Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Alter Ego Revamp

I think I've made the decision to move forward with Alter Ego as a cooperative game, despite the fact that Midnight Men is in the works. It's a bit disheartening to work on a superhero themed, cooperative, deck building game when that superhero themed, cooperative, deck building game is getting so much attention, but I sincerely doubt the games are very similar at all and I do like the main design ideas in Alter Ego.

The cooperative version is nothing I haven't already discussed in this blog, I just have some more specific ideas in mind of how the game will look and play out. The purpose of this post is to document those ideas, and lay out a components list and rules set so I can move on with updating the prototype and playing it!

Alter Ego v2.2
A cooperative deck building game of heroism

You won't see Crime City on any map, but that's how people have come to know your hometown. Sadists, Anarchists, the Mafia, each carving out portions of the city they call their own. Hundreds of innocent bystanders caught up every day in their turf wars, or held under their oppressive thumbs. Precious few have the time, the money, the guts, or the wherewithal to do anything about it. You're one of those few... of course it means you'll have to give up that happy home life, or that cushy job. The paper paints vigilantism in a negative light - you'd be viewed by the community as a monster. But your city bleeds... the city bleeds and it calls your name. Will you answer?

You're a vigilante hero, one of the few in Crime City who have come together to put an end to the reign of terror the city's been trapped under. Banding together, you'll fight through a swath of henchmen in order to find and defeat several Arch Villains. But as you get stronger as a hero, you'll have to neglect some parts of your Alter Ego life - your family, your job, and the community.

XX Hero cards (5 types)
XX Alter Ego Cards
- XX Family Cards
- XX Job Cards
- XX Community Cards
XX Henchmen Cards
XX Arch Villain Cards (3 types)
XX Equipment Cards
XX Civilian (CIV) Tokens (4-5 types)

1. Sort the Henchmen cards by level, shuffle each level separately and then sack level 2 on top of level 3 and level 1 on top of level 2 to create the henchmen deck. Place this deck in the middle of the table.
2. Sort the Arch Villains into piles by type, and randomly choose 1 Arch Villain from each pile. Those will be the Arch Villains used this game, put the rest back into the box.
3. Sort the Hero and Equipment cards by type and place them in piles in the center of the table, accessible by all players.
4. Give each player 4 of each Alter Ego card (Family, Job, and Community). Return the rest of the Alter Ego cards to the box, they will not be used this game.
5. Each player shuffles his deck of 12 Alter Ego cards and deals 4 cards face up into his "display" area, then draws a had of 4 from the remaining cards in his deck.

Patrol phase: On your turn you must first bring a henchman into play:
* Draw 1 card from the Henchmen deck.
* If you have any face up Community cards in your display, draw 1 additional Henchman card for each Community card.
* If you have at least 1 Community card in your display, draw 1 additional Henchman card for each Community icon on henchman you have defeated (in your play area).
Choose 1 Henchman card to put into play, and return the rest to the top of the Henchmen deck in any order. Do not discuss upcoming henchmen with your fellow players!

When a henchman comes into play he takes some number of civilians hostage! Place CIV tokens on the Henchman card as indicated. If a CIV token must be taken but the supply is empty, then the game is over and the Villains win!

Support phase: After a henchman has come into play, you may gain support from your family, allowing you to draw cards from your deck:
* For each Family card in your display, draw 2 cards from your deck.
* If you have at least 1 Family card in your display, also draw 1 card from your deck for each Family icon on henchman you have defeated (in your play area).

Equip phase: You may spend money on fancy equipment to make you a stronger hero:
* For each Job card in your display, collect $1
* If you have at least 1 Job card in your display, collect $1 for each $ icon on henchmen you have defeated (in your play area).
You may spend these $s to buy or activate Equipment this turn.

