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Subject: [WIP]{2015 PnP 2-player Contest} Arena of Espionage rss

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henry flower
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[thread=18180426]2015 PnP 2-player Contest[/thread]

Working Title:
Arena of Espionage

Designer
henry flower

Overview:
"Two sides locked in a tense battle for Supremacy face off in the Arena of Espionage. Each side deploys a team of Secret Agents tasked with infiltrating the Enemy’s Intelligence Offices and installing equipment capable of intercepting Valuable Communications. Agents may even be called on to smuggle the Intelligence out by hand. But this is only half the battle as these Agents are also responsible for the security of their own Intelligence Offices, and must take measures to counter Enemy Actions and prevent the release of Secret Information."

Play Time:
45 - 60 minutes

Number of Players:
2

Cards, Game board and Rules:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d2yzg745wxwxuqy/AACImEPUZiH7IXy0o...
10 decks x 18 cards each
1 game board
1 rule book

Other Components:
Players need to supply the following components:
2 dice
8 playing tokens

Comments :
Right now the cards and board include a small "bleed zone" required for printing at The Game Crafter. But when I get a chance I'll post a file with the proper sized images for those who prefer to print cards without the extra margin. I've added some (rudimentary) printable playing tokens, and I'll try to come up with an alternative low-ink card design.

Note: All card images adapted from icons available at flaticon.com (courtesy of creative commons).







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henry flower
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I've inserted an "action" shot of the board mid-game.

I plan to write an analysis of the position, and add it to the rule set.


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henry flower
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Position analysis and sample round added.

The position analysis is meant to demonstrate the game's strategic depth. Hopefully, it doesn't just confuse and intimidate the new player.

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henry flower
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I've added a glossary that describes the equipment:


Offense:

Audio Recorder [Recording]. Like laser microphones, audio
recorders do not produce RF transmissions and, therefore, cannot be
discovered from RF signals – though, unlike laser microphones, they must
be on the premises (and must be large enough and exposed enough for the
recordings to be retrievable), which makes them vulnerable not only to
hand searches, but even to careful observation by those wielding RF-
detecting wands.
Computer Virus [Transmitting]. These compact lines of code open
up access to computer databases and control systems. While they cannot
be uncovered by a mere hand search, they are easily defeated by a system
scan or by the use of a high-grade security dongle.
Film recorder [Recording]. Old technology still serves a
purpose – in this case, by avoiding the use of semi-conductors (and even
proper lenses), film recorders can elude searches that target such
components. They may even elude hand searches for the same reason; but
they are completely ineffective in low light conditions.
Hardware Keylogger [Recording]. These devices will record
everything that gets typed onto a computer. Even a security dongle is no
protection. However, they are easily uncovered by a hand search or by a
high-grade system scan.
Laser Microphone [Transmitting]. These high-tech devices work by
bouncing laser beams off windows and other surfaces in a room in order
to read the vibrations produced in them by the conversations inside.
Since these devices do not rely on RF transmissions, they cannot be
discovered by RF-detecting wands, and as they work from a distance, they
can even elude hand searches; but they are vulnerable to radio jammers,
which are capable of projecting sounds that disrupt (and even cancel)
the surface vibrations.
Laser Spectrometer [Transmitting]. These highly sophisticated
devices use powerful lasers to vaporise their samples and interpret the
resulting emissions. Working at long range, they are not at risk of
being detected by any hand search, or of being thwarted by basic
isolation. But they are clearly visible to any laser detector.
Micro Camera [Transmitting]. These devices are small enough to
go undiscovered during even the most careful hand search, and high-grade
devices perform well even in low light conditions. However, they are
vulnerable to devices that target their CCD/CMOS arrays.
Optical Transmitter [Transmitting]. Like other detectors, these
devices collect and identify physical data. But rather than simply store
their samples for later retrieval, they actively transmit their data
using infrared or laser technology. This allows them to work in isolated
and otherwise inaccessible environments. Their greater size and
complexity, however, makes them more visible, and thus vulnerable to
physical searches.
Radio Transmitter [Transmitting]. These tiny devices use radio
transmitters to deliver intercepted audio communications to distant
receivers. They are too small to be discovered by any hand search, and
higher-grade devices are resistant to jamming, but they are vulnerable
to “bug sweeps” using RF detecting wands.
Sample Analyser [Recording]. These devices collect, store, and
identify chemical and other physical data. Their simple construction
makes them immune to high-tech counter-measures, and makes them hard to
spot even with a hand search. Isolation is the only sure way to defeat
them.
Stolen Password [Transmitting]. Poorly secured passwords and
other credentials open the door to intruders. Although they will not be
revealed by a system scan, the danger can be eliminated by the use of a
security dongle or by a careful search of the computer environment.
Thermal Imager [Transmitting]. These devices are designed with
the object of imaging in low light conditions. Their greater size and
complexity, however, make them more visible, and thus vulnerable to
physical searches and high-grade optical detectors.

