Hack Space – Board Game Design (Final)

I have finished bug fixing for the digital prototype. I’ve been using Unity for developing the prototype and one thing I was disappointed by was the lack of touch for web. Touch works for UI elements, but because I was working with speed I used a different method. Mouse clicks for example on android are translated to touches. This means I really only have to do input stuff once. Unfortunately this does not work for the WebGL that this time. Would have been useful for hiding cards from other players on one’s mobile device.

I’ve hosted the web version and the downloadable Windows version on https://itch.io as a board game prototype.

The game page can be found here: https://immersivegamer.itch.io/hack-space

One the page the web version is embed so it will auto-load. Also on the page is the download for a zip for the windows version and a download for the current rules as a PDF. Leave comments or suggestions on the game’s page.

I probably won’t make any more updates to the game right now. I am happy with strategy and core mechanics. I am also happy with the visual style. While not perfect I think I have reached the ascetic I was looking for. A high level strategy game about computers attacking each other. Also the replay ability is another goal reached. I think I have at least a kernel of fun in the game. Perhaps not fully there yet but something I can expand on.


Hack Space – Board Game Design (4)

I’ve decided to wrap the prototype up with the cards and just separate them with a start screen. You may have noticed I have a wood texture background. I like to keep it grounded to seem like board game being played on a table (trying to make a board game and not a video game). To play with power-up cards you would just launch the game a second time and go to the cards section. Since this will be on web, this could be on a laptop or different tabs to hide hands from opponents. Or you could play open handed.

As I continue to play I enjoy the strategy of the units and how they augment themselves. I haven’t fully grasped the effects and how a player might build different strategies around them. So far I don’t have any changes. The power-up cards are still the weaker point. I’ve decided that when the cards run out players may not reshuffle the cards and keep drawing. this makes resources scarce for larger games and the end game, forcing players to consider when to play a card and when to save it. The digital prototype doesn’t quite reflect this since the deck is halved making it more even (e.g. an aggressive card player may play more cards than a player waiting to use a certain card, since the deck is halved each player gets the chance to play all of their card with out them being used up by the opponent). Still they are a bit off and so I am making them an optional play item. Players can play a pure strategical game without power-up cards.

I am happy with my progress so far with the game.

Hack Space – Board Game Design (3)

Again I’ve continued to develop the digital prototype. It will be available to use on the web or download and use on Windows. This time I have focused on the cards and their art. Wasn’t too inspired on the direction for the art. Ended up with darker colors with gradients. Seems I’ve made more spell craft then cyber but they aren’t too bad. Since the prototype is limited in some ways and I don’t want to put too much effort into making a hosted environment I’ve simply split the deck in half and each player can use the cards separately (i.e. run the cards program multiple times, probably as a separate application from the board).

The cards I’ve so far come up with are:

Fire Wall – flip 3 tiles over on the board to block access.
Network Access – you guessed it, flip up to 3 tiles to gain access.
Corruption Virus – (-1) defence for bot you are attacking
Encryption Augment – (+1) defence for defending bot (play any time)
Resource Cache – draw two cards
Replication – add another bot of the same type next to one of your bots in play (virus and encyrptor only) (chains w/ resource cache)
New Build – add virus or encyrptor next to controller. (chains w/ replication)

I think these basic cards are a good start. I might make a chain between fire wall  and network access for a one way wall.


Hack Space – Board Game Design (2)

I’ve worked more on the prototype and done some more play testing with it. I am enjoying the way the game allows the changing of the board to get interesting game play. This is similar in how the other games I wrote about have differences each time. It is similar to Settlers as a player can create a board. It can be different or it can be the same to keep engagement or gain mastery before moving on.

Showing Board Editor with click and drag for editing. Tiles for access are now a solid color and lighter for better contrast.

Board editor, changed tiles to give more contrast.


In addition to more work on the digital prototype I have done art work for the tokens. I’ve decided to have a simple guide on the tokens to help remember what stats they have and what they augment. This is really more important for the Augmentor bot as it can do one of two augment boosts, flipping the token around would help keep track of which one was chosen. The simple guide also gives direction for the bots. If kept the same direction they would help distinguish which army they are on. This current is the biggest problem for the game. I want the game playable by 2 – 6 people. Color coding the units would be nice but that means more pieces that would need to be printed, making the game more expensive. Perhaps for the non augment pieces each side is a different faction. Then there would be a max army size despite board size. Expansions could help fill in this role of adding more players and expanding army and board size. Power-up cards lend themselves well to this as well.

Deploy army. Can rotate and drag and drop units.

The rule book as been updated and is now available as a google doc. I have made it public for comments. If you have an idea or suggestion, or even just a comment, go ahead and leave one.

