From Powerpoint to releasing a game on Kickstarter (part 2)
In Part 1 (opens in a new tab) of this two-parter, we looked at some of the ambitious games I made on Microsoft Powerpoint as a young child (look out for Sherlock’s Spy Hunter, coming soon to a store near you!)
Today in Part 2, I’ll be talking about how making homebrew content for a childhood classic led me down the path to releasing a board game on Kickstarter.
I mentioned last week that I chose music over coding and whilst I was studying I didn’t do much game making. I was too busy being edgy:
But music wasn’t my whole life and I had a hankering for a simpler time; being young, wide eyed, and knee deep in alien guts.
What I had was real nostalgia for a staple of my boyhood: Space Crusade (opens in a new tab). I managed to grab a second hand copy through BGG (including an unopened Mission: Dreadnought (opens in a new tab)!) and cracked it open, ready for death-defying encounters in space!
But something wasn’t quite right…
The aesthetics and atmosphere were there as I remembered, but the gameplay seemed a little lacking. Designed to be played by kids and teens, the mechanics were pretty simple and I felt I needed to beef it up if I was going to cause my friends to really rage-quit.
I began with tweaks, and before long I found myself tweaking the other games in my collection, which in turn evolved into creating homebrew assets and new rules, until eventually I was making new games entirely.
No one can hear you scream!
For many of us, games like Space Crusade and HeroQuest (opens in a new tab) (its older sister) were a childhood classic, and a first taste of running immersive board game nights with friends and family.
For the uninitiated, Space Crusade is a game where you control a team of super soldiers and kill enemies for points whilst you complete a mission (the main objective usually being kill SOME MORE enemies).
Each player controls a different faction vying to get the highest score, with one player taking the role of the “Alien”, who acts as the antagonist/DM.
This is a game where your heavily armoured super soldier (with a rad 80s haircut) can be clubbed to death by a leather clad space goblin, brandishing a blunderbuss (the unlikely answer to the question: “What 17th century invention was a staple of both the 2nd and 41st millennium?”)
The game utilises card play, with the players picking Order and Equipment cards before each mission and the Alien player using a random event deck. It also has the most brutal dice of any game I’ve ever played, with the white dice like a lesson in binary:
An obvious starting point for unofficial, homebrew additions was adding in the races that already feature in the rich universe, but aren’t part of the game. This would also allow me to devise themed mechanics specific to each faction.
Whilst there’s a heap of great unofficial content out there already (opens in a new tab), I find starting from scratch gives me more freedom!
DISCLAIMER: Now before we go ahead, given that some of these races still exist in the Warhammer universe, their names have been changed and I’ve put some subtle redactions on some of the images…you know, just in case…
And with that out of the way, I will share with you my favourite three homebrew factions…
Mean Space Cousins
Space Elves attacked in the Space Elves Attack (opens in a new tab) expansion, but I thought it’d be good to add in their evil cousins, who we’ll call Mean Space Cousins.
The Space Elves are a horde-like team of weaker fighters, hurling a million white dice at the enemy and hoping something sticks (spoiler: it doesn’t.)
Instead of just adding spikes to their rules, I set the Elves’ evil cousins up as a smaller team of glass cannons. Yes…you’re allowed to play with the slightly friendlier red dice…
In the lore, the Mean Space Cousins have horrid poisons and weaponry designed to inflict maximum pain (they’re the cousins you don’t invite to parties), which led me to create some gruesome Equipment cards, and resulted in me introducing a Poisoned and Stunned debuff.
Crusade doesn’t have any sort of status effects so it allowed players to try new tactics instead of “Run out. Shoot. Roll all zeros” (I also added in the Blighted debuff for Equipment I added in for another faction – those notorious baddies, Mess Conjoined.)
The basic Cousins have weapons that do extra damage against organic enemies, which required me to define “organic” (any PC or NPC with a pulse). Word of advice: mechanics that make one player better at killing the other players should be used sparingly!
Mean Space Cousins are well known to use and abuse combat enhancing drugs, so I swapped out the usual Order cards that the official factions use, and put in my own homebrew Combat Drug cards for them instead. Whereas factions can only normally take and use one Order card, the Cousin player is allowed to take up to three Combat Drugs:
To those of you who might be ranting about the importance of balance to whoever might listen (your poor cat…), each time you use one of these cards, all of your team are taking a risk.
Each combatant has to roll two d6 and score higher than an ever increasing threshold (increasing in increments for each drug used), otherwise instead of getting that tasty buff, they have a negative reaction and become
stoned stunned for a turn.
This allowed for some more risk/reward decision making, and introduced a distinctly 60s vibe.
Cows left in space, evolve and get super brainy, before coming after their beef loving former-masters with fancy gizmos and ideology. It’s a story as old as time!
The Brainwashed Cowpeople are hi-tech federalists who love shooting people from afar, but they’re an udder wreck in a fist fight. They’re a personal favourite of mine and with their polar opposite ranged/melee abilities, they had to be added in!
You might be thinking: “But wait Tom, what place do these sharpshooters have fighting in the close quarter corridors and rooms of a space wreckage?”
Well good point! …and luckily for the Cowpeople, after years of dying the moment an enemy gets within tipping distance, a new shotgun style weapon was introduced to their arsenal.
I gave the Cowpeople two weapon choices: The long ranged rifles that are brutal at any range but are weaker if the shooter has already moved that turn, or the shotgun that is super deadly but requires the attacker to be at point blank range.
This allows the Cowpeople player to surgically breach and clear rooms quickly and efficiently, but oh my do things go bad if you fail to wipe out the entire room…
Speaking of meat, that brings us to the third and final faction today…
Dinos of War
Half dinosaurs, half mercenaries, all kinds of peckish.
The Dinos of War’s M.O. is that they beat up their foes, eat them, and as a result end up gaining the genetic traits of their dinner (they’re very picky at restaurants).
I made a rule that once per mission, each member of the team can eat an opponent they defeat in hand-to-hand combat, and inherit an effect depending on what kind of enemy they ate:
In Crusade, hand-to-hand combat works that you and your opponent roll your relevant dice and whoever scores highest kills the other.
Remember the dice?
Whilst I love Space Crusade, the hand to hand system is incredibly unbalanced and it’s the riskiest thing you can do in the game. Forget Bothans, many dinosaurs died to bring us this dinner!
Even their super deadly pet dogs that I gave three red dice in combat suffer from the same weakness, and whilst I added in a few Equipment cards that allowed for additional options to mitigate catastrophic rolls in hand to hand, you just can’t rely on those pesky dice!
I could have changed the combat system (come to think of it…that does sound fun), but like the specialist teams in Blood Bowl (opens in a new tab), I like the idea of the Dinos of War being an optional challenge for veterans.
Hey! You made it to the end!
Thanks for taking the time to read the article, you’re awesome!
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News and details about our upcoming game is imminent so watch this space!
However for now it’s farewell from me. Until next time!