Design Diary #2: Basic Game Flow

Note: As with most of these intro posts, the ideas presented are still very much fluid and may change drastically as development progresses. Any and all feedback is welcome and appreciated. Thanks for reading.

Overview

First, let’s reiterate the scope of the game: Untitled Kaiju Game is a 1-4 player asymmetric cooperative game where players control different branches of a nation’s response to stop an unknown invading creature.

The game ends when the players either defeat the kaiju with a successful “Final Gambit” or fail enough on smaller objectives to lose the trust of the global council, forcing the council to use the nuclear option, destroying the creature along with the city and people you’re trying to protect.

Here’s what I have in mind for the general flow of the game

The game is split into 3 phases: Discovery, Damage Control, and the Final Gambit.

Discovery

This is the opening Kaiju appearance. Starting conditions are outlined in this phase and players are given some time to prep their opening moves. The length and actions you can take here are mostly dependent on which Kaiju you’re facing. Each one will have different range of starting options and styles. One type may appear suddenly, landing in the middle of a heavy populated area and causing immediate pandemonium. Another may slink in slowly from the sea, giving you some brief time to prepare your response. Either way the length of this phase will be enemy dependent and a bit unpredictable. Will you take your time to study and observe this new threat? Or start up the war machine to attempt destroy it as quickly as possible with limited information?

Summary: Kaiju appears and sets the stage for the game.

Feelings to evoke: Looming danger, a bit of panic but also a sense of awe.

Damage Control

After the brief Discovery phase, Damage Control will make up the meat of the game. This is you and your team’s head-to-head fight with the Kaiju, racing to figure out how to defeat it before your city is in ruin.

The Kaiju will advance through the city on its turns, causing damage and chaos in its wake. A few types of things you’ll be managing on the board depending on the kaiju: protecting special sites (government, science, cultural), evacuating heavy population centers before the Kaiju reaches them, and mitigating environmental fallout. Failures in these areas will increase panic, making governing and evacuating the people more difficult. As these failures stack up and the Kaiju proves its terror you’ll lose favor with the global council who will inch closer to taking matters into their own hands. Fear and destruction are essentially the two things that will feed into this degradation of trust, while protecting key areas and making progress against the Kaiju will hold things at bay.

The flow of this phase is pretty simple, each player takes their turn in order based on role. Current working order is: Government – Scientists – Military – Main Characters. Kaiju turn takes place after all players have locked in their actions. I use the phrase “locked in” because I’m currently mulling over the idea of having different actions take different amounts of in game time. Another co-op game that uses a similar mechanic, Spirit Island, where you play elemental spirits protecting their island and inhabitants from an imperialist invader, allows players to play either fast or slow actions. Fast actions happen before the enemy turn, resolving immediately after played, but slow actions resolve after the invader has build and attacked regions. This leads to some interesting decisions and strategy I like a lot, and I think using a similar mechanic fits my theme really well. We’ll see…

As far as specific player roles, here’s a brief overview of the types of actions each player will take:

Government – Organize and Lead. This player is focused on the big picture, each turn they’ll assign resources/funds to players, make laws/give orders, try to appease the global council and manage evacuation orders and citizen panic.

Scientists – Discover and Adapt. This player works on upgrades and advancements for the other players and to discover weaknesses and patterns of the kaiju aggressor. Their ultimate goal is to build the way for the Final Gambit.

Military – Fight and Protect. This player will handle the boots on the ground. Moving and building units on the board, they will fight the Kaiju directly, trying to protect the city and people.

Main Characters – Struggle and Overcome. This one is weird, and easily still the most nebulous of the four. Essentially this player is the ace in the hole, uncovering the Kaiju’s secrets and acting to save the game in key moments but also might kind of work as the storyteller of the game? Who knows what will happen to this role, but I have some ideas.

Summary: Players fight to slow the Kaiju and mitigate damages

Feelings to evoke: Highly involved sense of teamwork where each player feels they are contributing but also hold heavy responsibilities the other players need and are watching very closely.

The Final Gambit

All your actions in the Damage Control phase will be working towards this moment. Everything has been to buy time to prepare your counterstrategy. While the shift from Discovery to Damage Control is decided by the Kaiju’s actions, the players will decide when to enter the Final Gambit phase. At some point in the previous phase, the scientist player will unlock a specific end game plan that involves a varying amount of resources/board conditions and knowledge about the Kaiju to enact. Here’s some of my ideas so far:

Varying types of superweapons
Black Hole/Dimensional Rift
Erase from Time
Devolve
Mind Control
Giant Robot Fight
Disease
Pacify
Super Soldiers
Cellular Disintegration

I don’t want this to be a cut and dry – fulfill X conditions so now you activate the plan and succeed -, but rather live on a sliding scale. Essentially the more you prepare the better chance you have of your plan succeeding but the closer you skirt to losing the game completely for waiting too long. Either way once you’re set up and ready, you basically press go and get to watch with bated breath as everything unfolds. If the plan succeeds the players are victorious. If it fails, the game ends in failure.

Summary: The climax of the game, the final plan unfolds.

Feelings to evoke: Basically that action movie or NASA call room scene where everyone is silent and then they cheer and then montage of the resolution plays out.

Conclusion

OK. I think that sums it up for this post. The hard part about unfolding the game flow in this post is trying to still stay pretty high level and devote future posts to delving into the specific mechanics of each. Also A LOT of this stuff is deep in the idea phase and I am only working out the details as I am writing them. But hey that’s what this exercise is for. Thank you to those along for the ride.

3 thoughts on “Design Diary #2: Basic Game Flow

  1. Christian

    I was initially worried the 3 phrases would be equal length but im glad the bulk of the game play is in the second phase.
    I also love the concept of “fast moves” and “slow moves”. The fast moves have short term and more immediate impact. While the slow moves happen after the Kaiju acts. They both are risky in their own unique way.
    Just an idea as well but you could make the hero/main characters more of an independent role because that’s kind of how they are in the movies.
    Like they know what’s going on with the other 3 roles but they usually are independent and go and do some key action that ends up being really risky but saves the day. I hope that makes sense.

    Like

  2. It’s great that narrative is integral to and informing of the mechanics you’re choosing—definitely not abated on theme. “Feelings to evoke” is one of my sections throughout this post. Look forward to the next one.

    Like

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