Thursday, June 07, 2007

All For One - first update in years!

I was chatting with Sebastian about what he thought was wrong with A41 (the ID version). What he mentioned was similar to the negative comments that I've gotten from playtesters... Players are or feel tied to a particular character, only want to use that character, spend too much time and effort cycling cards looking for missions for "their character," etc.

David's story track version attempts to address this issue by completely severing the ties between the player and the character, which is good. It also adds theme and story arc to the game, which is also good. However, when I played it (and also just in thinking about it), I didn't like how it went. There seemed to be problems with the back and forth tug-o-war for the tracks, making for swingy outcomes and whatnot. Also, there was information being added to the cards, and the missions need to be redesigned. Adding info to the cards is a bad idea because the other biggest complaint is that there's too much info on the cards already. Now I'll be the first to say that the info on the cards is only used in certain parts of the game, and organized well there's no reason there couldn't be a ton of info on the cards. I'm fine with that personally, maybe because I've played a lot of CCGs where there's a lot of info on cards, or maybe just because I'm smarter than the average bear... I dunno. But testing indicates that the cards need to have less info, not more.

Sebastian's idea was basically to assign the characters different traits (of the 6 traits from the story tracks), and when you get your goal card it would correspond to one of the character (i.e. match their traits), but there would be other characters you could use as well to tug your tracks the way you want.

In thinking about his idea, and David's Story version, I had a few revelations. Here's what I'd like to try...

Have 6 tracks, one per trait (King/Cardinal/All/One/War/Peace) - instead of 3 with a trait at each end of each. Assign each character a pair of traits, like King/All (Dartagnan?) or Cardinal/War (Rochefort?). When a mission is completed, the player scores 1vp per token delivered (as normal), and instead of the character scoring points per the ID version of the game, the active player increments one of the tracks associated with the active characters traits - per token delivered. So if you deliver 2 tokens, you bump up both tracks. If you deliver just 1, you just bump up 1 of the 2 tracks (your choice). The game would end when any of the tracks peg to the end, or when all the tracks are past a certain point (not when the vp pool runs out). Instead of ID tiles, players would get goal cards, showing 3 different traits (and the traits could be sort of paired, so you won't have both war and peace). At the end, your score is equal to the favors (vps) you've accumulated plus the level of each of the traits on your goal card.

This scoring is similar to the current (ID version) scoring, with a bit more points given out on he tracks, but those points are given out to more than 1 player. Also, this setup encourages doing a 3-token mission (bonus point for player and not for anyone else), being a little choosy about who you use but allowing for players to benefit by using multiple characters, it's more thematic of course, and it might even encourage loading up a character who's traits you have as a goal, hoping someone else will complete a mission with him. That last hints at a more cooperative feel to the game, which would be good. Also, this does not require more info on the cards, nor a redesign of the missions, nor really any of the mechanics - so I think it'll work well. In the case of a duel, I'd suggest the active player bump a track associated with the duel winner's traits - that's for either guard duel or character duel.

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