Thursday, November 22, 2012

From The Idea Hole - Fun And Games Edition: Lair, Cartel, Mad World, and Creature Shop

I was walking through the toy aisle at Big Lots this morning, killing time waiting for the Chinese Buffet to open for my annual Thanksgiving tradition of gorging and self-pity, and I found myself lamenting the current state of toys and games for kids. I don't know if its just the flawed tint of nostalgia, that the past looks better because only the best shit survives and all the middling crap is forgotten, but I can't help but think that toys were just better when I was a kid. I've railed against this impulse before on this blog, and I'm almost certain this is just a function of my not being in a position to know what's good from what's bad, but it made me kind of sad nonetheless. As I leafed through the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides action figures, noting no Captain Jack Sparrows, but a number of Penelope Cruz dolls and one nameless Spanish Soldier, I felt like Tom Hanks in Big, in the board meeting, wondering what kid would want to play with this boring crap. More to the point, it reminded me of a few ideas I've had over the years for board games and toy lines that will never be produced.

1: Lair - First up, a sort of poor man's Dragon Strike, a pseudo table top role playing game with rules that were as simplified as possible while still maintaining a level of medieval fantasy adventure. Players would choose one of five possible characters patterned after fantasy tropes, the Warrior, the Sorcerer, the Thief, etc, with each character possessing a special ability, weakness, and a proficiency in one of five item types, which meant they could re-use certain cards indefinitely rather than discarding them after one use. One player would build the board out of tiles which would be placed face down in a maze pattern, to be flipped when landed upon, revealing encounters with monsters, discovered treasure, and other events, after which point this player would maintain the various traps, hazards, and enemies, as well as the boss battle at the end. Each player would be given a motivation at the beginning of the game, either saving a princess, beating the bad guy, killing so many different monsters, and so forth, before they can search for the exit, in some cases encouraging cooperation between players, and sometimes encouraging an every man for himself atmosphere, so that every game is different. I envisioned selling multiple personalized kits with different types of dungeons and monsters based on various themes, but I could never get all the rules together for the basic game enough to actually get a prototype built.

2: Cartel - This one died as a result of my realization about half way through the planning process that the whole idea was unintentionally really racist. Basically, each player would take on one of five comically stereotypical criminal gangs, each one starting out with a particular racket that gives them some sort of advantage (Gun running allowing extra attacks, Prostitution allowing a player to lure game pieces to his side, etc). As with Lair, it would be a tile based board, but this time, each player would build their own turf, connected by a four square grid of neutral territory. The object would be for one gang to take out all the others and gain all the rackets, while avoiding the Fuzz, who would appear whenever certain criminal actions were taken and had to be either taken out in a hit or bribed. I started working on the different gangs, starting with the Mafia, then the Yakuza, then a Scarface style Columbian Drug Gang, and even a clan of British street urchins ala Oliver Twist. I got to the final group, the gun running Gangstas, when I realized that stereotypical criminal organizations are really just horrible racism that we kind of forget about in Quentin Tarrantino movies. I suppose a game with prostitution as a prize for beating a player wouldn't have worked as a kid's board game anyway, but once I realized it was bigoted on top of that, I figured I might as well give up. Also, the center square board with all the turfs branching off of it would have looked like a swastika, which probably should have been a hint now that I think about it.

3: Mad World - This one was more of a card game, sort of a Magic: The Gathering kind of system, only centered around mad scientists and general supervillainy. The idea would be that each player was a supervillain, with the different style decks being different types of mad science and what not, with robot armies, killer gorillas, alchemical monsters, and so on. I never got past the idea stage with this one, because I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about creating the rules of a card game like this. I never really played Magic, and the few times I tried with other peoples' decks, it all seemed really complicated, and I guess I never had the will to pursue it.

4: Creature Shop - And finally, an action figure line I thought would be a novel way of keeping kids buying more toys, while rewarding them for doing so. My other name for this was FrankenFreaks, and the idea was that each individual purchase would be a set of two characters, where various points of articulation were dis-connectable and re-arrangeable. You could mix and match the different limbs and attachments, and even change the composition from bipedal to quadrupedal or back again, and the more sets you buy the more combinations you could make. You could even sell accessory kits with just a bunch of random limbs and attachments for build-your-own monsters. I'd create a back story for it where some mad scientist or group of mad scientists created them Frankenstein style and then abandoned them to form tribes on their own, and now they ally and war with each other, with different tribes being different kinds of monsters, undead, insect-like, robotic, and so on. The thing that killed this was that I can't imagine it hasn't been done before. I don't know enough about Bionicle, but it seemed very similar.

That and I don't have like a factory or a business plan, or capital, or any of that shit. But mostly the other thing.
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