Board Game Blitz #10

And today’s card is…

The Card

Color: Blue

Number: 7

Piece: Card

Mechanic: Variable Player Power

The Definition

Variable Player Powers is a mechanic that grants different abilities and/or paths to victory to the players.

The Idea

Here we go with another wide-open mechanic. Variable player powers are something that can be utilized with just about any game. The problem is that player powers that are uniform are hard enough to balance in a game. Now give every player a different power and it becomes exponentially more difficult.

Additionally, the word “powers” is really just a placeholder for anything in a game that could be different for different players. In Vast: the Crystal Caverns each player plays a different entity or group and each entity has different mechanics and different win conditions.

The first thing that comes to my mind, especially to help balance the powers is to allow those to rotate. Then that really just becomes a worker placement game or more akin to Puerto Rico in that each turn you choose a different action. So, what if each player starts as a character with a specific power, kind of like Small World. You choose a character and an ability or action type is randomly chosen. Then, throughout the game players can manipulate the abilities to steal them, shift the whole table, etc… This seems like a very chaotic type of game where it would be very hard to plan for the future or build any kind of engine. The goal, however would be that for maximum efficiency each player should end up using each power roughly the same amount of the time.

Forgive me, as I’ve been watching a lot of Marvel movies lately, and the primary thing that comes to mind is the “hero” scene where the camera moves from hero to hero watching each do their own thing to take down the bad guys. We all know my feelings on coop games, so let’s not go there, and I think the hero thing has been done quite a lot. I’m even working on a super-power game already, so let’s not go there either.

What about a factory where each player is the foreman of a particular area. Each area produces a different parts of various machines, and so each foreman has a particular ability tied to that part. But, the goal is to build the machines, not the parts. As such you have to gather the other parts as well. You can do it, but it will be much more efficient if you take over the foreman position for that part. You can’t just take over a position though, you have to prove that the current foreman is less efficient. So, if you produce more parts than an opponent, you can then swap positions with that player. The problem with being more efficient than the other players is that you produce surplus parts, thus making it easier for the other players to obtain those parts.

The game will go over several rounds and the player to gain the most points by fulfilling the most machine orders will be the winner.

The Pitch

The Factory is a set collection game where each player uses their own position in the factory, and thus their own unique action to create components for numerous machines. But really you need to be making all of the components for these machines, so you watch for your opening. When your opponent is less efficient than you, you can report them and swap positions! Being the more efficient player means that you have created a surplus of parts, allowing the other players to collect them that much easier. After a full day on the factory floor, the player who produced the most machines is determined to be the winner!

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Game Design Blitz #9

And today’s card is…

The Card

Color: Blue

Number: 8

Piece: Card

Mechanic: Press Your Luck

The Definition

Games where you repeat an action (or part of an action) until you decide to stop due to increased (or not) risk of losing points or your turn.

The Idea

The press your luck mechanic is quite an open subject and can be interpreted in many ways, and that’s good for coming up with ideas, but it isn’t great for a timed exercise like this, so let’s look at the card a bit more to draw inspiration. The card is blue out of four possible colors also including magenta, yellow and black. It shows both dice and a card, and has dice with the numbers 2 and 6 to determine the number 8 on the card.A very common approach to press your luck is to continue flipping over cards until you either get the combination of cards you are looking for, or you hit a card that is bad and ends your turn. What if we use cards and dice, where the cards give us the goal that we are trying to reach with our dice? At the basest level we can have a deck of cards running from one to thirteen. Two cards are flipped over and each player starts with two 6-sided dice which they begin to roll. Players may re-roll as much as they want and may lock a die at any time, however, if a 1 is rolled it must be locked. Whenever a die is locked the player may take another die from a pool of available dice. These may or may not be various special dice ranging in numbers. This is optional, and a player may lock all their dice if they choose. The first player that locks all of their dice takes the cards, then scores points equal to the combined total of their dice minus the difference between the total on the cards. Aces can be used as either 1 or 11. The closer you get to the total of the cards, the better score you get, but you risk someone else ending the round if you take too long. If you go over the total on the cards then you are busted and are out of the round.Each player puts back their extra dice and new cards are drawn to begin the next round. Play continues until one player collects all thirteen different numbered cards (I.e. Ace through King). The player with the highest score is the winner.

The Pitch

High Roller is a real-time dice and card game where players race to collect and lock dice in which the total of all the dice matches the total on the cards for the round. Don’t take too long because any player can lock all of their dice at any time and take the cards out from under you! The first player to collect all thirteen cards ends the game at which point the player with the most points is the winner!

Game Design Blitz #8

And today’s card is…

The Card

Color: Yellow

Number: 1

Piece: Hex

Mechanic: Area Control

The Idea

Last week I had to look up the mechanic because I wasn’t quite sure exactly what the mechanic was. This week I’m very aware of Area Control and how it works, but I realize that not everyone would know necessarily. As such I think from now on I’m going to always post the BGG definition of the mechanic at hand.

