Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Spielbany 2011

4 years ago I attended the Spielbany game design meetup and got a chance to see and play a number of prototypes as well as meet in person several people I see online all the time. Last weekend I decided to do it again. I flew out Friday and returned Monday, and over the course of the weekend I managed to play 12 games (5 of them my designs or designs I'm developing) and have some good design talk and just hang out with some people I don't normally get to. I brought the following games with me, but didn't get to all of them:

Spaghetti Western - a prototype that had been submitted which I was simply returning to the owner.
Caravan Imperative - another prototype I had intended to return, however I forgot to give it back to Andy!
Eminent Domain, with Exotic expansion
Kings of Air and Steam
All For One
Dice Works (or Dice Werx, not sure about the spelling on that)
Alter Ego - not much of a prototype really, just an assembly of cards at the moment
Jab - manufacturer's sample to show off
Brain Freeze - current (almost final) version of the iPad app
Chrono Gallery: Museum of Lost Time - partial prototype of the liar's dice bluff auction game

Here's what I played and how it went:

Ice Weasels - a cute, quick kid's game about collecting sets of frozen weasels. The game was inspired by Otter Pops, you have a line of various colored Weasel cards, and on your turn you can either claim a card off of either end, or you can break the line wherever you want (minimum 2 cards in each 'half'). The idea is to get triplets of the same color and then "thaw' them (score them), giving you another turn. Everyone has a 'favorite' color which scores more points for them, and there's a color that's bad for everybody (well, bad if you don't get a whole set and thaw them).  I took a copy of this home with me to show Mike and his kids.

Eminent Domain - I got a 5 player game of Eminent Domain in - the first time I've played with 5. I did not include the Prestige, Utopian, or Exotic planets, and in fact used the Learning Game variant so I removed the 3 Advanced planets with Research icons as well. As a result I noticed that with 5 players the Planet deck ran out, which either means the 5p game needs to include expansion planets, or else for 5 players the planet deck running out should be considered a game end condition. I hadn't considered that for 2-4 players because by the time that happens, the game is over already. But with 5 players puling planets out of the deck, it can run out pretty quick. I think that's acceptable, that for 5p the Planet deck running out could be an additional game end trigger.

I also played with 1 or 2 (forget offhand) extra cards in each stack, and the game dragged on a little longer than I thought it should. I'm not sure if that's to do with using the learning Game variant, or just 5 players in general, or if I really didn't need to add extra cards to the stacks. I'll need to test that some more and find out. Generally speaking though the game seemed to go over very well.

Honor and Glory - A short, cooperative adventure game that's supposed to give the feel of an RPG. Each player has a character sheet with a Class card and a couple of Trait cards. When 'adventuring,' some encounter cards are drawn which each show a specific die result, and 1 or 2 Traits. For each Trait present, if a member of the party has that trait, they get an additional die to roll. The goal is to roll the specific number indicated on the card. Before rolling though, the group chooses one of the characters to be the leader, and therefore their leader ability is in play for that encounter.

Altogether a neat idea, though there were a lot of comments made about the leader abilities, how they work, and whether it made sense for them to only matter when that player was the leader. For example, unless chosen as the leader, the Warrior character was exactly the same as the Cleric character. Seems like they should behave differently even if neither one is the leader. I would like to see each character have a thematic "always on" ability which is a small but beneficial effect, as well as a Leader ability which comes into play if they are the leader. And I'd like to see that Leader ability be something you can count on, not a triggered ability that only works if someone happens to roll a 6. There's an opportunity cost of choosing 1 leader bonus over another, and for it to not come into play sort of cheapens that whole leader choosing decision.

Another comment that came up was that each Encounter should feel like progress toward the end goal. A solution discussed (which I think the designer implemented the next day) was to put prizes (equipment) into the Encounter deck, and when one comes up, it's replaced by another card, and it counts as the LOOT for the adventure, so the heroes will become more powerful over time, allowing them to have an easier time against the boss at the end.

