Lately, I have been hard at work on First Responders, INC, working with Sen-Foong Lim as part of the webinar series "The Game Dojo" (which can be found on Youtube or through Meeple Syrup.) My goal is to spend the next few months playtesting the game as much as possible to get it ready to be pitched during this year's con season. (If you're interested in taking a look at it, let me know.)
The game has always been ripe for expansions. The very nature of the game itself lends to it. New sets of crisis cards, new upgrades, new elements that can change the game. But I had never really settled on an idea. Until now.
I want to talk about modular design in board games. Yes, many games do have modular elements. Settlers of Catan is famous for having a modular board that changes over time. One vs Many games like Descent or Imperial Assault are, by very definition, modular, and involve a huge amount of tiles. But I believe a game can be modular beyond just changing the board every game.
First Responders, INC is modular in that sense. The game is played on 16 tiles (as of now) that relate to 4 different districts: Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Parks. These same 4 tile types will always be present, but will be laid out in a different way each game, leading to a variety of board set ups. Also, each "season" of game play will feature a 13 card deck built randomly from a pool of 20 cards, so even if you have the cards memorized, you'll never know when, where, or even if one particular crisis will show up. This is also modular.
But I knew I wanted more. I wanted pandemics, I wanted military actions, I wanted crazy-sci fi games with zombies and aliens and conspiracies. It was always on my wish list, but I hadn't figured out a way to really implement this. Until I played First Class.
If I had played First Class last year it would have been on my Top 10, probably Top 5, maybe even Top 3. I can't stress enough how good this game is. And it is a game that is truly modular.
The base game puts you in charge of a train company. You operate two lines, and are in charge of adding new cards, moving your conductor up and down the train, and moving the train down the line. You do this by drafting cards from a pool that allow you to extend your train line, let you move conductors, let you add new cards, and let you build combos that chain to score tons of points. But this is just the base of the game. The game also comes with 5 modules (of which you add 2 each game, in any combination.) These add to the game, changing its very core. They'll have you picking up passengers, housing celebrities, storing luggage, sending postcards, switching your trains onto new tracks, and even solving a murder on the Orient Express. The game feels the same, plays the same, and yet is absolutely different.
This is my goal for First Responders, INC. The game was designed for this in the beginning, it just took a new experience to really lock the idea into place. The base game is finished and in playtesting (coming soon to Tabletop Simulator, hopefully, and Print and Play), but I'm going to take some time and reflect on how I want to build the modules, and what I want them to include.
First Responders, INC is coming soon!