Adam Carlson Josh Carlson
Whew! Where to begin...Maybe the best place is to describe a few of the mechanics that intrigued us throughout the years.
1) Both Adam and I have grown up loving games where you were asked to "assemble a team". Many call this deck building and its mostly associated with CCGs and the like. In our younger years it was of course Pokemon or YuGiOh but the fact that these games took SO much money to stay competitive became a turn off. The punch out Pirate ship cards also held our interest for awhile due to the point cap on number of ships. The list goes on and on. ****What we took from this was the desire to eliminate the CCG component while keeping the ability to customize a person's team when they go to battle. While the original version of Hoplo is somewhat set as a basic game, the few expansions we roll out will allow for these types of customizations to happen in a very interesting way. However, even within the original game, the way gameplay is set up, you still have these same options to "build your first, second, third waves of gladiator groups the way you want" in how you bring them out into the arena.
2) Another dynamic we have come to love, was something I'm sure the BG community has a name for but I don't know what to call it so I'll describe it. We loved games where your main objective was clear - in the open - almost taunting you, seemingly only 3 moves away from victory. Yet without a plan of attack, quick reactions to enemy movement, and some patience, you would never see success. This type of game play was often found with taking out enemy castles or objectives that were fixed in position. They still contained incredible depth and progression stages and you were never wondering...hmm so what do i do now - more of the same I guess. ***This is how came to develop our champion piece, always in the open and immediately vulnerable due to it starting inactive. However, it remains a piece that if played fearlessly (much like playing an aggressive queen in chess), can be a powerful attacker able to overwhelm many enemy gladiators. This also makes each person's main target mobile rather than fixed. Champions are only activated when the crowd is behind them, so each player has a secondary objective that is integral to completing the first. PLEASE THE CROWD!!
3) A third aspect we have enjoyed in many games are the skill trees, and unit differentiations (roles), as well as instant effects (event or spell cards). In and of themselves, they have the ability to create mini risk/reward decisions potentially every turn! They create an opportunity for the unexpected to take place. However, when playing Warhammer and similar large scale wargames (and talking with bystanders), we noticed that there were many who were overwhelmed by the crazy amount of skills and tactics out there and constantly referring to a book was cumbersome at times. We also found that for some, it was a turn off because there were very few people who could keep track of EVERY ability that could come into play and so strategy became much more reactionary instead of planned. We want to balance the two. ***What we took from this was: We created alternate attacks, abilities, and even auras for many of our gladiators giving each unit an incredible amount of choices during their move/attack phases. This allows for players to plan surprise attacks to overwhelm enemies or gain positional advantage on the board. These abilities also allow us to cater to many different people's play styles. Someone who loves chess-like strategy and hates the fact that with an unlucky roll, his beautiful plan could fall apart - may focus on doing damage with defenders and tactitions who's strikes almost always ring true. Others may prefer to play a very "safe" game and could choose to set up a line of defenders/archers and take long shots at those who get too close - even though odds of a hit are much lower.
We also created "tactics" and a "tactical range" for each unit that allow gladiators to execute certain disabling effects or grant beneficial effects provided they are within "tactical range" to the affected unit. Tactitions excel at this very thing and must be protected at all costs for this very reason. This type of surprise element brings a spice to Hoplomachus and is what keeps people on their toes. It test's people's ability to react and modify their assault or defensive strategy.
Our challenge was to keep all of these things and yet eliminate the constant need for manual reference. We have done just that. By creating a base set of units that are common to all our cities, we have cut down the ability and attack skill learning curve from 4 to 1. "But then where is the differentiation?" you ask...oh its there. Each city contains specific gladiators with a few skills unknown to the other cities. Using these skills in tandem with the base unit skills creates whole new combinations for each city. Therefore, a defenders "intercept blow" ability, while common to all cities, will be used much differently for the city of Machu-Pichu than for Xanadu - due to the city specific abilities.
Other significant aspects and influences:
4) Game modes and replayablity - We found a severe LACK of 4-player games that stood up well in 1v1 mode. Likewise, co-op play seemed to be an afterthought tacked on to the box as a "It could be done!" value add. We are looking closely at this and are still fine tuning our Co-op play and 1-player options against the beasts, but both are very much a part of our game.
5) Game board/piece dimension and asthetics - ties back to our firm belief in game creation as an art - all aspects contribute to the final result. An amazing game concept needs to be executed amazingly as well. Settlers of Catan with paper hexes and marbles for settlements ...still a good game?...mmm not so much.
There are others but for now I will hold off. I'm not sure if anyone will even get to the bottom of this long-winded explaination but maybe it will strike a chord with a few. If nothing else, it serves as a good reminder to us here at CTG, why we are so passionate about our flagship game: Hoplomachus: The Lost Cities.