Comanchería: Designing For Feel

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One of the challenges of designing a game that depicts the vast sweep of Comanche history was how to model the phases of their history without a host of special rules and exceptions. In short: how do you put the player into a position from which he or she can get a reasonably realistic perspective on the challenges that faced the Comanche people without forcing certain behavior upon the player? Or put it this way: How do you enable the player to feel the history without destroying that feel with the rules?

As it turns out, one solution I’ve set upon happens to also be something I wish I had thought of when I was designing Navajo Wars. If there’s one mechanic about Navajo Wars that I’m not really happy with it is the Victory Check Procedure. When I began designing Comanchería, I wanted something that would be much more streamlined and easier for the player to look at-a-glance to see if he or she was winning or losing. The solution is to use cards in Comanchería in a different way than I did with Navajo Wars.

Telling the Story of Another People

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When I set out to design Navajo Wars, I had a couple goals in mind. First, I wanted to tell the story of the Diné (“the people”) in a way that was faithful to the historical record, honorable, and from the perspective of the Diné. When I was finishing up Navajo Wars, I knew already that I wanted to design a follow-on game which told the story of a different people. My research into the Navajo had led me to read quite a bit about the Comanche, one of the implacable enemies of the Navajo. And so it was that before Navajo Wars had even hit the shelves, the work on Comanchería had already begun.

In many ways the Comanche game has proven far more difficult to design than Navajo Wars was. There are a number of reasons for this: First, I don’t know any Comanche personally. Never doubt the tremendous value of person-to-person contact when researching a people! With Navajo Wars, I had only to pick up the phone and talk to one of several friends who were fluent in the language and culture of the Diné. Not so with the Comanche! The second challenge has been that the Comanche are so very different from the Navajo. Their culture, their religion and taboos, their style of warfare all differ considerably from the Navajo!