Sunday, March 28, 2010

Board game inspired by Craps

On the way home from GAMA Trade Show in Las Vegas the other day I started thinking about using a dynamic from Craps as the backbone of a board game. When I play Craps, I stick to the strategy of "minimum bet on the pass line, maximum bet on the free odds," because as I understand it, that's the best odds you're going to get in Vegas. Most of he bets on the Craps table are lousy, but the free odds are the best deal you're going to get.

So what I do is bet on the pass line, and when a point is established I put full odds behind the line, and then place a Come bet (which is just like the Pass line when there's already a point established). Then I back that up with full odds as well, etc. On a good, long roll where lots of different numbers come up and no 7's come up, it can get to a point where almost any roll is income for me, and the only bad roll is a 7. Obviously if the 7 comes up before any of those bets pay off, then that's terrible, but if those bets hit before the 7 comes up then I haven't lost anything (in fact I've won a little), and if they hit a second time before the 7 comes, then I'm winning money!

So here's what I've got so far for a board game based on this mechanism:

Let's say there's a small deck of cards which have jobs on them, jobs of type A, B and C. Job A is more rare than B, which is in turn more rare than C... Job A is like rolling 4 or 10, B equates to 5 or 9, and C equates to 6 or 8. Maybe there's actually 6 types of jobs, each correlating to the numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10.

There are also cards in the deck that say "Cancel Job A" (similar cards for all job types), and at least 1 "Cancel ALL jobs" card. This deck will replace the die rolls on the craps table. Players will have a small number of workers in their color, let's call them Managers.
There will be generic workers as well, we'll call them Day Laborers.

At the beginning of each round, each player has an opportunity to 'look for work' by sending 1 (maybe more) of their Managers to a particular space on the board (the "pass line" equivalent). Then you flip the top card of the deck, indicating what type of job is available. Your managers must then move to that job, and you are allowed to send some number of Day Laborers with them. The maximum number of Day Laborers you can send will be 3, 4, or 5 per manager, depending on the job (type A = 3x, type B = 4x, Type C = 5x) - just like in Craps.

In future rounds, if a card comes up canceling a job that you have workers on, you'll get your Managers back, but your Day Laborers will get upset and leave (you lose them). If another card for that job comes up before that though, you'll get paid money for each of your Day Laborers, and maybe you get a new Laborer for each of your Managers (but no money), and you get them all back. If you had "looked for work" again that round, you could use these returned Laborers to "bet on the odds" with the Manager you had used that turn. If a "job canceled" card comes up then you lose your bets for that job, but if you were looking for work (a Come bet) then you get something - maybe a new Day Laborer to work with.

That's all I have so far. I think there might have to be something else to do with Managers (and maybe Laborers) so that it's not simply betting on the card flips and seeing who is more lucky. I imagine strategies such as "commit more workers to a particular job, for a big payoff when that job comes up" and "commit fewer workers to each job, but commit workers to more jobs overall, so that you can get more, smaller payouts whose sum will be bigger than the big payout."

Maybe another aspect of the game could involve investing in making you better at particular types of jobs. You could get tiles which give you additional money for particular types of jobs, or which insulate your risk for certain types of jobs (you get your workers back, even if it's canceled for example), or perhaps something that allows you to look at the top 3 cards of the deck and re-order them, giving you a lot of information for the upcoming couple of turns.

I wasn't planning on modeling other Craps bets, but it wouldn't be difficult to mark a subset of the Type A jobs a certain way, effectively making them the "Hard Way bets" - a double 2's version of Job A, compared to the other versions (1-3 or 3-1). Players could easily place a manager on some space that equates to betting on the special case version of Job A coming up.

Overall the main mechanism of the game would be like playing Craps with a "Deck of Dice." Anyone have any thoughts on this??

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