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Homebrew: How Do I Homebrew?

   
How Do I Homebrew?

First off, sorry if this is in the wrong section. I couldn't find a perfect fit, but I thought it looked best in here.

So, some real life friends of mine got together and we want to see if we can make our own boardgame/wargame. The only thing is, we're completely unorganized and we don't know where to start. We've got some of the basics and such down, but nothing beyond that. I had a few specific questions I was hoping someone could answer.
Are there any resources out there for us to use? Either for creating the materials or for getting our act together.
Should we start from scratch or base it off a game that already exists?
Are there any innate skills that at least one of them should have, aside from the obvious, like art skills, knowledge of probability, etc.
As well, I would appreciate any thoughts you have on wargames in general, if you play them. What about them grinds your gears, what you would like to see, so on and so forth.
Thanks in advance for any and all input.

Allow me to be the obligatory voice of further inquiry:

"Can you tell us a bit more about said boardgame/wargame?"

Like specifically what genre? Historical (WW1, WW2, Viet Nam), Fantastical (Dwarves vs Elves, siege engines and fortresses, etc), large scale mech wars set in the future?? Not that it impacts how you would get organized and productive; I just wanna know!

Well, we figure we can fine-tune the setting and such later, but it's probably going to be a post-apocalyptic/future setting, since all of us seem to have some kind of fetish for post-apocalypse games. Right now, we've been bouncing around flavor-ish stuff for the different factions and here's what we've got so far:
-A big group of random survivors who have banded together. Most of their stuff is just built out of random scrap, but they've got a lot of it and high numbers, so they'd likely be the obligatory "zerg rush" faction.
-The remnants of a world-spanning megacorporation. They've still got power to their factories and a good amount of supplies, so they might take the position of "zerg rush" faction from the first group. All of their stuff will probably look like it was designed by Apple.
-A secret group of weapons-designing scientist, very much like Black Mesa from Half-Life. They would be the "elitist" faction, the one that puts out a small number of big, powerful units. Powered armor and crap like that.

Well, my first thought is for you to check out a site, boardgamegeek.com they have a forum dedicated to making your own games as well as ones specifically dedicated to wargames and boardgames of all sorts. If you are serious about making a game I would recommend playing and reading about a lot of different ones. See what has already been done and what people like/dislike about each one. See what catches your fancy.

Then be aware that getting it figured out will take a lot of time. I know a guy that designs board games as a hobby and has even had a few published. He would bring the games to the tabletop gamer club at the college I used to go to for us to playtest and he would just watch us play round and record all the moves we made, questions we had, and just how the game progressed in general. Though, mind you, this was after dozens of play testing rounds he had gone through himself.

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Are there any resources out there for us to use? Either for creating the materials or for getting our act together.
At the most basic level, yes. There are about ten million different kinds of wargame miniatures you can buy at your local game store. You can also buy square/hex maps, Warhammer range/movement rulers, and pre-built terrain. Some of it gets pricey, but if you want a working prototype, it's probably the fastest way to go (unless you have access to vacuum forming equipment, thermoplastics, a 3-D printer...)

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Should we start from scratch or base it off a game that already exists?
I wouldn't suggest overtly copying any rules from existing games. If you found a Creative-Commons licensed wargame that allowed commercial use of derivative works, that might be a different story

What you will want to do - if you haven't already - is start playing wargames. You ever hear the most basic advice you can give an aspiring writer? READ. Similarly, if you want to design games, you have to play them. All of them*. Only when you have an instinctive understanding of why certain rules exist will you be able to design games effectively.

*ok, not EVERY game, but you do have to play lots. Even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones, so you can learn from their mistakes.

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As well, I would appreciate any thoughts you have on wargames in general, if you play them. What about them grinds your gears, what you would like to see, so on and so forth.
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Right now, we've been bouncing around flavor-ish stuff for the different factions and here's what we've got so far:
These are red flags. Before you go soliciting advice, I think people will be interested to hear what YOU have to say about wargames. What rules do YOU like and dislike, and why? The more specific you are in your initial pitch, the more people will be able to help you out.

Also, while fluff is good, I think your first priority when you're making a game should be the rules. That isn't to say you should start with NO fluff, but you probably need no more than "post-apocalyptic". At that point, you can start asking questions like:

"What is post-apocalyptic warfare like, and what rules can we use to represent the unique combat dynamics of our setting?"

EXAMPLE: I had an idea a while back (I didn't go anywhere with it) for a post-apocalyptic game called "Black and Blue". The central conceit was that the characters had two key resources: Oil/Gasoline ("Black") and Water ("Blue"). Real surprise, I'm sure.

Anyway, it was inspired by Mad Max and Fallout 3. The game mechanics were going to accentuate the scarcity of both Oil and water. Oil meant mobility, and water meant health. I think I intended for there to be a fair amount of abstraction: Oil would be your car's fuel supply, but also your stock of spare parts, engine oil, tyres, and what-have-you. Water was going to be your hit points. Drinking water would heal you, and getting injured would detract from your water supply. I think I had an idea for the players' food supply being related to water (agriculture, possibly?), but I can't quite remember.

I'm no great game designer, but what I wanted to point out was the process: From the initial concept (post-apocalyptic roleplaying game) I said "what makes this setting tense and interesting?", and decided that it was 1) scarcity 2) survival 3) Mad-Max style car chases. From there, I started to imagine mechanics that would bring those themes into play. I didn't really worry about what the factions were going to be, nor how they were going to fight - and I wouldn't have until I had a basic, playable set of rules.

