04 September 2015

Isles of Drought

Last edited - Sept 2015  
Whats all this about - Designing a simple browser based multiplayer board game with a fantasy setting.

This has been in the hard disk for some time, waiting for me to fix here and there, add some artwork and refine some ideas. While still not complete as there are few things are missing (like spells and items section) and it could benefit from couple more artwork  but I guess its good to post instead of letting it rot within cobwebs.

isles of Drought - floating islands chained together


I would like to remind that Isles of Drought is designed to be a browser based game. Meaning its meant to progress slowly so people can log in from their browsers during different times a day and take their turns. 

Another aim is to keep things simple. There are a lot of things that can be added like tons of different races, different skills, items, more complex mechanics and so on but for a browser based experience I would prefer a game which is easier to learn and simple to play rather than experiencing tons of different stuff squeezed into a single game.

Highlights of this game should be;
  • Browser based game that can be played from anywhere with customizable pace and speed
  • Multiplayer game with a computer controlled "wild card" enemy
  • 16 different races with 2 different skills each
  • Simple rules for easy browser based experience 


  1. Story
  2. Game Setup
  3. Gameplay
  4. Races
  5. Winning and Losing
  6. Conclusion


Did not spend time on this as the game is not story based. However it would be nice if there was some lore behind the game and its denizens. Floating Isles is an alternative world made by the high-father as a heaven for different races to live and prosper without disturbing each other. The isles float above the clouds with the powered by various mana crystals. The races living on these isles collect and use these mana crystals as resource to keep their parts of the island afloat. There is enough crystals to live happily forever so there is no reason for any race to assault the other. Everyone is happy and joy until the High father turns its interest from the floating islands. Slowly these mana crystals start to become scarce. "The age of Drought" plagues these lands as every race finds itself in the blink of destruction and rushes to harvest as much mana as possible. With decreasing mana, the isles begin to lose power and some parts start to crumble.

So its a game about various fantasy races killing each other to harvest mana and keep their parts of the island floating.

Game Setup

As its a multiplayer browser game, the pace will be slower compared to most other games. However i dont like games that force you to take a turn and come back in 5-10 hours time. Game speed should depend on the choice of the host. If I can take 10 turns per day why should I have to wait for a 10 hour game? I can just join (or host) a game with 10 minute turns etc.

Probably ideal game speeds should vary from 5 minutes per turn (fast) to 24 hours per turn (super slow) and players should be in control of their speed and pace by voting during multiplayer games 

(See gameplay section below for better understanding of terms)

The game map is divided into several isles, and each isle is divided into regions. Connecting these regions is a castle. Each of these regions has a random quantity of neutral units guarding it. Once the defending units are defeated the region can be captured and harvested for resource. Some regions may also contain extra items and other types of loot or resource bonus.

Map settings are straightforward stuff like;
- starting height / health of regions (low med high random) - random by default
- destructible regions (on / off ) - on by default
- percent of resources per region (low med high) - med by default
- recruitment delay (set time / turn limit)
- undeads (on / off) - on by default
- speed and pace (set time / turn limit)
- fog (on / off) - on by default
- seasons (on / off / delay) - on by default

Should be on by default, can be toggled off before game starts. With the arrival of the age of drought, floating isles where covered in black shroud and strange fogs. Shroud Covers the entire map in black, reveals into fog as armies explore. Regions visible by armies will look normal while explored places will be covered in fog (black and white).

Should be on by default, every set number of turns season will change and winter will come to the floating island. (bit strange to have snow when you float over the clouds but whatever :) winter will cause units to move slower and resource output will be halved for the duration of winter.

Frostling Shardscapers (see races from index) are unaffected by winter season in any negative manner, infact they gain stealth bonus on snow tiles and their towns continue to produce regular amount of income as the summer season.

- set season on / off,
- if on set delay
- if delay = x turns then roll dice 1D6 = meaning every x + 1 to 6 days seasons will change between winter and summer.

