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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

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