Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Workshop: Princess of the Hill!

by Randy

I've decided that I'm going to go in a different direction for this post: I'm going to make a game. Now, it won't be finished at the end of the post, of course. But I expect that this will be a series of posts, hopefully culminating in a playable game! The idea is to share the process that I'm using and get feedback. I have not yet completed a game, so here's to hoping this is my first!
So, the concept: a hex-based tactical combat/area control game. The idea is to bank as many points as you can, doing this by maintaining control of the central hex on the board. Other players (at least one more, probably more) are trying to do the same. You will play cards to do everything in the game, I'm thinking. The game play will be focused on getting your token on the space and staying there, and moving others' pieces around the board (or at least off the space).
I even have a theme: Princess of the Hill! A knock-down, drag-out brawl  between the kingdom's elite offspring. I'll mock up some more pictures soon... that helps me get into the mindset more. I haven't decided whether they're going to be kids or adults.  I feel good about the theme and believe a fun theme is going to help get the creative juices flowing.

So here we go....
Hexes. My idea was a central hex with three or four concentric rings. I think this would be a good representation of our hill. Player tokens will be hexes, as well. As a matter of fact, I think that facing will be relevant, so front vs. back will have a game effect. The idea is that the player controlling the central hex will be in a more precarious place.
Combat. Combat should be simple and fun. Perhaps a rock-paper-scissors style resolution, similar to Yomi. My moves will be Push, Drag or Strike. So, Push beats Strike beats Drag beats Push. We'll get back to resolving same vs. same later... or maybe it just means discarding and choosing again. We'll see. Additionally, there will be special moves. I'm thinking Feint, Suckerpunch, Charge. Maybe also values for attack types. I'm thinking successful Push or Drags will move the defender farther or closer to the Attacker, respectively, and Strike will do damage to hand cards, as in discarding as "damage", but without player elimination. Since the combat is the central part of this game, we're going need to make this tight and refined.
Movement is a necessity, too. I'm considering paying for movement, or perhaps for movement beyond the standard allotment. Payment would be in hand cards (not special movement cards or something), if that gets figured in. I like the idea of being able to rush, but that this would result in you being a little weakened from the effort. With this added, and damage being applied to hand cards, this makes the ebb and flow of the hand size directly correlate to energy of the character.
Speaking of hand size, players need to get cards. My thought on this is that while on the top, you draw one per turn. Each successive ring adds one to your draw value. Without cards, it's tougher to fight and hold onto the prize. Also adds the consideration of stepping down to "rest" and regain a hand.

Scoring... we need a way to win. My thought is that if you end your turn on the middle hex, you can bank one hand card as a victory point. On the middle hex, you're only drawing one per round so you won't be holding it too long, assuming other players are attacking.

The full idea is this: I want to make a game with a fun theme (check!). I want it to be tactical, with somewhat of a resource-management element. I also what it, despite its theme, to be playable as a serious area-control game with serious tactical considerations. I'm of the opinion that my idea here is workable, and that I can bang this into working game. That being said, anyone have any advice to offer? I'm hoping to make this a work-in-progress type thing and spread it over several blog posts. I'll continue to work on this and share my ideas. That way, we can all learn about game design together!


  1. I love the concept, and the gameplay sounds fun. Distinctive art will be key. The mechanics sound simple but stimulating. Looking forward to some play-testing!

  2. Hey Randy,

    Game sounds pretty cool. Here’s my comments on what you’ve got so far:

    I like the basic idea of combat. I particularly like the “taking damage as discarded cards”. I’m a little unclear on how the drag will work and I see a potential problem. Drag brings someone closer, right? So does that mean you can attack from anywhere? Or does a drag attack have a certain range? I recommend that all combat requires you to be adjacent. Maybe the drag the opponent to any empty hex adjacent to you (your choice) or something like that. So you could drag them off the hill and put them behind you.

    If you want facing to matter, that could be your way to resolve “same on same”. You could have a front, sides, and a back. Attack someone in the back and they can’t defend, period. Attack someone on the sides and they can defend but if they play the same as you, you win. Attack from the front and they can defend but if they play the same as you nothing happens and the cards are discarded.

    Also, the hill will needs some serious consideration. This, I recommend, is what you tackle first. If you want the game to be tactical you have to find a way to make that hill more than just a brawl in the middle and you have to figure out how to make a rush strategy viable. So the questions in my mind are: Is there anything to this hill besides the middle where you get points and the fact that you draw more cards on the outer edge? If I get to the middle early, am I just the fool whose drawing 1 card per turn and earning a few points before the guys who were earning 4 cards per turn finally march in with 20 cards, stomp me, and keep the hill forever? Why do I care about moving hexagonally around this board?

