Progress with “GameHacker” – 02, Adding Graphics to the board pieces/squares.

Okay, so to the graphic guides for those pieces that denote a mechanic is to be settled on by the players…

When I first doodled out some of these way back in March I stil wasn’t sure what the final graphics might look like, I’d begun the process by making a list (outlined in red below) of all the key mechanics that move gameplay along in other board games and starting to assign basic symbols and signs for these actions… my intention to leave some level of ambiguity in there so that players could interpret the symbols after their own thinking or preference as well as the loose conventions I’d started with…

Following the basic symbols I began to think about unusual mechanics that might work in other games, digital and physical, for example the moving of/or taking control of another players avatar/player-marker (symbolised below in green by the Alien Abduction graphic), these symbols and graphics held an even greater ambiguity or scope for interpretation; with these, I thought, the players should be able to overlay a number of scenarios for mechanics based on similar designs…

Sketches and Initial Ideas

In addition to these I had begun to think about the tools I would need to build in to the existing “standard game” that would allow the “hacking” in of other games or entertainment items should the possibility of licensed “expansion packs” be an option. Above you can see the lego puzzle pieces (above marked in pink) I’d considered briefly that might allow a player to build a lego avatar as they moved around the board (this idea could be extended to include board pieces that allowed players to pick up a designated or dice roll-controlled number of legos that would allow players to build ever more elaborate constructions as they moved around the board engaging a number of cognitive processes beyond simple play or competition).

This of course was only one licensed expansion pack that I’d considered, several others present themselves when one thinks of the possibilities of movie/game tie-ins (Harry Potter, LOTR , Skyrim etc.) or official boardgame tie-ins (Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit etc).

Graphics for Gamehacker2 - Process 001

All that aside, for a working prototype I would need some finished graphics that denoted some of the ideas I’d settled upon.

Above you can see my simple process for that, rough thumbnails in pencil and pen, through to final idea, then scanned into PhotoShop and coloured digitally.

Finally tested out on a digital mock-up of the board pieces.

I have up to now 36 suggested mechanics/opportunities in finished form, some of these are paired (Portal In/Portal Out for example) and others would be repeated (the Hangman graphic and the “Cheeses”).

Graphics for GameHacker for blog

Other more complex mechanics will be added to, and developed in combination with using the “Chance” cards (see sketches below), it was a matter of playing through ideas on paper to see which ideas would work better as a chance card (which can be held onto, traded or lost) and those which should be denoted or fixed in location on the board itself.

Further development of these considerations will need to be made during further user testing phases.

Graphics for GameHacker 002 Sketch

Next, taking the graphics from digital into the physical.

Manufactured board pieces would be printed directly on to a given substrate (more often than not 2mm laminated cardboard – prone to “lifting” at the corners), without that option at this stage, I opted (after consultation with workshop technicians) for a somewhat more robust test material, 3mm MDF and 3mm clear Acrylic (see previous post).

Graphics Dims 001

These I marked out in pencil just to check against my digital measurements (below)…

0 Jigsaw Extendable Game - Final Dims

I used a layout based on a standard A4 sticky label template and printed the graphics from PhotoShop and cut them out by hand, then adhered them to the Jigsaw-piece surfaces.

Placing The Stickers On

…and there you have it.

A set of test board pieces, and we are ready to test play the game.

Clearly this would be better tested at a larger scale (number, not size of pieces), but with the right mechanics chosen you could take a pocket full of these and develop some simple “casual” games.

And as stated previously, the board with just two material colours could lend itself to a chessboard arrangement.

Early Game Layouts 001

But with just 18 board pieces and a mixture of conventional mechanics and some new ones, what could I interpret/infer from a given board or set of graphics?

Well first I rearranged the board, giving myself a more traditional shaped environment (see below), albeit with two additional edge pieces. The process of laying out the board would no doubt be the first element for the players to decide upon.

Would they opt to:

  • Draw a number of pieces from a bag – like drawing tiles in Scrabble – and lay them out in one sitting each player taking a turn.
  • Each player to be dealt a full hand of board pieces that would be laid down much as cards are in snap, or dominoes.
  • Each player holding a number of board pieces back, ready to lay them out in times of trouble or in a later phase of the gameplay.
  • Have a number of board pieces be “kept back” into a community pile to be drawn from by players later in the game upon a given mechanic.

This phase of the game could involve the deliberate placing of pieces that might foreshadow strategies and agendas of the players.

Regardless, a board would be eventually laid out, no two boards need be the same, it would dependant only on the size of the playing surface, as with a number of expansion packs the game continues to expand after the fashion of a model railway. Areas of the board could be dense like a chessboard, while on the same larger board circuits and even islands could be developed and re-annexed during gameplay.

Moving onto the gameplay itself, we can take a look at three of the graphics that relate to causal, conventional and game altering mechanics.

First three mechanicsFirst up is the HANGMAN graphic (above and below delineated in red).

