Fairway returned from Protospiel Madison having played a bunch of prototype games from a lot of up and coming game designers. Some of these designers were kind enough to let him feature their games in this round up of games.
Protospiel: Madison was a big event for a relatively small city. It featured a whole bunch of games from ninety registered designers. I only got to play a very small number of them and I’m featuring a smaller number of those that I played here. At an event like this, designers are bringing games to try and test often well before sending them out to others to “blind test” games. So this is a peek at what might be coming to the market in the future. Many of the game feature only prototype art and components.
Make a Killing by Shad and Megan Kendall ^
Make a Killing is a multiplayer game in which players are contract killers trying to take out targets and avoid the police. Each player is an assassin trying to earn the most money by the end of the game. Over the course of a series of rounds, players take turns snagging new targets, moving their player (a bullet pawn) around a modular map so that they can be at the right place at the right time to collect the bounty on a target.
The game uses an interesting mechanic to randomize targets: a draw from a location bag tells you where the target will be and a die roll tells you when they’ll be there (i.e., what round of the game). Players then plan how to be in striking distance of the target at the right time.
The assassin can choose any number of weapons, including close range guns, long range sniper rifles, or even bombs. When it’s time to take out the target, players roll a d20 to see if they overcome the required die roll. The harder the target, the higher the required roll, but the more money you can collect.
The map itself features various locations and geographic heights. Those heights interfere with distance shots, but are usable to plan an optimal location.
Elemental Dice by Oak Heart Games ^
Dice drafting is the magic in this prototype game by Oak Heart Games. In Elemental Dice, players draft dice from a common pool which forms their hand. They then simultaneously select a die from their hand to “enchant.” By enchanting dice, the player moves the selected die onto the enchanting table where it can be used for its power. Each different die color represents a different kind of magic: fire (red), air (yellow), earth (green), water (blue), life (white) and death (black). Those dice then carry with them special abilities to manipulate the dice in your “hand”, on your “enchanting table,” those of an opponent, or even whether the dice remain in the game.
Each player is a wizard with the objective of knocking out all of the other players by manipulating their hand of dice and those that they’re playing on their enchanting table.
The game’s selection of basic activities provides a lot of opportunities for strategic dice place. The game also relies on individual dice rolls to determine not only the value of powers (i.e., against whom of what they’re effective), but also to determine player order. If you end up with a low roll, you’ll get to take your actions first.
Our three player game was pretty intense as dice would come and go.
Roll Player: Monsters and Minions Expansion. ^
I really like Roll Player. The game is a fantastic dice drafting game with a lot of theme and interesting player choices. Clearly he heard the lament about not actually being able to “use” the built character to do something, so designer Keith Matejka brought an expansion that does just that: let’s your character do battle against monsters and, then, in a semi-cooperative mode do battle against a boss monster.
For fans of the base game, the game play mechanics do not change much. In addition to a few new roles and assorted additions, the game introduces the concept of experience and adventuring. In the version we played, players can now, in lieu of using the market, go attack various monsters. Players attack the monsters using die rolls. The number of dice you have is determined by some characteristic on the monster: e.g., an extra die for each die in your dexterity or an extra die for each die matching your character class and so on. If you defeat the monster, you collect a trophy and experience points. Those experience points can be used both in the final battle or earlier on to power up some skills.
There’s a lot of promise in this little expansion. Can’t wait to see where it goes.
Potion Master’s Apprentice by Zovu Games ^
I had the pleasure of also playing an earlier version of this game at a previous Protospiel. Potion Master’s Apprentice is somewhat a bluffing and negotiation game blended with a set collection mechanic. In the game, players take on the roles of potion makers. In a delicate negotiation with neighboring players, each player bids for a selection of ingredients on an ingredient card. What the neighboring players actually get will be whatever the total of their bids comes out to be. So you can be thoughtful and compliant or deceptive. That choice will likely follow you throughout the remainder of the game.
