Thursday, 20 August 2015

Chaos Stone, the Nexus Ops Inspired Board Game

So we get the basics down. This is what I notice as possible areas to work on. I don't believe this is entirely how I approached the design of the board game, and if I attempt to reiterate it, it will probably be a tiring feat. The premise is this though, that I saw some promise in the mechanical structure of the game, if it was to reimplemented with certain added features, and a few years later, I had a brainwave to see through the potential of that promise, and realise it.

Of course, one of the first points of notice that I saw lacking in the structure of the game, is there being no real distinction at all between the four contending factions. This might not strike through as obvious from just the observation of a casual play, because the game works that way, in fact it is meant to and has to. A part of the mechanic of exploration will not work, unless the four factions have the same units, for instance. So, we are led to two divergent ideas from there, the differentiation of the Factions, and the reworking of the benefits you get from exploration, into two main types: Mines and Deposits. Mines work in the same way as they do in Nexus Ops, however there being more areas and a larger board in my game, the Mines reach up to a value of 3 Resource, while Nexus Ops only had them up to 2. Deposits are "instant-Mines", without the need to process or work it, granting an immediate Resource bonus, and providing no more beyond that, of Chaos Stones, as the resource in this game is called. It is different from Rubium by being pink, while Rubium is red.

As you see, the game almost developed itself. One necessary progression to the next, but of course such a method cannot be relied on entirely. But the basic premise is there, being the Turn structure of Nexus Ops adapted to Chaos Stone, in an almost entirely similar fashion. Six Steps of Deployment, Movement, Exploration, Battle, Resource and Consolidation or Tech Research, as the last Step is also called. The names themselves lead to a basic idea of what each Step does. Deployment refers to the purchasing and deploying of troops, and also unique to my game: buildings. The idea for buildings came as an elegant brainwave to further layer the game with an added complexity. Buildings add a dimension not just on a thematic, flavourful level, in giving further divergence from the base material, but on a functional level as well in advancing the mechanics, and I suppose it allows a natural progression even within the background and story of the game, if there is to be any, in a realistic representation of the different Factions, and how they approach, either in their method of war or operation, the securing of the victory over which the core of the plot centres around, being the control of this moon holding the precious resource called Chaos Stone.

I should also make first mention of how I will dedicate an entire post to elaborating the details that comprise the asymmetry of each of the four Factions, starting with the Human Faction, called The Civilisation of Humanity. I will go through the design themes and the underlying thought processes that went into the formation of each. You will realise now that the fundamental structure from which it is inspired from, is largely intact. Even the Consolidation Step, or Tech Research Step as it is also known, serves very much the same purpose. But in this game, where the Factions are different, not just by distinct operation, but together with their individual units, the entire mechanic of relying on the accomplishment of the objectives as stated by Secret Mission Cards drawn during this Step, must be redone. Since the Factions are now asymmetrical, there is no same objective that is universal to all, given a part of how that worked has been taken away.

But its concept has not been entirely done away by me, and in fact has been reworked and integrated as part of the mechanics of one of the Factions. It is moments like this that we can call both inspired and genial, in how foresight and vision saw the redoing of a standing, universal mechanic into a form that is unique to just one of the Factions, but suffers not the balance of what can be maintained within the general meta-framework of the board game's mechanical structure from its constituent rules. Before I go on though, I will have to introduce you to two other concepts as conceived and implemented further upon the base derivative, being the existence of Terrain types, and Unit and Building Statistics. This is the part where the true advancement of the game's mechanics, from which it takes inspiration and roots from, takes appearance, leading to not just a more evolved formula from it, but a more sophisticated work as well, retaining the best of it while adding more.

Terrain basically determines certain rules that apply, pertaining to the three Terrain types, and the benefits they confer. The Forest Terrain offers Cover, but once built over, loses this defensive property, while the River slows the march of troops, but if built over, serves as a defensive moat that deters only enemy units. Then there's the Plains, which is the most ordinary of Terrain types, but do provide a bonus to the Movement of certain units.

And it is from here we come to the next dimension added onto the increasing complexity that is Chaos Stone: Statistics. The Statistics is an interesting innovation developed from the barebones of how the simple linearity of combat works in Nexus Ops. By moving certain functions and attributes around, and tweaking and adding values, we can create a dynamic system, that differs from the simple sequence of the order of attacks being first for the most formidable and expensive of units, the Rubium Dragon, and proceeding from there, having the weaker units attacking in order of their strength, descending. The necessary insight gained at this point, from the obvious development of how combat works, did not come immediately. Rather, what I noticed first and foremost is the inclusion of Range, since distance is easily measured by the number of hexes away. That is among my first brainwaves gained from observation. And then we move on from there, and although it did not come this way initially, it soon developed into a full range of statistical values, used to determine and replace the previous overly simplified system, which was to have the most powerful and expensive unit-type have the greatest priority, in both attacking order and attacking power.

In this way, a whole system for balancing the power of troops according to their costs, can be formulated. Eventually, there were six distinct statistic-types conceived, the first being RC or Resource Cost, then Range, Movement, Initiative, Attack and Defence. The first two is understood, but the third determines the new order sequence when making attacks in close combat. That means it is possible to have a unit good in close combat, which is called Assault in my game, have a low attack but with an Initiative that allows him to engage and potentially destroy the enemy before it can retaliate. This system of assigning statistical attributes give entire layers of complexity and depth to the game, allowing for dynamic yet balanced units of varying power, that are balanced by weaknesses in other statistics, to counter the strength in others, creating a very developed setup to base the game on. This creates a whole new balance to the mechanics of combat, that grants and allows for the diversity of a full and broad range of feasible unit compositions. There is even something called Armour Levels, which might be talked about in this design blog, if there is an interest in me revealing, you just have to ask. And Cover Levels too, which is a specific type of Armour Level.

Some of you familiar with Games Workshop's Warhammer tabletop wargame, might notice certain similarities, and your view is well-founded, for there are influences from it not mentioned yet. So if you do have an awareness of this, it is more to do with the feel you are getting, perhaps to do with the description of the statistics, which are in some ways inspired by Warhammer, but not entirely so. The Attack statistic takes its roots from Warhammer almost directly, for each unit having an attacking power represented by a number from 1 to 5, which refers to the value you must roll equal to and below, in order to successfully deal a point of damage, which is where the Defence Levels come in, the analogue for the Wound rating for Warhammer. Armour Levels work in this game by reducing the roll required to successfully Attack, unlike it being a separate roll in Warhammer. Cover Levels work the same as Armour Levels, except certain attacks only affect one or the other, depending on different conditions.

And there we have it, the barebone mechanics of Chaos Stone, as adapted and configured into a greater complexity, from Nexus Ops, its origin and foundation. There are many other rule intricacies to be clarified, only upon the purchasing of the game, and just to have you interested, I have brought you along a detailed view behind some of the innovations and thoughts that went into the design process by the designer himself, explaining how they came to be. I will go into the specifics of each of the four Factions in subsequent posts. Ciao.

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