Friday, 27 November 2015

Old Town - the past

If you have not ready WHY i'm keeping a journal, I recommend you do that first :0) I have to clean up my kitchen and pack my stuff before I go away for the weekend, but before I do I’m going to sit here with a coffee and tell you a little about my current design. To write this post will take me the length of time it takes me to drink a coffee (cause I have given myself an arbitrary limit)

I have 4 active projects living in my head and on my computer at the moment. I’ll start this journal by tell you about the one I am “focused” on at the moment. Its working title is Edinburgh Old Town (not the title I would want to use if published, but I can’t waste brain power working out that would be at this stage).

The background to this game is thus; I went on holiday to my girlfriend’s home town of Edinburgh about 6 months ago and we took the Mary Kings Close tour under the current city to the streets of the old town below. Here’s the history bit: After something like the 9th plague to hit the city, the council decided to build a new city over the top of the disease ridden old one. They knocked down the top floors of the buildings and used the materials to literally seal of the streets below. I will not going into everything about that now but I will tell you the stories of 17th -18th century old Edinburgh are incredible and as we took the tour and the more I spoke to my girlfriend about it the more I wanted to make a game about it. Ideas where bouncing left right and centre in my head for the rest of the holiday.

So I’m now making a game about the life and times of Edinburgh old town. It’s gritty, nasty and full of characters and stories. Murder, plague, grave robbing, ghosts and much more. It’s not going to be a game to play with your kids, but I hope it will be a game that evokes the feeling I had when I was walking those streets imaging what life was like back then.

Ok, ok.. that’s the flavour now you want to know what ingredients I plan to use. Interestingly, I have this fairly well fixed in my head at the moment and yet, writing it here is not proving to be easy. My first prototype had a core mechanic of action selection done in the way you pick races in Small world. I like the “you can have the first one for free, put a coin on the first one and take the second one or keep putting coins out until you get to the one you want” Mechanism. I also don’t feel it’s often used in games. I took this and made it 3 columns wide and 5 cards deep. I added actions like plagues etc that where just bad, but that after a while you might want to take just to get all the money. What you were doing with the actions in the first draft of this game was basically area control. You had your tenants around the city and you wanted to keep them safe and healthy while trying to kill/scare off your opponents tenants.

There was more to it than that but I don’t want each of these entries to be too long. This prototype was playable and it was not a terrible game. With lots of tweaking it would have been ok I think. However it did not do want I wanted it to regarding getting across the stories and feel of the old town. It also did not have a “who you are” angle to it, which I felt it needed.  I like narrative and flavour in my games and the direction I had picked was not going to hit as well as I wanted it too..

So now I am working on a deck builder that has much more to it that the standard, buy cards that allow you to buy better cards and then buy victory points. I’m afraid though that what I am doing now with the old town will have to wait until the next entry as I have just finished my coffee…


  1. Great first design article! I remember you talking about this topic on the podcast, it sounds absolutely chock full of theme which will make the game design that much more immersive,
    Only thing I could suggest is maybe some pics of the prototype maybe? I'm a visual guy (easy!) so they a couple of images would help me better understand what's going on.

  2. Hay, thanks for commenting, I really appreciate it. I am going to get into how the game currently works in my head in the next post and will put a pic or two up there. :0)


Thanks for adding to the conversation on Ministry of Board Games ;-)