WARNING: INBOUND WALL OF TEXT.
Here's the log from my latest brainstorming session on my PnP game. Mostly I'm attempting to find ways to solve problems I found during my playtest, but a lot of this is just good old fashioned aimless brainstorming too. And I think there's a picture near the end.
Starting with a potential theme for the game, because a lot of the ideas I had came from thinking about how I could apply this theme mechanically. The theme is: Particle Collisions. As you're reading this, half of you are probably thinking that sounds like the coolest thing ever, and the other half think it sounds like the dumbest thing ever. But it leads to some interesting potential mechanics. For instance, what if, when two pieces collide head-on, instead of being destroyed, they "fuse" into a larger particle, with different properties. And then when larger particles collide, they could go through "fission", and split, which would cause two or more particles to move off in different directions.
The goal of the game could be to fuse your pieces together and be the first player to synthesize a certain type of particle. Certain reactions would require certain pieces, so you have to start with your small pieces, build them up to medium and then large. This gives the player smaller goals building up to the big one, so each turn you can feel like you're achieving something. And the opponent could try to sabotage your efforts by colliding with your bigger particles to break them apart (of course you could do the same to him). This could create a sort of ebb and flow of how many pieces there are on the board. Breaking up an opponent's pieces gets him farther away from the end goal, but might open up new opportunities for him because now he has more pieces on the board.
This theme may or may not make use of actual names of actual particles, which may or may not actually react realistically. Truth be told, that seems like it would be more trouble than it's worth.
Sticking with the theme, the board could be a nuclear reactor. In that case, instead of the edges wrapping, pieces could bounce off of the edges of the board. That might actually not be any easier to grasp for players, depending on how the rules for bouncing work.
Instead of pieces moving a set distance and reacting with any pieces they move over, they could simply move until they collide with another piece. That would be easier for players to conceive, and ensure that one piece only reacts with one other piece. It would keep chains simpler, but they could still get fairly long. On the other hand, how would the reaction ever stop? It could be "move until you reach a starting color or hit another piece".
Currently, a player can rotate any one piece to face any direction. It might be better if they can only rotate a piece one "turn" to the left or right. Keep things a little simpler. It might also be interesting if players can rotate their opponent's pieces (but are still only allowed to move their own).
What if I removed a layer of hexes from the board, to make it smaller? Or what if that happened during the game? after, say, 15 turns, the outer layer is removed. With everything suddenly cramped closer together, reactions would become more volatile, the game would get more exciting.
What if each player had a "cue ball" piece? they are only allowed to control that one particular piece, and they have to rotate their pieces to manipulate the outcome of that movement. I like this.
"On a player's turn, he may rotate his "cue" piece, and one other piece on the board of any color. He then moves the "cue" piece and plays out the reaction."
What other objectives could the game have?
Scoring system based on the size/type of reactions players generate, game ends after X turns and players count their score. This would allow for players to control how long a game lasts.
Goal is simply to create the longest reaction possible. The first player to set off a reaction that involves, say, 10 pieces wins. I think this model would suffer a lot from people not feeling like they have control. Players would have to try to "set up" their pieces for a big reaction, which would be almost impossible to do.
What other themes could the game have?
Primitive, single-cell life forms, vying for dominance in the primordial soup.
Totally abstract game with cool-looking arrows and shit.
Flying Mech-Warriors in space, who combine by ramming into each-other.
Let's make some rules for "fusion" and "fission".
1. goal is to be the first to fuse a red piece OR goal is to, on your turn, cause your red piece to collide with your opponent's red piece.
2. each player starts with 3 blue pieces, 2 green pieces, and 1 red piece, which start off of the board. Which player controls the piece is denoted by the color of the arrow, which stays either black or white.
3. when two starting pieces of a player's color collide head-on, they "fuse" into a blue piece. both original pieces are removed from the board, and a blue piece is placed on the tile where they collided.
4. when two starting pieces of opposing player's colors collide head-on, they fuse into a green piece, controlled by the player whose piece was moving when the two collided.
5. when a blue and a green piece controlled by the same player collide head-on, they fuse into a red piece.
6. Whenever one or more blue, green, or red pieces collide head-on with another piece, except in the case of rule 5, they go through "fission", and split: Replace that piece with its two component pieces. those pieces are then rotated and moved. Their rotation is determined by the player whose turn it is OR it is decided randomly (roll a die for each piece, and rotate it that many clockwise turns from the direction of the piece which was moving when the two pieces collided. In the case of doubles, roll again).
7. Whenever a red piece collides with an opponent's piece, that piece is destroyed (this rule would be in the case of the second goal listed in rule one, where play continues after a red piece is on the board. This would encourage players to be the first to get to red, even though it is not a win condition, and would help bring the game to a quick end once a red piece is on the board. A player could win either by destroying his opponent's red piece, or by creating conditions where it is impossible for the opponent to create a red piece, because he doesn't have enough pieces.)
Updated movement rules. Two possibilities:
1. on a player's turn, he first rotates any one piece on the board (of any color) one turn left or right. He then moves any one piece of his color, and plays out the reaction. OR…
2. Players play with a designated "cue" piece. On a player's turn, he may rotate his cue piece on turn left or right, and any one other piece on the board (of any color). He then MUST move his cue piece, and play out the reaction.
VARIATION ON THE CUE PIECE RULES: A player may re-designate which of his pieces is the cue. Whenever a player's cue piece collides with another of his pieces on his turn, he may chose to designate that piece the cue piece. (this may be needlessly complicated.)
That's probably enough to think about until some more playtests.