Game Design Blitz #24

And today’s card is…

The Card

Color: Blue

Number: 3

Piece: Card

Mechanic: Dice Building

The Definition

Dice building is essentially the same thing as deck or pool building which refers to a collection of related mechanisms. Players have a personal pool that provide different actions and/or resources. A subset of those are randomly drawn each turn. An important aspect of the game lies in managing the contents of that pool by adding and removing pieces over the course of the game play. Over time, players build dice that are more and more specialized and effective towards some purpose(s), typically including claiming victory objectives. In the case of Dice Building this could involve swapping out whole dice, as in Quarriors, but more recently games have started using die faces that are interchangeable to literally modify the die during the game.

The Idea

I have been enamored with dice building since the introduction of the LEGO Die in 2009(ish). The LEGO line of games didn’t really do anything as revolutionary as swapping out die faces mid-game, but rather always offered a couple of options for die faces that you could swap out between games to provide alternate rules for the games as part of their direction in every game’s rule book to go and invent your own games.

More recently games like Rattlebones and Dice Forge have introduced Dice with interchangeable faces that you swap out during the game, and this is the type of game that I want to create. The mechanic is fairly straight forward, but offers a large amount of space to really mess with the balance of the game. If you make something too powerful and also too easy to obtain, then you risk having some broken elements. Thankfully this exercise is simply conceptualization and not fleshing out every detail of the game so I don’t have to worry about that too much.

I once had an idea for a die that you simply flipped the die face, and the back side, much like a regular d6 always added up to 7. So the 6 face always has a 1 on the back and whenever you are allowed to flip the die face it just became its opposite. I could never come up with a compelling rule set, but that doesn’t mean that the idea can’t be used.

What if our dice have reversible faces such that any given face could only become one other thing? If we use 2d6 for the game, then that gives a total of 24 different options, but that feels like too many, so we can have some overlaps and bring the total down to like 16 options maybe. What I don’t want is for the opposite sides to be strictly better than the original sides, and at different times throughout the game you might want the original side back.

The inspiration card had a card as the symbol so we can integrate that into our game. Let’s say that there are nine cards set out in a 3×3 grid on the table. The goal is to collect the cards which have costs consisting of the symbols on the dice. Some cards give you abilities that you can use throughout the game, but the die face flipping mechanic has to be a free action, let’s say if you aren’t able to use your dice on a turn.

At the start of your turn you may use an ability (if you have it) to modify one or both of the dice. Then you roll both dice and take an action. If you have symbols matching the cost on any of the cards in the grid then you may collect that card, placing it in front of you. If you have no legal actions then you may select one die, change the visible face and then re-roll that die only. Now check the grid of cards again and collect one if able. If not then play passes to the next player.

Most of the cards will cost one or two symbols, but some will cost three. How do we get three symbols? The first way would be through collecting cards that give you a symbol permanently. The second would be in a mechanic (given by a card) that lets you remove and store a die face for use in a future turn. This lets you work towards an expensive card and also denies your opponents by leaving a blank face on the die.

To end the game we have some goal that the players are working toward, or we could just run a set number of turns. I like the race aspect however, and perhaps we run it such that there’s another turn after the goal has been met to give the other players a chance to make more points.

The most points is the winner.

This feels like it could have just about any theme pasted onto it so some thinking will have to go into theming it and adjusting the mechanics some to fit the theme. For now I’ll just say it’s a construction theme.

The Pitch

Construct-O-Dice is a dice-building game like no other. Rather than give each player their own set of dice, this game uses two shared dice that are constantly being manipulated by the players. Using the resources generated by the dice players construct buildings which give them resources or actions (such as manipulating the die faces). Buildings also provide points towards the end of the game. The end game is triggered when one player builds a certain number or type of building and after one more round the player with the most points is the winner.

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