Russell -
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Hello and thanks for reading-

A group of friends and I are working on a competitive dungeon crawler (as opposed to a co-op one) that looks to horror as inspiration. I've (it's a group project but for now I'm handling most of it as the rest as working on something else) been working on the various characters in play but before I go any further I would like comments and critique on the general philosophy of the game - do you guys think it sounds fun?

There are a few main "ideas" or design concepts we're trying to bring into this:

1) Tension. The key takeaway from horror we're using (aside from aesthetics) is that horror is about mounting tension and pressure - this is a game where the heroes are -not- the crowd favourites. Think - the opposite of Season 1 of Super Dungeon Explore. To facilitate this the heroes are going to face asymmetric information - they're looking for a relic in the dungeon, which their opponent has placed in one of the (currently) 16 rooms. This immediately presents the classic horror movie dilemma - split up and search faster, or group up and crawl? Additionally, many of the minions the dungeon master will spawn early in the game are stuff that the heroes want to take out soon - stuff like monsters that start weak but slowly gain strength, or those that increase the rate at which he can summon minions. This once again provides the tension of choice - how do the heroes accomplish all the objectives with limited resources?

Building into this, after a set number of rounds a Reaper - think Pyramid Head - will spawn. So now the heroes are searching for a relic, trying to suppress those cheap but critical minions and running from a slow but functionally unkillable monster.

2) mechanical simplicity. It's probably more a personal thing but I love games like Hive over those with too much luck. I.e. our game won't have dice rolling. At all. Instead, to include sources of uncertainty, players have a certain number of cards that provide small but significant effects, like shifting placement or buffs to damage. Without dice, there's no hail Mary runs and whatnot - you can see your doom coming a mile away, and every mistake can and will be punished, rather than saved by an unlikely roll.

3) actions. We wanted to have characters like the Reaper, because honestly who doesn't love Pyramid Head and his newborn cousin Combination Safe Head? But at the same time, we wanted players to be able to interact with them - i.e. the board game equivalent of Emrakul wouldn't be very fun as one player wouldn't actually be able to counterplay against it. Hence in Arcadia every time any character is damaged it loses one action point the next time it activates. This allows heroes to do stuff like pepper the Reaper to slow it's advance, but also means they can get swamped and slowed by a horde of tiny monsters as the Reaper slowly bears down on them. I think it adds in dramatic gameplay that's tactical while being mechanically simple.

Still, I'm new to this, and any and all advice and criticism would be appreciated. What do you guys like? Think needs to go? Or perhaps could be added? Thanks for reading, and apologies for the text chunk.
 
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Destrio Dai
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A random element of dice rolls, card draw, or some other mechanic adds tension and 'story' opportunities to a game, which is why many thematic games include them.

Your game might be strategically and tactically interesting since it is an action point system, but like you said, if you can count what happens several moves ahead, you already see the train coming and I think would lose 'tension' before the point of impact.

I can't comment on the Silent Hill or other references much, but the general idea of the tactical combat horror is a sound one. Just make sure you are able to differentiate your ideas enough from the games that inspire your design.

I think it is hard to get true horror into a board game. Video games do it well when your character has very little means to defend with or none at all depending on the threat. Also the media is more interactive. Movies on the other hand rely on a good sound track, smart special effects, and great acting/dialog. Some real time board games include a certain level of stress or panic pretty well though.
 
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Russell -
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Destrio wrote:
A random element of dice rolls, card draw, or some other mechanic adds tension and 'story' opportunities to a game, which is why many thematic games include them.

Your game might be strategically and tactically interesting since it is an action point system, but like you said, if you can count what happens several moves ahead, you already see the train coming and I think would lose 'tension' before the point of impact.


Yup, that's one of the main worries as well. What I'm aiming for is something like the tension in a close game of Hive. Or chess. Still, we're planning to add tactics cards for each player - there'll be a small deck for both the player piloting the heroes and the dungeon master, and they're intended to serve to purpose dice rolls would - inject small variation and uncertainty. But unlike dice these cards are chosen and played from a drawn hand, meaning that it encourages (hopefully!) tactical thought rather than hail Mary runs. Plus you can attempt to read your opponent, guessing when he/she's storing up cards and when he's likely to go all in.

With regards to horror... Yeah, I don't think we can actually scare our players. Horror is more like a source of inspiration for us for how to create tension - I don't know, I personally find horror a perfect source of ideas for asymmetric gameplay.
 
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