With those ingredients, players are then tasked with actually brewing potions. Potions each carry with them different point values and powers. The harder the potion, the more points and/or the more powerful the effects. The easier the potion is to concoct, the more likely it is to actually benefit other players.
HoverDome by Mike Zummo ^
In HoverDome, players are riders of hover bikes (kind of like these in Star Wars) racing around a track in attempt to cross the finish line first. During the game, players are playing movement cards to advance their hover bike around the track.
However, your bike’s top speed is often limited by the damage you’ve taken. And there’s lots of damage to be taken as players deploy weapons, turrets and drones in a desperate attempt to knock their opponents’ bikes down a notch.
After two laps, our race was incredibly tight. I was in the lead until I was blasted by another player, Mario Kart style, into damage mode.
The wide range of weapons and abilities made for some pretty crazy racing dynamics. The game wisely avoided simple roll and move mechanics, integrated a thoughtful damage model that didn’t eliminate players but handicapped their top speed until repairs. The board also featured interesting strategic decisions about how to handle curves, corners and turret locations.
Elemental Master by Unlimited Media Works ^
In Elemental Master, players are dueling wizards in a magic casting battle. Between the players are four cards that are each divided into four segments representing fire, air, water and earth. The side of the cards facing each player indicates which of the elements are available to that caster. Using those available elements, players play spell and action cards from their hand.
These cards are often spells that do damage or restore the player’s health. Other cards let the player change the orientation of one or more of those element cards in the middle. Often, the more of a particular element facing you, the more powerful a spell of that type is available.
Rendezvous by JT Smith ^
I kicked off Sunday morning with a very Wisconsin game: Rendezvous by JT Smith. Rendezvous is a worker placement game with a touch of survival and set collection. In Rendezvous, players are early Wisconsin pioneers trying to survive a Wisconsin Fall and, ostensibly, prepare for a long Wisconsin Winter. The game takes place over six months during which players must feed and warm their family of six, but also collect enough other goods from mines and woodlands to buy and/or build useful items.
In true Protospiel-style, I playtested as a player who all but ignored the critical features of the game, food and warmth, to see if I could win. [That is, I tried to score enough points to overcome the penalties.] While it wasn’t a disastrous strategy, it didn’t turn out so well.
During the game, players allocate their six meeple workers among various activities: mining, logging, farming, fishing, hunting and trading (with the Menominee). At the end of each month, to avoid warmth and starvation point losses, players needed to end the month with six food and enough wood (or pelts) to meet the monthly temperature requirements. Food was available from fishing or hunting or farming. Wood was available from logging.
Other goods that the players collected were usable to “Sell” for items and points or, if you had the right types, to build. Building the goods scored a lot of points.
War Torn by Alisha Volkman ^
War Torn is another game I’d played at a previous Protospiel. In it, players are the leaders of different villages. Each of the different leaders has different starting powers and a pair of special units. Over the course of the game, players build their villages, hire mercenaries and send them out to destroy the villages of the other players. I played as the leader of the Drakes. I had little whelp units that could burn down and destroy my opponents’ buildings.
The basic game is played over the series of four rounds. During most rounds, players collected resources (bricks) and money (shells) from their units and the buildings in their village. The resources were then used to buy buildings from the market to add into your village. The shells are used to both hire mercenaries to fight and to send them off into battle.
The villages in War Torn are neat. You place buildings in a 3×3 grid. Each building has hit points and the placement of the buildings within the grid will impacts to what extent it might survive a later attack.You can then staff buildings with various of your mercenaries. In War Torn, attacks occur down columns of buildings starting with the top row of that column. Each building or unit in order absorbs portions of the attack using the buildings hit points. So placing a wall up front and your expensive buildings at the back means there’s more of a chance that those back buildings will survive.
Another interesting mechanic: if a player attacks a column and reduces even one building to rubble, no other player can attack down that column. So in any given round, you’re hoping that a single player will be unable to reach the very last buildings in your columns.