Rather straightforward stuff;
1- create map (random seed or selected) depending on size desired
2- add player starting castles depending on the race chosen by each player.
3- seed map with towns and castles belonging to random npc races
4- seed regions with resource bonus and items

isles of drought - UI concepts

click here for a larger image of the UI concepts


Map consists of nodes (usually occupied by a town or castle) joining the tiles around them to form a region. Production and resource collection is made by these towns or castles while armies move from node to node using the roads that connect the nodes (calling them bridges would be more accurate) to other nodes.

isles of drought - tiles

These floating tiles have different (random? set by the player before game starts?) levels of altitude. 5 being the highest while 1 the lowest. Every time tiles take damage (by harvest, spells or whatever reason) they sink by 1. If a tile reaches 0 that tile crumbles into the abyss below. Any resource on the tile is also destroyed with it. Roads or bridges aren't effected by such damage and cannot be destroyed. There is no way to disconnect a node.


There are two types of resources found in the islands. Gold and Mana. Gold is used for everything as a generic resource while mana is used for specific race related stuff. Collecting resources is done at the beginning of each turn as an automated progress. Every town or castle controlled by a player collects the resources from the tiles in their region

Regular collection is the primary way of gathering resources, done automatically by default unless the player interferes and commands the castle to use the "harvest" command. With regular collection method the towns or castles collect the resources from their regions without causing any damage to the tiles.

When the player uses harvest, sages and priests in the castle cast powerful magic spells to gain a resource bonus from the area. These harvesting spells are so powerful that they spoil the unity of the floating isles in their regions, causing all tiles to sink down by 1 level. When used a couple of times it makes all tiles in the region to fall into the abyss.

isles of drought - harvest vs regular gathering

Various bonuses can be found on some tiles:
- Empty region (most common) provides small amount of gold and mana.
- Gold mine - provides gold bonus to region
- Mana rifts - provides mana bonus to region (same colour as the rift)
- Ruins - can be explored for random bonus (mana, gold or artifacts - ruins can also have hidden enemy encounters or could be deserted)

Improvements can be built on empty tiles in regions. Only one improvement type can be built per region. Types of improvements are:

- Market Place - can be built to increase gold income (can be upgraded from 1 to 3)
- Fortifications - can be built to provide the settlements additional defence (can be upgraded from 1 to 3)

isles of drought - tile examples

Every region has a single settlement in its center, (on the node tile connecting the region)

Settlements produce resources (gold + mana type of the race occupying.)

Settlements produce armies (army type of the race living in towns - so a human settlement can only produce human army)

Towns are smaller settlements that have low resource outputs and provide less defence. While castles provide greater resource and defence benefits. Castles also allow the players to use the "harvest" command while towns can only use regular resource gathering methods. A harvest order will have a negative effect on the soil of the tiles in the region and frequent use may cause the land to become unstable and crumble, making the regions unusable for the rest of the game. This can be used both as an economic, offensive or defensive tactic.

Towns can be upgraded from levels 1 to 4 and finally 5 turning them into a castle. (upgrading each level costs resources and time / turns)

Armies can move directly from settlement to settlement (node to node) Capturing a settlement will grant the control of the entire region around it.

Towns and castles can be raised to level 1 but cannot be destroyed below level 1

Undead can turn towns and castles into "tomb of souls" that will produce large number of undead units each turn (minute, hour, whatever) If recaptured by a player, the Tomb of souls will revert into a level 1 town     

Movement is done node to node (from the center of the region, the town or castle to another) tiles around the nodes aren't effective during movement. 

It will take time to travel from node to node. (its a browser based game so time limits can vary from 5 hours to 5 minutes, 5 turns or a single turn depending on the game speed chosen before game start.)

A battle will take place when two opposing armies meet on a road (bridge) or a node. If the armies meet on the node the defender will benefit from terrain / town bonus while If they meet on a road (or bridge) the attacker or defender will not receive any terrain bonus.

