Last year, during NaGaDeMon 2013, I decided to make a game. I wanted to make a game for Jayme, my baby momma. With that constriction, it had to be a good fit for her: 2 player, fast and loose (not too much thinking), and be about something she likes… which meant either zombies, or knitting. Yeah… I’m not going to do a game about knitting. Sorry.
So, 2-player, zombies. Got it. I dug through my back-catalog of ideas and found one that fit pretty well. I needed a head start if I was going to do this game in just one month. Using the old game as a foundation, I built a 2 player zombie game. The old game had some weird mechanics that I stole from other games, and some extra components that I thought I could shave out (I wanted it to be cards-only.) I worked a little on how to remove the bits… which meant I needed to replace them with some other mechanism to make it fit.
I looked through my little list of “design ideas” that mostly contains one liner mechanics and I found what I was looking for: the cost of playing a card is letting your opponent draw cards. I plugged in that mechanic, and the game was easily done that month.
One Year Later
Here we are 11 months later. I’ve tested this game quite a bit, but I haven’t done anything else with it. Mostly because of my inability to draw zombies… but also because it was planned to be my next Kickstarter project. I’ve played the game, and shown the game to a bunch of different people and publishers… and guess what… the zombies are holding it back.
I, unlike the vocal gaming community, don’t believe that the zombie theme is dead or overdone. That’s like saying that fantasy is dead and overdone. There is nothing wrong with the zombie theme… as a theme… but it’s the zombie theme as a mechanic that’s overdone. Dumb, slow, non-scary zombies are boring. Trying to turn that theme into an interesting board game is hard. They end up dull… and, well, boring. I think a fast-paced zombie game that’s a bit silly could be quite attractive. That’s what I was attempting to do here.
But, you know what… there honestly was a disconnect from the theme to the mechanics. I had to answer the question all too often about why the stronger zombie group got into the cabins first. Thematically, it really didn’t make sense.
When Zombies Become Ants
Recently, I played the game with a new playtester. We discussed some new card mechanics and ideas, then he said something that hit me right in the theme:
I like the tug-of-war mechanic. I wish it wasn’t zombies.
That’s really what this game is… a tug of war. It doesn’t make sense that the stronger of two hordes of zombies gets to break into the cabin. It does, however, make sense that the stronger of a group gets to take something away… like, say, if two factions of ants were fighting over a plate of food. The stronger faction of ants could pull that plate of food away from the other faction, back to their anthill.
Enter: Operation Picnic
The game has been completely re-themed and all the art is done. I did it all myself because drawing bugs is way easier than drawing zombies. Also, this art was supposed to just be a stand-in for prototype purposes, but it has received a totally insane level of praise. By that, I mean at least two people said it’s awesome which is roughly 50% more than usual.
I’ve edited the rules to reflect the new theme. Please, feel free to check them out (by clicking that link) and comment on them. I’d like them to be perfect. I’ve also ordered some decks from The Game Crafter for testing. I think this is the longest I’ve ever held onto a prototype without ordering a test deck from TGC. Weird.
I’ll be in Madison, Wisconsin next week for Protospiel Madison. If you’d like to play the game, come check it out! After testing there, I’ll make whatever adjustments need made and then I’ll try to get a PnP up for some quality blind testing quickly. I love getting the input of my readers more than anyone and you guys have been awesome about testing for me in the past. Fun times!