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 #5

And today’s card is…

The Card

Color: Black

Number: 10

Piece: Chess Pawn/Dice

Mechanic: Guessing

The Idea

What immediately pops into my head is something like Guess Who or Memory… but we’re looking to make games that are a bit more engaging than children’s games. Nothing wrong with games for kids, that’s just not the demographic that I tend to a for.A card game with one card that is the “target”. The goal of the game is to be the person with the card, but not to have anyone else guess that you have the card. The game starts with each player having two cards. These are looked at initially sand then kept face down on the table unless a card tells a player or players to look at one or more cards. On a player’s turn they pick one of their cards and reveal it, then follow out the rule on that card which will cause players to take various actions with their cards, like passing them around and across the table. Once every player had taken a turn, each player guesses who they think has the target card. If a player guesses them self, and they have the card they get a point bonus equal to the number of players. Every player that correctly guesses who has the card gets a point and that player loses a point. Incorrect guesses don’t have any effect on points. Play continues until one player reaches a predetermined number of points and is crowned the winner. I worry that this is too simple and too random, but it could make a pretty decent party game.

The Pitch

Monte is a card game in which one player has the “Monte”. Who has it? At the beginning nobody knows because all cards are secret! Each player has to take a turn to flip one of their cards and carry out the action on the card. Actions will include passing, trading, shuffling, etc… and once all players have taken an action, everyone has to guess who has the Monte. Correct guesses gain points for the guesser, but lose points for the player with the Monte. If a player correctly guesses that they have the Monte then they get a bonus! Play repeats until one player gets to a predetermined point value and is crowned the winner!

Game Design Blitz #4

And today’s card is…

The Card

Color: Black

Number: 13/K

Piece: Chess Pawn/Die

Mechanic: Negotiation

The Idea

Oh boy. If you know me then you know that I’m not the biggest fan of social games… Making up stories, convincing other players that I’m not the werewolf or trying to sell my best sun-block parasol are just not my forte.Negotiation doesn’t have to mean social deduction, but that’s the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the card. I’m not going to back down from my own challenge however, so I’m going to try and come up with something that is negotiation but is not a social deduction type game.There are plenty of games where you trade with other players. Even Catan has negotiation in it, but that isn’t the focus of the game, and my game has to focus on the negotiation. The easiest theming that comes to mind is a set collection game where you have to trade with other players to get the cards that you need. Perhaps each player has a secret point system or win condition that they are playing towards. Once the opponents figure it out they can take steps to block that player from meeting the win condition. How will this game work? Each player will be dealt two (out of 12 or 16 total) win condition or point cards. They will choose one and discard the other. This let’s each player know some number of win conditions that aren’t present in the game. The main deck of cards will be made up of, let’s just say 4 suits for ease so that we can prototype with a standard deck of cards. You will start with a hand of 7 cards. Each turn you have to negotiate a trade. Then using some number of cards from your hand you play a set of some kind, containing 2 or 3 cards. For now let’s say that can be either multiples of a number (i.e. a pair of 2s), matching suits (i.e. a flush), or a run of three cards (i.e. a straight). The cards in the set that you play may include the cards that you just traded for, or it can be only cards that you already had in your hand.The negotiation may include anything from cards in you hand to future trade considerations to random allowances of card draw to having the player discard their hand, and even cards that are already on the table in a set. For that last one any cards from a set on the table that aren’t included in the trade must be discarded.Instead of trading or drawing from the main deck, a player may discard their win condition the. draw two win condition cards and then discard one. This way the player is always only going for a single win condition.If your sets on the table ever match the win condition on your card, then announce that and you win the game.

The Pitch

Draw, Trade, Win is a negotiation card game where players are trading to collect sets which they use to fulfill a hidden win condition that is unique to each player. The only way to escape negotiation is to draw a new win condition. Negotiation has no rules so entice your opponents with anything you want to be able to collect the cards that you need. Be alert however, the first player to meet their win condition will win the game immediately!Full Disclosure: this challenge took longer than I wanted to. I stayed on the train for an extra stop and still didn’t finish in time… but I still haven’t gotten to the office yet, so it’s still valid in my book!

