Last time I mentioned that I was going to start working on the core characters that would make up the Iron Infantry team. The main characters that players will use at least some of on every mission. In terms of G.I. Joe, we’re talking Snake-Eyes, Stalker, Duke, Scarlett – the cast of regulars. Along with determining those characters, I need to start working on skillsets that they’ll have for their character.

Well, I’m very much a person who believes that, when working on a project like this as a hobby, you should go where your creative whims take you. So, I kind of killed two birds with one stone by figuring out my core characters and then, just for fun, working on some basic concepts for what the characters might look like.

As far as the main characters, I started by making a list of all of the main Joes that I wanted to kind of emulate. I wound up with 12 Joes on the list, but narrowed it down to 5. I researched the official file cards of the Joes to see what kind of skills the characters had, what schools of the Army they attended, etc. so I could use those to inform my original characters.

Here’s how the list looks, but these are not the final five that I went with…

Once I figured out the core skills I would need, I worked up a list of secondary characters that would be used on specific missions, but probably not every mission. So, if the mission takes place in the desert, you’d swap out one of the core characters for a secondary character that is an expert in desert warfare/survival. The idea being that your average soldier might not know how to perform in that environment, but by having a member of the team who does know the ins and outs of that environment, the rest would follow his/her lead. I wound up with a list of about 10 of these secondary characters that would be relevant to the game. Add in the five core characters and we’re looking at a total of 15 characters you can play.

I did something similar with the COBRA-equivalent terrorist organization for the game, working up a list of the main characters you think of when you think of COBRA. So, the list had people like Cobra Commander, Destro, Baronness, Major Bludd, etc. Again, this is just a sample of the full list…

This made me realize that, for the most part, the COBRA operatives don’t really have any bona fide skills. Looking at their file cards, there’s rarely any mention of official military training and very little in the way of actual skills, but more about the things they currently do. Like, if Destro is a weapons manufacturer, he clearly must have some engineering skills. But we don’t get that with the file cards, we just get that he created the Weather Dominator.

And that kind of made me realize that, for the bad guys anyway, they don’t really need to have a set role to play, they just need to be a big, bad obstacle for our team. So, instead of trying to find COBRA operatives with certain skills, I’m really using them as loose inspiration for the type of boss character I want the players to go up against. For example, I thought of a character like The Baroness, but is very agile and, therefore, very hard to hit, would be fun. I don’t need her to know how to fly a fixed wing airplane; she just has to be a challenge. Because of this, I’m focusing less on the bad guys right now, simply because I don’t need to worry if the bosses are balanced characters just yet; they just need to be bad asses.

Once I realized I needed to just focus on the II team, I came up with this list for my core characters:

  • A leader, like Duke
  • A ranger and all-around good soldier, like Stalker
  • A commando who can perform special moves, like Snake-Eyes
  • A medic to heal wounds, like Doc
  • A heavy gunner who can lay down suppressive fire, like Roadblock

And then this list for my secondary characters:

  • Covert ops, like Lady Jaye
  • Communications, like Dial-Tone
  • A saboteur, like Beach Head
  • Bomb disposal, like Trip Wire
  • A pilot who can fly anything, like Wild Bill
  • A jungle warfare expert, like Recon
  • A desert warfare expert, like Dusty
  • An arctic war fare expert, like Snow Job
  • A mountaineer, like Alpine

Now, if you were to go into the board game developers subreddit, the people there would say that the next step is to start playtesting. I need to just come up with some generic soldiers to fight, I need to maybe take an existing map from another game, use some scale miniatures or even something as simple as coins to represent the players, and just start testing combat, movement, dice rolls, etc. And, yes, I agree, that testing the game is important to see if it’s even viable. I get that. But, like I said, I also like to go where my creative whims will take me sometimes. So, instead of doing any of that, I decided to start working up some basic concept art for the II team.

Personally, having visuals gets me really excited about continuing with the idea. I know it’s not as important as seeing if the game mechanics work, but, for me, making a game isn’t just about the mechanics, it’s about the total package. Even if that package will change over time, starting on the visual side of things is a big part of the draw for me when it comes to making games. So, I’m skipping ahead maybe a dozen steps, and working up what these II characters might look like. If it keeps me motivated to keep working on the game, it’s reason enough for me to do it.

To do that, I headed over to Hero Forge and started working on some custom miniatures. Obviously, I’m limited by what Hero Forge has as far as the aesthetics of the characters. And because HF is much more focused on D&D-style characters, there aren’t many options when it comes to modern military gear and clothing. But, again, this is just to keep the creative juices flowing, these aren’t necessarily the final look of any of these characters; it’s just to give us an idea of who they are and the overall aesthetics of the game.

So, here’s what I have for the core characters…

As you can see, I’m trying to make these characters a little different from what you might see in a normal military setting, just like G.I. Joe did. I’m using some wild color combinations, some non-standard military uniforms, and, as with all of my games, I’m really trying to make for a diverse team as far as racial and gender roles. For example, the Leader is a pretty generic, all-American soldier, but his name is going to be James Rodriguez. The Ranger is a black woman. The Heavy Gunner is half-Japanese, half-black. The Medic is a white guy, but he’s got a green mohawk and tattoo sleeves. The Commando is a mystery, but is clearly inspired by Snake-Eyes.

I’ve started working on the secondary characters, too. I only have a handful, but here they are so far…

Again, trying to diversify the team in aesthetics and race/genders with a white woman for Covert Ops, a black woman for Communications, and a grizzled old white guy for the Arctic Warfare expert.

As I continue to put the game together into the testing phase, I’ll use these Hero Forge miniatures as references, but it’s hard to say if they’ll look like this in the final product. But, for me, it helps to have a visual to refer to as I develop the characters and the rest of the game. For example, now I can use something other than G.I. Joe characters for the player cards. It’s a small thing, but it matters.

Now that I’ve determined by core characters, I’m going to start putting together skills that they might have to start and ones they would acquire as the game advances and they move up in skill levels. I’m doing research on the various military specialty schools (Airborne, Defense Language Institute, Sapper Leader Course, etc.) to see if I can figure out some relevant skills, so hopefully I’ll be able to make progress on these pretty quickly.

One Comment

  1. What a cool project! I love board games. These strategy games look like a lot of fun. I never grew up with anyone who liked playing them, so I never really got to dive into them.

    The characters look incredible. I especially like Arctic Warfare (since I like all the snow G.I.Joe toys).

    Thank you for linking to one of your previous posts right at the start. It would be cool if your blog post template included all the tags. Your homepage template has the tags, so I found this post on the homepage and see you use the tag #ironinfantry.

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