Roughly unit stats should be as follows;
  • Cost - how much gold or mana required to produce 
  • Health - hit points
  • Attack - combat value
  • Initiative - shows who attacks first, higher means faster. value should be between 1 to 10 (can effect movement on map?)
  • Active - always active ability
  • Passive - on / off. passive skills that require mana to activate and have a cool down after each use.
Combat is handled instantly once two armies reach each other. Procedure is as follows:

1) check the initiatives of both armies.
2) roll bonus 1D6 dice for both armies to add randomness (optional?)
3) apply item / artifact / spell bonus if any
4) whoever has higher initiative total attacks first. (becomes attacker)
-  ATTACKER strikes -
5) deduct attacker's total "attack" value from defenders "health" value
- DEFENDER retaliates - (even if its dead)
6) deduct defender "attack" value from attackers "health" value 
- if both parties are still alive -
7) repeat 5 to 6 until an army is destroyed. (health value reaches 0)

  • step 2 is totally optional. some people enjoy a little bit of randomness instead of relying on direct maths.  It also helps greatly to resolve "who goes first" if two armies have the same initiative
isles of drought - combat

Armies occupying the same nodes can be merged together if they are from the same race (human army with human army, orc with orc etc.) When armies are merged their health is multiplied.
So if a human army has 120 hp and it merges with another human army with 120 hp they will become a single army with the most experienced unit as the leader. Artifacts and items will also  be kept with the new leader. Their health will increase to 240 / 240 but their attack and initiative values will remain the same.
However if a 120 hp human army merges with a 50 hp wounded human army, the newly merged units hit point would be 170 / 240

kill defenders on a node to take over the region. Capturing towns and castles allows the harvesting of all the adjacent regions around the castle.

Units level up as they gain xp from combat. Each level bestows additional damage, HP or initiative to the units.

New armies can be recruited from castles once per day (or whatever time limit is set for "recruitment delay" before the game starts.) Reinforcing existing armies will be cheaper than recruiting new ones.


Each player picks one of the following spheres of magic before the game starts.  (blue, green, white, red) and depending on their choice they will be given a castle that can produce the units of the sphere. Also the player gains access to the spells offered by the sphere.

Each race has an active (free) ability which they can always benefit and a passive skill which needs to be activated (with a mana cost and cooldown to use again).  These abilities will either affect the unit itself, the region they stand, a radius around the unit or the neighbouring regions.

Some races may be slightly unbalanced but it would have been awkward if every race was perfectly balanced turning things into chess. Players may see this balance issue as a way to make their game harder or easier by picking stronger or weaker races.  Plus the only proper way to maintain balance in these kinds of games is to keep playing and testing and this is only the concept phase, making it only possible to balance on theory.

Blue Sphere - Involves races that are ideal for building a strong economy. Blue mana domains are represented by grassland regions.

Human Knight -
With the arrival of the Age of Drought, Humans returned back to their nature and became filled with obsession of ruling, growing and conquering. Due to the nature of human special skills they are best used on settlements to boost economy or defence.
  • Cost - high gold med mana
  • Health - med
  • Attack - med
  • Initiative - med
  • Active skill - defensive formations allow them extra defence bonus from fortifications
  • Passive skill - taxation allows human armies to collect double gold from regions
  • Castle bonus - human castles generate more gold compared to other races

Manhawk Scout - 
Manhawk's are a strange race that consist of giant hawks with humanoid features. Due to their fragile wings and thin body features, the Manhawk are not a warlike race. However The arrival of the Age of Drought has brought the necessity to fight for scarce mana, forcing the Manhawk to take offensive actions despite their fragile nature. Manhawks are cheap to purchase but are physically weak so they are best used as support units with their ability to find resources or used for hit and run tactics as they are immune to attacks and special abilities while moving between regions
  • Cost - low gold low mana
  • Health - low
  • Attack - low
  • Initiative - high
  • Active skill - Their wings allow manhawks to fly without being seen by the enemy. (immune to attacks and special abilities while moving between regions)
  • Passive skill -  can find a random amount of mana (random colour) once a while in regions
  • Castle bonus - Manhawk castles generate more blue mana compared to other races 

Titan Defender -
Once responsible of keeping the order in the floating isles, with the arrival of the Age of Drought, Titan Defenders felt abandoned by the high-father. Left aimless, they decided to gather all resources they could find believing high-father would award them by rebuilding the isles and allow them to rule once again. Titan Defenders are expensive but strong.
  • Cost - high gold high mana 
  • Health - med
  • Attack - high
  • Initiative - low
  • Active skill - immune to enemy special attacks
  • Passive skill - double damage against imps and undead for a short while
  • Castle bonus - Titan castles give extra defence to any unit when defending against imps and undead

