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Subject: [WIP] Applied Phlebotinum: Play just the scientists in a 4x game. rss

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Adam Blinkinsop
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(Title comes from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AppliedPhlebotinu...)

(EDIT: Added to http://wiki.decktet.com/game:the-young-queen-s-palimpsest)



Concept

Players are the scientists directing research for a civ in a fantasy (decktet-style) 4x game. The tech tree is dynamically generated through card play, favoring an arrangement where suits are connected. (In the image, wyrms cluster at the top while there's a growing suns area at the bottom left.)

As usual, questions / comments / concerns are much appreciated.

Components

I'm using a decktet purely for prototyping purposes; eventually it'll probably want a custom deck. Players will also need an equal number of scientists (cubes in my prototype) in their own color, and some way of keeping score (just a pencil and a pad of paper).

Setup

Shuffle the deck, deal five cards to each player, and flip one face-up to the middle of the table as the root of all knowledge. The game works well with just the basic deck; extended card details are given below.

Play

. On your turn, you must play a card and draw a card. The card you play must touch at least one other card as well as the table (you can't just cover cards up).

. If any touched cards have at least as many scientists as the rank of the card you just played, score them. The player with the most scientists on that card scores its rank, and the player with the second-most scores half its rank, rounded down. Cards without rank cannot be scored nor trigger scoring. In the case of a tie, tied players all score half rank.

. Finally, look at each touched card's suits and count all the suits that match your played card. Place that many scientists on any card(s).

End

The game ends when: a player runs out of cubes // a player reaches 100 points // the deck runs out of cards.

Score all cards whose rank is still visible once more. The player with the most points wins.

Extended Deck

. The Excuse has no suits and no rank; it cannot trigger scoring nor place scientists.

. The Pawns have no rank, they cannot trigger scoring. Place scientists as usual.

. The Courts have no rank, they cannot trigger scoring. Instead of placing scientists, remove scientists from touched cards equal to the number of matching symbols there. These scientists do not need to be your own.
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Brett Christensen
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Oliver Kiley
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Yeah, this sounds pretty interesting
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Fascinating.
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Kenny VenOsdel
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It's like Flower Fall minus dexterity plus more area control. I like it!

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Kenny VenOsdel
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Quick Questions:

1. Number of players you think it could support?

2.
Quote:
If any touched cards have at least as many scientists as the rank of the card you just played, score them. The player with the most scientists on that card scores its rank, and the player with the second-most scores half its rank, rounded down. Cards without rank cannot be scored nor trigger scoring. In the case of a tie, tied players all score half rank.


So if I play a 5 and it touches a 9 with 5 scientists, 3 of mine and 2 of yours, I would score 9 points and you would score 4, right? What if the rank is no longer visible? This is addressed in the end game, but not here.

3. The Excuse seems to do nothing other than be useful for covering up someone's ranks without potentially triggering a scoring round. Is this correct?

4. Is there a limit to how many cubes can be on a card? Such as its rank. This may only be important in a more than 2 player game.

5. Can you ever choose not to place scientists?

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Adam Blinkinsop
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Wow, didn't expect so many responses!

kvenosdel wrote:
1. Number of players you think it could support?


The playtest showed it to work well with two, and the only limiting factor is the deck size (more players means less turns each). I'd expect it to work well through four, and potentially five or even six (but each player would have a very small number of turns). Four is probably ideal, but testing would confirm that.

kvenosdel wrote:
2.
Quote:
If any touched cards have at least as many scientists as the rank of the card you just played, score them. The player with the most scientists on that card scores its rank, and the player with the second-most scores half its rank, rounded down. Cards without rank cannot be scored nor trigger scoring. In the case of a tie, tied players all score half rank.


So if I play a 5 and it touches a 9 with 5 scientists, 3 of mine and 2 of yours, I would score 9 points and you would score 4, right? What if the rank is no longer visible? This is addressed in the end game, but not here.


