Dice and Drawbridges Inspire Games Designed By Scouts At Balboa Oaks Spring 17 Merit Badge Midway

Several times a year I volunteer at local merit badge midways to run workshops for the Game Design Merit Badge that I helped to create for the Boy Scouts of America. On Saturday I led a three-hour workshop at the Balboa Oaks Merit Badge Midway in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, and as with every time I’ve run these workshops, I was impressed with the wide variety of games these young men designed.

My workshops always begin with a Socratic-dialog-heavy talk about the various elements that comprise a game, the different ways we can describe a game’s play value (what makes it fun to play), and how intellectual property rights apply to games. I then do an exercise with the boys in making changes to game rules to see what effects those have on players, using set of Spider-Man tic-tac-toe sets.  (You’d be amazed at the number of variations on tic-tac-toe the scouts have come up with over the past couple of years).  With each of these topics, the scouts satisfy various merit badge requirements.

The more advanced (and most fun) requirements involve the scouts proposing a game concept, and once I approve it, prototyping their game and playtesting it with other scouts.

Here are some of the games the scouts designed last weekend.

 

Match Em
by Nate Y, Troop 773

This dice game looks deceptively simple, but I found it to be the most engaging game of the day to play.

Vision Statement: A free-for-all dice game where 2-4 players roll dice in an effort to be the first person to collect 3 Match’em cards.

Play Value: Challenge.

Set-Up: 2-4 people can play.

  • Three cards are taken from the deck and laid on the table, face up. Cards will display a picture of 6 dice. The object of the game is to roll your dice until you can match what is displayed on one of the cards.
  • Each player has six dice. Players will roll 1 die to determine who starts the game. Highest roll wins. Players who roll the same number must re-roll against each other until a winner is determined. Once the starting player is determined, turns move clockwise from the starting player.

Progression:

  • Three cards are taken from the deck and laid on the table, face up. Cards will display a picture of 6 dice. The object of the game is to roll your dice until you can match what is displayed on one of the cards.
  • Each player will take turns rolling their dice once. After a player rolls their dice, any matching numbers can be placed next to the card they want to obtain. Those dice are now “locked in” to the card. Any non-matching numbers will be taken back to re-roll on their next turn. Multiple players can work on the same card as other players. The first person to match all 6 dice on card wins that card and they take it from the table. All dice that were locked on that card will be returned to the players and a new card will be pulled from the deck to replace it. The first player to obtain 3 cards wins the game.
  • Take back rule: At the beginning of their turn, a player has the option to take back all their dice and re-roll them. This can be helpful if a player wants to work on a new card or attempt to steal a card that another player is currently working on. This must be done at the beginning of the player’s turn. No dice can be taken back after the player has rolled on their turn.

Resolution: The first player to collect 3 Match Em cards wins.

Resources: Dice, Match Em cards

 

Medieval Quests
by Grayson R, Troop 351

This was the most visually impressive game at the workshop.  Grayson R of Troop 1 created this board game to teach players about knights, kings, queens, people, weapons, foods, customs and other information of the medieval time period.

Vision Statement: A medieval board game in which 2-4 players answer questions related to Medieval times in a race to reach a castle.

Play Value: Novelty.

Set-Up: 2-4 people can play.

  • Each player takes a game piece and puts  it at the starting point, on the brown tile.
  • Place dragon cards and treasure cards in card holder.
  • The youngest player goes first.

Progression:

  • Each Player takes drawing a white dragon card and reading the question to the player on his/her left (the answer is located underneath the question).

  • If the question is answered correctly, then the player who answered the questions correctly will move the amount of spaces indicated in the parenthesis after the answer.

  • If the question is answered incorrectly, the player will remain where they are and not move forward.

  • If a player lands on a red tile, a red treasure card will be drawn and the directions followed.

  • The person to the player’s left has the next turn.

Resolution: The first player to get to the castle will win the game.

Resources: 40 dragon cards (white), 12 red treasure cards (red)

 

The Battlefield: Airsoft
by Tristan R, Troop 351

Many scouts prefer to make board games in these workshops because the visual element of the board is fun to build and makes gameplay easy to understand.  Most of these board games tend to be simple races, but Tristan built one with combat elements.

Vision Statement: A free-for-all board game with an air soft theme in which the objective is the be the last player standing.

.Play Value: Challenge and Threat.  It is Challenge because the players will be able to get more advanced airsoft weapons and armor at different places in the game which will help them to defeat their opponents easier.  It is is Threat because the players will be able to get better weapons and armor and have the threat of being eliminated.

Set-Up:

  • Each player (4 player game) begins the game with 10 Life Cards.

  • Each player begins on the Start space.

Progression:

  • Each player rolls the dice during that player’s turn and moves that many spaces.

  • If a player lands on a Weapons Space, he draws a Weapon card.  The Weapon card will list the Range, Damage, Accuracy and Capacity of that weapon.  The player may use that weapon on that turn or can save it for another turn.

  • If a player lands on an Armor Space, he draws an Armor card.  The Armor card will list the Safety Value for that Armor (example = “Can be redeemed for +1 Life”).  This card can be saved to be used during a battle where another player is using a Weapon card against them.

  • If a player lands on a Cover Space, he is protected from any battle or weapon and can not be damaged.

  • If a player is damaged by a weapon, he must give up the correct number of Life Cards that the particular Weapon Card states unless he has an Armor Card that protects him from giving up any Life Cards.

  • If a player lands on a Loss of Life Space, he must turn in the number of Life Cards listed on that space.

Resolution:

  • Players are eliminated when they have lost all their Life Cards.
  • The game continues until only one player is left standing with Life Cards.

Resources: Lives, Dice (movement points), Range, Damage, Accuracy, Capacity and Safety Value.

 

The Knight’s Templar
by Dylan M, Troop 1003

Video games are the most difficult type of games to do at these merit badge workshops because of the limited time to make improvements to your game after making your playtest observations. But Dylan M. of Troop 1003 managed to earn his Game Design merit badge with this platformer.

Vision Statement: A single-player electronic 2D platformer set in a medieval kingdom in which the protagonist must defeat enemies to save his kingdom.

Play Value: Challenge.

Set-Up:

  • Player starts at the left edge of the level with 4 Lives, 10 Health and 0 Score.

Progression:

  • Controls: arrow keys (left, right= move left, right, up=jump).
  • Enemies: All enemies die upon collision.  However, unless the player jumps on them from above, collision also takes away 1 Health from player.
  • Scoring:
    • Killing an enemy: 5 points.
    • Collecting gold: 2 points.

Resolution: The game ends when player gets all the 4 keys and unlocks door, which completes level.

Resources: Score, Keys, Health, Lives

 

As always, the scouts were very inventive, given the limited resources and time they had available.  Even better, they were not only proud of the games they made, they really enjoyed playing other scout’s games.  After all, as I explained to them, creating fun experiences for others to enjoy is what game design is all about.

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About David Mullich

I am a video game producer who has worked at Activision, Disney, Cyberdreams, EduWare, 3DO and the Spin Master toy company. I am currently a game design and production consultant, Lead Faculty, Game Production Program at The Los Angeles Film School, co-creator of the Boy Scouts of America Game Design Merit Badge, and answer kid’s questions about game design on the Boy’s Life website. At the 2014 Gamification World Congress in Barcelona, I was rated the 14th ranking "Gamification Guru" in social media.

Posted on March 27, 2017, in Game Design, Game Education and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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