Thursday, August 20, 2009

Liar's Auction revisited

About 2 years ago I had an idea to build a bigger game out of the mechanic that is Liar's Dice. I discussed it with a friend, and we worked on a game using a multiple Liar's Dice Auction that I came up with... he didn't want me to discuss the game, so I didn't. I kept a blog post describing the early version of the game unpublished so as not to break his confidence or anything...

Well, that friend disappeared - left town and didn't reply to emails or phone calls. He eventually moved back to town, but still didn't contact me or return calls - the last I spoke to him he sounded disappointed that the Liar's Dice auction game (as well as another game we were working on together) couldn't be finished. I replied that I'm still here, and still interested in working on them, but that hasn't promoted any further contact.

So while I liked the direction that game was going, I have decided to take my Liar's Dice auction mechanism and do something else with it. I don't feel this is a moral no-no because it was my idea, and I'm not re-using game I was collaborating with that guy on - just the main mechanism I'd come up with for it.

In discussing a different possible theme for this mechanism in BGDF chat, someone suggested time travel. Frankly, the idea of getting to a location (in time) after an incident occurs but before anybody else is the closest thematic match I have heard of for the Liar's Dice mechanism, which is basically a "guess closest to the right number without going over" thing. It isn't as perfectly clean when going back in time, but I think it's close enough to say that you don't want to disrupt things and cause paradoxes, so only the player going back to a point just before an item is rumored to have disappeared (destroyed, stolen, damaged, lost) is the player that gets to take it... that way the general public might not notice any difference.

What I'm getting at here - and I bet it's not clear - is that players will be curators of futuristic museums. Time travel has just been discovered, and as a result you have the unique opportunity to exhibit some of the world's lost treasures for the first time in your museum! Each round information will surface on 6 different artifacts from the past, each of which was thought damaged, destroyed, or lost forever... doing some research to find out exactly where and when these items disappeared, players will calibrate their time machines and send explorers to grab the items before they get lost or destroyed. It's imperative not to change history, so only the player who gets closest to the time at which history dictates the item goes missing is allowed to take the item. If you don't go back far enough, the item will already be gone, and if you go back too far and take the item, history will change (and you can't risk that!)

Maybe better is this blurb:

With the advent of Time Travel, museum curators have procured prototype time machines, and will use them to go back in time and "save" precious cultural artifacts that - until now - have been lost to history (damaged, destroyed, or lost forever). But it's very important not to cause a paradox, or let people know the item still exists - so only the player who arrives closest to the time the item is thought to have disappeared will be able to take it!

Furthermore, as time travel becomes more widespread, rumors of future technology surface, and players can attempt to go forward in time and procure them for their own use (only the player that arrives first, after the point it's invented, will get it).

The game will be about set collection then. Your museum will have maybe 5 Exhibits, and you need to collect items to put in the exhibits. Maybe for example Green indicates ancient Mayan civilization... so you collect Green artifacts (from the Green auction) and will score for them. One main scoring thought I had before (and would like to continue to use) is that winning one auction makes you better at winning that auction again, but winning the same auction over and over is less and less lucrative. For example, your 1st/2nd/3rd Mayan artifact might be worth 5/4/3 victory points. Therefore getting three different artifacts is worth more than getting three of the same artifact. However, having a Mayan artifact may give you more information about the Mayan culture, and help you to correctly calibrate your time machine when going after other Mayan artifacts (having a green item allows you to count 1 additional Green die when resolving an auction, usable only by you).

I like the dichotomy of getting better at winning the same auction again but having incentive to try and win a different auction.

I mentioned "technologies" from the future - those would be not artifacts that score points, but rather items that give you bonus abilities, like the ability to re-roll some dice before the bidding phase of the auction, or the ability to swap items with an opponent or something.

So now I just need to rethink some of the abilities that could be needed in this game, and maybe come up with some cultures such as the Mayans to draw from... doesn't have to be extremely historically accurate - after all, each item in the game is one that is not supposed to exist, so I can make them all up!

Maybe 5 cultures, and 1 color always representing a futuristic technology - thus 5 exhibits per player. I'm liking this theme more and more!


Rick Holzgrafe said...

Well, you're welcome to the title I gave my similarly-themed entry in the February 2009 GDS. :-)

Seth Jaffee said...

Funny - a fried suggested that same name! I don't know if it fits or not, but for now it's as good as any!