Finally, each round of combat that the group doesn't defeat the bad guys, they take damage. They are allowed to choose who takes the damage. I'd like to see that be wrapped into the choice of Leader - the Leader is out front, they should take the brunt of the attack - maybe they take all the damage. Or maybe each player takes 1 and the leader takes the rest or something.

I would try that game again, with those changes implemented. I could see it being pretty fun.

Sword Merchants - At BGG.con a while back I played Gil Hova's game called Pax Robotica. A theme (and title) I rather enjoyed, and I liked the game for the most part too. Players were Arms Dealers, selling weapons (in that case Battle Bots) to different sides of various conflicts. To an extent you didn't care who won the battles, you would supply Bots to whoever would pay for them. One of the biggest drawbacks of that version of the game was the combat resolution which was obtuse, and a side effect was that the theme seemed to make people think it was a game about fighting robots, not about building and selling them.

Since then Gil has changed the game a lot, stripping his unique auction mechanism (from Wag the Wolf) and changing the theme to a fantasy setting. now Orcs, Kobolds, Dwarves and Elves are at war, and each race will purchase Swords, Axes, Pole Arms, and Maces from the players. There's a dynamic by which the more battles a race loses the more desperate it becomes, and the more desperate a race is, the more money they'll pay for weapons. In addition, there's an end game bonus for having supported the team that lost the fewest battles, which Gil found a nice way to do since Pax Robotica.

I think the game was pretty solid, though some of the numbers were off. The most important changes that were suggested were to give everyone level 1 technology in each weapon (normally you have to buy that) so that no matter what you can always build at least a really crappy weapon of each type (which can turn out to be important for another part of the game), to adjust the values and rates of change of numbers (of course, in a prototype the numbers are often off), and I made an additional suggestion to start with less money so that players can't afford to do as much from the start. I find that games are cool when the players are only able to do 1-2 of 3-4 different things at the start, because then they naturally diverge in player posture - making the rest of the game interesting. I hope to see this one again soon.

Nottingham - Originally designed for the Robin Hood themed Game Design Showdown at BGDF, Nottingham has been expanded into a cooperative game with a traitor that plays 7. The players are on Prince John's side, except the traitor who's in cahoots with Robin Hood. A great theme, and an interesting take on it if you ask me!

The game had a lot in common with Shadows Over Camelot, and any coop game with a traitor will draw that comparison. I did think that this game felt different because you seemed to have more to do in it. The learning curve was a little high, as there were a TON of unique cards, but that's kind of how thematic games go. The designer (Richard James) played the game twice over the weekend, and he was telling me some of the stuff he was planning on changing. It all sounded like steps in the right direction. I'd like to try this one again once the designer gets a chance to polish it up a bit. I'm a sucker for a Robin Hood theme :)

All For One -It's been a long time since I've done anything with All For One, but I was happy to get it to the table. We played a 4 player game (the game has always been best with 4), and I finally tried it without the guards altogether. I don't think I missed them. Some of the same old comments reared their ugly head - and I'm starting to agree that the voting mechanism using the mission cards is not the best idea. Some suggestions were made, maybe the best of which was to relax the hand limit, and to allow players to play any number of cards in a duel (irrespective of which ones), and choose either Offense or Defense. So a different kind of voting, where you sort of bid with your cards to support the result you want to vote for. I might try that next time.


Another idea that came up to promote interaction between characters (which may translate to player interaction) is to forget carrying capacities and simply force a character to pick up each token he walks over. This way more often players will need to move Plot Tokens from character to character via Transfer or Demand actions. Galloping on a horse would still mean skipping Plot Tokens of course.

