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Subject: City of Iron Designer Diary #1: To Hell and Back rss

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Ryan Laukat
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To say that I was banging my head against the wall in my struggles with game design is no exaggeration. I was creating around one new game prototype per week, working on various designs at once, and I just didn’t like any of them. But I had this idea for a giant, hex-based civilization game that had me intrigued. I knew it was going to be impossible to produce, far too expensive, but I didn’t care. I wanted to play it, so I made it.

When I started cutting out the little hexagons and stacking them in piles, it was starting to become clear that the game just wasn’t going to work. The board was gigantic, and yet still felt too small. The hexagons were tiny and difficult to read and keep track of, especially from across the board. I stopped cutting and just stared at the half-baked components, ready to be stuffed in a bag and left with the pile of other abandoned prototypes in my closet. And then it hit me: what if this was a card game?

I’ve read a lot of articles about board game design. Some designers view it like stone carving or sculpting; the game is somewhere in there, it just has to be chiseled out! For me, it’s a lot more like cooking. I take a bunch of ingredients I think might be good together and throw them in the oven. Sometimes it turns out pretty close, and all it needs is some tweaking and a few more tries. But most of the time it’s revolting and I throw it away immediately. City of Iron just needed some tweaking.

It was amazing how quickly the design for this game popped into my head. It was like I almost didn’t think about it, I just wrote pages and pages of notes in a fury. It seemed so unreal after the struggles I’d had with the other designs. I made the prototype in around a day, we played it, and I knew we had something.

City of Iron has a board, and a lot of components, so I don’t want to call it a card game. It’s a board game with a lot of cards. I wanted something that felt more like a Euro-game than my previous design, Empires of the Void. I also wanted the game to have a lot of player interaction. But most importantly, I wanted the game to scream theme.

The main idea for the theme is “fantasy with machines”, but it’s definitely influenced by various stories I’ve written over the years and one game in particular I designed around five years ago called The Keys of Tyr. It was a big, fantasy empire-building game on a giant board, all hand-painted with watercolor.

The core of the game is having the majority of various odd trade goods, like Glow Moss or Bottled Demons. Building cards in your city will give you more control of a specific type of good, which in turn feeds your income and victory points. Your city has a limited amount of space, so you have to be careful about which cards to build.

Players can also use military might to conquer neutral towns, which increase control of specific goods without taking up a space in the city, but it’s a riskier option. Other players can attack your newly conquered town at just the right moment and steal it away just before a scoring round. I like this dynamic. It’s a lot of fun when you take majority of a good when another player isn’t expecting it.

Each player also has a deck of around 20 technologies with various abilities, all of which cost Science Points to research. Science points are chiefly obtained by building Academies in your city, but these take up valuable space that could be used for goods.

City of Iron also includes a deck-building aspect, but it works much differently than what you would expect. Players have two decks: Citizen and Military. Cards from these decks can be used together to perform special actions, like conquering neutral towns or settling new Cities. When you buy a card, it goes directly into your hand, but you will likely only be drawing 2 or 3 cards per round, and each deck might have around 9 or 10 cards by the end of the game.

Check back soon for more updates on the development of the game!
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Daniel Schwartzkopf
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The science of history is a great bulwark against the stream of Time; in a way it checks this irresistible flood, it holds in a tight grasp whatever it can seize floating on the surface and will not allow it to slip away into the depths of oblivion
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Looks interesting, Ryan. I've got to say that the title sits a little oddly in my mind, though. Not to say it's bad, but it sounds much more like a crusade era war game or something like that than a "fantasy with machines" game. On one hand I like that it doesn't have a typical fantasy theme name, on the other I almost didn't even click on the title in The Hotness because it sounded like something I probably wouldn't play.

Other than that, I'm always looking for a civ game, and I've always liked the look of your designs, so color me interested.
 
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Very interesting read!

Maybe it's because I like steampunk, but "City of Iron" really fits well for me, and when I saw the title in the hotness I actually thought and hoped it'd be a steampunk game.
(Although my first guess was a Martin Wallace trainmaker game.)

