Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New game ideas - Press Your Luck, Bluffing, 9-Ball, and Tabloid Journalism

I have been thinking about various different game ideas recently. Here are some of the 'quick little games' I've dreamed up or discussed with someone else recently. They are nothing groundbreaking, and are really just variants on Liar's Dice (Bluffing) and Diamant (Press Your Luck)

Press Your Luck game
The first game I came up with was going to be a cross between Rock-Paper-Scissors and Can't Stop - but after a while I realized the RPS portion was bogus so I dropped it. After some revision, here's what I've got:

There are 3 decks of cards, 1 deck with single symbols, one with 2 symbols, and one with 3 symbols. These symbols are each one of 5 different types. Then there are 3 6-sided dice, with one of the 5 symbols on each side, and a Skull on the 6th.

On your turn, you pick one of the decks, and a matching number of dice (1 die per symbol on the card). You roll the dice, and if you get the right symbol, then you add 1 gold piece to the pot and put the die on the matching symbol. Then you either cash in and end your turn, taking whatever's in the pot, or you press your luck by rolling again. Anytime you complete a card (match all the symbols), then you add an additional 1 gold piece to the pot per symbol on the card. If at any time you roll a Skull, then your turn ends immediately, and all the gold is removed from the pot.

On second thought, it would be better to have something along the lines of rolling a skull means setting aside the die, rolling a second skull means setting it aside as well and losing some of what's in the pot, and rolling the third skull actually ends your turn.

Anyway, the object is to get a certain amount of gold first.

Liar's Dice variant
The other game I thought of for this was a variant of Liar's Dice, which has got to be the best bluffing game of all time. In this game you have a deck of cards numbered 1-6 or whatever, and in addition to the number, each card would also have one or 2 coins on it. Give each player 5 coins per player in the game (so 25 for a 5 player game), then deal 5 cards to each player. On your turn you first play one card face up into the pot in the center of the table, then you make a claim such as "Four 3's", meaning you assert that there are at least 4 cards in people's hands with the number 3 on them. Then the next player can either accept that assertion and start their turn, or challenge the assertion. When an assertion is challenged, everyone reveals their hand and between the challenger and the challengee, whoever was wrong pays the player who was right a number of coins equal to the amount of the pot (the coins on the cards in the center of the table).

The object is to get all of the coins, or to collect a certain number of coins.

9-ball card game
My online friend over at BGDF had an idea for a card game about 9-ball. I was bouncing some ideas back and forth with him, and came up with a system I think will work. I don't think I should blog about this just yet, as he's entering his idea in the Game Design Showdown on BGDF.com. I'll have to wait until after Thursday to divulge more.

4/5/07 Update: It's been a while since this post went up. That showdown thing is long over. I haven't done anything with this 9-ball game, but I did have some basic rules and card design laid out. Basically you have an object ball like in 9-ball, and you play a card that either hits it directly into a pocket, hit's it into another ball and then you play another card to 'sink' that ball, or you can't make a play - which results in a table scratch and your opponent gets to go. So you play through a game of 9-ball, just like you would in a pool hall. But instead of hitting a ball with a stick, you play the appropriate cards. I believe your cards would be face up, so you could get an idea what your opponent could do, and try to set them up to fail.

Investigative vs Tabloid Journalism
While riding the Underground on my recent trip to London, I came up with an idea for a game in which players publish magazines or newspapers, and they can strive to be either reputable, or they can embellish their stories. In general, embellishing the stories makes them worth less points when you publish them, but it makes them more likely to win bonuses. At the end of the game there's a bonus for both the least total embellishment (most reputable), and the most (biggest rag on the rack). I put some thought into it and I think I've got the whole system worked out, for a first draft at least. Now to make some cards and try it out!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Random game design thoughts - stream of conscience style.

So I had this great idea for a game... it had to do with delivering pizza and breaking traffic laws. I mean, who doesn't love pizza? And who doesn't love breaking traffic laws? Actually, every time I think about the game I get excited because I feel like the mechanics should work really well and that game would be fun. I even got about 1/2 way through a prototype when I hit a snag because I decided I was inept at creating a map board for the game.

This could be because I have a grandiose scheme to have a really novel board, with holes cut at the intersections (traffic lights) and a rotating color wheel below the board - so the lights will change over time, impacting the available routes. The game is intended to be about route planning and pressing your luck. The route planning comes from the changing traffic lights, and the pressing your luck comes from breaking traffic laws - which make you more and more likely to get busted.

