Tag: mancala

Bug Council of Backyardia Designer Diary – Part Two: A L-ant-ister Always Pays Their Debts

Bug Council of Backyardia Designer Diary – Part Two: A L-ant-ister Always Pays Their Debts

(Previously on the Bug Council of Backyardia Designer Diary:

Part One: https://boarandarrow.home.blog/2021/08/02/bug-council-of-backyardia-designer-diary-part-one-wherein-i-compare-myself-to-keith-richards/)

As I finished up the rules overview to send to Pat, the last thing I had to do was figure out what the theme and name was going to be. The concepts of shifting power structures and secret allegiances brought to mind a world of political machinations and hushed deals in council chambers. This, of course, evoked a Game of Thrones style world to me. As a huge Game of Thrones fan (well, before those last two seasons at least), I was instantly enamored with crafting my own George R. R. Martin style world of bitter House rivalries and Machiavellian backstabbing. I immediately began to write down some ideas for various medieval Houses/families, trying to come up with things like their names, sigils and brief biographies.

But you know that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine starts hanging out with a Bizarro version of the group? And then George makes a last-minute plea to join the Bizarro gang as Elaine chooses them over the real characters? Elaine’s response is “We already have a George.” That’s how I felt about this theme. We already have a George and we already have a Game of Thrones. Why bother trying to out George R. R. Martin the author himself when I could just try something different and perhaps something more unique?

The obvious next step in this theme’s evolution? Bugs. Yes, bugs. Why did I choose bugs? Great question! I have no clue. My brain suddenly spat out this idea of anthropomorphic bugs in a Game of Thrones style world and I was instantly smitten. I began to draft the rules in a way that supported this new theme, replacing all references to various Houses with bug types. The bugs I chose – ants, flies, cockroaches, bees, and mosquitos – were mostly placeholders and the ones I came up with off the top of my head, but they just kind of stuck throughout the entire process. So, they’re still here, as the official suits in the game! Congrats to all the bugs who made it this far! Except for the mosquitos, I will never congratulate a mosquito on anything.

Next came the game title. When going with the more typical Game of Thrones theme, I was thinking of calling the game something like ‘Houses of <whatever name I came up with for the fictional game world>’. Now that the idea of medieval Houses was gone, replaced with bug species I was referring to as ‘Factions’ within the rule book, it obviously didn’t fit right. So, I went to the next idea, which was to draw off the fact that I had named the mancala area the ‘Council’ and tried playing around with the title of ‘Council of <whatever name I came up with for the fictional game world>’. But this felt too generic and didn’t quite capture the all-important fact that this is a game where bugs are the stars.

So, how did I subtly hint that this game is about bugs?? By adding the word ‘Bug’ in front of ‘Council.’ Hey, I never claimed to be clever or smart.

So, there we had it: Bug Council. I almost left it there as the title but, again, it didn’t have the panache that I wanted. I went back to the idea of ‘Bug Council of <whatever name I came up with for the fictional game world>’ but that required having a name for the fictional realm these bugs would inhabit.  I pondered for a bit…Bugtopia? Nah, felt like that’s been used before. Bugopolis? Ehh, still didn’t feel creative enough. Then I began thinking about how bugs are found in a backyard and before I knew it my fingers typed out the name ‘Backyardia’.

And so it was born: Bug Council of Backyardia.

That’ll conclude Part Two! In Part Three, I’ll go into how we managed to playtest the game and how that first iteration felt. See you then!

Bug Council of Backyardia Designer Diary – Part One: Wherein I Compare Myself to Keith Richards

Bug Council of Backyardia Designer Diary – Part One: Wherein I Compare Myself to Keith Richards

Hello! Welcome to my Designer Diary series for Bug Council of Backyardia! Bug Council of Backyardia (which will henceforth be called BCoB, to preserve my typing fingers) is a game I codesigned and it’s going to be launching on Kickstarter on August 3rd. If at the time of reading this it’s live, check it out here!: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/engrogames/bug-council-of-backyardia

I figured it might be fun to peel back the curtain a bit and recount the history of the game. I couldn’t find a film crew in time to make a feature length documentary, so I figured I’d write some designer diaries. Oh well, maybe next Kickstarter.

In this first post, I’ll be going over the genesis of the game’s initial ideas and the various inspirations I drew from to create the game’s foundation. Grab your picnic blanket and citronella candles and let’s dive in!

The idea to BCoB came to me while I was doing what I love most: sleeping. I was awoken by my girlfriend early one morning as she was leaving for work and as I drifted back into my slumber, I saw it through the groggy haze: a trick taking game with a mancala mechanism. I envisioned tiles with cubes, representing how strong the suits were and the mancala would dynamically shift those cubes and suit strengths around. A voice in my head screamed at me to not forget this idea and I pinned it to the back of my brain as I fell back asleep for good.

(Fun fact: Keith Richards came up with the riff to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction in his sleep. He immediately picked up a guitar and recorded it so he wouldn’t forget before promptly falling back sleep. So, I guess my point is the next time you have a choice between waking up and sleeping in, always sleep in. You never know what you’ll come up with.)

When I awoke, I thankfully had the idea still implanted in my mind. I immediately started to draft up a Word document with the basic ideas that I half dreamt as well as new ones I was creating to supplement those. As I wrote the document, I began to see various inspirations bubbling to the top: the ever changing suit hierarchy reminded me of Maskmen, one of my favorite Oink games; a mechanism in which you gained points for a card you kept at the end of the round brought to mind Startups, (another Oink game) and Nokosu Dice, two games in which unplayed cards/dice provide bonuses; being able to activate the mancala by playing the lowest on suit card had shades of Tricky Tides, a unique trick taking and pick up deliver game in which playing the lowest on suit card allows you to control a sea monster.

Whether these inspirations were purposeful or had come to me on a subconcious level, I wasn’t quite sure. But what I did know was that they were creating a Frankenstein monster of mechanisms in a way that got me more excited for this prospective design than I had ever been for one of my own game ideas. I knew I just had to send this idea to my buddy Patrick Engro, one of my best friends who had been my main board gaming partner before he moved from the States to Japan.

Little did I know the journey this would begin.

That’ll do it for Part One of this Designer Diary! In Part Two, I’ll answer the burning question on everybody’s mind: why the hell did I choose bugs??