Green Sphere - Involves races that have a good balance between attack and defence. Green mana domains are represented by forest covered regions

Elven Ranger -
Elves ruled most of the forests found on the floating islands and even during the age of drought they were generous with the lesser creatures and nurtured all life even if such actions caused their downfall. They have strong wards protecting their forests from harmful magic, they can also call the power of elven magic to dispel negative spells.
  • Cost - low gold med mana
  • Health - low
  • Attack - high
  • Initiative - high
  • Active skillinvisibility on regions with 3 or more forests. (cannot be targeted  by special abilities or spells when invisible)
  • Passive skill - can remove negative spells and effects from friendly armies
  • Castle bonus - Elven castles have protective wards that stop enemy spells (region and units inside the region cannot be targeted by spells)  

Ancient Treeman
Ancient protectors of the forests, some say they were a kin of titans sent to guard the floating isles, cursed and turned into giant trees after their extreme interest in forests and their inhabitants and forgetting to fulfil their duties. Being such ancient beings, the treeman will take root if they wait in a single region for a long time. Player will have to keep the treeman moving from region to region in order to keep them combat ready.
  • Cost - low gold high mana
  • Health - high
  • Attack - high
  • Initiative - low
  • Active skill - can take root if  stands in a certain regions for a while receiving +10 defence but has to rest for a while before it can move again.
  • Passive skill - can entangle enemies with roots, stopping them for a certain period of time
  • Castle bonus - Treeman castles cause less damage to ground tiles when using harvest command  

Centaur Charger -   
Savage creatures of the forests, they can move with enormous speeds and attack their targets before giving them a chance to prepare. Ideal for hit and run attacks but castles have less defensive bonus forcing the players to play aggressive.
  • Cost - med gold high mana
  • Health - med
  • Attack - med
  • Initiative - med
  • Active skill - double speed when moving
  • Passive skill - Can charge and deal double damage on roads / bridges
  • Castle bonus - Centaur castles provide 50% less defence bonus. 

White Sphere - Involves races that are good for defending and turtling. Their domains are represented by snow covered regions

Proud Dwarf - 
Dwarfs are a hardy mountain kin which live in rugged mountains of the floating isles. They value strength and hard work and create sturdy fortresses adorned with the treasures discovered deep within their mountains.
  • Cost - high gold low mana 
  • Health - med
  • Attack - med
  • Initiative - low
  • Active skill - lowers gold cost of improvements in regions
  • Passive skill - can build a single level of fortification to a region
  • Castle bonus - Dwarven castles also provide small amount of attack bonus

Frostling Shardscaper -
With the arrival of the Age of Drought the fate of the Frostlings remain on the blink of destruction as they live in regions covered with ice. Despite their limited means, they have a natural ability to harvest magic
  • Cost - low gold high mana
  • Health - low
  • Attack - low
  • Initiative - high
  • Active skill - Invisible on snow regions (white mana controlled regions or all map during winter season) uneffected by winter season or frost spells.
  • Passive skill - can freeze enemy squads for a short period. Frozen squads cannot move or use special abilities.
  • Castle bonus - Frostling castles generate regular resources during winter season

Frost Giant -
Big guys running around with a tree trunk in their hands. Frost giants can cause earthquakes that damage troops and destroy improvements in enemy towns. 
  • Cost - high gold high mana
  • Health -high
  • Attack - med
  • Initiative - very low
  • Active skill - not effected by fortification bonus (both when attacking and defending)
  • Passive skill - can cause earthquakes that damage settlements back to level 1. has a chance low chance to damage the region tiles by 1.
  • Castle bonus - Giant castles provide extra defense bonus

Red Sphere - Armies consist of strong races ideal for offensive play. Red sphere domains are represented by "lava themed" regions

