Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alter Ego - clarification of the theme

Alter Ego is not about Superheroes.

I feel like this will be a point of contention, as people have already mentioned that they "did not feel like they had super powers." People refer to Batman as a "Superhero," but he has no super powers... he's just some bad-ass who's trained various skills and bought awesome equipment in order to become a vigilante crime fighter. THAT'S what Alter Ego is about... Vigilante heroes like Batman or The Watchmen. There are no super powers here. How can I ensure that point comes across?

The main mechanism of the game is that each turn you choose what aspect to 'train' - and thereby get a card of that type for your deck. So it doesn't make sense if the cards are powers like Flight, Heat Vision, Teleporting, Telekinetics... "I think I'll work in my ability to fly today!" - just doesn't make sense.

Instead, each Villain card indicates what skills are needed to defeat it (Strength, Speed, Smarts, Luck (I know you can't train luck, but I needed 5 things), and um... one more (maybe Focus?). There's a stack of cards for each of there (like there's a stack of cards for each of the basic actions in EmDo), and each turn you take 1. You also have cards for Family, Job, and Community - representing your ties to each of those Alter Ego aspects.

The game is about beating up bad guys in order to eventually beat up an Arch Villain, but the play revolves around constantly having to choose between your Alter Ego aspects and your Hero aspects. Which do you neglect in order to fight crime? Your family and friends? Your job? The community? Each of those comes with a benefit that you lose if you don't play those cards - but in order to beat up the bad guys, you really need to play Hero cards instead - and you can only play so many cards per turn.

I currently think there could be both a cooperative win condition and a competitive win condition in this game, and players who would like to play a fully cooperative game can do so, while players who would like individual wins could go for that. The team wins if they defeat one of the Arch Villains, while an individual wins if they defeat their own personal Nemesis. Everybody loses if the city is overrun with crime though, so players will have to make sure that doesn't happen, and that might even mean working together.

I think I even have a mechanism for working together - Teamwork Tokens. If you want a player's help (you need to use one of their hero cards in play), you give them a Teamwork Token and you get to use their card (they don't lose it). Teamwork Tokens can also be discarded 2 at a time to make up for any symbol in the game. I don't know if this will feel like teamwork or not, but it sounds like it might be a good way to allow "teamwork" in a competitive game.

I played the game (such as it is) with my incomplete prototype a couple of times in the last week, and I've solidified a few things...

- I like the basic structure, and the game flows the way it's supposed to.

- There needs to be piles for Family, Community, and Job cards alongside the Hero aspects for players to take if they want to.

- I like the game loss condition of running out of any single color of "civilian" tokens - and there needs to be a fairly small number of each (maybe only 5 or 6) for that to feel right, at least with the current set of Villain cards.

- I like the idea of each Arch Villain being associated with one of those colors (civilian types), and when they come into play, each Patrol Phase (so every player turn) they KILL one civilian of that type (remove a token of that color from the game). this is supposed to be a really big deal, and force players to deal with this baddie as soon as possible.

- There could be different types of each Arch Villain, so if you activate the Sadist for example, maybe he takes a lot of hostages, and waits for his minions to finish the game off... or maybe he kills civilians as described above. Or maybe he just forces more Villains to come into play, accelerating the potential game loss condition. Each Arch Villain could have several types, so you don't know which one will pop up each game.

- For the standard coop game, players would need to defeat only 1 Arch Villain. for a harder game they could need to defeat 2 of them, and for an Epic Win they could try and defeat all 3.

- Players could have a nemesis card (cards?) which represent their personal Nemesis, and you win a personal victory by defeating your own Nemesis before the group loses or wins as a team.

- It could be the case that the game is still fully cooperative, but you 'score better' if you defeat players' Nemeses as well as the Arch Villains (so a perfect game would be to defeat ALL of the Nemeses and also all of the Arch Villains).

- There could be some small supply of COP cards, and players could "Call the cops" if they play 3 or more Community cards (well, Community icons) in addition to their turn. This would remove a Villain from play, rescuing the hostage, but nobody would collect the card and therefore the benefit on it. Some Villains benefits would be that they return COP cards to play, giving the players more uses.

- Of course there could be Villains who provide more Teamwork Tokens.

- I need to completely re-do the Equipment deck (I already knew that). there could be some equipment that stays in play, some that is one-use only, and some that cycle through your deck.

- I need to design the Arch Villain and Nemesis cards to give players something to build their deck towards.


Clive said...

Look forward to hearing more about this in the GameLab hangout...this sounds like a game I would love to play!

Seth Jaffee said...

So I'll see you Tuesday at 6:30 then :)
Let's make it 6:30 instead of 7 to accommodate those nearer the east coast... I'm afraid I won't be home from work early enough to do it sooner than that.