Anyway, in the time since I started prototyping that one (the rules are ready to test, though they could maybe use some more player interaction), I have gone through the process of writing, prototyping, and testing several other games, as well as prototyping and playing games by other people. Here's a quick rundown:

Terra Prime
An idea I originally got from a friend, which I turned into a decently working prototype. It's about exploring space, colonizing planets, harvesting resources, and protecting the colonies from hostile aliens. Sounds like a lot, but it's like a 90 minute game, involves a nifty economic model, and a chart of upgrades for your spaceship.

I was very fond of this one, but lately I'm bummed because there's one part that's just not working for me. I can't seem to fix it, so I haven't even played this one in a long time.

A relatively simple game about fictional ancient Hawaiian tribes, who made sacrifices to the volcano goddess Pele in hopes she would not send fiery lava toward their village. Points are acquired by spreading out your tribesmen (which of course makes them more susceptible to lava flows), controlling the lava flow (by making the biggest sacrifice in a round), and collecting Fertile tokens (left when lava flows cool and go away). Novel movement mechanic borrowed from Mancala. I originally played this on a simple 9x9 square board. I thought perhaps hexes would be better, so I made a nice big board with big hexes... then realized I hadn't really increased the number of hexes or the distance from the mouth of the volcano to the edge of the board. Since then I've found a nice pic of the big island to use, and superimposed a hex grid - but I'm thinking I'll go back to a square grid... the game seemed better that way.

Homesteaders - by Alex Rockwell.
The king of Puerto Rico strategy articles, and Caylus 2p analysis, has come up with a game of his own. I played it when I met him last summer, came home, and made my own copy so I could play it some more. It's a sort of cross between Caylus and Vegas Showdown. You auction off the right to build a certain type of building, and there are lots of buildings per type. The buildings give you various abilities or incomes, which you use to build other buildings or otherwise translate into points. I have been testing it out and offering my comments through many changes, and will have a copy with me at BGG.con...

Soldiers and Builders - by John Heder.
No, not Napoleon Dynamite... his cousin. No, really, I know a guy named John Heder (hederj on BGG), and he's related to the Napoleon Dynamite guy (who's name is also John Heder, in case you have been living under a rock and wonder what the hell I'm on about). So my friend John found some 6 sided dice with colors on the faces (like in Carolus Magnus) at a store, and he was dieing to make a game that used them. So he did. It's relatively abstract, and has to do with placing dudes on the colored spaces on a grid. You determine where you can play by rolling 1 Region die and 1 Color die. I tried it out, and it was amusing at first, but quickly got old as there wasn't really enough to do, or enough control or player choice for my liking. So... I fixed it. I modified a few things in order to inject some options for players. I took a hint or two from Reiner Kinizia's new Genesis, where you roll 2 dice and play on both colors that come up or just 1 wild. I merged that into the game by having the player roll 1d4 for region and 2d6 color dice, and for each color die you either make a play, or discard it to change either the region die or the other color die. We (John and I) also implemented tower powers (towers result when you make a square of dudes, like a monument in T&E) in order to incentivize building towers. Scoring is based on towers (better if in groups), majority of guys in each region, majority of towers in each region, and destroyed towers (oh yeah, you can do that too). It's alright, but I would love to give it a theme. It kinda reminds me of that computer simulation thingy called "Life."

Odysseus: Winds of Fate
Another friend of mine from the Board Game Designers Forum asked me to help him out with an idea he had. It sounded really good to me, so we discussed it for a while. And as usual, I forked off with my own route on it while he went a different way. Well, it made so much sense to me, that about 2 days later I had a prototype ready to test. My friend (Nando) said that my version is closer to his original vision than his version is. Irrespective of that, I'm excited about this one because of 2 reasons... it's got a cool scoring mechanism in which you get points in 2 different varieties during the game, and the one that matters depends on how the game ends. Players have a little control over which type of points they get, and a little control over which way the game ends. The other thing I like about my implementation is that while there are numbers on cards that you play (via a mechanic not entirely unlike Taj Mahal), the numbers don't really matter for getting points - just the number of cards. The numbers (and suit of the cards) matter as to which points you get, and which game end condition gets furthered, but you can't get screwed out of points by a bad draw. The number of cards you have is (almost) completely within your control.

