Thursday, April 21, 2016

Broken Contract Game Designer's Notebook #3



Game Designer's Notebook is a series of articles discussing design decisions in progress. It's meant to discuss theory and intent, but also to get feedback on potential developments within the system. Let us know what you think here in the comments or on the Broken Contract Playtesters Group. -Nick

The most frequently asked question I had at AdeptiCon was, "where do you see the story going in the future?" and when probed most people were trying to find out "what other factions do you foresee?" This is a tricky question from a designer's perspective because we tend to have a multitude of ideas swimming in our heads but limited resources to carry them out. You don't want to finish running a demo, get someone interested in your fledgling game, and then prattle on about your ideas for "x", "y", or "z" faction and have them waiting until "z" faction comes out to get into your game, particularly when "z" faction may take years to come to fruition. Six months into this project I already had factions in my head for Season 2, Season 3, and beyond. Two years have passed since then and I still haven't launched Season 1. Design, development, and funding take time so launching into a dozen potential factions can be more of a pitfall than a boon. Still, you want to demonstrate that you have vision and plans for the future, so let's look into the notebook.

Season 1: the FerrumSky Campaign Notes

The opening image is from late last summer or early autumn. It was one of the later iterations of what I saw for the near future of Broken Contract. Originally, I envisioned the FerrumSky campaign being exclusively about Breakers and Prods, the rioting freedom seeking miners vs their security officer oppressors. As I created characters based off of common archetypes and tried to give them some depth and complexity, factions just naturally started to emerge. The original cast of Breakers included the criminal, Nells Turnbull, and the Progen, Talla Kellerman. There was also the yet to be seen fanatic, Ned Forsythe. Here I was, creating this group of characters who could work in conjunction with one another, they clearly had other loyalties that I could tap into. Just in these three characters we had ties to a criminal underworld, first generation colonists, and zealous cultists. Here, I wasn't planning for more factions until future seasons yet the microcosm of the FerrumSky mines was spawning them organically. With additional depth developing I started to build it into the structure of the expanding storyline.

Part 1 - Introduce Setting and Characters (Breakers and Prods, mention of Criminals and Progens)

If you backed the Kickstarter and have models in hand, you already have seen evidence of this first stage of the plan. Those two faction sets introduce a small cast of Breakers and Prods, and Nells and Talla introduce the concept of Criminals and Progens. Part 1 will set the scene using the characters from the two existing factions, and give scenarios and background information to support game play with these characters while setting up the next part of the story arc.

Part 2 - Expand Criminals and Add Loyalists (miners largely vs themselves and some Prods)

Not everyone in the FerrumSky mines yearns for freedom. And not everyone who wants to be free does so out of some ideology supporting liberty for all. Some folks thrive in the established order, others just fear change, and others just want to shift themselves from prey to predator. In Part 2, as the Breakers work their way up through the mines they discover that they are not all on the same page and that their loyalties are divided. Perhaps Nells vies for power within the group? Or maybe they stumble into miners who despise the disruption of these mini rebellions, and would rather beat the Breakers back into submission than assist in their press toward freedom. To that effect, Criminals and Loyalists move to the limelight as antagonists, while still maintaining the impending threat of the Black Squadron crackdown.

Part 3 - Expanding Prods and Drones/Equipment (Breakers and/or Criminals vs Prods)

The FerrumSky Campaign culminates in the final explosive clashes between the Breakers or their Criminal counterparts and a much better prepared Black Squadron Security force bent on quashing insurrection. Additionally, more variations of heavier drones are introduced to reinforce their efforts. Part 3 focuses on the end game - getting out of the mines or getting crushed under the weight of the might of the Black Squadron. The handful of successful Breakers who make it out into the Bonelands are set up for Season 2. This wouldn't herald the end of the FerrumSky mines, it would just allow us all to explore more environments, rivalries, and situations.


