Join me on my continuing multi-part series as Martin and I attempt to turn our jumble of half-conceived brain sparks into our first fully functioning board game.
Part Five – Names and Faces
After making the changes mentioned in the last article we created and played our second prototype.
Aargh! Now the Kaiju arrived too quickly and there wasn’t enough for our workers to do. This resulted in a rather nonchalant form of placement - “I guess I’ll go...here.” Another problem arose with how the first player worked. During the late stage of the game, if you weren’t the first player you missed out on attacking the only remaining Kaiju (as they were too easy). This left the other player with nothing much to do. Definite changes were needed but they seemed fairly obvious.
Martin and I discussed the potential to present the game at the Wyvern’s Den – a forum for designers to showcase their mock-ups - at this year’s UK Games Expo. I was up for it but suspected I would need a more presentable prototype. At the time it was early March and three months seemed, to me at least, a decent amount of time to get things ready. Martin was more sceptical but sometimes you need a realist in these sorts of things
In the week Martin spoke to Matt Green, designer of Flicky Spaceships, who had previously braved the Den with another game but hadn’t found the experience useful. He added, to be eligible, you needed to present a pretty much fully functioning manufactured prototype. So perhaps Martin was right…too soon. Still, Matt did suggest we apply to the Expo for demo space, which we did.
Along with Mike Nudd, we’ve known Matt for almost 20 years through our shared love of the Vampire: The Eternal Struggle CCG. Around the time we became aware Mike had designed his own board game based on the licence. I remember thinking at the time how!?
Later, Mike went on to design Waggle Dance and Dice Hospital. Then Handycon’s Paul Harris, who we knew from the St. Albans board game group, had started designing games. Shortly after, Matt got his game published. People we knew had ‘made it’ and I was chuffed for them. I love it when people take chances and attempt new things, as I previously had (more on that later). It really works if you go for it!
Perhaps there was another feeling in there somewhere too...hope...? That one day maybe I would have a published game? Thinking back now I’m sure part of me was starting to realise that releasing your own game didn’t seem quite so impossible and distant.
In the week, Martin and I started thinking about titles as we were still concerned with Kaijukazi. A lot of good names seemed to have already been taken in various forms of media. Still, words like Steel, Sentinel, Guardian, Titan and Union stood out.
We set about trying to think of alternatives so I tried to conjure up images of what the game represented to me. Whenever I thought about the Jaeger I had this desire to plant my feet and clench my fists while thinking bring it! I saw the robots as somewhat rooted to the ground; an immovable object like out of the unstoppable force paradox. They reminded me of the Ents from Lord of the Rings; powerful and purposeful in their movement. I saw each robot as a giant, silent sentinel, monitoring the horizon; appearing as a motionless and intimidating deterrent to any attack.
I looked at my own collection and the titles seemed to fall into three categories: ones that describe what’s going on (Run, Fight or Die), initially abstract titles that, when you research a bit, give you an idea about the game (Waggle Dance, Tavarua, Viticulture) and ones that just say a title (Celestia, Seasons). I guess a fourth category simply describes a licence of some sort like Thunderbirds or Alien but we didn’t really have that to worry about.
When thinking of a name for something, I had previously learnt to keep your syllable count low; no more than four but ideally two. The most popular names in modern society have two: Goo-gle, Face-book, Twit-ter, Redd-it, Net-flix. It pays to keep them low as I think that’s what makes a name ‘catchy’.
We agreed to keep an open mind on this, assuming a title would present itself towards the latter stages of design. The focus, for now, seemed to be playtest, playtest, playtest!