Welcome to another Button Shy’s Micro Chat. In this edition, we will be talking to Smoke & Mirrors designer, Chip Beauvais, on his latest wallet game (and currently on Kickstarter) Universal Rule. Part of our Pocket Universe series (which also included Pod-X and Twin Star games), Universal Rule is an 18 card, 3-5 player sci-fi game. Before we get to the chat with Chip, here is a quick run summary of the game:
Deep in the Pocket Universe, the balance of power is shifting. Seventeen newly discovered planets are being colonized and tapped for crucial resources. Shifting alliances and stacks of galactic credits influence battles for control. Can you claim Universal Rule in this 4x wallet game from Button Shy?
In Universal Rule, players battle for control of the universe in this pocket sized 4X style game. You can colonize new planets, explore new areas on those planets, gain credits based off of the resources that the planet produces, or attempt to destroy other planets that threaten your existence. Other players can follow, but at a cost. The first player to show their true dominance through victory points, will win the game.
What is the story behind designing Universal Rule?
Chip: After Smoke and Mirrors was successfully fulfilled, I approach Jason about some other wallet game ideas I had in mind. He countered that he was looking for something heavier, like maybe a 4x game, to increase Button Shy's audience beyond casual gamers.
My first reaction was, "A 4x game using only 18 cards? That's impossible!" But then I went to work.
How did you overcome that hurdle of what seemed impossible? Where did you start?
Chip: The first "cheat" I employed was to use both sides of the 18 cards, to give me 36 virtual cards to work with. Eventually, this was condensed into giving planets a basic and upgraded version (on the same side of the card).
I started with the actions players would take, and mapped them to the 4 X's. Explore, Expand (aka Colonize), Exploit (Produce), and Exterminate (Attack). The fifth action, Upgrade, was a natural consequence of putting two versions of a planet on the same side of a card.
I did most of this early development in January of 2016, following Gil Hova's 4P program (https://gil.hova.net/4p/)
For you personally as the designer, the most interesting design choice you had to make when designing Universal Rule?
Chip: phew There were a lot of design choices, mostly cutting out unnecessary complexity.
Figuring out the costs of planets, especially the upgrade cost, and how that corresponded with the number of planets you needed to have in play. For example, if a basic planet costs 1, and the upgraded planet costs 7, that's a difference of 6. If you only have one planet in play, you're limited to 5 credits, so you'll never be able to upgrade that planet.
In that example, making the basic planet more expensive, while leaving the upgraded cost the same, makes the planet easier to upgrade. It's unexpected that increasing the cost of a planet could improve it :)
What has been your favorite part or experience so far when it comes to your journey with Universal Rule?
Chip: As with Smoke and Mirrors, working with Jason has been the best part of the process. We approach game design from different perspectives, and I learn a lot from him.
That brings up another good question, one that we will wrap up with. What do you think is the biggest lesson you have learned through the designing of Universal Rule - be it as professional designer or personally?
Chip: Don't be afraid to add stuff that you know won't work. Even though I knew double-sided cards wouldn't survive the entire development process, it gave me the freedom to experiment and find a solution that did work. But also, don't be afraid to remove stuff later. At one point, players could set a different follow cost for each opponent. While that did some interesting things, it slowed the game down too much.
Thanks for doing this interview and for you time, Chip.
Chip: My pleasure - anytime :)
Want to learn more about Universal Rule? You’re in luck! It is currently on Kickstarter (until Nov 12th, 2016) where you can find more information on the game. You can check it out on Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/239309591/universal-rule-a-4x-game-in-18-cards
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