Trumps, sheep, and old dice

P.D. Magnus' ruminations on gaming, along with shrill promotion of his own designs.

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The economy in Goblin Market

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In Goblin Market, you’re buying something at a particular bid may give a small fixed amount to another player. (This was inspired by a Michael Schacht game, except in Schacht's game you give your whole bid over to opponents who hold the right cards.) This infusion of Sisterhood Money is part of what keeps the economy moving.

The rule has been through multiple versions.

1 An early version of the game just paid out to players who held exactly the right rank of card. For example: If you bid 7, 17, or 27, then each other player gets a fixed amount for every 7-rank card they have.

With the earliest playtest group, this meant that players would always nudge their bid up by a bit to avoid a rank at which anyone would get Sisterhood Money. This meant that the rule didn't put new money into the economy. Quite the opposite, most auctions removed a coin or two more than they would have without the rule.

2 My fix for this was to have a kind of dragging window for payouts. For example: If you bid 7, 17, or 27, then each other player gets $3 for every 7 they have, $2 for every 6 they have, and $1 for every 5 they have.

This fixes the problem, because nudging your bid up won't totally nullify payment. In the example, nudging your bid up to 8 means a player with 7s will get a bit less rather than nothing.

This was the rule published in The Decktet Book. It worked but was fiddly and hard to remember. Nate Straight played it entirely backwards and then complained about how wonky it was.

3 In recent playtesting, we simplified the old rule by making it symmetrical. For example: If you bid 7, 17, or 27, then each other player gets $2 for every 6 they have, $2 for every 7 they have, and $2 for every 8 they have.

This is less fiddly and easier to remember. You can't play it backwards.

Still, smearing out the payment means that most players don't pay attention to it when bidding. This makes it effectively random. Any amount of fiddliness is too much if it's just random bonus money.

4 So now I'm tempted to go back to the original rule, but that will bring with it the original problems.

Here's a totally untested possibility: If you bid 7, 17, or 27, then each other player gets $3 for every 7-rank card they have (just like the original rule). If nobody has a 7, though, other players get $3 for each 6 they have. And if nobody has a 6, then other players get $3 for each 5... and so on. (If nobody has an Ace, then circle back around to Crowns.)

The upshot is that some rank always pays out with Sisterhood Money. Nudging your bid around might make a big different as to where it goes, but you can't nudge it into a void so that nobody gets money.

Thoughts? Spielbany is coming up next weekend, so maybe I'll try this out.
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Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:16 pm
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My recent plays of Goblin Market

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I mentioned in my previous post that I've been tested revisions to Goblin Market. The playtest thread lags behind the current tests, so I'm writing this post to explain where the revisions are at.

Why change it?

Although the old Goblin Market had its fans, there were several serious problems with it.

yuk About a third of the cards were thrown out. You could be hosed if you committed to suits that just happened to be set aside.

yuk The game ended too early.

Some people used a double deck to fix these first two problems, but it's not a perfect solution. And I've figured out how to do it with a single deck.

yuk Players ended up being indifferent to lots of cards. If a card had one suit you liked and one you didn't, taking it was just a break-even proposition. This drained potential tension out of many choices, especially when deciding to take one or all of the cards from a large lot.

Changes that have tested well

The deck: Shuffle the Pawns and Courts into the deck at the beginning of the game.

Determine the size of each auction by flipping over the top card of the deck and discarding it. The auction will have one card for each suit on the discarded card: if it's an Ace or Crown, one card; if it's a number-ranked card, two cards; if it's a Pawn or Court, three cards.

When the deck is exhausted the first time, shuffle the discard pile to make a new deck. When the deck is down to three or fewer cards for a second time, those cards comprise the final auction.

Goblin Money: Since the Pawns and Courts are in the deck now, they can't be used as a separate mechanism for determining income. So the new rule is that a player who passes during an auction gets one coin for each card in the auction (that is, they get coins equal to the size of the auction).

Sisterhood Money: Considering the last digit of the winning high bid, players who don't get cards from an auction earn two coins for each card they hold of the rank below, of that rank, and of the rank above. (This just simplifies the old rule.)

Scoring: At the end of the game, consider your holdings in all six suits.

