Highland Battles 1689 – Onside Report
I ran an extemporised version of the Highland Battles game that I first designed back in 2005. Before I brought it to the Conference I tried to add some of the mechanisms that I’d left out of it and also made an attempt to slightly simplify it. The other bit of prep that I did was to make a load of counters for the clans and army units.
The update to Highland Battles (the orginal game that I wrote a decade ago) was a bit rushed. In the best traditions of CLWG I had crammed in everything I could think of into the smallest possible slot so that I could try and run a partial game rather than a design session. With a small amount of hindsight I might have got just as much out of the session from discussion rather than trying to play Highland Battles.
What I had wasn’t a fully prepared game, but I wanted it to be half playable to test some of the mechanisms. I didn’t have a proper map (I’m rubbish at doing maps on computers, and you need to do that to make them scalable and repeatable). I did draw one that showed the relative positions of the clans, but it lacked the topographic detail of where the routes were. You sort of need both for the game to work properly.
The other major factor was that I hadn’t quite got the briefings done for enough players to get a game going. I could have run with more and had a political layer, because that bit of it has been played several times as Orange or Lemon. The Highland Battles end has never been played.
I’d sort of seen this as a very open megagame style system. The idea being that the players would have all the rules and there wouldn’t be much for the umpires at all. However I realised as we were playing it that this won’t drive a confrontation if it is structured that way.
What did I learn?
- I need to simplify it further, and make the money/support numbers lower than they were.
- the briefings need to drive players more and give them reasons to act
- share the material ahead of the game as much as possible (hard this time as I did it in the evenings this week)
- the counters need to be bigger and easier to read
- rules need a redraft to make them clearer and easier to grasp, especially making sure that they are appropriately compartmentalised
- some more worked examples in the rules
- do a decent map
- have a political input and be clear to the players where the higher level input goes (where they have a higher level)
I’m sure there will be more lessons from the offside reviews. There were also some comments on some of the sheets that I collected back in.