Defense:

(Analog) Hand Search [Neutralizing]. Physical searches of the
local environment will uncover sophisticated equipment (like optically
transmitting analysers) and may even detect low-grade sample analysers.
But they are ineffective against laser spectrometers, which work from a
distance.
(Audio) Hand Search [Neutralizing]. Physical searches of an
enclosed area will uncover audio recorders, which tend to be large
enough and exposed enough for the recordings to be retrievable by the
enemy Agent. High-grade searches are also effective at discovering laser
microphones, which need a direct line of sight to their target, but
transmitting microphones are too small to be detected in this way.
(Digital) Hand Search [Neutralizing]. Physical searches of the
computer environment will reveal any peripherals or devices (like
keyloggers) that do not belong. High-grade searches may even reveal
security lapses that compromise passwords and other login credentials,
but they are ineffective against computer viruses.
(Video) Hand Search [Neutralizing]. Physical searches in an
enclosed area will uncover sophisticated equipment (like thermal imaging
devices) and even basic film recorders. But micro cameras are too small
to be detected in this way.
CCD/CMOS Detector [Neutralizing]. These devices are capable of
detecting the reflections produced by the CCD/CMOS arrays used in micro
cameras and low-grade thermal imagers. But they are completely
ineffective against film-based imaging equipment.
Isolation [Preventative]. These devices (or, rather,
“protocols”) work by ensuring that sensitive chemicals and processes are
shielded from the environment. They are especially effective against
devices that need to be in close contact with their samples, but they
may also be effective against long range detectors (like laser
spectrometers). However, they provide no defence against transmitting
detectors which can broadcast data out from secure environments.
Laser Spotter [Neutralizing]. These devices work by detecting
the reflection produced by the lenses used in lasers and other optical
devices. They are less successful against optical transmitters, whose
lenses tend to face away from the spotter, and they are entirely
ineffective against sample analysers, which have no optical features.
Nocturnal Activity [Preventative]. These “protocols” work by
ensuring that sensitive activities are performed only in shadows and
low-light environments. They are highly effective against film recorders
and lower-grade micro cameras, but of little use against thermal imaging
systems.
Radio Jammer [Neutralizing]. These devices project streams of
noise that disrupt or cancel out the surface vibrations that laser
microphones feed on. High-grade jammers are even capable of producing
radio frequencies that “jam” local transmissions. However, such devices
have no effect at all on audio recorders.
Security Dongle [Preventative]. These tiny devices eliminate the
risk of stolen passwords as they must be physically present in order for
the user to gain entry to the computer system or database. However, they
offer no protection from keyloggers or high-grade computer viruses.
System Scan [Neutralizing]. A scan of the computer system will
detect the telltale signatures of computer viruses and other malware.
High-grade scans may even uncover the presence of keyloggers, but they
are ineffective against unsecured passwords and login credentials.
Wand Search [Neutralizing]. RF-detecting wand searches will
expose any radio transmitter in a given room, and high-grade searches
are often effective at uncovering audio recorders, but they are
ineffective at detecting laser microphones, which operate at a distance.
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Nate K
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Wow. This game seems like... Super Chess, or something. Really intense and intricate.
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henry flower
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kurthl33t wrote:
Wow. This game seems like... Super Chess, or something. Really intense and intricate.
Thanks, Nate!

Yes, the game has a certain intricacy and (I hope) intensity, but I wouldn’t want people to get the impression that this is anything as demanding as chess (or… Super Chess).

Comments are scarce at this point, so I’ll use your observation to segue into a bit of infomercializing.

When it comes down to it, this is a (relatively) simple card game.

There are many pieces of equipment in the same way that there are many cards in a standard deck – and (like a deck of cards) they all match up in a very orderly (and intuitive) way.

And this (at least from my perspective) is one of the cool things about the game: the equipment is ordered in a non-transitive, 6-item loop (like paper-rock-scissors on steroids).

To make things easy, every device is categorized as either Type-A, Type-B, or Type-C (a status clearly indicated on each card).

1. Offensive Type-A defeats Defensive Type-B
2. Defensive Type-B defeats Offensive Type-C
3. Offensive Type-C defeats Defensive Type-A
4. Defensive Type-A defeats Offensive Type-B
5. Offensive Type-B defeats Defensive Type-C
6. Defensive Type-C defeats Offensive Type-A

And so forth.