Back in February, I jotted down these notes. In addition to knowing that I took out my dogs at 10:30pm some point during midweek you can also see me working with some ideas for future box sets. The above mentioned framework for more factions actually allows them to be released at an achievable pace while simultaneously giving depth to the initial story arc. New Breaker, Black Squadron, Loyalist, and Criminal characters can each be introduced, along with some new pieces of equipment. These are just notes at this point, but if you are reading this you probably want to see mining drills, molotovs, and restraint drones right?

Over the next couple weeks I will further flesh out these future box sets, outline the character's names and stories, map out their Equipment and Ability cards, and start requisitioning art. In fact, I just got the first draft of a new security officer based on one of our Kickstarter Backers and I think he's going to make a fantastic model for the game!

However, if the FerrumSky mine story arc is still too "near future" to you and you want a hint of what life is like outside the mines, check out Epilogue: Life on the Run on page 20 of the Broken Contract Background Book for some idea of what lies ahead.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts is encouraged. Thanks all!
-Nick

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Painting: Speaker and Surveillance Drones



Drones are used extensively throughout the FerrumSky mines to monitor all of the work sites and barracks areas. They exist to ensure everything is functioning smoothly. Surveillance Drones are equipped with a central wide angle lense camera eye and a stereo microphone array to be the eyes and ears of the administrators situated above ground. Drone pilots sit for endless hours each day in a command center atop the mine watching and listening. The mines are an expansive space and every area cannot be directly monitored by the Prods, so the Surveillance Drones patrol and occasionally engage workers who have wandered out of bounds. In case of these circumstances they are equipped with an Arc Discharger. The Arc Discharger is identical in effect to the Arc Pistol carried by many of Black Squadron Security staff. Quietly swooping in with the Arc Discharger, a Breaker can be felled with this short ranged taser weapon while the pilot radios the nearest officer to restrain the victim.

This is the first in a series of articles on how to paint the various denizens of the FerrumSky mines. One of the things you will notice is that I mostly use paints from the Citadel Color range from Games Workshop. Those are my roots so that's what I've used but you are encouraged to use whatever colors or ranges you like. These are just tutorials on how I got the look that I did with these particular models.  


To get started, clean the mold lines around the horizontal perimeter of the model. They are most prominent on the hover fans and the rear thrusters. Use a pin vice to deepen the hole for the metal rod/flying stand and also use it to drill a hole into the center of the base. This was a slotted base so I super glued a tiny scrap of paper over the slot to give it a flat surface to texture later. With my model cleaned and holes drilled, I attached the Arc Discharger or Sonic Disruptor (note: you're going to see both during this tutorial.) When that was dry and secured I glued the rod into the model and into the base. 


Next I primed the model black. Now, you might notice, "hey, he primed white and then painted the drone and the rod black." Yes. This is true. I'm out of black primer so I did do exactly what you said. But the end result is a black surface layer to begin work on.


Next I gave the model multiple base coats of Fenrisian Grey. I needed to let these thin layers dry between applications so I glued down some rock fragments on the base. Normally I do this at a later stage so I can properly get in at feet and legs but as these models hover above the surface I saw no harm in making use of that drying time for other things.


In a rare deviation from the Citadel Color range I decided to wash the model with Secret Weapon Soft Body Black rather than my usual Nuln Oil. Was there a significant difference? I don't think so. It pooled well and left the recesses defined and that's what I hoped for. I'd have to do a side by side comparison to determine if I liked one more than the other but I definitely wasn't unhappy with the results.


Next I touched up all of raised areas with Fenrisian  Grey to made the details pop. This gives the model greater depth.


The next stage was a series of detailing tasks. To make the drone pop a bit more all of the sharpest edges were highlighted with GW White Scar. This is done with a sparing amount of paint of the tip of the brush and dragging the edge of the brush around the tops of the hover jets, or the top edge of the speaker attachment. Any strong edge you want to see stand out should get a tiny bit of White Scar. If you are trying to hit piping that doesn't have a sharp edge, just choke up on your brush and treat it like a pencil as you draw a line across that edge.

