Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Time Rewind - first draft test

I tried a version of the Time Rewind game idea with Steve last night, each of us playing 2 characters to simulate a 4 player game. Honestly, while it had some potential, I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.

I approximated the cards and mechanisms in the game using a deck of cards. Here's how we played:

Take the 5-10s and Ks of a standard deck, shuffle them, and lay them out face down in a 7 row pyramid/trellis pattern. Flip up the first card (tip of pyramid) and place the 4 player pawns on it. Take the 4 As, 3 Qs, and 1 other card from the deck and shuffle those, laying them out as the 8th and final row. Q represents a victory condition (get to a Q card and then 'pass the challenge' there). As and the other card are failed attempts to fix the Instability.

Shuffle another deck of cards - these are the cards players will draw. On these cards only the suit matters, not the rank.

Each turn went like this:

1. Collect resources: reveal the top 4 cards from the deck. Players distribute 1 card to each player any way they like. In addition, move the Instability marker 1 space along the track for each Heart revealed this way. This serves as a semi-random timer for when rewinds happen (when the end of the track is reached, a rewind happens).

2. Move - any player who wants to move their pawn can do so, to either of the 2 spaces in the next row adjacent to their current position.

The trellis represents a tree of binary decisions, so you can only navigate it forward. When a Rewind occurs, it sends players back in time (to the left on the trellis), giving them the opportunity to make different choices this time, however you can only make different choices for the decision points that got rewound, anything that's "still in the past" is set and cannot be changed (until a later Rewind takes you back beyond that).

3. Draw - anyone who didn't move can opt to draw 1 card from the deck. If it's a heart, advance the Instability marker.

4. Peek - anyone who didn't move and didn't draw can peek at upcoming cards... choose a row, and look at all face down cards in that row which you can still possibly get to. Shuffle those cards and return them face down. this gives you some information as to whether you're on the right track or not, and is probably most useful for looking at the last row from a few rows back to see if there's a Q there.

5. Challenge - reveal any face down cards people had moved to, and undergo the challenge there. In this version the challenge was simply this: Play a number of cards equal to the number on the card (so 5-10) plus 1/2/3/... for being in the 2nd/3rd/4th/... row, with cards matching suit counting double. A K card, if passed, is collected as an Item, and in this case the item simply gave a +3 to all challenges matching that suit (i.e. the K of Spades helps you win further Spade challenges). If you fail the challenge, the Instability marker is moved up once. Perhaps this should have been variable depending on how much you fail by, to encourage playing cards even if failing.

We also moved the instability marker one space if the card turned up was a Heart.

So a challenge could be hard or easy, and in general they get harder toward the "end" of the trellis.

6. Trigger Rewind - as a group you can decide to trigger a Rewind on purpose - rewind just 1 step (everyone moves left 1 space on the trellis) and the Instability marker is moved forward once. This may be necessary to get to a decision point otherwise unreachable.

That's it, then you go to the next round. Hand limit was 5 cards, and each time the Instability marker reached the end it caused a Rewind, the first rewinding just 1 space, the next 2 spaces, then 3... etc.

The game was kinda fun, and showed some potential, but as we discussed various mechanisms for the different aspects it just seemed more and more like Solitaire by Committee. Maybe that's OK, a lot of the cooperative ("Collaborative?") games out there right now (maybe all) are Solitaire by Committee, and people like them just fine. I am not out to make a SbC coop game, but I concede that this may turn into that.

More importantly, I noticed that moving your player pawn around on an abstract web of decision points was really lame. A better implementation (and pretty much the original idea for the game) would have the scientists (players) running around a board which depicts a town with the mad scientist's lair off to one side, and various locations where you could pick up items and take actions. The Trellis could be represented more like the original model, a stack of event cards which you would, at the beginning of your turn, flip and address... most would allow you to make a choice - perhaps as to what combination of cards you can play to the common pool... either (Red + Blue) or (Green + Yellow) for example. Some of those cards would be major events, and when those come up they have some requirements that must be met by cards in the pool. If the requirements are met, those cards are removed and the benefit of the event is earned. If not, then the benefit is not met (there may be a penalty). In the case of failure, the players may have another chance later, after a rewind.

In this version I think there would be some tools, and a number of Tool tiles (maybe 3 for he first level, 4 for the next, and 5 for the last?) would be placed face down in the Mad Scientist's Lab. In order to repair the Instability, the players would need to send someone to the Lab to 'throw the switch' or whatever, and when that happens either they have the right tools with them at the time (in which case Hurray! the Instability is partially fixed! things get a little better!), or they don't, in which case they make it worse! Maybe any tiles matching tools you have are removed (as are the tools), and any unmatched tiles make the Instability worse (increase the intensity of a rewind).

I think the benefit of passing challenges in the event deck would be revealing Tool tiles at the Lab, so that you know what you need to get. Players would probably have some number of actions points, and they would use them to move around the town and activate the buildings there in order to collect tools, draw cards, peek at the top of the Event deck, or whatever. Maybe even trigger little rewinds (making the instability worse) in order to re-do a challenge just failed.

That might be my next attempt at this game. Not sure how it will play out.

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