Cast Iron Game Review – CV Pocket

IMG_1658.JPGCV Pocket (BGG Link) is a new small box card game designed by Filip Miłuński with art by Piotr Socha and published by Granna, and distributed by Passport Game Studios in the US. CV Pocket condenses a player’s whole life down to a fifteen minute drafting and set collection game for two to four players. Who can make the best life for them self? Let’s find out!

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Game Design Blitz #3

And today’s card is…

The Card

Color: Blue

Number: 4

Piece: Card/Die

Mechanic: Trick Taking

The Idea

Trick taking is a mechanic that has been around forever. I must confess that I haven’t played too many trick taking games, but I have played a few, and one of the games I am currently working on is “in the style of” a trick taking game. True to my word though, that is not the game I will pitch today. What are the main components to a trick taking game? Typically a deck of cards is shuffled and dealt out to all players. A “trump” suit is identified, that is the suit that will beat all others no matter the number on the card. Each round consists of a player leading the round with a card and all other players have to “match suit”. If they can’t then they are able to play any other card. This is where the trump suit comes in. After each player has played then the one who played the highest card in the lead suit wins the trick. If anyone played the trump suit then the highest one in that suit wins the trick. The different variations introduce all manner of restrictions and exceptions that make each one different.

How do I come up with something unique and exciting? I tend to start with theme and then see if I can find mechanics to fit. In this case since I am dictated the mechanic I’m doing it a little backward and I’ll need to find a theme that will work well with trick taking.

I’m thinking about a stock market game. The suits are different stocks and in the end this is a set collection game, where the value of the sets fluctuates throughout the game. This could be based on the prominence of a particular suit in any given trick. For example, if I lead with hearts and then no other player has a heart the opponents play a spade, a spade and a diamond respectively, then the spade ticks up a dollar on the stock value, and clubs (the only suit not represented in that hand) ticks down a dollar. Once all cards have been played and the round is over players earn income based on the current stocks that they own. I’m thinking that the stock value tracker will be what dictates the trump suit, and not having a the lead suit isn’t the only way to not have to follow the lead. Maybe a player can pay some number of dollars to ignore the lead suit.

The Pitch

Day Traders is a trick taking card game where players are vying to own the most valuable stock. Players influence the market with the stocks that they contribute to the pool which are dictated by the lead player, the current stock value or even the money out of their pockets. In the end the player with the most cash is crowned the best Day Trader!

Note: I was re-reading and noticed some formatting and grammatical errors, so I made some fixes.

Game Design Blitz #2

And today’s card is…

The Card

Color: Blue

Number: 12/Queen

Piece: Chess Card

Mechanic: Set Collection

The Idea

There was a computer game that I played when I was younger and pc monitors only had 4 colors. For some reason the first thing that I thought of when I saw this card was in implementation of that game, Battle Chess!

Battle Chess didn’t have any special rules, it was just Chess where the pieces would come to life and smash each other whenever a piece was captured. My first inclination was a drafting game where you draft then play cards against each other to see who wins that hand of Chess. The problem with that is the fact that a queen would simply win all battles. I have to introduce things like component powers and… you guessed it, set collection!I’m not 100% set on drafting as the method by which you collect cards, but we’ll go with it for now. A deck of cards will sit in the middle of the table. A row of five cards are set face up, and in turn each player will choose and take a card to their hand. Once All five cards are drafted, the players will each play a card or cards from their hand. These cards will be compared and a winner will be determined. Cards can be held from round to round, so as the game progresses the players will be able to build better and better hands to play, and an additional bonus is that the cards that a player has drafted will be harder and harder for the opponent to remember. That is where the set collection aspect will shine. Whether the winning hand is three pawns or a knight combined with a Bishop, or even the dynamic duo of Queen and King, players have to collect sets and battle them against each other to win.

The Pitch

Battle Chess is a drafting/set collection card game in which players draft the best cards to build sets then battle those sets against each other to determine who will get Checkmate.

