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Subject: Design of Sanity Counters - Maybe a Bit Confusing ? rss

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James Clarke
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(Living in Britain, I obviously base the following observation on no personal playing experience).

The sanity counters are either marked SANE or MAD, and this is my basic issue.

If you draw SANE, that doesn't necessarily mean you’re sane. It could mean either you’re already mad, you aren't mad, or your attempt to hide/assassinate royalty went smoothly.

Likewise if you draw MAD, that doesn't necessarily mean you’re mad. It could mean either you've just gone mad, you still aren't mad, or your agent just perished in an attempt to hide/assassinate royalty.

In summary therefore; drawing SANE is a null response and drawing MAD means bad news.

So I’m wondering why the faces of the sanity counters aren't printed instead with a sinister icon (instead of MAD) and blank (instead of SANE)? Maybe there would be a bit less confusion, or perhaps it is just me who finds this a bit odd.

 
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Christopher Dearlove
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Highland Cow wrote:

(Living in Britain, I obviously base the following observation on no personal playing experience).


Well, I'm based in Britain and do have experience. Of course I did go to Essen.

But to be honest, this is not a trivial game to describe. Believe me, I've done so quite a number of times (I sat on the Treefrog stand for more than a day, though with three different games to describe, plus I've done do a couple more times since). Don't get me wrong, that's because it's a game that is definitely not a pasted on theme game, and has some interesting and non-trivial rules to cover. But the labelling on the sanity counters wouldn't make my top ten things that require care to explain. (The consequences of a loyalist going insane or otherwise going to meet his green tentacled maker might, I haven't actually made a list. End of game scoring and assassinations, especially of agents, are two clearly on it though.)
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Cthulhu-stories are about going mad.
Sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly.
But there is also always a fraction of hope, as some stories retain (or even help regain) some stability.

While the words "sane" and "mad" might be absolutes that, in total, might not be fitting when the appropriate marker is drawn, the direction itself makes sense.

With each "mad" counter the protagonist (Main Agent) will lose some of his mental stability, which dwindles invariably to the point where he goes mad.
With each "sane" counter the protagonist is once again confirmed in his view of reality, and some stability to his existence, and his decaying mind, is restored - his clinging to the last shreds of sanity prolonged.

Only Restorationists go mad, because they want to rid the world of the insanities that rule it. They have retained their humanity and sanity as long as possible, but in order to fight the unspeakable, they must concern themselves with it. Which erodes their sanity.
This is why they must show themselves when they go mad.

And once one good man goes insane, he will betray the cause, and all is lost. Hence the game ends.

Loyalists, on the other hand, cannot go mad, as they are mad from the beginning already. Hence they only show their true colours, and the game continues.


So I do think that definitions of "sane" and "mad" are fine. After all, "Regaining mental stability" and "Slowly going mad" would be too much text for the simple counters. And these two words fit the mood perfectly...
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James Clarke
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Thank you both for your interesting comments, I think I can understand the back-story better now. My point remains however, that the various functions of the sanity counters aren’t served particularly well by their face markings, and I suspect this may cause confusion.

For reasons of clarity, I maintain that the face markings on the sanity counters would have been better blank and (say) a wicked looking emerald, (instead of SANE and MAD). Collect 3 wicked emeralds - you’re mad. Draw a wicked emerald when assassinating/hiding royalty - you lose your agent. Draw a blank – ok, nothing happens.

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M.C.Crispy
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Highland Cow wrote:

Thank you both for your interesting comments, I think I can understand the back-story better now. My point remains however, that the various functions of the sanity counters aren’t served particularly well by their face markings, and I suspect this may cause confusion.

For reasons of clarity, I maintain that the face markings on the sanity counters would have been better blank and (say) a wicked looking emerald, (instead of SANE and MAD). Collect 3 wicked emeralds - you’re mad. Draw a wicked emerald when assassinating/hiding royalty - you lose your agent. Draw a blank – ok, nothing happens.

So design some and stick 'em up on the files section.
 
