Thursday 4 August 2011

Meanwhile, back at the Batcave...

So, it appears that there are some in the blogging world who believe that I have been unproductive in the last month...

...yes, I thought they were being mean as well...

Anyway, I thought I'd share what I've been working on alongside the Bretonnians recently. In short, I developing a superhero skirmish game and so I've been building a small game board along with buildings and painting (or repainting) a few models to begin testing the rules out with.
Why superheroes? Well the main reason is the fact that I've always been a bit of nerd and I want to play superhero games - research proved that really there's only a few games out there (Supersystem, Heroclix and Pulp City) and none of them are exactly what I want. However, I've also been looking for a skirmish game to get into and nothing on the market really grabs me as they're all either really similar to games I've played and got bored of, or they contain lots of rather tedious fluff which isn't as interesting as their creators think it is. Finally, skirmish games often (although not always) come with overly expensive miniatures which you need to buy to get the stat cards and so my policy of substituting with what I've got (Rule 3) runs into trouble here - also writing rules is cheaper (and more fun) than buying them!

Essentially, the game will be a generic superhero action game which aims to be a 'pick up and play' game which doesn't require an in depth tutorial or weeks of study and regular consultation of the rules). The reason for this is that I'm aware that most gamers are not going to make a skirmish game their main game and a superhero game is even less likely to be dominant, so it needs to be easy to get to grips with, while at the same time quite tactical and fun. I'm also trying to make it as playable for none gamers as it is for gamers due to the fact that my regular failed attempts to get my wife interested in gaming over the years have shown that this hobby generally has an extremely steep learning curve for the uninitiated. It's really difficult to feel like you can compete against people with even a bit more knowledge than you in most games.

My model for the kind of game I'm looking to design is Wizkids' Pirates. Fun, friendly but still containing tactical depth (or at least as much as most skirmish games) and it looks good on the tabletop; although my game will not be a 'collectible' game. Pirates is a game that I haven't tired of and I have introduced several people to over the years. New players grasp the concepts simply and are able compete really quickly, making the game more challenging and fun for me too.Wings of War (the basic rules - I'm not a fan of all the fiddly altitude stuff) is another example of this kind of elegant and straightforward game design - although I am still sulking over the fact that I'd bought it, played it and sold it (due to lack of opponents) two years before the rest of the club really showed any interest.

So the secret's out. Recently I've been using time which could have been used for painting horses to research rules, test ideas, build a small terrain board (which I call 'Cheap Street') and paint some figures. The models are mainly Heroclix that have been rebased and at least washed to bring out details, although there has been some highlighting, touching up and repainting required. I also bought a pack of Copplestone Castings KGB Men from the Kiss Kiss Bang Bangrange to use as henchmen (or 'Mooks').

The game is tentatively called 'POW!', although I am concerned that many wargamers will automatically think 'prisoner of war' and end up very confused as to why they aren't playing a game set in Vietnam or Colditz. Playtesting has begun in earnest and I'm happy to report that the basic game system seems to work as I'd hoped. I'm now in the process of introducing new abilities and testing them before I begin to develop the optional rules (civilians, vehicles, etc.) and scenarios. I'm also hoping to build a proper game board (about 4' x 3') and fill it full of urban terrain.

Expect more updates, photos and design commentary as the game develops.

Oh, and the flash, done on my phone which appears to be better for close up work. However, natural light is still limited by the fact that I can't take these pictures whilst my daughter's awake!


  1. Wow! Pow! This is all looking fantastic. Is the plan to keep it based on the DC Comics world?

    Marvel have a boardgame out that may have similar mechanisms. Never played it myself but know its a miniature based game:
    Might be worth checking out if not only to steal the minis!

    I too am a fan of superheroes. Before painting (and babies) took over my life I use to play City of Heroes the MMPOG. It was great building (through leveling to gain more powers) and customising (through different power sets and hero class) your own superhero, and writing the backstory. My superhero could control gravity and generate force fields. Is this something you intend to implement here?

    Seriously though I'm tempted to lend you my camera. Are you using a Macro setting to limit the flash? All I have is a very old 4MP Canon Ixus and that is really good at taking mini pics.

    Happy to be a play-tester if you need one. Oh and on the POW confusion... how about "kaPOW!" or will that be the expansion ;)

  2. 1) Not DC only, the mechanics will hopefully allow for the creation of any character (even your own). I'll explain more in a design commentary.

    2) Marvel Heroes is out of print and as rare as rocking horse poop! I'd love to get a copy.

    3) Gravity and force fields are doable - it's more a case that you interpret the available abilities to fit your character vision, rather than shape the character around the abilities available.

    4) Camera help would be useful - I'm a techno-dunce.

    5) Thanks for the offer of help, it will be useful to get another opinion.

    6) POW! is the basic ability to hit someone. KAPOW! is the ability hit someone twice in one round...yes, all the abilities have sound effect names: SMASH!, BLAM!, KABOOM! etc.