Ideals of the Nations



Ideals of the Nations, designed in 2011 with Sarah Scoggins. The design constraint was to make a cooperative board game about negotiation that involved actual player negotiation, themed around the Treaty of Versailles. Oh, and I decided to make it a match-3 game.

The game consists of a deck of Negotiation cards and a set of Agendas. That’s one of the Negotiation cards pictured above. The Negotiation cards formed the actual match-3 board, and players took turns making moves and matches. The rules for the match-3 system were altered significantly from the standard Bejeweled-ish digital template to something that worked far better and faster in an analogue format. By itself, the cooperative match-3 game was a system of interesting choices in its own right, which was really encouraging during playtests.

Players are playing against the board, trying to cooperatively create matches and try to meet the goals on the Agendas…but every move they make requires them to also put points on the opposing side of one of the Agendas. Play becomes a balancing act, with the difficulty of the game changing dynamically. In the card above, it can either be played as a -2 to one of the agendas, a +1 to one of the agendas, or it can be put in the player’s hand and it’s effect used later.

This made balancing the cards easier. While the interacting systems as a whole could tip things towards either side, the actual numbers on the cards generated fairly even results. The card effects, and when to use them, became the second set of interesting choices.

The theme of the game comes out in this second layer; the players are not the individual participants in the thematic debate, but act rather as the agents of the perfect peace treaty, attempting to embody the ideals of the nations and guide the conference to a possibly better end.

Of course, even a perfected treaty has no guarantee of avoiding World War II or the Great Depression. Which is, I think, appropriate when making a game about a treaty that already had so much idealism and retribution imposed upon it.

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