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Zhan Guo 战国

Project Info

Aesthetic: Board Game; Historical Atmosphere

Platform: Tabletop

Project Length: 2 Months (Spring 2018) + Currently in development

Team Size: 3

My Role: Game Designer, Artist


  • Designing the basic game system, including every mechanic based on turn process, player actions, interactions, rules, cards, events, characters and props.

  • Designing the game map.

  • Helping design all characters based on historical facts.

  • Helping design special events based on historical facts.

  • Running playtest sessions and iteration cycles.

  • Working on future plan of a kick starter.

More Details

        Zhan Guo is a board game about the Warring States period of ancient China(see Wiki). 

        It is a card-driven game with a game board and different props. 3-7 players would be a perfect fit for the game, each game is around 60-90 minutes. For general board game players, it might be a little bit heavy in terms of complexity.

        Players in the game play as secret "idea men" on the war-torn land, supporting different countries or emperors. All of their identities are hidden, all of the goals are hidden. Only when the goal of the emperor is achieved, the player, as the idea man of that emperor, will get victory points. On the board, the game is a war between the 7 countries; but in fact, it is the war between players......

        The map of the game replicates the actual map, with some small optimization for props:


        Here's a short record of the gameplay: 

        You can also download the game rules to get a better idea of the game in general:

Story behind the game

        The idea of Zhan Guo was in my mind many years ago. I was always thinking there should be a game about the very attractive history period - the Warring State, but it never came up. So I decided to make it by myself. Along the way of learning game design and exploring many many successful board games, I kept thinking of it's different aspect: goal of the game, player's identity, way of getting victory points, main mechanics, player interactions, story...... and so on.

        The ideas got more and more clear after I decided the core mechanic: players play cards secretly all together, and the host player of the round choose the order of cards getting played. One of the teammates was working closely with me on mechanic design and player interaction design, the other was focusing more on the aesthetics of the game, and the cultural content.

        We wanted to create the feeling for the player that they are controlling the war-torn land in the shadow. Except the host of current round, no other player will know what's on the card one player is using. By the time a player achieves the goal on their emperor card, they can acclaim their victory points. So, one player should not only go for their goal, but also hide it from being guessed by others, meanwhile guess others' goal and prevent them from achieving.

        Making the game props was a fun challenge. We had to write a lot of cards, so we had our friends helped writing them together, right before we did the first test. I made the game map, and it was the first time I tried producing 2D art from sketch. And I learned a lot from that experience. Here are some reference for game map and prop design (from Wiki and google):

       We want the game to be very authentic and historically true. So we did a lot of research to make the characters-different emperors during the time-match with their goals. Also, in addition to the event cards the player could play in general, we added many real historical events, including wars, political events, natural phenomenons and so on, to make the game feel real.

        Currently, we have expanded the team to 5 people with 2 programmers. As the rule of the game keeps evolving, we are also planning to digitalize it so it is more accessible. With a more complete prototype, our plan is to take it to a kick starter, and publish it for real in the future.

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