Another thing I noticed was that perhaps the Bonus tokens should be worth MORE VP than the Required tokens, not less. When doing a mission with only the Required token, you get more VP/token than if you also get a Bonus token - it's often not worth your time to get the Bonus tokens. Also, with the way the Story Tracks are bumped upon completing a mission (which I like), having to bump the 2nd track is often a detriment, so that's another deterrent for going after Bonus tokens. It just makes sense to make the Bonus tokens worth more, so next time I'll switch them - 2vp for the Required token, 3vp for each Bonus token, and I think still 4 VP for arranging a Meeting, and maybe 5vp for the Any Character, 2 Required token missions because they're harder. These VP values could easily be printed on the cards so they need not be remembered.

There have been a few comments along the lines of placing missions face up rather than keeping them in hand, but I think that's just begging for people to disrupt other player's multi-turn efforts, which I think would feel crappy. I'm excited to make these changes and try the game again.

Dice Works - At first I liked the goofy spelling of "Dice Werx" - but I'm not so sure anymore. Maybe "Dice Works" is better. I keep waffling back and forth. Either way, I played a 3-player game on Saturday and it seemed to work fine. I have changed the Scrap Efficiency Upgrade (for even progress on all tracks) to 4/3/3/2 for 1 rather than 4/3/2/1 for 1. I don't ever want anybody exchanging 1 for 1, that's just lame. I like the feel of 3-for-1 though, so that's a reasonable upgrade. Also, I think I'll allow players to use that new exchange rate as soon as they get it, rather than starting next round.

In Ruins - Andy Van Zandt had told me a little bit about his post apocalyptic card drafting game and I was interested to play it. I like the theme, and Andy's designs are always very well thought out and thorough. I enjoyed In Ruins overall, but the unique drafting mechanism I thought had something fundamentally inelegant about it. The idea is cool, you put new cards out, then you get a chance to place your Squatter token on something that you don't want anybody else to take. Sadly, this means you can't take it either - and I wonder if that's just something I will not like about that mechanism (not something wrong with it, just a mechanism I simply don't like). The inelegance was caused by each turn, EACH PLAYER having to be asked to reevaluate which card they want to squat on, often only to decide they liked where they were.

A suggestion was made to instead have each player move their Squatter only on their own turn. The idea behind the Squatter is to keep players from being able to topdeck the perfect card, it gives everybody a chance to stop a lucky draw. The proposal is to have the player draw the new cards at the END of his turn, and then choose to move his squatter - allowing him the chance to block one of the two cards that just came up. I think this would smooth out game play tremendously, and cut down on down time and game length. Andy said he was 100% on board, so I'd love to play the game again with that change the next time I see him.

Currently the game is something like 90 minutes, which I think is a little long for what it is. If this could help cut the length down closer to 1 hour, I think that would be great.

Kings of Air and Steam - As I've mentioned, I'm developing a pickup/deliver game with a Steampunk theme called Kings of Air and Steam. The game supports 2-6 players, though I'd never played with 6 before. I was able to do so this weekend, and it was very informative. I had forgotten the exact setup of market tiles for each player count, so I just used all the Market tiles I had (6 of each color) and drew 4 out per turn. That's what you'd do for a 5 player game. For 6 players it was supposed to be 7 of each color tile, drawing 5 per turn. The game worked well enough, but in retrospect it did seem like the board was somewhat bare most of the time. I think the proper number of tiles would have been better. I had hoped to simplify setup by using the same setup irrespective of player count, but I just don't think the game will work very well that way. As an easy way to handle it though, I am thinking that the appropriate player counts should be printed on the backs of the tiles (2+, 3+, 4+ 5+, 6), and rather than sort them, each tile can be discarded as it's drawn if it's not appropriate for the current game.


Everybody seemed to like the game, and I got a couple of questions answered. For example, everybody agreed that the requirement to ship on 50% your own track was unnecessary. As for the look of the game, everybody was all for the theme, and one player suggested unique ship molds for each player - at first I thought that would be more expensive, but then I realized we could just make 1 mold with all 7 ships on it (6 for the game, plus 1 promo ship we've got planned). Also, Andy suggested a great player power - the ability to create a new link on the board between cities. One player could be given 5 or 7 track tiles (straight on one side, gentle curve on the other), and as an action they could be allowed to place them between 2 cities creating a new link - paying $1 per tile placed. This would come with a Depot on that link, and of course other players could build depots on that link as well. I really like that idea.