For the suit you have the most of, each card is worth +1
For the suit you have the second-most of, each card is worth +2
For the suit you have the third-most of, each card is worth +3
For the suit you have the fourth-most of, each card is worth -1
For the suit you have the fifth-most of, each card is worth -2
For the suit you have the six-most of, each card is worth -3

This works best with suit chips. When you get cards, take chips corresponding to those suits. Then you can put your stacks of chips in order from most to least, pushing them around if one stack outgrows the one next to it.

Changes that are more speculative

Bid lockout: Players can't make a bid with a last digit that matches the rank of a card they own. For example: If you have a 3, then you can't bid 3, 13, 23, ...

With constrained bidding, the rule for Sisterhood Money becomes three coins for each card exactly matching the last digit of the winning high bid.

This avoids a problem which could arise depending on the group. Some players would get into bidding wars in which they'd increase the bid by 1 many times, while talking a long time to think about each little increase. The rule makes bids jump more.

Mostly it works to increase the painfulness of auctions. In our playtest, the grip of it tightens over the course of the game and the game ends before any player is totally locked out.

wow Zero bids: Especially with three players, there can be several auctions that nobody wants to bid on. A possible fix for this is that the first bidder (the player who won the previous auction) must bid, although they are allowed to bid zero. This would mean that every auction results in somebody getting a card.

This is totally untested, but I'll try it next time I play. I suspect that it will create more painful but funny situations. Whether it's a good idea depends on whether or not those amuse you.

How to play it now

The changes to the deck and payments have worked well. I suggest playing with those even if you like the old game. They make sure more cards are in play, streamline payment while giving everybody about the same amount of money as before, and make the game a more satisfying length.

The change to scoring has also worked well. Playtesters enjoy it. It is heavier than the old version, though, and it wouldn't work if you didn't have suit chips.

The bid lockout rule works OK. Try it if it sounds fun to you.

The zero bids rule might not be a good idea, but it won't break the game completely. Try it if you want to experiment.

If you play with any of these rules, please report back.
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Wed Jan 2, 2019 7:03 pm
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Much played games of 2018

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I've listed my much-played games from the previous year, like you do. I recently discovered Robin Levins' GCL games-played formatting tool which did most of the work.

Spirit Island x133 NEW!
We got this over the summer, and it has become our go-to laundry day game. We can play 4-6 games on a Sunday while waiting for the washer and dryer.
It scales well, both in terms of size and in terms of difficulty. We have played two spirits each a few times, when we wanted a giant event, but mostly we play with one each on a smaller island. The different adversaries and variants provide lots of ways to change to ratchet up the difficulty.
It is an impressive design, definitely my game of the year, and something I know we'll be playing more of in 2019.

Sentinels of the Multiverse x40 (640 all-time)
We got back into playing Sentinels at the beginning of the year. Once the long-delayed Oblivaeon set finally arrived, however, we'd moved on to other things. So we've only played the Oblivaeon scenario once (a win! on New Year's Eve!) and we haven't tried any of the new environments or heroes from the set.

Unpublished Prototype x27 (279 all-time)
As always, this is a catch-all for playtesting rather than any specific game. As an index of how much better 2018 was than 2017, I had more plays of Unpublished Prototype last year than I had of any game the year before.

Scrutineyes x25 (68 all-time)
10 Days in the USA x24 (39 all-time)

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King x20 (38 all-time)
Isle of Skye is a game I still enjoy playing, with or without expansions. It is great for game night, because it is simple enough to teach but rich enough that it rewards repeated play.

Altiplano x19 NEW!
Altiplano was our laundry day game for a while, before we got Spirit Island.
I have the expansion, but I haven't opened it yet.

Kingdom Builder x17 (138 all-time)
I always enjoy Kingdom Builder and would love to play it more often. The last two expansions are bit frustrating, though, because their complexity makes them hard to teach (especially to new players).

The Mind x16 NEW!
The Mind is surprisingly fun. It creates uncanny moments when you feel like you're on the same wave length as someone else, but it's not clear whether it was just chance.

Through the Desert x15 NEW!
This is a classic that I wanted to try, but nobody in my group owned a copy. So I bought to recent reprint, and was really happy with it. It's medium-short, and it's fun even with players who wouldn't ordinarily go in for an abstract.

