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Old February 17, 2020, 19:26   #1
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LOTR-esque board game?

Hi! I have a friend who can draw like nobody's business and I'm trying to get her interested in doing the art for a board game I'm trying to design, but I need some help from the experienced and smart people of the Angband forums to have a look at what I have put forth below; and point out known pitfalls, known things that work, and any ideas or feedback you might have, conventional or otherwise.

Basically I'm drawing inspiration from games like the computer game Golden Axe 2 and the board game Hero Quest. I'm thinking I'm aiming for a more simple game to appeal to a wider audience, not just experienced RPG buffs. For example, my thought is to be able to pick one of 4 adventurers (a spell master, a ranged combat master, a rogue and a warrior [melee master]) who are working together in a common purpose. I don't want to bother with the complexities of selecting a race, then a class, then starting stat points etc. etc.. I'm aiming for simplicity in how much time it takes to open the game and just start playing: save the complexity for how the game can go each time. I'd like the game to not require a dungeon master, but rather have the the cards and dice basically play such a roll to keep the game interesting and unique each time.

I drew a very rough game-board map just to get the general gist of what type of game I'm thinking of: an adventure game in a LOTResque realm, where the heroes go out into the world and are confronted by all manner of challenges and dangers as well as the occasional treasure to help them in their quest to kill the evil lord in his dark tower. The map is overly crude and simplified. The paths will have standard boardgame squares (not drawn here). I'm thinking each region will have a deck of cards similar to how Monopoly has a chance and community chest cards that sort of determine the sort of challenges the players have to confront (such as being ambushed by a troll, for instance).

So when you are passing through the mountain region a card might read "you are ambushed by a Yeti (a class 2 enemy)". Then you'd roll the dice for a class 2 enemy (so more damage dice than a class 1 enemy) or something... If you are in the forest maybe you draw a card "you hear a whispering coming from the trees, coaxing you away from the path, promising treasure nearby. Follow the voice of the trees? or stay on the path?" If you choose follow the voice then maybe you'd draw a card that rewards you with treasure, or maybe one that reveals a trap and you lose a turn because you get trapped by the roots of a tree or whatever. If you reach the gnome village it's a safe place to rest and to restock supplies/hitpoints (and mana points for the wizard). Actually, the gnomish village should really be a camp like in golden axe 2, not a village.

Another trap that could befall the player from following the voices of the trees is that you find yourself become lost in the forest and wind up at the edge of the inland sea. Now you have the option to try to cross the sea (pretty much a bad idea) in a boat tethered to the shore or try to find your way back to the path (probably lose a turn or two trying).

I'm still brainstorming how I want the particulars of the game. On the one hand I was thinking maybe I should try to do an actual LOTR game where the object is for Frodo the carry the ring to Mt. Doom and the other characters/players to help him on this quest. Not sure how to simulate corruption in a board game, though, but I was thinking the player carrying the ring would have to somehow roll dice that would increase the chance of nazgul attacking him to simulate the ring attracting them. Or.. if you want an easy escape from a dangerous situation you can put on the ring and disappear but if nazgul are near you their chance of finding you and attacking would go up, otherwise your invisibility would buy you some time to escape the troll or whatever. Not sure how to make all this gameplaywise so the game isn't too slow/tedious/cumbersome; but instead could actually be fun.

Alternatively could keep things simpler and just keep it a generic adventure game set in a fantasy world. Here is the crude map I drew. I'll hopefully have a better map soon.

The drawing is very crude but basically in the top right corner you have a village where the game starts. The map should probably have some rivers going through it, one of which would be difficult to cross. Each player picks the character they want to play:

1. a wizard who is poor at melee, has very good 'saving throw', excellent at spells such as the fireball spell or protection spell, (to borrow from Stranger Things Season 1, episode 1),

2. an elven archer who has excellent ranged combat, good at dodging ranged attacks that are non-magical. Very bad at melee. Little/no armor. Poor defense of melee attacks.

3. a rogueish hobbit who is good at thieving, and is stealthy, has a good saving throw, good at dodging ranged and melee attacks, good at picking locks, good at avoiding/seeing traps; has very low hitpoints, is terrible at melee, but is good at firing a sling shot (sling has less range than an elven's bow); as an aside: maybe if the company finds mithril armor its description will say it only fits someone small (and only the hobbit can wear it); likewise if the hobbit opens a chest and inside is big heavy armor, he'll have to give it to the warrior since he will be too small and weak to wear it.

4. Warrior who is excellent at melee and has lots of armor and hitpoints, but has very poor saving throw, bad stealth, bad at picking locks, and very bad at avoiding/seeing traps.

The parallel lines going through regions in the map and connecting them are meant to be paths/roads that the players travel on and will have standard game-board squares on them to move on. In the center is a large inland sea. On the left side of the map is where the dark lord's tower is and where you are trying to get to kill the dark lord. It may not be the best strategy to bee-line to the tower as you probably want to try to become more powerful before fighting him (thus seek out villages and gain experience from fighting monsters).

