Winter Olympics

A blog about games based on winter Olympic sports, which probably can't actually be called "Winter Olympics" for trademark reasons.
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First Event: Downhill Skiing

Jeff Warrender
United States
Averill Park
New York
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As mentioned in the previous post, the game that started this project is "Downhill Racer", about the downhill. The design challenge with this one was to come up with a mechanism that involves few decisions, to capture the immediacy of the sport -- you're supposed to feel like you're making decisions while hurtling along at 120 kph.

Each card represents a portion of the course -- a turn, a jump -- and tests a single skill -- gliding, turning, maintaining good form. You resolve each card in the same way: roll two dice, choose a line, and then roll three more dice and see whether you held your line. The "line" is the path you're going to take through the course element: are you going to hug close to the gate, or swing wide? In game terms, the more aggressive lines require more symbols from the dice, but are rewarded with a bigger boost to your speed.

If you held your line, you adjust your speed on the "speed track", and then increase your score by the number on the speed track. (So, the score can be thought of as "how much time you saved by skiing well). If you don't hold your line, you have to spend "save tokens", in an amount equal to your speed -- so, the faster you're going, the riskier it is to attack the aggressive lines.

There's also an effect whereby you look at a special set of half-symbols at the bottom on the current course card, and see whether any of them line up with a similar set of symbols at the top of the previous card; if so, any matching dice results are canceled. This allows for realistic effects like switchback turns (ie a left and then a right), compressions (a flat region following a steep region), and fatigue, all in a relatively simple framework.

The cards can be reconfigured in a large number of ways to permit a variety of courses, but replaying a single course can also be fun, to see if you can improve your time. Much of the skill in the game involves properly managing your speed -- you don't want to carry too much speed into a difficult sequence of turns, or you'll run out of save tokens and crash. So, knowing where the difficult spots on a course are helps you to manage this.

The game takes about 6-8 minutes to play, and so, while it's perfectly suitable for multiplayer play, a player does have a bit of a wait until his turn comes up. The importance of familiarizing yourself with the course does at least make it worthwhile to pay attention as the other players take their turns.
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