I have returned to thinking about “Dogfight” (actually I have been thinking about it for quite some time, I merely have returned to writing about what I’m thinking about).
A large number of changes are in store for the latest round of the game (version 1.2 or something). I have been focusing on trying to make the gameplay more smooth; thus the incorporation of the game board, “plane status sheets”, and simplified and streamlined rules.
The Game Board: Discussed below, the game board’s main claim to fame is that is helps players see at a glance where they are, relatively speaking, with respect to the other planes in the air. The two variables that matter in this game (speed and altitude) are mapped on a communal surface. I think its a great improvement over the stacks of poker chips method (whose claim to fame was the tactile feel of literally moving energy between speed and altitude). Reading what altitude your opponent is at, from across the table, was difficult (had to count a stack of chips).
The Plane Status Sheets: I want to reduce the pen and paper record keeping side of the game as much as possible. Having a hand full of cards, then setting those down to pick up a pencil and record damage seemed too fiddly. I have a rough prototype of a plane status sheet, where you write in the relevant attributes for your plane at the beginning of the game, but during the game you simply move a marker along a track to record degrading performance attributes. Hopefully it is much faster than before. Also, seeing from across the board how your opponents are doing is easier.
Simplified Rules: I am trying to make the rules simpler. One that sticks out, in particular, is the concept of a fragile plane. In real life, some planes were more robustly constructed than others. In a fragile plane, you could actually damage the aircraft by “flying too hard” (sometimes with fatal consequences). My first take at a rule for representing this effect was too difficult to remember in the heat of battle. Each particular aircraft had a listed “safe speed”…go above this value and you take damage. This has been generalized to a “safe speed limit” of 9. If a fragile plane travels faster than this, in a power dive, they flip the top card of the damage deck. If the damage listed is “Structure” or “Structure x 2″, then the worst has happened and the plane actually suffers that damage effect. Any other listed damage effect is ignored. The nice thing about using a universal speed limit is I can also draw a red line on the Game Board to represent this performance threshold. Much easier to keep track of in this way.
At any rate, much work on details is going on behind the scenes. I hope to take to the air again soon (next couple weeks) for some more play testing. I will also be trying to finish up a number of sections of the rule book and work more on scenarios…i.e. how to win a game besides simply shooting everyone else down. Need to get the basic flight and combat mechanics ironed out before I delve too deeply into those final bits, however.