Hack Space Rule Book – Google Doc

HackSpace – Board Game Design (1)

I have finally nailed out the theme for the game. It will be a strategy game set in network where AI programs battle it out. Attackers are now Viruses, Defenders are now Encryptors, Espers are now Augmentor, and the General is now a Controller. I’ve written out the game’s rules in a rule book. Click here for it -> HackSpaceRuleBook (1). I used a monospaced font and directory formatted headers to look  like a terminal or shell.  Here is the intro to the game in the rule book:

“Hack Space is a strategy board game. Players launch artificial intelligence programs, or AI bots, to defeat their opponents in a virtual skirmish on the network. AI bots are controlled through a central AI Controller bot. The Controller bot’s main purpose is to plan and coordinate attacks, lose the Controller bot and it is game over. There are two types of basic bots which attack and defend, Virus and Encryption bots. To aid the basic bots in their attacks are Augment bots. The AI programs are built so that when they are next to each other  they can share subroutines and hardware resources increasing power of each connected program. Combine the power of your AI bots and defeat the enemy.”


I’ve also developed some cards to help spice up the game play, with the number of controllers being the number of cards a player can draw. Some cards can combine by chaining, and if you don’t have a chain you can risk drawing another card in the hopes of a chain. If there isn’t one you loose all your cards.

So far I have continued testing with my basic board. Games with the 5 x 5 (regular hexagon shape with ~60 tiles), which is 10 point armies takes between 15 – 20 minutes. However, I have been developing a prototype in Unity3D to help test the game rapidly. With the tool I can make larger boards, test out artwork and have as many pieces as I want. It is just a drag and drop simulator. It doesn’t calculate or enforce any of the rules. So far I am happy with the base mechanics.

Board Game Design – Sci-fi Hexes

For the next weeks I will attempt to design a board game. This will be an iterative process using some of what I have learned about reviewing and playing the four table top games as well as the analysis of games via the mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics break down.

I’ve come up with an initial idea. The board will be hex based with units, a strategy game similar to chess where the goal is to capture the opponent’s general. Additional mechanics are three types of units with different status, stats can change based on what units are adjacent, squad formation, and army building. Since the theme is a strategical military game, the visual theme and narrative will most likely be some type of science fiction (sci-fi). I was wondering if I was the only who thought hexagons seem appropriate for sci-fi, well TV Tropes has an answer in High-Tech Hexagons. No name yet for the game.

So I have the initial mechanics down. I’ve done some weighing of the mechanics and a test game  (playing against myself) with a basic board and identical armies. Two good outcomes observed were that at times forced pause to think of strategy (I feel I took a little longer since I couldn’t plan for one side while playing the other). Other observation was that one side had an lead but lost it, eventually loosing.I started with a basic / regular hex board with a length of 5 hexagons.Army points for the board were 10 points total with 1 general, 1 esper, 2 defenders and 3 attackers. I plan on adding action cards that generals get (thinking about 3 cards per general). I’m taking some of the ideas of Catan and Small World where the board / pieces can be different for reputability. Hexagon tiles can make interesting boards and army building can lean armies to a person’s play style or strategy.

Here is the setup of the basic board with 10 point armies:

Here the left army that had the initial lead is now about to loose:

Here are the units and rules:

Cost Type Attack Defense Speed Bonus
1 Attacker 2 1 1 +a1
1 Defender 1 2 1 +d1
2 Esper 0 0 2 +s1 +a1/d1
3 General 1 1 1


  • Army size is the number of tiles divided by 6, rounding down. (In the basic board this is 61 / 6 = 10)
  • Each army must have at least one general.
  • Armies are deployed maximum of two rows from the edge of the board. A player may only deploy on additional rows if the preceding rows are filled.
  • When all general units are lost the player loses.
  • Bonuses are applies from all adjacent allies when taking an action.
  • Espers get to choose whether they give a bonus to attack or defense at the start of the turn. This caries over to the opponents turn.(Thinking this will be a flipping of the token to remind players).
  • Squads are formed at the end of a turn.
  • A squad gets the movement speed of the majority unit type.
    • If the majority unit type all have the a bonus to speed you may move the unit speed plus the lowest bonus.
    • Units in a squad can move individually in combination with a squad move however the total spaces moved in a turn can not exceed the speed of the squad.
    • If there is no majority unit type and units are not the same speed (including bonuses) then move the lowest speed (including bonuses).
  • Boards must be symmetrical so that no player has an advantage (unless it id agreed upon by players before hand).