The lens on the camera was painted during this stage too. I opted for GW Necron Abyss basecoat that was washed with GW Drankenhof Nightshade to make it richer and have more depth. A dot of White Scar was put in the upper left corner to give it a glint of reflective light.

I also put down a layer of GW Rhinox Hide on the top of the base as an adhesive and then dipped the base in sand. The sand will stick to the paint in the same way it does with glue. To keep the sand down I then go back with heavily watered down Rhinox Hide and apply it to the sand. This is the tricky part of this technique. If your paint is too thick, it will pull the sand off of the base and onto your brush. The goal is to have the Rhinox Hide thinned down enough so that it is a droplet at the end of your brush. When the droplet of paint touches the sand it will be drawn off by the sand without the brush ever touching the base. When this watered down paint drys it should look splotchy like in the above photo.  


Once the watered down Rhinox Hide is completely dry you will need to paint one or two more coatings of it onto the base. These do not have to be thinned down as heavily. You actually want these coatings to be pigment heavy, so using the standard "milky" consistency that you're supposed to use on the models themselves is appropriate. As you can see by the translucent coverage on the side of the base, the Rhinox Hide will take a few coats to get a nice solid opaque coverage. This will take less coats if you are working over black primer rather than white, like I was.


At this point we're just working on finishing up the base. With a nice opaque coverage of Rhinox Hide completely dried, you can then give the whole base a heavy drybrush with GW Tallarn Sand. This will pick up all of those sandy details and give you your first layer of depth.


The base can then be completed by doing a final light drybrush of GW Ushabti Bone to increase the sense of depth and variation. To clean up the inevitable dusting of errant drybrushing on the side edges, a couple of thin coats of Rhinox Hide are applied to the edge of the base to get it back to it's opaque best.


That gives us a completed Speaker Drone, but what about the Arc Discharger on the Surveillance Drone?


To capture a rudimentary OSL effect on the Arc Discharger I stippled GW Kantor Blue on the tip of the weapon, and then built up the stipple with Kantor Blue mixed with White Scar. It wasn't making me happy honestly, so I washed it with GW Drankenhof Nightshade and when it was dry hit the top edges with the tiniest bit of White Scar for glow.


We'll finish up this tutorial with a couple of final pictures from different angles.


I hope this has given some insight and ideas for painting Drones. We'd love to see your own ideas and accomplishments so please share your photos on the Broken Contract Facebook page or on Instagram with #brokencontract and/or @broken_contract so that we can share your work.


You can pick up a pair of Drones on the Breaker Press Games webstore. Thanks for reading!

-Nick

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Broken Contract Game Designer's Notebook #2


Game Designer's Notebook is a series of articles discussing design decisions in progress. It's meant to discuss theory and intent, but also to get feedback on potential developments within the system. Let us know what you think here in the comments or on the Broken Contract Playtesters Group. -Nick

Broken Contract has been designed as a micro-skirmish game and narrative play. Immediately, for many gamers, this conjures images of "post game sequences" where loot is accumulated, experience is earned, and crippling injuries and death are sometimes meted out. These post game sequences are often the source of triumphant die rolling and curses over foul luck. One of the things I wanted to address in Broken Contract was the nuance of injury and death. Should an unconscious Down Character have the same chance of death as a Character who endured a chop from an Oversized Rock Saw and ended them game in Critical condition? How should I address this?

One of the things I had started looking at last year was doing a deck driven campaign system. This would allow not just the ability to have a large selection of options (a standard mini deck is 32 cards), but it also meant that I could theoretically set up circumstances to add or remove cards. If I wanted to increase the fatality or head trauma results of a weapon, I could always issue a card to go with said weapon that could be shuffled into the deck. There are no immediate plans for such things, but charts feel very final. Decks, however, feel wide open to tweaking. Let's take a look at the current incarnation what I dubbed the "Left for Dead" deck.

