Game design underway…

Knights of Justice Map

Over three years ago, inspired by the excellent Ernle Bradford book on the Siege of Malta, I tried to find out on Boardgamegeek if a game existed on the topic. The only one that people could really refer me to was ‘The Knights of Justice’ (1986) a magazine title. Having tracked down a second hand copy, I was instantly turned off by the map and the NATO symbols on the counters. The vibrant clash of colours on the map gave me flashbacks to the sequence in ‘Dumbo’ where he has a nightmare after a trying out alcohol for the first time. The NATO symbols just felt completely wrong. I have to admit that I didn’t even bother to look at the rules.

My quest then changed from finding a decent game on the topic to creating my own. My first attempts were scribbled down in an old spiral bound notebook towards the end of 2012.

Scribbles 1

The principles I laid out here have kept me company throughout the design.

These are that it has to have…

1. Genuinely alternate endings

2. A variety of tactics that work

3. Prioritising of resources

4. Epic nature of the struggle

5. Decisions faced by the players that were faced by the main protagonists at the time

6. Fast paced interaction between the players – very little down time

I hate nothing more than the sensation that I am effectively strapped in for the ride. I have to follow one path to victory and the game is not designed as a game but ┬ámore of a re-enactment, thereby hitting that goal of being a truly historical simulation. However the History matters too – and therein lies my dilemma.

As the link shows, by 2013 I was talking about ‘fiddling with a design’ but as I point out in my post I needed to make it as exciting as the book by Bradford. Now that was a challenge.

‘This Cursed Rock’ – The game that takes you back to an age where a man’s religion was a matter of life and death…

In 1522 Malta was a barren rock with little to recommend it.

As the exiled Knights of St John arrived after having been driven out of Rhodes by Suleiman the Magnificent and his Moslem Army, they must have been dispirited by their new surroundings. Gone was the green island where the delightful nectarine, fig and vine grew. Now the principal crop was cotton, stretching across a landscape of dusty yellow sandstone.

Surprisingly though, the quote ‘This Cursed Rock’ was not taken from one of those devout religious warriors as he first set eyes on Malta. Instead it was taken from an adviser to their deadliest adversary, Suleiman the Magnificent, responding to the acts of piracy by the Knights of St John. This was because, far from settling down to a period of peace and rest, the Order had quickly built up the Island to become a painful thorn in his side with their galleys gliding out of the Grand Harbour to attack his shipping and make hostages of his courtiers.

In 1565 the Sultan’s patience with their depredations on his shipping channels in the Mediterranean finally snapped and he gathered together a formidable army to finally put an end to this nuisance. The siege of Malta – the attack on ‘This Cursed Rock’ had finally begun.

This blog is about game design and how a game develops from an idea into reality (hopefully!). That – for me at least – it is a process that can take years with plenty of stops and starts and wrong turns along the way.