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Subject: [WIP] Simple card drafting game rss

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Rob Harper
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So I have finally got a game developed to the point that I feel ready to get feedback from outside my family. This feels like a big step for me.

The game is a simple card drafting game. I am currently theming it as a struggle for influence/control in a large medieval/fantasy city (hence the lame working title that I've been using "City Draft").

The rationale is that I want a game that I can play during lunch breaks with my workmates. This means I want it to play quickly (if we can play 2 or 3 times in an hour that would be perfect) and only need a few minutes to explain. I also want it to take minimal table space and minimal down time for players. If my wife & daughter like it too, that's even better.

I was hoping for a game that scales up to ~8 players, but I don't think I'm winning on that requirement.

Anyway, I have a basic set of cards built with Nandeck and have made them available on DropBox along with the rules. I'm planning to have more cards than this in the game, but we've used this set for 2-player games so far.

Here is a link to the Dropbox files...
https://www.dropbox.com/l/weZEPkmaJB1GOeX4Q4pRea
(Hopefully that will work!)

If anyone could give me any comments or thoughts they would be greatly appreciated and I'd love you all forever, even if you are really critical. Maybe even especially if you are critical.

A few more thoughts while I'm here...

There are a heap of cards in the game that are identical in game terms but have different names. This probably isn't really good practice, but the wealth of card names does add interest for my daughter.

My daughter (7-y-o) tells me the game isn't ready to share with other people and there need to be more events and other interesting stuff. She is probably right about the latter part, but I figure I'll disagree on when to share!

I've not yet spent much effort on balance, but it is promising that the handful of times that we have played so far, the winning scores have been fairly consistent (14 to 16 points) and used a different combination of persona cards each time. I don't have enough data yet to draw any real conclusions, though.

Incidentally, I forgot to give credits in the rules for the icons and stuff. I'll add this in future versions, but for now I'd like to acknowledge...
- Main icons by Lorc from game-icons.net, licensed as CC BY 3.0.
- Numbers in circles from Andre666 via wikimedia.org, public domain.
- Arrow icon from Dave Gandy via wikimedia.org, licensed as CC BY-SA 3.0

2014-04-16 edit... Version 0.3 is now available on DropBox:
- https://www.dropbox.com/s/v7fhq73d4llsqvr/CityDraft_Rules_v0...
- https://www.dropbox.com/s/dzqra2rgj1b8h3u/citydraft_cards_v0...
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Rob Harper
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My playtesting of this game has been going very slowly, and I have only managed to get two-player games going so far, but I have managed to get some useful feedback.

It is becoming apparent that there needs to be something to increase the interest in resource cards with only one icon, otherwise there is no reason to select them when there are multiple-icon cards available. Maybe single-icon cards could have on-reveal effects, but more interestingly, I think, there could be personage cards that make it worth having these otherwise weaker cards. One suggestion I had was a Revolutionary, who might score points for single-icon cards (needing the support of the "little people").

So, high on the priority list is to get some three-player games played...
 
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todd sanders
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will try and read through your rules tomorrow and see what i can comment on
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Rob Harper
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Thankyou, Todd, any feedback at all would be extremely welcome.
 
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James C
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Is it right that there are 35 cards?

I have nobody to test this with, but looks interesting enough. I would be clearer in the rules concerning the 2p rule changes.
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Rob Harper
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SuperGLS wrote:
Is it right that there are 35 cards?

Yes it is. I will definitely be adding more cards in future versions, but the number that I have seemed enough to get an idea of if the game works.

Quote:
I have nobody to test this with, but looks interesting enough. I would be clearer in the rules concerning the 2p rule changes.

Thankyou. I have to admit that the written rules were a bit of an afterthought, so they need a lot of tidying up and clarifying. I'll definitely spend some more time on them before releasing a new version.
 
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todd sanders
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i read the rules but i am not really sure how you buy/gain new cards and then what you do with them
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Jakub Marek
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The rules seem clear to me, but it may be because I'm used to draft heavily from various CCGs.

