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Garret Rempel
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I'm working on a mechanic design problem with a couple of different options, but I'm not sure on which solution would be the best in terms of fairness, fun, ease of understanding, and practicality. Any thoughts you might have would be much appreciated!

Ok - the project I am working on is both co-operative and competitive. In an abstract fashion it can be compared to Legendary, where players co-operate to defeat the enemy - but they also compete to score the most points.

In this case, there are 11 "Active" cards on the board (with various effects), and when a new card is played, the oldest card gets discarded. This means the players must contribute to a constant cycle playing cards to maintain the team's power level, while also deciding to play tactical cards that do not contribute to the team's power level, but provide a one-time effect that may be more beneficial in the short-term.

There is also a "Randomizer" - a card that gets played into the cycle every few turns that is drawn from the top of the deck.

My challenge is trying to decide between the merits of having a single massive queue of 11 cards that every player contributes towards, or dividing up those 11 slots among the players and the Randomizer so everyone has their own 2 or 3 card queue cycle while the total team's power is still calculated based on all the cards currently in play.

Option 1 - Individual Queues
The individual queue option allows players to have more control over replacing effects that disappear, because they will always be replacing an effect that they played earlier in the game. But it is more challenging in deciding how to divvy up the queues - the number of 'slots' each player has will vary wildly depending on how many people are playing the game. It also means that the Randomizer has wildly varying levels of impact on the game depending on whether its queue is only 1 card, or if it gets 5 cards.

Option 2 - Single Queue
The alternative is simpler in terms of implementation, there is a fixed number of cards and play always involves adding a card to the queue and removing a card from it. The drawbacks I see are tablespace - shuffling 11 cards around when you also have a board in play is challenging, and each player has less control over their own impact on the game - they cannot plan a cycle of cards by knowing when the card they play will be discarded.

Any thoughts on this? Any opinions? Have any of you tried to implement a similar mechanic before?

Thanks for your thoughts,

Garret Rempel
Tricorn Games
 
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Craig Somerton
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Introducing competitive elements into a co-operative game can prove divisive.

While the core of co-ops is to work together, introducing a competitive scoring element can seriously backfire and wreck the whole game.

I tried to do this in one of my designs and it worked quite well, until I encountered a number of highly competitive players, one of whom realised they could NOT win as an individual, so they decide the spoil the game for everyone by playing against the group.

I even tried a hidden scoring mechanism to mitigate this, but they were still able to roughly track the points and determine their score, and as soon as they realised someone else was going to win, they spoiled the whole game, which led to arguments and diminished everyone's enjoyment.

Yes, there are definitely people out there who act like this and it can destroy a game completely.

In my opinion, either make the game co-op OR competitive, but combining the two seldom works in practice.
 
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Garret Rempel
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I recognize that those kinds of situations are possible, and I appreciate your feedback and experience. But in this situation I have a clear vision of the game and the experience I want to both create, and play.

I am working to try and incorporate additional options for point scoring other than the most obvious path in order to provide more than one way to win to try and ensure that a player who falls behind still has valid options available to them within the structure of the game - and just enough randomness that it can throw a wrench into someone's plans.

So, thank you - but I am going to continue to work on developing my concept. I do have a few design details that I am/will be looking for input on and I appreciate any thoughts you may have!
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JT Schiavo
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How tied are you to the idea of 11 cards in play? That seems to be the complication in either design.

Impulse, a competitive game, uses a similar idea where there are always three cards in play, players add a new card, then the oldest is removed. Each player activates all the actions in order, and generally the player that can best utilize other player's cards will end up winning.

Do the cards have other effects when in play, or when first played, or removed? Or are they just a resource to count?
 
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Garret Rempel
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You are right that 11 cards is a complication in both cases - and managing how that gets distributed is my primary challenge in this question.

The reason I have 11 cards in place (though the final number might be different - it will be close to that) is that there are 3 power attributes that are being maintained (size, strength, speed) that are key to scoring points, while other cards affect things like positioning, secondary effects, negative effects, and extra turns.

The Size, Strength, Speed cards can be +1, +2, or +3 - and it works out that having 11 cards in play produces a great balance in being able to maintain one or two attributes at an optimal level (based on the current board state) - but also provides interesting tradeoffs:

Do I let the team's Strength decay and not be able to achieve maximum points - but increase the speed in order to strike more targets and get more points overall?
Do I let the team's Size drop down a notch and get fewer points this turn by playing a positioning card that makes it more difficult for all my opponents to get points on their turn and set something up for next round?

While the cards are in play, they maintain the team's attributes (size, strength, speed) and when they drop out of play those attributes are reduced.

I apologize for approaching this in an abstract fashion - but I'm not at a point where I am yet ready to release a lot of concept details that explain some of those choices. But thank you for the reference - I'm not familiar with Impulse, I'll check it out to see if there is something there that can help shed light on my challenge, or perhaps present an alternative implementation.
 