Brief Overview – Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Wrath of the Righteous

Tpic2564484_mdhe world of Pathfinder is immense, including a popular role playing game and the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game with multiple base sets and expansions that capture the dungeon-crawler feel of an RPG but without the time and imagination commitment that a role playing game entails. The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Wrath of the Righteous is a card based RPG  designed by Mike Selinker by Paizo Publishing which plays 1-4 players with a scenario running about 120 minutes. Each player takes the role of a character represented by a stat card consisting of the usual stats that you see in RPGs, a character token, and a deck of cards. Each character has a favored card type upon which their deck is heavily based (i.e. a mage likes spells). The board consists of a number of locations determined by how many players are in the game, with the locations represented by decks of cards consisting of various blessings, treasures, weapons and monsters including a final boss, as defined by the particular scenario which the players are attempting to complete. Whenever the player comes across an enemy, trap, or even treasure, they usually have to make a stat roll to see if they defeat the monster or find the treasure, etc… Each character has a base set of stats which define the dice that they will roll for that check, but these can be enhanced by playing cards from their hand such as equipment, blessings, etc… In addition, the other players can play blessings to help out the player making the roll. The caveat is that your deck of cards is your life total. The more you use the closer you get to death. The players take turns using the cards in their hands to explore the locations in order find treasure, fight monsters and eventually defeat the boss to win the scenario. If you run out of cards in your deck however, then your character dies.

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Brief Overview – Coup

pic2016054_mdCoup is a social deduction, bluffing card game designed by Rikki Tahta and distributed by Indie Boards & Cards. It follows in the footsteps of One Night Ultimate Werewolf, but is more reliant on the cards and the various actions that a player may take than on the social aspects of the game like Werewolf. Much like Werewolf or even Love Letter players are eliminated until there is just one player left standing. It is a small game, but I wouldn’t categorize it as “micro”, and it plays in about 15 minutes with 2-6 players.

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Brief Overview – Control

Brief Overview

ControlIn Control, each player is a time traveler caught in a rupture in space-time and displaced outside time. Each player must use fuel cells to refuel their own time machine or stop other players from refueling theirs first. Control is a strategy card game for 2-4 players and a round lasts from 5-15 minutes. The game was designed by Mattox Shuler and published by Keymaster Games. Control is currently funded on Kickstarter with 18 days left in the campaign. The game costs $15 with free shipping to the US, but you can back at any level, even for just $1 and receive the print and play files immediately. Estimated delivery is July of 2016.

All players draw cards from the same deck which consists of four copies each of various cards which represent fuel cells. Each player starts with five cards in their hand. Cards have a value on them from one to ten, a special ability, and are colored either bronze or silver. On a player’s turn they may take one action from four options; install a fuel cell, burn a bronze fuel cell, diffuse an opponent’s fuel cell, or draw a card. The goal of the game is to have twenty-one points or more in installed fuel cells. The first option lets you install any fuel cell from your hand to the board. If the fuel cell is silver then the special ability printed on the card takes effect. For example the card Rift is a single point fuel cell that upon installation will either destroy a Nova (ten points) or allow the player to draw a card. Bronze fuel cells do not activate when they are installed, but the second option to burn a bronze fuel cell allows you to discard a bronze card in your hand to activate it’s ability. Singularity is a seven point bronze fuel cell which destroys all bronze fuel cells when it is burned. To complete the third option, diffuse an opponent’s fuel cell, the player discards a fuel cell from their hand that is worth equal or greater points than an installed fuel cell on the opponent’s board. That fuel cell is then placed in the discard. Finally a player may choose to draw a card. Aside from the Rift, this is the only way to increase the player’s hand size. A player may not have more than seven cards in hand at any time.

With two or three players the game is played as a free-for-all battle, whenever a player gets 21 points the game is over with that player being the winner. In a four player game, it is supposed to be played as teams of two, played such that the teams alternate turns. The goal is the same, but if one player gets 21 points, then that team wins.

Discussion

I’ve gone back and forth in my thinking on Control. When playing it the first times at game night (three player games), I was having fun. As we played more games we all caught on to the strategy and the games ran longer and longer, though we never did hit the end of the deck and trigger the “sudden death” ending. We played around with removing a copy or two of some of the higher value cards (it seemed that the game was always ended by a Nova), and generally we were enjoying ourselves. I went home and was all set to back the game. In reading through the coverage of the game I started wavering in my resolve; first Jan probably wouldn’t like the game, so getting my own copy was probably not necessary, on the other hand, to print-and-play the game I only had to back at $1, but then I would have to spend all that time printing, cutting, and sleeving the game. In the end I decided that it was only $1 so I went for it. I still haven’t played the game with Jan or Karen, but I’ve played several games against myself, and guess what? I always win! Thus far my only real gripe is with the theme of Control. In reality, the game is an abstract. It could literally have any theme pasted on, but I personally feel that the game should have no theme. In fact, I feel that the time travel theme detracts from the game because if you think about it, if there were three scientists all trapped outside of time, don’t you think that they would work together to get everyone home safely rather than sabotage each other to be the only one to make it back? Even the name doesn’t really seem to fit the theme, the scientists aren’t controlling time, they are simply trying to refuel their time machines.

