Radical Dreamers Project

My quest to design a time travel game I'll be happy with :)

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Overview

Rob Tudero
Canada
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This post will be about how I imagine the game will be generally like. There is also a parallel collaborative effort in the BGG design forum as well right now. I find that team projects are good, but with such a large group of people, the project can lack proper direction and leadership. I considered working with someone, but I think I would be happier working it alone, and just having others critique it at certain points. There are too many people with a big group, and too many ideas. Indeed in the collaborative BGG design project, I find a great deal of ideas that I don't think will work for one reason or another. But at the same time, you don't want to be that asshole who keeps trying to shooting down everyone else's ideas. And I don't want to taint the collaborative project with my too many of the ideas I want to use, or the games will turn out too similar.

Story fluff:
The game takes place on a planet, with a big pangaea-style single continent, perhaps populated with meeples.

A group of scientists from the various countries are working on a joint research project together to create a time machine. One horrible accident (act of sabotage?) later, all the scientists find themselves thrown backwards in time. The scientists found themselves discussing what to do. Some argued that they had a duty to preserve the timeline Some were just worried that they may accidentally prevent their own births. Some argued that they had a rare opportunity to right wrongs, and remake the world into a paradise. The scientists grew heated and split into several factions and went their seperate ways.

Time travel fluff:
After the accident, the scientists became unstuck in time, and gained the ability to time travel on their own. They are immune to any changes made in the timeline. In fact, due to their meddling, all their births have probably been prevented in one way or another. Everyone they have ever have been irrevocably lost to alterations, and all they have left is to remake the world the best way they can.

Gameplay:
As it stands, I'm imagining the board/card game to be a game for 2-5 players. Each player is dealt one major secret mission and one minor secret mission card facedown, known only to the player they are dealt to. The first way to win the game will be to accomplish one's major and minor secret missions. The second way to win the game will be to erase all other players from time.
Each player is given 3 workers. Each worker will be able to make one action every turn

There will be two resources that can be collected by players. The first is intelligence. Intelligence can be used to peek at Event cards, allowing players to privately view them without sharing the knowledge. Intelligence can also be spent in large amounts to peek at an opponent's secret missions.
The second resource is influence, which serves as a general form of currency. Thematically, it reflects money, contacts, clout etc. in a particular era.
Workers can 'mine' influence and intelligence at any visible Event, but can also get them through the various special effects of Event cards.

Event cards always come into play facedown. Players will be able to spend their turns having their workers flip Events. As stated before, Intelligence can also be spent to privately look at the Event.
The back of Event cards list their starting eras from 0 to 6. These numbers dictate a card's starting era, but does nothing to prevent an Event from being shifted to another era. A viable strategy in the gameplay will be to push Events later in the time line, or to pull them earlier to get larger/smaller effects. One example might be the idea of Banking, which might have the special effect where Influence you use on the card gains interest until Age 4. If it had a starting Era of 2, a player might try to push it back to Era 1 so that another one of his workers could collect extra influence by Era 4.

All events have two orientations. The orientations are determined by its a combination of requirements of Culture, War, Technology, and Happiness in the previous Era. Manipulating the levels of those requirements in the preceding Era will cause the event to flip to its other orientation (represented in a gameplay mechanic of the card being flipped upside down). Event cards will usually have a requirement, and will usually produce an ongoing amount of Culture, War, Technology, or Happiness for its immediate future Era. Events may also have a special effect where players can spend influence to use. If a worker is on an event card when it is flipped, that worker is erased from time. There is no way to gain new workers, so losing a worker will hobble your productivity. Losing all 3 workers will cause you to lose.

The game will probably start with an X amount of Event cards, already flipped over, representing the starting timeline. I initially considered that a single new Event card was placed (facedown) every round, but that seemed like it would give an unfair advantage to whoever went first. I'll sleep on how that might be addressed.

As stated previously, every player has 3 workers. Each worker can only make one action, unless otherwise stated by a card's special effect. These actions will be:
Moving Horizontally (backward/forward eras along the timeline)
Moving Vertically (from Event to Event in a single era)
Gathering Intelligence
Spending Intelligence to peek at an Event in their era
Spending Intelligence to look at another player's secret mission
Gathering Influence
Spending influence to activate an Event card's special effect

That's a general overview, and I will go back to the drawing board to think of more events.
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Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:30 am
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Flux

Rob Tudero
Canada
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I renamed the blog to the Radical Dreamers Project. Beyond sounding cooler, it seems like a nice fit for what I imagine the story and fluff is for the game; the players are groups of ripple-effect immune time travelers who want to reshape the timeline to reflect their ideologies.
I am also aware of the chrono trigger related text adventure game. No relation.

4)Balance across the timeline. Past and future events should be balanced in a way that there are risks and rewards to being in either.

The idea from the previous post has been expanded upon. As it stands, certain values in an event's preceding Era determine it's orientation (e.g. for one event, a happiness level over 5 in the previous era will have the event in its 'north' orientation, while a happiness level under 5 in the previous era will have the event in its 'south' orientation). This system also lets me make events that have requirements that can meet both 'north' and 'south' requirements.
Take the following *dummy card I made today.


