Rocco Privetera
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New York
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Here's my situation. I'm fine tuning some balance in MegaJail, my sci-fi jail simulator. Players are wardens managing a wing of a jail and the cons therein.

Every turn right now players get resources in the form of OPS Cards, which are used as money, they are built as cells and facilities, etc. Each turn a turn cards says how many you get. This supply slows down over time to simulate the horror of working for a buerocracy, and a jail with never enough resources. Players can mitigate this by building things like cards that generate more money.

Players also get a bonus based on how many Dangerous cons they are holding, the thinking being that the govt will help with funding on the really dangerous ones so you can buy more force field cells and cyberdogs.

Each Con has a Danger rating in Skulls (none, 1 or 2). You tally this up during the income phase and the turn card says what you get - so in turn 2, for example, every 3 skulls of cons gives you one more income card.

So a typical turn 4 (of 5 total), say, the Base Income is 2, plus 1 for every 5 skulls. I count mine up and have 7, so my total income is 3.

The question is: Some players suggested I get rid of the base, and have all Cons with a minimum skull value of 1. Then you total everything and look at a chart thing on each card and that's your income. The theory being people with a LOT of easy cons still need some help, which is somewhat true.
However, this also leads to a tricky rich get richer thing. If a player loses some Cons (either because they didn't build the right things, or a Con escaped and is recaptured, or didn't have the right cells to hold them) that means on the next turn they get less Resources... which makes things harder... and they hold less Cons and so forth.

Also, instead of eyeballing about 1/2 the cons looking for skulls and skipping the ones with none, you now have to eyeball every single one. That adds some time.

I suppose I can still massage the curve with a table of some kind. But I don't want to penalize players too much if a bunch of random humans show up and they only built cells for squids.

...but... I *have* seen players "game the system" by deliberately not building Cells, so other players are forced to take their Cons. I'm countering that somewhat by providing score penalties for that case. But if it doesn't happen maliciously I don't want to penalize it (much).

Thoughts?
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Gary Selkirk
Canada
Truro
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Man. You really have a design on the go that's way beyond my comprehension.Good luck on this project.
 
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Rocco Privetera
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It's really not that difficult. The question might be easier explained like this.

Every turn, you get money $. You also have some cards.

Version 1: Some of those cards have Skulls on them; some do not. You get money based on some base number for that turn, plus 1 $ for every X skulls for that turn. The cards with no skulls don't get you more money.

Pros: players with a lot more Skulls don't get rich a lot faster than players without.

Bads: players with only a few cards still get maybe too much money. Players with a lot of cards with no skulls maybe don't get enough money.

or-

Version 2: All of your cards have Skulls on them in various amounts, but at least 1. You get money based on your total Skulls.

Pros: Players with a lot of low level cards still get something for them. Players who have only a few cards aren't rewarded for that.

Bads: players with a lot more skulls might get rich faster. You also have to look at every card every turn during Income.
 
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Bastiaan Reinink
Netherlands
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Interesting conundrum! :-)

One option: Playtest both versions and see which works best. That takes significant amounts of time though, so I get that you want to go with a more "mathematical" approach.

I try to do the mathematical way as well, as it saves time. You'll never be able to do without playtesting of course, but you can limit it.

What I've found is that it is very helpful to be able to put a "value" to things. Many games nowadays use victory points or something similar. In principle you could express everything in terms of these victory points and see how "valuable" any given resource / card / option (/ cell / con / dog) is

For example, lets say it takes 5 money to buy a victory point. If your con gives you 1 money / turn then it's worth 1/5th victory point per turn. Another con gives 2 money / turn so then it's worth 2/5th of a victory point / turn. This needs to balanced with additional costs (either upfront or every turn).

Without knowing a lot more about the economics of your game I can't say more, but maybe these articles can help you further with these ideas of costs and feedback:
http://makethemplay.com/index.php/2016/04/21/in-game-economi...
http://makethemplay.com/index.php/2016/05/25/in-game-economi...

Good luck!
 
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Andy Haigh
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Interesting indeed - I don't think I have an answer for you, but one thing that jumped out from what you said above:

Rocconteur wrote:
Version 1:
Bads: players with only a few cards still get maybe too much money. Players with a lot of cards with no skulls maybe don't get enough money.


From your initial description it sounded like you would want players to develop their jails to the point that they can hold more dangerous (and profitable) cons - the fact that there'd be a penalty for sticking with only low level cons seems to me like it would be pushing players in the direction you would want them to go.
 
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Michael Brettell
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South Turramurra
NSW
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I had a similar bit of maths for players to do in a game I'm designing - a base number plus a variable divided by another number, e.g. "5 + 1 for each 3 Guns you have".

Like you, I thought the maths was reasonably simple, but players often stumbled over it, and always paused when calculating. Then I realised, its not that the maths is hard, its that its something slightly complicated on top of everything else they are trying to process in learning a new game.

Replacing anything like that with a single simple calculation removed this problem. So it's either "5 + No. Guns" or "1 for each Gun". No more adding and dividing.

I think the recommendation to have a single skull on each card then comparing this to one table on the turn cards is a good one. The two steps - counting skulls and looking up on a chart - is a lot simpler than counting less cards, but doing more complex math in your head.

Also, you say players "game the system", like that's a bad thing. Isn't that just learning how to play the game? In a competitive game, you've got to expect any player will do whatever they're allowed to do to gain an advantage. It is supposed to be done maliciously. Unless its a cooperative game, of course.
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