Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Part3: Warriors & Traders vs. Exodus: Proxima Centauri

This is the third (Part 1, Part 2) and final part of my comparison between Warriors & Traders and Exodus: Proxima Centauri. I left the most difficult and interesting parts for the end.

As most of you know already, Warriors & Traders is placed in the Dark Ages in Europe, while Exodus  takes place in a post apocalyptic world, when humans left Earth and found a new universe to settle in and explore. What might be less transparent is the restrictions that each theme bring to the design space, so I will take them one by one.

Western Europe map in Warriors & Traders
Placing a game in a known world, in my case medieval Europe, comes with a series of constraints which determine to some extent the design of the game. Making the map for Warriors & Traders was one of the biggest challenges. With European countries fighting on a yearly basis and borders changing dramatically from decade to decade, I had to adapt the asymmetric reality to the symmetrical rules of the game and the other way around. I wanted to give every country at the same time something specific and the same chance to win the game. The rules are the same for all the players, no matter if the start in a small or big country, so the balancing was done through the Unification event and through the way the countries are divided into provinces and the connections between them. An additional layer of difficulty was added by the lack of luck, making Warriors & Traders nearly impossible to balance. 

Being my first game, little did I know of how much effort it would take to make Warriors & Traders a balanced game set in medieval Europe, making as few compromises as possible. Establishing the theme before making the game and choosing a well-known theme pose some challenges that I would now think twice before undertaking again.

Exodus universe - five players setup
Exodus: Proxima Centauri is placed in a sci-fi universe. This makes the design space almost unlimited. Also, working at the same time on the game and the theme allowed me to adapt one of them to fit the other. I have to admit that even though Exodus is a more complex game, it took me less time to balance than Warriors & Traders. But not to worry, I am compensating by making Exodus: Proxima Centauri the first of a trilogy.

The liberty I had with Exodus allowed me to bring a lot of flavor into the game. This is visible to some extent in the prototype, the rules already incorporate the story of the human exodus from Earth, but the final game will have flavor everywhere, thus making the game more interesting. The flavor in Proxima Centauri will also introduce the second part of the trilogy, by bringing a new light on the events that led the humanity to the Centauri system.

Due to the immense work to balance it and my limited experience as a board game designer, Warriors & Traders is not a game with intense flavor. The graphic design and the technologies are bringing the players to the Middle Ages, but I did not introduce any extra elements just to emphasize the historical theme.

To draw a conclusion, Warriors & Traders is a historical game with a clear theme but it is not a thematic game. Even though the historical reality influenced the design, the focus remains on the game play. Exodus: Proxima Centauri is a thematic strategy game and the player have a choice, they can focus on the strategic part, they can enjoy the theme and try look behind the curtain and to discover the untold and or they can do a little bit of both.

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