I also like the theme a lot... there aren't a lot of games out there with the Odyssey as a theme. In this one, players play the Sisters of Fate, who observe Odysseus on his voyage from Troy to Ithaca, not entirely interested if he makes it home safe or not... but they decide to sort of bet on it.

Dynasty: The Spread of Culture in Ancient China
This one will probably be my next "Hot and Fresh" (that's the pizza game, by the way) in that it's a great idea, 1/2 prototyped, that I'll probably never get around to finishing. It's based on yet another friend's idea... he asked me to help him with a game idea about China, which was to be some epic thing with wargame elements and everything. I took what we talked about, or the parts that interested me anyway, and made a Eurogame out of it. It's so simple yet seems like it would be so good. My friend didn't like that I posted it though, but said he wouldn't care as long as I changed the theme... maybe to something about India. Until I figure that out I was going to keep working on the mechanics anyway, which are ready to test, I just need to figure out some tech advances... here's the gist of it:

Each player represents a culture in ancient China. You start by establishing little villages in various regions on the map, which allow you access to resources. You don't actually GET resources, like cubes or anything, you just have access to them or you don't. Then you can buy technological advances or whatever, which better your civilization. If you can't afford one, you can ask an opponent to help you. They get points for doing so... Basically, as you get these advances, and especially as you "trade" with other civs, you get markers to fill up your Cultural Development chart. When you fill up the first part of the chart, you become advanced to the point that one of your villages becomes a city, granting you abilities and access to higher level resources. Later in the game you can found more cities and take over other players' villages and cities, but each time you assimilate another players culture, you get their chits on your board. As soon as a player has filled up their board, they become the first Emperor of China and the game ends. At this point you see who the winner is by revealing all the chits on everybody's boards... the newly crowned Emperor may not be the winner (though they get a bonus to scoring) - they may be Emperor, but they're empire is infused with another player's culture. The player who's culture is the best represented is the real winner.

Well, that's all the designs I can think of offhand. I also proto'ed a solitaire civ game made by another BGDF friend... it's pretty cool - made to be played solo (obviously), like on an airplane or something. All you need is a pad of paper, the rules (with list of Advances), and a small deck of Event cards (16 cards). Scott even made a 'deluxe' version with printable tiles for those that want the tabletop experience :) If you're interested in this game you can look up PocketCiv on Doho123's blog MeepleSpeak .

I suppose that's enough blah blah blah from me... leave a comment if you read this, let me know what you think of the game ideas.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Games!

It's unusual for me to buy new games, or new books, or new clothes for that matter. But last week was a rare exception. There are some games I've been wanting to play, and even though I know people who own them, I want to play them at home with other friends, and/or more often then once a week at my game club so I put an order in at Thoughthammer.

Thoughthammer is an online retailer of board games. I'd prefer to support my local game stores, since it's nice to go in there and browse around, have free gaming space, etc. However I was in Game Daze the other day and looked at some of the titles I was interested in... 50 bucks for a board game seems like quite a bit of money - especially when the online retailers sell the same thing for less than $30. The other store I frequent (Hat's Games), can order things, and gives us a discount, but the club makes these group orders only once every so often and Hat's distributor can't always get what I want. It's all just too inconvenient to deal with. Thoughthammer is quick, cheap, and easy. I put in my order on Monday, and the games arrived on Saturday.

Admittedly though, this wasn't quite fast enough in some respects. There's something to be said about the convenience of deciding that I want to play a game, and then walking out of the store with that game in hand the same day so I can play it that evening. While waiting for my order to arrive, I did pay retail for ANOTHER game last Thursday so I could play it that night at Hat's. Of course, for that kind of convenience I had to pay full price.

Wow, I didn't know this post was going to turn into a treatise on buying online vs supporting your FLGS (that's "Friendly Local Game Store"). I thought I was just going to list all the cool new stuff I got. So here's what I got:

Bison: Thunder on the Prairie
I read some discussion of this new game on BGG and decided the game sounded interesting. I was unsure if it was available yet, but I thought I had seen it at Game Daze a few days earlier. So at lunch I stopped by the store to see, and I was telling myself not to buy an unplayed game for $50 just to see if I like it. Well, it turned out to be only $30, so I went ahead and bought it so I could play it that night at Hat's.

As it turns out, I only played 1/2 a game of Bison at Hat's (the second half), and then I played another 1/2-game afterwards at Denny's (but people had to leave). Finally I played a full game the next night at home. each time was with an entirely different group of people, so each game was a learning game.