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Garret Rempel
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Thinking about this some more - if I lay out 11 cards on the board in a row:

X X X X X X X X X X X

I can avoid the need to shuffle cards around by creating a marker that gets placed on the first card:

X* X X X X X X X X X X

Then when a player takes their turn, they always replace the card with the marker, and move the marker to the next card:

Y X* X X X X X X X X X

This might be a more efficient and simpler way of managing a rotating board of this many cards, while still maintaining a single shared queue.
 
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Dave Schroeder
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grempel wrote:
Option 1 - Individual Queues
The individual queue option allows players to have more control over replacing effects that disappear, because they will always be replacing an effect that they played earlier in the game. But it is more challenging in deciding how to divvy up the queues - the number of 'slots' each player has will vary wildly depending on how many people are playing the game. It also means that the Randomizer has wildly varying levels of impact on the game depending on whether its queue is only 1 card, or if it gets 5 cards.

If you are replacing the cards in order, than having the queues together or separate will only minimally change the outcome. In a 3 player game, I would replace my oldest card every 4 turns (12 overall turns)with separate queues, or every 11 overall turns (just before my 4th turn) with a shared queue. It sounds to me like the big problems would come from how the randomizer works (would it only effect my 4 cards, or everyones?) and how you handle the rounding (would you have 3x4 cards in a 3 player game? 5x2? would the "rounded" cards be in a shared queue, or a revolving extra player slot?)

grempel wrote:
Option 2 - Single Queue
The alternative is simpler in terms of implementation, there is a fixed number of cards and play always involves adding a card to the queue and removing a card from it. The drawbacks I see are tablespace - shuffling 11 cards around when you also have a board in play is challenging, and each player has less control over their own impact on the game - they cannot plan a cycle of cards by knowing when the card they play will be discarded.

I think a marker easily solves the tablespace issue, or if you don't want an extra piece you could just place the new card rotated 180 degrees so that you always replace the last upside down (or right side up) card. If I'm understanding the mechanics correctly, you will still know that every card you play will be there for 11 turns. This may mean 2-4 of your turns, but that is a function of how many players, not where the cards are.

If you want to increase involvement you could always remove the first in, first out replacement and just have players replace whatever card they want. This opens up a few new concerns, but ensures that every player has the same input regardless of number of players.
 
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JT Schiavo
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What about changing to a five card queue, but doubling the value of each card (and possibly creating hybrid cards like +3 strength, +1 size). This creates bigger swings and a less stable state, fostering tactical gameplay.

Don't know if that is the direction you want to go, though.


Individual queues seem like they would be harder to add up since the bus are scattered around the table, so it might be worthwhile to use a stat tracker that is updated as cards come and go.
 
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Garret Rempel
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Those are good thoughts.

1) Yes - the effect of in-order replacement means that there is little difference between individual player queues and a shared queue. The randomizer would have its own queue in the individual queue option - but because it generally drops cards at a higher frequency than the players there would be some difference between the two schemes.

The 'extra' slots would always be allocated to the randomizer regardless of the number of players.

2) The idea of selecting which card to replace opens up an interesting question - but it would be in every players best interest to keep any large-value state cards in play at all times and simply compete over positioning.

If I were to look modifying the order of operations so that a player adds a card, resolves their turn, and then removes the oldest card, then in many cases the optimal solution would be to replace a large state card with one from your hand so that you gain the benefit of both, but the other players do not.

In either case, its an interesting thought exercise - but in the end produces a less interesting result.

I may consider keeping the order of operations change however even with a single shared queue - which I am now strongly leaning towards. A player will be able to play a card, gain the benefit of all 12 on the table, and then removing the oldest card at the end of their turn.
 
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Garret Rempel
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crinaya wrote:
What about changing to a five card queue, but doubling the value of each card (and possibly creating hybrid cards like +3 strength, +1 size). This creates bigger swings and a less stable state, fostering tactical gameplay.

Don't know if that is the direction you want to go, though.


Individual queues seem like they would be harder to add up since the bus are scattered around the table, so it might be worthwhile to use a stat tracker that is updated as cards come and go.


A couple of notes - I do have a stat tracker in play, so that is taken care of. And I have been considering a smaller queue with larger value cards as well. The challenge with that is balancing attributes with non-attribute effects. As soon as you increase the value of attribute cards, you reduce the value of effect cards (or you have to increase the value of their effect).

I was also considering separating Attribute and Effect cards - so having a smaller queue that is only Attributes, while effects are played and do not result in changes to the state. But the downside to that approach is that once you have a good set of Attributes established, then the players would be inclined to stop playing those cards.
 
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JT Schiavo
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grempel wrote:
crinaya wrote:
What about changing to a five card queue, but doubling the value of each card (and possibly creating hybrid cards like +3 strength, +1 size). This creates bigger swings and a less stable state, fostering tactical gameplay.

Don't know if that is the direction you want to go, though.


Individual queues seem like they would be harder to add up since the bus are scattered around the table, so it might be worthwhile to use a stat tracker that is updated as cards come and go.


