School Boardgame Project Revisited

Waiting in the Sunny spot
Waiting in the Sunny spot

Last weekend, I spent a fair amount of time helping my son work on a project for school. He had to create a boardgame based on a book he read recently, and the game needed to incorporate major plot events from the story.

This was the same assignment, given by the same teacher, that I helped my daughter with back in 2008. That project, which can read about here, was a modified version of Candyland, complete with custom dice and a gotcha mechanism for dealing with your opponents.

My son wanted to create a cooperative game, because the characters in his book all worked together to achieve a goal. I think they had to save some dragons. As far as I could tell, all of the characters in the story were dragons. The game was based on the novel Wings of Fire Book Three: The Hidden Kingdom by Tui T. Sutherland, just in case you are one of those people that has to know stuff like that or you lie awake all night trying to figure it out.

His original game concept reminded me a bit of Descent. Each player controlled a dragon, who had hit points, armor, attack strength, and special abilities. Yes, he has played Dungeons and Dragons. He’s also played Heroscape, which may have also influenced his design.

We spent a couple of weeks talking about exactly how the game would be played. I was more of an editor than a contributor. The hard part was keeping his ideas down into a few simple mechanisms. It made me realize just how many different kinds of games he’s been exposed to in ten years. When my daughter did the project back in 2008, she had played a fair amount of games, but nothing like my son has now.

He wrote out his concepts and basic rules, and then we created a prototype and playtested it. Playtesting allowed him to see that many of the special powers that he created for each dragon could just be added to the character cards as flavor text, while keeping the actual game mechanism of helping another player down to something simple that applied to everyone.

I think his end product was really quite good. He created a cooperative roll-and-move game that features a catch-up mechanism for players who might fall behind. There’s also a bit of resource management because the group must fight a monster as a team at the end, and need to pool their accumulated treasure gems in order to have a better chance of victory. Good job, son!

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