Recommend
17 
 Thumb up
 Hide
10 Posts

Trieste» Forums » General

Subject: Creator's Notes - MOTIVATION, INSPIRATION, BALANCE rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Matt Ma
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmb
MOTIVATION:
The first time people hear about Trieste, they all ask the same question: “Why is the game only for three players?” There are plenty of good games out there, whether they are video games, board games, or card games, but how many games are good with just three players? Just because a game supports three players doesn’t mean the game plays best with three players. In fact, I felt the three-player rules for most games, if there were any at all, were done as an afterthought. This is why Trieste was designed from the ground up as a true three-player game. No more. No less. I wanted my game to capture all the three-player interactions that were missing, unexplored, or misrepresented.

I’ve played some great games these last few years; unfortunately, they all suffer from the same flaw – ‘Balance by Symmetry.’ Many games are balanced by allowing all players similar options in an effort to make the game fair. However, symmetry, for lack of a better word, is boring. Not all people think the same, and, more importantly, not all people want to use the same strategy. A winning strategy may be fun for one person, but for someone else, fun comes from playing the game differently and strategizing in a different manner. That is why in Trieste each player has unique cards with unique strategies and victory conditions. I wanted an asymmetric design that would allow players with different strategies and preferences to play together and still have fun, while keeping the game fresh.

INSPIRATION:
Although the idea of having the player roles be Thief, Merchant, and City Watch came early on, deciding what cards and effects each faction got had less to do with what a thief, merchant, or city watch would do and more on the strategies and playstyles I wanted each faction to capture. Let’s review the inspiration for each faction deck.

For the City Watch, I wanted to capture the Poker Player philosophy. If you enjoy reading opponents and analyzing patterns in their playstyle, then this is the deck for you. To play the City Watch effectively, you have to be able to gauge when the best time to play a capture card is and when to hold back for the turn. The cards are expensive, and missing on an expensive card can set you back several turns. The City Watch is the most reactive player, as the cards require the most preconditions to be played successfully.

For the Merchant, the goal was to capture the essence of a strategic TCG (Trading Card Game). These card games usually require 2 key components to achieve victory – Drawing Cards (aka “Card Advantage”) and Card Synergy (aka “Combos”). These two strategies give the Merchant the consistency it needs in deploying a strategy and powerful effects when the multi-card strategy come together. The Merchant is the most independent player, having to rely primarily on setups and long term plans to gain an advantage over the other players.

Last but not least, is the Thief. This deck represents my take on using a card game to imitate the excitement of a Dice Game. What makes dice game so exciting is the variance they provide. The probabilities clearly favor certain events happening more than others, but the mere chance that some anomaly make occur makes each dice roll that much more exciting. And although this is a card game, that variance is captured with the Thief, as there are more potential outcomes for each card than those of the other factions. Because of the potentially explosiveness, or lack thereof, of Thief effects, they tend to be the most proactive player, as their effects have the potential to swing the momentum of the game from favoring one player to another.

BALANCE
The game has 3 asymmetrical decks with unique strategies and win conditions. For me, balance was a very important factor when designing this game (arguably the most important). I did not want players to feel cheated in games where they were assigned a faction that was deemed “too weak” or “inferior.” However, rather than only using a bottom up approach where balancing is done by mostly tweaking the cost and effect of cards, I also used a top-down approach where balancing was done by completely overhauling and redesigning cards. Why was this done?

Well, I stuck by the philosophy that certain factions should not be allowed to have certain abilities. The purpose of having unique decks with unique cards was to prevent monotony. If all cards were simply balanced by slightly adjusting the cost and effect, then the game becomes boring. It is okay for certain cards to be “too good” as long as the strategies employed by each faction are balanced as a whole.

For example, the Thief has the most straightforward strategy for denying other players resources. They steal. If the Merchant is about to win, the Thief can try to stop them by stealing money from them. However, if you are the City Watch, how do you interact with the Merchant? The City Watch represents justice, law, and order. Stealing should not be a strategy the City Watch employs. It’s not in their character.

But what the City Watch can do is tax and confiscate. They can tax the Merchant and gradually eat away at their war chest of riches, or they can confiscate their wealth if it was deemed unlawfully acquired. The same applies to the Merchant. The Merchant can neither steal nor tax, as those abilities belong solely to the other characters. But what they can do is create relative wealth/poverty. Cards like Share the Wealth allow the Merchant to draw 4 treasure cards and then give 1 treasure to each opponent. If the Thief and City Watch each get a Copper, while the Merchant gets 2 Silvers, did the other two players benefit? Not really. The ability to skew benefits from one player to another and create relative wealth and poverty is the Merchant’s way of interacting with other players.

Although this top down approach makes balancing more difficult, I feel this makes the game much more enjoyable and is worth the extra effort. Of course, the best way to understand the game is to experience it yourself… and the inevitable table talk that comes with each game.
19 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Oh wow I'm sold ... I wasn't really sure what to think of this game, but it seems that you had a very specific objetive in mind while creating it, to make a game tinkered for that weird player number of exactly 3.

Great to know that balancing was the keypoint in the design, but I wonder...

