London & Paris Designer Diary

by Ted Alspach April 01, 2022

London & Paris Designer Diary

The following is a guest blog by Dale Yu, the editor of Opinionated Gamers and the developer of several of our games. He has provided a truly behind-the-scenes look at the journey it took for designing London and Paris, two of the expansion maps in the upcoming Maglev Metro: Mechs, Monorails, and More Kickstarter campaign.

 

February 21, 2020

Dear Diary - well I finally did it. I finally gave the rules to Maglev the full revision that they needed. I don’t know if Ted’s going to like the changes, but I really think we need to showcase the rules as a gaming system. Start with the basics, and then have individual rules for each city. Maybe even give characteristics about each board so that players can choose the one that fits them. And then… when we have expansions, we can just slide in the new rules specific for each city.    

 

February 24, 2020 

Dear Diary -  Wow. Ted really liked the idea; and the new rulebook looks great!  Since I brought up the idea of expansions, he asked me if I had anything planned.  And, though I’m usually a developer, I went ahead and sent him my crazy idea for my Chunnel expansion. I know I’ve told you about it before, but in case you forgot, I’ll tell you again. I want to have two small expansion boards that can each be a standalone game. But…. have a little Chunnel connecting piece so that the trains can cross the English Channel and then we have this mega-game on both boards. Each turn, you’d have to choose whether you were doing stuff on the Paris board or on the London board.  It’s gonna be great!

 

March 13, 2020

Dear Diary - Welp, I was all ready for some blind playtesting on the individual Paris and London boards.  Was all set to head to Montreal for a gaming weekend with some buddies… But this morning, at the last minute, we all canceled our tickets because of this COVID thing.  I guess we’ll reschedule the weekend for April when everything blows over.

 

April 17, 2020

Dear Diary - Definitely not making plans for Montreal. Heck, I’ve pretty much been in lockdown for the past few weeks. Nothing going on, and definitely no local gaming. Not sure how I’m going to get work done on these expansion boards as I can’t play games with anyone. For now, I’ve printed up the two boards and I’m getting a LOT of solo play in. It’s not as good as the real thing, but it’s all I can do.  For now, I’m still planning on the two cities to be quite different. For Paris, I’ve decided to go with a strike theme. I’m going to put dice icons on the twelve stations (1-6 in white, 1-6 in black) and include 2d6 in the game. At the start of each turn, we’ll roll the two dice, and those stations that show up are out of play.  If they’re on the board, you can’t stop there, you can’t pick up or drop off. If they’re off the board, you can’t build them. Totally unpredictable, which is pretty much in line with the French railway system. Even in the future, you have to figure out how to deal with the strikes! London is less settled. Right now, I was thinking about doing a tourist trap thing - so that players will want to deliver certain types of meeples to certain sites on the board, and then they’ll get bonuses based on getting the most to a certain type or maybe bonuses for full sets? Anyways, Paris is a stronger idea, so I’m working on that first. Here is what my prototype stations look like:

 

June 10, 2020

Dear Diary - not much going on with Maglev Paris right now. I’ve played it to death solo, and it feels done. But there’s only so much you can do on your own.  It’s been 3 months since I’ve gamed with other people, and it’s hurting my playtesting! In other news, was chatting with Lucas, and he’s got a great cooperative game idea. I told him he should pitch it to Ted - it really sounds like fun. Who would have thought that a synchronized swimming game would ever work?

 

July 4, 2020

Dear Diary - Ted likes the swimming game, and he’s asked me to help out.  Should be fun. We’re trying to play this cooperative game on zoom to test it.. And well, it’s challenging. Also have to set some time aside to work on the Collector’s Edition for Castles of Mad King Ludwig. All I know is that I’m voting super hard against customizable player colors - choosing 5 out of 20. My back still hurts from lifting and organizing all the individual Suburbia CE boxes at Essen! I should claim worker’s comp for that. Oh, and Maglev Paris? Haven’t touched it in a month. Too busy with all this other Bezier work.

 

October 12, 2020

Dear Diary - still no gaming at home. We play on Zoom 2-3 times a week, but there’s only so much you can do. We’ve tried using a Vorpal Board, which has been interesting, but it’s too much work for what you get out of it. I was able to get a bit more Maglev Paris testing in that way, and I think it’s done. I am a little worried what he’ll think about it because I really haven’t played it much with other people.  It’s weird to only play things on your own. London is coming together now too. The whole tourist idea just didn’t work - I couldn’t make the passenger math work without it being too fiddly. But… I was looking at the London Underground map, and I came up with a better idea. The real map is split into zones, and your ticket only works in certain zones. What if I broke up the board into different zones, and you have to have earned the right to enter those zones?  I’ve got a couple of ideas, and it might work. I am so proud of my clip art prowess. Look at this Paris map: 

 

October 20, 2020

Dear Diary - well it looks like I’ll have a lot more time for solo Maglev… I just can’t figure out how to playtest a cooperative game in this pandemic, and Ted "fired" me from the game. Probably for the best, I was getting stressed out not being able to help.  On the other hand, the extra time has already helped me with more ideas with the zone system for London. I’m trying to find a nice part of the real life map to use. I want to have the Thames be part of the board to use as one of my zone barriers. I think one of my failed Age of Steam expansion map ideas will work great for this!