It seems to me, having only one of each character might be somewhat unbalancing, but if you expect the game to be really quick, that might not be a serious problem.

Will try to run it few times, if I can finally assemble folks again.

Off-Topic: Mind to share nanDECK source? I'm always curious how other people set their components to compare techniques and learn myself. So many lightbulb moments I had doing this...
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Rob Harper
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dumarest123 wrote:
i read the rules but i am not really sure how you buy/gain new cards and then what you do with them

Hi Todd,

Many thanks for taking a look. It sounds like the rules aren't really much good as written at the moment. I will make sure the next revision spells things out better.

The game is essentially a card drafting game. You have a handful of cards in hand, and select one to add to your tableau (you don't need to buy it) and pass the rest to the next player.

Cards in your tableau either give you resources/icons of various types, or give you scoring conditions so you score points for the icons you have collected on the other cards. Some cards (at present just the personage/scoring cards) also have a special effect which takes place when the card is added to your tableau.

I hope that makes it clearer. I'll definitely be putting a lot more work on the rules as they develop -- the rulebook as it is was a bit cobbled together as I know things are likely to change a lot as we get more playtesting done.

Thanks again.
 
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Rob Harper
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Eremiell wrote:
It seems to me, having only one of each character might be somewhat unbalancing, but if you expect the game to be really quick, that might not be a serious problem.

Yes, the game is intended to be quick, but I do need to look at getting it reasonably balanced. I personally don't mind a slightly swingy game if I know we'll be done inside 20 minutes and can have another go, but I definitely don't want a game where the players feel that it is purely on the luck of the draw. There need to be decisions.

On a similar point, the personage cards are most definitely not balanced against each other right now. For instance, the Princess is very easy to score an awful lot of points with, and so far has almost been a winning card, so she will need toning down somehow.

Quote:
Will try to run it few times, if I can finally assemble folks again.

That would be amazing if you could. Any feedback would be gratefully received.

Quote:
Off-Topic: Mind to share nanDECK source? I'm always curious how other people set their components to compare techniques and learn myself. So many lightbulb moments I had doing this...

I'm only really just learning how to use nandeck, but am happy to share my code. I'll try to remember to make it available somewhere when I get home this evening.

Thanks for taking a look at the game.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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One card for each city character is fine by me, helps reinforce the idea that you've got someone on your side.

Card Layout wise ... I'd put the influence icons in a fixed order on the left hand edge of the card. Makes it easier to browse through a hand without having to look at the entire card.

Rules seem fine. I wouldn't make too many changes until you playtest it more.

35 cards would probably be enough for a 2 or 3 player game.
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Rob Harper
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Hi Sturv, thanks for the input.

Stormtower wrote:
One card for each city character is fine by me, helps reinforce the idea that you've got someone on your side.

That was the intention. Later on I would expect there to be more of the characters; probably some would be very similar to each other.

Actually this puts into mind one problem I know I'll have to face: what happens if the card draw is such that one player never sees a personage card? Or the ones that they do get just don't match up with their other cards? This is probably going to be a rare occurrence, but I will need to think about it at least.

Quote:
Card Layout wise ... I'd put the influence icons in a fixed order on the left hand edge of the card. Makes it easier to browse through a hand without having to look at the entire card.

Very good point. I already have the icons in the top left (though not in a defined order) so they should be easy to see in a fan. The scoring conditions and on-reveal effects aren't as easy to see; perhaps I can figure something out with the scoring at least, though if I'm not careful I may end up with cards looking like they are from Race for the Galaxy, which is a great game but the icons can be very off-putting to casual players.

Quote:
Rules seem fine. I wouldn't make too many changes until you playtest it more.

Thanks, another good point. I'm starting to work on v0.3, but I was planning to stick with the version I have to get a feel for its shortcomings before I release anything else.

Quote:
35 cards would probably be enough for a 2 or 3 player game.