Left For Dead: Broken Contract Campaign Cards
The Left for Dead Deck would feature 32 cards that would be numbered in 3 groups: 1-12, 13-22, and 23-32. These would then correspond to how grievously wounded a Character was at the end of the game. Before grabbing the deck, and models "Left for Dead" would make a Recovery roll to see if their status improved or worsened. Then, it would be time to face their fate. A Character that ended the game Down would draw from a deck of 12 possible outcomes, a Character that was Out would draw from 22 possible outcomes, and finally, a Character that was Critical would face 32 possible outcomes. Those outcomes would look something like this.


Down
The Down portion of the Left for Dead deck would contain all "non-fatal" cards. There is a high chance of Full Recovery, being captured and sent to the Infirmary or Imprisoned to be rescued (Note: this deck would be specific to the FerrumSky campaign setting) but there are a few injuries that would really be annoying. They target key performance Stats to balance out the higher chances of Full Recovery.


Out
The Out portion of the deck adds in the first Dead result, more key Stats being undermined, and some unusual results like Self Reliant, Nursed to Health, and Bitter which improve a Stat, can add another Character to your group, or can affect your Dealing checks with a particular Faction.


Critical
The Critical portion of the deck would increase the chance of Death from roughly 1 in 22 to just shy of 1 in 10. Some of the injuries in this grouping may seem less serious or more situational, and they are. This is to balance out the greater likelihood of Death

I'm not 100% tied to they placement of the various bodily injury cards which will eventually get unique names, but the chances of Full Recovery and Imprisonment/Infirmary are higher the less substantial the injuries are and the chance of Death increases dramatically based upon the drasticness of a Character's condition. I think that is as it should be.

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts and feedback on this sort of structure for injuries. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Thanks for reading!
-Nick

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Post #100: Rules, Background, and Cards! (Updated!)

AdeptiCon 2016 Broken Contract Background and Rulebooks.

For AdeptiCon 2016 I produced a very short run of Broken Contract Rule and Background books. I don't want anyone who didn't attend feeling left out on the contents so I've collected the files and uploaded them to Dropbox, along with a PDF file handy for printing out your own Character Dashboards and chits so you can get up and playing with the models and cards in your possession. I did deliberately omit the covers of both books for home printing. If you would like to see the covers added, let me know and I will do so.

Broken Contract Background Book

Broken Contract Playtest Rules 3-31-16

Broken Contract Character Dashboard and Chits

NEW! Broken Contract Character and Crew Creation Rules

NEW 5/28/16! Broken Contract Act: Escape Route

What is in the Broken Contract Background Book?

The Broken Contract Background Book is an overview of the FerrumSky setting. In a way, much of it is a collection of essays that were prompted by questions that my editor, Rob Ferrick, has posed to me about the setting. I've written these over time to fill in the blanks and flesh out the microcosm of the FerrumSky mines. These are followed by the character vignettes written during the crafting of the concept art to get into the intent of the base characters. These are written by Rob Ferrick, Chuck Hickey, and myself, At the very end of this collection is a condensed version of 'It's Time', a very well playtested scenario that is ideal for introductory play. This booklet will give you access to information that will likely be parsed over multiple releases as we explore the FerrumSky mines in Episodes.

What's in This Incarnation of the Rules?

For most of you the Broken Contract Playtest Rules is a brand new ruleset. This book offers very little in the way of background and setting and instead focuses on the ways in which the Characters may interact with their environment and each other. These do not get into creating scenarios or running campaigns. They are the basic rules of play so they will require a bit of creativity or at least the scenario at the end of the Background book in order for you to get playing.

For those who have downloaded previous incarnations of the rules there have been a handful of tweaks here, many prompted by playtesting. The newest (and biggest!) addition is the ability to Form Action Teams and perform Team Actions. These rules need thorough playtesting so I would love for you all to try these rules and let me know how they work and what details need to be fleshed out in greater detail. These rules will allow players to expand the model count a bit, but more importantly, they'll allow for those fun thematic moments like trying to carry a large crate or a wounded gen-mod off the board. I am really looking forward to locking them down as an important last touch added to the core rules of play. Finally, I also stripped out most of the background inserted into the rules and put all of the important background into information into the above mentioned book.

