Game Design #6: Shogun Must Die!

I was playtesting a new game tonight and became so frustrated that in the middle of it I asked everyone to stop.

Cold War - Game BoardI did it again; what the hell Billy? I did it again. How many times can a man make the same mistake. Sweet baby Jesus! I just spent hours making a full color board and tiles for new mechanisms that were completely untested.

WTF Billy?

Up until that point the design process was going really well. I’d cobbled together a prototype out of 5 different games and some scrap paper. I’d playtested with 2 different people who both felt it was a really solid design. I was excited, but there were some adjustments that I wanted to make.

I wanted it to be a board game.

As we picked up for the night, my son found one of the cubes we were playing with was marked with an N and he remembered this game…

Shogun Must Die! is the first real board game I designed. I want to design board games. So why does everything I design end up being a card game? I have nothing against card games, but I set out to make a board game and I ended up with another card game.

SMD-GameboardI designed Shogun Must Die! as my first ever entry into a BGG 24 Hour Game Design Contest way back in April of last year. My son had thrown up at school that day which meant he couldn’t go to school the next day. That meant I’d have to stay home too.

I probably spent a total of 16 hours on the game. I made my convalescing son play the game with me a dozen or so times.

It is a hidden movement game where each player has several colored cubes. One player is the Shogun and one player is the Ninja. The Shogun has 12 red cubes, one of which is marked with an S. He places the red cubes in the center of the board on the purple “huts.” He also has several yellow, guard cubes which allow him to hunt the Ninja.

The Ninja has several black cubes and one marked with an N. Players take turns moving their cubes, the ninja may add cubes and take cubes away trying to obfuscate her actual movements. If the Ninja is killed the Shogun wins, if the Shogun is killed the Ninja wins.

The game isn’t great, but I finished it in less than 24 hours. It was my first attempt at hidden movement, and I went about it in a pretty interesting way. If I were to ever attempt a hidden movement game again, I might start by looking back at this.

Something I said in the thread for the April contest really resonates with me right now:

I really had a lot of fun designing this game and it really made me feel good about how far I could take something in such a short period of time (as I have projects that I’ve been working on for months that aren’t this far along). I really feel like it pushed me.

COeCuJUWsAAFOQbThat’s the way I feel with this new game. I Frankenstein’ed a prototype together and worked at it for hours. When I was done I had a really fun game.

Then I proceeded to screw it up.

Adding things doesn’t make a game better for me. It almost always makes it worse. It’s the process of taking away that generally makes my games better. I’m writing this down with the sincere hope that I can get this lesson through my thick skull.

It’s often said that there are two ways to go about game design. One is to start with a slab of stone and chisel away at it until you get the statue you’re looking for. The other is to start with a lump of clay and mold and shape the thing until you get the sculpture you want.

One way isn’t inherently better than the other, but I’d like to be a sculptor.

Shogun Must Die!
Status: Complete


2 thoughts on “Game Design #6: Shogun Must Die!

  1. I hope you will be sharing about that Cold War game? From that board it looks a bit like a Twilight Struggle Light, which could be a worthwhile space to explore.


    1. It is more of a Euro than TS, I think. What isn’t shown are the Terra Mysticaesque player boards. My partner said it really captured the feel of the Cold War. I’m hoping to do so in 90 minutes and with 2-5 players. That’s ambitious for sure, but I think you’re right that the Cold War is rife with opportunity.

      I’ll definitely be speaking more about it when I turn it back into a good game. 🙂


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