Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Next Broken Contract Kickstarter Launches January 18.


The time is finally upon us. The Broken Contract Rulebook Kickstarter is set to launch January 18. The focus of this Kickstarter will be the rulebook, board game tiles, and play aids. It's been a long journey to get to this point, and I hope you can all come along on the next leg of the trip!

Share this far and wide. Thank you all for the continued support.

-Nick

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Breaker Press Games 2017

The year has come to a close, so it's time to think about what was accomplished in 2016 and look at goals for 2017. Looking back over the last year, things have moved slowly but have been consistently exciting.

Breaker Faction Set.

Q1
In January I approved all of the printing for the Broken Contract Miniature Faction Sets. It was thrilling since this was our first completed product. February and March was all packing and shipping those Kickstarter rewards and getting ready for AdeptiCon. In my notes, I had started mapping new rules, Ability Cards, and Factions. I was thinking ahead to completing the rulebook and FerrumSky Campaign book (more on those later).

My vision of what Broken Contract can be in three dimensions!

Q2
April saw the first notes and blog post on developing a campaign system for injuries. Looking back, it was actually the biggest blogging month of the year with five blog posts on various topics. It sort of demonstrates how invigorating going to a convention like AdeptiCon can be. In May, I developed our first point system and matched point scenarios for the upcoming rulebook. My notes indicate that this is when I started really working on the next Kickstarter and building the page for it. It sadly shows how slow things can move. It is 7 months later and we are only now just about ready to launch. In June, I reimagined how scenery would be used in Broken Contract, and built a ton of it to share with people.

Troublemakers Cards I threw together. Art by Blutt.

Q3
July saw more time up in the attic, building and painting scenery, but it also saw something else interesting. My partner and I went out to visit a friend in Cincinnati and we brought Broken Contract and a card game design we hadn't touched in a year. This card game, Troublemakers, was great fun - and it didn't even have art yet. It was just handwritten cards I had made out of card stock. We had pulled the game back into our collected conscious, so through the rest of July I put my horrific Photoshop skills to work, used a street artist friend's art from their Facebook page, and sent off the art files to The Game Crafter for printing. I sent one of the 3 decks to him and he loved it (more about that below as well). August saw the introduction of our new regular playtester, Hal Crossno, and my first time holding professionally printed prototype game board tiles and the first graphic design draft of the rulebook.

Draft #2 of the Broken Contract rulebook in hard copy.

Q4
October through December was a steady mix of editing, model painting, and playtesting. Rules were stripped out of the game and new ones were added. We put a lot of time into playing through the introductory scenarios that are in the book to ensure they will be engaging and easy to understand. We also ran through the core Crew Creation and campaign rules that will be introduced in the rulebook. December ended with graphic designer, Sam Alcarez, sending over the 5th draft of the Broken Contract Rulebook, which also happened to have the last major changes to the game. From here we go to copy editing and filling out the art and design.

The FerrumSky mines are an unforgiving place.
Art by Filip Dudek

2017
Having looked back on the previous year, what are reasonable goals to pursue in 2017?

  • Broken Contract Rulebook and all essential play aids - I'm finally confident that the rules to Broken Contract are in a complete state and with some copy editing and graphic design polish they will be ready to go to Kickstarter in a couple of weeks. Additionally, most of the big design challenges of the Ability Cards, Equipment Cards, Board Tiles, and Character Dashboards are completed. Assuming the Kickstarter is successful, we'll be able to get all of these things manufactured in early 2017.
  • Troublemakers Card Game - This is a project I'm very excited about but a lot of this hinges on Blutt, the artist. The mechanics to the game are there with plenty of card types to make a variety of interactions possible. There is also plenty of room for expansion. But the game was designed with Blutt's art in mind, and he's the final curator of what goes into the game. Ideally, I'd like to have this ready for Kickstarter this summer. Only time will tell.
  • FerrumSky Campaign Book and the Left for Dead Deck - Broken Contract was envisioned as a game designed to tell an ever unfolding story and that story begins in the FerrumSky mines. The FerrumSky Campaign Book is meant to both demonstrate that story telling vision while simultaneously giving the players expanded campaign rules and a bunch of additional scenarios that they can play. Part of those expanded campaign rules uses the Left for Dead Deck, a card driven method of determining the fates of the injured crew members. I'm really excited to immerse myself in the further development of these products, which probably won't come to fruition until the end of 2017.
  • AdeptiCon and Conventions - AdeptiCon has been the lynchpin of my demo efforts, and this year will be no exception. However, I really need to get out to other conventions and expose a greater population of gamers to these games. I want to attend a minimum of 3 conventions this year, and as many as 6 - which would be extremely ambitious.
I have a lot of other little goals revolving around painting and blogging, but the above goals are the big important ones. Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for that first Kickstarter of the year in a couple of weeks! 