 

November 14, 2020

Dear Diary - some good and bad news about the expansions. London is coming along nicely, and the zone idea works. Another 50 solo plays or so, and it might be ready :p. The bad news is that the Chunnel idea is an abject failure. My brain failed to realize that there is only one set of stations and trains in a Maglev box, and you really need to have two sets of bits if I’m going to have this giant Chunnel board. So for now, I’ve got to throw out the idea of the combinable boards. It just doesn’t seem to work. This will also save cost on the game though as we can now put London and Paris on opposite sides of a single board.

 

March 10, 2021

Dear Diary - I can’t believe it’s been three months since we’ve talked about Maglev. But with the holidays and the work schedule, there just hasn’t been a lot of free time. At least the local game group has started to meet in person again.  We’re all wearing masks, and trying to sit in different corners of the room when we snack, but it’s good to be around other people. I am going to try to talk them into playing the Paris board this week, and if it passes muster, I’ll send it on to Ted.  I’m still really nervous about this one because the strikes can be really variable - maybe it’s too random?

 

March 14, 2021

Well, as I thought, Ted’s group played it - it’s an interesting switch as he’s essentially the developer and I’m the designer - and the dice seem to be a no-go.  Ted proposes a schedule for strikes so that people can better plan for it. The stations will still go in different places each game, but we’ll automate which colors go on strike at which times. I’m not sure how this will work, but the Bezier gang really likes the change, and I trust that they know what they’re doing! I also want to see if we can make a plastic dome to go over the striking stations so that no one stops there or does shenanigans with passengers. The cost is probably prohibitively high, so the backup plan are cardboard “X” markers.  

 

March 25, 2021

Looks like another hiatus from Maglev testing.  I just got my copies of Suburbia Collector’s Edition in the mail, and I’ve got like 6 inches of punchboard to deal with and all sorts of things to put away and then hopefully play!

 

May 1, 2021

Finally got back to Maglev Paris. Looks like we’re definitely going the pre-planned strike route. But, it is a bit predictable. Not as interesting as I’d like. So, we need to give some agency back to the player. What about a Strike Breaker token?  Option 1 - give each player a token, they can use it at any time to break a strike (use a station on strike), but if they don’t use it, it will be worth points at the end of the game? Option 2 - Have a few Strike Break tokens available to all, and they can be freely used, but each one comes with an increasing point penalty for using…  Being able to break a strike will keep people from being completely screwed on a turn, and I think it will allow for some surprise moves as opponents may not expect you to break a strike and you’ll be able to make an unexpected pick up or delivery. We’ll see what the Bezier gang thinks of it…  Maglev London also now taking shape. I’ve settled on the map, and now it’s a matter of choosing the lines to demarcate the different areas. As usual, my prototypes look awesome. I’ll send this one along to Ted today and see what he thinks.  

 

May 18, 2021

Dear Diary - I can’t seem to work out the logistics of the London board. At first, I wanted players to deliver certain combinations of meeples (or a certain number of meeples) to be able to gain a license to cross into the restricted areas. But, man, that is really cumbersome. I think we might need to go with a new player board. Since you don’t need an area to track your access to the different colored stations, maybe we change that into slots for being able to cross the barriers?

June 12, 2021

The Bezier team liked the London changes, I think that things are really moving forward. The game was too slow though with the meeple cost for the licenses.  Ted wants to change this to a simple grid that uses any color meeple. 2 for blue, which would likely be the first to be crossed, 3 meeples for the middle two and then 4 meeples to unlock the maroon areas where the Embassy and Studios go.  It’s much cleaner, and it’s a great change. The flow of the game is now much better, and there is still opportunity to choose what path you want to take. It might be worth getting three quickly and cross the green line to get access to those cities before anyone else.

 

July 8, 2021

Things are pretty much solid for both maps now. From my standpoint, I think that they are both done. Of course, the Bezier team continues to play them and they may still have some changes. But, now we’re just down to polishing the rules.  The new board artwork is pretty good. I think my raw prototype art had its own special charm, but Alanna has different ideas. Also, just got my contract from Ted today. I’ve done this totally backwards! 17 months into working on the game, and I just got the contract today! Oh well, this is the great thing about working with trusted friends. It looks like everything is a go!

 

September 28, 2021

The rules are done. Should be a short ruleset as we can condense each board into about 2 pages. The artwork is fantastic. I really like the art deco feel to Paris, and the glowing board spaces/borders on London help to accentuate the different regions. Now just up to Ted to figure out if he wants to go Kickstarter with this or not.

 

January 1, 2022

The announcement finally came out! Everything looks great, and we will hopefully see this in the near future!  It took nearly 2 years of work, but the end result is fantastic.  Lots of changes along the way from my initial vision, and while I’m sad that the Chunnel idea didn’t work - we ended up with two great expansions!




Ted Alspach
Ted Alspach

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