The History of The Hackers Guild Part 3: Getting to the Kickstarter

Welcome to the third entry in the History of The Hackers Guild series. In the first entry, I talked about the reasons I decided to make a board game and some of the circumstances that lead to my starting. The Adding the fifth player and player interaction

After a few months of play testing, I started thinking about adding a fifth player into the mix and changing The Hackers Guild from a full coop to a one versus many style of game by introducing the role of the network administrator. I decided to implement the change after receiving some feedback about the game feeling like multiplayer solitaire, and that there wasn’t much player interaction. They also indicated that the game was missing an element of tension or stress in the game, and I was hoping that the addition of the network administrator role who had the opportunity to mess with the hackers plans and make their lives more difficult would fill both of those needs.

Making the network administrator feel like it had enough of a role to warrant the addition of the fifth player was a big struggle. While the role stayed in the version that finally went to kickstarter in October of 2016, it has since been removed which has improved the game greatly. More on this in the next entry.

Mitigating the luck: Insiders and hacking tools

It didn’t take very long to realize that it was going to be important for the players to be able to mitigate some of the luck that was going to be part of the game due to the strong focus on rolling dice. At some point along the way, my brother introduced me to Favor of the Pharaoh, a dice rolling game from Bezier Games. In the game, there are player powers that you can purchase that allow you to manipulate the dice in various ways – adding more dice, flipping dice, re-rolling dice, setting dice to a chosen face, and splitting a die result into two values that add up to the original value. I really enjoyed this game, and started implementing some of the same dice manipulation actions into The Hackers Guild. Some of the actions are still part of the game today.

These dice manipulation actions were implemented into the game in two different methods: first as insiders that you could recruit to your cause, and second as hacking tools that you could purchase.

The insiders where spread into the different cities in the US you could fly to, and each insider provided a different dice manipulation technique and varying degrees. For example, one insider might allow you to re-roll one of your dice, where another would allow you to re-roll them all. I was quite fond of the insiders, but the flying mechanic really felt bolted onto the game, and wasn’t adding much to the overall theme immersion, and was ultimately removed from the game.

The Hackers Guild had some form of hacking tools from the beginning, and they offered additional luck mitigation, both related to dice, as well as protection from the effects of the Event cards. Over time as the game changed, it became a natural progression to combine the insider powers into the existing hacking tool powers which is where the dice mitigation ended up in the version of the game that eventually hit Kickstarter.

To work or not to work: the day job action struggle

From the beginning, there was a need in the game for players to be able to earn money to be able to purchase upgrades, tools, and insiders. The game today continues to have ways for the hackers to earn additional funds. The first attempt involved doing jobs for the barkeep at the pub, which ended up feeling like level grinding in a video game. I received a suggestion from a member on boardgamegeek to try something as simple as a day job action, where you would spend one of your actions in exchange for money. The day job action also became a handy spot to spend any extra actions that you didn’t have anywhere else you wanted to use them for. I flip flopped multiple times as to whether or not to include the day job action in the game, but it was ultimately removed prior to finalizing the kickstarter version. I also implemented a reward system for successful hacks, which worked well and is the method I’ve stuck with in the today’s version.

More isn’t always better – simplifying game play

As I have moved along this journey of designing The Hackers Guild, I’ve tried to keep this motto in mind. There have been a lot of “good” ideas along the way that just really didn’t need to be included. Was it cool to be able to fly to different locations and hire insiders? Was it technically more correct to have RAM and HDD space measured in GB rather than just abstracting it into different “levels”? Would it have been cool to have stayed with the idea of having to be able to physically fit your hacking tools, in different tetromino shapes, onto a physical representation of the space on your hard drive? Sure these were fun ideas, but they all have one thing in common – they complicated the game play to an extent that overshadowed their cool factor, and the game still works amazingly well without them. I will talk a little more about this in the next entry as well, so stay tuned!

An overview of The Hackers Guild’s Kickstarter campaign

So here are some quick stats about The Hackers Guild’s Kickstarter campaign:

  • Launch Date: October 3, 2016
  • End Date: November 3, 2016
  • Funding Goal: $22,000
  • Funds Raised: $11,177
  • Number of Backers: 206

I am considering doing a quick postmortem and lessons learned post on the Kickstarter campaign at a later date, but it was a crazy ride that I look forward to again in the future, so stay tuned for that.

I hope you enjoyed reading more about the design decisions that were made leading up to The Hackers Guild’s Kickstarter campaign. In the next part of the series, I will be talking about some of the design changes and decisions that have been made since the failed Kickstarter campaign that turned the game into what it is today. I hope you check it out.

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