What are the Character Dashboards and Chits?

The final file, Broken Contract Dashboards and Chits, will allow you to print out a Dashboard or placemat that indicates where all of your Character, Equipment, and Ability cards are intended to go. It also has the Chits that you use to keep track of Actions, Wounds, and in game Effects. Please note, when you print this file out I would print out 8-10 of them. The scenario in the Broken Contract Background Book, 'It's Time', uses eight Characters. Print them on cardstock and cut out the chits before playing.

What are the Character and Crew Creation Rules?

These are exactly what they sound like. This 5 page PDF introduces Character and Crew Creation using a point system. It allows you to create Adult Breakers and Black Squadron Officers, but it also allows you to add Children, Teens, Brute Gen-Mods, or Light Drones to your crew. Each Character is customizable through a series of upgrades using a card driven system.

Get Playing and Let Us Know How It Goes!

This game was built, in part, on the valuable feedback of our playtesters. We want you to play with your models and we want your input. If you do not own a Broken Contract Initiative Deck already, just use a single suite of cards from a normal deck of playing cards, Ace-8 and a Jack to act as the Re-Roll. This would work just as well for playing the 'It's Time' scenario.

Get playing and let us know how it goes! All questions and comments are encouraged. And don't forget that we have the Broken Contract Playtester Group on Facebook.

Thanks everyone!
-Nick

Monday, April 4, 2016

Thank You Attendees of AdeptiCon2016!

Mike and Aaron running demos at AdeptiCon2016!
Being a former Chicago resident and only living an hour and a half away by car in my new home of Milwaukee, AdeptiCon, as the largest miniature wargaming event in the country, is a "must attend" event. The organizers and volunteer staff are hugely accommodating and are amazingly supportive of small companies. This year, as a special treat, two friends who I hadn't seen in a decade agreed to make the trek from Buffalo, NY and San Diego, CA respectively, to help me out and run demos.

I'd like to share our history briefly. Back in the late 90's I worked for GW and Mike and Aaron were my co-workers. Less than a year after starting work at GW#108 in Buffalo, NY, I was promoted to manager and these two gentlemen were two of my most prized employees because of their passion for gaming and their understanding of the mission: to build the wargaming hobby. We all left GW#108 in 2001 and over the next few years we all went our separate ways as we moved around the world. We never fully lost contact because during our time at GW we formed a bond and social media like Facebook has kept us in touch. They've long been part of my sounding board as I've developed Broken Contract so when they made travel plans to come out and help at AdeptiCon I was ecstatic. After a game each of Broken Contract they were up and running demos and quickly did so confidently, executing demos better than my own. These guys are not just great friends, but true professionals and I can't thank them enough for all of their hard work over the weekend and their exceptional enthusiasm. My greatest lament is that we never got a picture of all three of us together.

David Farr's Black Squadron Security force.

One of the highlights for me was having David Farr from the Nerdherders Podcast turn up with his full painted Broken Contract miniatures. We only played through the demo game with his minis so in hindsight I'm sad we didn't get in a larger game. Still, it was immensely exciting to see him bring out full forces of Black Squadron Security and Breakers. Hopefully we'll see more Broken Contract action from him in the future.

Another highlight was getting a brief interview from Dawn at Beasts of War as part of their AdeptiCon coverage. It doesn't contain a whole lot of info because I didn't know if follow up questions were coming, haha, but it's generated some interest so if you have any comments to share with the Beasts of War community hit up the comments below the video.

Officer Hickley in a heap of trouble.

Finally, I want to take a moment to thank all of the people who took time out to go through a demo, discuss the game or the setting, compliment the models, and especially those of you who walked out the door with the rules and the background book. I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and see what kind of creative output you create as you explore Broken Contract. Don't be strangers. Get involved. Let's build something together!

Thank you all for another great AdeptiCon and I hope we see you all again next year, if not before!
-Nick