A Designer’s Gotta Design…

As we roll into 2016, my DCC RPG 3PP projects are a hairsbreadth away from being11x17 shirt v3- trans done and the development team and I are focusing our attention back on the publication of our version of Owen Cooper’s beer-and-pretzels, post-apocalyptic car combat game, which we’ve entitled AUTO-DESTRUCT-O-RAMA!

When I originally decided to publish AUTO-DESTRUCT-O-RAMA! I thought “What’s something I’ve played a lot of, that’s almost good-to-go that I could knock up and publish fast?” That was 18+ months ago. We wrote and tinkered and revised and tinkered and when our dev team was unable to overcome personal challenges to meet out May 2015 target publication date, it – fortunately or unfortunately – opened the door to more tinkering.

I can honestly say that we’re ready to stick a fork in the rules revisions and get the graphic designers on our team to finish their work so we can publish.Taking what I thought was a “simple” game that just needed a few tweaks and few formal write-ups to be publishing-ready and actually bringing it to market has been a fantastic learning experience in my evolution as a game designer. It has taught me that what looks simple from a casual perspective is anything but when you’re taking a homebrewed set of rules and turning them into a formal game release.

But all this tinkering also reminded me why I chose ADoR for publication in the first place: this game is a BLAST to play, one I have NEVER gotten tired of playing or teaching. So here are some photos from three recent playtests:

IMG_0836This is the end of Game 1 that George and I played on Dec 6. It’s pretty typical for an ADoR game: 2 out of 4 cars are destroyed. This was a Race Stage (“stage” is the ADoR term for “scenario”) – the one stage out of the six that we really have never played.

If you look at the bottom center you’ll see my van, “Avenger.” I tried to jump Avenger through the gap between the nuclear reactor terrain and the craggy mesa above it in the photo. My fast, light car, “Green Ghost” was coming from the bottom left corner of the photo to try to cross the finish line just out of frame at top center. My idea was to get my heavy van over there ASAP to prevent George from intercepting Green Ghost. I failed, twice to get through the narrow gap, each time my Loss of Control randomly sent me back the way I came. Bouncing off the terrain pretty much ended Avenger.

IMG_0835But hey, I won anyway. Here’s Green Ghost crossing the finish line, despite George’s attempts to slow me down with his Engine Stall Induction Strips (we used Oil Slick templates as proxies.)

Below is Game 2 on the same day. We swapped out cars and changed starting positions and ends of the table. In the Race Stage, teams of two cars start at opposite points on the oval and head in opposite directions around the track, ensuring that they’ll meet somewhere in the first 1/3 of the one-lap race. I did mention this is a car combat game, yeah?

This time, George made good use of the ramps we’d placed to sIMG_0844hortcut the course. You can see in this picture that George’s van has already made the jump across the center terrain and laid down a vicious line of mines on his route. What you can’t see is that George’s other car has already made this jump, essentially cutting the distance he needs to cover to cross the finish line by at least a third.

IMG_0848So my only hope is to follow suit. I line up my run and pray to doG that my Light Weight Class vehicle doesn’t set off any mines…

IMG_0854It doesn’t! I make the jump! But George has the edge on me in a big way. I need a miracle…

IMG_0852Which I get!!! Sort of. George’s lead car misjudges a turn and Collides with some terrain. But the damage isn’t enough to take him out and the scatter roll for the vehicle’s final facing…

IMG_0853Positions him to crawl across the finish line in the following turn! He even manages to survive having to cross his own minefield. Good show George! Classic ADoR win!!!

Game 3 took place on December 12 at the Digital NEST, the drop-in technology education studio where I work. Me and two student leaders host a monthly Game Night. That night I had two players, a great pair of high school MTG players named Elliot and Talu. We played two games, the second one being an Escort Stage that involved BOTH the Super-Heavy vehicle Madd Mack AND a trio of Ultra-Light motorcycles.

IMG_0865This shot was taken towards the end of the game. I was running Madd Mack along with the Light dune buggy-esque Force Recon. I’d managed to run over one motorcycle with Madd Mack. I’d also done a number on Avenger (which you can just make out at the top right in the photo, on the other side of Madd Mack) which Talu was running as his second vehicle. But Madd Mack was in bad shape. A series of unfortunate Systems Failure Check rolls had left the vehicle with no ranged weapons and limited maneuverability.

IMG_0866A couple of game turns after this, both Madd Mack and Force Recon would misjudge turns and have nasty collisions with walls, leaving them spun-out sitting ducks. A couple of shotgun blasts from passing motorcycles and a ram from Avenger put Madd Mack out of its misery and Talu went home the victor!

And he was eagerly clutching a set of beta rules I’d printed up for him. Nothing warms the cockles of a game designer’s heart like the gleam in a fan’s eye – except maybe for the heat of a burning wreck, that is!