Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Trifecta of Unique Mechanics

Regular readers are likely aware that I think mechanics and flavor have a lot to do with reinforcing game themes. There's a huge difference between leagues and kilometers for a medieval fantasy game. Likewise, whatever is gained as far as mechanical simplicity by unified core mechanics for everything loses something in unique flavor for each class or role.

In earlier posts I've written about a system of chess pieces for fighters as well as playing cards for magic. I also wrote about a "gambling" mechanic for roguish types.

Over time I've evolved my idea of major class roles into a trio: one associated with the body and probitates, one with the spirit and the liberal arts, and one with the mind and mechanical arts. I think my systems largely match up well. The chess set links nicely to the probitates, and the playing cards with all their symbolism and allegory to the liberal arts.

The area that does not have a thematic match is the mechanical arts and the mind related category. To me, the whole theme of the mechanical arts and the mind is that through human ingenuinty, man can transform his world. We transform clay into bricks for shelter or fortifications through architecture; we transform lamb's wool into clothes or padded armor through vesteria; we transform raw iron and timber into swords and shields with armaments. That does not imply a truly random, gambling sort of mechanic. Ideally, I'd have a game where the players focus on either transforming items into other items, or in transforming the board itself just as men transform their environment.

The trouble is that there is a rather limited list of medieval games from which to choose. I've already used playing cards and chess pieces. Most of the dice games are derived from knucklebones and are rather random. There are many ball or bowling games (marbles being the most table-appropriate), but I want to steer clear of games which require player physical skill. Other games include: Nine Men's Morris (tic tac toe's precursor), draughts (checkers), tables games (backgammon), the Game of the Goose (chutes and ladders), Tafl (viking chess), and fox & geese chase games.

None of those games really focus on transforming pieces or on changing the board itself. I considered using domineos, which features a "board" created by the players, but it isn't really period.

I have found another game which might fit my criteria, but that will have to wait for another post... In the meantime, if anyone is aware of any other period games which evoke the themes of human industry or transformation of raw material or the environment itself, I'd be very interested!

1 comment:

DL said...

Verisimilitude over realism. Sure dominoes weren't actually played in medieval times, but with the right domino set, I think it would feel appropriate.