Valour: The Process

After seeing Barbarians and being inspired to design a game in the theme. (See part one of the series), what happened next was… really nothing. I was deep in another project, and spending a vast amount of my free time doing triathlon things. So the project lived dormant in the catch sheet, waiting in hopes of being unearthed one day.

This is part two in a three-part series about Valour. Read Part I here.

II

After moving to Boulder and joining a few board game Meetups, I met a few fellow gamers with the design itch. I passed around some of the mediocre designs I had been working on, to mixed feedback about the designs, but a lot of encouragement around the range of topics and mechanics I was tackling.

Around this same time, I attended a PodCamp-like event called GameCamp, one session of which was a 2 hour board game design jam. Ryan Wanger, Monika then-Runstrom and I designed “Belmont High Stakes” about training and racing horses to raise money to rescue a foal from horse rustlers. (I think one of the cues for the jam was ‘kidnapping’…) Ryan and I continued work on it, working through design challenges like managing feedback loops, and many debates on whether parimutuel betting was feasible or even fun on a scale of 3-5 players. We decided the design was ultimately a dead end and sunset the project. But now I was hooked.

I decided I needed a concept large enough to feel important, without being so hard to design and balance that I wouldn’t be able to complete the project. (Whether I succeeded in riding that line is yet to be seen). I went idea shopping in my catch sheet, and dug this up:

Based on Celts/Gaul, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vercingetorix)

Networking (points for building roads between cities) points for finishing a road? multi-segment like TtR?

Area control (points for building cities) shared ownership of cities could be interesting

Trade (cities create goods… not sure of the mechanic), use feedback economy like Wealth of Nations to control price of commodities

cities build gold mines, gotta figure out several other goods they could use. population, wine? other stuff.

Can trade with each other, and with Rome. Trading with Rome earns you points and money, but advances a “Caesar Track” which will, at certain intervals, advance and (most likely) crush border towns.

Cities start out as just dots on the map. Grow them in stages, stackable discs? maybe subsequent cubes

At start, put face-down disks with the amount of gold at each city’s mine. then when you build it, you know how much gold is there.

Caesar moves on Julian calendar, players move on Coligny calendar. Each of Caesar’s turns, he writes in his journal, which are the victory points. The more annoying you are, the better your chance of getting mentioned.

Lots of awesome stuff in there, including a time period I’m a total nerd for, and some really unique mechanics I’ve not seen often or ever to work with. This had to be my inaugural effort. I went to work. I put together a guesstimate component list, a basic outline of turn order, and some tentative values for a few of the mathematic systems.

Board Revision Zero.

Version Zero of Valour’s board. Google Drive’s drawing tools: roughly as good as my ability to sketch Europe from memory.

The date stamp on this first Google Doc is a little suspicious; Created May 2012, Last Modified August 2011… so I can’t pin down an exact date this all happened, but ballpark, it was about 2 years from initial concept.

At this point, things were underway. I revised early and often; I read every Wikipedia article I could find on the Gallic War, the heroes of Gaul, and the locations of the major battles. I spent a lot of time wrestling with with heroes and locations to include, and did a lot of thought experiments around how infrastructure should grow, how invasion should operate, etc. I also received countless invaluable rules reviews by Matt Hulse and Ryan (And I mean countless. Those guys are saints.) My friend David Allen also suggested I use some graph modeling tools to get the layout and distances how I liked them. By the time I was ready to start buying components and printing a map, here’s how things were looking:

Never-printed first draft of the layout concept.

Mercifully never-printed first draft of the layout concept.

While this was good enough to get the overall feeling for reading and writing the rules, I was a little embarrassed to send this to the printer. I mustered all of my Illustrator skills (and I do mean all), and tried to make something respectable. I think I did alright, even if the victory track is an inexplicable 89 points long. How do people design those??

Board_2dot0_web

First board version that went to print! It has exactly the same dimensions as the board for Brass.

Now that I had conjured this prototype into being, I finally got to play it. I did, in a moment of vanity, believe it ought to be close to ready. This turned out not to be the case, and the cold water was soon to come. For those who have been following the dates closely, this first prototype went to press in May of 2013.

Part III: The conclusion of our epic cycle, where all the details you’ve been waiting for are revealed. How is it played? If I don’t bring a bottle of wine to the council of Gaul, how much trouble am I in? Can Caesar be defeated? Why do all these board prototypes say “Vercingetorix”??? Stay tuned.