@Gallium: I appreciate the input, especially the last part. Up until now, we've been discussing as if we were designing mechanics first, and making flavor to best fit the mechanics. Thinking about what fighting in the setting would actually be like is something we hadn't thought of. Definitely gives me more angles to work from.

A few random ideas:
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-A big group of random survivors who have banded together. Most of their stuff is just built out of random scrap, but they've got a lot of it and high numbers, so they'd likely be the obligatory "zerg rush" faction.
-The remnants of a world-spanning megacorporation. They've still got power to their factories and a good amount of supplies, so they might take the position of "zerg rush" faction from the first group. All of their stuff will probably look like it was designed by Apple.
-A secret group of weapons-designing scientist, very much like Black Mesa from Half-Life. They would be the "elitist" faction, the one that puts out a small number of big, powerful units. Powered armor and crap like that.
I would go with the second group for your "zerg rush" faction. They sound like StormTroopers with standard equipment, basic training, but lacking experience or ressourcefullness.

The random survivors are this, hunters, rangers, scroungers. They might more use the terrain to their advantage, better at hidding and sneaking (if you use such characteristics), perhaps even taming wild beasts.


Still for the fluff, you should decide what caused your apocalypse. Zombies apocalypse? If so, is that mystic or due to some debiliting disease? If it's mystic, it might involve artefacts and magic-user characters. Nuclear explosion? Perhaps just global warming, or at the reverse, return of the ice age?


For the crunch, you might want to decide what is the scale of your boardgame. You can go from the whole planet domination like Risk or Axis & Allies. Or a violent battle for a room, like D&D Miniatures? In between, you have fights for a city, area or country, like Warcraft or Command & Conquer...

Okay, we've got the bare bones of a system planned out. Any input at all is great. I realize this is really generic, but we want to start small, basic, and open, and experiment with specialization from there.
The game is on a point-buy system, where every player is given a certain number of points they can spend, and each unit has a point cost. Players don't have to spend all of their points at the start of the match, they can save as many as they like and use them to send in some backup later in the match.
Each unit's stats will be printed either in a sourcebook of sorts or on individual cards that the players can print and keep nearby for easy use. Each unit has five important things on its card or sourcebook page. The first three are its stats: Hit Points, which are exactly what it says on the tin; Armor Dice, which represent how heavily armored a unit is, therefore reducing damage dealt against it; and Action Points, which represent how much a unit can do in a turn.
The first other thing is the unit's Attacks, which, again, should be pretty obvious what it does. We didn't like the idea of having a unit with just a straight-up attack score or dice. We preferred to see it like this: some dude is walking along with a rifle and sees a bad guy standing in the street ahead of him. He could either crouch, take a steady aim, take his time, and make a precise shot, or just pick up his gun and fire several unaimed shots quickly. This would translate into the game as two separate attacks: one which requires more Action Points to make but does more damage, and another which would require a small amount of Action Points but wouldn't deal much damage. This is only the most basic, simple example, of course. Different attacks also have different specs, such as range, any additional effects that come on along with the attack, etc etc.
Lastly, there are Abilities, which are special effects that apply to the unit, but are automatic, unlike attacks. Again, I don't think this needs much explaining. But, it can either be something along the lines of having, for example, a "leader" unit with an Ability along the lines of "All friendly units within X spaces of this unit get an additional Y Action Points." Or it could be something that triggers under certain circumstances, like, for example, "When this unit is reduced to 1 Hit Point, you may destroy it and deal X damage to the unit that last damaged it."
Turn structure is pretty simple. The only thing we're debating is whether each player should be allowed to move all of their units in a turn, or to give them a maximum number of units that they can move in a turn. But it's pretty open. Player picks a unit, and can perform any actions that they can with that unit so long as they still have the Action Points to do it. Moving takes up Action Points, and moving across certain terrains will take up more than normal (think Advance Wars), as well as attacking and pretty much anything else you can do. Once you start moving a unit, you can't move any other units until you're done with the first one. So, for example, you can't take Unit A, move it forward two spaces, move Unit B move forward four spaces, then go back and move Unit A again. In order to move on to Unit B, you need to declare that you're finished with Unit A for the turn.
Last thing is that we're including Scavenge Tokens. They're little chips placed onto the field on places that could be hiding something valuable, such as buildings, abandoned vehicles, dead bodies, etc. If a unit moves onto the space containing the Scavenge Token, they can spend a certain amount of Action Points to search that space. The player rolls some dice and checks a table to see what, if anything, they found. Usually it will be more resource points that they can put towards some reinforcements, but it could also be a power-up for the unit that searched the space. It could also be nothing or maybe even be something negative. No matter what it was, though, the Scavenge Token is removed from the field directly after somebody searches it.
The object is to be last man standing. If at any point, a player has no units on the field and cannot put any more into play, they lose and remove everything that belongs to them from the game field.
Anything that sounds like it's missing?

The terrain. Do you gain something when you control more terrain? Or more terrain features, such as buildings? Do you actually construct buildings? For example, if you find a Forest, you can build a Lumbermill, and gain ressource each turn...

The Scavenge Tokens are cool and simple, I can already see the rule: "Roll 1d6. 1: you step on a mine, the unit loose half its HP. 2-3: you find nothing. 4-5: You find a minor item; 6: you find a major item (armor, gun, ammo, health pack?) However, once everyone has explored the whole terrain and all the Scavenge Tokens, how do you gain items/money/points? In the end, if everyone has spent all its point and lost all its soldiers, the final battle could be done with sticks and stones... But yeah, it's a post-apocalyptic setting...

We weren't planning on having anything like a resource-producing building or anything like that. This kinda goes hand-in-hand with what you said at the end, having a finite number of resources fits well with a post-apocalyptic setting.





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