In addition, ties are avoided by recognizing gradations of quality, with each device appearing in 3 possible grades (“Deluxe”, “Standard”, and “economy”).

So, for instance, when Offensive Type-A1 meets Defensive Type-A2, the higher-grade device wins.

In the unusual event that even the grades are tied, the defensive device prevails.

It’s as simple as that.

Ok, it’s not as simple as that, but that’s a big part of it!

Another cool feature is that the various actions (drawing, travelling, discarding, etc.) have a strict limitation:

Turns are grouped into rounds during which each action can only be performed once.

This introduces an interesting dynamic in which the players must prioritize their activities (lest the opponent perform them first), and even encourages players to pass when there are still useful moves available, in order to secure the right to act first (and thus perform the action of their choice) next round.
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henry flower
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The first prototype arrived from the printer yesterday.

I managed to get the blue and purple card backs reversed, but everything else looks pretty good.

I'm finally ready to play test.









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henry flower
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Updates:

- I changed the card backs to something a little calmer.

- I put the cards on 8.5 x 11 sheets for simplified printing. It comes to a total of 12 double-sided pages. Hopefully, they're not too ink hungry.

Here is the link:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d2yzg745wxwxuqy/AACImEPUZiH7IXy0o...

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henry flower
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After a number of play tests, I came to the conclusion that the current design is probably too demanding for most players – which is a bit of drag, because the game itself plays really well.

I found myself constantly having to tell people which equipment they needed in a given situation, and where it could be found.

So I decided on a complete redesign with the goal of simplifying things for the less adventurous player.

The new design reduces the number of modes and the number of agents from 4 to 3, and integrates the intelligence decks with the outlet decks, dropping the card count from 180 to a mere 108 (the equivalent of 2 standard decks).

Reducing the number of modes had the added benefit of simplifying the deck construction, eliminating the need for the ugly (and confusing) legend on the card backs.

I also abandoned the spy theme. I’m not sure if this counts as an improvement. But my intention was to eliminate confusion about card match-ups and locations.

My solution was to background the theme (which now plays out as a political power struggle), and foreground the abstract the logic of the game.

To that end, the 3 equipment types (formerly “A”, “B” and “C”) are now explicitly represented by 3 basic shapes: a square (representing paper), an X (representing scissors), and a circle (representing a stone/rock).

Every contest/battle is now decided according to the universally-recognized rules of paper-scissors-stone.

Here is a thematic description of the 3 symbols – society, government, and industry:

Paper represents the ballot, by means of which society secures entitlements from the government.
Scissors represent the cut of profit that industry and commerce extract from society.
Stone represents the weight of regulations and taxes that government imposes on the industrious.

Offensive and defensive equipment have been replaced by light and dark symbols, which simply need to be played in alternation.

“Mode” and “type” are now represented by a big symbol and a small symbol respectively.

The only thing that has been increased is the number of “grades” (used to break ties), which grew from 3 to 6 (as represented by a row of pips).

The decks are now constructed according to a very simple logic: one deck has all the small paper, another has all the small scissors, and another all the small stones of a given color. There is one small twist, which I explain in the rules. But the result is that each deck is now associated with a single, small symbol.

I did, however, make one very significant change to game play. Previously, the modes (and corresponding intelligence offices) had no interaction; now they do.

The idea was to allow each mode of power to trump one of the others, resulting in a rotating struggle out of which a single “leader” continually emerges on each side. The two leaders can then battle to be the boss of the game.

Instead of intercepting intelligence from a specialized deck, the boss now has an opportunity to draw from any of the 6 decks, with the aim of defeating the drawn card (and thereby scoring a point).

Anyhow, that’s an overview of how the changes play out. The other rules are largely unaffected.

I’ll add the new card and board images to the Dropbox folder here for anyone interested in this version:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d2yzg745wxwxuqy/AACImEPUZiH7IXy0o...

And I’ll try to get the new rules on paper as soon as possible.

hfninja
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henry flower
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I'm still working on getting the new rules in print.

But I have redesigned the board and cards into something a little cleaner and less oppressive.

Here are some samples:







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henry flower
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Unfortunately, I missed the deadline to enter the new version in the contest (and I'm tempted to withdraw the original).

But I finally got the new rules on paper, and the components are all printer ready, so I will keep the files available in case there is some interest.

I will also try to arrange the cards on letter-size sheets in the next few days to make printing easier.

I'm not sure what people will think of the stripped-down design, but I find the game plays very well.

Here is the link:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zb39las2bj0j446/AABt06RGPGMvbdbnW...
 
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