-Nick

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Game Designer's Notebook: Playing a Campaign Part 2

My Breakers taking a beating in Act III: As Good as Dead.

Over the last two months Hal and I have worked our way through completing the three Act Broken Contract campaign from the upcoming rulebook. It's been a great experience with a lot of great information gleaned and bits reworked to make it a better experience. Collected are a bunch of thoughts from Act II: Escape Route and Act III: As Good as Dead. -Nick

There's obviously a huge difference in quality between
these 2 tiles.


The Constraints of Cost and Play Area

Before we get into the scenarios themselves I want to talk about play area. Broken Contract was designed to be played on a very small area. Most of the games I've played have been played in anywhere from a 8" x 20" area to a 24" x 24" area. One of my long standing plans was to create a pack of 10 double sided game board tiles so that 24" x 24" was a pretty standard size. Over the summer I finally acquired 8" x 8" game tiles in two thicknesses. One was heavy card stock, the same as the game cards, and the other was a heavy chipboard "board game tile". Universally, everyone preferred the chipboard tiles. I crunched the numbers and they were just too expensive to manufacture in packs of 10. I would have to charge people way too much. After a lot of hand wringing I scaled the tile pack down to 6 tiles. This meant changing all of the scenarios in the rulebook to accommodate a smaller area. One of the most consistent lessons I've learned in game design is asking yourself, "how much is this idea going to cost?" Some of my early design decisions have turned out to not be cost effective and have been reimagined several times. Just because Fantasy Flight can pack a million high end components into a box does not mean that I can do the same. Where you manufacture and economy of scale are both huge considerations. I manufacture in the USA and currently I'm producing on a very small boutique type scale, so my costs per piece are very different than the mid-sized and large game companies.

Image I sent to Sam to sketch out how the scenario maps
should roughly look in the book.

Long story short, all of the scenarios in the rulebook had to max out a 16" x 24" play area, because that's what you can get out of 6 double sided tiles. This meant compacting all of the scenarios and tweaking their special rules to make them still convey the same ideas. All of our games on the smaller play areas have been tense and close so I'm very pleased it's worked out. The plus side of this for hobbyists is that not only is your average game like 4-6 models per side, but you can also slow grow your scenery collection as well so you'll initially only need to cover a small area with terrain.

Your Crew as a Character Toolbox

I mentioned in Part 1 of Playing a Campaign that you create a 100 point Crew but each of the Acts are based on 50 points. I talked a bit about Crew Creation and though you end up with a somewhat random assortment of upgrades and Special Abilities, you tend to end up with a toolbox of diverse characters. This has panned out as I took my fastest and most agile Breaker characters in Escape Route, and I had a Character more adept at Intellect checks that I brought into the crew for As Good as Dead which has multiple coded doors to try and get through (you can also fight your way through Black Squadron through the only open passage or steal a key card, so there are other ways to be successful at the scenario, but the sneaky route is a much better play.) Needless to say, I feel good about this as a design decision.

Escape Route and As Good as Dead Water Cooler Moments

Both games had some fantastic moments of both the LOL and triumphant variety. The rules allow for Characters to Throw and Catch objects, and I tried throwing a shovel to Breaker surrounded by Black Squadron Security only for him to miss and have it land where it was of no benefit to anyone.

At one point in Escape Route a group of Black Squadron Officers and Drones were pursuing my Breakers who were about to exit the board. The lead Officer in pursuit was standing on the threshold of an overhead door. I gave Hal two Victory Point by sounding the alarm myself, dropping the door on the Officer and cutting off the rest of his pursuing friends. It was a completely unexpected action and I felt very clever for a few minutes. I scored VPs for most of Characters by exiting the board. It was a worthwhile trade-off.