Crime-fighting phase: Now that you have geared up and garnered the support of your friends and family, it's time to go fight some crime!
* Hero cards in your display may be spent to rescue CIV tokens currently being held on a Henchman card. Hero cards spent must match the icons depicted on the Henchman card. The rescued CIV token is returned to the supply.
* Other players may discard Hero cards from their own display in order to help rescue hostages.
* If the last CIV token on a henchman is rescued, that henchman is DEFEATED, and the current player may keep that henchman in his play area and gain the printed benefit (usually an icon).
* Whenever a henchman is defeated, check to see if it has any Arch Villain icons. For each Arch Villain icon, place a token on the matching Arch Villain card.
When enough tokens are placed on an Arch Villain card, that Arch Villain will come into play and terrorize the city by KILLING civilians (removing CIV tokens from the game) until he is defeated!

Recoup phase: After you're all spent from fighting crime, you get a chance to recuperate and plan your next turn.
* Discard all cards in your display.
* Play 4 cards from your hand face up into your display.
* For each Display icon on henchmen you have defeated (in your play area), you may play an additional card face up into your display.
* Choose a Hero card from the supply stacks and place it face up in your display.
* Discard the rest of your hand, and draw 4 new cards from your deck (shuffle your discard pile as needed) plus 1 card for each Hand Size icon on henchmen you have defeated (in your play area).
Play continues with the next player in clockwise order.

When the last Arch Villain is defeated, then the game is over, and the Heroes have saved Crime City from the clutches of evil!


DShort said...

Seth, that little flavor text blurb was awesome! Very compelling and engrossing writing.

This game sounds like it's got potential.

Richard Clifford James said...

Game looks good. I like how the loss conditions are no remaining tokens to place. It's very elegant and works well with the pressure of not having the city overrun and cards which can kill civilian (hence reducing the overall reservoir). In fact, I think it might be interesting if there are ways for civilians to be killed other than simply by the arch-villain, but that's all 'special text' kind of stuff.

If I recall, there are also rules regarding how you refill your action pile which are missing here. Also, do you want the boost effect to be per icon per action card or simply per icon if you have an action card? To me, it seems much more interesting if it is done per action card played because it makes it less linear. One turn you can over work to get lots of money (and then not show up for three weeks...).

Seth Jaffee said...

Richard is right, I forgot the end of the turn where you discard played cards, play new cards, discard your hand and draw a new hand. I've edited the post to add that.

h said...


I'm just looking at this from 30,000' here, but...

1. I think the game sounds too "serious"; a game about a super hero trying to save the city while holding down a day job and have a good family life should, it seems to me, be very tongue-in-cheek and whimsical. Dr. Dastardly is trying to rob the 1st National Bank -- but it's the night of your daughter's school play -- miss it, and she'll be angry with you!

2. If you're trying to distance the game from the other game you mentioned, you could probably quite easily ditch the deck-building aspect -- it doesn't seem like the randomness associated with deck-building really correlates thematically to superheroes in any meaningful way. I'm not sure there are any deck-building games where the mechanic makes much thematic sense, though, so it's probably not going to hurt the game to include it.

Seth Jaffee said...

Jeff: good points both. I don't know if I agree about a whimsical theme though, while it could work, I've always thought of the game having a more dark, Batman or Watchmen sort of feel.

As for deck building, I was kind of hoping that aspect would create and emphasize differences in players, as that could contribute to each player having his own capability and responsibility, maybe taking a bite out of the Solitaire By Committee feel of most cooperative games. Didn't know if it would work well or not.

Seth Jaffee said...

To further respond to Jeff's point above, it may not have been clear from the post, but there would be something like 5 different types of Hero cards, and the different Arch Villains (and their henchmen) would require specific combinations of Hero icons in order to defeat them. Ideally players would use the deck building (as well as "tableau building") to set themselves up to go after particular types of villains, sort of like specializing. If done right, I think it could work well. Whether I'm doing it right remains to be seen! Also, I could simply be wrong about that, hopefully I'll find that out by trying it. And hopefully I'll do that soon.