I enjoy playing lots of different kinds of games. My favorites are intensive board games, Euro style games with lots of components and options, but I can enjoy a good abstract strategy game or party game, too. That’s why you’ll be seeing a variety of games styles from Darkana. One of the ones I’m working on now is an abstract strategy game called Betaori. This is will be the first one I release on Kickstarter, because it’s the one closest to being finished. These kinds of games don’t require as many components, and because of that they’re quicker to design, both mechanically and graphically.
One of the biggest challenges I faced when designing this one is that I didn’t want it to be like chess. Going into this I thought of mainly three classic strategy games: chess, go, and checkers. I like the strategy involved in chess, but I didn’t want several pieces, each with their own movement pattern. I love the concept of go, the simplicity, and the fact that all the pieces are the same, as with checkers. I do think checkers is one of the most boring games, so I wanted to incorporate a little more variety in mine.
So those were the elements I wanted for sure in my game:
- all pieces are identical
- they have a variety of moves
- simple mechanics that still incorporate a lot of strategy
One of the other core mechanics I wanted was to focus this game on the concept of routes. Routes would be the movement patterns each player could use on their pieces to either capture enemy tokens or surround them (a mixture of chess, checkers, and go). I also wanted to add a mechanic so that the edge of the board wasn’t a boundary, per se. So with all these things in mind I laid out a few ground rules and began playtesting. In Betaori, players use tokens of blue or white. There are 24 route possibilities, and at any given time a player has 3 routes they can use however they want to capture or “siege” enemy tokens. They can flank by continuing from the other side of the board.
I started out playtesting it by myself, and the tester game took about 30 minutes to make. I like to playtest alone because I can spot glaring issues with any game and fix them first before bringing in other players to help tweak the rest. Another consideration I always make with games like this is, if my fiancee and kids can understand it and like it, I know I’m on the right track. Lisa doesn’t like games like chess or checkers, so if she could enjoy my game, chances are high others might have fun as well.
After several rounds of playtesting, we had the mechanics tweaked to ensure the game wasn’t broken, that it didn’t drag out, and that it maintained a mix of simplicity and strategy. That’s my approach. Take the games one step at a time, don’t assume your mechanics are good, no matter how experienced you are at making games, and have fun.
The next step is to write the rules for blind playtesting. This is where I’ll give the game to people who have never played it (gamers and nongamers alike) and see if they can understand the rules. Watch them play without any help from me to see what snags they run into, what’s confusing, what parts are fun, what parts they don’t like, etc. From there the final step is making adjustments where necessary and finalizing the design to get a nice-looking prototype.