Scoring: correct. I think if the rank is no longer visible it shouldn't score, but in testing we nudged things around to make scoring possible. The former makes it a much more positionally tactical and cutthroat game, the latter makes it more friendly. I think the former would be better, consider that the rule. EDIT: As Nate posted, the card does score on the turn the rank is covered.

kvenosdel wrote:
3. The Excuse seems to do nothing other than be useful for covering up someone's ranks without potentially triggering a scoring round. Is this correct?


Yes. This is untested.

kvenosdel wrote:
4. Is there a limit to how many cubes can be on a card? Such as its rank. This may only be important in a more than 2 player game.


No limit, but players have a finite number of cubes to use (running out ends the game), and your margin doesn't affect your score (you get the same points for 1 cube more as 10).

kvenosdel wrote:
5. Can you ever choose not to place scientists?


Hm. No, if only because that forces the game towards an end. You could always choose to place a card in such a way that no symbols match (if such a configuration is possible), but if symbols match, you must place cubes somewhere.
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Lacombe
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Would it be interesting if the cubes could move to an adjacent / touching card after the round in which the rank gets covered up? [Presumably the card would score at the time the rank is covered up, first]
 
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Adam Blinkinsop
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NateStraight wrote:
Would it be interesting if the cubes could move to an adjacent / touching card after the round in which the rank gets covered up? [Presumably the card would score at the time the rank is covered up, first]


Cube movement is über-powerful, both because it delays the endgame and because of the Risk army-of-doom effect. As it is, players must carefully consider their investment in early cards to ensure they still have resources to invest in later cards.

It's thematic, though, to have scientists switch work to related fields, so I like the idea. Perhaps you can move half of them away? Perhaps you can spend points (0 to move 1, 1 to move 2, 3:3 6:4 10:5, etc.) to move them? Perhaps you can move a fixed number of cubes each turn?
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Greg J
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How many cubes/scientists per player to start the game?
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Adam Blinkinsop
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Octogreg wrote:
How many cubes/scientists per player to start the game?


I'm playing with 30, sourced from El Grande, and that seems to be a good number.
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Very cool.

The name seems like a mismatch to me, though, since "applied phlebotinum" doesn't sound terribly fantasy world.

blinks wrote:
I think if the rank is no longer visible it shouldn't score, but in testing we nudged things around to make scoring possible.


An alternative would be to forbid covering the rank and suits on a card. A player would be allowed to cover the rank in one corner, but then later plays would have to leave the rank in the other corner uncovered. Similarly for suits, although the suits might get covered in one corner and the rank in the other.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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pmagnus wrote:
Very cool.

The name seems like a mismatch to me, though, since "applied phlebotinum" doesn't sound terribly fantasy world.
Quote:


The scientists like to have technical names for fantastic things; that's just life. :-)

[q][q="blinks"]I think if the rank is no longer visible it shouldn't score, but in testing we nudged things around to make scoring possible.


An alternative would be to forbid covering the rank and suits on a card. A player would be allowed to cover the rank in one corner, but then later plays would have to leave the rank in the other corner uncovered. Similarly for suits, although the suits might get covered in one corner and the rank in the other.


True, but I do like the idea of tactically covering a number. The covering card needs to be high value or it allows the first card to score anyway. You also need two turns to cover a card. Deserves a test.
 
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Greg J
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Questions for clarity:

Cards without rank in this game would mean Aces, Pawns, Courts Crowns and the Excuse. Correct?

I think I get the gameplay, but just want to make sure. Let's say the Journey is the last card played in the photograph. First order of business is to score every card with at least 3 cubes on it that it is touching. White scores 15 (7 for the Cave and 8 for the Betrayal). Green scores 6 (4 for the Betrayal and 2 for the Cave (rounded down from 3)). Correct?

Next, the player who placed the Journey puts 2 cubes into play (one for each Wave match for the Cave and the Ace). Correct?

Endgame: If the game ended on this turn, the Battle and the Desert would not score as their ranks are covered. If the Soldier had a cube on it, it would also score zero. Correct?

Was Camden an influence in the game's design?

ftr, this is the coolest looking Decktet game to come out in a long while. Can't wait to try it!



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Kenny VenOsdel
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To increase the tactics related to covering, you could say only a card with equal or higher rank can cover another cards rank.
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blinks wrote:
The covering card needs to be high value or it allows the first card to score anyway.


