Exodus: Earth - A worker removal game played on a RISK-like board? [In the Lab]

Perseid Meteor Seen From Space (NASA, International Space Station, 8/13/11)
[In the spirit of Earth Day this week, I'm going to brainstorm some ideas for games with an ecological or natural theme. Imagine these games printed on 100% recycled chipboard. Also see my post on sustainable game components.]  

And now we come to the last in this series. Hope you've enjoyed this idle brainstorming this week. Half the fun of this exploration has been figuring out mechanics for non-combat, non-colonial themed games. It was in that "non-colonial" direction that I started considering the opposite of colonization: Evacuation.

You know me, I'm a big supporter of getting off the rock. The notion of a massive planetary evacuation was a very tempting idea. This has the ingredients of a very interesting big box board game, too.

First, start with a basic world map and divide it up into distinct regions. Does this need to be countries as in RISK? Cities, as in PANDEMIC? Not sure, but there is some serious juice in literally playing on a world stage. All it needs is a sense of urgency, like an existential threat... like a meteor.

A rough mockup of the world board and the countdown tracker.


Thus, we have a story. A meteor is on a collision course with Earth. It will arrive in seven years. Let's say each round represents one year. Each round, the marker (a meteor token) moves inexorably closer and closer towards earth. The game continues until the meteor hits Earth. The player who gets all her meeples off the board wins. Seems like a simple enough core for a game.

If this is an evacuation game, it makes sense to have some mechaphor about removing meeples from the board – a worker removal game. There are a few games already in this genre, most notably Forbidden Island and Survive! Escape from Atlantis. Both those games have a very narrow scope, focusing on a handful of individual escapees. This game would expand that scope over a larger space and time.

Each player a has limited number of meeples, representing international teams of specialists performing different tasks. The game begins with each player takes turns placing meeples on spaces of the board. During each round, players take turns moving their meeples from one space to another. Leaving a space triggers a special action based on the space being left, usually harvesting limited resources, "hiring" more meeples, or building special infrastructure.

The ultimate goal is to build a Spaceport. The spaceport has only one special action: "Remove this meeple from this space to remove it from the board." The goal of the game is to evacuate all your meeples from the board via a Spaceport. Bear in mind that over the course of play, you might create many, many meeples to help you build the spaceport.

If you get all your meeples off the board, you win. If the meteor hits Earth and no one evacuates all their meeples, then the player who evacuated the most meeples wins. There might be alternate paths to victory, too, like lasers to push away the meteor for a round or bunkers that allow meeples to survive on Earth at the end of the game.

9 comments:

  1. This is a great idea, thematically. Very cool exploration of the worker removal mechanic. As you say, dividing up the earth into appropriate regions could be the sticking point.

    Perhaps several boards could be used. One small board of the mercator map, with, say, seven regions to hold placekeepers that could represent what was happening on the separate boards representing each region. Each region board could then be set up to emulate the physical goings on in the region. We got ore, wheat, and wood in this region; sheep, and wood in this second region; gold, wheat, and oil in a third; etc.

    Or, OR, you could have the regions not be geographical but thematic: Industry, Technology, Agriculture, etc. The "regions" would then represent preparedness.

    Playing quasi co-operatively seems interesting to me. Thinking real world, how well would we co-operate with the other powers to get "our way of life" to a safe place? Working political machinations into the scenario would be a mini game all to itself.

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  2. Might be interesting if those removed workers also take away some of the ability to get the work of the evacuation done. They're workers, right? So you could set up something where players need to balance the need of workers dedicated to gathering the resources to get folks off the rock vs. improving their score by removing those workers from play.

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  3. Taking a cue from Lords of Waterdeep, those could definitely be "intrigue" cards somewhere in the mix.

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  4. Yeah, I really dig that tension, too. Lots of incentive to hire many meeples, but also an incentive to use them efficiently as possible.

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  5. I don't have much to add mechanically, but thematically this could be the Dawning Star board game, which is cool.

    The spaceports should degrade or have a limited capacity to require building new spaceports in new locations.

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  6. Nice! Maybe in addition to a spaceport, you have to build a spaceship. Spaceships are one-time use and must be rebuilt each time. Hm!

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  7. This was my first thought, too, although I spun it in a Euroish direction. Something like your workers collect necessary resources while they're on Earth but give you a one-time windfall (including unique resources) when they are removed from the board and the game is a race to remove all your workers so there is a tension between steady collection of resources and trying to get a jump on the competition to get off the board.

    You'd probably have to add some sort of an action phase to really make this work, though, and I know that's more my bag than yours.

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  8. I'm certainly not opposed to an action phase if it suits the game well. What did you have in mind?

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  9. Probably something in the mould of Princes of Florence and/or Goa where you use actions to build infrastructure and or the objects necessary to launch your meeples into space. Maybe also an action where you can spend resources to move a meeple into an open space (that offers a different resource mix). That sort of thing.

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Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.