Control a shadowy, clandestine paramilitary organization in this new game!
June 10, 2010 2:08 PM   Subscribe

Does this board game exist? If it did would you play it?

Had a sudden flash of inspiration for a board game today. Has anyone else used this idea before? If it this game did get made, would it be fun?

The idea: Each player controls a shadowy, clandestine paramilitary organization (think BPRD, MiB, SCP, XCOM, SHIELD, etc). Your goal is to keep mankind safe from paranormal threats while simultaneously trying to bankrupt, destroy, or expose the other organizations. You build facilities, contain threats, deal with security breaches, collect income from countries you have facilities in. You lose if all of your stuff is destroyed, you run out of funding, or you get exposed to the public. If humanity is destroyed by an elder god, super virus, or alien invasion everyone loses. You win when you are the last org standing (maybe I need a different win condition here like say being the first to build the omniscience machine).

I'm imagining a world map for the board, divided up by regions, each of which you could build things in and move forces around in. Possibly also spaces for building facilities on say other planets or dimensions. Each organization would be unique, for example SHIELD could recruit super humans, SCP is good at containing things, the MiB have alien tech, etc. Obviously I shouldn't use these actual copyrighted organizations, but they get they point across for now.

Maybe each turn would have phases like say 1. build things, 2. draw a card that causes paranormal activities somewhere, 3. move forces, deal with said paranormal activities.

Has this game been done? If not, would it be a cool game to make (my brain says says considering how excited I am about it)? What kinds of mechanics and rules would be good in this game?
posted by cirrostratus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Consider asking on BoardGameGeek - They might be more readily able to answer this.
posted by LSK at 2:12 PM on June 10, 2010

Well, I think similar games have been made, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't work on your idea. Part of the fun of similar types of games is the story/atmosphere, and it sounds like you have a very specific idea of what will constitute your game's universe.

As for the mechanics of the game, I'm not sure that would be a good thing to crowd-source from us. I think this is where you're going to have to spend a lot of time planning things out, because at this point you've got the story/ theme, but that's the easy part. The gameplay is what makes or breaks it for the player.

If you do go through with it, I'd be happy to test play it if you can figure out how to make it work over skype or in an online realm or something.
posted by Think_Long at 2:15 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Relevant answer to the "would it be a cool game to make" question, which applies not only to board games, but to any creative endeavor designed for broad consumption: ideas are easy to generate, and seldom original, and success or failure will come from the execution.
posted by davejay at 2:20 PM on June 10, 2010

Nothing to do with that theme, but the mechanics sound similar to the coopetitive game The Republic of Rome, in which players compete with each other for control of the republic but must also cooperate to defend it from invaders.
posted by Paragon at 2:22 PM on June 10, 2010

For mechanics, this sounds similar to many cooperative games that have a possible traitor element; I'd look at Pandemic, Shadows over Camelot, Arkham Horror, and Saboteur for possibilities.

Your balance is a little different than a traitor possibility, though; everybody loses if a Bad Thing (elder god, supervirus, whatever) happens. It's just that also only one person wins. I personally don't actually know of a game with this setup, but I bet the folk on BGG do.

Also the organization/territory control aspect makes me think of everything from Power Grid to Diplomacy to Tigris and Euphrates.

One last thing: the best board game designs tend to come from people who've played a goodly number of games themselves, and know what works and what doesn't. You'll need to do a ton of play testing, and remember that most of the time, a simpler set of rules from which complexity arises by interaction is best (not that I don't love me a little Race for the Galaxy or Puerto Rico or whatnot).

I lied, one more thing: the mechanics of the game matter a heck of a lot more than the story when it comes to playability. Get those down first, worry about story details later.
posted by nat at 2:23 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Has this game been done? If not, would it be a cool game to make (my brain says says considering how excited I am about it)? What kinds of mechanics and rules would be good in this game?

Your game sounds kind of like Pandemic but with diseases replaced by paranormal activity. I think that's a cool idea, but from your description at least I think you are focusing on the wrong aspect.

What all great board games have in common is that, at their core, they have really fun game mechanics. A game like Pandemic would still be fun if it was completely abstract like checkers and you were just trying to remove nondescript tokens from the board. The "story" of the game matters and can be a good hook, but a well-designed rule system and compelling game mechanics are what separates a fun game from a frustrating mess. If you look at the games of Risk and Diplomacy, they have nearly identical stories (players control armies on a map to capture parts of the world) but the gameplay is completely different, so someone who likes Risk might hate Diplomacy and vice versa.

If you are really serious about making a game like this, the most important part will be coming up with a novel and fun gameplay system, and then working out all of the bugs in it. Most board game designers spend a very long time playtesting their games before they are actually completed and released.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:39 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Good advice guys. Boardgamegeek will probably be my main resource when I actually sit down and start making this thing. I'm not looking to crowd source this, just getting some casual advice about what might or might not work in it.