Alter Ego - To tell you the truth, when I heard about Midnight Men (which I never knew existed) being picked up by a publisher, I got a little discouraged and didn't really feel like working on Alter Ego anymore. But I do like some of the mechanisms and basic ideas behind the game - of managing your Alter Ego life, and the more recent pre-programming of card play, so I brought my pseudo-prototyp with me hoping to chat about it with Andy or whoever. I ended up talking to Richard James about it, and he asked some questions the answers to which I guess I knew, but hadn't really solidified. That was a big help, and also he got me to tweak how the icons on Henchmen work - once in play, rather than giving you that icon to use, they could work more like Eminent Domain where they boost the cards you play. So if I get a $ icon into play, it doesn't give my any $ to use unless I play a job card. This is a small difference, but it has a significant impact - as Rich pointed out, I had built a mechanism which undermined my original design goal. Currently, once I have $ icons in play, I no longer need to worry about playing a Job card as much. This proposed version instead amplifies my desire to play a Job card over a Hero card, which is what I was going for.

We also discussed how some of the Coop mechanisms would work, and in describing them to him I am more confident in exactly how I want them to be now. So I think that design is back on the front burner! I'm curious to see how Midnight Men pans out, seeing as how it's ALSO a superhero themed, cooperative, deck building game.

Hard Wired - I had seen the beginnings of this game discussed in BGDF chat, and was interested in it from the outset. I was glad I got a chance to try it this weekend. I love the idea of creating circuits and improving circuits, but in the current incarnation of this game you are able to steal the opponent's win condition, which to me feels like a long, drawn out game of hot potato. It's like Munchkin, where everyone stops the other guy from winning, drawing out the game, until someone manages to finally win.

When someone suggested that players be allowed to steal Circuits instead of the Light cards, that sounded perfect to me! you could "improve" their circuit by creating the same effect with fewer cards, thereby taking their cards for yourself - as a way to draw more cards at a time. It doesn't hurt the opponent, but it does something useful for you. In fact, if smallest circuit is tiebreaker, then it kind of HELPS the opponent, but you'd do it anyway because it gets you more cards in 1 action than drawing.

So my proposed change, which I hope Ariel tries and I hope works out for him, is that players on their turn can either PLAY a circuit (minimum 3 cards or so), adding a new light to their line, or IMPROVE a circuit by playing any number of cards to replace a longer circuit in play, taking the old circuit cards into their hand. Then they could draw 1 card (I like that as it otherwise might feel like it takes too long to build back up after playing cards). The object is still to either get 1 of each color light in play, or else have the most lights when the deck runs out.

I also liked the idea of another mode of play, where there's just 1 big circuit in play, and each player starts with a set of 1 of each colored light. You win by adding all of your lights to the circuit, or else by having the fewest left when the deck runs out. In this version on your turn you could either play a new circuit (min 3 cards?), Improve a circuit, or simply draw 1 card. Or I guess it could be the same (Play or improve a circuit, then draw 1).

I'd like to try this game again with the changes.

Love Means Nothing - I hadn't played Love Means nothing for a long time, and Ariel had a new version. The new version made the decisions a bit more strategic, but the game was much more slow and tedious. I don't think that's the right feel for a sports themed game, I missed the older, more streamlined mechanics. I was wondering how the decisions could be made more interesting with the old mechanics, and I jokingly said "maybe what it needs is a chess clock, like Brain Freeze!" - and then immediately realized that maybe that's not such a bad idea. the idea behind Brain Freeze was simple decisions + time pressure. Maybe a chess clock with 60 or 90 seconds on it would force people to make their simple decisions a little faster. I think that would feel more like a sports game. Maybe I'll dig up the old copy of Love Means Nothing that I have at home and give that a try.


