I'm presently working on a game in which players control runners who are navigating a maze with the assistance of various teleportation devices. Each player has a hand of devices and uses 1-3 each move to help their runner get to where they want to be. I'd like the teleporters to all feel different to use and the ideal move not to be obvious so there are some meaningful choices in what's used when and what's held back. I figured it might be interesting to use todays post to brainstorm ideas and talk about their pros and cons.
The Lovely No Limits Teleporter
Effect: Place yourself on any space within N spaces of your current location.
Pros: Simple. Useful.
Cons: Simply better than almost anything else. Would need a small N to balance with other cards.
The Leeroy Jenkins
Effect: Move forwards N spaces ignoring all intervening stuff.
Cons: Very similar to normal movement. Board design or other player obstructions need to be significant to justify its inclusion.
Effect: Move in a particular compass direction N spaces ignoring all intervening stuff.
Cons: Could be completely useless to someone moving towards an objective in a different direction. Potential to be a "lucky" or "unlucky" draw irrespective of players skill at setting up opportunities.
Effect: Choose another runner within N steps, swap position.
Pros: Could have take that style effects.
Cons: Could have take that style effects.
Effect: Your opponent chooses a space you go there.
Pros: Puts an interesting choice for one player in another players turn, potential for dramatic desperation moves.
Cons: Would need some significant other advantage for anyone to ever be willing to play it.
Effect: Choose another runner who is N spaces away. Place yourself on any space within N spaces of them.
Pros: Potential to act as a catch up option, potential for teamwork in setting up several runners to use each others positions.
Cons: Might be too many turns on which a useful anchor doesn't exist and its just a dead card. Board size and population density strongly impact usefulness.
The Escher Step
Effect: Choose another space with N spaces that is the same as your current space in all respects but location (If you are in a 1 wide corridor next to an exist, it must be a 1 wide corridor next to an exit)
Pros: Leads to interesting possibilities with a high N.
Cons: Awkward to codify in rules, possible analysis paralysis.
These also work in most combinations. For instance you could have Murphy's Slingshot which anchors to a player of your choice but your opponent chooses in which direction it fires you.
What will work in practice will depend a lot on the interaction between the teleport steps and the base moves - but having a small list to populate a simple prototype allows for some basic testing and refinement (and all game design is testing).
Even the obviously bad ideas belong in this sort of early test. Murphy's isn't going to make it through in its unmodified format - but throwing in the card to see what the implications are when it's played give an indication of the best thing to combine it with or what sort of magnitude of payoff it requires to justify its inclusion.
Early testing is as much about finding exactly why and how things don't work as finding what does work. The lessons taken from the more obvious missteps can prevent more subtle ones from creeping in later in the process.
Hope you're all having fun, I'm off to test a bad game.