Nuclear Bomb

Image result for kim jong unThere’s an ethos in game design: you have to be prepared to kill your darlings; take a grenade to your rules, and let the real game – free of unnecessary additions – be reborn.  Well, we’ve just stepped that up and taken a thermonuclear H-bomb to FUSION.  We’ve North Koreaed its arse.

More than a year ago, when I’d just trimmed some extraneous item or other from my bloated beast, my colleague and brother-in-arms (and actual brother to boot), Andrew, said “Maybe instead of trimming bits and pieces, we should take it right back, then choose to add things IN that are needed.”  This was of course nonsense – everything that remained in the game at that point was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.  What was left were all cogs in my machine, intricately intertwined with each other to create gaming perfection.

It was just a small matter of balancing things and voila – Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 would no longer have the top spot on BoardGameGeek.BGGRank

Except of course what Andrew said was all true – all of it.  The game was still taking too long.  Even Andrew and I would forget game phases or adding bonuses etc, because there were too many exceptions and extra things that would come into play.  So over lunch at the Bistro in the Bankstown Sports Club, where we were attending LFG Australia, we discussed what the game needed to have, and ONLY what it should have:

  • The CORE mechanic – playing command cards and countering your opponent’s cards.
  • Keep anything that emphasises this mechanic, for example the TRANSMIT VIRUS command and ANTIVIRUS counter command.
  • ALL extra things such as Pilots and Upgrades become command cards, following the same mechanics as existing commands.
  • Keep anything that enhances the replayability, and broadens the strategy.
  • Remove the brain-burning aspects.  Probably the biggest contributor to the longer time was analysis paralysis as players decided on courses of action.

That last change was key: we needed to remove some of the open information.  Up until this point, we’d had the “Network” – 4 face-up Tactics cards that players could purchase from.  You always knew every card your opponent had.  This led to agonising decisions – “I could play this, but he has that card.  Hmm would he play it then, or might he do something else.  Ah if I do this other thing instead, oh but he also has that other card.”

Now all the Tactics cards are face-down, and players choose from 2 or 3 of them, without their opponent knowing what they are.  Less information leads to faster decision-making, because there’s less to consider.

We’ve gone through the Tactics cards, and increased the number that respond to an opponent’s play.  It can lead to some groan-inducing moments, as you realise your careful plans are about to be scuppered, but it’s okay, because you know you’ll  scupper their plans too…

ProtoAfter several play-tests between Andrew and myself, we’re ready to unleash it back on our ever-forgiving primary play-testers, Dean and Chris.  Then back to the blind play-testing that brought this to light, discussion on BGG, rules rewrite, graphic design, artwork, kickstarter campaign planning,…

I suspect Pandemic’s spot might be safe for a while yet.

6 thoughts on “Nuclear Bomb”

  1. I had to do this with Kaiju. It wasn’t like a facelift. It was like open heart surgery where I took the heart of the game and put it into a donor body. I felt it needed that much change to become the game it needs to be. I think it still needs some refinement yet, but I can’t think of another deck builder out there that does what it does.

    I wish you guys nothing but good fortune with your reboot.

    You mention removing some of the open information. Is the opponents hand still open info? I’m kind of confused about the 3 upside down for offer. Usually those are open info, but if their not open info to start with then they become open info then they were just as good as open info to start with. I’m probably missing some key bit of information here.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ‘choose from 3’ is that when you choose to get one of those cards, you draw 3, discard 2 and keep 1. The 1 you keep stays hidden from your opponent. Its quite a nice bit of decision-making, because most often 2 out of the 3 would be really useful cards to get, depending on the situation. When there was choice of 4 face-up cards, often you felt the need to choose a particular card just to stop your opponent getting it, even though it might not be that useful to you. Not a very enjoyable decision.

      The opponent’s hand consists of their starting Command cards (which are the same between the players, so technically open), and added Tactics cards and Enhanced Command cards, which are kept hidden until played.

      This game is NOT a DeckBuilder. We’ll be doing a WIP on BoardGameGeek for it shortly, so hopefully enlighten you some more then.


  2. That answers my questions. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that Fusion was a deckbuilder, I was just paralleling our experiences.

    After playing it many times, I still feel like I’ve gone 1 bomb too far with Kaiju. It’s great, it’s innovative, but I think I know what I did wrong, and I’m pretty sure I know how to fix it.


  3. Hey Michael, I probably should have asked first. But I hope you’re cool with being on my front page. I’ve got a link to this article. If its a problem just lemme know and I can fix it.


    1. You mean do I mind if you spread the word about our web site and say nice things about us? Well.. its a bit of an imposition, to be honest, but I suppose we’ll let it fly. OMG of course I don’t mind!! That was totally awesome!

      Liked by 1 person

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