This year’s Play NYC 2019 had an interesting quality to it — the very center of the exhibition area was largely dedicated to tabletop games. I passed by it and through it goodness knows how many times over the course of the weekend, but I made certain to look at a game that had caught my attention in my pre-show research. Draughtnauts had a bunch of miniature mechas on a grid-based board and I was keen to find what it was all about.
Draughtnauts is Still Just a Draft
For the moment, Draughtnauts is just a prototype. LazArt Studios has essentially created a cooler version of checkers with much fancier pieces, although there is a little more to it than that in the vanilla rules that are currently being playtested. I took a crack at playing a round with the creator. Unfortunately, I understand very little about checkers (and, in my defense, I was also quite exhausted) and I got my ass handed to me on a silver platter.
There are some notable differences from checkers. To start, you have to attack if an opportunity is available. In theory, this could be used to effectively trade pieces with an opponent if you have favorable positioning. In practice, you may neglect to remember that checkers allows multiple jumps and watch in despair as your opponent hops over multiple pieces as I had.
The pieces, too, are different (and arguably superior). Rather than a bunch of flat discs, players command these adorably bulbous battle mechs. Reaching the far end of the board allows you to be “kinged” and move freely, a status that is represented somewhat more literally than usual with a crown held on your side of the board.
Draughtnauts Powers Up Checkers
An optional advanced ruleset allows for one-time use power-ups for the first piece in to reach one of four spaces on the opposite side of the board. These power-ups are as follows:
- Sword: The Sword power-up simply allows you to jump the equipped piece twice in one turn.
- Shield: The Shield allows you to be jumped and survive unscathed.
- Cannon: The Cannon lets you eliminate a nearby enemy piece without actually moving.
- Teleport: The Teleport permits you to move to any open space anywhere on the board.
The advanced rules place one each of these power-ups on the far side of the board; each of these can only be used once and are subsequently discarded. It makes for an interesting variation on gameplay, that’s for sure.
Four Players, Customization, and Future Expansions
Power-ups aside, another interesting feature of Draughtnauts is what the developer calls the “Megaboard”. Four home fields are arranged around a central board, opening the way for a chaotic four-player game that adds another dimension to play. And yes, all of the advanced rules noted above with power-ups can be used in this scenario.
LazArt Studios clearly has big plans for Draughtnauts. As one example, the pieces themselves are pretty barebones but they can very easily be custom painted to suit your own personal style. The display at Play NYC also had a series of themed expansion packs in plastic packaging, signaling a future where dedicated players can expand their forces.
The core set of Draughtnauts will feature 24 pieces, 8 power-ups, 8 crowns, and a board for a price of around $60 when it’s ready for sale. We’ll also get the chance to snag an early copy when a Kickstarter campaign launches in the very near future. In the meantime, you can keep up with LazArt Studios and the future of Draughtnauts on the game’s official website.
What do you think of Draughtnauts? Would you like to see other rule sets developed for this game? Let us know in the comments below, and check out what else we saw at Play NYC by going to our Play NYC 2019 Coverage Hub!