When you're working on a new game design, I think it's important to create a list of your goals, and keep checking back against them to ensure that the game you're designing actually fulfills your original brief. Without this, it's easy to get sidetracked by gimmicky rules or head off down blind alleys. That said, it's also important to reassess your goals as you go - if the project takes a life of its own, and is better for it, be prepared to tweak those original goals!
The goals I set myself on Dux Bellorum were pretty clear to me from the start and I've not had to tweak them much at all. That's probably because I was building on my experiences of and feedback from Glutter of Ravens: Warfare in the Age of Arthur, and because I have a pretty straight view of what I think should be represented in a Dark Ages wargame.
Here are my goals, as recorded in the final playtest draft of DB; I think I've achieved these pretty closely, and am so far happy with the results:
* Design a simple toolkit/non-tournament game where players can concentrate on playing not learning, but gaming for fun. * Keep the emphasis on ‘game’ not ‘simulation’ (I’ve never fought in a Dark Ages battle). * Present optional rules without distracting from the basic game. * Make the game playable no matter how many miniatures you have available (within reason!). * Ensure that every die roll/decision has an impact on the game, with no unnecessary tests or rules. * Engage players in every phase of the game: give them choices to make. * Convey the spirit of Dark Ages battle without being too technical. * Present flexible army lists that reflect my own and other interpretations, whilst retaining the character of each army. * Represent close combat as a swirling, dangerous mass rather than well-co-ordinated battle lines. * Differentiate between ‘offensive’ and ‘defensive’ foot within the era, and allow armies to be foot or mounted, assuming that professional soldiers could fight as either.
The hardest to adhere to has been streamlining the game to keep it simple and without over-cluttering optional rules. One of the toughest aspects of this has been coming up with all sorts of interesting little ideas, and being offered them by playtesters, and then needing to step back and decide whether that idea will work or be needed in the game. When all's said and done, having a word count to stick to from the publisher has helped me too!