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Make a Wargame Ep 6 – Design Polish – MM 47

It’s Mini Monday, where we inspire your roleplaying and tabletop gaming with miniature projects. This week we’re looking at some design polish as we finish our game, Dagger Lords. Mini Monday Logo Our game is basically done, but it’s missing all the bells and whistles that’ll make it a complete, marketable game. In case you missed out on what we’ve done so far, you can find the complete episode list here:

Episode 1: Concept and Theme
Episode 2: Initiative and Turns
Episode 3: Movement
Episode 4: Combat
Episode 5: Powers and Playtesting
Episode 6: Polishing the Game

We’re updating the public Dagger Lords game document as we go, so be sure to check in and see what we have so far. Don’t forget to leave a comment too, we love hearing from actual, living breathing humans.

Dagger Lords Minis Game Logo

Handling Scope Creep

Our game is at that critical point where there’s the temptation to add features. Then some more features. Then a few more…

You see where this is going.

Ultimately, we need an idea of what “done” will look like, so we can evaluate the game against that idea.

So what does a complete miniatures skirmish wargame need? Here are some ideas, and it’s probably not a complete list:

  1. Mechanics for activation, movement, combat, and shooting
  2. Rules for terrain
  3. Races/heritages (elves, goblins, dwarves, drow, humans, halflings, orcs, and so on.)
  4. Mechanics for weapons
  5. Equipment list (listing dice, miniatures, tape measures, terrain or maps, and other necessary gaming gear)
  6. Magic system and spells
  7. Powers

There are a bunch of “nice-to-haves” we might consider too:

  1. Solo rules
  2. Campaign rules
  3. Missions
  4. Rules for larger models
  5. Setting lore, to further sell the idea of the campaign world
  6. Hero profiles

Your own game might prioritize some elements over others, and you could certainly argue for moving things between the two lists. The point is that “done” is going to depend on your vision of the game, so a solid vision is important.

Once you have a plan, you’ll need to stick to it too, unless you have a very good reason for adding something. For me, solo gaming is important, it’s even a core part of our business, but we might have to exclude a solo system from Dagger Lords if we just can’t get it to work. Plans have to adapt, but you have to consider those changes carefully and understand their ramifications.

Rules With Flavour

Rules by themselves are pretty boring, so another thing we’ll want to do is add some appealing flavour text to things like spells and powers.

Consider this power:

Dagger Lords Ambush

By itself, not very interesting. Here’s one idea:

Dagger Lords Ambush with flavor text

The words we choose are what’ll sell the concept of the game, so we’re looking for short, evocative sentences for powers. The game can include longer-form fluff too, as you’ve probably seen in some of the games you’ve played.

Reusing Rules

You might have bits you can reuse from other games you’ve worked on. For today’s post I added Breaking Eggs, a solo mission I’d written up for another game. It took a little bit of tweaking, but now it’s in Dagger Lords. Reusing rules is especially great for building out new prototypes.

Where to Next

Game design is iterative, so even though Dagger Lords is complete, it’s not nearly done. In a way, the real work is just beginning. We do, however, have something to playtest, and that’s important.

When it is ready, a game like this would go from final draft to editing, then final manuscript, layout, and then a final proof. These may have different names, but essentially the game’s text is check, re-checked, and then checked again in various forms until you end up with a pretty document, all ready for printing.

Then there’s marketing and all the other business activities that go with selling a game, but that’s for another post.

Ultimately, it takes a lot of work to turn a game into a good one, and even more work to make it great. Dagger Lords, as we’ve got it now, is just the start of things, so I encourage you to take a look and watch how the game is growing.

Start To Be Great
We, we love corny motivationals.

Our Early Access Alpha Playtest on Itch.io

You can grab the latest export of Dagger Lords on Itch.IO and, as always, in our public development document.

Things are getting real when you put work into the cover.

That’s it for the series, so give Dagger Lords a try and let us know if you’ve got any suggestions, in the comments below.