Fallen -

The fallen were once Titan's who were once responsible of keeping the order in the floating isles, with the arrival of the Age of Drought, Titan's felt abandoned by the high-father. Left aimless, some decided to rebuild the isles while some rebelled and turned away from the words of the high-father. Being creations of pure good alignment such actions caused them to transform into twisted "Demonic" beings. Blaming the high-father for all that happened to them, they cause chaos, destruction and mischief and. Fallen cost more mana than any other race.
  • Cost - low gold high mana 
  • Health - high
  • Attack - high
  • Initiative - low
  • Active skill - Fallen arent effected / cannot be targeted by enemy spells
  • Passive skill - Fireballs that burn the target and deal burning damage over time
  • Castle bonus - Fallen castles generate extra red mana

Catra Hunter -

Catra are a strange race that mixes humans and tigers. They usually have the faces of tigers with human bodies. Not sure about the designs but they could be influenced by Egiptian and Hittite culture. Catra are masters of hunting, they can restlessly march after their targets and can hunt them for miles by their scents.
  • Cost - med gold med mana  
  • Health - med
  • Attack - med
  • Initiative - high
  • Active skill - can detect enemy presence in adjacent regions even if hidden by fog or stealth
  • Passive skill - can become invisible for a short while (cannot be targeted by enemy skills or spells)
  • Castle bonus - Catra castles do not provide any special bonus
Greenskin Raider -
Greenskin tribes consist of orcs, goblins, trolls and ogres making them ideal tools of destruction and chaos, constantly fighting among each other it is usually hard for the players to command greenskin squads as they have a chance to randomly attack greenskin armies that occupy neighbouring settlements. Constant battling allows greenskins to earn more experience after combat.
  • Cost - med gold low mana  
  • Health - med
  • Attack - high
  • Initiative - med
  • Active skill receives twice the xp bonus after each victory
  • Passive skill - berserk skill will double the orcs attack value for a short time. has high cooldown penalty.
  • Castle bonus - Orc castles do not provide any special bonus (regular defence bonus is available)

These are the races and units that cannot be controlled by the players.

Undead - 
The undead are a non-player race with a single goal, to destroy all the living. They randomly wonder between regions and attack the living.

The undead have no interest in such possessions as mana or money, all they value is the number or corpses in regions. If a region has seen many battles with high casualties there is a high chance the bodies will rise and the undead will infest the region within a very short time. Once a castle or town becomes corrupted  by the undead, a tower of souls will be built which will start to produce more undead units depending on the total amount of casualties by draining the souls of dead people around the map.

Zombie Horde -
Animated corpses brought back to life. Zombies will increase their numbers periodically over time
  • Health - low
  • Attack - low
  • Initiative - low
  • Active skill - Squad strength increases periodically over time.
  • Passive skill - Zombies will convert half of defeated enemy squads to their ranks if they are victorious after battles.
  • Castle bonus - Any castles taken over by the undead are destroyed to rubble and cannot be rebuilt. (turns into empty tile) a special "pillar of souls" is built instead allowing the undead to reinforce their ranks globally all over the map.

Tormented Souls -
Tormented souls haunt the regions for revenge and have the ability to pass through walls so fortifications will not provide defence bonus when defending a region against them.
  • Health - low
  • Attack - med
  • Initiative - high
  • Active skill - enemy does not receive fortification bonus when fighting against ghosts.
  • Passive skill - Can teleport (randomly?) to any region on map
  • Castle bonus - Any castles taken over by the undead are destroyed to rubble and cannot be rebuilt. (turns into empty tile) a special "pillar of souls" is built instead allowing the undead to reinforce their ranks globally all over the map.

SPELLS (incomplete)

Spells can be cast on areas and units that are not hidden inside fog. Casting will require different amounts and combinations of mana and will have cooldown timers to stop global spell spam.

--- will add a list of items & descriptions here --- 

Restore ground
Holy word


Restore ground
Grow forest

Winters fury
Divine Winds
Increase Might

Scorch ground
destroy fortifications


--- will add a list of items & descriptions here --- 


Winning and Losing


Player wins the game if all opposing players are destroyed.

Player loses the game when he doesn't have any castles left.

Undead do not count as an opposing player.



A simple and casual browser-based game with easy to learn, hard to master turn based wargame mechanics, lots of data sheets and server side operations. Best suited for playing in the office :)