I'd like HP and EXP/leveling up to not require a lot of arithmetic which slows the game down. I suppose simple might be best: you dodged/defended the blow; you did not and suffered a bad injury and you did not and you died. Or maybe hobbits would have 3 hitpoints, elves and wizards 4 and the warrior 5, that way it's pretty easy to keep track of how much damage you can sustain before you're dead. Maybe after killing a monster you gain 4 EXP points (4 EXP points = gain one character level). Picking a lock would net you 1 EXP, as would sneaking passed a monster. Avoiding a trap might net you 2. Each time you level up you can assign a stat point to one of your stats: attack, defense, saving throw, pick lock, avoid trap, stealth, hitpoint. (Attack, defense and hitpoint might require 2 points to increase the stat/dice thrown, whereas the other stats require 1 point). In other words, you'll have to level up twice in order to increase your hitpoints (or your attack dice or your defense dice).

My current thought is to have 4 sets of different dice in the game, each one handling one of the 4 main things that can happen on a turn:

1. movement dice: the higher the roll, the quicker you get through a region which would mean the less chance you encounter something nasty in that region. For now I think everyone has two regular dice for this action.

2. Attack dice, roll these to see how much damage you do to the troll or ogre or what have you. Number of dice you roll depends on which character you are playing. A mage would get 3 attack spell dice but only 1 melee attack die; a hobbit would only get 1 melee attack dice. Not sure if other characters would be able to develop the ability to cast spells or not (I'm thinking probably not).

3. Defense dice (two types, one to roll against attack and one type to dodge attack completely) to see how you defend the ogre or troll's attack. Again, the warrior is going to roll 3 defense, but the wizard only 1, but the hobbit will get a dodge die to roll as well.

4. Skill dice used for when a hero is rolling for saving throw, or to pick a lock, or to see if he wakes up a nearby monster etc.

So the hobbit would get extra dodging dice when rolling his defense, so would the ranger, but only when dodging a ranged attack (such as orcs firing arrows); and the hobbit and wizard would both get extra saving throw dice to roll when trying to avoid a nasty spell cast upon them. The hobbit would also get extra dice for picking locks, sneaking passed sleeping dragons and avoiding traps. The elf and wizard probably should also get extra dice for trap detection and stealth.

So my big questions are: how do you design a board game to have each game be unique enough to keep people replaying it often? Angband of course does this exceedingly well; not sure how to accomplish it with a board game, though. I suppose having a lot of "chance" and "community chest" cards is one way with lots of creative/unique things happening on them. I was thinking of trying to make the treasure system complex the way it is in Angband. Maybe you find a magical vest of armor, but then you have to roll dice to determine how much bonus AC it has (if any). Maybe you find gloves of slaying (+2) which means whenever you roll attack dice you add +2 to each die. For game balance perhaps monsters later in the game would also get bonuses to their attacks.

Anyway, any ideas anyone has to help with the logistics of gameplay, specifically combat and handling of fortunes/events (I'm not sure of chance/community chest type cards is the best way, or if there might be a better way). One thing I'd like to distinguish between is magical attacks vs. ranged attacks; how will they differ? In Warcraft II attacks had two values, general damage and piercing damage:

1. general damage gets absorbed by armor and any remaining attack does damage. ie. attack has to be greater than armor to do any damage.
2. piercing damage bypasses armor completely.

This was a good system because it allowed the game to differentiate between magic attacks and attacks from a ballista (or trebuchet). The Ballista had 80 damage, but if the target has 25 armor then the ballista would only do 55 damage. Whereas a mage's fireball might have 70 damage, but all that damage would be of the piercing variety so armor would not reduce it at all. But I'm afraid introducing two damage types in a game where it would have to calculated manually each time might alienate most players (including myself haha).

Anyway, any ideas/criticisms suggestions are greatly appreciated!
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Old February 18, 2020, 09:26   #2
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you should check out the cartographer's guild if you're into fantasy mapping
avatar by chuckdrawsthings. thanks chuck!

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Old February 18, 2020, 10:18   #3
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Take a look at the classics: Talisman and Runebound. Both have nicely illustrated boards, both use cards for variety and replayability.
Talisman with its very easy mechanics still manages to offer a worthwhile gameplay with hundreds of encounter cards and equipment cards.
Runebound is way more sophisticated. It also comes with lots of cards for encounters and equipment and additional adventure cards and uniqe travel and conbat mechanisms.
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Old February 18, 2020, 13:54   #4
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The map is a bit odd, with so many radial roads that don't seem to go anywhere. No ports (or bays/rivermouths for the ports to be on.) No crossroads towns. No mining towns or mountain passes. The map looks a lot like the Black Sea. Why not use that as a jumping off point, and change it to fit your game? Crimea would make a great location for the Tower of the Evil Lord...
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