Tile laying: Units are formed (and deformed) through tile-laying. Once grouped, tiles form units, but once connected with other units, iconoclasms erupt.
Dynamic colors: A mancala mechanism governs which colors a player may play in addition to their own colors.
Dynamic relations: The same mancala mechanism governs which colors a player may rely on for support in tied iconoclasms.
Open game board: The outcome of each action can be predicted, creating a highly tactical and "brain-burning" game.
I've always wanted to create a purely tactical "battle of the minds" game like chess or go but
never been able to come up with a unique mechanism. Movement mechanisms are already perfected in chess
and area control mechanisms in go. But then I discovered Reiner Knizia's master pieces
Tigris & Euphrates
and Samurai and got more
inspiration. Perfect games can still be made! The missing piece in the puzzle came in a discussion
with another game designer about another game, where the innocent words "cycling gods" were dropped.
All this created a chain reaction that ended up with an Iconoclasm!
How about a game where the players can build and destroy kingdoms, like in Tigris & Euphrates,
but where they have to build them together, like in Samurai? Add to that an element of uncertainty,
where the players don't know each others' colors but can play any color (similar to Leo Colovini's
although I discovered this gem only later). And an element where the
colors have a circular supporter/opponent relation. This was an idea that I initially came up with
for a political game but never found a good way to realize. Now the "cycling gods" could use it.
Iconoclasm is a purely tactical game but the theme of cycling gods fits it very well. Together, the
gods build a world and attract followers. As the four elements of the world are interdependent, so are
the gods, but as in all mythological dramas, the gods have different agendas and their means are
their followers. The inspiration to the name came from another favorite game of mine:
Advanced Civilization and the calamity card "Iconoclasm".
1 game board of 61 hexes, representing the world to be created.
8 units; 2 red fire, 2 blue water, 2 green earth and 2 white air (none for spirit).
In spite of the dramatic name, I wanted Iconoclasm to be a primarily abstract game where the art
would not cloud the tactics. As often in my game designs, I went to the history for inspiration and
what could be better for a world building game than the classical four elements of fire, water, air
There I had my playing pieces and to make them as clear as possible, I gave each piece a
distinct color as well.
Why including the fifth element of spirit, you might wonder? The answer is an interesting example of the unexpected
turns a game design may take. Initially, I wanted to have up to 5 players so when I found information
about spirit (or aether, as Aristotle called it), I happily included it. However, early game testing
showed that five elements made the circular relation rather complex
but I had started to like spirit and even included it in the game logo. Those are two very poor
arguments for including something in a game but maybe the spirit influenced me for I finally came
up with the idea of letting spirit be a neutral non-player element! (As a matter of fact, I even
came up with an idea of a five-player version where the spirit player aim at cosmic balance but more
about that under Rules.)
To use hexagons for the game board was an early decision for two reasons. First, hexagons allow
connections in six directions compared to the four directions of squares (which is why it's so popular
in battle games). Second, the sum of a hexagon and its connected hexagons is seven, a number that is
not easily divided and thus could help avoiding ties when counting which color occupies most hexagons in
a group. (Again, read more under Rules about colors and groups.) Since the players
build a world, it was a natural choice to have a void background and the dark
space fit the theme colors of black and gold as well.
The initial design relied on fixed colors and relations, where each player had fixed number of tiles of each color to play and a fixed support from another color. The reason was simply to remove all randomness but this also gave the game a slightly lethargic feeling, as pointed out by some game testers. But could a game like Iconoclasm be both dynamic and non-random? The answer came from another cyclic abstract game: Tao Long, where a mancala mechanism governed which actions that are available for the players.
This mechanism solved both the color problem and support problem by giving the players an opportunity to decide for themselves which colors to add to the board and get support from. It made sense thematically too: by placing an opponent color on the board, you also secure support from that color. This is a good example of how both other games and themes can be used for inspiration.