This was a relatively late addition to the stable of ideas I’m using in this test phase. A straightforward “hack” of another game into/onto this boardgame, the mechanic could be interpreted as simply causal or with additional rules attached, much more complex:

For example:

  • Simple – If you land on one of (there would be multiples of this graphic) these squares, you would take a piece of paper and draw the first line of your “gallows”, and so on until your player is removed from the game upon being finally Hanged.
  • Medium Complex –  With more than one avatar (denoting a number of lives) moving around the board per player, the “hanging” might only remove one life from the player.
  • Medium Complex – Coins or other “stock” or “tradable” items could be swapped out for revoked chances against the Hangman.
  • Complex – In a game with players using multiple avatars, a player might have to roll the same number of dice as his avatars on the board each time they land on this square, and decide how to use the resulting number of strikes for the Hangman across the lives and gallows being drawn at that time sacrificing or evenly spreading damage as their strategy dictates.

New Board Test Config

The MOVE or PICK UP BOARD PIECE (above delineated in blue/green) mechanic suggests or hopefully suggests a mechanic that involves physically moving a square upon the board, carrying it with you until you wish to set it down.

Again the rules by which this mechanic operates can be a simple or as complex as you would like. In this instance I have modified chess pieces (inspired by the “mouth” shaped cut-often seen in the mitre of the Bishop pieces) to be able to hold the board-pieces and “carry” them around the board.

These pieces and so this mechanic could be brought into play by any number of rulings.

  • The bishop, castle and knight “carrier pieces” may be acquired pieces, acquired through the accumulation of lives, coins, “cheeses” etc.
  • The “carrier pieces” may be acquired through a chance card.
  • The “carrier pieces” may be acquired through a yet undesignated board-piece graphic.
  • The “carrier pieces” may be acquired through the roll of a “six” or similar when landing on the “MOVE” or “PICK UP…” square.

Likewise, a number of options are open to the players designating rules and mechanics associated with the SWORD & DICE/ROLLED ATTACK graphic (above and below, delineated in yellow).

In the instance below I’ve employed (“hacked”) the markers as found in Risk, giving each player a multiple piece avatar with three lives. Here you can see the attack and defence mechanism used in many roll-playing games (board and paper based) in which a higher roll of a dic would lead to a win, lose or draw situation, here the challenger loses his attack and so loses a life.

Complexity could be added by allowing experience points in several categories to increase and decrease personal avatar stats, against which rolls could be multiplied to make rolled attacked and defences less left only to the whim and chance of the dice roll.

The graphic itself could suggest a number of mechanics beyond the one discussed above, for example:

  • A list could be written up of 6 types of combat/ordeal which could be physical – arm wrestle, thumb-wrestle, press -ups, forfeit, staring contest, balancing on one foot – cerebral – questions from a trivia game, memory feat, etc. or chance – the draw of higher or lower cards, short vs. long straws, dice rolls, top-trumps cards, coin/heads or tails etc… The roll of a regular six sided die choses the challange. the winner keeps his lives – or takes the losers life for themselves.

Implementing Mechanics based on the Graphics

Other mechanics might deal with conventions of movement within a board or other type of game. Below you can see the PORTAL mechanic, used in games like Snakes and Ladders as almost the only mechanic of any import. In a thematic physical environment like a haunted house, this might be a secret passage, in a SF based game, a worm-hole, etc.

In games where gameboard [land]masses get separated by the removal/or movement of the interlocking squares, these portal pieces allow transit between said islands.

It may also allow players to attack one another as in Chess by moving onto their square without pieces even being in the line of sight and move onto an enemy’s square.

Portal Mechanics 01

A similar (though with its own unique properties) graphic is the SAIL AROUND graphic.

This square can be used to allow a portal device to shift location. Landing on the square could allow players to move, not just their avatar/marker, but the device that allows that move to happen. Thus bringing it into play or removing it from opponents immediate access.

Ship and Harbour

Also in this set of tests, is a mechanic that neither relies on skill or chance. But on technology, in particular mobile technology. The QR code is pre-set with a URL or some other property (its okay, it will work from the screen, go on,… try it!) that gives the player who can access it an advantage of some kind.

In the case below, the player is redirected to a webpage/webimage that gives them a set of bonus, advanced power based turns.


Below, the page as found at

QR Square Result

Of course the page could be set to cycle through a number of possible mechanics, or advantages, giving the square a range of flexibility that wouldn’t allow familiarity with the game through repeated play to overcome player enjoyment.

Finally, three of my favourites.

Tentacles and Tea

The two at either end seem allow “Cthulhu-esque havoc to be wrought upon the board”, one, in the control of man (yellow), the other a “shifting of the poles in the game”, the three die graphics suggesting the number of moved board pieces to be much larger – a possibly (depending on how the players interpret it) cataclysmic game-changing event (red).

And there in the middle (blue/green) possibly the most loved AND reviled role now woven into the fabric of the game itself, unavoidable… – and ultimately, the question we all want to know the answer to…

Who’s making the drinks?

Next up: the Good Luck and Bad Luck Cards that impose additional mechanics…

~ by hesir on July 11, 2013.

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