Greg's Design Blog

A collection of posts by game designer Gregory Carslaw, including mirrors of all of his blogs maintained for particular projects. A complete index of posts can be found here:
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Original Post

I'd love to add some more interesting events to Robots, Monkeys and Cannibalism. At the moment each turn one of three events occur for the crew and robots to react to: An enemy ship appears, a planet is discovered or a meteor hurtles towards the ship. Partly this was driven by an attempt to use pictures and iconography as much as possible, so that the game would be less language dependant (It will not be language independent, that required the objectives to be too uniform, which made them dull.) These days, keeping the events to this mix is an increasing necessity as playtesting is helping me zero in on the best balance of event types and objectives. Since some objectives concern the events there needs to be an at least reasonable chance that any particular event will either happen at least once or close enough to the top of the inactive events deck that a player could reasonably navigate the ship into it. as

So adding more events means that they cannot interact with the probability of existing events coming up. At the moment the event deck is ten cards big, one is drawn each turn and the game ends when the last card is drawn. The length of the ten turn game is generally identified as "just right" or "a little too short" by testers, which suits me very well - I'd rather not mess with it. One option would be to draw two events a turn and double the number of events in the deck, which would keep the overall game time and the frequency with which the current events occur roughly in line. This seemed promising at first, but adds an issue that a double-event is possible, if a player has a mission to (for example) destroy enemy ships it could become next to impossible if the enemy ships that showed up happened to do so in pairs so there was only time to shoot one.

There's also another attribute that I'd like extra events to have, I'd like them to be optional. At the moment the game is fairly quick to teach and is playing pretty well. The motivation to do something extra with the events comes from experienced players wishing that there was more variety to the events, new players might be better off with things as they are. A part of me would be tempted to leave such things for an expansion, but the presence of optional events would produce some other opportunities, such as being able to create events to serve as convention promos. Events based on events, as it were.

At the moment the best solution that occurs to me is to shift the effect of the extra events sideways. Instead of providing an obstacle that should be overcome by activating some device or acquiring some item, what if they changed the rules in some way for a turn? This sort of event card could occur concurrently with a regular one and cause no problems to existing game balance while still providing some extra variety and interest for experienced players.

My initial ideas started with things like "moves that would go left now go right and vice-versa" due to too much Bomberman, but I soon realised that these events essentially did nothing as ratio of different types of movement card in a player's hand was not held from turn to turn so the odds of having a left or right move were essentially unchanged. In real time such an idea is interesting because a player's muscle memory is wrong and it takes them a moment to react, in a game with no time limit it would simply lead to people taking a bit longer to plan their moves.

Now I'm leaning more towards events that change some rule about how the game plays to make things possible that otherwise could not be achieved. For instance, an anomaly that allows all players to ignore the usual limit on the number of items they can pick up for one turn only. This might change a player strategy or let them try something novel, but as there are no objectives that are directly "pick up a lot of items" it does not risk arbitrarily producing a win for a random player. I call these events anomalies and ideally they can provide a different game experience for more practiced players while providing a slight advantage to whoever can best take advantage of the changing situation.

The last decision to be made is on how these should be delivered. They should occur alongside regular events, so the obvious solution is to have a separate anomalies deck and draw one card from the event deck and the anomaly deck each turn. Another option is to add them to the regular events deck with the stipulation that when an anomaly is drawn an additional event card is immediately played from the inactive events deck. I'm leaning towards the second one as it allows players to manipulate potential anomalies using the navigation computer and more interaction is generally a good thing. However it also has the downside that on a given turn there may be two (or more) anomalies, which means that they need to be worded such that they cannot create rules which conflict with each other. Then again, it allows for a finer balance of the ratios of events to anomalies, where a separate deck would require them to occur in the same quantities.

I'll do some testing with them and see how it goes.
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