Colossus of Atlantis Megagame (Kapcon 2017)


#1

Greetings

I am proposing to run a Megagame at Kapcon 2017. A Megagame is a combination of LARP and boardgame, usually played in teams. I am interested in trying to get an idea of the demand for spaces in the game, and for the amount of time people would be willing to spend on the game at Kapcon. All going well, I will also be offering the game at Battlecry and Buckets of Dice in 2017.

I have run these games in Christchurch over the last twenty odd years, under the name of “Grand Strategy Game”, but internationally the name “Megagame” has been popularized in the United Kingdom, especially through the UFO game “Watch the Skies” (see http://www.megagame-makers.org.uk/). The Facebook group for Megagames has over 1200 subscribers, and at GENCON this year the US$56 tickets for Watch the Skies were all sold out well before the con started.

Colossus of Atlantis will incorporate game themes relating to Plato’s writings on Atlantis, classical era Greece, giant steampunk robots, a Hollow Earth map, and a few gonzo elements such as Vril, dinosaurs and eldritch horrors. The game will be very tactile - anything you can build and place on the game map will have a wooden or plastic game token.

At the moment I am designing the game for 35 players, but there is flexibility to scale that up or down to 25-50 players. Each team of five players represents one of the noble houses of Atlantis. Each player will have a role to play within the team: Basileus (King - team leader and magistrate), Strategos (General), Philósophos (Lover of wisdom - Researcher), Arkhitéktōn, (master builder – engineer), or Logographer (speechwriter – lawyer). Each role has a special option or power to use in game, but the bulk of game actions can be performed by any player.

The general objective of play, is to maximise your team’s score in Victory Points (gained through a number of alternative means). Success in the game requires imagination, dedication, and the ability to make decisions while under pressure.

The course of play is in 20 minute game turns. The game turn is divided into a ten minute sit down at the map tables phase, followed by a ten minute stand up phase for negotiations, trade, and law suits. Map table action focuses on exploration, settlement, governance and defence of colonies - this is what the bulk of the written rules will cover.

The game will intertwine player-versus-environment and player-versus-player conflict. All the player teams are from Atlantis, so while they compete for advantage in politics, trade deals, and colonisation, they should all unite against threats to Atlantis (the non-player empires of Leng, Lemuria and Mu, plus any monsters threatening the colonies). As the game develops, opportunities for conflict between the teams will increase.

I have made a deliberate design decision to make the game easy to learn and forgiving of initial mistakes, by not allowing player versus player conflict in the first turn. Each turn a number of Eris (strife) tokens equal to the turn number will be drawn at each map table. This is where conflict can occur in the following game turn. For example, in the second game turn, two tokens are drawn, indicating where the turn three conflicts may happen. There are thirteen regions per map, so it is possible to avoid combat early on.

All combat is map based using army tokens - its not possible to kill a player in the game.

There are two specific areas for player driven emergent play. One is oath swearing at the Temple of Poseidon, where a player swears a formal oath to do or not do a particular game action, and specifies the penalty if they break the oath. If they then do break their word, the penalty is applied. The other is the ability to press legal charges against other players for dishonourable conduct, seeking specified damages. Exactly what is considered dishonourable, or what a fair compensation should be, is up to the players to decide. I will provide some roleplaying guides for this, based on the culture and history of ancient Greece.

Each team will have a technology tree to research. I have done to fair bit of under the hood work to ensure that every team should unlock at least one new technology each game turn, and all teams have the potential to start building colossi by the end of turn four.

Players will also face a choice about whether or not to use DOOM cards. This is a prisoner’s dilemma. If no one uses DOOM cards, Atlantis will be safe from the deluge. If everyone uses DOOM cards to gain short term advantages in the game, then Atlantis will sink beneath the waves. If your team uses DOOM cards, and the other teams refuse, then Atlantis probably won’t sink, and your team gets a significant advantage. If Atlantis sinks, the team with the lowest DOOM score earns a moral victory.

When I have run this type of game in the past, its usually been in the Saturday night slot for a convention, running from around 6pm to 11pm. While the game could be run at Kapcon in the standard three hour time slot, I think running over two sessions would result in a better game - with a small half time break. In particular there would be more time for instruction at the start of the game, and for an end of game debrief where all the teams can do final speeches and a comparison of how well initial plans worked out. From past experience some players turn up having read the rules, and some turn up having lost their game packet.

So - does this sound like it could be fun to play? Are you interested in playing at Kapcon - or helping as a GM? Do you think I should try and fit the game into one or two sessions of play?