Codenames: Pictures x14 (68 all-time)
All two-player.

Liar's Dice x14 (37 all-time)
A standard for game night, either before, after, or in between heavier fare.

High Society x10 (62 all-time)
Ditto.

10 Days in Europe x9 NEW!
Escape: The Curse of the Temple x9 (87 all-time)
Coloretto x8 (54 all-time)

Five Tribes x8 (22 all-time)
This is perhaps my favorite game that I don't own. Asaf regularly brings his copy to game night, though, and that's where I play it.

Kingdomino x8 (21 all-time)
I played less of this than I expected to. It may have been eclipsed by other things.

Zendo x8 (58 all-time)
Codenames Duet x6 (18 all-time)

Goblin Market x6 NEW!
This year I've been working on revised rules which take the tensions and action at the core of Goblin Market and crank them up to 11. So I've played it several times and gotten other people to play it a few more times than that.
The script flags Goblin Market as new, but it's not really. All of my old plays were before it had its own entry, so they're listed as plays of the Decktet.

Sluff Off! x6 (49 all-time)
One of the cards in my french copy (Les 7 Sceaux) got bent in a way that marks it, so I ended up buying a copy of the english language release (Sluff Off!). Regardless of the name, it's a great game. Possibly the only thing on the list that I regret not playing more in 2018.

Bärenpark x5 (6 all-time)
Glass Road x5 (10 all-time)
Some other enjoyable games that I'd think about buying, except that Asaf brings them to game night.

The games I've listed comprised almost 80% of my total plays in 2018. I played 72 other games, too, but I'm cutting the list off at ones that I played five times or more.

There were 45 games that I played only once, some with good reason and some just because there are so many games. El Grande, Mombasa, and Notre Dame (to name a few) are all things I'd happily have played more. But that would have meant playing something else less, and I've got not regrets.

2018 was a good year overall for games.
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Tue Jan 1, 2019 6:56 pm
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Soft release of the Capital Decktet

P.D. Magnus
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I had planned to release the Capital Decktet before the end of October. Some people had indicated interest in giving it as a holiday gift, and I wanted to give them ample time to order it, receive it, wrap it, and give it away. Some people have holiday parties early, you know?

Other demands on my time have precluded a big flashy release in that time frame. I don't have time to turn the crank on the big promotional machine. I have made it available, and I'm letting you guys in on it now.

E The Double Decktet at DriveThru Cards, a double-deck that includes both the classic and capital decks W

I've also made the Decktet suit cards public. They're an optional accessory, used in place of suit tokens or colored cubes.

If you are especially fond of the firmament card back, maybe pick up a regular copy of the Decktet too. I haven't decided what the card back will be for single decks going forward, but I plan to stop offering the firmament card back after the 1st of the year.

EDIT: As of Dec 2, it's actually really released.
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Wed Oct 31, 2018 4:44 am
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New rule sheets for the Decktet

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The proof copy of the Capital Decktet should arrive early this week.

While I'm waiting, I've been revising the rules documents that are offered as a PDF download along with purchases of the deck. It has an all-new 'about the Decktet' page along with rules for Adaman, Emu Ranchers, Jacynth, Nonesuch, and Thricewise.

Here's a link to the current draft of the new rules. It's still a work in progress, so comments are welcome.

LINK: Decktet Rules [pdf]

While I'm at it, here's another sneak peek at the new cards--

From gallery of pmagnus


EDIT to add another linky sneak peek:

LINK: Info cards that will come with the Capital Decktet [pdf]
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Mon Oct 15, 2018 5:56 am
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Only a bit left on the Capital Decktet

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It's been a while since I posted a progress update on the Capital Decktet, the long-running project to create a counterpart to the classic Decktet which will have the same ranks and suits but different art and card names.

Some of the delay has been because the semester started and life intruded. But part of it has been because the last details have been the hardest to resolve.

I put in an order today for a test print of the entire deck, including some information and reference cards. If it all checks out, then a release before Halloween is possible. My target for a while has been to release it in time for holiday gift-giving.

In any case, here is a sneak peek at two of the remaining cards. (If my tally is correct, this leaves four cards unpreviewed.)

From gallery of pmagnus


The Regent is power and glory in the gaps. There cannot be a monarch always and everywhere. When and where there is not, a Regent fosters and protects the kingdom.