I wrote a review of the game based on my experience thus far. In short, I'd like to play it more, but I fear it will get old real quick. In that respect it probably wasn't worth the $30 price tag, I could have just waited until someone else bought it and played their copy a couple times.

TempusI played Tempus twice at BGG.con last November, as it was one of the eagerly anticipated games from Essen. I liked it, but the hype had built up my expectations a little too much. Now that it's finally available, I played the game again at a game day event and enjoyed it even more than I remember from last year. I played it again a few nights later at Hat's, and liked it again. Since then I've wanted to play more Tempus, but I only know one guy who has it, and I don't see him very often. So I decided to buy it myself. I am finding that I like it, but there are some other games (like Goa) that I'm currently liking a bit better.

About a year and a half ago, a friend got Goa and was very interested in playing it. I remember having read some things on the 'net that led me to believe I wouldn't like the game much - that it was formulaic and sort of tedious. So, disinterested, I never gave Goa a try. A couple weeks ago, I finally did give Goa a try, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was nothing like I expected it to be. I enjoyed Goa a great deal and wanted to play it more immediately. This was the kind of heavy game I thought I could get my other friends to play, so I decided to add it to the order as well.

Rum & Pirates
Before seeing Pirates of the Carribean 2: Dead Man's Chest, my friends and I stopped by a game store called Uncles Games (this is in Seattle) for their weekly open game night. We saw a new title from Alea called Rum & Pirates. I thought it was odd I hadn't heard anything about the game, but it WAS about pirates, and that was the theme of the evening. The store owners let us open up a copy and try it out, mostly because they were curious themselves. They also let my friends buy the "open" copy for 30% off afterwards.

I wrote a review of the game after a few plays. I like it and I wanted to play it with some specific friends that don't go to Hat's, so I added it to the order.

In the Shadow of the Emperor
I have played ItSotE once, and it was pretty good. I've also read some good things about it being a deep/heavy game, and in such a small package (and price tag) I've been interested in actually buying it - I just never got around to it. As it turns out that's probably a good thing, because I ended up trading a game to my friend, who's just recently into gaming, and he ordered this for me (instead of ordering the game I owned for himself). So now I have it, I just need to find time and people to play against. On the down side, I'm pretty sure that even if it's good, it won't be AS good as some of my other games and therefore won't get played much. On the up side, the game I traded for was never going to hit the table again anyway, so it's almost like getting something for nothing.

Citadels (with Dark City expansion)
I have Citadels already, and my friend Jeremy really likes it. I often give him a board game for Christmas, and of course he gives me a Playstation game for Hanukkah in return. I've been meaning to get him Citadels because I know he likes it, but I had trouble getting it at the right time for whatever reason. So finally, here it is. Merry Christmas, Jeremy!

BANG! - Dodge City
I have BANG! though I don't play it often. Last December I had some non-gamer friends in from out of town. They're Ultimate Frisbee players who came for a tournament, and they're "gamer types" for the most part, they just don't play a lot of games. Well, long story short: We played BANG! for about 6 hours straight, and had a blast the whole time! So I decided I'd like the expansion in case that kind of thing ever happens again. Also, the expansion allows for an 8th player, which could be handy. I've never played the game with a second Renegade, but it could make things interesting.

Friday, March 17, 2006

... Speaking of bad die rolls (as I was like 3 months ago)

I was playing Blood Feud in New York recently. I got a copy on sale for like 20 bucks, and of course the price dropped to $15 the next day. Anyway, I finally played it*. It's pretty fun. However one time I fortified my boss a bit. Admittedly, I could have left about 3 more guys with him, and would have been plenty safe. As it was I got attacked in my Penthouse Palace. My opponent needed 9's or 10's on a d10 to kill my guys. I had about 5 guys. My opponent rolled 9,9,9,9,10. I immediately remembered why I didn't like games like that.

So that sucked. I swear to god I'm not losing that game ever again! Or at least I'm not going to let my boss die. I was never any good at Risk or Axis and Allies or anything like that because I always spread myself too thin. Evidently that's still the case.

* Eagle Games makes some good stuff, but their rulebooks suck ass. They seriously ought to hire someone to proofread them and see if they're going to look like tools to the gaming community before they print a hundred thousand of the fucking things. For god's sake, the (inconsequential) order you roll dice for combat is explained in painstaking detail, with multiple examples, but nowhere in the rules does it say that the Helicopters take 3x as long to cross a bridge as a Thug on foot!