Just about, I think. I was thinking that it might be nice to aim for a final game of the standard 54 cards so it works with a manageable 6 sheets of printing, or would work with a standard pack with somewhere like ArtsCow or GameCrafter.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Another thought for you:

Since it is a drafting game, why not use something like 7 Wonder's mechanic... split the deck up into X seasons such that you have a subdeck. All the cards of the subdeck is then dealt evenly to all players. During their turn, each player picks one from their hand and passes the rest on.

By doing that, nobody is "screwed" by the luck of the draw.

... say, you have a total of 48 cards, split into two subdecks of 24 cards each. During the first half of the game, the 24 cards are dealt evenly among the players (6 each for a 4 player game). In the second half, the second subdeck of 24 is used. During their first turn, each player has a hand of 6; they select 1 and pass 5 to their neighbor; and they'd get a hand of 5 from their other neighbor. on the 2nd turn, they select 1 from this new hand of 5 ... and so on.


As for event cards .. in addition to them messing up everyone's tableau, you can also have them make certain personas more valuable.

A storm event might make the weatherman popular.
Earthquakes make the geologist look cool.
An election can shift the value of politicians.
Financial crisis might make bankers and the high school economics professor popular.


(edit). I think in M:tG circles, the drafting mechanic is called "Booster Draft" ... each player opens their booster pack, picks one card, and passes it down.
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Steve Zagieboylo
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I've just read the rules and glanced at the cards, and I have a couple of questions.

The "when revealed" effects are not done on the first turn? Why not? (I realize that some of them would not do anything, but still...)

Your "when revealed" effect for King sounds more like it should be a Merchant. Kings just take stuff without giving recompense.

What's the significance of the different resource cards that provide the same resource? Is it just for variety or is there a game difference? (When you're focused on artwork, you might wish you had just planned to have seven 'worker' cards rather than one 'urchin,' one 'butcher,' etc.)

This rule -- "If a player has no personage cards in play, she scores points equal to the number of influence icons in her largest set of one type." -- seems a little arbitrary. I mean, what if one person has three personage cards and the other has only one -- it's the same unfairness as two vs. zero, isn't it? As you get to more players, the likelihood of people having significantly different opportunities to score personages will increase. I don't have a solution, here, but I think there is one.

I like the draw plus draft combination. In addition to being pretty cool by itself, it provides for a small extra bit of game balance. The player immediately after a player who got to play an extra card gets a small advantage of seeing an extra new card from the deck.
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Rob Harper
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Stormtower wrote:
Since it is a drafting game, why not use something like 7 Wonder's mechanic... split the deck up into X seasons such that you have a subdeck. All the cards of the subdeck is then dealt evenly to all players. During their turn, each player picks one from their hand and passes the rest on.

Very good suggestion. I had actually wondered about that, but I quite like the dynamic of just steadily churning through the deck once. I think probably the biggest advantage of the 7 Wonders approach is to allow for a developing narrative through the game, and this is something I'm missing out of this game. On the other hand, the split would probably lend itself more to bigger games with more cards than I am planning, and might increase set-up time (though I may have to do something that increases set-up anyway).

For now I think I'd prefer to stick with the mechanic I have, but this suggestion is definitely one that I should keep in mind as it may be needed to smooth things out.

Quote:
As for event cards .. in addition to them messing up everyone's tableau, you can also have them make certain personas more valuable.

That's a nice idea. I'll have a think about options there. Thankyou.
 
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Zag24 wrote:
The "when revealed" effects are not done on the first turn? Why not? (I realize that some of them would not do anything, but still...)

That is a problem with the rules as written. The effect should take place on the first turn as well. Thankyou for spotting this.

Quote:
Your "when revealed" effect for King sounds more like it should be a Merchant. Kings just take stuff without giving recompense.

My thinking was that the King just orders people around and people have to obey, but you're probably right.

Quote:
What's the significance of the different resource cards that provide the same resource? Is it just for variety or is there a game difference? (When you're focused on artwork, you might wish you had just planned to have seven 'worker' cards rather than one 'urchin,' one 'butcher,' etc.)

