I honestly underestimated the amount of work that would go into The Torian War when I first undertook to finish a complete game design in one month— part of National Game Design Month (NaGaDeMon). But here we are and here it is, not in a finished state for public consumption by any means, but a complete playable game; a fact which I proved tonight, just in the nick of time.
The map is printed in grayscale just for the sake of economics; at this size it would have cost a MINT to get it printed in color at the local Staples. That’s one of the great things this exercise has allowed me to work through; not only the actual game mechanics (and I learned quite a few things just from this first initial run-through) but also the technical and economic aspects of the project.
I certainly gleaned a lot of information about how to change the game rules themselves; reinforcement rules need tweaking, it’s way too easy to stack a hex full of nothing but knights and have an unstoppable killing force, and I’d like to put in some mechanic to make it harder for the Torian (blue) side to launch a counter-invasion. But it seems like the basic concept is sound; the attackers are in a race to snag as many towns and villages before time runs out and/or the defenders manage to tie them up. Some things work exactly as I had hoped; the peasant troops popping up all around the captured villages, for instance, forcing the invaders to maintain garrisons in order to keep their conquests.
There are also some technical snags that this playtest version of the game brought out. My method for making the counters was needlessly complicated; I was just making a lot more work for myself than was necessary. I also need some more practice at getting things in GIMP to scale the way I think they’re going to; the map and counters each turned out about larger than I had intended. As it happens, that worked out fine for a playtest version; it just takes up more room, but is completely playable. But for a first effort, it’s good to see where the technical kinks lie, so I can focus on making them smoother the next time around.
On the whole, though, this was an extraordinary experience. The Torian War is precisely the sort of thing that probably would have languished as a victim of my “gamer ADD” if I hadn’t had the one-month deadline imposed upon me. As a project manager by profession the setting of deadlines is something whose utility I should (and do, intellectually) know, but to have it demonstrated so vividly in a gaming context was quite instructive.
Lots of lessons learned, both on a practical level for this game and for the process as a whole, and I hereby declare my own NaGaDeMon experience a success for 2011!