Designing The Filler

This month's game started out as something entirely different and far more complex. But since what I was working on was so complex, I couldn't finish the game by deadline and needed a filler game to use this month.

Given the time constraint, I knew I needed something thin in terms of required pieces and simplistic in terms of play. I decided to approach it from a thematic direction, so I opted to take the "filler" idea literally.

The nice thing about this methodology was I already knew the name.

Originally, The Filler was going to be a dice game, with the rolled numbers indicating how much cement would be poured into each grave. But dice were too simplistic for the number of tasks I had in mind: I wanted one player filling the graves, and I wanted another player acting as the zombies trying to escape. Accomplishing all of this by rolling the same die over and over would be putting too many metaphors on one object.

Once I abandoned dice, I began to think about using a deck of playing cards. In some ways, working with standard deck of 52 cards is daunting; the sheer number of games already designed for that singular construct makes it hard to innovate, and any innovation is inherently working against established metaphors.

Still, I never cared much for poker, and the limitations of a predefined deck would help force me in a clear-cut design direction. Immediately I knew the zombies should be represented by the red face cards, non-zombified corpses by the black. The number cards would be my cement, and a playing card is already the perfect dimensions for a grave.

I rant into problems mostly in the numbers game. Deciding that Kings, Queens and Jacks would all require different amounts of concrete was easy - figuring out just what those amounts were was far more difficult. The decisions weren't arbitrary; they were based on numerous factors, from the total sums of cards in a deck to the sense of how much was "too much" when it came to doing arithmetic in your head.

From the start, The Filler was clearly a game about resources, and I hadn't ever designed a resource game before, which means play testing was really important. Each play test helped refine the values at the game's center. The entire design hinges upon how much cement is needed to incapacitate each zombie. Once I perfected those numbers, I knew I was finished.

Next Page: The Result

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