This was purely for interest, and because my daughter loves that sort of thing. For her, having every card having a different identity, even if they are identical in game terms, would allow her to imagine a more interesting story around the game.

You are absolutely right though: if this ever gets to needing artwork, having fewer unique cards would be a big help. Plus, I have to admit that being mostly a Eurogamer myself, having identical entities in the game with different names does feel inelegant for me, adding an appearance of depth/variety without actually doing anything. Later on I am sure I will either rationalise the card titles or add some mechanical reason for them to be differently named.


Quote:
This rule -- "If a player has no personage cards in play, she scores points equal to the number of influence icons in her largest set of one type." -- seems a little arbitrary. I mean, what if one person has three personage cards and the other has only one -- it's the same unfairness as two vs. zero, isn't it? As you get to more players, the likelihood of people having significantly different opportunities to score personages will increase. I don't have a solution, here, but I think there is one.

Again, you are absolutely right. I put this in as a first-pass attempt to mitigate against not getting any personages. It has not been brought into play yet (though I still have only tried 2-player), so I've not seen how it works out. I will do my best to find a better solution.

Quote:
I like the draw plus draft combination. In addition to being pretty cool by itself, it provides for a small extra bit of game balance. The player immediately after a player who got to play an extra card gets a small advantage of seeing an extra new card from the deck.

Thanks, that's nice to hear.
 
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Rob Harper
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Eremiell wrote:
Off-Topic: Mind to share nanDECK source? I'm always curious how other people set their components to compare techniques and learn myself. So many lightbulb moments I had doing this...

I have uploaded the nanDECK source (and cards) to the Dropbox share...

nanDECK source: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0k7s0w8pgutgcc0/citydraft_nandecks...

Card data: https://www.dropbox.com/s/32cv8m49rwplz00/citydraft_cardsour...

Probably not very enlightening, but if you're interested...

Edited to add...

I'm planning to experiment with htmltext which will let me put icons into the on-reveal effects text. Exciting times.
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Jakub Marek
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Definitely interesting. Never used external data source, icons or if clauses. Most sources I've seen before using these were quite complex. This is the kind of perfect clean example.

I've been thinking about using external sources before, but in the end always ended doing everything inline style. Maybe it'll inspire me to try it next time...
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Rob Harper
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Stormtower wrote:
Since it is a drafting game, why not use something like 7 Wonder's mechanic... split the deck up into X seasons such that you have a subdeck. All the cards of the subdeck is then dealt evenly to all players. During their turn, each player picks one from their hand and passes the rest on.

After just thinking over all the feedback I have had so far, it has occurred to me that I can incorporate something like the 7 Wonders progression through the ages while still keeping the "draw and draft" mechanic. There can be sub-decks as you say, the first of them being the draw deck until it is depleted, then on to the next. This seems obvious in retrospect, but I didn't think of it until just now.

I still don't know if this is right for this game, as it would probably be more worthwhile for a longer game (and it may have repercussions in that the order everyone draws from the deck could become important) but here we have another option that could be tried out later.
 
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Steve Zagieboylo
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polyobsessive wrote:
Quote:
This rule -- "If a player has no personage cards in play, she scores points equal to the number of influence icons in her largest set of one type." -- seems a little arbitrary. I mean, what if one person has three personage cards and the other has only one -- it's the same unfairness as two vs. zero, isn't it? As you get to more players, the likelihood of people having significantly different opportunities to score personages will increase. I don't have a solution, here, but I think there is one.

Again, you are absolutely right. I put this in as a first-pass attempt to mitigate against not getting any personages. It has not been brought into play yet (though I still have only tried 2-player), so I've not seen how it works out. I will do my best to find a better solution.
Here's a thought that could give some good decision tension:

Any given resource card can be used with multiple personages, as your rule states. I like this, and, obviously, good strategy is to try to double or triple up on whatever resource you have a lot of. Now add the rule: Every resource (or perhaps just every resource card) you have that is not used by ANY personage is worth X points, where X is probably either 1 or 2.

