Platoon Command - Design Diary

Wargaming 101 for Designers and Enthusiasts

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Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby djackthompson » Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:18 pm

Part 6 – From Design to Development

By late 2014, I had completed the initial design for Platoon Command and had prepared a sell sheet in preparation for pitching the game to potential publishers. I posted the sell sheet on Board Game Geek and asked for feedback. Brant Guillory ("Bayonetbrant") noticed the sell sheet and posted it in the "Intel Dump" thread on Grogheads (as a matter of fact, it was the first ever post in the Intel Dump thread). Thanks to Brant's post, David Heath at Lock N Load noticed the sell sheet and reached out to me. By December 2014, the contract for Platoon Command was set, the initial design work was complete, but there was a ton more work to do.

I had already conceived the campaign arc for the game (the 30th ID's actions in France following D-Day). I had also sketched out some ideas for the first few scenarios. But to properly develop the scenarios and ensure the game was solid, I needed two things: a dedicated blind playtest community and a developer.

The blind playtest community emerged primarily from two places: Board Game Geek (where I continue to post about the initial design of the game) and on a dedicated playtest page that I created on my website. Blind playtest reports began pouring in. Although some contained feedback on the core of the game, most of the reports provided invaluable insight about the scenarios that were being developed.

At the same time I reached out to Trevor Benjamin (the designer of Dice Heist). He and I had collaborated on other projects and developed a great relationship. It also helped that we were both part of a game designer and playtest meetup in Cambridge. While I thought the majority of our effort would be solely dedicated to scenario development, Trevor brought with him a fresh perspective and fantastic ideas for improvements to the core of the game. So it's perhaps best if he picks up the story here...

Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:25 am

Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby djackthompson » Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:19 pm

(From Trevor Benjamin, co-designer/developer)

Part 7 - Development

David was kind enough to credit me as a co-designer, but the bulk of my work on Platoon Command was developing and testing scenarios. That being said, in the course of that process, we uncovered a few problems in the core of the game that needed addressing. Here are some examples.

Fog of War: When you scout a new area on the map, you must add a Fog of War card to your deck. This gunks up your deck, making it less efficient. In the original system, the core actions in the game offered no way of removing Fog of War cards from your deck. There was a special Command Card (the Guide I believe) who could do it, but you first had to recruit him into your deck, assuming he was even available in the scenario you were playing. What this meant was that players' decks got unwieldy as the game progressed, slowing things down considerably. Our solution was to give the Scout a core action (Recon) which removed Fog of War. Not only did this fix the problem, it made sense thematically and it set up a nice tension between advancing your scouts and using them to thin out your deck.

Control Objective:
When a Rifleman controls an objective, the card used to perform this action is removed from your deck. This simulates the resources the unit spends solidifying and defending the new location. In the final version of the game, the lost card is placed back into the supply. In the original system, it was removed from the game instead. This caused problems in the end game. As tiles were controlled, lost and recontrolled, players were burning through their supply of Riflemen cards, and so unable to secure enough control points to win. Far more often than we liked, games were were ending in attrition Shifting the destination of the lost card (from out of game to the supply) addressed this nicely.

Snipers and Mortars: There are no differential card costs in Platoon Command. The Bolster Force action can be used to add any Combat Card to your deck. This is an extremely lean and intuitive system, but it comes at a cost. If the cards aren't extremely balanced, those which are overpowered become instant buys. We struggled with this at various points in the game's development, but probably no more than with the Sniper and the Mortar. Originally, these units were much more powerful than they are now. The Sniper had an even stronger attack and the Mortar did not need to "target" a space before attacking. To compensate for this, the Sniper and Mortar had only one card each. So they appeared infrequently, but were extremely potent when they did. The problem, though, is that they were (pretty much) instant buys. Players would grab these cards at the first opportunity, leading to rote openings ("I'll use my Platoon Sergeant to grab the Mortar and the Sniper"...). The solution was to nerf their power but increase the number of cards available for each. In other words, to bring them more in line with the other units in the game.

I am extremely happy that David gave me the opportunity to get involved in Platoon Command. A few years ago, I played around with a deck building war game myself. The game failed, but I knew there was something there. Deckbuilding, I felt, provided an elegant mechanic for both controlling units and for allowing players to customise their army in game. I believe the system David has created in Platoon Command delivers on this promise. And I hope you think so too!

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