Diligent to a fault, the Farrier's business is to make everyone else's business possible. The Farrier's rest is like anyone else's industry.
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Fri Oct 5, 2018 2:59 am
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Ruminating on test prints

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Although the art for the card back was selected a while ago, the colour for the line work was still up in the air.

I had a set of samples printed in 17 different colours. Two colours which are not associated with a specific Decktet suit are red and purple. The red card backs all looked either too bright or too brown-ish. So it's down to these two:

From gallery of pmagnus
From gallery of pmagnus


At the same time, I ordered a test set of Decktet currency cards. These are mini cards to serve as suit tokens for games like Magnate.

From gallery of pmagnus
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Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:52 am
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A jackpot preview of the Capital Decktet

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Work continues on the Capital Decktet, a project to create a counterpart to the classic Decktet which will have the same ranks and suits but different art and card names.

Here's a peek at the 7 rank cards.

From gallery of pmagnus


The Fortuitous Loss: You might sacrifice something to save part of yourself, or you might sacrifice part of yourself to save a treasured thing. You can argue after the fact that price was too high, but who is to say that everything wouldn't be much worse if you hadn't paid it?

The Eye: There is a stable point in the middle of things, and to miss it even slightly risks losing everything.

The Forge: It can beat swords into ploughshares. It can beat ploughshares into swords. The furnace is hot and there is work to be done.
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Fri Jul 27, 2018 1:49 am
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Names of things in Magnate X

P.D. Magnus
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In the last post, I introduced a variant of Magnate for three or four players.

S Over in the design thread I asked whether the title sounded better as (singular) Magnate Empire or as (plural) Magnate Empires. MC replied, but in hopes of a larger sample I've made it a poll.

That's the first poll question.

S The other question requires a bit more explanation.

Magnate is themed as being about competing to develop a city. So I called the base cards "districts". The titles are the Borderland, the Harvest, the Watchman, the Light Keeper, and the Excuse, none of which make sense as names for districts of a city. But the theme is thin enough that it doesn't really matter.

The new variant is about helping with the recovery in a disaster area. So "districts" doesn't even work with the veneer of theme. So I'm calling the base cards "projects" instead. The three projects are the Borderland (security), the Harvest (productivity), and the Excuse (general festive hijinks).

Today it occured to me that "projects" also makes more sense in original Magnate: the Borderland (foreign security), the Harvest (productivity), the Watchman (domestic security), the Light Keeper (civil buildings), and the Excuse (festivities).

An argument against changing it is just that they've been districts for years.

That's the second poll question.

Poll
What should the three/four-player variant of Magnate be called?
 Choices Your Answer  Bars Vote Percent Vote Count
Magnate Empire
44.0 percent
44.0% 11
Magnate Empires
52.0 percent
52.0% 13
Something else, and I'll explain in a comment
4.0 percent
4.0% 1
Voters 25
What should the cards that players vie over be called in Magnate?
 Choices Your Answer  Bars Vote Percent Vote Count
Districts
60.9 percent
60.9% 14
Projects
34.8 percent
34.8% 8
Something else, and I'll explain in a comment
4.3 percent
4.3% 1
Voters 23
This poll is now closed.   25 answers
Poll created by pmagnus
Closes: Fri Aug 31, 2018 6:00 am


Comments welcome.
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Fri Jul 6, 2018 6:06 pm
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Vie against more in Magnate Empire

P.D. Magnus
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Cristyn and I have toyed with multi-player variants of her game Magnate almost since the beginning.

One problem was table space. In the two-player game, players play on opposite sides of a line. With three or more players, cards got turned in 6 or more different directions and became a hard-to-parse jumble.

Another problem was scoring. Original two-player Magnate awards a point for majority in each of five districts. A multi-player game needed something less granular.

Another problem was pace. Adding more players with the same turn structure made for more downtime. And since you got more chances at income before your turn, it distorted the economy.

We made up a variant that avoids these problems. We've tested it a fair bit both with three and four players, both with players who had played Magnate before and with ones who hadn't.

Rules are over in the Magnate variants forum.

TL;DR: Magnate Empire

Comments are welcome.
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Sat Jun 30, 2018 4:49 pm
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