Control is an intriguing game however, and I enjoy the mechanics of it quite a bit which is why I went ahead and backed it. In the rules it gives a strategy tip that with an empty board, any player is just three turns from a possible victory. This is true, but in reality it can be broken down to what should be an actual rule in the game, if a player is at eleven or more points, you must get them below eleven or they will likely win. Another consideration for strategy is this, if you can not win with the next card, do not put yourself above eleven points which per the previous rule, will make you a target. What seemed to happen in our three player games was that each player had to police the next player in turn order. If that player got to eleven or more, they had to be stopped, and if the previous player couldn’t play something to stop them, they would likely win. In my two player games against myself, it felt kind of like a tug-of-war, but once a side pulled ahead, then the other side had no option but to utilize their cards to stop the other player rather than advance themselves. I did find that I had forgotten about one rule which is the ability to diffuse another player’s fuel cell. I tended to give up the game if I didn’t have a bronze card to answer the player who was above eleven points, but in the end there were many times where I could have used the diffuse action to put that player below eleven. My last worry about Control is whether the game is too simple. I’m a gamer, and I strive to find a strategy in any game. Some games have no clear strategy, but I feel like Control has just one strategy. If all players play by the two pieces of strategy that I listed above, then the game simply becomes who can get their points on the table with the other player or players simply unable to respond. At that point it just becomes who gets the luck of the draw. However, the Control is billed as a gateway game, not a deep strategy game, and as such, I suppose it doesn’t have to try and fix that issue.

For me personally the game might lose some of its luster once I have more plays under my belt and once the people I play against are all up to speed on the strategy, but for now I enjoy it. It is a decent abstract card game for a casual or new gaming group.

Brief Overview – Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Rumble at Castle Tentakill!

Brief Overview

pic2453925_mdEpic Spell Wars is a card game by Designers Rob Heinsoo and Cory Jones, and is published by Cryptozoic Entertainment. Each player takes on the role of a colorful wizard with names like Angelica Angel Face the Angelic Angel of Misery and Skullzar! The wizard that you pick makes no difference to the game, but the names are quite fun. The goal is the be the “Last Wizard Standing” two times. All players draw cards from a single deck and on their turn construct spells using a source, a quality, and a delivery. If one of the three parts is missing, the wizard may use two cards in their spell, but it will be less powerful. Each card has an effect and they are carried out in the order of the played cards (source, quality, delivery). Some cards do things like make players pass a certain type of card, some make you discard cards to deal damage, and some make you roll a die to determine their effect. Cards all have categories as well (arcane, dark, etc…) and the more categories that match the die roll card, the more dice you get to roll. Some of the cards are creatures and if you roll right they get to remain on the board which is good for two reasons; the creature’s ability happens every turn that it remains in play, and the creature can take the hit for you if you take damage. It is a very chaotic game, and while the people that go out early are left with nothing to do, the game progresses fairly quickly. Every turn you are dead you get a dead wizard card that is either redeemed when drawn (you get four blood), or is saved to use in the next round. If you are the first wizard out in a round then you should be fairly powerful by the beginning of the next round. The last wizard standing in a round gets a victory token, and the first wizard to two tokens wins the whole game.

Discussion

Epic Spell Wars is one of those games that you really only buy because it is pretty funny. With the crazy wizard names and the ability to cast spells like “Griz Glowball’s Mother-Forking Jelly-Square”. However, the game was actually a lot of fun. It seems to be well balanced. In my game I was the first player out, but with the fact that it only took four more turns to have a last wizard standing, and the fact that each turn I was out I was getting more and more powerful, it really wasn’t that bad. There is an interesting conflict with the number of players however. I would at first think that you would want as many players as possible to make the game that much more chaotic, but then you have the potential to play a total of seven rounds before one player is crowned the victor! That’s a pretty long game. In my opinion, play the game and just have fun with it. If it seems like it is taking too long, just call it. The game doesn’t take itself seriously, and neither should the players.