a lot of the more interesting fleet construction options. There’s was also a lot of randomness—-often in the most irritating places. But it didn’t matter; the game worked plenty well-enough to make it to the table.

Over the years as I played Eclipse, the locus of my frustration shifted. It moved from mechanical frustration to a frustration with its limited political imagination. Eclipse presented a certain view of how big space empires work and saw them as essentially balancing between discrete categories of technology, economic flow/action potential, and resource extraction. This was a cute model, and one that’s has produced some lovely games. Starcraft, for instance, is built on a similar kind of tech/rush/econ strategic triangle. But, if that game space could be profitably mapped on to some real-world situations, it’s hardly the only way of thinking about how states operate. In fact, it’s a little silly that the vast majority of 4x games are built on basically the same formula.

When I started designing the Cat role, I began with the Eclipse system as a blueprint, but soon realized that I need to re-conceptualize their strategic footing. For starters, the most important element of the role was their board position. The Cat begins the game with a near monopoly of force, with warriors ruling nearly every clearing on the board. They needed a way to maintain this force. Now, if this were a traditional 4x game, I would have built some system whereby resource extracted turned into space ships. But, that was exactly the narrative I wanted to push against. So, instead I decided to allow the Cat to build “recruiters.” These recruiters would have two functions beyond providing the Cat with new troops. First, they would increase the Cat’s tax collection infrastructure, improving their income each turn. Second, the more recruiting the Cat does, the more the Alliance becomes outraged, which improves their own radicalization/education efforts. I was reading a lot of David Graber’s work on debt, taxation, and the birth of armies, so it was important to tie all of these things together.

Here's a board from the playtesting kit. Like Eclipse, the different buildings are placed along
three different tracks. That's where the similarities end.


On the other hand, the victory condition of the cat depended upon infrastructure creation and economic activity. For this reason, the Cat’s victory points were tied to the construction of buildings—including some of those that the other players could build! In order to build those buildings, the Cat had to mill and move lumber around the woods.

To this formula, I also wanted to allow the Cat to develop different kinds of economic footings. I did this through the game’s crafting system. By building workshops, the cat has to make some hard choices about the kinds of goods her kingdom can produce.

Lastly, I wanted to say a quick word about the Cat’s “free” actions, specially the last one: Incite Mob. A few posts ago I talked about how the cards of the game represented the creatures of the woods and how each faction managed their hand allowed me to differentiate each faction and provide some commentary. Well, the Incite Mob free action says a lot about how the game deals with police action. Here’s how it works: if the Cat rules a clearing, they can reveal four cards matching the clearing (birds are wild) and incite a mob to destroy an opponent’s building. Across the kingdom, the loyal subjects will cheer and the Cat gains two victory points. However, the targeted player also draws three cards from the deck: these are the disaffected, dismayed by the Cat’s aggression. Critically, when inciting the mob, the Cat reveals cards and is free to spend its followers. But, if critical cards are spent, the Cat might lose the support of the people and insurgents can easily find a sympathetic ear.

Sometimes when I describe this game, I talk about how its politics are fundamentally hydraulic. This is what I’m talking about. If you push down somewhere, somewhere else something is going to rise up.
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kyle Ferrin
msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Playing with Hearts and Minds
I love reading about all the thinking you've done while making the rules, fun to see what's under the hood.
20 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Morten K
Denmark
flag msg tools
Avatar
mb
Re: Playing with Hearts and Minds
This is fast becoming my favourite designer diary so far.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nafmi Sanichar - van Herwijnen
Netherlands
Weesp
Noord-Holland
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Playing with Hearts and Minds
this is all incredibly interesting, unfortunately I'm starting to get the feeling this game might be too smart for me...
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Cole Wehrle
United States
St. Paul
Minnesota
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
"Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation"
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Playing with Hearts and Minds
Nafmi wrote:
this is all incredibly interesting, unfortunately I'm starting to get the feeling this game might be too smart for me...


Don't worry about it--things can seem complicated when I'm talking about the logic of the design, but the game itself is only a step or so beyond a game like Blood Rage in rules overhead.
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nafmi Sanichar - van Herwijnen
Netherlands
Weesp
Noord-Holland
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Playing with Hearts and Minds
Cole Wehrle wrote:
Nafmi wrote:
this is all incredibly interesting, unfortunately I'm starting to get the feeling this game might be too smart for me...


Don't worry about it--things can seem complicated when I'm talking about the logic of the design, but the game itself is only a step or so beyond a game like Blood Rage in rules overhead.


I'll just follow along with your diaries, because I'm already hooked into the process. Will there be any gameplay videos?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Patrick Leder
United States
Saint Paul
Minnesota
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Playing with Hearts and Minds
We shot about 7 minutes of discussion about the game a week ago that will be a companion to the Kickstarter. We have solid plans to shoot another video after it goes to the printer and we will probably take care of Vast at the same time.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
William Sobel
msg tools
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re: Playing with Hearts and Minds
d20plusmodifier wrote:
I love reading about all the thinking you've done while making the rules, fun to see what's under the hood.


Same. Even more importantly, I love seeing the inspiration. I love it when designers talk about what influenced them, and where certain decisions came from. It's so real and the transparency is super refreshing.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris W
United States
Texas
flag msg tools
Re: Playing with Hearts and Minds
The game sounds amazing. Do you need any playtesters in Austin?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.