Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Empire Wars Blog

Future Empire Wars Chronicles will be located at www.empirewars.blogspot.com

Empire Wars Chronicles

Since my last post I have been very busy with work, but I have managed to do some work on Empire Wars. First I polished up the tutorial and rules for the revised game, and bundled it in a nice little presentation format, which I'm getting people to read and comment on. Second, the new combat system has led to a prettier version of the Damage Assessment Form which relies on colour-coded customized dice and little coloured wooden block, both of which I have been painting. It's Arts and Crafts! The torture never stops. But now the paint is dry and I'm itching to try them out.

In religious news, I found the Holy Grail in the Kamloops Staples. Yes, purple dry erase pens. The long search is over. As an extra bonus, the packs came with a fetching orange. Bic makes them. No more green vs. a different green!

I just wish I had time to play! I'll be making a point of that soon.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Empire Wars Chronicles

After getting back from Wainwright in late October I got a full time position with the army (in Vancouver, thankfully) and moved into a new place. Work and settling in has kept me pretty busy and unfortunately away from EW.

Anyway, Christmas leave is upon me and today I managed to solve a significant impediment to the success of Empire Wars: I fixed the combat system.

Fixed is actually too strong a word, since there was nothing "broken", per se, about the original system. But it did involve a calculator and grade 11 math. The solution was to go back to an old design concept that I superceded very early in the development of the game. Basically, as a game unit, a large ship (dreadnought, battlecruiser, etc.) is no longer bigger (more "hit points", combat factors, cost, etc.) than a small ship (frigate, destroyer, etc.). In the new system every ship costs 10 resources. In combat there is no damage; a ship is either intact or destroyed. Combat is now based on rolling individual "hit or miss" attacks, and not summing combat factors assigned against an individual ship and rolling a defensive modifier. The "to hit" chart is a direct translation of the original system. Frigates have an advantageous roll (4 or less on a d6) against destroyers. Destroyers don't do so well against heavy cruisers (2 or less on a d6).

One direct effect of the new system is that the "bigger" ships (dreadnoughts, battlecruisers) will see more play because they won't take multiple turns to complete and can get in the game before it is about to end.

The original system isn't going away. Though it is daunting for new players, I think it will appeal to some experienced players (especially with computer play aids like the Empire Assistant). Learning the mechanics with the new basic game will make the transitition to the advanced system easier. I will need to playtest, of course. There is a possibility that this new system is better in all respects (simplicity and strategic depth), in which case the original system will quietly fade away.

It's amazing how inspiration strikes. I wasn't even looking for a solution to this problem. I was a passenger in a car yesterday and towards the end of a long ride it came to me as I daydreamed looking out the window. Since the new system is a simplification the writing of the rules was mostly deleting. I'm pleased that the "detailed turn order" document (the meat of the rules) is down to 7 pages of 12 point New Times Roman (6 pages if I eliminated white space from page breaks), about 2500 words.

So calculators are out and piles of dice are in. I'd like to reiterate that Empire Wars is currently free for testing purposes (materials at cost).

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Empire Wars Chronicles

I came home for 3 weeks and find myself back in Wainwright. It's currently the end of week 2 of 6.

In those 3 weeks I managed to get a game together with Ziggy and new player Kolja. We played half a game and were set to continue it but each time we tried something came up. Anyway, it was enjoyable enough and Ziggy has been talking about getting a game together in my absence.

The game marked the first time I used the Empire Assistant exclusively for my empire management and the system worked out quite well, reducing the administrative burden for me.

I've created a desktop image for my laptop that is essentially an Empire Wars board drawn in Paint. I have slowly been working on a similar image to adorn a custom t-shirt.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Empire Wars Chronicles

I've got just under 4 weeks left in purgatory. While I've interested a few people in the game most seem more interested in the fact that I have created it than in actually playing the game itself. I haven't quite given up on getting a couple games before the end of the summer but it's been a bit disappointing. I never did figure out how to upload to my ISP so that will wait until my return to Vancouver.