On Monday morning I also got a chance to talk to Ariel about what each part of Ground Floor will look like. I originally thought the player boards would look like blueprints, but he had a different idea that's been really growing on me. I think it could come out really nicely!

7 comments:

Richard Clifford James said...

Thanks for the comments on Nottingham as well as the discussion of Alter Ego. I think AE has promise, so I'm eager to see how it comes along.

I agree completely with your assessment of Honor and Glory as well as Hard Wired. In fact, I believe it may have been my suggestion to Ariel about making circuit improvement the focus of playing interaction that you overheard.

I don't think we discussed the idea of differential consequences for the leading hero in Honor and Glory at the time, but that seems like a very good idea. The game needs a few additional dynamics to anchor roleplaying and character differentiation to. Giving each character a different set of HP, a different built in trait/skill and a special ability that balances out seems like a good way to give each person different strengths and weaknesses.

One thing that I would like to see would be a greater way for the locations to matter for the encounters. At the moment, there's only number of cards drawn and location in the network of connections. But, it would be nice if there were some type of connection between location and encounter so that leaders might take charge before going into a certain area... not just after cards are drawn.

Of course, how to perform this elegantly so as to keep the quick pace to decision making is a good question. But, I do think that the game can support more depth. As long as it is character based depth and not combinatorially explosive, I think there's room for circumstantial differentiation.

For Sword Merchants, I would not reduce the initial money. By doing so, you would flatten the options available... since players couldn't initially invest in as much technology before crafting as I think that the game needs. In fact, the game probably needs more technology, not less. So, that the calculation of warfare is slightly less straightforward and chancy.

Seth Jaffee said...

I agree completely with your assessment of Honor and Glory as well as Hard Wired. In fact, I believe it may have been my suggestion to Ariel about making circuit improvement the focus of playing interaction that you overheard.
Actually, I didn't see the game being played except at the end of the weekend when I played it with Ariel, Andy VZ, and Matt Kiehl and his wife. Matt suggested stealing circuit cards AS WELL as lights, and the moment he did my brain said "OF COURSE! That should be INSTEAD of stealing lights!" We had just been discussing how stealing the VP condition was like a big tug of war sort of mechanism, or like Munchkin or Kill Doctor Lucky where one person tries to win and everybody else tries to stop them, until someone tries to win and cannot be stopped (through good play or fatigue of other players).

I much prefer the sound of "stealing" circuit cards, which doesn't hurt the opponent (in fact maybe helps them a little, via tiebreakers) in order to help yourself. Seems a much cleaner (or more 'euro') mechanism, and more attractive to me.

Seth Jaffee said...

Re: Honor and Glory
I don't think we discussed the idea of differential consequences for the leading hero in Honor and Glory at the time, but that seems like a very good idea. The game needs a few additional dynamics to anchor roleplaying and character differentiation to. Giving each character a different set of HP, a different built in trait/skill and a special ability that balances out seems like a good way to give each person different strengths and weaknesses.

One thing that I would like to see would be a greater way for the locations to matter for the encounters. At the moment, there's only number of cards drawn and location in the network of connections. But, it would be nice if there were some type of connection between location and encounter so that leaders might take charge before going into a certain area... not just after cards are drawn.

It could be that the location is tied to the leader - which would entangle your leader choice with your route choice, but I don't necessarily think that's better (and it may in fact be worse).

Another thought could be to have the cards interact with the location - like some cards are harder or easier in certain locations, like maybe a goblin card says "draw 1 more card if in the Goblin Caves" (in the Goblin Caves, goblins come with buddies).

That could be good, especially with different baddies/adventures using the same map (but a different deck of cards).

Seth Jaffee said...

