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January 2018

Towers of the twin warlocks

A 2-person board game made during a 24 hour game jam hosted by Forsbergs Skola.

The game pitches two players against each other to build rooms and use spells to construct the best tower, determining who’s the most powerful warlock of the lands.

The game revolves around the players trying to build a tall tower as quickly as possible but at the same time filling the tower with valuable rooms. Once one tower is tall enough the game ends end the score is calculated.

This game was designed and prototyped with Niklas Wistedt (Instagram) who also did all the amazing art.

Idea

The idea that started the concept development came out of some quick back and forth discussions about how a game about building towers that would fall over would work. We started putting down bits and pieces of how a system would work. Using a whiteboard, that we placed on a table, we quickly outlined a basic setup and sketched out the steps of a turn and a round.

The economics and resources of the game grew out of us talking ourselves through a game in our heads. Imagining the turns and steps and what we would need.

Mechanics

From the outset we had agreed that we wanted to make a game that gave you a lot of options and you had to choose one, not being allowed to do more. We wanted the choice to be hard but not so hard that it felt like you would lose the whole game if you made one wrong decision.

The turn looks like this:
  1. Collect or Buy.
  2. Build a room. (optional)
  3. Play or Draw an action card. (optional)

We ended up with a turn sequence that had you choose either to collect gold (the currency) or buy tiles (the stuff that could earn you points). Essentially making you plan several steps ahead.

The second phase of the turn was build. Each turn you can build one room on a floor that has enough space for that room. There was no cap on how many tiles (that make out the rooms) that could be bought, but you could only build one room. That forced the player to, in a way, show their hand to the other player as the purchase gave the opponent an idea of what you where planing.

The third step was to optionally play an action card. The action card either effected a tower or the whole board. Setting the action card phase last presented the player with an additional element of having to plan ahead, as some of the actions that where positive for the whole board benefited the opponent first. All in all it made for an interesting turn that is pretty quick to play through but gives the player enough options to strategies and plan ahead.

One more interesting rule we implemented was

Iterations

During the first iterations we had made all the room tiles that could fit on 2 or 3 A4 papers and just played with them all. After three or four games we narrowed down the number of cards and removed some of the larger room tiles. This made the game faster and more balanced.

During the first day of play testing we experimented with a dice roll to see if the game ends after certain criteria was met. We always felt that it took more from the experience than in gave us. During the second day we incorporated a fixed end-of-game state. Once enough floors had been placed on the board the game ends automatically. This gave the player one more value to game against. During some parts of the game the player will want to speed up the progression and at some parts of the game they will want to slow down. Both players will of course not always share the same idea which will lead to interesting tactics and manoeuvres.

The economy was linear in the beginning. Each time you collected gold you where given one gold, we always wanted to economy to be small and give the players the feeling that they had to invest wisely. But the linear model was very harsh. At first we added action cards that gave the player gold. That worked fine, but it was not enough and still relying a lot on chance. After a lot of play testing we settled on an solution that gave the player more gold as the progress bar advanced. In short making gold more available in the late game. This gave the game a good balance and gave an added benefit of changing the perceived value of some of the action cards during one game. As an example, the action card that gave you one gold would double your income during the first turn but only add 25% during one of the last turns or looking at it the other way, removing all of the gold in a players chest could hurt a lot in the beginning but that lose could be made up with just one turn in the late game. All in all it added both a sense of speed and made the different stages of the game play slightly different.

Prototype

We went through one whiteboard/sketch and two sets of physical prototypes during the weekend. The first paper version was made entirely out of paper, once we felt that the system worked we upgraded the tiles to cardboard and printed the action cards in a printer, that allowed us to write the rules for the cards on them and allowed us to have an easier time introducing the game to innocent outsiders.

Future

We have played something like 15 games with the “final” prototype with 8 people and it feels like the core mechanics work.

We will now do some more play testing, go over the artwork and tweak some of the minor mechanics and cards. Then we will decide on the next steps. I will also aim at uploading a let's play type of video as soon as I can.

If you want to test the game, reach out to me on twitter

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