Monday, November 14, 2011

Of Power & Glory - part 1

There is no way I could possibly give a full account of how Of Power & Glory was designed.  It's just too big a of a game and I frankly have forgotten a lot of the design process by now.  I wish I had started this blog earlier!  But I can tell you some things about it. 

The initial inspiration for Of Power & Glory was a game called On the Underground.  If you've played both games, you may struggle to see any similarities.  If not, here's a brief description of both games:  Of Power & Glory is a worker placement game set in vaguely medieval era western Europe during a period of war.  Players represent noble families schmoozing with Kings.  On the Underground is a networking game set in modern London.  Players are building rail lines to connect to various stops on the underground.  Obvious connection right?  :)

What fascinated me about On the Underground was the passenger.  There's a passenger in the game that wants to get from point A to point B and he follows certain rules to get there.  Those rules are relatively simple and easy to understand by all players.  So players build there rails to take advantage of what they expect the passenger to do.  I loved this idea because it almost felt like the passenger was another player that the real players were trying to manipulate. 

So I thought to myself "How could I take that high level concept and make it really big?"  What's bigger than a passenger?  A King!  Except that's just a new setting, it doesn't really make the game any bigger...  how about 2 Kings.... no wait, 10 Kings!  I began to think about the passenger in On the Underground and the Kings in this new game of mine as "AIs. (artificial intelligences)"   Clearly having 10 AIs is more interesting and complex than 1 AI.  I was really starting to get excited about this game!  So, what should 10 Kings do?  The obvious thing for 10 Kings to do is fight a war. 

So I needed a map for them to fight on.  Wars in games typically happen on maps of discrete territories that are won and lost.  And in those types of games, how many other territories a particular territory touches is of high strategic importance. So I started with a mathematical representation.  The goal was to some territories that touched very few other territories and some territories that touched many other territories.  If  I remember correctly I with started with an excel spreadsheet which is long since gone.  I believe I had matrix of territories (just numbered at this point) and an X in the spaces to indicate that the territories touched.  I start by saying that 1 touched 2 and 2 touched 3 etc until they all touched something.  Then I added extra touches until I had at least two territories that touched: 1 other territory, 2 other territories etc. up to 5 other territories.  I then took a pencil and a piece of paper and drew circles for each territory and lines between them show where they touched.  I then took that drawing and superimposed it on a map of Western Europe.  This worked surprisingly well.  I then picked names for the territories based on the names of real countries, cities and territories in Europe.  I gave higher preference to the names of places that I could pronounce. 

The idea in my mind at the time was that all 10 Kings would have a fixed starting location on the map and that 2 Kings would start on territories that touched only 1 other territory; 2 would start in territories that touched 2 other territories etc.  To offset the implicate advantages of starting in a good location, I wanted the Kings in weaker locations to have more power somehow.  I should also mention that giving the Kings a starting location inspired me to give them names that sounded like they were from where they started and even a inkling of personality.  It's actually an interesting story about how I came up with the names, but I'll leave that for another time. 

So the initial framework for the game was in place in my mind.  You had a map where 10 Kings had territories and would fight.  The players are noble families that interact with all kings and get benefits from kings when they do well.  Players could benefit in two ways, one way would give them an immediate advantage and another way would give them a long term advantage.  And from that the first version was born.

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