The requirements are always on the left of cards. The effects on future eras are always on the top right of the cards, while special effects are always under the title. In this case, Vassalage requires over 5 culture. Slavery requires under 7. If a player arranged for the culture level in the previous era to be at 6, The event card will be turned sideways 90 degrees, and players on the this event will be able to use BOTH effects on either side of the card. This advantage is balanced by the fact that all flux situations are very dangerous. A value of change of one in either direction would flip the card, potentially erasing a player's piece from the timeline.

*The design of the card is very rough. In fact, I hope to find some symbol or graphic to better represent requirements in an easier way.
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Tue Mar 6, 2012 2:15 am
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Erased from time

Rob Tudero
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4)Balance across the timeline. Past and future events should be balanced in a way that there are risks and rewards to being in either.

I was having trouble getting getting paradoxes to work properly, but I've found a great alternative. *Time travelers in future events can be wiped out of existence if they are on a card that is flipped. For example, Player B is in a post apocalyptic future where robots took over, and have enslaved humanity. **While here, Player B gathers intelligence about what Player A's mission is, maybe finds a hi-tech plasma rifle. However, Player A sees that, and smartly averts that future by flipping past events to prevent it, and thus wiping Player B out of existence.

In terms of the actual negative effects of being wiped out of existence, it can range from:
Very unforgiving (You lose if you're wiped out of existence)
Mildly unforgiving (Each player has 3 'workers', but being wiped out of existence still permanently removes them. You still have other dudes to do stuff with though.)
Downright friendly (Your character is just temporarily removed. Or if there are multiple workers, perhaps they are locked in stasis. No permanent damage, although in the latter case, you could "beat" another player by putting all his workers in stasis.)
I'm currently leaning towards the mildly unforgiving.

This balances the future and the past, because you now have a greater reward in the future, but also the risk of being wiped out of existence.


*This is actually inspired by the tv show Heroes. In season 2 of Heroes, the Writer's guild of America were on strike, and the following was part of the storyline. We have our amnesiac super hero named Peter Petrelli who time travels into the future with his cute Irish girlfriend Caitlin. They find that the future has been ravaged by an epidemic, and 90% of the world is dead. Fast forward a little, and Peter returns to his own time, and stops that future from coming to pass. Yay for Peter Petrelli and cue the streamers and confetti !
But wait, what happened to Caitlin? It seems our hero Peter left Caitlin in the horrific post-apocalyptic future. And then prevented that future from ever happening. She's never mentioned again, but its actually pretty hilarious =)

**In my example, I used gathering intelligence. I'm currently leaning towards using this as a resource, because in time travel stories, very often someone goes to the future and the reaction is always 'What the hell happened?!', followed by trying to figure out just that. Knowledge is power for time travelers. Also, if I end up using secret goals for each player, intelligence might be something you can spend to get a peek at one of another player's secret goals. I like this as a mechanic, but it fits quite well thematically.
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Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:10 am
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Causality

Rob Tudero
Canada
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6) As a general rule of preference, I dislike dice and victory points
The game will be card-driven.

2) The game cannot be very restricting and linear. Part of the fun in the idea of time travel games is that you can have unforeseen consequences in your actions.

The simplest way to make sure that the events of the timeline are not too linear is to change how they are related. The hypothetical world this board game will take place in can have levels of W(ar), C(ulture), and T(echnology) for every Era. Every event card will have two sides, with one representing that the event happened, and it's flip side representing that it did not happen. There would be requirement stats that would determine which side would be in play. For example, you might have a 1936 Olympics card, with a requirement of 5W and 4C resulting in the Olympics taking place in Berlin. This in turn might generate certain levels of W for the next Era. But if the W levels were less than 5, or the C levels were less than 4, the 1936 Olympics card would be flipped over, and would take place in Spain instead.
Overall, no events are directly linked with any other events.

Thematically, this actually works out pretty well. WWI is widely agreed upon to have been sparked by the assassination of Archduke Frans Ferdinand. But would WWI have occurred if the assassination didn't happen?
Probably! All the pieces were in place, and stopping the assassination might delay it, but not stop it altogether. All this would thematically reflect time travel in a universe with Rubber band history. Changes to the past get smoothed over as time passes, and big events are hard to prevent unless lots of changes are made.

*All examples used are arbitrary, and I don't intend on using real events like the 1936 Olympics. War, culture, and technology aren't set in stone either.
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Sun Feb 26, 2012 10:29 pm
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Groundwork

Rob Tudero
Canada
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Time travel is an awesome theme for a board game, but the iconic time travel board game has not yet been made. I decided to start with a few rules and ideas, and work from there.


Game Mechanics

1) It is important to have a working time travel mechanic that is not convoluted. Time travel is strange and unique, and if the finished product can be re-themed, it has failed.

2) The game cannot be very restricting and linear. Part of the fun in the idea of time travel games is that you can have unforeseen consequences in your actions. I think this is what makes Chrononauts less fun, and also hurts its replayability.

3) The game can't be too expansive in its timeline. One possible solution could be to make a completely artificial world/people/timeline that feels natural (people of the Meeple planet develop slavery -> serfdom -> caste system and so on in a 'logical' way). Another possible solution would be to restrict the range of the timeline, and to populate it with more localized events (7 days to complete your mission)

4)Balance across the timeline. Past and future events should be balanced in a way that there are risks and rewards to being in either.

5) Paradoxes should be a part of the game in some manner, because that's the best part of time travel. Stable time loops might be an interesting feature too, if they are a byproduct of mechanics.

6) As a general rule of preference, I dislike dice and victory points
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Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:01 am
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