Greatest Games – MDA Breakdown – Mass Effect


Mass Effect is one of my favorite of all time action and story games. Mass Effect does such a good job of building an interesting and vivid world of aliens and space. The mechanical theme of choice is fun as well allowing players to pick their destiny. Mass Effect has two sequels and the majority of points here are the same for those two as well. The games changed some combat mechanics and of course the graphical fidelity increased (with some tone and color pallet changes too). Mass Effect’s story can be categorized as a space opera and shares many similarities with others such as Star Wars with special powers of biotics, mysticism with the gone and ancient Protheans and the mind bending Asari, and a journey driven by a message in a dream. Not to mention very similar cover art work:


See the original Star Wars movie poster artwork here: http://i.imgur.com/QxKphyg.jpg

Mass Effect (ME.)

  • Sense Pleasure –
    • Graphically ME. is very visually stunning. While not unusual for AAA games ME. does a good job of using tone and mood to build the world the player is in. The game defaults with an interesting grain effect over the whole screen. This with the washed out color pallet gives the game a film noir feel which pairs well with the mystery and impending doom that Shepard tries to discover.
    • ME. does well to capture the feeling of outer space with both visual and sound effects. For example walking around the Normandy ship with the flickering screens, mechanical beeps and the constant whir of the space engine which one could imagine would be like to be on the more famous Enterprise. Another example is that the translator will sometimes fail at unknown words and the player will instead hear the actual words of the characters in their alien language.
    • A large theme in ME. is aliens and humans’ rise to be part of the greater galactic civilization. All of the alien species are superbly designed in how they look and act. This is truly a key part of the immersion and world building that ME. brings. The believable but also odd and strange forms of the aliens completes the journey that the player takes to suspend belief and enjoy the world of ME. (the development of aliens is greatly aided by the very detailed back grounds and history of the races, their interaction with each other and how the player’s comrades are expected to behave, or don’t behave).
    • ME. also had an interesting and immersive sound track. Much of the music used synth tones and long, vibrating notes giving a classic spacey feel with a full atmosphere. The feeling of awe and discovery can be found in much of the sound tracks.
  • Challenge –
    • Skill based challenge in ME. is optional. One of the game’s difficulty settings is ‘Casual’ with the description that it is for players who only want to really experience the story of ME.
    • Challenge in ME. very strongly linked to the skill in playing a FPS since all combat is via FPS mechanics. The game does introduce special effects and powers mechanics which adds to the different ways player can achieve victory.
    • ME. has a mix of FPS, RPG and strategy mechanics. RPG mechanics of leveling up and choosing appropriate skills so that the character has enough power but also enough breadth of knowledge / skills to succeed in other situations. On harder levels of difficulty the mechanics of leveling up comrade characters, what weapons they use is important. Also the mechanics of being able to pause live combat, survey the combat zone and give directions to squad members is important, they challenge being tactical. These last two add to the strategical challenge.
    • One of mechanical themes of ME. is choice and how the player’s choice can affect the game. This provides a challenge to the player in their ability to read situations and have foresight. Players with a strong ability to do so may be able to give themselves more favorable outcomes. The mechanic of alignment (being able to be good – Paragon, or evil – Renegade) is an example of this. If a player chooses to poor all points in to one or more, and makes decisions that increase one or the other they will later on have more choices available. A player that does not make consistent choices may risk not aligning one way or the other enough.
  • Narrative –
    • ME. features very strong characters, the main character Shepard and other side characters. The characters develop and grow over the course of the game.
    • The plot is compelling and lives in a complex and rich universe. ME. aligns it self with the dramatic space opera genre with an epic journey, strange technology, and a mix of mysticism and science and a strong focus on characters and their conflict.
  • Fantasy –
    • Players are put into a strange sci-fi world. They get to play the main character either as a compassionate warrior or a ruthless and cold solider with the alignment system.
    • The wold building in ME. is very detailed. The creators left nothing out and the world of ME. plays by the same rules all the time. Does well to include both sci-fi and fantasy lovers with the bits of mysticism, special powers and multitude of races.
    • Extra knowledge is available for players that want to discover more.
  • Discovery –
    • New alien species.
    • History of humans becoming galactic and space faring.
    • Multiple worlds to land on an explore.
    • Extra knowledge to discover and read about.
  • Expression –
    • Customize of character, including model deforming one of the earlier games to do so. Both male and female were fully voice acted making a balanced choice.
    • Different backgrounds where the choice of outcomes and impact on story and character’s view.
    • While ME. has many PRG elements and encourages role playing players can chose to play as themselves too without too much conflict between character action and player’s intent.
    • Options to focus on story rather then combat. However, limited in the way to tackle problems (and those that do have options may be locked by alignment).