Could u elaborate on this please? Earlier in the discussion, it seemed that a card was scored on the turn its rank was covered irregardless of the rank of the covering card:

blinks wrote:

Scoring: correct. I think if the rank is no longer visible it shouldn't score, but in testing we nudged things around to make scoring possible. The former makes it a much more positionally tactical and cutthroat game, the latter makes it more friendly. I think the former would be better, consider that the rule. EDIT: As Nate posted, the card does score on the turn the rank is covered.


 
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Adam Blinkinsop
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Octogreg wrote:
Questions for clarity:

Cards without rank in this game would mean Aces, Pawns, Courts, Crowns and the Excuse. Correct?


Correct, though I hadn't thought of Aces.

Octogreg wrote:
I think I get the gameplay, but just want to make sure. Let's say the Journey is the last card played in the photograph. First order of business is to score every card with at least 3 cubes on it that it is touching. White scores 15 (7 for the Cave and 8 for the Betrayal). Green scores 6 (4 for the Betrayal and 2 for the Cave (rounded down from 3)). Correct?


Correct. Bonus points to you for recognizing the Betrayal.

Octogreg wrote:
Next, the player who placed the Journey puts 2 cubes into play (one for each Wave match for the Cave and the Ace). Correct?


Correct.

Octogreg wrote:
Endgame: If the game ended on this turn, the Battle and the Desert would not score as their ranks are covered. If the Soldier had a cube on it, it would also score zero. Correct?


Correct.

Octogreg wrote:
Was Camden an influence in the game's design?


No, actually; I've never played it. Looney Pyramids and Ca$h 'n Gun$ planted the seed of the idea of a freeform play area, CO₂ sparked a "dependent actions" mechanical concept, and the area control comes heavily from El Grande as well as another game I'm designing.

Octogreg wrote:
ftr, this is the coolest looking Decktet game to come out in a long while. Can't wait to try it!


Sweet! I'll be interested to hear about your experience!

kvenosdel wrote:
To increase the tactics related to covering, you could say only a card with equal or higher rank can cover another cards rank.


Hmm; I'm attempting to hold complexity to a minimum. The main way I do that in designs is to turn things implicit -- there were a ton of rules about suits in the earlier form of this design to attempt to force a tree with specific characteristics, but it turns out the worker-placement rule is the only one necessary.

High numbers will end up being common when someone wants to cover a rank, just to keep the previous owner from scoring on the placement. I don't think it'll need to be made explicit in the rules. Consider it a variant, though.

Octogreg wrote:
blinks wrote:
The covering card needs to be high value or it allows the first card to score anyway.


Could you elaborate on this please? Earlier in the discussion, it seemed that a card was scored on the turn its rank was covered regardless of the rank of the covering card:

blinks wrote:

Scoring: correct. I think if the rank is no longer visible it shouldn't score, but in testing we nudged things around to make scoring possible. The former makes it a much more positionally tactical and cutthroat game, the latter makes it more friendly. I think the former would be better, consider that the rule. EDIT: As Nate posted, the card does score on the turn the rank is covered.


Yeah, it's unclear from the text. A card is scored if both are true: the ranks are visible (or were just covered by the played card) and the played card has a lower rank than the number of cubes on the touched card. Does that clarify?
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blinks wrote:

Yeah, it's unclear from the text. A card is scored if both are true: the ranks are visible (or were just covered by the played card) and the played card has a lower rank than the number of cubes on the touched card. Does that clarify?


Yep, thanx. Will chime back in once we've played it.
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Maybe I'm dense, but I can only get a couple of X's out of this post. Can you provide a little clarity? The only reason I bring it up is that I'd hate for someone new to the Decktet to see "4X" and rush in only to be disappointed and turned off to the system. I'm probably overthinking it though.
 
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kvenosdel wrote:
Maybe I'm dense, but I can only get a couple of X's out of this post. Can you provide a little clarity? The only reason I bring it up is that I'd hate for someone new to the Decktet to see "4X" and rush in only to be disappointed and turned off to the system. I'm probably overthinking it though.


