I’m on a roll: Urban Conquest, Hex Herders, and Puppet Masters
In the last few weeks I’ve made significant progress on three of my games: Urban Conquest, Hex Herders, and Puppet Masters.
Urban Conquest, née Metropolis, is a game about building a chain of hotels. It’s kind of like Acquire on steroids. The basic idea is that players are buying various properties at auction, trying to connect them together into chains to increase their value. Simultaneously, however, they’re also trying to invest wisely in the companies belonging to other players — at the end of the game, these investments are converted first to cash and then to points.
I’ve played it with S where we simulated two additional players, and it worked really well. I can’t wait to try it with four actual players. The only thing I need to do, at this point, is balance the need to build up one’s own company with the need to invest wisely in other players’ companies — I want the optimal strategy to fall somewhere in the middle. Tweaking it so that happens shouldn’t be too difficult, since it’s basically just one number.
This is a game I’ve worked on for over 15 years, and I think it’s finally getting close to being finished. Three things have changed recently: (1) I’ve taken the dice out and replaced them with cards, (2) I’ve greatly simplified the hostile takeovers and the ability to add new stories to hotels, and (3) I’ve made it so players can invest in other people’s companies. This takes a lot (but not all) of the luck out, it reduces the tendency for the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor, and it makes the game simpler, too.
I’m really excited about this game, now. :-)
Hex Herders is, you guessed it, a game about sheep herding. It’s an abstract family strategy game for 2-4 players that borrows elements from both Amazons and Hey, That’s my Fish. I’ve tried it with 2 and with 4, and both worked quite well.
The big idea is that you’re trying to — surprise, surprise — herd as many sheep as possible into your enclosures. What’s cool about the game is how you’re moving and herding and building fences all at once, so there’s a definite flow. There’s more emphasis on tactics than strategy, as a lot can change between turns, but that’s not unreasonable in a more family-friendly game.
I’ve been working on Hex Herders for a couple years, now, but the game had stalled out due to an overly-restrictive board geometry. I knew that putting it on a square board would be an improvement, but square boards aren’t as visually appealing. The solution? Triangles. Now the board starts getting locked down at just the right rate, and the game looks good, too.
Who says all the good themes have already been taken?
And finally, Puppet Masters. One of my friends recently described Puppet Masters as the first post-modern detective game. While I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate, there is definitely an element of truth to it.
In Puppet Masters, players are all running agents for MI-6 at the height of the cold war. The problem is, one of the agents is a traitor. Players must first nail down who the traitor is, and then, once the traitor has been determined, try to catch them.
The twist? If it turns out that the traitorous agent is one of the ones under your control, then you’re assumed to be in league with them, and you have to try to get away.
The game is pretty much done. I’ve recently stripped out some unnecessary complications and caused the game to be played in rounds, and that has made all the difference.