Wizard Hex is the first video game that Trouble Brothers created. The game is available on both Apple's iOS and Intel's AppUp platforms. Wizard Hex is the first of three original designs that we are releasing throughout 2011; the others being a traditional-style board game called Cargo Runners and a clever little 'trivia' machine called Match-O-Matic. Each game has its own unique history and play experience and over the next several weeks, I'd like to take some time here on this forum to introduce our games, how they work and to provide some insight into their strategy.
Before getting into the specifics of Wizard Hex, a few words regarding the idea behind its conception and the animating goals of our small company might be of some interest. In 2008, Jeff and I started a small game company in our Seattle hometown called Playmasons. We each have outside careers, but our love of games led us to launch a local business dedicated to bringing 'play' experiences to our community.
In April of 2010, Jeff and I sat down for lunch with a brand new iPad between us. For the better part of two hours, we played around with the device and talked out what we felt were the positives and negatives. Games in the 21st century are becoming the dominant narrative arts and entertainment experience and in our brief time with the device, it felt that the iPad represented an entirely new opportunity.
Neither of us are serious video gamers. Our interest has always been about the board game and, in particular, the joy and pleasure that occurs when a cool and challenging board game is shared with friends and family. Jeff has an extensive collection of mid-50's board games and has a deep history of that classic age when board games were a routine part of the typical American family. I grew up in exactly that environment, but like many, stopped playing games once I got into my twenties and career and other interests took me away from that world. Fortunately, about a decade ago, I met up with some new friends who introduced me to the depth and richness of 'Euro-games' and since then, I've had the good fortune to be a part of a regular game night where we take on challenges like Puerto Rico, Power Grid, Agricola, etc.
As we looked at the iPad, we recognized that the device was large enough to offer an authentic board game experience. It is not the perfect size, perhaps a bit too small, and it was heavy enough to have some 'feel' issues. However, the beauty of the screen's image capacity and its powerful computer interface made up for those deficiencies. In addition, Apple had created a successful App Store that enabled developers large and small to provide content (overwhelming games) to a huge, global audience. Jeff had some success in bringing his originally designed early 80's game Sword of Fargoal to iPhone, so we understood the business and believed in our capacity to design and deliver original content.
Over the next several weeks, we brainstormed both the economics of App Store development and the type of creative projects we wanted to attempt. As to the former, we believed we would need to create at least two original designs and that it would take the better part of a year to actually produce them to the quality we were after. As to the latter, we identified a variety of different projects and eventually narrowed down to just three, each distinct enough so as to hopefully demonstrate the breadth of our talent, interest, and commitment to this new 'space'. The three categories we settled on were:
1) Classic Token based 'abstract' game such as Chess, Checkers, Go or Backgammon
2) Traditional mid-50s board game or 'light-Euro' such as Monopoly, Risk, Ticket To Ride, Chinatown
3) Trivia game (important to us as we first met one another playing trivia at a local pub)
Of the three, it was particularly important to have our first game be the classic token-based one. As much as board and video games have advanced in amazing ways, they all reside on the base of a few traditional, well-loved "Universal" games that have stood the test of time. These games are often fairly simple in their rules but surprisingly complex in both strategy and in the number of potential outcomes that occur during play. While it would be presumptuous to think we could create something as grand and wonderful an achievement as Chess or Go, we took seriously the idea of making something new – something that recognized both the uniqueness of the iPad platform but that hewed to the basic structure of these classic games. A game that could be played quickly (we didn't imagine that players with these devices wanted to spend a long time playing) but a game that offered, within a simple rule set, a large variety of play strategies.
The game that we created is Wizard Hex and if you're reading this, you either own the game or have heard about it some way that has piqued your interest. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting a variety of different articles about the game itself. First up is a discussion about the most unique aspect of Wizard Hex: its 'Allies' mechanic and how you play more than your own piece, sometimes playing pieces that your opponent is also playing. Look forward to seeing you back here and, as always, we welcome your comments and questions.