Can't say I got any "crusade era" or "war game" vibe from the title. I guess it'd work for a WWII East front wargame.
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Mathue Faulkner
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Eerly wrote:
Very interesting read!

Maybe it's because I like steampunk, but "City of Iron" really fits well for me, and when I saw the title in the hotness I actually thought and hoped it'd be a steampunk game.
(Although my first guess was a Martin Wallace trainmaker game.)

Can't say I got any "crusade era" or "war game" vibe from the title. I guess it'd work for a WWII East front wargame.

Agreed that the title "City of Iron" immediately strikes me as a steampunk game...

Sounds very interesting, and I'm excited to hear more.

Is this going to be another Kickstarter project? And if so, any idea on when funding may start?
 
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Daniel Schwartzkopf
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mfaulk80 wrote:
Eerly wrote:
Very interesting read!

Maybe it's because I like steampunk, but "City of Iron" really fits well for me, and when I saw the title in the hotness I actually thought and hoped it'd be a steampunk game.
(Although my first guess was a Martin Wallace trainmaker game.)

Can't say I got any "crusade era" or "war game" vibe from the title. I guess it'd work for a WWII East front wargame.

Agreed that the title "City of Iron" immediately strikes me as a steampunk game...

Sounds very interesting, and I'm excited to hear more.

Is this going to be another Kickstarter project? And if so, any idea on when funding may start?


Not being well versed in Steampunk, perhaps that's where I've gone awry
 
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Geoff Hall
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Schwartzkopf wrote:

Not being well versed in Steampunk, perhaps that's where I've gone awry


I'd say that's fairly likely as City of Iron screamed steampunk to me too
 
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Scott Nelson
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DreadFuzzy wrote:
Schwartzkopf wrote:

Not being well versed in Steampunk, perhaps that's where I've gone awry


I'd say that's fairly likely as City of Iron screamed steampunk to me too


I thought of the Tripods books, but then realized it wasn't Gold and Lead.
 
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Jason Preder
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Waiting for these updates is killing me. I think this must be Ryan's plot to distract us from the imminent shipping of Empires of the Void.

So far, this game has my full interest and I'm drooling to get more details.

HURRY!
 
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Josh small
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super interested in this, from the short description it sounds really fun. Also just love a well done steampunk theme.
 
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Edwin Karat
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DreadFuzzy wrote:
Schwartzkopf wrote:

Not being well versed in Steampunk, perhaps that's where I've gone awry


I'd say that's fairly likely as City of Iron screamed steampunk to me too


"City of Brass" would be even more steampunk. "City of Iron" could be a lot of things, including warfare in the Iron Age (eg Rome).
 
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Chad Miller
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karat wrote:
"City of Brass" would be even more steampunk.


I would think a lot of fantasy gamers associate "City of Brass" with the Arabian Nights location, or the Magic: The Gathering/Dungeons and Dragons locations inspired by it.
 
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Paul Incao
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Thanks for the back story. This game has some of my favorite game elements and mechanics. Another must buy.

-Paul
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Josette Baysdell
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My husband and I ran into Ryan at Origins and had the opportunity to play the prototype for City of Iron. After a few rounds of play, we are both really looking forward to the final release of this new game.

The combination of mechanics made for quite a different "feel". It's not that there's anything there an experienced Euro player hasn't probably seen before, it's more that the way they went together felt like a fresh approach. The game is nicely themed, and the art so far is attractive and feels like a good fit for the theme.

About the only issue we had during the game was that it ended too soon! There was so much more to do, and so much we still wanted to accomplish, that another round or two would have been welcome. Ryan said that he was continuing to adjust balance and play length, so I'm sure this will be considered in the final version.

Thanks, Ryan, for the glimpse into the process of this game's development and the chance to playtest it with you. It was great fun.

Oh, and did you think you could describe the Keys of Tyr and not have people wanting to see it? It sounds gorgeous. Now I want one. laugh
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Mike Clarke
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Great write up Ryan. And I think your title works. I get the impression this is going to be another gorgeous game. I've just spent part of the afternoon researching Empires of the Void and it looks good too.

Keep it up!
 
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