I'm assuming that a typical final score for an experienced player is around two and a half the number of resources you have, since you get to double and triple up many of them. Assuming that's about where it falls out, then 2 points for every unused resource is about right. Remember that if I do nothing but resources, I'll have more of them than someone who spends turns making personages.

If you use this idea, then you might want to increase somewhat the point value of personages who need more than one type of resource, because having those forces you to have more resources that aren't even doubled.

One more suggestion: Might there be some personages who are also resources? Consider that a General provides a point for every military resource, whereas a Sergeant IS two military resources AND provides a point for every two military resources (including himself), or a QuarterMaster is a Military resource and also provides a point for every two Food resources. Just a thought.
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Rob Harper
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Zag24 wrote:
Any given resource card can be used with multiple personages, as your rule states. I like this, and, obviously, good strategy is to try to double or triple up on whatever resource you have a lot of. Now add the rule: Every resource (or perhaps just every resource card) you have that is not used by ANY personage is worth X points, where X is probably either 1 or 2.

Ooh, I think you might be on to something there. I think I might be able to work in something along those lines. I'm not sure it quite works on a thematic basis, but you've got me thinking along different lines. Thankyou very much.

Quote:
Remember that if I do nothing but resources, I'll have more of them than someone who spends turns making personages.

True. Though several personages can mess with your tableau, so there may not be an advantage there.

Quote:
One more suggestion: Might there be some personages who are also resources? Consider that a General provides a point for every military resource, whereas a Sergeant IS two military resources AND provides a point for every two military resources (including himself), or a QuarterMaster is a Military resource and also provides a point for every two Food resources. Just a thought.

Absolutely. I was planning something along these lines but was trying to think of some nice way to work it in. You've given some good examples there, though.
 
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I've identified a small flaw in the rules as currently formulated: the "lead player" marker orbits the table at an alarming speed due to the shortness of turns. Or, as is more common, it gets forgotten about and stays still.

I have two possible changes to the rule on this...

1) The lead player marker moves when an "on reveal" effect is resolved.

2) The lead player marker moves after it is used to resolve a tie in timing.

I favour the second option as it only comes into play occasionally and the best time to do something with it is when you have already identified where it is and it is fresh in the mind. It may also add a small tactical dimension to when you reveal cards with effects.

I'm planning to try this option in future playtests and see how things pan out.
 
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I just had a really useful test play with some of the lunchtime gaming crew at work. My first look at the game with 3 players. Both of the other guys playing are experienced at drafting games (7 Wonders, plus drafting formats of CCGs), so I was hoping for some insight.

And I got it!

The game does seem, in essence, to work with 3 players, but we saw how swingy things can get. One of the players was trying to collect influence to score against a couple of personages but kept on getting hit by effects that caused him to lose critical resource cards, meaning that he had a really bad game with a score less than half that of the winner. He felt that while he was trying to make intelligent drafting decisions, the outcome of the game was decided by offensive moves by other players and he had no way to counteract them.

This isn't going to happen all the time, but it is the sort of thing that can make someone not want to play again, which would be the death of a lightweight game like this (or any game for that matter!).

The suggestion was that I should reduce (or remove) effects that harm another player's tableau. Possibly there should be cards with lasting effects that can act as a defence.

This second point (defences) is one I have been thinking about, but I hadn't really thought about the first. I will think about making card effects mostly (maybe even wholly) constructive, which should improve the game.

Though I must admit it is nice to have a "take that!" element, but if there is, it needs to do a bit less.

As an overall thought, I figure that in a small, quick game, having big swings of fortune is fine, but when those swings are large enough (or cumulative enough) that they can poison the game for a player, the game is probably broken.
 
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Steve Zagieboylo
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I think you lose something if you get rid of the offense cards completely. Here are some other options you might want to consider:

* Make them weaker. Only one target can be affected, and most of them are 'lose one resource' and the victim gets to choose.

