Cornered Rules (PDF)
Also my vaguely current TODO list for the game.
Cornered is an asymmetrical boardgame of “Few vs Many”, with the most obvious example being Survivors vs Zombies. I have made a previous zombie game called Brains, but the problem with that game was at most you kill 1 zombie a turn. So although you face a horde of enemies, the horde doesn’t seem surmountable, and you don’t get that “movie feeling” of mowing through half a dozen foes a turn.
I created Cornered somewhat to address that problem, and also because I wanted to try asymmetrical design (where different rules apply to each side), and because I felt I could do the concept a bit more justice after all my practice with other games. Currently the core concept is solid, I’m just at the annoying stage of having to tweak numbers for balance, so the project stalled a bit.
The game can be played solo against a scripted mob of Many, or cooperative with friends playing as the Few against a horde of Many. Or players can play the game competitively in a versus mode where one player manage the Many and one or more players control the Few. Somewhat think of Left 4 Dead 2.
There is no set theme with the game. Although zombies (specifically Haiti voodoo) are focused on in the rulebook, I actually had a ton of Few vs Many matchups in mind:
- British vs Zulus
- Sailors vs Pirates
- Superheroes vs Thugs
- Starship Troopers vs Bugs
- Colonial Marines vs Xenomorphs
- Terminators vs Humans
- Starfleet vs The Borg
- Space Marines vs Orks
- Eldar vs Tyranids
- Cowboys vs Indians
- Spartans vs Persians
- Romans vs Germanic Tribes
- Hunters vs Wolves
The core mechanic of the game, and part of the impetus for creating it, is the idea of dice-as-an-action-pool. What this means is the Many shamble about the board using a traditional turn structure, while the Few can interrupt them at any time to shoot, move, or use items. To do this they spend “Character Dice”, which are just your everyday six-sided dice. Character Dice have a lot of neat rules around them (like using the “Take Three” rule to have a set result of 3 instead of rolling, or how they “explode” when a 6 is rolled) and make the game very active and lively. This also results in the Few being able to kill multiple Many a turn.
Trying to support multiple themes is hard. You need specific examples in the rulebook, and a cohesive approach to guns, enemies, etc. that just can’t be achieved when you’re trying to write for any genre. I think the core dice system of Cornered fits well into a lot of different types though. I just need to practice more at how to show that, while still having a well written and clear rulebook.
Also getting a game to 90% done, but knowing you have a critical problem, makes that last 10% hard. In the case of Cornered the issue is creating the Many. Right now the rules are written using a simple point buy to change their stats to have variety. But that’s slow and tedious. Thanks to playing Sails of Glory I thought of another system: drawing from a bag. Basically make a bunch of 1″ square tokens with stats on them already, put them in a bag, and when a zombie (or whatever Many type) is needed draw X times from the bag. The upside is the token can be used directly on the board, and you could have a few scary types in the bag (like a “tank” super boss from Left 4 Dead) that the players know is coming at some point. Almost like the Epidemic cards in Pandemic which are pretty tense.
Speaking of the Many another hard aspect is figuring out a reliable way to play them against a cooperative Few, without needing a dedicated player. Trying to “script” the Many is tough and doesn’t end up for compelling, strategic movements possible by a lot of the Many types. But having players take over the role is hard because they might subconsciously not do the best move of the Many to try to save their Few.
So yeah I need to revisit this game with that bag drawing mechanic in mind, finish the polish, package up my favorite 2 or 3 themes, and call it done.