Thursday, September 30, 2010

Winds of Fate updates

After a nice (3 hour!) chat with Michael Keller about Winds of Fate (admittedly, much of that was describing the game to him over IM), I've got a pretty good idea of what I'd like to try for the next iteration of Winds of Fate:

The main difference between this new version and the last one is something that's come up in some playtest comments before - rather than set payouts for various bets, there will be a split pot - a specific amount that will be split between all winners of a bet. The problem before was that the betting system sort of encouraged people to do the same thing as everyone else, and that's the opposite of what I wanted. With a split pot, betting on the same thing as someone else may make it more likely to pay off, but the payoff gets lower with each player to make that same bet. Now there's some incentive to bet against other players! I think this should work out nicely.

In case it's not clear what I mean by a 'split pot,' consider the scoring of Notre Dame at the end of each Era: there are a certain number of points (depending on the number of players), and each cube in Notre dame gets an equal share of those points. Note I said 'each cube' not 'each player' - meaning if I have 2 cubes and you each have 1 cube, I get 50% of the pot, and you each get 25%. This is how the payouts for bets will work in the next test of Winds of Fate.

In order to facilitate this, I'm changing the betting system altogether. The betting board was a neat idea, but I think it mostly served as a stepping stone toward a more streamlined mechanism for the betting. I think I've got a better, more succinct way to represent betting without a supplemental board. Although the idea of actually having a roulette style board and making roulette style bets (especially on the side and corners, spanning multiple Encounters) was kinda attractive, I think this new idea will do a better, more streamlined job of accomplishing the goal of the bets in the first place. here's how it'll go:

Each round during the Encounter phase, each player will get the opportunity to "Place a bet." Possibly this will actually be added to the Encounter tile, and then it could be left off a couple of them. In order to do so they will have to have a "bet chip" (is what I've been calling them) - which will now just be a player marker (wooden cube in player color in the prototype). Placing a Bet means taking chip and placing it on one of the paths on the board between 2 Encounter tiles. The only restriction is that you cannot place on a path leading out of the current Encounter tile. Therefore you cannot bet on the CURRENT round's Adventure, but you can bet on the outcome of either of the possible NEXT round's Adventures. So there's still that aspect of betting on a win or loss on an adventure as well as whether you'll get to that adventure at all.

During the Journey phase, Odysseus' boat will move to one of the 2 paths leading out of the space - which one depends on the outcome of the Adventure (as always). Whenever the Boat encounters bet chips, those bets pay off. The payoff will be some number (I'm thinking 6vp) divided evenly between each bet chip present. So a bet chip (which will continue to be worth 2vp if unused) can be worth 0, 1, 2, 3, or 6 vp depending on whether it pays off and how many other players also bet on the same thing.

This will necessitate some modifications to the Reward tiles and some Encounter tiles. I need to remove all instances of "Place Bet" on those. It should prove valuable to collect a bet chip (or 2!) from a reward tile. I will also make the bonus for playing the single highest value of cards be a Bet Chip - which is either 2vp, or possibly as many as 6 if bet well. I think that should provide a good number of bet chips for players who want them. I might distribute some on Encounter tiles as well - maybe an Encounter will be "each player collects 1 Bet Chip" - or more interesting, maybe "Player 1 collects a Bet Chip" or "Player 3 collects a Bet Chip" I could even make a cycle of "Player X collects a bet chip" Encounter tiles :)

Destiny bets will work similarly, there will be some set number of points (I'm thinking 12) to be divided evenly between all Destiny bets. I will probably have to reduce the frequency of destiny actions or else use a larger number as the pot, or else the bets will be near worthless - and I don't want that! I think I'd like the Destiny bet to be on the order of 10 points, higher if you do great, lower if you do poorly.

The Timeline bet may also be a split pot situation, I'm thinking something like 9vp for a correct bet, 6vp for "off-by-1," and maybe 3vp for "off-by-2" (or maybe you need to be closer than off-by-2 to score at all). I'm waffling about whether to just award that to each player individually, or make it a split pot where players share the wealth. If split pot it would probably have to be a higher number, and I also think that if split it should probably be that you get let's say 25/15vp (for correct/off-by-1) divided by the total number of Timeline bets that are paying off... so if I bet on round 8, 2 people bet on round 9, and 2 people bet on round 10, and the game ends on round 9, then I should get 15vp/5=3vp, the 2 players betting on round 9 should get 25/5=5vp, and the 2 people betting on round 10 should get 3vp apiece as well. Hmm... that sounds pretty bad actually, I'll have to work on that. I don't really want someone off-by-1 to get more points than someone who was correct just because someone else was also correct - do I?

Maybe I do - in which case I could award 9/6vp (for right/off-by-1) and split that 9 or 6 with anyone with the same bet as you.

I think I'll also reduce the game end score for Red/Blue card pairs in hand to 1vp per pair (rather than 2vp) just to make sure you can't get a competitive score simply passing each round and hoarding cards! I also need to reduce the number of cards drawn in a 5 player game - we ran out last time! I think I can just have player 5 draw 3 cards just like player 4 does. Or I could reduce player 2, 3 and 4's cards as well in a 5p game. I'd prefer to keep it consistent though.

So that's it - I need to adjust my prototype to fix the reward tiles and Encounter tiles, and I'm ready to test again!


Paul D. Owen said...

I was thinking about your Timeline Bet paradox, in which bets that are off by one might pay out better than bets that are right on, if a lot of people got it right. In my mind, it's analogous to a horse race in which a lot of people bet on a horse to win, and a few bet on the horse to place. The "win" bets always pay out better than the "place" bets.