Anyway right now I'm only at the extremely early point where I'm trying to decide if I want to start sinking time into developing this. I've built an RPG before, and I've probably put hundreds of hours into developing it, so I'm a little wary embarking on a massive time sink like this. But if I get into it enough I'm sure those hours will fly by.

You guys have actually reminded me of some games I've played but didn't think of that could factor in pretty well here. A little Arkham Horror style cooperation, Princes of Florence style facility building, maybe something like Puerto Rico's different roles (although maybe that wouldn't work so well, I just loved Puerto Rico a ton is all).

The main thing I want to emphasize is cooperating to prevent failure for all while competing to become #1. I'll have to check out Republic of Rome, sounds kind of similar.
posted by cirrostratus at 2:50 PM on June 10, 2010

It honestly sounds like it would be an interesting flash game to show up on a place like There are similar games on there and I could envision something like this (depending upon execution) becoming popular.
posted by msbutah at 3:02 PM on June 10, 2010

Another coopetitive game: Cutthroat Caverns.
posted by Paragon at 3:06 PM on June 10, 2010

I think I played a game like this once, all I remember about the name is that there was a big eye on a pyramid on the box like on some banknotes.
posted by meepmeow at 3:29 PM on June 10, 2010

It sounds a lot like Illuminati (more of an anti-cooperative game), but with a supernatural threat element.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:37 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think I played a game like this once, all I remember about the name is that there was a big eye on a pyramid on the box like on some banknotes.

My guess would be that you're talking about Illuminati. Theme/story-wise, it's almost identical to what the OP's proposing. In fact, I intended to suggest it as a possibility for this game existing.

Depending on how the OP is defining cooperation, it may be that Illuminati is exactly what he's talking about, as you can form alliances.
posted by Netzapper at 4:41 PM on June 10, 2010

Never played Illuminati before, but theme-wise I can definitely see that connection. I'll have to check it out. Plus it looks like the exact kind of game my friend is into, I'll have to mention it to him. Illuminati looks more like a card game though, I'm definitely thinking something with a map or maps and building and accumulating things. So like everyone is saying the thing that sets games apart is gameplay mechanics. So my next hurdle here is coming up with some solid unique ones. Further bulletins as developments warrant.
posted by cirrostratus at 5:12 PM on June 10, 2010

Illuminati is a card game (with tokens and dice, too).

But, keep in mind that there may not be much difference, in practice, between a map and a set of cards. This is especially true if the ordering of locations on the map is weak--for instance, if you can travel between any two arbitrary points on the map for similar costs; or, if you can interact with any space on the map equally.
posted by Netzapper at 5:43 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sounds a solid idea. If it's anywhere close to what my assumptions are (XCOM meets Syndicate meets Cyberpunk/Illuminati/Paranoia/Conspiracy X/Monopoly on a big ass world map), then I'd play it for sure.

As mentioned, your game's mechanics are of mucho importance, but your background setting/fluff is equally as important IMO, as that goes some way to feeding into and inspiring much of the ruleset for you. For example it's quite possible that the Arkham Horror game system could be used in a sci-fi or fantasy setting, but how likely is it that say, the cooperative element would be so central had it been conceived for such? The bedrock of the Mythos --puny humans forcibly allied against an inexorable doom-- is what shapes the whole rules system, which by this 7th or 8th expansion-stage is absolutely fucking massive.

Given that your concept as explained can be set against a wide range of different settings, from various sci-fis to modern day to steampunk, possibly mixed with elements of horror, humour, intrigue, etc, to boot... there's still a massive amount left to decide on. (You ought to at least take a quick look around for a really cool public domain author whose cult ouvre you can totally rip off wholesale... when does Robert Anton Wilson's copyright run out?)

I hope you keep at this because it's got legs. As a lifelong dallier in gaming I'm shocked that there isn't a game like this already out. If you persevere I'd enjoy contributing to your efforts any way I could.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 7:24 PM on June 10, 2010

Make it cool and I'd play it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:49 PM on June 10, 2010

I'm not saying this to discourage you from making this game, but I think it's relevant to a discussion like this one:

I once watched an interview with Richard Breese, who is a pretty well-known game designer. He repeated a saying which goes something like, "The surest way to make a small fortune designing games is to start with a large fortune."
posted by claytonius maximus at 7:59 AM on June 11, 2010

Why don't you do some more thinking on the gameplay, and post your thoughts to this thread. We'll critique them and offer advice as you go along. I'm not so good with numbers and game theory, but I can probably help with figuring out the way different strategies will bounce off of each other.
posted by Think_Long at 8:59 AM on June 11, 2010

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