Board Game Jam 2 and an Untitled Hacking Game

Play Testing at the Jam

Play Testing at the Jam

So last weekend was the second Toronto Board Game Jam, and it was great. A lot of returning faces from the first jam, and plenty of new ones to join them. There’s been several write ups of the Jam already, so I don’t feel I need to cover that territory, and instead I’d like to discuss the game I created with Paul at the event.

Approach
We decided to avoid too much deliberation on the jam-day (which can eat in to your build time) and work out a concept a few days before. Paul and I sat down to discuss the theme (Science) and hash out mechanics. We wanted something easy to learn and quick to play, with minimal pieces to ensure we completed in time. Additionally, we wanted something where players directly interacted with each other, something which flexibly accommodated about 4 players, and with those restrictions, we went to work.

We discussed the idea of making some sort of map. Originally, we had discussed the idea of using some sort of Boggle-like device to make a playing field. Paul and I went over a number of ways we could use this idea, and how the device could be used, and we colored the random map idea as a computer network. With that idea in mind, we discussed the idea of forcing player cooperation in a competitive game, and the idea of a ‘reset’ function arose. We eventually agreed that the Boggle-dice were not going to work — at least, not easily — but we had set down the path to our final idea; players attempting to crack network security.

We came up with a wide spread of ideas, and parted ways to individually think on the concepts we were considering, and left it for a few days until the Jam.

At the Jam
Paul and I had worked out our interpretations of what we had talked about and compared notes first thing at the Jam. We had a framework, and we spend the first few hours working out the holes in our rules. The game would use cards as resources, and use an Event Deck to provide some constant upset. We’d use a map made of tiles and color it with player markers.

At the beginning, we had a number of interactions worked out — the numbers 1 to 6 were repeated across a few action cards we had discussed, along with the map tiles, but we hadn’t worked out what would go on the event cards. We knew that most of the game cards would be “Integers”, numbered 1 to 6, which would be used for movement and actions.

Despite all this, we knew players would collect Security Keys to win the game, but not how. Our first concept was by creating a “network path”, where the players would roll two or three dice to create a 2 or 3 digit path — players would place markers on tiles to create a line between tiles with those numbers and collect a key when successful. We found that this worked, but too slowly, and increasingly frustratingly with more players. We discarded the dice and instead put numbers on each Event card, and left three Events on the field at once. This opened up the possibility of Events which had lasting effects. We found making a line was especially tedious, and dropped it for merely marking three tiles at once; players would claim their markers at end-of-turn to collect a key. Now we had something quick and easy to play, which was still fairly deep.

We had worked out a pile of action cards and Events, and we were left to tweak our play. We had worked out, early on, that the map would include White (public), Grey (private) and Black (secure) spaces, which would cost increasingly more to move through. We also determined that player-marked spaces would act as White to the player and Grey to their opponents. This worked, but wasn’t quite fast enough — we fixed that by making player-marked spaces free to move through (for that player), making players choose between securing keys and keep their movement advantages.

We also found that allowing free movement through marked tiles reduced an issue with players becoming starved for Integer cards. to further alleviate the issue, players could use Integers to draw cards (when on tiles of the same number), allowing them to try to boost the length of a turn. With the already in-place limitations preventing players from dropping too many markers, retaining too many cards, or collecting more than one key a turn, we found that there was a play balance.

Post-Jam
After the Jam, we made a number of small changes and have further refined the game since playing it at the Jam, including some ideas of an expansion-type advanced game. We’re planning to play test further, and the make the game available online for purchase! (Of course, more news here when that comes to pass.)

All in all, an excellent jam. We found that using block-print stamps was an effective means to produce our prototype. We had a sufficient amount of time for our play testing, and we had a ton of fun in the collaborative environment you can only get at a Jam. I’ll be back again next time, that is for certain.

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One Response to “Board Game Jam 2 and an Untitled Hacking Game”

  1. Peter Nicolson Says:

    Amazing art game. I really liked it.

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