Where have I been? What have I been doing? Well, among other things, I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a board game. My buddy Drew and I had a notion a few years ago to try our hand at making a homebrew board game based on a Prohibition-era Gangster theme: Empire City is the result.
Part of our desire was just to figure out “how” to make a board game and the other part was to work on our game designer chops so that we could possibly, maybe, someday catch on with a larger outfit and make games professionally. It remains a nice idea at this point, but the experience we gained in the process was nonetheless invaluable.
These days a novice game designer has so many tools available to them that simply didn’t exist a couple decades ago. There are numerous sites online where you can now design and print custom cards, boards and other components. Also, the explosion of 3D printing technology has really democratized the ability to make custom miniatures and other game pieces. That said the process was rather expensive — each of our demo copies cost about $100 to make — but without going through this it was hard to understand the impacts of our design choices and the learnings gained from this will help guide future game concepts in a simpler direction.
The game itself started from our love of both Territory Capture games and Worker Placement games; the offspring is a kind of hybrid of a Euro-game and your classic AmeriTrash dice-roller. The other day I was watching a review on Shut Up & Sit Down about the Dune board game re-print and it occurred to me that there was more than a little bit of Dune flavor worked into Empire City, with our asymmetrical faction design.
Each Gang in Empire City is designed to play in a slightly different manner from the other factions. While ultimately all players win via the accumulation of Victory Points, each faction has special ways of earning points that can be exploited through effective engine building (milling the right cards from the deck and controlling the right board spaces). We wanted each gang to have this kind of flavor, even if it meant giving some of the gangs a more powerful early game advantage over some of the more subtle factions.
While we’ve playtested the game to a certain extent, I think it will be interesting to see how someone plays this game completely cold. We’ll be looking to sprinkle a couple of demo copies to game shops around town and see if we can capture some more player feedback.
I’ll attach a copy of the Empire City Rulebook here if you’d like to learn more — apologies in advance if the conversion to PDF came out a bit wonky. As always, I’d love to hear and questions you may have in the comments below.