Board Game Development with Starcraft

    The most iconic board game in the IT environment is, most likely, Starcraft.

    When the computer version gained enough popularity, the guys from Blizzard shared the rights to the brand with the famous American publisher Fantasy Flight Games. In the topic - an overview of the factors that led to the success of the desktop version.

    Among other things, the information will be useful to game developers who are interested in a simple and quite beautiful additional way of monetization through the "porting" of their game into physical form.

    How it looks and how it is played

    Inside a large and well-recognizable box lies a galaxy map, which is built from planets every time anew at the beginning of the game, a bunch of units in the form of plastic figures (there is the entire line of the first Kraft for three races - 180 pieces), many different cards and chips: these are buildings, resource markers, orders, transports, workers, and event cards.

    Planet and zerg on it. Zergling'y two on a stand, as expected

    All this together after 40 minutes of eating the rules becomes a coherent strategy, where you can defeat the following options:
    • Get 15 points (points are given for captured planets) - victory is a good position.
    • To win according to special conditions (for example, Kerrigan pulls an analogue of an ass personally to Overmind)
    • It is commonplace to remain the only survivor on the map (it turns out rarely, capturing key planets is easier).

    The gameplay looks like building different bases and units of zerg, protoss and terrans in different places, transferring troops on the map and fighting in an attempt to occupy profitable planets. In general, Starcraft, but from a different scale - namely, from the position of those very wonderful characters who gave you orders at the command center.

    Game positioning

    Each time a game is published based on an already held hit, there are two options for events:
    • Release a momentary craft that will be sold because of the name (by the way, it often happens with computer games based on movies)
    • Or transfer the rights to a good publisher who will squeeze the idea 100%.

    Judging by the output, Starcraft was lucky: firstly, the publisher was one of the best players in the FFG market, and secondly, Blizzards put their whole team together, that is, consulting on the plot and design development.

    Given the high quality of both the original and the serious work on the board game, the creators chose the format of a huge box: any fans will buy it even for the most terrible money, so you can safely go to the upper segment for the price. For the rest of the players who are not familiar with the computer version (I would like to see them), the boxed Starcraft remains a super cool thing with very high detail in space battles.

    Nearest desktop competitors - Sid Meyer and Space Hulk Civilizationbased on Warhammer. Civilization is generally in a different genre and is designed for a different audience. Space Hulk is a tactic, not a strategy. Let's just say that those missions of the first Kraft where there is a base is “our” box, and those missions where there is no base are just the Hulk (and there the battle study is an order of magnitude cooler).

    The audience of the desktop version:
    • Fans of a computer game (they will buy because of the plot, that is, the actions of Blizzard)
    • Fans of cool strategies (independent of the brand, they were attracted by FFG)
    • Board geeks who will take apart the game by bones
    • Those who choose a gift for a guy (brand + entourage + box sizes)

    Interestingly, both the “higher” and “lower” in scale competition is very high: in tactical simulators, the battle is for realism and detail, and in global strategies - for balance. Starcraft took a free intermediate position, which immediately determined the success of sales for several years.


    In terms of visual design - everything clearly repeats the original. Rules in the "iron" framework, absolutely recognizable units and building pieces (one-on-one from the game), a beautiful galaxy "in the spirit" and much more. Simply put, they just took and moved the visuals. The figures, by the way, worked out very well: and this, by the way, is another reason to sell the second and third boxes to the Koreans.


    Field of play (though there are usually much more planets on it)

    Player command panel, screen from the rules


    This was probably the nightmare of the developers. On the one hand, the game turned out to be very recognizable - and on the other, completely different. The strategy is at the level of database management on different planets and the transfer of units along galactic routes. Fighting, roughly speaking, wall to wall, that is, the one who creates the best infrastructure and is able to correctly think through the development of his faction wins.

    Remember the voice of the Terran adviser "Receiving incoming transmission ... comlink established" ? This is the order chip that you, the wise commander, put there personally with your own hand.

