Our original aim for Hoplo was a gladiator game based strictly on “skill”. But very quickly in our first stages of playtesting, we found that the lack of all chance seemed to leave a big hole in our game! Not only was there nothing to cheer about on a “good roll”, but there was no opportunity for the “unthinkable” to happen and, in turn, the need for reaction and adaptation. Those first few games of Hoplo once we added dice, solidified something in me that I now hold to quite strongly. “Skill” must always be defined within the confines of the game you are playing. To play a “skillful” game of Risk doesn’t mean there is any less strategy than a game without dice, it just means you must account for a certain amount of chance when executing your moves. I know this realization is probably Chapter 1 in the “Gaming for Dummies” handbook, but it was important for my development as a gamer and game designer.
After the success of Hoplomachus, Adam and I have strongly desired to push the boundaries of dice-use in a way that is unique, visual, and yes, “skillful”. Most games that use dice, usually have only 1 or 2 dice mechanics at work. This is wise and recommended when the basis of the game involves more than just dice. But dice-only games need more. While I could talk till I’m blue in the face about the advantages or challenges of Dice Pool over Fixed-Die or Step-Die implementations, it all comes down to what you want to do with dice. Are you trying to resolve a situation? Perform a skill check? Do battle? Make a decision? The problem is, beyond rolling and determining success/degree of success, dice are not typically seen as the “strategic” component of a game. Therein lies our challenge - to break the confines current dice games put people in and foster a new breed of "strategic dice rolling gamers", starting with a game that can support such a title. :)
Our newest game, slotted to KickStart in the first quarter of 2015, is a dice-building RPG that is...very ambitious but also quite stunning on multiple levels. We are introducing new race of fantasy creatures with traits and features drawn from both elves and goblins. An interesting and conflicted mix, we know! Yet it has produced a beautiful blend of mis-fit adventurers who are exceptionally agile and have an innate aptitude for technology. This is a dice adventure being played out by 1-4 of these adventures. They are setting out on a time-sensitive and dangerous journey to the north - a place few other races have been able to travel in thousands of years. Each day holds a new encounter that will require skillful selection and use of 16 unique dice and up to 6 base dice...for every character! Each party member has a basic function/aptitude that relates to the group, but can violate that role and build out their character very differently depending on the dynamics of the party or if they are going it alone.
To make a dice game this dynamic it requires multiple layers to each character’s dice management (called “Professions”). These Professions each contain their own mini-dice-mechanics from simple press-your-luck, roll-and-lock, or combination rolling, to more complex choices including dice-as-a-resource, dice quantity vs die improvement, and dice-use-timing (immediate vs reactive and accumulation bonus vs expenditure). This may seem like a LOT to initially grasp but because each person can opt to play a single character and because characters build on themselves, it’s VERY easy to understand the base dice/skills available and then learn and discover the possibilities along the way.
The fun and essence of this game will be its co-op (or solo) play game modes as your party battles further and further north. Group decisions will be plentiful and will first hinge on party encounter decisions and how you choose to navigate them. These are simple choices that, well, aren't so simple. They add an additional randomness to every battle that cannot be predicted but CAN be navigated or even mitigated based on your choices.
In the below encounter examples you can see choices ranging from simple a risk/reward choice to a decision of delaying a greater disaster or taking on a smaller but immediate threat.
Each battle requires dice-use adaptation based on these cards (drawn before the battle), and on the types of enemies you end up facing. The classes your team chooses to play will turn the game in new directions as each particular character reacts to their surroundings differently. Every new profession you unlock can alter map direction, your environment, and battle engagements.
This time around, we are investing heavily in a talented artist to capture the exact feel we want for this rag-tag band of highly technical creatures. We want a comical side to each, without losing believability. It’s a fine but fun line to be toying with.
So yeah, that’s about it for what has been/will be consuming our present creative time. Adam and I are extremely excited for whats coming for Chip Theory Games in 2015! Both with Hoplo and also with our new games! We welcome your questions and feedback! Feel free to post them here on our blog and if you haven't already, please sign up for our monthly newsletter for updates as well!