Bevan Clatworthy
msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
Hi there folks! For what is probably my last design blog piece for Ghostel, I wanted to look at the part of the game which gives the most variety to game play, the Spookie Favours.

These are cards bought from The Ghost in the Attic during the Day Phase. Each one allows you to bend or break the rules of the game to your advantage or your opponents' disadvantage. Some will let you reroll dice, others will allow you to move to anywhere in the house no matter which room you're in, whilst others will let you set up barriers that prevent other players interfering with your scores.

Now the reason these got included in the game was two-fold. Firstly, without them Ghostel becomes a very mathematical affair, both dry and one dimensional with little 'secret strategies' possible. In all the playtests without them, I had to watch my players yawn and make surreptitious glances at their watches, or sometimes less subtle exclamations of displeasure!

Introducing the Favours gave the players some secret tech to deepen their strategy, to give them one over on everyone else at the table. This intrigue suddenly transformed Ghostel into a different affair, without removing the strategic side to the game. Players now didn't have all the information, which created an undercurrent of tension that led to those wonderful moments of smack talk amongst the players as a three pip die suddenly becomes a six, or someone suddenly hops to a room the others weren't expecting.

Can't get to that room in the corner? With Walk Through Walls, now you can!

The second fold of this mechanical origami metaphor was the inspiration for the Spookie Favour's design. At the time I first conceived of Ghostel, I was super into the World of Warcraft TCG. Now in most collectable card games the cards themselves create the strategy by contradicting the rules of the game, allowing players to perform actions they shouldn't be able to do like draw extra cards or cause damage directly to opposing enemies. I rapidly fell out of love with the TCG model (I also turned a little green when I toted how much I was spending in a month on this cardboard addiction, but I digress) however I took the lessons in game design it presented.

All in all, the Spookie Favours add a strong thematic flavour to Ghostel whilst providing the mechanical equivalent of costumes at Mardi Gras; it works, but without the flair and fun factor. Without them Ghostel is more like homework than a game; with them the speculation amongst the players makes for the friction needed to keep the players at the table.

Do you know of any games where a single mechanic made the difference? Do you prefer your games with all the information visible or with some elements unknown? Do Spookie Favours make sense thematically? As always, we'd love to hear from you!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nathaniel Grisham

Indiana
msg tools
mb
Settlers of Catan comes to mind. Without the hidden information of the development cards, or the psuedo-hidden information of the cards in someone's hand, finishing the game would be a formality, as everyone would already be able to see who is going to win. Yes, a dedicated spoilsport could keep track of all of the resources they have in hand, but no one is going to play with him more than once, and he'd rather be a a Magic: The Gather tournament somewhere, anyway. (speaking of digressing...)

On a different note, Pandemic would not be the same without the reshuffling step of the epidemic cards. This single step is what gives the game most of its challenging nature. No one would feel the pressure to keep up with infections, if they had to wait for the entire deck to cycle through before a city is infected again.

I like hidden information, but I struggle with certain games that are based entirely on that. What I call "social experiment" games like Werewolf, Coup, and The Resistance feel more luck based than skill based. But a game like Clue can still get me excited about practicing my deduction skills.

In my opinion, games without hidden information need be able to allow the players to plan their own strategy to work. I also think that varying paths to victory are needed for this, also. Smallworld and Village seem to flow well enough without the players keeping any hidden information about the game state. They only have their own thoughts to keep secret.

I've enjoyed following these blog entries. If I ever get myself to sit down and start designing my own games, I feel like I can try to emulate your style here. When I make a design decision, I'll want to be able to explain why that decision is better than the alternative.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kenny Tew
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Seems like a good idea, I think it's OK thematically, but that does depend a bit on the 'mood' of the game. Perhaps buying them from a mystic instead of ghosts might be better, especially if the ghosts are the main enemy.

I haven't yet come up with a mechanic that made a huge improvement, but I've tried several that completely ruined my game.

Best of luck with it.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bevan Clatworthy
msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
@Grisham: Thank you, much appreciated! They've been great fun to write and your feedback has been a pleasure to read. I look forward to seeing some of your designs in future.

@Kenny: The players take the part of the ghost, but the mystic would still make sense. Thank you for the luck message, the same to you!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.