    Orders: construction, mobilization, research

    The most beautiful thing in the rules is not the fact that they "adapt" to the game using familiar units and buildings. And not an upgrade tree, which makes it possible to use only 10 percent to 20 technologies per game. The most beautiful is the emergence of the galaxy and three-dimensional hyper transitions between the planets. This part definitely didn’t come from Blizzards, but from FFG - evidence of the transfer of the game not “head-on”, but thoughtfully, with new cool “chips”. By the way, even now, when the desktop version has new competitors, Starcraft is still "a game with cool figures and an amazing field."


    Planet in detail

    The process of creating a galaxy is that at the beginning of each game you lay out your planet and can put a base on it. Then the same thing (next) does your opponent. Etc. Planets can be connected both on a two-dimensional map, and in a terrible torsion thanks to Z-paths. These are portals that join two planets in different parts of the map, personifying the three-dimensional arrangement of systems. In practice, this means that you can only “fence off” and go on the defensive if you have one planet: in three-dimensional space, the best defense is a constant attack by the enemy.

    The rules in the game were not just complicated, but very complex. Fortunately, for strategies of this level, this is normal: they are not played at parties.

    Another interesting thing is the interface defined by the rules. Game designers unloaded the player’s attention to the maximum: you don’t need to memorize a bunch of minor things, you can focus on strategy. For example, if that edge of your Z-junction is captured by an adversary, your marker flips over to remind you that an invasion might go right from here. One look at the field is like looking at the right dashboard: you immediately see the whole strategic picture to the nuances.

    And here are the rules themselves ( PDF, 5 Mb ) - note that the most necessary thing for experienced players - a reminder on the move - is located right next to the advertisement for desktop Warcraft.


    Blizzard gives FFG rights, and FFG just sells them to different countries, choosing one of the market players. Smart translated here: in general, the translation turned out to be normal, but with some discrepancies of terms. By the way, I don’t think that the Blizzard representatives were particularly interested in the Russian version - rather, in terms of quality control, they were worried about European and Oriental languages. There, for sure, the translators of the computer and board games had a common vocabulary of terms and names.

    What is Starcraft for?

    First of all - for a shop window. For example, at the opening of a new point in Kiev at measurements it turned out that many people stop to look precisely for it. The large Kraft box is the crystal dream of many desktop enthusiasts: many people are interested in what lies at such a price.


    Secondly, this game is sales for IT specialists. Starcraft in our form of a table is not very fiercely popular, but it has become an almost traditional gift for IT specialists. I mean, when a fair-haired girl appears in the store asking “what to give the programmer guy”, it is highly likely that she will leave with this box. If he picks it up.

    And finally, the game found an amazing niche: it is often taken by young fathers of the 82-84s generation as a gift to their son, who is about five years old. On growth, apparently. In the meantime, you can play with friends, right?

    How does the model for translating computer games into board games work for them

    1. You make a hit
    2. Giving rights to the publisher
    3. The publisher offers you a variant of the game (for N iterations, a good option is obtained)
    4. The game goes to stores
    5. You get deductions from each box sold.

    It’s clear that it’s difficult to name the exact amount of FFG deductions for Blizzards, but given the characteristics of the market, I think about $ 5 per box.


    How does it work for us?

    1. You make an interesting game
    2. Decide that it can have a desktop version (pay attention, think it through yourself)
    3. Go to the publisher, that is, to us
    4. We help you decide what will take off and what won’t
    5. You sell the license immediately or receive deductions from each printed box
    6. The game comes to stores

    How beneficial is it?

    Starcraft, Warcraft, Civilization, Age of Empires, Master of Orion (!), Doom, Metro-2033 and a bunch of other games came out in the desktop version and are now in stores (there was, by the way, the opposite process: for example, Magic the Gathering a couple time was ported to a computer).

    For the creator of a game, movie or other hit, selling related products is a great way to earn extra money without difficulty (but, of course, this is far from the main way of monetization).


    If the topic is interesting, I can tell you about what the board games market looks like in Russia and Ukraine - and how the procedure for “porting” your game to the board version is completely done.

    I can also make a brief review of computer-based desktops in the spirit of "what is it - how to play - how they were positioned - how popular - to whom, basically, they are sold - whether the thing turned out to be a good thing in the desktop version".

    UPD : continuation about development as a whole .

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