Tuesday, October 29, 2013

One of those "Aha!" moments...

This morning I had one of those infamous and elusive "AHA!" moments. It's a small idea for a game, but it feels like a big step forward. It went something like this:

There's a game I'm working on for TMG - kind of a follow up to Dungeon Roll. I say follow up because it's a dice game, and it's similar in scope to DR, but it is otherwise completely unrelated. I suspect some of the people who enjoyed Dungeon Roll might enjoy this as well.

In the game, you roll some dice (obviously). Each turn you use some, and re-roll the ones you used but not the ones that went unused. Kinda like I have done for EmDice (Eminent Domain: the Dice Game). This mechanism has a tendency to build up certain die faces until you use them, but if the die face that builds up is not one you want to use, then you have a problem... unless of course you're allowed to re-roll things in some way. The latest rule was that you COULD re-roll some dice, if you sacrifice one of your dice forever. Or possibly score 0 points for the turn.

In addition, there are some cards in the game which can help increase your score for the turn. Originally three was going to be a sort of draft to get these cards, which I'd hoped would allow players to get good synergy out of their cards... but based on the scope of the game, it's quicker and simpler to just deal out the cards. My concern of course was about fairness, and especially the perception of fairness. In a light game, players aren't going to do math or analyze everything to see if the cards are fair, they're just going to either feel like their cards were as good as their opponents' cards, or not. So more important than the cards actually being fair, there has to be something to compensate a player who got a "bad hand."

My first approach to this was to award bonus points for cards leftover... generally speaking you would do better to actually play the card, but if you got a card you couldn't use, at least you get something out of the deal. That seemed OK at first, but in reality that doesn't solve any problems at all, and it introduces questions such as what's a fair compensation? And at what point is it actually better to NOT play the cards? No, that wasn't the right solution. But what is?

This morning I had a minor epiphany about this - one of those "Aha!" moments you read about. There does need to be some compensation for being dealt a card that, in theory, could be completely useless... but rather than points, why not allow players to discard any card they want to re-roll their dice? Like most Aha! moments, after having this idea it seemed so obvious it's tough to imagine NOT thinking of it. As it stands, sacrificing a die to get a re-roll is an awfully high price to pay, but you'd do it a couple times at the last minute to score a few more points, or possibly once early if your roll is atrocious (though that's probably just asking for trouble). So more ability to re-roll would be welcome, and if you have been dealt a card you know won't be useful, then you can happily spend it for a "free" re-roll! If you ave a card that could be worth +1 point, you might even consider whether a re-roll would be worth more than that (based on what you have).

At any rate, I'm pretty happy with this realization. Aha moments feel good, no matter how minor they are or how obvious they feel after the fact. I look forward to testing this game again with this new rule (as well as the updated cards I recently made) :)

What Aha! moments have you had in your designs?

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