Monday, May 19, 2014

Random thought on game mechanics

I've always got ideas floating around about game themes or mechanics. Sometimes they're thoughts that pass through my mind, recurring every once in a while. Other times I write them down and forget about them until I come across the note later.

I have such a note sitting next to my computer from a while ago... about a trick taking game where you have a track for each suit, and you increment the tracks as you take tricks including the next card in that suit. Perhaps you win the game by getting to the top of one/some/all of those tracks, or perhaps advancing on those tracks simply helps gain you benefits which you can use to win the game.

For example, if I take a trick that has a 2 of hearts in it, I increment my hearts track to 2. To increment it again (to space 3) I need to take a trick containing the 3 of hearts.

In the meantime, there would have to be reasons to play cards as well, like when you play one you get the action printed on it, with lower cards being early game actions and higher cards being late game actions.

And I don't think people would need to follow suit, but maybe the highest card of the led suit (or the suit matching an Event card which is drawn at the beginning of a round perhaps) is the one that takes the trick.

I like the sound of that. Each round a card could be revealed from an Event deck with an effect or special rule that applies to everyone. That card would indicate a suit, and the highest card played in that suit "wins the trick" - I suppose if nobody plays a card in that suit, the highest played card would win (probably the first copy of it, if there is more than one card of the same value).

Then players would play cards, either simultaneously or in turn order (probably turn order... I don't care much for simultaneous play, and I think you need to be able to see which cards you might be winning), resolve their effects, and the player who played the highest card in the indicated suit takes those cards, advancing any appropriate track.

Alternatively, rather than needing to take specific cards, maybe the winner of the trick advances any track matching one of the cards taken, or the specific track matching the suit indicated by the event.

And the tracks, as they advance, would be your tech tree. Each track would apply to a different aspect of the game, and as you advance on that track, you get batter at  that particular aspect.

Maybe one of these days I'll develop this further...

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

New game idea - MechFight!

The other day I was thinking about game mechanics, and for some reason I wanted to try something new. When I look for something new, I generally start by looking for tweaks on existing ideas, and I thought about card drafting - the kind you see in 7 Wonders, Notre Dame, Ginkgoplis, etc.

I thought maybe it would be interesting to have a game where players pass hands of cards around, playing one card from each hand, but not removing it.

Today I wrote down a few different options - the first was a resource management type of thing where you'd collect resources of various types, and use them to build stuff... but that seemed too similar to other games I've been playing and working on, and I thought maybe something different would be better.

I briefly thought about porting an existing game (Puerto Rico) into that format, but I quickly moved on from that as well. What I decided to try was a game with a board on which players would move units around and attack each other, upgrade and repair their units, and stuff like that.

Like I've discussed before, this was a Mechanics-First design attempt. I was not sure what theme I wanted to use, though moving units around a map and attacking each other narrows the field a bit. I needed 12 action cards for how I wanted the draft to work, and while I'd started with variations on Moving and Attacking, I needed some other stuff to make the choices interesting. I wanted to be able to improve the units via training, upgrading, or leveling in some way, and I wanted to include some kind of healing. I decided to go with "Upgrading," and for a theme I landed on Mech combat, and to heal I added Repair actions.

I plan to have a hex board, and each player will begin with 4 units. Each unit is made up of a stack of chips, where the top chip will describe the level, and later on the specialty, of the unit.

The cards have the following action on them, and are in a certain priority order. This is just a first draft, as yet untested:
1. Hold -  Your units take no damage this turn. You may resolve your next card at any Priority.
2. Set for charge -  Damage any unit that charges one of your units this turn. You may resolve your next card at any Priority.
3. Dash - Move 1 unit up to 3 spaces.
4. Assault -  Attack with up to 3 units.
5. Melee -  Attack with 1 unit. You may damage that unit to attack with it again.
6. Coordinated Charge - Move up to 2 units 1 space each and attack with them.
7. Solo Charge - Move 1 unit up to 2 spaces and attack with it.
8. Flank - Move up to 2 units 2 spaces each.
9. Mobilize - Move up to 3 units 1 space each.
10. Jerry Rig - Upgrade up to 2 units and damage them once each.
11. Upgrade - Upgrade 1 unit. Add an Upgrade chip to the TOP of that unit's stack.
12. Repair - Repair up to 2 units once each. Add a chip to the BOTTOM of those units' stacks.

