Nov 30, 2009

The Changing Landscape

Today, we're going to take a look at the evolution of a prototype game board. Specifically, we'll examine the first three versions of the board for Municipality.

This is from the very first version of the game. At that time, the board was just a simple 16 spaces arranged in a square. At the bottom is a track to mark each player's current Approval Rating.

During the first playtest it was discovered that this layout meant that anything built in the center four squares had a dominating effect on the rest of the board. Also, towards the end of the game almost all squares were connected by roads. This made the Developer action extremely complicated to carry out. Addressing these two problems required a radical redesign.

In version 2 of Municipality, the board had been divided into three areas. This reduced both the amount of adjacencies (buildings touching each other) and connections (buildings connected by roads). This made the Developer action easier to understand and meant it was harder to sabotage other players' buildings by placing a factory next to them.

In addition, there are now 24 spaces. This 50% increase from the first board necessitated a rule change to avoid lengthening the game. Now, instead of the entire board being filled, a mere 15 spaces being filled will trigger the end of the game.

Lastly, I also modeled this board after a real city. This should help give the game some flavor, as well as provide opportunity for expansions through new map. For those that don't recognize it, the board features New York City through Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the lower half of Manhattan.

In the third version of Municipality, I got rid of Staten Island and increased the size of Manhattan. Version 2 of the map saw players reluctant to build on Manhattan because it was a small area with only two connecting points to the eastern half of the map.

I also extended the river to completely separate Queens from Brooklyn. This should also help shift the center of gravity back towards Manhattan, as well as make it more difficult to build a special building that is adjacent to more than four other buildings. (This had been a slightly-too-powerful strategy in the previous version.)

I have another playtest coming up this week. I'm certain that, this early in development, I'll discover a need to tweak the board yet again.

Also, once the New York City map settles down I plan on creating another map to test with as well. The city should be both well known and have an interesting shape that is broken up by geographic features (rivers, canyons, mountains, islands, etc.)

What city do you think should be represented on the second map? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Pittsburgh is an awesome city in that regard as it has those three rivers converging with multiple bridge points. London is also nice with a centrally located river nicely dividing the town.

  2. Ben, looking at maps of your suggestions, I actually think Pittburgh is a better choice than London. London does have a river, but is basically only two pieces. I think this game's mechanics favor at least a three-piece city. Your suggestion of Pittsburgh is an interesting one and is currently at the top of my list.