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James, after I wrote my overly long post, I realized that I was whizzing past your intention with its content, but didn't get to write another one until now. And I thought that it still was content that was interesting enough (ahem, not to toot my horn - I LOVE Lovecraft and the Mythos, thats why) to not delete it...


Yes, you are right, the counters could become confusing. But not due to the faces on them, I would think, but instead regarding the terms "mad" and "sane". I know I wrote above that I find both words fitting the theme, but gameplay-wise "mad" is a condition that is of importance in the game. And if a player goes "mad", either the game ends or he at least showed his true colours.
The thing here is that you would intuitively connect drawing a "mad" counter with your condition changing, i.e. now being mad, with all consequences. The face heightens this notion, but in itself I think that it is the term rather than the image that is problematic here.

Additionally, if you draw the "sane" counter, you would intuitively assume that you now are "sane" again (if you had been mad before) or are still sane.

Therefore, a player has to consciously make this leap, and detach the meaning of "mad" (the absolute) from the function of the marker.

Since this game is on the more brainy side, anyways, regarding details and special rules and whatnot, I do not think that this is a major problem, though. Not perfectly executed in design, but functional.
I think putting a question mark behind the word "mad" would help a lot, already...
 
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Steve Blackwell
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Highland Cow wrote:

Thank you both for your interesting comments, I think I can understand the back-story better now. My point remains however, that the various functions of the sanity counters aren’t served particularly well by their face markings, and I suspect this may cause confusion.

For reasons of clarity, I maintain that the face markings on the sanity counters would have been better blank and (say) a wicked looking emerald, (instead of SANE and MAD). Collect 3 wicked emeralds - you’re mad. Draw a wicked emerald when assassinating/hiding royalty - you lose your agent. Draw a blank – ok, nothing happens.



Good luck drawing a "wicked" emerald and not having people diss it on here!

M B
 
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Steve Blackwell
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Dumon wrote:
ahem, not to toot my horn - I LOVE Lovecraft and the Mythos, thats why


Have you seen the stuff on Machina Arcana here yet? I am intrigued by it, but it looks quite text heavy, components heavy (possibly rules heavy) along the lines of Arkham Horror which lends to drawn out playing times.

M B
 
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I haven't delved down into that rabbit hole to deeply so far. There was something that put me off slightly, but I cannot remember what it was...

That said, despite being a Mythophile, I have to refrain from purchasing everything regarding this subject. Budgetary reasons, and also intervening wife...
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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All I can say is that anyone who gets confused by the Mad and Sane counters might as well quit and find another game. (I'm talking about real confusion, not a very temporary state until the rule is finished.)

And in my practical experience of teaching the game, it's not come up as a question people ask - and they have asked questions.
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James Clarke
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Dearlove wrote:
All I can say is that anyone who gets confused by the Mad and Sane counters might as well quit and find another game. (I'm talking about real confusion, not a very temporary state until the rule is finished.)

And in my practical experience of teaching the game, it's not come up as a question people ask - and they have asked questions.

Christopher. Some of us would be grateful to download your guide on how to teach this game.
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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Highland Cow wrote:
Some of us would be grateful to download your guide on how to teach this game.


Sorry, undocumented trial and error. But I start with the background - without it the game makes no sense. But don't spoil the story.

If then following how I do it (but I'm not claiming mine is best, just it has worked for me) describe how each person gets a faction - but that has no effect on what they are allowed to do, just on what's a good idea to do. Then summarise it as deck building and accumulating victory points - but with twists to be described. Then go through the actions (skipping the declare faction one) in the order on the summary card and saying text actions on cards will take care of themselves - except you need to describe assassination (which brings in Known to the Authorities, which interacts slightly trickily with points you might have, but you can forward reference). Then describe how the game ends, then that most points wins. Except (1) once all are revealed you lose points for doing wrong thing, but gain some extra points. Except (2) the elimination of last place, and therefore how good the Revolution and War decks are. Then throw in permanents and then tell people whatever else they need to know they'll pick up as game goes on. (That will include things like Vampires and Zombies.)

I've probably forgotten something, which is usual anyway. And when describing the sanity counters (which get mentioned when describing assassinations, but then also other cases) I do my best mad scientist voice when saying Mad.
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