An unexpected challenge, and an unlikely success

I didn’t think I would be doing another 24-hour challenge anytime soon. But suddenly the game-design subreddit decides to go and do a 48-hour Game Jam, and who am I to say no to an offer like that? Unfortunately, I didn’t really find out about it until it was half over, so it became my third 24-hour challenge. Luckily, the restrictions were much more inspiring than the Board Game Geek contest, and I was able to really make some significant progress very quickly.

The theme for the contest is “improving the world.” The mechanical restriction requires the game to involve a 2d6 roll (ideally on each turn). It is also stated that the game must be aimed at children, but still be enjoyable for adults. My response: Energy Independence.

It’s stuff like this that makes me realize how much work I’ve put into this stuff over the past year. I never considered myself an artist, but it’s getting harder to keep calling some of my work “doodles” or “graphics.” Self-congratulatory nonsense aside, these are the energy source cards that make up the core gameplay of Energy Independence. In the upper left corner you can see how the weather affects the production of energy for each source. The rest of the card is totally decorative, since the game is supposed the be for kids. And yes, I realize that geothermal energy isn’t usually a giant hole in the ground, but it’s a tough concept to illustrate for kids. Give me a break.

So gameplay: it’s important. At the beginning of the game, you choose two sources as your starting cards. Then you begin the first year. Each year consists of four turns, each representing a season, always starting with spring. On each turn you roll 2d6, one to determine the weather, and one to determine “demand.” Weather ultimately decides how much energy you produce, and is dependent on both the roll and the current season.

In case anyone is wondering, yes everything is balanced. With such a simple game it’s really easy to make sure things aren’t exploitable. Anyway, you roll the weather die, count up your production, and then compare it to demand. Demand is created by adding the value of the d6 roll to a set “yearly demand,” which starts at 5 and increases by 5 each year. This means that by the third year you will need to be producing anywhere from 16 to 21 energy per season. If the weather cooperates, this shouldn’t be a problem.

The endgame of Energy Independence is simple. After playing through 3 years, the fourth year is an “audit.” So far you’ve used your profits (energy production – demand shortfall) to purchase new power plants. During the Audit, you simply roll through an entire year without purchasing or profiting. All you do is add up the total demand shortfall that you incurred, and the player with the lowest value wins. Very simple, and, well, completely luck-based. I just don’t have it in me to create a complex, skill-based game in 24 hours. This is truly a kid’s game.

I need to do some housekeeping stuff, like write up official rules and prepare some Print & Play documents, but the game is effectively completed from a design perspective. If I were to print or market this game, each card would contain some sort of “fun fact” about alternative energy so that kids could learn while they played. I might even include that as an optional document in the Print & Play resources, although I wouldn’t put it together until the contest was over. So expect a quick little update tomorrow about the fate of this game, including some of the thoughts I had for creating actual strategy that were unfeasible within the time constraints.

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