What began as an exceptionally ambitious attempt to create a warfare simulating board/card game hybrid, with grand world building and a plethora of mechanics, has finally been thwarted by post pitch scrutiny. As much as it pains me I have learned that in order to make a successful, approachable, pick-up and play game, some mechanics simply needed to be simplified or culled altogether.
Despite that potentially bleak first paragraph I am still incredibly excited about this project. Perhaps more so now that some of the flaws have been identified and changes can be made to significantly improve the chances of Besieged being a successful game.
Due to the grandiosity of the project, physical play testing was difficult to execute. But I found that explaining the games mechanics, parts, and rules to a group of friends who all enjoy tabletop games was very useful. Approaching Besieged with outsider perspectives raised many questions I hadn’t thought of myself.
The first red flag was pointed out to me when I explained the impossibility of creating a prototype (even a shoddy one). The extensively high quantity of cards (8 decks of 50) and the need for physical representations in the form of figurines to make the board less confusing meant manufacturing costs would be far too big and the gameplay far too complex. A possible solution to this my focus group brainstormed was potentially removing merchants from the game in exchange for a second type of force, and having 5 unique Commander cards which a player can select to lead their army. This idea was inspired by the popularity of ‘Hero’ games like Overwatch and League of Legends.
In terms of how this will impact gameplay, having unique leaders with their own abilities means I can simplify the basic units while maintaining customisation and personal strategy. Each Commander card would have 3 accompanying cards representing their light force, heavy force and siege unit (a total of 5 leaders and 15 units to be manufactured). Players can then mix and match between the Commanders and the unit types to have a 4 card arsenal that suits their play style. For example, one leader (based on Genghis Khan) would have mounted forces with a style focused on mobility. Another (based on Caesar) would have large powerful siege equipment. A personal strategy could involve taking Khan and his force unit but substituting in Caesar’s equipment unit to focus on using fast forces to protect large and slow equipment. Rather than drawing cards at the start of a turn, players would instead be allowed to add 2 new units to the start square on their side of the field.
The other issue I addressed was the aim of the game. Having a simple win condition seemed essential to creating a game that people would enjoy playing. As players can customise their leader and 2 unit types, the board itself doesn’t need to be overly complex. The variety comes from the pieces and how they interact, not the board. As a result, the endgame requirement is a simple one. The aim is simply to successfully break down a square of the opponent’s castle wall and move 3 units through it. Thanks to the grid based movement and equal number of actions to spend per turn, players can decide between opting for slow brute strength to win in one push, quick guerrilla style attacks to occupy the opponent with defence, and so on.
So to put these changes in Layman’s terms, each player picks a Commander, light force, heavy force and equipment card to use during the game. The pieces used to represent these units on the board will be generic, but the abilities and stats they possess will depend on the information on the corresponding card.