Re: Sword Merchants

For Sword Merchants, I would not reduce the initial money. By doing so, you would flatten the options available... since players couldn't initially invest in as much technology before crafting as I think that the game needs.
I'm not sure I agree with this assessment. Maybe it's a player preference thing, but I really like it when a game allows a player to choose between several viable first turn plays, without allowing them free access to every single play - I think it speeds up the early game and at the same time allows players to customize their position and settle into a potential strategic path for the game.

For Sword Merchants for example, I'd like to see players being able to...
* upgrade something to Level 3 and build 2 Level 3 weapons, or 1 level 3 and 1-2 level 1 weapons
* upgrade to level 5 and build 1 level 5 weapon,
* upgrade 2 things to level 3 and build a Level 3 of each of those weapons,
* decide not tho upgrade right away and instead build several level 1 weapons.

Then there's always Kingdom cards which might come up to support one of those paths, and after selling some weapons there's nothing stopping a player from combining or switching to a different sort of path than they started down.

What I DON'T like is the idea of "everybody bus tech until all of the tech is gone, now everybody builds weapons, and then everybody sells weapons" - because that's boring. I feel like there should be an opportunity cost to continuing to build up tech while your opponents are building weapons, and there should be some reason to decide to build weapons before maxing out your tech.

In fact, the game probably needs more technology, not less. So, that the calculation of warfare is slightly less straightforward and chancy.
I definitely think all players need access to all tech types, and maybe over the course of the game there should be more tech overall (though I feel like there was a decent amount of tech in our game overall). I just don't like the thought of the game dynamic: "Build tech till I'm maxed, now build weapons."

Richard Clifford James said...

Your concern about creating synchronization of actions in Sword Merchants is shared. It would be an awfully boring game if people did not become quickly off cycle with each other and feel the conflicting pressures of trying to compete with everyone in different areas at once.

In fact, you could say that a similar kind of concern underpins my initial reaction to ED. In the game that I played, I felt like it took a little too long for paths to diverge. Especially without the research action, it seemed like it was completely sub-optimal to not do what every one else was doing: I guess I'll survey, then I'll colonize. With research it would be a little different, but I'm still concerned that the level of granulation in ED might limit the sense of novelty.

As for Hard Wired, it sounds like we came to the same conclusion separately. And, hopefully the fact that Ariel heard it at two separate occasions will be a good spur for revision.

My suggestion was to remove the draft pile of circuits from the game and only create a draft pile for the lights. Players could build out lights with whatever types of circuits they have in their hand and the object of the game would be to collect the most points worth of lights (different lights and combinations might be worth different amounts).

However, unlike the current rules where you refresh your hand, I suggested that players either draw or play. On your turn, you can only do one thing: attach a light (by playing valid circuits from your hand), improve a circuit (by replacing another persons circuit with a valid alternative set of circuits from your hand) or draw a card from the circuit pile.

To win, you want to attach as many lights as you can, but in order to do so you need circuits. That would mean that you need to spend at least some of your time drawing cards. But, since improving circuits gives you the opportunity to potentially acquire a net gain of more than one card on your turn, you will probably want to improve other people's circuits as well.

As long as it is fairly difficult to attach a light with just one card, there will be a natural balance between accumulating circuits through drawing or improving and playing them... with the players better able to see combinations and plan out light sequences having a slight advantage in the efficiency of this balance.

For Honor and Glory and the issue of locations, I think it might be cool to have location related traits. Perhaps, as you said, monsters spawn more monsters when they match the location trait and/or players gain special abilities when they match the location trait. But, the general idea is that the path you choose should matter.

In fact, I'm tempted to say that each location has an encounter trait and number (x) associated with it (separate from the skill traits on the roleplaying cards) and you flip over cards from the encounter deck until you get (x) encounter cards with a matching trait. Any loot with a matching trait would be set aside and the remaining non-matching cards would be recycled. The result of this would be a much less random nature to encounters. Peasants could be found in town, Goblins in the Goblin Den, and Bandits in the Forest.

