Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Playing Ticket to Ride last night helped me get over a design hump for a game idea. Basically, my crazy idea was to use the mechanics behind the NFL Draft for a sci-fi game. No, I haven't mutated into a sports geek since my last entry, I just caught a piece on TV a while back about the draft. Setting aside the football baggage for a moment, the NFL Draft is an interesting idea for a game for several reasons:

  • Previous performance is inversely tied to opportunities at the current draft. The worse you did in the previous the season, the better draft picks you get. I imagine my game having multiple rounds in which the points leader from the previous round is disadvantaged in the current round.
  • Multiple, overlapping goals. Everybody wants a good team, but not everybody approaches it the same way. Sometimes you need a good QB, other times you need to improve your defensive line. How each franchise prioritizes these goals will greatly affect the draft outcome.
  • Lots of negotiating and swapping. Maybe a current player gets traded for a better draft pick. Maybe the player before you takes the pick you needed for your elaborate trade to work.
  • No one knows exactly how well a drafted player will turn out for a team. Maybe he leads them to a Superbowl victory. Maybe he suffers a career-ending injury at his first game. After all that work to sign Huge McBeefslab he may be a net loss for your team.

So my first idea was to swipe these basic mechanics for a sci-fi game that was sorta LARPy and sorta like a National Security Decision Making conference game. The basic premise was that the Imperial Scout Service (or whatever) has opened up a new sector of space for exploitation and the players each respresent a faction bidding for exclusive rights to planets. Although that might kick ass at a larger con, I don't think my small local con could support a sufficient player base. I still think its a great idea, especially if I could work it into the context of the Starmada campaign setting that Pat and I building. My original thoughts for this game involved an space empire a la the Third Imperium of Traveller, but maybe the Federated Sodalities could serve as the vehicle for this first version.

But the ticket cards (i.e. the hidden victory condition cards) from last night's game of Ticket to Ride gave me an interesting idea for a boardgame built around this same basic concept. In my original conception the players represented varios megacorporations, governmental bodies, and other assorted social, economic, and political factions:

  • You are the Merchant's League, you need to secure the following worlds for your trade routes:
  • You are the Mining Guild, you score triple points for all worlds containing Dilranium deposits
  • You are the Psi Police, you only scores points for worlds with pre-existing colonies.

What if, instead of directly bidding for worlds, all these factions operated through proxies that specialized in the buy and selling of rights to planets? And thus the Planetbrokers were born. Players, as Planetbrokers, hold various Client Cards, giving the players ways to score points based upon what their client wants. Some of each player's cards must be face up, so everybody has an idea of some of what everybody else at the table is looking to do. Some Client Cards are kept in the hand, so that everyone had hidden motives as well.

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