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The Mission: actions and action selection

Jeff Warrender
United States
Averill Park
New York
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Initial post here. Time to start fleshing things out on this one a bit.

This game is clearly inspired by PR and it will have some overt similarities. The scoring systems will have little in common, so I think they'll feel quite different, but certainly there will be some overlap, and one of these is in the use of roles to trigger actions. To me the most undersold bit of theming in PR is the roles: we're each going to pick a key person to come visit our island and do some work for us, but since that person has come all the way across the ocean to get here, they might as well provide their services to everyone else while they're here.

Anyway, the problem with the turn mechanic as implemented in PR is the seat order effect it introduces. Instead of solving that by shaking up the seat order in some way, in this game we're going to make that problem explicit and then try to design out of it. The players' missions are all located along a river, which has settlements on either end. Thus the action selection means that a key person is going to board a boat at one of the settlements, and journey up the river. Each player, in order, gets a chance to use that person's ability. Then, the same process will happen from the opposite settlement.

Unlike PR, I don't think players choose the roles. Instead there will be three roles available at a time. A die is rolled. ("Roll selection", waka waka waka...). If it's 1-3, the first role is chosen, 4-5, the second, 6, the third. Then slide the unselected roles down to fill in empty spaces and reveal a new role from the deck. Thus you have a sense for what's coming but not exactly when.

I think there are two kinds of roles. The first are the "doing stuff" roles -- planters to plant crops, ranchers (?) to provide livestock, builders to add buildings, missionaries/teachers/musicians to teach the people about faith, literacy, and music, and traders to buy goods.

The second are the "scoring stuff" roles, although these aren't necessarily positive. There's the emissary from the Vatican who evaluates the missions and decides which one has earned the Vatican's protection. There's the Spanish governor, who you can bribe for protection. Then there's the Portugese slaver, who comes in and causes harm and destruction.

One thing I like about the role selection system here is that it allows the introduction of these latter roles simply by shuffling them into the draw pile. This will be event driven in some way but as slavers start being added, the 'doing stuff' roles are diluted. This makes thematic sense -- it's harder to get someone to journey up the river if they know that slavers are about.

The crucial question for me is how to connect this to my idea of power. Each time a role is chosen, you either use its action or pass. If you pass, you add a power disc to your stack. When you act, the strength of your action is given by the number of discs on your stack. There's no currency in the game, so the only cost for actions is power discs. But this also means that every action has to have a clear cost whose value can be expressed in power discs. And, it means that these values must be non-linear in some way. If I generate a power disc every turn, and taking an action with power 2 is twice as good as taking an action with power 1, why not just take every action with power 1? There's no benefit to waiting. There needs to be some benefit to waiting. If it's just that some things, you can't do without sufficient power, well, that might be enough.

There also has to be the practical ability to wait -- if I don't harvest now, when will I get another chance? The river helps with this. If there are, say, 8 main role cards in the game, and each settlement has a display of 3 role cards, then this means that a given role, after it's used, sits idle for only a single full turn before it's back in the queue and available to be chosen by the die again. The die should space the roles out fairly evenly but not always perfectly. And it could be that certain roles flip each time they traverse the river so that the most-frequently-needed roles are sure to be available more frequently.

Thus the game presents some similar timing problems to PR -- I need to use this role before I use that one before I use that other one -- but it's less about forcing the other players to use a role before they're ready to use it, and more about deciding whether to use a role sub-optimally or wait and gather your strength. This, of course, removes a huge piece of interaction and we need to find a source of interaction somewhere else. More thoughts on that in another post, as they're not well fleshed out yet!
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