After about a month and a half of brainstorming, rule writing, content creation (and cutting), tuning, scrounging for sweet antique dice and pawns, swapping out components to lower the cost of the eventual game, writing flavor text, designing card layouts, cutting the cards, I finally have a playable prototype of my latest game.
I originally called it The Adventures of CLEB, CLEB being an acronym for the name of the characters (Clark, Lewis, Ethel, and Buford). I then briefly settled on Corps of Discovery, which was the name of the organization to which the explorers belonged. Finally, I decided upon Frontier Scoundrels, which is the name of one of my card types and a name that I feel has a bit of a punch and a ring to it.
Plus, I think Scoundrels are funny and the Frontier is such a good noun.
I'm immensely pleased with the progress so far, but now the real work begins. I've done a great deal of early tuning, balancing, and mechanic re-design. In fact, far more so than any previous game. This is my fourth board game and I'm really starting to get a knack for spotting bad ideas before I go through the effort of testing them. Sometimes, bad is just bad and you can spot imbalance from a mile away.
I'm pleased with how I've simplified the game, while at the same time creating a richer experience. A core mechanic is that the player who is the Expedition Leader (title passes each turn) can order other players to do certain things. Initially, this was very limited (3 choices), always the same, and the design had an incredibly overwhelming play phases that just weren't intuitive or elegant. After stewing over it for a week (and taking in some feedback from a colleague), I created a new small deck of cards called Command cards. There are about 6 different cards, each with a unique role that can be assigned to a player by the Expedition Leader. However, the Expedition Leader can only use a limited portion of the cards.
This does a few things:
- I've removed one confusing choice and given the player an easier, but also broader one
- I've dramatically cleaned up the turns and phases of the game
- I've added more content that's more interesting
- Each turn will now be different, but still within a familiar range of possibilities
I'm also pretty excited by quality of the current rules; I've edited them at least 50 times. They are 10 pages total (or 5 pages front/back), but the game can be learned in the first 5 pages. The last 5 go deeper into content and provide examples for some of the mechanics. The other reason the rules went from 6 to 10 pages is that almost every concept has a visual component or diagram to help explain it. After reading Pandemic and Forbidden Island's rules, I knew that was the way it had to be for Frontier Scoundrels.
I'll play a few games with myself this week to pound out the early bugs and flow issues. Then I'll bring my friends over. If all goes well, I'm hoping to send prototypes to colleagues in a few months. This will coincide perfectly with the website for Hyperbole Games going live and the Christmas holiday season.
Let's be about it, shall we?
"Ocian in view! O! the joy!"
-Captain William Clark, upon reaching the Pacific Ocean