I wanted to share my design work for my current board game project, Townies.
In Townies, players take the role of two mostly average people in fifties America trying to manage their everyday lives while working to unravel the larger mystery of the town they live in. Mechanically, Townies is a euro style, story rich, legacy-lite board game for 1-2 players with a Twin Peaks/Stranger Things vibe.
What do I mean by all that?
Story-Driven: The point of Townies is to immerse players in narrative. Consequently, there will be no winning or losing…per se. However, depending on the choices players make, they may turn their town a miserable place to live, lose out exciting relationships, and/or obtain one of many sub-optimal endings. In games, I find that being stuck with the mess I made is a lot worse than being clear it all away! The narrative will be told on event cards and a paragraph-based storybook integrated with gameplay.
Max Two Player: First, I love two player games. Even when I go to game night I tend to sequester myself with a friend and a two player game. Second, I really dislike when two player games make each player use multiple characters (I sort of let this slide for the Arkham Horror Card Game solo experience). By giving each player a single character, I should be able to create intertwining story arcs for each character.
Euro Mechanisms: Right now, the gameplay is 100% dice-less, and I hope to keep it that way. Game play mechanisms include: deck building (over the course of several games), various types of set collection, worker placement (with worker movement ala Clank!) , and paragraph-based storytelling (think Above and Below). As players rush around using cards to move their meeples, they’ll gather resources and prepare themselves for larger story events, but I also want them to still worry about things like who’s going water the plants at their apartment.
Legacy-lite: Right now, Townies will be a somewhat replayable legacy game (I know, I know, this is an oxymoron). The first playthrough will take nine game sessions. In the first playthrough, players will be permanently building the town by adhering stickers on the board, but other than that, most of the character decisions and character modification can be altered in subsequent playthroughs. I also think it would be fascinating to have mechanisms that remember and react to the decisions made in playthroughs before it (I have some ideas for this already).
Wonky Humor: Let’s get weird! I want to give Townies an emotional core, but one that isn’t afraid of being interesting. Two of my big inspirations for the characters and world building have been the games Planescape Torment and the Fallout series. I love how both games aren’t afraid to entice me into a sidequest looking at mutant trees, without compromising the overarching narrative.
Are You Crazy?
Yes, probably. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. Not only is there a great deal of gameplay to be smoothed out, but I have a novella worth of material left to write. I’m almost certainly way over my head making my first “serious design” a legacy game, because it is essentially designing nine games at once, but some of the things I have in store for players seem so cool that I can’t resist!
As for playtesting, I’ve already iterated through several versions and I have played through a few games with friends. As for my prototype, nearly all the cards and the boards have been roughed up in Canva or Publisher.
In about a month of hard work, I should be able to start showing it to strangers at my game night at the Dice Dojo, and I’ve also reached out to some designers in Chicago to start working together.
I’m happy to say that Townies is starting to be playable.
The only hard and fast deadline I have is Protospiel Chicago on September 9th and the Stonemaier Design Day September 24th. My goal is to have a relatively polished prototype for both events so I can soak up feedback from other designers.
What do you think so far? Is there anything you’d like to hear more about? I’ll make an effort to provide regular updates of the design and playtest process, but happy to answer any questions in the meantime.