    I think the key to the tactics you might be looking for is in the fact that some of your attacks can change the position of people on the board. Maybe if you push or drag someone into another opponent they immediately have to fight as well. Maybe there are pits, spike or board elements that you can use to your advantage. Maybe these board elements aren’t set permanently in space. Maybe they are tiles themselves that can be manipulated. So I can push or drag a spike pit to set up some kind of barrier or strike it to remove it from the board entirely. Maybe the players start with some hex elements of their own that they can drop on the board in lieu of an attack. Board elements could have different toughness. So for example, if you give your attacks different strength like a 1,2,3,4,and 5 strike. Maybe a spike pit is an obstacle 3 and can only be busted by a 3 or higher where a sniveling lackey is an obstacle 1 and be destroyed or manipulated by practically anything.

    Anyway, this comment is running a bit long but I wanted to give you thoughts to consider as you continue to design. I look forward to seeing the next post. :)

  3. Hi Randy,

    Just some quick thoughts for now, but you've got my attention. I agree with Dragmorian- the hill layout needs serious thought. If done right you could open the design up to new maps down the road to scale up the challenge. Recalling my own days of playing KotH, sometimes the hill we used was sandy or partly sandy. One hill was kind of crater shaped with narrow approaches to the top on either side but had a wicked steep slope in the front, still climbable, yet was the swift path for losers. So yeah, anything but a cone or pyramid shape please!

    In reading the Push-Strike-Drag combat I might be missing your vision. I see this as a limited number of options for a player depending on whether he's on up-hill or down-hill side of the fight.

    Also like Dragmorian, I'm expecting combat could involve movement as a result of a lucky/poor choice= if you throw a push and are contered by a drag then you could swap hexes with your opponent. Somebody fighting uphill wouldn't want to push up and risk being pushed back as the upper position would trump in an equal throw. But maybe the downhill guy would push somebody in front of him up and into another confrontation before he's ready...

    Sorry, I'm spinning out of control without thinking this thru and writing it down coherently. But it does beg the question of how many players does this need to keep it interesting? In order to have conflict on the way to the top you'll need at least 3 if not 4 players. Unless each player controls multiple "guys" or you turn this into- Princess of the Hill vs Zombies! (Sorry- mass marketing made me do it)

    -Terran Sin

  4. @JT: Thank you! I'll definitely let you know when I have it ready for playtesting!

    @Dragmorian: Okay... Drag= move opponent to a hex adjacent to you both. I like your idea for resolving sames: ties go to attacker from behind. Great! As for the hill... good point. I had figured that there should be terrain features, but hadn't thought too much on it. Also, I see a hand limit. Maybe start with three, maximum 7-10. Not sure. That would make staying downhill and hoarding enticing, but ultimately a strategy choice that could cost you, especially if opponents go for strikes. Your board element ideas are interesting, too, and I'll take those into consideration in the first mock-up. Thank you for the feedback!

    @Terran Sin: Good idea on hill design. Also, most combat will involve movement. I hadn't considered uphill or downhill as a factor in that way. Third party-triggered combats are an interesting consideration... Okay Zombies... funny, I had considered this! Maybe as an advanced version of the game! And yeah, probably need at least three to keep it going.

    Thanks, guys! Some great ideas! I'll get to work and see what I can come up with for the next installament. Hopefully, some more art, too!

  5. I think the hill will be important too. Maybe a small cluster of 3 hexes instead of a single one, and no accumulation of points or whatever unless you are the only one on the top hill spaces? This would allow for a player to stop a runaway leader from getting further ahead (at least temporarily) and make the "defending" of the top of the hill more dynamic (running around flinging princesses in every which way).

    Also, I think you should add in some rainbows and hearts and unicrons somewhere :)

  6. @Angie: Good idea about the top; I think I'll go with that. As for hearts, rainbows and unicorns... the battelfield will likely be strewn with all three!

  7. Randy,

    Haven't talked to you guys in forever and to think that the first contact will be a post on your website...

    Game idea sounds interesting. Got to thinking about your movement and attacks and thought I'd post some of my thoughts.

    Facing - only go for front and back. Sides could make it too much. Besides, hexes are great for three front sides and three back sides.

    Perhaps your combat involves hiding your cards during the choice of what to do and then displaying them at the same time. Then the result depends more on the combination of cards rather than a strictly Rock-Paper-Scissors approach. For example, a push from uphill vs a drag from downhill is in dragger's favor (gravity works for them). But a strike from uphill wins vs. drag (again due to gravity).

    Of course, you'd have to figure out every card combination and design rules for them and make sure that every combination has something that is better depending on the circumstances.

    Extra abilities - I like the idea of a few extra attacks that might be a bit more powerful, but be sure to make them rare. Perhaps a drag brings the uphill player down to your elevation, but a hip throw sends them from one above you to one below you.

  8. Hey, Brady!

    It's great to hear from you! It has been way too long! Great feedback!

    Facing: definitely just front and back; more would be unnecessary for a game leaning toward the light side.

    Combat: You are correct; each player selects their card in secret and reveals at the same time. As for the uphill/downhill, it may just increase/decrease spaces moved.

    Each princess will have their own bonus, if not ability. Equipment will mostly do bonuses, too. Maybe some abilities to spice it up.

    Thanks for commenting. BTW... did I see a little one in your profile pick? Congratulations!