The other night, during As Good as Dead, I thought I was going to get that clever feeling again. I had one of my Breaker Characters end the final turn of the game 2" away from the Exit Point. With my final Initiative of the game, I had another Character Rush and perform a Push Action on the Character 2" from the Exit. If I had been successful I could have Pushed that Character off the board for a VP and then used my final Action with the Pushing Character to Walk off the same Exit Point. It would have been glorious. Instead she failed, and neither Character made it off the board. My glory turned to tragedy, and it still felt fantastic!

If every Character ends up Recovering, how do I know if the
campaign rules for serious injury rules work?

What Didn't I Learn?

There was one thing that was conspicuously absent from our mini-campaign: injury. It's not that rules for serious injuries do not exist, it is that in every game we both made conscious efforts not to kill each other because we'd lose Victory Points. Without beating Characters while they were down, and a lack of particularly lethal weapons, Characters almost always Recovered by the end of the game. This meant no serious injury rolls or deaths. This means I need to replay the campaign, not be afraid to get a little blood on my Character's hands, and see what happens. I put an emphasis on non-lethal weaponry for a reason, but for when it does happen, I need to know that it feels "right".

I've been thinking long and hard about Act II: Escape Route. Though the idea of a scenario that has a different board every time that the Breaker sets up is something that will definitely be a part of the game, I think that with a 6 tile set players will usually end up creating layouts that are roughly straight runs that the Breakers need to fight their way through, with no way to out maneuver their enemies. We had a great time playing the scenario, but I just think it would be too fiddly for new players, so I think it needs to be replace in the rulebook. I'm sure it will make it into the FerrumSky Campaign book in some fashion.

It's time to get back to writing and testing. Thanks for reading!
-Nick

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Game Designer's Notebook: Named Characters and Points

This is approximately 100 points of Black Squadron. 

Points in Broken Contract have actually been a rather recent development, with the early playtesting done with a Character ratio of roughly 3/5 (three Black Squadron models for every five Breakers). The plan back then was to just indicate in each scenario how many Characters each side should take. All of the Characters released as part of the last Kickstarter were sent out into the world without any sort of point values because of this. In fact, the very first mention of points was in May of 2016. This means that everyone who owns the Character models that have been produced have to piece their way through the Character Creation rules I posted up in May to try and figure out how many points each named Character is worth. I figure I should rectify this until the FerrumSky Campaign Book is released some time in 2017.

These are the points values for each Character without any of their equipment.

Black Squadron Characters (Unequipped)

Naria Anlika - 13 points
Wire Billins - 13 points
Kal Hickley - 12 points
Sarie Moerta - 13 points
Overseer Smythe - 13 points
Speaker Drone - 10 points
Surveillance Drone - 10 points
Lamal Tulson - 13 points
Xer - 21 points

Breakers (Unequipped)

Grippe Candera - 13 points
Micha Donelly - 12 points
Ari Gaylen - 12 points
Adesi Haddonis - 12 points
Talla Kellerman - 13 points
Will Kollis - 14 points
Trest - 15 points
Nells Turnbull - 13 points


Sarie Moerta with her standard Equipment Cards.


Adding Equipment

Each piece of Equipment is 1 point unless it is duplicated in the Crew, with a few exceptions like Shovels for Breakers, and Shock Batons/Restraints for Black Squadron. Each Character model comes with the Equipment Cards for the items depicted on the model. For example, Officer Sarie Moerta has an Arc Pistol, Shock Baton, and Restraints. If you were to take all 3 pieces of equipment, she'd cost 16 points (her unequipped points value of 13 + 3 for her equipment).

Some Notes on Points

I've mentioned this in previous articles, but currently all Equipment is 1 point per item. You're probably thinking, "how come an Oversized Rock Saw is the same amount of points as a Knife?" This works out because the lethality of the Oversized Rock Saw makes it as likely to lose you games, as it is to win you games. Rendering your opponents Critical or Dead will lose you Victory Points. The only time points for Equipment escalate is when multiple Characters in a Crew duplicate items. This discourages spamming and building strategies around Equipment and not the Characters themselves.