The very nature of 3 competing sides has it so that "when two fight, the third one wins", an effect mitigated with more players, where a fight between two, still has the third player with adversaries to lock him down from rushing a win.

So, how did you deal with that? From what I understand, the main faction to directly "fight" with any other are the Thiefs; so they must have been the target for that balancing. I guess a skilled Thief player must divide his efforts constantly as to not let the other player gain a hard advantage.

Anyways, looking forward to more info on this hidden gem!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Ma
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmb
Thanks for your interest in the game.

Asymmetric design solves that problem. The interactions are not uniform across all 3 players. As such, the Thief's primary interactions are with the Merchant. The City Watch primarily focuses on the Thief. And the Merchant, although lacking in direct interaction with the City Watch, has a more difficult time winning the more thieves that are caught (due to him having to pay for the thieves in the prison). So it is difficult for 2 players to fight amongst themselves because the game doesn't have a uniform interaction between any 2 players.

The other scenario is if one player is too aggressive. If the City watch catches too many thieves too aggressively, the Merchant wins because no one stopped him from making money. If the Thief is too aggressive, then the Merchant will run out of money, and the tempo of the game slows down without the Thief having money to constantly fuel its spending, making it easier for the City Watch to catch thieves. If the Merchant is too aggressive, the other two players will focus on stealing/taxing him. So it is in each player's interest to moderate their offense to prevent an uncontested 3rd player from winning.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Stoltzfus
United States
Lancaster
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Wow. This post sold me. Can't wait to play.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marco Lippolis
Italy
Trieste
Friuli Venezia Giulia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Hello, one more question you don't deal with in your post: why Trieste as setting?

Asking cos I was born and still live in Trieste. So just curious ...
Thanks!

Marco
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sam Holden
United States
Princeton
New Jersey
flag msg tools
lippo wrote:
Hello, one more question you don't deal with in your post: why Trieste as setting?

Asking cos I was born and still live in Trieste. So just curious ...
Thanks!

Marco
My guess, and it's a complete guess, is that it's a play on "tri" being a prefix for three (as in tricycle, for example).

You have a strictly three player game, with three distinct roles, that thematically involves trading, and there just happens to be a city called Tri***** that is an historic trade hub in a relevant time period.

How could you not use that!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marco Lippolis
Italy
Trieste
Friuli Venezia Giulia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
sholden wrote:
lippo wrote:
Hello, one more question you don't deal with in your post: why Trieste as setting?

Asking cos I was born and still live in Trieste. So just curious ...
Thanks!

Marco
My guess, and it's a complete guess, is that it's a play on "tri" being a prefix for three (as in tricycle, for example).

You have a strictly three player game, with three distinct roles, that thematically involves trading, and there just happens to be a city called Tri***** that is an historic trade hub in a relevant time period.

How could you not use that!
Ah ah!
Well it's true. Trieste flourished in the 18th and 19th century because it was the only big harbour of the Austrian-Hungarian empire and believe me, we highly regret not being it anymore...

I wish you all the best with your game!

Marco
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Shegda
United States
mauldin
South Carolina
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Any thoughts of adding a fourth faction as an expansion? If, for that matter, it would work expanding it to four players.



Edit* just bought the game and can't wait for it to arrive laugh
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt Ma
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmb
alandric wrote:
Any thoughts of adding a fourth faction as an expansion? If, for that matter, it would work expanding it to four players.



Edit* just bought the game and can't wait for it to arrive laugh
I have an idea for a 4th player. I even had the designs ready for testing. But some "challenges" came up:

1) I'm busy (I know... that's an excuse on my part)
2) The game hasn't sold as well as I had hoped (it didn't sell poorly, and I'm very grateful on its success so far given it's my first game). But the most positive reviews have come from individuals who feel that the 3 player element is what makes the game enjoyable to begin with. So me adding a 4th player may end up taking away the "best part of the game."
3) I have another game idea that supports 2-6 players. So I felt maybe keeping the game in its pristine 3 player format and focusing on the new game may be better.

Still, if any of the above 3 changes, I'll post it here first. Thanks for supporting the game too.

As a teaser, the 4th player was a player's who's effects would vary based on the actions of the other 3. Essentially, it would force players into a 3-way prisoner's dilemma that would test each other's trust in each other (trust because cards are played face down in the game and you don't know who to trust). The 4th player wouldn't win so much as the other 3 players would lose...
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Romana Turina
msg tools
Hi Matthew,

Happy new year!

first of all my compliment for the great game, Trieste. It is very nice, and we play it very often. :-)!!!

I would like to know how it came to be called Trieste?
I was born in Trieste, and I was very surprised to find it. :-) It is very interesting how the game is located in the city, and speaks basically Italian! :-)
I am curious to know more because at the time the game it is set, the city was under Austria, and speaking Austrian mostly, then Slav languages, and then Italian - due to the proximity to the Venetian Republic.

Do not fear, this is not a critique to the game, I am simply curious about the rationale behind it the historical location. :-)
I believe that such a great game could be fine in picking the name out of a list of coastal cities fitting the profile.

Many greetings from York, UK. Have a lovely 2015!!!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls