Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Red Dust Rebellion - Factions and interactions

Well, here is a little more information about the different factions with Red Dust Revolution, and a bit about how they interact with each other. (Click on images for bigger versions)



Mars Government

Very quickly you may note that the core actions for the MG player do not diverge hugely from a normal COIN game. As i've said before, this game is not a radical departure in terms of mechanics. 

What is a little different is Bombardment. Which is a modified Air Strike. Air Strikes against domes would be considered an atrocity, so, while they remain an option for the MG player, they come at a cost of support back home. 

Another unusual ability if Contract, which trades resources to the CORP to do a combined attack. As the CORP is loathe to do any real fighting without clear profit, it is a way you can force you "ally" to play a team game. 

Eradicate also gives the MG player incentive to hit the wastelands and to try and dig out insurgent bases. 


Earth Corporations. 

The CORP has the same abilities, but Train works a little differently. Unlike many COINs, the local government forces aren't trained by their ally, but there also aren't desertion mechanics. 

The CORP can also train black-ops teams, which are nasty little units that can remain hidden and hit like insurgents using the Raid special ability. 

The CORP controls much of the infrastructure on Mars and, as a result, has Shuttle, which can be used to massively reorganize the board. This is the most efficient way to redeploy and reinforce areas, and can be used for great good, or ill. 

Exploit drives the CORP player, and allows them to pay off any faction, or line their own pockets. As profits are the factions path to victory, they really want to set up shop and combine PR efforts (under train) with exploitation to drive up profits for the win. 


Free Mars

Again, very normal looking actions for Free Mars, and in many ways they play like the Taliban or VC. 

Rally, March, attack and terror are very typical COIN abilities. 

Redistribute allows you to take resources you need to power your factions. 

Defection allows you to take control of units in regions, as their loyalty to mars outweighs their loyalty to a pay cheque. 
And finally, Ambush is as it always has been.

Free Mars is very much a "no surprises" faction for veteran COIN players. Although, because of the nature of the board, and where population centers are, they are heavily focused during games on the major domes. 



The Reclaimer Church

Now this one gets a little more "out of the box". While the abilities are pretty normal (asides from Rally working as well in 0 pop regions as 1 pop), Ransack is something quite different.

Ransack can reduce a domes population by 1 and create a refugee +1 population marker that either the Free Mars or Mars Government player can rehouse. It also generates considerable resources. 

However, if a dust storm occurs (the "break card" of Red Mars revolution, like Monsoon in "Fire on the lake"), those refugees die, and that population is lost, permanently. 

Less population makes it harder for every other faction to win. 

This power is a "nuclear option" that gives the RC incentive to attack domes, and makes sure that all other players treat them with some respect. For while they are mostly content with building their wilderness network, when they mass to attack, it can be devastating. 

Preach also allows the RC player to subtly manipulate the balance of power. (note, reference card says FM insurgent, that should be RC, these are slightly old versions)

Friday, 7 July 2017

Red Dust Rebellion - A Mars COIN game.

Well, I've been busy working on a new project, a Boardgame design. 

What's the game you ask?

Tentatively, it is called "
Red Dust Rebellion", (but that name is not carved in stone,) and it's a Counter Insurgency game based on the COIN engine designed by Volko Ruhnke. This same game engine has been used to create games in insurgencies like Afghanistan (A distant plain), Vietnam (Fire in the Lake) and the US war of independence (Liberty of death)






What sets this game apart from the others is that it is not a historic insurgency, but a Science Fiction one. In a familiar, yet relatively unexplored realm for Board games.

There are many games about colonizing mars, but very few about what happens later. The almost inevitable anti-colonial uprising against a foreign power that would come with the creation of a unique and distinct Martian culture. 


We have seen it in films and fiction, Red Mars, Total Recall, Red Faction, Babylon 5 and numerous other stories have been told about Mars struggling for independence. It has been many Sci-fi writers "go to" setting for stories about the struggle of independence, terrorism, national identity and neo-colonialism. 

In short, it is a very rich setting than has a lot of resonance for people. And a setting where we can tell a modern insurrection story with a twist, while examining some concepts involved in future war.

Also, the unique distances of Mars, the compact population centers and and massive wastes present unique opportunities for game play that a historic scenario does not. 



The factions

Like most COIN games, this conflict revolves around 4 competing factions with their own unique winning condition. Each player has one "friendlier" faction than the others, although the alliances are more out of mutual benefit than any real desire to work together. 

Please note, all art is placeholder art and just what I am using in the prototype. 




Mars Provisional Government

The Mars provisional Government wants to run Mars as a part of Earth and can best be compared to your traditional colonial government put in place by an Imperial power. 

The Government faction wants the population of Mars to support their policy platform of "Mars and Terra, one people, two planets". 

The Government has access to large military and police forces, as well as elite forces sent from Earth Government. 

Their path to victory requires keeping the Earth Government happy so that the Provisional Government can effectively rule without great intervention from Earth. 



The Megacorporations

One constant in nearly all near future science fiction is the presence and power of massive corporations.

From Weyland Yutani in Aliens to Protogen in the Expanse. The Corporations are great bad guys and no story about a Mars Revolution would be complete without them. 