This is the model for Grippe Candera with a head swap and
one of his Pickaxes removed. Converting your own Characters
is fun, but it's not required.


A Final Note on WYSIWYG

All of the Character models that have been released thus far have come with the cards to equip them as depicted by the model. However, Broken Contract encourages acquiring, stealing, and sharing Equipment, so "what you see is what you get" expectations are low. A Character may acquire a piece of equipment during Turn 2 of a game, and accidentally smash it to pieces 2 Turns later. The point is, equipment will always be in flux, so the players don't need to stress about how their Characters are modeled. However, if you love painting and converting, there is nothing stopping you from going all out!

Thanks for reading!
-Nick

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Broken Contract Faction Box Sale!

Black Squadron Faction Set
Hello all! As we get closer to finishing up the Broken Contract Rulebook and jumping into FerrumSky Campaign Book next, I'd love to commission some new art. With that in mind, selling a few Faction Sets would go a long way toward reaching that goal. To that end, I've reduced the price on the Black Squadron Faction Box Set and the Breaker Faction Box Set from $35 to $29.75 on  breakerpress.storenvy.com The sale runs until Wednesday December 7th. All packages will ship with whatever cool bonus stuff I have laying around, so you'll be receiving more than just the 15% savings. :)

Thanks in advance!
-Nick


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Game Designer's Notebook: Playing A Campaign Part 1

Sometimes you end up lying in the dirt.

Last week, Hal and I started playing out our first Episode. In Broken Contract each individual game is called an Act, and three games are called an Episode. I feel like this sort of structure encourages campaign play by breaking it down into manageable bites. We started last week by creating crews and playing Act 1. Here are some thoughts on the design decisions that have gone into this process starting with what we did during Week 1. -Nick

Anyone who's played any of the classic skirmish games knows, one of the greatest joys of skirmish gaming is creating your Crew (gang, team, or other cool "group" vernacular) and watching them evolve from game to game. One of the biggest frustrations though is seeing one player's Crew grow so rapidly that they dominate the campaign or league from day 1, and their spot never really gets challenged. Additionally, being wiped straight off the board isn't really much fun for either side. The question becomes: How will Broken Contract approach campaign play differently to mitigate these effects?

My Crew Creation notes. I need to sketch out a Crew Creation
sheet for my graphic designer, Sam Alcarez.

Creating a Characters

When I designed the Crew Creation rules for Broken Contract, my goal was to undermine traditional list building min/maxing dynamics. I feel like there are plenty of games out there for list building fans who enjoy the puzzle of trying to win the game before the first die is rolled. However, Broken Contract is designed for people like me who enjoy the puzzle of, "what can I make happen with what I have on hand?" I find this type of structure to be much more enjoyable, but I've never really liked optimized list building. I came to miniature games from 1st Edition AD&D where you rolled up the stats for your Character and you made them work the best you could, and I loved that. So how does all of this translate into Broken Contract?

I already posted a version of the Crew Creation rules a while back, but just as a brief overview, each Character has a starting point value and can pay points for upgrades. These upgrades you then draw out of a deck. You don't get to pick them to build optimal characters. Instead, the deck has upgrades to various stats, access to drawing an Ability out of a separate deck, and of course - Re-Rolls, which are effectively Re-Draws. These give you opportunities to potentially tweak a Character that isn't coming together quite as you may have hoped. The only time you get to personalize your upgrades a bit is when you draw an "Ability Upgrade". When this happens you build a deck of 8 Abilities of your own choosing and draw one from that. This allows you to attempt to compliment your stat upgrades with useful Abilities.

One of the discussions I had with Hal about this before we started the campaign was that he was concerned that it took away the feeling of choice. That was until he was introduced to the campaign structure where we were about to create 100 point Crews to draw models out of, rather than the 50 point Crews he was used to for our one-off games. Suddenly, he recognized that his seemingly random collection of Characters had turned into a toolbox that he could draw from. And any artist or craftsman has favorite tools for performing different tasks, and that feeling creates attachment. His concerns were allayed.

