This Fall, I’ve been trying to do what I call the “Autumn of Creation”. This was inspired by CGP Grey’s video “Your Theme”. This is my third season where I’ve given them these themes, and this one was inspired by the fact that I just haven’t been putting out much creatively for the last year. Now, I want to talk about Autumn of Creation, but it’s still ongoing, so I’m going to leave it with this introduction and I’ll revisit the topic in the Winter. Instead, I want to talk about one project in particular: TumbleTile.
TumbleTile is a board game where you must eliminate your players tiles, or prevent them from controlling them. Move stacks under your control, but be careful to not stack too high, or you'll find the level falling out from under you.
Created using Godot and Asset Forge.
The Idea for TumbleTile
TumbleTile was created for Ludum Dare 49 – though I unfortunately didn’t finish it in time to submit – which had the theme of “Unstable”. I spent a while deciding on the genre, longer than I should have, before going with a digital board game. I still don’t think I have the greatest art skills, so making something with simple tokens was going to benefit me the most.
After deciding it should be a board game, it didn’t take long to come to the idea that the board should features parts that get eliminated from the board. Unstable ground in my mind.
My roommates and I play a lot of Tak, so I took a lot of inspiration from it. The movement is the same as in the game, you move stacks of tokens that are under your control. Control is decided by whoever has the top token in the stack. There are a couple differences here though: In Tak, you can move as many tokens as you’d like (up to a max based on board size), and you can drop however many you want along the stack’s path, leaving at least one in each spot. In TumbleTile, you’re dropping exactly one in each spot along the way, picking up how many tokens you need to make the move. As with Tak, you always move in a straight line, choosing a direction from where you start. Rather than Tak’s square grid, I opted for a hexagonal grid, for no reason other than I really like hex grids (Thanks Amit). The other difference is that the board starts populated with tokens, whereas Tak it starts empty and one of your available moves is placing a token on a free tile.
With those movement rules, each player takes turns moving a single stack. If any stack ever reaches 6 tokens, the tile beneath the stack falls from the board, and takes the stack with it. This leaves a hole in the board until the game is over. A player can still move over that hole, but the token that would go onto that tile is instead removed from the game (more on the gameplay implications of this in a moment). Play continues back and forth until a player has either lost all of their tokens, or they do not control any stacks, at which point the other player is declared the winner.
The main reason I wanted to talk about this game that I would consider something like Early Early Access is that my process for this jam game was a lot different from previous ones. For this game, I made a prototype pretty quickly, and instead of falling into my rut of overthinking what is good and bad about it, I just asked my roommates to come and try it. Playtesting, I know, what a novel concept. It worked out really well for me, and I was able to identify what players tended towards, and what they found confusing.
I think the biggest revelation from playing with them was the effect of letting tiles fall through the board. The usual scenario that it led to was this: You controlled a stack next to a hole in the board, and the next tile under was your opponent’s. You would just pick up the top two tokens, dropping your opponent’s into the hole and yours safely across it. As soon as the first stack fell, it would always turn to this strategy. And to be honest, I haven’t solved that yet. I’ve been trying to think of a way to get rid of that strategy (I don’t think it’s fun) without removing the core idea of the game. I’d thought about making it so you just couldn’t move across holes, but that opens up the opportunity for a stalemate where each player controls the stacks on either side of an impassible line across the board. And maybe that’s fine! But I’m still exploring my options.
I haven’t opened TumbleTile in a few weeks as I’ve been working on other Autumn of Creation projects (which I’ll talk about in the post I write about that). I’m still planning on coming back to it though, I’ve been slowly amassing tasks I need to do once I return. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you gave it a try, and let me know any feedback or improvements you’d like to see!