In...honour? Let's go with honour.
In honour to the soon to be Blood Bowl 2020, we're going to take a look at what (should) go into designing a new addition for a game like Blood Bowl. We'll also definitely touch upon some of my own personal biases later on, but for today we'll talk about design goals.
So. Design Goals
For a game like Blood Bowl we can mostly split design goals into 3 categories. There are design goals that are about how the game feels. There are design goals about what the game is. And, because it's an established property, there are design goals about what it was. That last category is a doozy, too. Any game needs to worry about the first 2, but a new edition needs to balance them against the last. Otherwise you get games like D&D 4E. Whether or not it's a good game, it's different from what came before and after it. Too different! And it tanked the product enough in the eyes of fans to spawn a whole new generation of copycats.
So! Legacy is a constraint that can suck, but it's also important to making sure the Blood Bowl still feels like Blood Bowl. But what do those goals look like for this?
- It must feel like Blood Bowl
- It must maintain the keep doing things until you fail turn model
- It must keep most legacy teams in some form
- They should mostly be good at the same things as they're good at now
So, damage assessment. I don't think the first too points here are debilitating. We want a game that feels like Blood Bowl anyway. And the turnover model is tested enough that we can work within it without too much trouble. The only issue these present is that we need to be a bit careful about very random and very safe mechanics and players.
That last point is a little trickier. We definitely want legacy teams to maintain the continuity of the game, but some legacy teams are problems! Dwarves are boring, Elves are OP and ClawPOMB murders everything that doesn't have it. So we need to take these teams and apply fixes to them without breaking what makes them feel like themselves. Amazons should still all have dodge because that's what Amazons do! Same for Dwarves and Longbeards or Elves and AGI4. We can work around these problems, but it'll take extra attention.
Which brings us nicely to out other goals.
- The game should be fun to play!
- Taking reasonable risks is fun
- Interacting with your opponent is fun
- Scoring is fun
- Teams should feel different from one another
- It should feel like anything could happen
- Randomness should feel risky and not arbitrary
- Rules should be simpler than they are now (they're really complicated!)
- Where rules are complicated, they should be designed to reinforce each other and reduce dissonance
- Keep new mechanics to a minimum
- Nerf dominant strategies
And...that's a good starting set. We can always come back to these later to address problem spots in our design. Lets briefly go over what these goals actually means before we stop because this is getting a bit long!
Most of the feel goals are pretty self explanatory. The game should be fun to play, with some sub points showing the things that we know are fun and, more importantly, that we know can create anti-fun when missing. We know that each team should feel like its own unique thing otherwise what's the point of having it? We know that part of the excitement of Blood Bowl is when unlikely plays happen anyway...but also that it shouldn't feel like it happens too often, or else people will get upset.
The function goals are a little bit more complicated, though hopefully still pretty understandable. Blood Bowl has some needlessly complicated rules and we want to clean those up. Where the rules do need to be complicated, we want them to reinforce one another. There are a number of ways to do this, but skills are an obvious example. Most Agility skills use or effect Agility Rolls. Dissonance occurs when a mechanic works in a way contrary to how the player expects it to work. Therefore, we can reduce it by making sure that groups of mechanics work in the same way as one another.
New mechanics also add complexity to the game, so we want to keep them to a minimum for that reason alone. We shouldn't be afraid of the new...but we should think carefully about whether we really need it before we add it in.
Last of all is simple enough. Let's shake up the meta a bit! There are definitely some strategies that are better or worse in blood bowl and that's actually fine. But maybe we can make One Turning just a little less good? Light touches can go a long way to making an old game feel new and an under-represented strategy a sounder choice.
So now what?
Well pedantically, now the article ends.
More helpfully, next time we'll look at our basic building blocks for the game. Most of them are inherited, but we don't need to use them all exactly in the same way as they have been used in the past.