Players are doing just the researching; as if you're playing Civ with just the tech tree open, ignoring everything else. I'd appreciate any better phrasing you could suggest.

EDIT: Or, if you have a better theme, that'd be great too!
 
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NateStraight wrote:
Would it be interesting if the cubes could move to an adjacent / touching card after the round in which the rank gets covered up? [Presumably the card would score at the time the rank is covered up, first]


If playing with the rule that you can purposefully cover up ranks at anytime I think this would be necessary to develop. Maybe something like this:

1. When a card's rank is completely covered resolve any scoring, then place all scientists from the "dead" card in a reserve pile to the side.

2. When placing scientists, you may also place one scientist of your own color from the reserve pile with at least one other scientist.

3. The scientists in the reserve pile do not in any way affect the end of the game.

This allows a slow reclamation of "dead" scientists without slowing the game down and introduces the potential for you to purposefully "kill" a card that you are controlling.
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blinks wrote:
kvenosdel wrote:
Maybe I'm dense, but I can only get a couple of X's out of this post. Can you provide a little clarity? The only reason I bring it up is that I'd hate for someone new to the Decktet to see "4X" and rush in only to be disappointed and turned off to the system. I'm probably overthinking it though.


Players are doing just the researching; as if you're playing Civ with just the tech tree open, ignoring everything else. I'd appreciate any better phrasing you could suggest.

EDIT: Or, if you have a better theme, that'd be great too!


I actually quite like the idea of research stations. I imagine it as a burgeoning arctic research station where the only way to build is outwards. As the station expands inner modules lose their access to the outside world and thus lose their efficacy for research.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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kvenosdel wrote:
NateStraight wrote:
Would it be interesting if the cubes could move to an adjacent / touching card after the round in which the rank gets covered up? [Presumably the card would score at the time the rank is covered up, first]


If playing with the rule that you can purposefully cover up ranks at anytime I think this would be necessary to develop. Maybe something like this:

1. When a card's rank is completely covered resolve any scoring, then place all scientists from the "dead" card in a reserve pile to the side.

2. When placing scientists, you may also place one scientist of your own color from the reserve pile with at least one other scientist.

3. The scientists in the reserve pile do not in any way affect the end of the game.

This allows a slow reclamation of "dead" scientists without slowing the game down and introduces the potential for you to purposefully "kill" a card that you are controlling.


This is promising, but needs a test: I should be able to check it out tomorrow...

EDIT: Another possibility is having a much smaller number of scientists, and not being able to take them back except for when a card is scored. At that time, you can take them all back or leave them all there. This would give it more of an Acquire tension, where you're expanding 'til you can't make it any more. Unsure, though. Perhaps I'll test both. The trickle of scientists seems useful, too, especially combined with the "only when killed" clause.
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blinks wrote:

EDIT: Or, if you have a better theme, that'd be great too!


If the tokens are fantasy scholars and scribes, what about a palimpsest? An ancient manuscript is studied, scribbled over, erased, and scribbled on again.

The name could perhaps include some ambiguous but exotic fantasy reference, like "Palimpsest of the seventh archives", "The Salgamon Palimpsest", or somesuch.

Or, to make it less serious, they could be translators working on separate parts of the killer joke.
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pmagnus wrote:
blinks wrote:

EDIT: Or, if you have a better theme, that'd be great too!


If the tokens are fantasy scholars and scribes, what about a palimpsest? An ancient manuscript is studied, scribbled over, erased, and scribbled on again.

The name could perhaps include some ambiguous but exotic fantasy reference, like "Palimpsest of the seventh archives", "The Salgamon Palimpsest", or somesuch.

Or, to make it less serious, they could be translators working on separate parts of the killer joke.
...is the most important scientific almanac to be released in The Scientific Capital of Scebany this year, and currently, it is nearing completion.
The competition for being mentioned the most in this book is just as stiff and as dim as the air in your study.
The more you are mentioned, the higher are the chances to be noticed by the famous laboratory of His Majesty The Superimportantroyalpersonwhosurelypaysalotforscientificwork. The only thing that is left is to make this almanac a bright star on the scientific sky map -- and, preferrably, the star that would lead you to riches.
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