The CORP's want control of area, they don't care if the population is supportive or opposed, as long as there are boots on the ground and the people are working. 

Profits drive this faction. Replacing troops and personnel cost money, so the CORP player is happy to hold the gains made by the Government, but less happy to take charge of offensives. 










Free Mars

Mars is for Martians! Free mars represents the length and breadth of martians who want a Mars ruled by Martians. 

This includes extreme terrorist groups and softer political groups. They also represent the various labor unions and guilds on mars. 

Free Mars wants popular support of the Martian populace and this brings them into headlong conflict with the Provisional Government. 

Corporate PR and spin can also undermine Free Mars and the Corporations want to control the Martian "means of production"

But with the vast trackless wastes of Mars, it is virtually impossible for the corporations and Government to get everyone. 



The Reclaimer Church

The Reclaimers represent a divergent set of beliefs and ideas unique to Mars. 

The Reclaimers want to return Mars to a more natural state, halt terraforming and adapt humanity to mars. 

They represent a combination of "frankenstein" science, dogmatic faith and extreme environmentalism. 

The Reclaimers are the end result of me brainstorming what a really extreme group of terrorists could look like 200 years from now. 

Their path to victory is unique. They only want to build infrastructure out in the wastes, to dig deep into the planet and become unmovable. 

They also have a terrifying and board altering ability that allows them to damage domes and create refugees. 











The Board




Again, this is tentative art. I'm actually using a hand drawn board using markers and A1 paper for playtesting, and this board doesn't have the Phobos, Far side of Mars and Earth locations. 

If you have played COIN games you will immediately notice there are more cities than normal. This is because the vast majority of the Martian population lives in domes, and the gap between "civilized" and "wild" areas on mars is astronomical. 

It also presents a problem to the Counter Insurgency forces as you can't "airstrike" a dome without catastrophic effects to the civilian population. 

The concentration of population forces Red Mars, MPG and CORP players into a fight in the center of the board. But the Reclaimers cannot be ignored as they build up in the wastes. 


Next Steps

Well, that's up to GMT really. This game was one I designed for myself, as an exercise in making a game and doing something fun. If it never sees publication, so be it, but I would love to see it out there sometime in the future.

Does the idea seem good to people out there, anyone think this is a good concept for a game?

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Boardgames are art? What does that mean?


One thing I've been fascinated with lately is the idea of board gaming as an evolving art form. Art forms take time to mature, to develop complex themes and ideas, but I think Board-Gaming is getting there. 

Boardgames are a unique art form, because it is about creating an experience for players, about evoking certain thoughts, emotions and ideas. Whether that's in a purely intellectually sense in an abstract game like Chess or a purely social sense with games like the Resistance.

And i'm not talking about the literal artwork on a game, but the idea of a game as art itself. 

Boardgames can be just a simple toy, but there is more to them than that. Just as Computer games and film explore settings, characters, stories and emotions, so do boardgames. And as an art form, its starting to present mature and interesting themes. 

Boardgames are a lot like music, an art form that can be recreated by others and each time it's interpretation is influenced by its participants. Just as "I will survive" sounds different when played by Gloria Gaynor or Cake. Two different groups of players will have a different experience each time they play a game.




So what do we get from this art form?

Well, a kaleidoscope of experiences depending on what games you play. 

Historic wargaming can be very intellectually stimulating, as the competition and competitive nature of the game tests your reasoning against other people. But its also a medium for traditional arts, such as painting and sculpting. Add to that the interest Wargamers show in researching the periods they play in to ensure historical accuracy, and you can see the impact the art has on them.

Fantasy/Sci Fi Wargaming is the same, asides from instead of researching the history, players tend to immerse themselves in works of fiction. And for a lot of people, army selection is a form of artistic expression. People play Space Wolves, for the most part, because they find space vikings cool. 

Euro style games tend to focus on decision making, maximizing moves, efficiency and reacting to changes in the board state. These games test us in intellectual ways, and the emotions that come about are normally to do with how well we executed our plans. 

Games with heavy social elements, like Spyfall, Battlestar Galactica and Coup test our social skills and expose our social dynamics. It's rare that we tell utter lies to our closest friends, but in these games, that is the norm. We get to experience deception and betrayal, misdirection and obfuscation and enjoy it. I can't think of any other time or place where you can do that with friends. 

And co-operative games explore group social dynamics. How much does one person dominate, do you problem solve as a team, do you defer to others, or do you just "do your thing".

Even solo games provide an interesting experience in introspection that's quite unique. 


Still counts for solo play

These are broad strokes, and your millage may vary. But if you have played a boardgame, and have at least one story about "the time that....", then the games have impacted you as an experiential art form. 


Every gamer has had a moment a bit like this. 

Does it matter?

I don't really know. Like a lot of art forms, you don't have to delve too deep to enjoy them. You can enjoy music without knowing what counterpoint is or what Phrygian mode sounds like. You can enjoy a movie without a degree in film studies (some might argue its easier to enjoy film then). And you can look at a painting and appreciate it without being able to hold a brush. 

But for me, I think i'm more interested in looking at what a game delivers, what experience its going for, and how that impacts on a social group than I ever have been before. 

And as a result, i've been looking at games with different themes, different ideas and different experiences a lot more than before. But more about that later. 


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