We each sat down and created 100 point Crews. He built a Black Squadron Crew and I built Breakers. His crew was composed of a Crew Leader, 4 Adults, a Gen-Mod, and 3 Drones decked out with various weapons and equipment. My Breaker Crew was composed of a Crew Leader, 5 Adults, 3 Teens, 1 Child, and a Gen-Mod. We looked at our respective cast of Characters and picked out 50 points worth. As dictated by the Episode, my Crew started out with no weapons; we had to take them by force. At the close of six turns we had a great, tight game that ended in a draw.

Break the padlock and pull everything useful out of the Storage
Container that you can, and get off the board within 6 Turns.


Victory Conditions

We had played Act 1: From Nothing from the rulebook. This mission awards Victory Points for stealing equipment from the FerrumSky Corporation and for capturing Breakers. One of the key differences between Broken Contract and other games is that killing your enemies is penalized rather than rewarded. Each Character rendered Critical or Dead by the opposing side removes one of their Victory Points. This discourages decimating your opponent and instead encourages the Players to play to the objectives. Yes, it can be satisfying to cut your enemies in half, but that doesn't make it wise.

Another detriment to executing a crushing victory is that your opponent receives +5 points to work with in the next Act for each Victory Point that they are beaten by, The losing side is constantly rising to the challenges issued  by the victors. This should temper the compulsion to keep beating on Characters when they are Down, and it also takes away the need to hike up the points for more powerful weaponry. An Oversized Rock Saw is awesome in a pinch with it's ability to cut down an opponent in a single swing, but the likelihood that they will sacrifice a Victory Point by using that Weapon at all should change the role in which they are used.

At the end of Act 1, Hal had earned 2 Victory Points for Sounding the Alarm and Restraining one of my Breakers. I earned 2 Victory Points for having one model Escape from the Exit Point with a stolen sledgehammer. We tied and it was tense until the end. It was a good game.

After the Act

With the game ending in a tie, and with none of the Characters Down, Out, Critical, or Dead there were was no post-game sequence to resolve other than adding points to my Characters that stole equipment. This meant that I'd have to alter my 50 point Crew list in the next game.

All told, Week 1/Act 1 went extremely well and helped to reinforce my design decisions. What do you think?

Thanks for reading!
-Nick

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Broken Contract Update

Hard copy of the Broken Contract Rulebook.

The Broken Contract Rulebook is getting very close to a completed state. Pictured above is a hard copy of the current incarnation with graphic design by Sam Alcarez. He's currently working on the 3rd draft and I'm still going over the 2nd draft looking for corrections and changes that need to be made.

The new Critical Successes and Fumbles Chart.

One of the key changes from the first draft to the second was the inclusion of this chart. If you've looked at or played older incarnations then you may know that most Actions and Interruptions had special rules for Critical Successes and Failures, triggered by rolling natural 6's or 1's. Some of these had their own mini charts under their entries in the Actions and Interruptions section of the book, and this resulted in a lot of page flipping. It also chewed up a lot of space with needless repetition throughout the section. This chapter went through a complete re-write and the chart gives a concise presentation of the information so it doesn't slow down the game.

My favorite part of this chart was the opportunity to expand the Critical Success and Failure results so that the action is heightened and the dramatic moments are more varied. So far I feel like this has made games even more dynamic and interesting. Yesterday I played a game where a Character attempted to Strike one of my own Characters and I elected to Dodge as my Interruption. I got a Critical Success on my Dodge and that triggered a 2nd free Interruption, which I used to Defend and hit back at my opponent. I like this sort of interplay better than something like an Ability that allows me to always Defend after a Successful Dodge. It just feels more uncertain and interesting.

A glimpse inside the rulebook.

There's still a lot to do. For example, the sample cards and counters pictured above don't cover some key bits of information, like the Action Counter that is used as a dial during game play. So there's some stuff that is strictly graphic design oriented that needs to be done, and then there are larger sections like the Equipment and Scenario chapters at the back of the book that need to be significantly tightened up.

All said, we are getting close. I'm behind the schedule that I had intended, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Black Squadron Security models.

In other recent news, I've been busy working on a bunch of models for the three Kickstarter Backers who pledged for the custom painted models and terrain. I've been working steadily along and progress is being made. I'm spending a bit more time per model than I intended but I can't help myself. I have to put another coat of primer on the drones I'm working on so I'll wrap up here.

Thanks for reading!
-Nick