Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sometimes it takes a whole new theme

I had not been able to make my interplanetary mining game "Gold on Mars" work in a way that made sense to me.  I was frustrated with trying to model space flight in a workable yet representative way.  Things just weren't making sense on the drawing board.  And the things that did make sense ended up looking too much like High Frontier.  I shared the difficulties I was having with my game-playing historical-mystery-writing wife, and she said, "instead of setting it in the future, have you considered setting it in the past?"

Coins of the Modern East India Company of England
Image courtesy of emeritus.ancients.info
It wasn't long before I had turned the theme around completely.  My working title is "East India Company."  Instead of CEOs of aerospace mining companies, players in this new design represent 18th century investment and trade companies. Players seek exotic commodities in far-flung places of the New World and the Far East, rather than rare earths among the inner planets and the moons of the gas giants.  Ships travel by trade winds rather than rocket fuel.  The result is a much more elegant design, eminently more playable, one that retains the commodity market elements that I really wanted to keep without a lot of unnecessary complications that I had adopted in the course of trying to make space flight investment work.

I've sketched out a basic map and typed up an initial set of cards, each of which describes a marketable product from a colony somewhere around the world.  Players will seek to monopolize colonies, build ships, and find ideal trade routes to maximize profits.  One element that I have just begun to consider is the ability to corner a market and how that might improve profitability.  Trade with the most active colonies will be threatened by pirates as well.

I've pretty much got the entire concept in my head and the most crucial, numerical elements on paper.  The next step is, naturally, a playable prototype, followed by playtesting.  I'm hopeful that I've got a good concept that I can develop into a game that crosses commodities trading with pickup-and-deliver in a fun, approachable way.

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