You might also have wild encounter traits for the monsters who might show up anywhere as well as triggered events in the encounter deck which 'pop' when they are turned up and match the current encounter.

From a roleplaying standpoint, this will give the game a much greater sense of narrative structure. Villains and henchmen will show up more often, as will the items central to the plot arch, while random encounters will remain ecologically intuitive.

And, from a strategic sense, players will be able to count cards, plan ahead and get a glimpse of what they have to do in order to succeed. The recycling process itself could be an integral part of the game, allowing players to also shape future encounters by eliminating enemies yet to be encountered.

Seth Jaffee said...

Sounds like we had the exact same kinds of comments for Hard Wired! In our group we also mentioned that refilling your hand meant there was no opportunity cost involved in playing a circuit.

As for Honor and Glory, your comments on encounter trait icons are interesting, but they border on dismantling the deck altogether - why not have a different deck for each location (Forest deck, Village deck, Caves deck)? I do like the idea of the recycling of cards being important though.

Richard Clifford James said...

Different decks for different locations would actually function quite differently than using a common deck for everything. For one, you wouldn't be able to use cards that span multiple locations (whether they are loot, villains or events). Two, you wouldn't be able to anticipate or shape your future encounters by deck manipulation. Third, I envision this game being packaged as 60 card adventure packs. 10 Location cards, 10 Skill cards and a 40 card deck which contains all the encounter cards (loot, villains and events). Although multiple adventure packs could be mixed together, 40 cards is actually precious little real estate to fit in all the fun stuff for an adventure... so you would want to maximize your multi-functionality with one common deck.

To further explain how I envision this is structured:

To set up the adventure, set aside the start and lair location cards and shuffle the other nine location cards in the adventure. (You can also create your own custom adventure from mixing packs, but that is not covered here) Place the start location on the table and three of the cards faceup on the table adjacent to it and form a deck with the remaining location cards, then place the lair card on the bottom of the deck.

Imagine each location has a title, a special effect(?), a number (x) and one or more location icons. Location icons are things like desert, forest, cavern, town, etc... Before you move, you must designate a party leader. When you enter a new location, you trigger an encounter.

When an encounter is triggered, flip over cards from the encounter deck until you turn up x villains, monsters and/or NPCs with a matching location icon. If you also flip over any loot cards with a matching location icon, set them aside. Otherwise discard all other cards.

The encounter is handled by a rules system which we've already discussed. If successful, players will be able to claim the loot set aside and have to decide who to give it to. Then, the location gives you a clue as to the next step in your adventure. Flip over one more card from the location draw pile and place it adjacent to one location you are not currently at.

Eventually, you will uncover the lair card and be able to confront and defeat the villain. Hopefully by then you will have acquired enough loot to help you overcome him. Otherwise, you lose the adventure. If you fail, you can start over (or play a different adventure). If you succeed, you can add one of the skills you used for the adventure to your permanent skill set.

Encounters can either be monsters, NPCs, villains or physical/mental challenges and events. In general monsters and challenges are tied to particular locations and match the milieu, theme and ecology of the overall adventure. NPCs and villains can pop up anywhere but NPCs tend to be found in civilized areas and villains are always found in Lairs. The cards themselves can potential spawn helpers, but events usually mix up the equation through unexpected rules changes such as causing another of spawning.

Some encounters (henchmen) are removed from the deck when they are defeated, while some get recycled. And, there may also be a way through which non-spawned cards boost some element of the adventure. There may be one icon on each card which creates an effect on the current encounter (such as increasing the difficulty or giving the players extra dice, or something) even when it is not part of the encounter.

Although all these mechanism are meant to add depth and variety to the game, they should actually function very smoothly. Draw cards for matching icons... then fight/negotiate and then divide up the spoils. All the complexity will actually be on the back end, in creating the integration of all the cards. But, the front end should be elegant.