Maybe you roll up the whole pot to be, say, 30 vp. Every bet that was right on counts as two "shares" in the pot, and every bet that was off by one counts as one. Then in the example you gave, the two people who bet on round 9 would get two shares each. The total number of shares is now 1 + 2x2 + 2 = 7. Your bet on Round 8 would get 30/7 = 4 vp, the players who bet on Round 9 would each get 2x30/7 = 8 vp, and the players who bet on Round 10 would each get 4 vp, same as you. (Maybe those numbers are too high, but you get the idea.)

Your interest in trying to disincentivize players from jumping on a bandwagon and doing what everyone else does reminds me of the game Pacific Typhoon, in which players opt to join a battle as US or Japanese with the goal of being on the winning side and getting a share of a large prize. If the first player goes in as Japanese and everyone else gangs up as US, then the US wins, but only one player gets the lone Japanese ship for points, and all the others who played as US end up with nothing. The best situation occurs when several players go in as US, so that there are a lot of points to be had, and the remaining players play as Japanese to turn the tide of battle and collect multiple US ships for a lot of points. With that kind of dynamic, PT is a great game for a moderate-sized group (five players or more).

Seth Jaffee said...

Maybe you roll up the whole pot to be, say, 30 vp. Every bet that was right on counts as two "shares" in the pot, and every bet that was off by one counts as one.

That's a brilliant idea, and I'm surprised I didn't think of it! So 1 big pot (like I had in mind), and a weighted distribution of shares. Nice. I could even do 3/2/1 shares for Right/+1/+2 if I wanted (where + means +/-).

Those numbers aren't too far off from what I'm looking for either. I have to be a little careful though, as I don't want them to be TOO low if everybody is close, but I don't want then to be too high if only 1 or 2 people are scoring either.

Thanks for the comment, Paul!

Jeff said...

I'm not up on the latest way that the game works, but it seems like there's a disconnect between the game's terminology and its implementation. The game is called "winds of fate", and has a "betting" mechanic, which implies some degree of randomness. But in fact, the players have direct (collective) control over the direction the voyage goes. Have you ever thought of simply having a die roll decide which way the voyage goes, and letting players play cards (before the die is rolled) to bias it one way or the other? It would be even more interesting if board elements inherently biased the roll -- perhaps this is inherent to some locations (eg the sirens) and conditional to others (ie if the crew is short on supplies they may be more apt to go to an island where they can resupply, etc).

Again, I'm just looking from 30,000 feet here, but while I think the idea for the game is cool (group control of a single moving piece) and timely (Greek games seem popular at the moment), it doesn't seem like the player's motivation for going one way or the other is interesting enough to live up to the theme. If I'm simply choosing to go left or right based on who will get reward chips, or in the hopes that I can steer the quest towards one of my own reward chips, it seems like this could be about could equally well be a game about a following a drunk around on a pub crawl and betting on which pub he'll patronize next.

Seth Jaffee said...

Jeff: The theme of the game is that the player are The Fates, and Odysseus' fate is in your hands. As such, I've always thought it appropriate that the players sort of bicker and fight amongst themselves to steer Odysseus from one adventure to the next.

There is one random element involved in the resolution of an adventure, but it's fairly small - after cards are played, 1 Olympus card is drawn, which adds some value (2-4) to either the Help or Hinder total. At times this could be enough to swing the outcome, other times it won't - that depends on how the card play went. I suppose the value of the Olympus cards could be higher, so that the random factor has a larger impact on the outcome of the adventure, but I don't know if that's what I want really.

Originally there was a rule where if Odysseus came across a face down Encounter tile (one he'd been to already), he would automatically move to the next one at random (determined by the Olympus deck). That actually seemed problematic, because when it came up players had no way to plan on what was going to happen next. It didn't feel good, and there were complaints.

One of the problems that I was trying to fix with the recent "betting board" was that it was nearly impossible to tell what other people were after, and therefore it wasn't possible enough to really plan ahead yourself. I think these recent changes have (hopefully) added enough telegraphed intentions that players can more reasonably make choices with implications past the current round. This last round of changes will hopefully fix the issue that player actions were tending toward the same thing by giving incentives to bet against other players - we'll see if that's successful in the next playtest!

But to address your comments, I don't like random path determination... and looking closely at your die roll + modifiers suggestion that's actually exactly what I have. Thematically I don't mind that Odysseus' movements do not appear random to the players, because the players are supposed to be The Fates, toying with and influencing Odysseus' fate. To Odysseus, his movements would seem random and at the whim of fate or the Gods.

Jeff said...

"Bet chips" is probably the wrong term then, because players aren't really actually betting -- the bet chip placements simply act as negative incentives for the other players to choose the paths that contain them.

I think the game at present actually does a pretty good job of simulating the Fates capriciously moving Odysseus around the board -- "I say he's going to go to...oh, I don't know...Thracia, I suppose!" -- but I'm not convinced that caprice is an interesting foundation for a player in a game. I think it's probably important for a player to have a reason to prefer the quest go this way as opposed to that way, and it should be something more substantial than simply "I put a bet chip there, so I guess that's the way I want him to go."

I wonder if a different setting for this mechanic might be a better fit. I could see it working in a very interesting way in an exploration game, particularly if there is hidden information, and especially if there is asymmetry in who has access to what information. Eg maybe I want the expedition to go to the Burial Chamber because I happen to know that there's a valuable amulet buried in the 3rd canopic jar from the right in that room...but if I appear too eager in sending us that way, it will tip the group off to the knowledge that I have and they may get a chance to search the burial chamber before me.

I wonder if alternatively, the game shouldn't be stripped down to the simplicity of something like "The Resistance".