One of the interesting parts of tile-laying games is the way that landscape gets built up over time, and how the players can contribute to this formation. Also, the number of different possible layouts is massive, which means you get a unique configuration for each game.
What if you had a game where instead you gradually destroyed the landscape, while still forming an interesting configuration at the end? This idea is a little hazy in the my mind as I type, but hopefully getting it on the page might help crystallise it. Here we go!
Day 18: Ice Age
The game board is divided into a number of connected hexagonal spaces, numbering around 50 or so (this might have to scale with the number of players). This represents the world in the middle of a massive ice age, covered with ice and snow. At the beginning of the game, every space is equivalent – a snowy land space. As the game goes on, the players will be placing tiles on top of the snow, to represent the new land or sea that is uncovered once the snow retreats. Before the game starts, the board is seeded with some of these tiles – each tile has a number on the back of the tile, corresponding to a space on the game board. However, tiles are not placed on the same space as their number; instead, the tiles are shuffled, number side up, and then revealed one at a time. When you reveal a tile, you place it on the numbered space that matches the number now showing on the top tile of the stack (i.e. the number on the next tile). In this way, players will know where a tile is going to be placed, but not exactly what it is going to be. This is done for about 10 tiles to begin the game. Tiles show different land types (forest, desert, mountains) or ocean, and can also have special features on them (such as particularly fertile land).
Each player is a species of animals that has been living through this ice age, and will now have to adapt to the changing conditions as the world heats up. Each player has around 10 animals, represented by small pieces, that are randomly placed on the board, one piece to each space (except on spaces where the starting tiles were placed). On a player’s turn, they have three options, either they can move up to 3 of their pieces 2 spaces each, or they can develop their species’ traits (as shown on a player board), or they can draw a Survival card, which offers points to a player at the end of a game if certain conditions are met. At the end of their turn, they will place a tile on the board, following the same rules as the setup.
As new tiles are placed on the board, islands will start to form, cutting off sections of the board from each other. Generally, animals cannot move through the ocean. At the end of the game (once all the tiles are placed), players will score points for dominating islands, for improving their traits to certain levels, and for Survival cards they have fulfilled. Survival cards could be things like giving bonus points for the number of animals on certain land types, or having an animal of the most number of different islands.
The kind of traits that you can improve relate to how well you can defend yourself as a species (the better you are, the more chance you can displace other animals when you move into their space), how well you can flourish in different terrain types (for example, giving you free movement through mountains), or how quickly you can reproduce. Normally players can reproduce once every 3 turns (tracked on their player board), adding another piece to the board on the same space as one of their existing pieces. Similarly, when players move into a space with an animal of another player, there is a small chance they can ‘eat’ that animal (potentially decided by a dice roll) and remove it from the board. Otherwise, the two pieces coexist in the same space. You can upgrade a trait to improve your chances of eating animals, or to decrease the chance of you being eaten!
The one thing that would be quite important to the game would be the distribution of the tiles, and finding a way to force islands to form, rather than pockets of sea surrounded by land. You could tweak the land:ocean tile ratio to achieve the desired effect, but there is still a chance that a random placement of tiles might give a landscape that seems very unrealistic. Hopefully it would be fun to be working out how best to move your animals to get into the best positions without knowing exactly how the islands are going to turn out. Finally, you would probably need some incentives on the tiles for players to move to early on (such as getting points for being first there, or gaining special actions) so as to provide some direction for players when the board is still relatively empty.