Armada d6 is an award-winning, unpublished board game in which the real-world “backstory” is part of the game design.
I first encountered Armada d6 more than 20 years ago, in my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana with my longtime friend and fellow game designer John Sharp. Rummaging in the back of a used bookstore, I came across a handful of photocopies, which John actually smuggled out of the bookstore for me inside a book he purchased. I forgot about them for nearly two decades until John rediscovered them and sent them to me.
The papers turned out to be documentation of a strange cultural practice called Armada Dei Gratia VI (Sixth armada from the grace of god). It was based on an ancient religious practice from Mesopotamia, which like many ancient games, seems to have been part divination ritual. Forgotten for centuries, it was picked up by a secret society in the last century, whose documents I discovered that day in the bookstore. So my Armada d6 is less of a wholly original game and more of an interpretation or reconstruction from those original documents.
Armada d6 is a strategy board game for 2-4 players about the conquest of space. Dice are used as the player’s units, with each number a different kind of space ship: sixes are fast and agile scouts, and ones are slow and powerful battlestations. I like the design for its simplicity and modularity, and the way that the game encourages players to use the powers of their ships in clever mechanics combinations. The maps are built from modular tiles and players can design their own playfields when they tire of the ones I recommend in the rulebook. I also am drawn to the somewhat austere and abstract aesthetics of the game, but it certainly makes it a harder sell to a paper game publisher.
I designed the game over the course of the last few years, and have hauled it out at a lot of game-related gatherings for testing and feedback. This write-up by Paul Sottosanti after a playtest at the Game Developers Conference highlights its “elegant” game design. (And yes, Paul, I have fixed the design problems you pointed out.)
Armada d6 won the Game Design award at the IndieCade Festival of Independent Games! I’m honored by the fact that my little board game prototype received this prestigious award, beating out physical games and videogames by some of the best indie game designers working today.