Monday, September 9, 2013

01: Humble Beginnings in Space Exploration

About 6 months ago I was in a phone conversation with a friend of mine named John.  John loves board games and had recently gotten me to try out several types of games I'd never played before and I really enjoyed them.  It was no surprise then when our phone call topic turned towards board games and John suggested that we design and make our own.  I was a bit taken aback by this.  "Can you even do that?" I asked him, to which he responded that he really had no idea.  So we did some research.

We found that board games, especially independently created board games, were becoming ever more feasible and more importantly, popular and successful.  We're apparently in the very middle of a golden age of board game creation.  Very heartening news indeed for our little proposed project.  We also found a website called that produces and ships custom game components.  So, it was certainly possible to make a game from scratch, but what would our game even... be?

After much discussion and brainstorming we decided that we wanted to make a 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) space board game.  This decision was based on neither of us having played any space-related board games that we thought were fantastic, and our love of various space and sci-fi video games that we wanted to capture in board game form.  Most notably, the feel of Escape Velocity and Homeworld.  This was followed by then more research to check into every popular space related board game to see if someone had already done what we were proposing to start.  It turns out that nobody had.

Most space board games seem to be about epic scale galactic conquest with huge armadas, colonizing planets, or the the adventures of a single spaceship;  the game John and I wanted to make wasn't any of those.  Rather, it was a bit of a middle ground.  Space Frontier, which is what our developing game ended up being called, is a bit about space battles, but more so about having adventures in space.  Not as a single ship or infinite galactic armada, but as a small fleet of ships.  Planets are there as resources, mission hubs, and prizes to be fought over, but not populated.  The battle takes place in a solar system not over entire civilizations, but single specific ore-rich asteroid fields.  The resource management happens right inside the cargo bay of your mothership and not in some abstract civilization bank or resource pile.  We wanted players to feel tied to their command ship.  It's their main base, shipyard, repair dock, resource gatherer, and identity.  Yet they have more ships too that they can construct and send out in fleets independently.

So John and I had ideas for a game and we started designing, but neither of us are artists and we knew we'd need art, and more importantly, money.  John brought up and after looking into it I agreed that it was a great idea and could potentially fund our game.  However in order to host a campaign we'd need at least some art.  As luck would have it, while I was at a Vault Jobsearch conference, I met a professional artist named Chris Pitchard.  He'd done a lot of  work for various card game companies, most notably Legend of the Five Rings and was also in the process of publishing his own comic book.  Certainly check out some of his art at because he has a lot of great stuff.  Chris was new to the Seattle area and looking for work, and I told him about Space Frontier and we exchanged information as he seemed interested in the project.  Not long after, we met for lunch.

I explained to Chris how little money we had in our budget and he was extremely accommodating and agreed to work with us so we could get something of high quality but could also actually afford.  Chris has since not failed to deliver, and over the months that he spent drawing us amazing spaceships, John and I continued tweaking and polishing our game.  Months went buy and 100's of hours of work was poured into the creation of Space Frontier.  Early Play-testing demanded that many of the what we thought to be core mechanics had to be completely reworked, but we continued to press forward.

Then, last weekend, an amazing and glorious thing happened.  Several months ago, right at the beginning of this project, John and I made a massive to-do list of components and requirements that our game would need.  Sometime around 2 AM or thereabouts on Sunday (or I guess it was Monday by that point), we finished the last thing on our list.  It was an incredible feeling.  The game is still not done.  There is always more play-testing, tweaking, and refinement to do, but the core of Space Frontier is now solid.  Now we have to start looking to the future, towards our Kickstarter Campaign, and turning this amateur project into a professional reality.

If we can stay on track to the schedule I've outlined, we should be ready to start our Kickstarter Campaign sometime in nearly November 2013.  There's a lot of work to be done in the meantime, but John and I are more excited than ever as the game nears completion and becomes more fun to play with each iteration.  We're already all-in on the project.  We've each personally invested a significant amount of money and will likely have to each pour in quite a bit more to get the game ready for its Kickstarter Debut, but it will be worth it if our campaign is successful.

I have created this Blog to keep track of and share updates on Space Frontier's development; both as a game and as a future Kickstarter Campaign.  New content in the form of art, game design musings, and the trials and tribulations of making our game from scratch will be posted as they are happening.  I look forward to any comments and will gladly answer any and all questions to the best of my ability.  Until then, I'll be reading up on various web sources on how to manage a successful Kickstarter Campaign and continuing to work hard making Space Frontier a reality that you can someday play in your living room with your family and friends.


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