Make as You Play

During my journey into board gaming, I have discovered Print n Play (PnP) games. You can get a copy of the game supplied in digital form, at little or no cost, print the game at home, and construct it into a form which allows you to play it. An example is when I play tested Tiny Ninjas, which required the simple creation of a deck of cards. There are plenty of games released specifically as a PnP game, and these days so many games on Kickstarter offer a PnP version of the game, so you can play test it before you decide to buy the full version.

The reason people are drawn to PnP games, besides the cost saving, is because there is great satisfaction to be had in the creation process. It’s the same reason Lego, model aeroplanes and jigsaws exist. And anyone that has played Dungeons and Dragons, knows how much fun is had in the creation, and equipping of your characters, before you even start going on your first adventure.

And I was at a PnP Facebook group, when another member asked: Are there any  …

… PnP Legacy Games?

The idea of a PnP Legacy game, was so obvious and brilliant, that it stunned me for a second. If you’re already making all the components for a game, then it would be a piece of cake to be remaking them, changing them, or what ever you need to do, for a developing campaign. Again, anyone who has played DnD knows all about levelling up characters, and changing their stats and equipment, as they grow and change throughout the course of a campaign. The first reply to the post was two words …

Deep Future

Designed by R. Winder it is in fact a Legacy game that evolves over a Campaign, and fits into a new category, Make as You Play. You start with a map and a deck of blank cards, and you fill out information during the course of a game. The cards get filled out, and more are added to the deck. The Map gets explored, and each successive game goes in a unique direction, giving a genuine once in a life time gaming experience. I joined the Make as You Play Guild, and reached out to him to ask if I could use the initial game set up of Deep Future as a starting point to design my own game. He very graciously agreed.

Game Components

Deep Future is a game of galaxy exploration and settlement, and takes place on a Map made up of Hex spaces. You start on your Home World in a randomly drawn Hex in the Galaxy, and the aim of the game is to build new technologies, expand your civilisation and settle on new worlds. The Map, and certain important statistics to track, are printed out on an A4 piece of paper. I have made adjustments to the map for my game, but it essentially looks like this, with each Hex marked with a set of Coordinates, from 1,1 to 6,6. 36 Hexes. (Ignore the colours, for the moment. I’ll explain why they are highlighted below.)

The other important element is a blank deck of cards, marked in the corners with the numbers 1 to 6, and 6 suits, so totalling 36 cards. The parallel between the number of hex spaces and cards in the game is not a coincidence. The ingenious design, culminates in the fact that discarding a card, will display a number and a suit, and is the equivalent of rolling two 6 sided dice. Sometimes the card numbers are relevant. Sometimes the card suits are relevant. But discarding cards is initially the way chance comes in to play, and things progress in the game.

These cards are blank (apart from the number and suit written in two opposite corners) and during the game, things are added to the cards. In Deep Future, this information is pertaining to the worlds, technologies and civilisations that get developed as the game progresses. As well as that, sometimes new cards are created from scratch, and added to the deck, duplicating a number and suit that already exists, and altering the odds of future draws. And after each game is completed, the next game starts with the same map and deck of cards, and thus the future of galaxy exploration progresses, and each Campaign has it’s own unique set of game components.

Starting with a Blank Slate

An important thing to reiterate about Make as You Play games, is that because all the components are created by the player, they can be as simple, or complex as that player wants. The game does not have any art that is intrinsic to the game play, but it can certainly be provided by those players that have the inclination. The appeal of making such a game, as a fledgling designer, is the freedom derived from not needing to worry about the art. The story and the mechanics are key, and there is no other distraction.

Finding a Theme

Deep Future is a big picture game. A game takes place over the centuries required for interstellar travel, and the player takes on the role of the entire population of a planet as it develops, and strikes out across the stars. The cubes placed on the map represent a population large enough to inhabit a planet.

I’m drawn to a more personal worker placement game, where the tokens you place represent a single person, and what they want to do on an individual level. As I looked at the circular hex map, of unexplored tiles, I thought about what it could best represent at such a personal scale. What could one person be doing, exploring this grid of spaces? I welcome replies to this post, with the theme you are thinking of right now. But my thoughts went to Frozen, Rapunzel, Tarzan, Lost and Cast Away. Oh, and obviously, Robinson Crusoe.

Shipwrecked on an Island

My idea is a Make as You Play game about getting washed ashore on an island, and exploring it. Initially for survival basics; water, food and shelter; and then developing some skills to make life on a desert island more comfortable. And then, as you explore the island in greater detail, you start finding some odd things, have some unexpected encounters, and have a mystery to solve. The mechanics of the game will be about developing your blank deck into a set of cards that can help you survive, and unlock the mysteries, to be found on [insert cool island game Name Here]. Yeah, early days. We’ll come up with a cool title down the track.

Now I don’t think 36 hex spaces is enough for a good island exploration game, but I don’t want to mess with the 6×6 design of the map. So, instead, I thought I would treat the main map as an overview, and have a blow up map for where the action takes place. Each Hex would become 7 new spaces, which would make 252 spaces to explore. The blow up of the Hex spaces 1,1 to 1,6 is below, colour coded to match the Hexes in the main map. It could be printed on an A4 piece of paper, with room for another set of 6 next to it, in an upside down position. 3 extra pieces of paper needed, for the entire game map.

The centre Hex of each grouping has the Sector numbers in it, and the 6 surrounding spaces are labelled with the 6 suits of the cards.

The Deck of Cards

The 6 suits in this game, are represented by easy to draw symbols, and they will stand for  6 human attributes, that will be important to survive on a desert island. They are:

  • Square – Strength
  • Triangle – Tenacity (Stamina or Patience)
  • Circle – Speed
  • Star (*) – Dexterity
  • Percent (%) – Perception
  • Question (?) – Intelligence

So, maybe if you are trying to fish with a make shift line and hook, you might need to use cards in your hand that have a Triangle and %, whilst building a fishing trap that you can set and forget, might require you to use cards with * and ? Hopefully you can start to see how the blank cards will be used to accomplish simple tasks in the beginning of the game.

Filling in the Blanks

Exploring the Island will fill in terrain on the Map, and keep track of trees with edible fruit, a supply of clean drinking water, or where there is a good place to shelter from a coming storm. And as you have encounters, learn skills, and build tools, you will start to add this information, and these supplies, to cards in your deck. The blank starting cards, useable only for human attributes in the beginning, will become more powerful over time. And it will need to, because the challenges you will face we also be increasing.

Your game will develop and grow, in unique ways as you play the Campaign. But more about how this might work in future posts. I hope that this first post has piqued your interest to learn more about, “Adventure Island”. Ahh …  no. I’ll keep thinking.

One Reply to “Make as You Play”

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