Sticks and Stones
MikeSelinker_120 von Mike Selinker:
There I was, walking through the Essen game fair with my friend Patric from the German distributor Ulisses Spiele, when my heart stopped. I'm sure Patric was saying something very important, but I couldn't hear him. All I could see was heaven (...)

MikesHaul_180stonehenge-james2_180
MikeSelinker_120 von Mike Selinker:
There I was, walking through the Essen game fair with my friend Patric from the German distributor Ulisses Spiele, when my heart stopped. I'm sure Patric was saying something very important, but I couldn't hear him. All I could see was heaven.
Heaven for a game designer, anyway. I could only gaze at the wonder that was the BEDI Holzspiele booth, which stocked dozens of colors of spare game bits. I immediately ran to get some cash. My haul from the BEDI booth was 1,000 Settlers of Catan roads, 1,000 Vinci pawns, several dozen Sorry! pawns, and 200 fewer euros.
MikesHaul_180
Okay, you're thinking "that's nice, Mike, but who needs a thousand Settlers roads?" Well, I did, because I wanted to make 15 sets of Stonehenge for playtest purposes. Normally, when making a game, that kind of thinking wouldn't work (it's hard to imagine "I'm going to need 1,000 Russian aircraft carriers"). But in Stonehenge's case, it was exactly what I needed to be thinking.
To explain that, I need to go back about 18 months to when we were first planning the components for Stonehenge. We'd pretty much figured out what kind of board we needed (see my
last diary), and now we needed to know what went with it. We still hadn't designed any games, so we had to figure out in abstract what we would use.
The one thing everyone agreed on was that the game needed rocks. Of course, we didn't know what we could make rocks out of (actual stone seemed right out). So we cast about for the nearest thing. Well, James did, and when he casts about, he finds LEGOs. So we made LEGOhenge, which had five brightly colored trilithons, each about a half-inch high. (Not exactly epic, I know.) We also added in an altar stone, representing the flat rock that the trilithons surround.
We imagined the outer stones fitting together in a neat circle of interlocked LEGOs, but this soon seemed impractical. The outer ring stones had to be separable for them to be of use in making games. So we settled on "bars" (Settlers roads, which are basically wooden sticks), and "disks" (Vinci pawns, which are squat cylinders). These were things we could move around freely, assigning them various roles like "apprentices" and "energy crystals." Whatever we needed a lot of, we could get with these. We started with twelve of each of these in five colors, one for each player.
StonehengePrototype_180
At some point Richard Borg said, "Can I have pawns for my knights?" His game wanted a single piece to represent each player, and we all thought that was a swell idea. Suddenly, my little Vinci pawn representing my chariot could become... well, it could become a Sorry! pawn. Not much of a step up, but meaningfully different. Later on, we added one pawn of a neutral color (actually a Settlers robber pawn) because James asked nicely.
At this point you may wonder, "why not a chariot?" or "why not knights?" The answer was that we didn't want to lock down preconceptions in people's minds. If you had a piece that looked like a chariot, you'd make a racing game. If you had knights, they'd hit each other with pointy sticks. We needed generalities, not specifics. (Incidentally, my favorite section of the rules is the spread that defines the pieces, as it doesn't tell you what anything is for. Try finding another game like that.)
Our final component was a deck of cards, because we needed some method of randomization or number assignment. Again, we didn't want to get too specific. We had numbers on the board, so we replicated those, coming up with sixty cards, with a "left circle" version and a "right circle" version of each number from 1 to 30. At Richard Garfield's suggestion, left and right eventually became "day" and "night." We added in five wild cards representing the trilithons, because as Richard always says, "every game's better with specials."
As we developed through the year, we pruned away things we didn't need. Every game worked with only ten of each bar and disk, so we dropped two of each. And amazingly, none of us used the altar stone as anything more than a flat surface for storing pawns, so we ditched that too.
A year after we started, I dumped the remaining items in art director Sean Glenn's lap. Sean made a set of cards, and had artist Jeff Carlisle draw up some rocky disks, bars, and trilithons, plus a vaguely humanoid pawn. Again, we tried not to make too obvious what this guy's purpose might be. He could be a druid, a ghost, an alien—pretty much anybody mysterious.
trilithonetc_180    cards_180
Sean's versions are a long way down a very good road from where we started. After a year of playing with LEGOs and little bits of wood, it's going to be great to start playing with these nicely realistic pieces. Soon I'll be able to build a fully realized Stonehenge on my tabletop. Maybe you'll want to as well.
Next time, I'll actually talk about the games in the box. I promise.
|