A couple of notes - I do have a stat tracker in play, so that is taken care of. And I have been considering a smaller queue with larger value cards as well. The challenge with that is balancing attributes with non-attribute effects. As soon as you increase the value of attribute cards, you reduce the value of effect cards (or you have to increase the value of their effect).

I was also considering separating Attribute and Effect cards - so having a smaller queue that is only Attributes, while effects are played and do not result in changes to the state. But the downside to that approach is that once you have a good set of Attributes established, then the players would be inclined to stop playing those cards.


If you go in this direction, you could make two decks, one for attributes and one for effects, and require that a player plays one of each on every turn.

To balance effects versus attributes, you could link the effect to the attribute played. Either make it so you can only play the effect with specific attributes (strength only, +2 only, etc) or scale the effect (bigger bonus when played with a smaller attribute).


If you stick with the 11 card queue, I think I would prefer individual if you can balance the queue sizes per player count.
 
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Dave Schroeder
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grempel wrote:
crinaya wrote:
What about changing to a five card queue, but doubling the value of each card (and possibly creating hybrid cards like +3 strength, +1 size). This creates bigger swings and a less stable state, fostering tactical gameplay.

Don't know if that is the direction you want to go, though.


Individual queues seem like they would be harder to add up since the bus are scattered around the table, so it might be worthwhile to use a stat tracker that is updated as cards come and go.


A couple of notes - I do have a stat tracker in play, so that is taken care of. And I have been considering a smaller queue with larger value cards as well. The challenge with that is balancing attributes with non-attribute effects. As soon as you increase the value of attribute cards, you reduce the value of effect cards (or you have to increase the value of their effect).

I was also considering separating Attribute and Effect cards - so having a smaller queue that is only Attributes, while effects are played and do not result in changes to the state. But the downside to that approach is that once you have a good set of Attributes established, then the players would be inclined to stop playing those cards.


Is there a reason not to mix attributes and effects on the same card? You could have a +3 strength card, or a +2 strength with some thematically related effect.
 
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JT Schiavo
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dschro1 wrote:
grempel wrote:
crinaya wrote:
What about changing to a five card queue, but doubling the value of each card (and possibly creating hybrid cards like +3 strength, +1 size). This creates bigger swings and a less stable state, fostering tactical gameplay.

Don't know if that is the direction you want to go, though.


Individual queues seem like they would be harder to add up since the bus are scattered around the table, so it might be worthwhile to use a stat tracker that is updated as cards come and go.


A couple of notes - I do have a stat tracker in play, so that is taken care of. And I have been considering a smaller queue with larger value cards as well. The challenge with that is balancing attributes with non-attribute effects. As soon as you increase the value of attribute cards, you reduce the value of effect cards (or you have to increase the value of their effect).

I was also considering separating Attribute and Effect cards - so having a smaller queue that is only Attributes, while effects are played and do not result in changes to the state. But the downside to that approach is that once you have a good set of Attributes established, then the players would be inclined to stop playing those cards.


Is there a reason not to mix attributes and effects on the same card? You could have a +3 strength card, or a +2 strength with some thematically related effect.


He has them on the same cards now, which is why he has an 11 card queue. If he wants stronger cards with a smaller queue though, the effects don't scale well, so I was looking at alternatives.
 
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Garret Rempel
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Thanks for the feedback! - I think I've got a few things to try out and see what will work best in practice.
 
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Dave Schroeder
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crinaya wrote:
He has them on the same cards now, which is why he has an 11 card queue. If he wants stronger cards with a smaller queue though, the effects don't scale well, so I was looking at alternatives.


Maybe I misunderstood. Going by this snippet, it sounded like the cards were in the same deck, but individually only had either an attribute or an effect:

grempel wrote:
The challenge with that is balancing attributes with non-attribute effects. As soon as you increase the value of attribute cards, you reduce the value of effect cards (or you have to increase the value of their effect).


Going from +3 to +6 makes a big difference if your effects remain the same, or can't ramp up in the same way, hence the thought of mixing them on the same card to help balance.
 
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Garret Rempel
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At the moment - "Effect" and "Attribute" cards are the in the same deck and are applied into the same queue.

"Attributes" can boost a single attribute by +1 to +3 (based on a distribution) - although I am intending to add in a few +1/+1 cards to provide additional options.

"Effect" cards do not impact attributes at all (with the exception of a couple of powerful position cards that comes with a -1 attribute for balance).

A few things I am going to experiment with:
1) Using a central queue (instead of split up among players / randomizer) and using a marker system to denote which is the 'oldest' card for replacement.

2) Modifying the order of operations, allowing players to add a card and resolve the effect before removing the oldest card

3) Using a smaller central queue (5 or 6 cards) and boosting the power of the cards being played both by increasing the power and adding 'dual-attribute' and similar combination cards.

4) Modify the approach in #3 by using a smaller central queue (5 or 6 slots) and allow players to play 2 cards from their hand at the same time to increase the ability for players to control the game.


I have some concerns about how shortening the queue will impact the game, because it increases the volatility of the game state significantly - but I will test it out to see how it plays and whether or not that volatility is more fun to play.
 
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