Y2K — Post Mortem

For my “Intro to Game Design” class, my partner Joe Gray and I created the tabletop game “Y2K.” The game follows the concept of “Area Control,” where claiming plots on the game board and keeping them is a central aspect of the game.

In the context of Y2K, players are vying to control as many cities as possible, while also empowering individual cities. Successfully doing so accumulates points for the players, and the player with the most points by the game’s end wins.

Y2K was inspired by a fascination with the Internet and how it operated. When throwing around ideas, the initial approach was to make a game that taught how browsers, networks and servers worked to get content onto our computer screens. However, we decided to pull back the idea; planning the game around all those concepts proved to be more complex than expected.

Ultimately, we settled on two main ideas: networks and hackers. One aspect of the game involves showing players a high-level idea of how computers are connected to form networks. The board from the game “Pandemic,” one of the sources of inspiration for Y2K, lent itself well to illustrating this idea. Regarding hackers, Y2K’s language (Router, Malware, Botnet) introduces players to terms used by that technological community.

Initial iterations of the game proved to have too slow of a pace. For example, the current iteration of the game’s player deck has 70 Parts cards. Parts cards are used to expand and empower a player’s network of game units, and the deck is made of 100 cards. Prior iterations had far fewer Part cards, leaving players unable to do much or anything many turns in a row.

By upping the number of Part cards, play tests have shown that players are able to accomplish more actions per turn, quickening the pace of the game. This increased pace, in turn, allowed for play tests that incorporated more aspects of the game, such as the ability to Attack other players. More Part cards led to both better play and better testing.

Speaking of the Attack mechanic, that too saw a major change. Initially, the Attack mechanic incorporated combinations of dice rolls and Upgrade cards in order to make those instances more dynamic. However, play testing showed that the mechanic was too convoluted. Now, Attacking only uses dice, and different game units use different combinations of dice. In addition, players can continue attacking up until they lose, adding an extra layer of chance and risk to the game.

Overall, Joe and I attempted to make a fairly paced game with chances for high-impact plays, such as building Botnets (the most valuable game unit), rampaging through cities, or everything coming down to a single roll of the dice. The balance between building a widespread army and a focal point of power left players planning turns ahead, considering the impact of their actions in the long and short term.

Y2K gets people thinking generally about networks around the world and the people who try to use them for their own purposes.