Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What Sets Broken Contract Apart? The Miniature Adventure Game.

In this scenario, four Breakers are at the bottom portion of the board, and two Prods stand at the top. A third Prod lurks in the hallway as an inactive NPC belonging to neither side. In the middle is an open doorway and to the right is a closed doorway leading to a hidden passage blocked by two ore carts. More than just a combat scenario, there is a sympathetic Prod to negotiate with, an alarm to set off, doors to open and close, a hidden passageway to find, and carts to move. Broken Contract is far more than two sides fighting it out.  

When I started work on Broken Contract just over a year ago I set out to create a sci-fi board game that drew off of some of my favorite sci-fi movies and TV shows. I wanted to create something unique, that stood out in its subject matter, aesthetic, and game play. In a time where new games are being launched every day, particularly miniature board games and skirmish war games, what makes Broken Contract unique?

Its a Miniature Game That isn't Strictly About Combat

Most miniature war games on the market focus on combat exclusively. I can only think of two games that try to integrate "non-combat solutions" into the game. Neither game emphasizes that aspect with dedicated Stats to make those elements a focus of the game. I wanted to create a game that focused heavily on "non-combat solutions" and the way to do that was to create a robust collection of statistics and scenarios that use them. An objective in Broken Contract is not killing all of the enemy, taking control of a room or taking control of one or more objectives, its delaying the enemy through intimidation, closing doors, and distractions, while opening doors, acquiring equipment, negotiating with potential allies, and of course, running away. And where combat is concerned, a number of the weapons in the game are non-lethal. This is deliberate. I want Characters to come back again and again. Like in Cool Hand Luke, the workers may run off, but you capture them, try to break their spirit, and put them back to work only for them to do it again and again.

Four player play testing from back in April.

It's a Multi-Player War Game

Other than the upcoming Zombicide: Rue Morgue, I can't think of another miniature wargame that was designed with the intent that "multi-player" is the ideal way to play the game. Most war games are faction based games that put one strategizing opponent against another. Broken Contract can be played this way without any degradation in play. In fact, the ability to enact your strategies would be unmuddled by "too many cooks". However, Broken Contract, inspired by Firefly and Cowboy Bebop, highlights individual motivations. Like an RPG, the Characters strengths and weaknesses are unique, requiring a player with a unique mindset to get the most out of them, or else they get relegated to being fodder. By playing Broken Contract as a multi-player game it gives the game play and narrative more depth.

A Restraint Drone dragging this Breaker to "the box" where they will be curled up in solitary confinement until their spirit is broken and they are deemed able to go back into the mines.

"Deep Underground" is Like a Prison Break

Most miniature games focus on fighting your way into a warzone and taking objectives, or they are dungeon crawlers that involve fighting your way into a "dungeon" whether its a fantasy catacomb or the corridors of a spaceship or tech facility of some sort. In Broken Contract "Deep Underground" you are Breakers, indentured workers, essentially prisoners, bent on escape. This alone is most similar to Zombicide where avoiding the enemy is key, but the Prods are being played by one or more players trying to capture the Breakers to put them back to work. Ultimately, killing the enemy and taking objectives are not the primary goals; escape or capture, and a constant running game are.

The person who this character is based on didn't want to have the orphan missing a leg as his companion, so we're saving this orphan to go along with some other character. Snowpiercer makes great use of uncomfortable child labor moments without going over the top.

Complicated Subject Matter

There are some really great sci-fi games coming out now with dystopian futures and corporate control and they are all exciting narrative based miniature games, but their conflicts are impersonal. One of the goals of Broken Contract has been to personalize the characters and their struggles. Broken Contract is not a story about two gunned up powerful entities, its a game about individuals struggling for empowerment. When you dig just below the surface there is no clear good and evil in this story, just those who have power and those who do not. Like a show such as The Walking Dead, the situation is the primary antagonist, and there are pinnacles of hope and vile scum on both sides of the divide. This is deliberate because struggles are complex and games don't usually showcase that. I wanted to make a game similar to Firefly and Cowboy Bebop because their situations often were not cut and dried. Both crews would get themselves into a "job" only to find themselves conflicted about what they were doing and I love that.

Humanity fighting itself is much scarier and more relatable than humanity fighting aliens or zombies.

A Sci-fi Future with No Aliens and No Zombies

My absolute favorite sci-fi is based around humanity making tough choices and doing what it does best, thwart itself. Monsters are cool, but essentially they are just non-human species just trying to live their lives. Its not relatable because it is purely fantasy. The complexity of mankind struggling against itself is scarier to me and is thus, more engaging. That isn't to say, genetically modified species and technology gone amuck don't have a place in Broken Contract, they do, because humans love tampering with the balance, but humanity is still the heart of the story.

I think that these elements make the game stand out. Play testing has been interesting because when experienced gamers first start playing they immediately gravitate to moving and fighting their way through their enemies, but by the end of the session the things they are most excited about are the non-combat action movie moments like closing doors, dive rolling under them, ordering opponents to "Stand Down!" and other bits of adventure outside the realm of just fighting it out. These are the things they always want to see expanded upon even further. Pretty much every other miniature game is about combat, and ignores the adventure and intrigue elements that make those types of books and movies so entertaining. So in a way, Broken Contract is more of a miniature adventure game than a miniature wargame and I think that's a unique distinction.

Alpha Rules 2.0, Update coming soon to go with the Print and Play components I just put up last post. Thanks for reading!

-Nick

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