"Swap Game" prototype #2


Staff member
I had a lot of fun posting about Bifrost, so I wanted to post another prototype!

This one is a design I am actually pretty excited about. I just gotta figure out how to make it better! My hunch is that a digital version would open up the design a lot, so that's probably something I'm going to explore in the future. For now, it is a board game!

Design goals for this game were less focused than Bifrost, like I had less of a "vision", this game was much more of an exercise in game theory I suppose. The main goal was really just to make something that had a clear core mechanism. I was thinking about Chess, and I thought it was really good design that you had to move your piece to the space of the piece you were capturing, that kind of thing leads to more interesting decisions than like attacking a piece from range and staying where you are. I thought what if you didn't capture pieces but instead you SWAPPED places with pieces? Would that lead to an even more interesting decision space?

I was really into that idea, so I did what I've heard Keith call "going into a design cave". I thought of a lot of ideas for how to implement a mechanic like that, and eventually settled on what I'm gonna show you today! I've just been calling it "Swap Game" for the time being. The game has you playing as a powerful SPACE WIZARD, using wormholes and magical abilities to shape the cosmos themselves! For some reason you are trying to get to the Center of the Universe before any rival SPACE WIZARDS get there. Get there first and you win! Maybe you get to remake the universe as you see fit or something like that.

*2 Wizard tokens
*6 Wormhole Tokens
*30 Energy Tokens
*A Bunch of Star Dust Tokens
*15 Void Tiles
*15 Star Tiles
*10 Cosmic Wind Tiles
*2 White Dwarf Tiles
*2 Start Position Tiles
*1 Center of the Universe Tiles

Set up for this game is a little bit involved (which is another point for the digital version). For brevity's sake I won't go super in depth into the specifics of rules and just give you guys the general idea. First you take Void Tiles, Star Tiles, Cosmic Wind, and the White Dwarf tiles, shuffle them up and them place them randomly in a large 3x3 hexagon. Place the Center of the Universe in the center of the board, it should look a bit like this!


Then you place your Wizard Token on your starting point tile, and place your 3 wormholes on the 3 tiles in front of your space. Like so


After this (or before this doesn't really matter), you draw out 4 random "ability cards" from the ability deck. This will be your "spellbook" for this match. There is a decent variety of abilities, so each match can feel pretty different. Then give each player 3 energy to start with so they can cast some spells! Each player shares the same Spellbook, so no one can get "screwed" with bad abilities or whatever.


Already it's a lot more complicated than Bifrost!

Every turn you pick one of your active Wormholes and use it to "swap" the locations of 2 tiles. Each Wormhole is slightly different, A can only swap with adjacent spaces, B can only swap with spaces exactly 2 spaces away, and C can swap with any space as long as it's unoccupied!

Here's an example of what swapping looks like. It's not just the wormhole moving, but the space on the board along with it! (This is a bit fiddly unfortunately! Another point for a digital version)

After you use a wormhole to swap, it goes on "cooldown" (you flip it over), and you simultaneously flip over any wormholes that were already on cooldown from the previous turn. You gain 1 energy every time you flip a wormhole back over!


Now that I've explained that I will go back to those Tiles up above and explain what those do!

Void Tiles are essentially blank spaces, they don't do much but some abilities reference them specifically.

Star Tiles get referenced by abilities a lot more often, and also when you line up 3 or more of them you create a constellation! (more on that later)

White Dwarf Tiles cannot be swapped and cannot have any pieces on them at all. Think of them like walls/impassable terrain.

Cosmic Wind Tiles are the only type of tile your Wizard is allowed to move onto!

Center of the Universe the first Wizard to reach this space wins the game!

Starting Positions these spaces are just where your wizard starts. Note if your Wizard ever gets knocked off of a Cosmic Wind tile, they are moved right back to the start position tile.

So the goal of the game is essentially to use your Wormholes and abilities to make a bridge of Cosmic Wind Tiles in order to allow your Wizard to reach the Center of the Universe, and to use whatever means of stopping your opponent from doing that at the same time.


During play you might feel that gaining 1 energy per turn is a little too slow and you can't cast abilities very often, that's because the "real" way you gain energy in this game is by creating CONSTELLATIONS. A constellation is a group of 3 or more adjacent Star Tiles. You have to actively swap a tile to cause this to happen though, 3 stars just sitting on the board does not make a constellation.

Creating a constellation destroys all the stars involved (turns them into Void Tiles) and gives you 1 energy for each star destroyed. This is kind of like the "economic" avenue of play in this game. I don't really like thematically that the stars get destroyed, but this was the least clunky and least exploitable system I could think of for this type of mechanic.

Also you place a Star Dust token onto each star that is destroyed this way. Which leads into me explaining Star Dust! Star Dust is created from constellations (like you just saw above) and also from various abilities, you might even create it just from swapping Star Tiles I can't remember if that's a rule or not!

Star dust is effected by movement abilities just like any other piece, but what's interesting about it is that it triggers a special effect if 2 or more Star Dust ever end up on the same space together.

If 2 Star Dust accumulate on a Void Tile, for example, that Void Tile is turned into a Star Tile. If 2 Dust accumulates onto a Star Tile a SUPERNOVA occurs.


Star Dust is a really neat aspect of this game in my opinion, which I have to give credit to @Toad_Racer for coming up with.

Anyways, that's the basic gist of the game. There's more I'm leaving out, but mainly just little detail stuff. This should give you enough of an idea to "get it" I hope.

Problems with this game include:

*Long set up
*Very Calculation heavy/No real Hidden Info
*Fiddly/clunky to physically interact with.
*Still kind of low player interaction ("race" goals maybe seem to result in this)

Just like Bifrost I am very fond of this game. This is also my girlfriend's favorite game I've made so far, maybe because she's never lost but maybe because it's actually sort of good. Unlike Bifrost I have a much clearer idea of where I want to go with this game (mainly I'm thinking it should be digital), and also unlike Bifrost there is maybe enough space for complexity to lead to an actually interesting strategy game here. Anyways I'd love to hear any ideas that people might have.

Thanks again if you made it this far!


Staff member
This is really awesome! Thanks for sharing. Now that you're a programmer you could make the digital version :D

Also in terms of no hidden info, what about having "nearby tiles" flipped upside down until you get close (fog of war)?


Staff member
Yeah, because of your newest article, I was actually thinking about making the map a lot bigger and just having a fog of war for hidden info. Also try to flush out constellations to be more interesting longer arcs. I'd have a lot more room to work with constellations if they were digital, lot of clunky ideas for a table top game are perfectly fine for a video game.

As for programming, we'll see. First I gotta learn how to use this "unity" thing.
I'm pretty sure I got lost about half way through reading and therefor really agree with making this digital.
This seems so playable and awesome though, the fact your gf played multiple times is a super good indication of how good it is! Can't wait to play this on a computer soon ;)

Also interesting you started it as an excersize in game theory, that's always how I get started with things too :D

Super hyped about these prototypes Birds this is so exciting!