Over the last couple of days I have produced a tutorial which will hopefully make the game a lot more approachable. It's illustrated with colour diagrams and photographs. It should be sufficient to introduce people to the game without my direct assistance and shows how to move units around in a way that the detailed turn order document never did.

So what I am looking for is people to take a couple minutes out of their day and try out the tutorial and give me feedback. If you are interested in actually playing, so much the better. What I want to know is if with the materials provided, does the game make sense to you? What, if anything, is unclear?

If you do actually want to play you'll need a whiteboard or a laminated white surface, as well as some dry erase markers and a few other minor items.

Send me a message if you are interested in helping me out and I'll send you the files including the Empire Assistant. All I ask is that you don't forward the files or copies of the material to anyone. If someone is interested, direct them to contact me. If you are in Vancouver we can get in touch and I can set up a game or get you materials (like system reports, etc.). And if you're not from Vancouver I can send stuff to you and can give support online.

For the indefinite time being Empire Wars will be free for testing purposes. If you find you are still playing it months from now we can work something out for payment (very reasonable rates at this early stage of development). Also for the time being the forms and such are at cost. The copy I sold Ziggy was under $40.

The tutorial is in Word format and is best viewed printed in colour. If you don't have a colour printer then I would recommend reading it on your computer. The tutorial can stand alone as an intro but is best as a companion to the other documentation.

Send me a message at gmonforton hotmail.com if interested.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Empire Wars Chronicles

I'm writing this in exile from Wainwright, Alberta, where I'm working for the summer for the army. The pay is good and I've got plenty of time to think and hopefully play EW with other victims.

I finished the navigation assistants I mentioned in the last post, and more importantly, I sold my first copy! Ziggy from Drexoll is the first owner of the rare "1st Edition" Empire Wars. And what a bargain. I sold it to him for the cost of materials plus $1. This came out to $37.50. I'm a long way from profit, but somebody gave me money for something I made with my mind and hands.

I did a substantial cosmetic revision to my Empire Assistant excel program, which I'll post some pics of when I figure out how to upload to my ISP out here. It's much more user-friendly now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Empire Wars Chronicles

It has been 3 weeks since I last played, but I have managed to get a few things done in the meantime.

The last game was at Chris Q's place with Chris D and Richard. We played as 4 empires and by the ladder tournament rules. We only managed a partial game so scores were halved. Here are the very exciting results of the first Empire Wars ladder game:

Chris D: +1
Greg: +1
Richard: +1
Chris Q: 0

Same old reasons for a slow game: new player and lack of electronic support. Still, we had a good time and Richard said he enjoyed it.

Two days later I started a full time contract for work that ends at the end of this month. Working full time in the 8-4 paradigm (or 8am - 10pm like this job occasionally requires) is obviously for losers and is additional incentive to make a go of being a Famous Game Designer. Still, the pay is nice and helps keep the bill collectors away (thankfully my parents are patient bill collectors).

However these 3 weeks have not been completely unproductive. I bought and laminated three new full-sized boards and one small board. And I've designed navigation assistants (electronic versions of the customized rulers which I will print and laminate, no more fighting over the frigate ruler!) and post templates (circle templates for spherical range detection) using Microsoft Paint (there must be a harder way, right?). Today I also wrote the rules for "snapdrive", a kind of artificial wormhole transportation, and technology shipyards (techyards). Both concepts are very sexy, as I'm sure gold-digging women will tell me once I'm stinking rich.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Empire Wars Chronicles

Two days ago I wrote up a short instruction for what will be the 2005 Empire Wars Ladder Tournament, which is a way of keeping score of all "official" games that happen this year. The scoring is a +/- scheme that encourages players even if they can't "win" a particular game... there are degrees of losing. Hopefully this will be a good way to get people interested in the game. I also wrote up an optional rule for a random starting bonus... essentially a racial trait system.

Tonight at Drexoll I played that "other" space empire game, the recently released third edition of Twilight Imperium. Believe it or not, this game takes longer to play than Empire Wars, which is heartening to see. TI gets a mixed review from me, though I'll definitely play it again at least once.