I was addicted to a wide range of games as a kid, from airline business simulators to your more common action platformers or shooters, or just making up my own with lego and war game models. But as hinted in Diary #0, one genre to which I continually returned was that of the strategy RPG, for better or worse. I enjoyed the level of control players were given over a vast array of differing characters, all with their own abilities, who wanted to assist in your quest. The stories and character development were usually horrible, but the strategy gameplay in various fantastical settings often hooked me in. It's sad to see a form one enjoys sit largely stagnant through its countless iterations in the decades since, and this sentiment spurred the work that originated Project Cross-Flux. Evolving out of an overly ambitious videogame design, this project has morphed into a boardgame design that hopes to provide a diverse questing toolkit, in a limitless setting, to be utilized for several game modes.
Hopefully you know the drill by now, so below are some key points to do with this design that I'll try to incorporate later as the process continues.
Flexible, Expandable, Modular Design
I'd like to pursue this element as much as I can, without this becoming a massively bloated mess of a project. At minimum, I want:
- Mechanics and components that can be used in different game modes, with different levels of complexity and difficulty.
- Choices between randomization or pre-construction of game setup and content.
- Players to have dozens of fairly different play-throughs.
- Content designed to work with both big box and individual component/mechanic future expansions.
- Individual components that could be used selectively in more narrative-driven, pen-and-paper role-playing game modes; or brought into existing P&P RPGs as player/GM aids.
I'll try to keep this modular approach in mind with the other features below.
Set In The Open-Ended Infinite
In order to maximize the possibility of a modular boardgame design, its theme should be able to make sense of the diversity and change such a design elicits. The setting idea from the original iteration of this project was for a sort of force stitching diverse worlds, planes, and lands together at its whim, implanting memories into the inhabitants that "it's always been like this," and essentially rewriting elements of the universe when it saw fit. Something similar could be used for a sort of megaverse setting, to allow for anything from anywhere to be included in the game when it fits.
Wide Assortment of Playable Character Classes
My favorite part of the strategy RPG genre was easily recruiting a new character to your side with their own unique class, opening up new actions and abilities. Even better was if a game allowed you to promote experience characters to new classes. So naturally, I want to recreate that experience in boardgame form here. With a writing partner, I had previously worked out a 3-tiered hierarchy of 167 character classes for the videogame version of this design, and I can use them for my class list. I can release more info on those classes later on, but the key would be for them to actually play differently, not just like re-themes of the same set of a few classes. A significant amount of testing and tweaking will be required for a set of classes this large as well.
With the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink theme, character archetypes and roles from any source can be used for inspiration. The existing list has a foundation of more traditional fantasy RPG classes, but also a large amount of classes drawn from other fiction genres, or more esoteric sources. However classes work, they should be able to function as individual expansions too. ("Pay for the components and you can add this new class to you game," etc.) A publisher could also theoretically get licenses to release expansions from known source material.
I'm hoping for a set of six to eight stats that are general enough to apply to most settings, and that interact with each other in interesting ways. I'll use some sort of experience point system to track character progress, and with that will come growing stats. I also want advanced levels for a character to feel a little different, more than just being better at things. I can probably achieve this by having different dice to roll during checks for characters of different levels. I could use a simple scale using D4s, D6s, D8s, etc., or have custom D6 dice with different side distributions. It might also be a plus to enforce using multiple characters on your team effectively by making all individual stats important enough to require relying on a well-rounded team for success. Attempting that may accidentally cause me to paralyze early gameplay, however, where a small or weak team simply doesn't have the stat required for what they need to do, so care should be taken in balancing individual stat importance and growth.
Tactical, Ability-Focused Combat
The back-and-forth attacks of turn-based strategy RPG videogames allowed for an interesting, puzzle-like risk-reward mechanic. When in the battle you moved which character where and used what ability almost always mattered, a lot, because if the enemy gets within range on their turn, and has the resources to attack, they will hit you, and they will inflict X+ damage. The attrition of little mistakes adds up at a gradual pace, step-by-step, unlike say in real-time strategy games, where all the errors in your preparations come crumbling down in one instance of mass combat like a house of cards. The measured rhythm of turn-based games allows for more analysis of the risk-reward balance every beat, granting a better tactical vantage point to entice players. Since I can't imagine the desired amount of complexity in any kind of real-time design, this project's boardgame will mimic that same tactical vantage point, and as such, should provide comparable strategic choices and depth. This is easier said than done, of course, but at least sets the perspective from which I want to approach this design.
Some sort of standard attack and defense should be available to all characters, but the more interesting class abilities should be a main staple of the combat system. It should also enable the possible use of any of the available stats in the use of these abilities. Additionally, the methods of attack and defense chosen should influence the outcome of both.
Engaging and Modifiable Map
I'd like to maximize the capacity for map variation in this design without that, in and of itself, adding too much set-up time or components. A hex-based map, allowing for a lot of movement options, and at least one printed map on a game board would be the minimum. There would also be terrain tiles that could be placed on the game board map to modify the set layout. The game board map could also have randomized map tiles along the outer edge as locations to visit. I could even use overlays printed on transparent plastic sheets (think old overhead projector sheets) to provide different set terrain or path layouts for the main game board map. There could also be enough additional, two-sided terrain tiles to completely cover the printed board to make a full custom map. These terrain tiles, the printed game board map, and the outer edge location tiles could all be combined in different ways, in different set-ups, for the variety of game modes. I'm also hoping to include a sort of Catan-style roll-for-resources mechanic, but one that yields differing results depending on map tile locations.
With the array of game modes I'm wanting to consider for this design, the typical best starting place, victory conditions, may not be as applicable. Focusing on what core gameplay mechanics form the central system of the design should likely come next. Since this is largely about questing and semi-tactical combat, stats and actions should be a good start.