* Make them either/or: The person playing it either can put it in his tableau to gain points, OR use it for offense (and then discard it).

* A weaker version of the previous: the offensive 'on reveal' actions are all on cards that are less valuable in your tableau. The most powerful point-earning cards have no 'on reveal' or a mild, non-offense one.

* Make them undo-able. (This is probably too hard to describe to be worth doing, but I thought I throw it in, anyway and maybe you can use the idea somehow.) Rather than causing the victim to discard parts of his tableau, they are merely "lost" which he indicates by placing a token on them or just putting them in a separate area. If the game ends and you still have resources which are lost, you discard them before scoring, but there are also "Find what was lost" cards which let you restore several items that you lost.

---

I had another, unrelated thought that you might want to consider: With several players, there is an issue that the player right before the player who is winning is going to be pressured to guard against the winning player. i.e. if one person has a ton of military, the player before him will feel pressured to use up any generals that come to him, just to deny the military person.

This fact makes me want to have a way to reverse the drafting and turn order, so that the burden at least falls on someone else. I was going to suggest that you have phases with different drafting order, as in 7 Wonders, but how about an action that reverses direction, a la Uno? Just as in Uno, people will be frustrated if a couple of reversals keeps them from playing for a while, but I don't see that necessarily as something that will make a player dislike the game. It might make them want to play again so they can get some revenge.
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Rob Harper
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Zag24 wrote:
I think you lose something if you get rid of the offense cards completely. Here are some other options you might want to consider:

* Make them weaker. Only one target can be affected, and most of them are 'lose one resource' and the victim gets to choose.

That's one thing we discussed after playing: letting the victim choose the damage would be a good starting point.

Quote:
* Make them either/or: The person playing it either can put it in his tableau to gain points, OR use it for offense (and then discard it).

Now that's something I hadn't thought of. I quite like the idea that you can either use an attack card for the attack, or use it for scoring, but not both. That has potential. I don't think it really fixes this issue though.

Quote:
* A weaker version of the previous: the offensive 'on reveal' actions are all on cards that are less valuable in your tableau. The most powerful point-earning cards have no 'on reveal' or a mild, non-offense one.

This is more or less what I was expecting to move towards when I got to concentrating on balance, but I think given how nasty offensive effects can be, it may not be what I'm looking for.

Quote:
* Make them undo-able. (This is probably too hard to describe to be worth doing, but I thought I throw it in, anyway and maybe you can use the idea somehow.) Rather than causing the victim to discard parts of his tableau, they are merely "lost" which he indicates by placing a token on them or just putting them in a separate area. If the game ends and you still have resources which are lost, you discard them before scoring, but there are also "Find what was lost" cards which let you restore several items that you lost.

I see what you're getting at, and that could be good. In Fairy Tale there is something a bit like this where cards get flipped and unflipped during play, and only the face up cards are of use to you. I like the simplicity of this being a card flip, but I'm using face-down cards and revealing the cards in other ways in this game. Markers would work but I would prefer to avoid additional components as much as I can.

This is definitely worth some more thought.

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I had another, unrelated thought that you might want to consider: With several players, there is an issue that the player right before the player who is winning is going to be pressured to guard against the winning player. i.e. if one person has a ton of military, the player before him will feel pressured to use up any generals that come to him, just to deny the military person.

Good point.

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This fact makes me want to have a way to reverse the drafting and turn order, so that the burden at least falls on someone else. I was going to suggest that you have phases with different drafting order, as in 7 Wonders, but how about an action that reverses direction, a la Uno? Just as in Uno, people will be frustrated if a couple of reversals keeps them from playing for a while, but I don't see that necessarily as something that will make a player dislike the game. It might make them want to play again so they can get some revenge.

I think I'm leaning towards keeping the game as a "single phase" game, but having something that reverses the order of play could work.

Or possibly something that makes the passed cards go round two places instead of just one -- that would have some fun implications in a two-player game!

Thanks for all your input, Steve, it's really appreciated, and making me think about loads of new stuff.
 
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