These 12 cards are shuffled and dealt into 3 hands of 4 for 3 players (4 hands of 3 for 2 and 4 players). Each player gets one of those hands, chooses and simultaneously plays one of the cards from it. Those cards resolve in priority order, then are returned to the player's hand.

After the round is over, players pass their entire hand - including the card they played - to the left. In a 2 player game there would be a virtual player left and right of each actual player, so there would still be 4 hands traveling around the table.

Moving units around the board is simply picking up stacks of chips and moving them. Attacking means removing a chip from the bottom of a stack. Removing the last chip kills the Mech - last team with a Mech standing wins. Perhaps there could be objective based variants as well. Repairing means adding a chip to the bottom of a stack, and Upgrading adds a chip to the top of the stack - which serves to repair the Mech, as well as improve it.

When upgrading a Mech, its health and attack abilities increase. After level 3, the Mechs can specialize by becoming a Calvary unit, a Ranged unit, or a Heavy unit.

I think this will be an interesting 'draft' mechanism, as the same sets of cards will be going around and around the table, so you can start to figure out which actions will come in what order, and what actions your opponents will have available to them.

I hope to try this out soon. I had some notes about potentially adding side effects to some cards, such as "pass right instead of left this turn," "each player keeps one card and passes the rest this turn," and stuff like that to manipulate the groupings. I don't know if that'll be necessary in this version of the game, but I've got it written down for future reference :)

New Eminent Domain content! Microcosm, EmDice, and new stuff!

Long time no post...

EmDo News

I have some news on the Eminent Domain front. I've posted in the past about Exotica, EmDice, and MicroCiv. The news is that TMG is moving forward with some of these!

One of our excellent artists, Ariel Seoane, is putting together art for Eminent Domain: Microcosm (formerly MicroCiv), and will then be doing art for Eminent Domain: The Dice Game.

Eminent Domain: Exotica is still on the list, and will likely be a 2015 release.

Anyone interested in playing the latest version of the game, you can print the files out here:

I've changed the language to refer to cards instead of tiles because in the final game the planets and techs will also be cards to make the game more portable.

If you play the game, please let me know what you think by leaving a comment here!

In addition to those EmDo products, I've been working on some new, fun stuff for the Eminent Domain base game: New Base Game Scenarios, and something I'm calling Emperor Avatars.

Base Game Scenarios

In Escalation I added Scenarios to Eminent Domain, and they have been very well received. People get excited about asymmetric starting positions, and really like the jump start that Scenarios add to the game. 6 of the Scenarios in Escalation used only cards from the base game so that players could play with Scenarios even if they didn't have he expansion (perhaps by looking up the details of the Scenarios online). Michael asked me to create additional Base Game Scenarios, so I've gone through and made 6 more Scenarios using cards from the base game, and so far I've really enjoyed playing with them.

Emperor Avatars

While working on the new Scenarios I had another idea that sounded interesting... so I created something I'm calling Emperor Avatars (though honestly that title doesn't make a lot of sense). Originally Avatars were going to be very similar to Scenarios, but rather than starting you with a Level 2 tech, it would simply give you an ability. The idea was to expand the Base Game Scenarios with abilities from the expansions. However, that quickly evolved into something else.

What I ended up doing was making 12 small abilities and putting them on 24 tiles - one each on "left half" tiles and one each on "right half" tiles. At the beginning of the game, player will draft these, and will end up with 2 abilities, a left-half/right-half pair. The combination of 2 abilities can lead to many different possible setups, and being able to draft them is a fun way to customize your position.

If you are interested in trying the New Base Game Scenarios or the Emperor Avatars, the files can be found here:
New Base Game Scenarios:
Emperor Avatars:

Note that the icons in the upper left are from my old prototype files - they are a Survey icon, a Produce icon, and a Trade icon.