I’m happy to answer other questions about it. I am still writing the rules, with playtesting of the map game starting this month. I will be cross-posting this to a few other places.


#2

I am running a playtest of the Colossus of Atlantis map game on Saturday 8 October from 1-6pm at my place in Wellington. I have four spaces at the table left, and I will supply pizza and beer for the debrief. Let me know if you are interested by emailing me at grand.vizier@gmail.com. There will be a second playtest in Christchurch over Labour Weekend, and I will have a third playtest in Wellington in November.

Here is a recent article on megagames: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2016/09/the-explosive-growth-of-the-300-person-megagame/


#3

Alpha version of the rules finished. Its around 24 pages in length. Eventually this set will morph into shorter rule sets for each GM or player role, and will include more examples and art. Still got a couple of playtest spots free for this coming Saturday.


#4

My blog post on the first playtest: https://texarkana23.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/first-colossus-of-atlantis-playtest/


#5

I am now organising a playtest for the afternoon of Saturday 22 October, in Christchurch. I also started the process of commissioning artwork over the weekend. I have also tried attaching a first draft of a brief for one of the five player roles - the Strategos (General). 2016-10-05 Strategos Brief Template.pdf (40.0 KB)


#6

Bookings are now live on the Kapcon website. I am organising a third playtest on Saturday 19 November, but from now on the bulk of new information for the game will be going up on my personal website. The first draft of the player role briefings are up there, which should give you a better idea of what players will be doing in the game.


#7

Looks awesome!

Did have a thought that we must be nearing the age of megamegagames, which combine LARP, tabletop, and first person computer games (flight simulators, battlefield games, etc). What a time to be a geek!


#8

I can see a future where smart phones are integrated into the games with applications. I don’t have the programming skills to do that, so I stick to the old fashioned counters and dice. One of my original inspirations was reading about Australian freeform games in the early 1990s, which alternated between tabletop games and LARP sessions at a weekend convention.


#9

Player briefings and rules for the Colossus of Atlantis at Kapcon 2017 are now available on Dropbox.

The game can now cope with up to 8 players who can only play in round one or round two. There about 15 team based positions still available.

I will be doing the initial casting survey on 12 January, to identify the Control team, as I will be hosting a run through of the game for Wellington based Control people on Sat 14 January. I will do a second casting on 19 January for people who have registered after the 12th.


#10

My after action report is here.


#11

In relation to the costs discussion:

  • The “standard” cost for a one-evening (2-4 hour) larp event in Wellington is $20, with a $5 NZLARPS discount. People have run 6-hour games (with a meal) for ~$40. Either way, it nicely covers hall / room rental, and food, with a tidy sum left over for extra props or profit to buy cool stuff for future games.
  • We investigated the cost of venues a few years ago, and our venue list is here (this is sorely in need of updating). Multi-room venues with a mix of spaces like WHS are hard to find, sadly.
  • If all you need is a hall I would recommend the Brooklyn Community Centre at $18/hour. You can throw in the lounge for a control space or hidden faction, and it would cost $108 / $197 for a 6-hour hire. The hall is noisy though.
  • If you have a small game needing multiple rooms, I’d recommend Petone Community House, which will hire you a room for $50 a day (and they have four of them). Their downside is working around their existing bookings, though evenings are usually fine. There are potentially other venues like that in Wellington, which I’ve been meaning to check out.
  • For printing, we use Warehouse Stationery. Anything A3 or smaller can be done self-service; just plug in a stick with a PDF on it, select size and colour, pay for it with a prepay card. Larger stuff requires talking to people, waiting, and EFTPOS, but is essentially the same process. Line-based maps are probably plan prints, which means less than $10 for A0.

#12

Good tip on the printing, thank you.

I will try and do a budget breakdown for what I spent on Colossus. While I can recycle a lot of the components, I would not be surprised if the final cost is somewhere in the $1000-2000 range.


#13

The final financial total for Colossus of Atlantis is around $2,800. About 25% of that went on art, the rest on game components. I can obviously make use of the components again in future games, and I may get a small revenue stream from licensing down the track, but I do think if I am offering a premium gaming experience I shouldn’t feel guilty at pricing it correspondingly. Do the people running a LARP in NZ usually absorb the bulk of the cost of running the game?


#14

You shouldn’t feel guilty at all about charging to recover your costs. Some larp organisers absorb minor costs like printing, but games run through NZLARPS in Wellington are required to run at a profit.