Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Counter Layouts

I had a couple of "oh, duh" moments during the last QUAE VICTOR.  The consequence: the unit pieces have been completely redone.  We're still getting the actual art done, but the layout has been tested and proven.

BEHOLD: the new face of Ars Victor!  Well, I guess it's more like the skeletal bones of the new face of Ars Victor.

Look at that!  You can actually see what the pieces do!

It's hard to make out the detail in this picture -- see below for closeups.

The Pieces 

  All the information that was on the big 8 1/2" x 11" reference sheet?  It's on the unit pieces now.  And wow, what a difference it makes.  Board power is now instantly recognizable, allowing players to spend more time thinking about the game instead of looking up unit capabilities on a reference sheet.

I haven't made a legend for the iconography, but it's been really easy for our playtesters to pick up:

  • The unit's attack dice are in colored boxes at the top.
  • Their movement is depicted by arrows in the upper right.
  • The grey half-circle on the left shows their hit points.
  • The name and point cost are in the lower right.
  • Small icons denote special abilities.  There are only a half dozen of them, and they're easy to remember.

The Road to Hell

By this point, some readers must be thinking, "This was ground-breaking to you?  Really?  Putting unit stats on the pieces?"  Well, embarrassingly, yes.

Early in the project, I made a decision not to put stats on the units, for a few reasons:

Flexibility.  I was changing unit stats quite frequently, and didn't want to have to reprint pieces every time I did.  In addition, I want unit stats to ultimately be something that is decided by the community.  I wanted the basic game pieces to still be usable if the community decided to change the Empire of Man roster.

Production Constraints.  The print-on-demand shop that I've been using for prototype production has a limited selection of options when it comes to individual printed pieces.  By "limited selection", I mean, "you can only use tokens with stickers".  So for the longest time, I refused to think about doing anything else because I couldn't.

Print-and-Play Compatibility.  I want our print-and-play to be easy to make.  I thought that using stickers on poker chips would make it easier to build for more people.

Coming to My Senses

My brilliant flash of blindingly obvious insight came in two parts.

First, I got some initial designs back from our artist, Michael Woolf.  I hadn't asked him to, but he put the unit stats on the pieces.  It was like night and day.  The pieces that had been bland, abstract concepts suddenly transformed into meaningful things, possessing knowledge to be gleaned.

The other half of it came during last weekend's QUAE VICTOR tournament.  There I was, watching a backyard-full of players, from newbies to veterans, and every single one of them had one thing in common: the players were constantly looking down at the unit reference sheet, multiple times per turn.  And I realized that every single time they're doing that, it's derailing their thought process, interrupting their ability to come up with good strategies, and generally bogging down the game.

New Art Coming Soon!

We're in the process of setting up our first limited production run, with new art for everything!  I'll post some sneak peeks here soon.

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