The Area Control mechanic typically awards control of an area to the player that has the majority of units or influence in that area. As such, it can be viewed as a sub-category of Auction/Bidding in that players can up their “bids” for specific areas through the placement of units or meeples.

One of the various mechanics in my favorite game is area control. In Tikal players vie for control of ancient temples by having the most explorers on the site. But, this isn’t “what’s your favorite game with this mechanic”, I’m supposed to be designing a game using area control. Unlike Tikal, I want the area control to be the primary mechanic of the game, but by itself, area control isn’t necessarily a “mechanic” in the same sense that an action point system (the primary mechanic in Tikal) is. It is more of a criteria to determine who controls a location or who scores points for a location. Can we turn area control into the driving force behind a game? What would an area control game system look like? I’m thinking something where the next action taken in the game is determine by who controls specific areas… kind of like worker placement by committee I suppose. Perhaps a resource-based system where each nation or region of the board represents a different resource, and players bid for turn order by bidding a number of workers to the region that they want to collect from. However, you are bidding your workers, and those bids are placed in those regions. The region with the most workers will be the only region that produces materials that turn. All workers that were used to bid are pulled to that region but there is some kind of penalty, say one of those workers is lost and will have to be earned again. So, if I use 5 workers on coal, Jessie uses 3 workers on brick, Jan uses 4 on wood and Shawn uses 2 on cloth. Then I would collect 5 coal. Jessie would lose one worker and collect 2 coal, Jan would lose a worker and collect 3 coal, and Shawn would lose a worker and collect 1 coal. If you are vying for the bid in the same region but are outbid, then you still collect but because your workers didn’t have to travel to another region, you don’t lose any workers. But there has to be some incentive to not just follow the start player, so let’s say that you still lose a worker, then a worker produces your bid-on resource, then the rest produce at the winning mine. In the example above, Jessie would earn one brick, one coal and lose one worker. Why not just bid all of your workers though? We would have to employ other actions for the remainder of the turn that require the use of workers… building things with the collected resources, trading resources with the bank (and maybe other players too?), improving the resource collection in each region, re-hiring workers, etc…

The Pitch

In Mining Town you are one of several mine owners vying to have the most valuable mine. The problem, of course, is that you need the resources that are produced by the other mines in town in order to build up the town’s infrastructure and improve the efficiency of your own mine. Each improvement that you make to your mine or the town moves you one step closer to being the most valuable mine.

Mining Town is a worker placement game which employs a unique area control mechanic to determine player order and the primary resource gathered in each turn. Players bid workers by placing them on the mine that they want or need to collect resources from. Each mine needs workers, but the one with the most workers pays the most, so any workers in other mines will head over to that mine to work for the day. Some workers get mad that you made the wrong choice for where to send them, so they quit and you must re-hire them to get back to full capacity. After resource production you use your remaining workers and the resources you have collected to improve your own mine, improve the town, rehire workers that quit and trade resources with the bank and/or other players.

After a set number of rounds, the game will end and the player with the most valuable mine is the winner!

Game Design Blitz #7

And today’s card is…

The Card

Color: Yellow

Number: 8

Piece: Hex

Mechanic: Hex-and-Counter

The Idea

Right off the bat I knew I was in trouble. This is what I get for not posting yesterday… sorry, it couldn’t be helped, I didn’t take the train to work, thus no time to write. Then I pull this card, Hex-and-Counter. I had an idea, but had to look up what was expected of this mechanic. Here’s what BGG has to say:

Classic wargame mechanic, played with ‘Counters’ on a map with an Hexagonal grid allowing to move the counters in more directions (6) as opposed to a square grid with only four directions.
Counters are commonly thick cardboard chit, with printed attributes and identification.

Traditionally the hex-and-counter mechanic is utilized in war games since it gives the clearest approach towards maximum movement options of moving troops around a map. I’m not a huge fan of war games, so I’ll keep part of that; hexes, counters, and moving one around the other, but I’ll try and come up with a good theme.

I’ve been struggling, but I’m going to go with what I know, and that’s traffic. A board would be made up of a connected ring of hexes (twelve), then the center is filled in with hexes (seven) as well as an outer ring (seventeen). On these hexes will be a network of roads, freeways and light rail. The initial ring is set, but players will alternate adding pieces to fill in the rest of the board as they play. Like components will have to connect (I.e. road to road, freeway to freeway, rail to rail). That covers the hexes.

Now for the counters, and that’s simple. The counters will represent vehicles and will include small and large personal vehicles as well as rail and roadway mass transit (trains and buses). On the board will be trip origins and destinations, and it will be the players’ job to modify the infrastructure and shift the traffic around to provide efficient paths from the origin to the destination. If a trip is attempted and fails for some reason, that vehicle is stranded on the board and now adds to the traffic congestion. I’ll probably also add a cube component to represent passengers, so you can have a cube start in the suburbs, use a car to get to the park and ride or rail station, then hop onto the bus or train for the rest of the ride.

The Pitch

Gridlocked is a game of Transportation management. Players must improve the transportation infrastructure in their city in order to efficiently move passengers between their origin and destination.

Note: Edited for spelling, grammer and type-o repair.