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Subject: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016) rss

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JK
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for 2-4 players, aged 12+, 10 minutes

contest ready

Designed for the 18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 (see also the geeklist entry)


Background

On the surface, Colbridge is a thriving medieval city, ruled over by a council of three wise nobles. But beneath the calm façade the council is locked in a deadly battle for mastery. Gentle Lady Lovesy seeks peace and justice for all, while young Simon Volay uses his vast wealth to bribe and bully. The third, Charles Dubois is rumoured to use darker methods to advance his questionable agenda.

Your reputation for resourcefulness has seen you hired to help elevate one of the councilors by acts of charity, bribery, or violence. The only problem is that the agent who hired you was recently found stabbed under a hedge, and hadn't yet got around to mentioning which of the three councilors is paying you.

Can you use your wits to deduce who your patron is and elevate him or her to rule the city?

The Council of Colbridge is based on a unique combination of imperfect information, deduction and constrained action. The intent was to capture the feeling of a political thriller, where everyone has secrets and subtle manipulations lead eventually to victory.


Components




The game uses 18 cards (including rules). Full colour and low-ink prototype cards are available at https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxNaCLoDOWBRUmpiam5jbm1uaU..., however half of the cards can be substituted from a standard deck and the remainder can be easily drawn onto pieces of paper or card. See the low ink file for details.


Rules

Setup

Place the title card in the centre of the table and arrange the three score cards so that their number 1 aligns with the appropriate symbol.

Each player is dealt a patron card, which they look at and then place face down in front of the player to their left. The card in front of you denotes your employer in the council; you must deduce who it is by the actions of the other players.

Each player takes two action cards (or three if there are only 2 players) and arranges them as desired. The two visible symbols closest to the centre denote your actions of charity, bribery or violence. No action may also be taken.

With 2 players, first set one of the patron cards aside face down; players receive and view one of the remaining patron cards and place it in front of their opponent as normal. Players should take three action cards each instead of two. Use the reverse side of the score cards.

With 4 players, include the fool card (joker) with the patron cards; if you have the fool card then you win if the player opposite you wins. At the start, players view a patron card, then pass it left, then view a second patron card and place this in front of the person to their left. Hence each player knows the patron of the two players to their left, but not their own nor that of the player to their right.

Gameplay

The youngest player starts, with play progressing to the left.

On their turn, a player must rotate or flip one or two of their action cards to change the balance of actions. The centremost actions across all players determines which councilor advances by moving their score card.

If one action is more numerous than any other then that councilor is scored the difference to the next most numerous action. e.g. if the action cards show dove dove, purse pass, dove dagger then Lady Lovesy would score 2 points (3 doves minus 1 purse).

If there is a tie for the most common action then the next most common action, if present, scores its total. e.g. dove dove, purse dagger, dagger pass would score 1 point for Simon Volay (purse).

It is possible that no councilor scores after a turn, if neither condition applies.

Game end

The game ends when the first councillor reaches 10 (denoted by their symbol) on their score track. This councillor effectively beats the other two and rules the city in the style of their choosing.

Players then reveal their patron cards. Whoever has the card of the victorious councillor wins the game (and is amply rewarded by their patron).


Annotated playthroughs

Two player game
Three player game


Edits

9 Oct: name change Headless Henchmen
11 Oct: another name change (The Masters Council of Colbridge), revised background, rules and low-ink components available
12 Oct: slight rules tweak
28 Oct: full colour cards now available!
10 Nov: card art updated
1 Dec: cards updated with clarified rules and modified score tracks for two players
3 Dec: cards updated with typo fix, and game declared contest ready
13 Dec: added new banner image
20 Dec: added links to annotated playthroughs
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JK
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Re: [WIP] Headless Henchmen (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - idea phase)
One immediate thought - if the action cards could be only two per player then you could add a fourth candidate and a fourth player.

I think there will need to be some rules tweaks (in terms of what information you see at the start) to handle 2 or 4 players.

 
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Martin Windischer
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Re: [WIP] Headless Henchmen (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - idea phase)
Maybe a little fiddly, but it should work:

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C. L.
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Re: [WIP] Headless Henchmen (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - idea phase)
If a score of 8 is enough, you could reduce this to three cards by numbering the edges of the cards and flipping/rotating them.
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JK
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Action mechanics
Here's an idea for the mechanics of the turns.

Action cards have four possible values depending on their orientation (face up towards the centre): Charity (♥), bribery (♦), violence (♣) or no action (blank x). Players have two such cards, giving them access to a range of combinations, from nothing to one action to two different or two similar actions.

At the start of the round, players orient their cards however they like. Then, on a players turn they must flip or rotate one of their cards. Then the effect on the mayoral race is scored. Looking across all players cards, if one particular suit is more numerous than any other then that candidate is scored the difference to the next most numerous suit.

E.g. 3 players cards = ♥ ♥, ♦ x, ♥ ♣ would score 2 points for Lady Lovelace (3 ♥ minus 1 ♦)

But if there is a tie for the most numerous suit then the remaining suit scores its total

E.g. ♥ ♥, ♦ ♣, ♣ x would score 1 point for Richard Drummond ( ♦)

It is possible that no candidates advance after a turn, if neither condition applies.

It might be possible to replace the blank on one of the cards with some special action (eg double points, or negative points, or lowest count wins) which might spice things up a bit...

 
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Re: [WIP] The Masters of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - idea phase)
MartinWin wrote:
Maybe a little fiddly, but it should work:



GreenTea532 wrote:
If a score of 8 is enough, you could reduce this to three cards by numbering the edges of the cards and flipping/rotating them.


Good suggestions. And combining both ideas may be even better. The score cards could be numbered 1 to ten around the edges (1 2 3 4 up one side, 5 in the middle at the top, 6 7 8 9 down the other side and 10 middle bottom). Then you'd have a central arrow card similar to yours but with arrows pointing out from three of the corners, and line the score up next to the arrow...?
 
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JK
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Re: [WIP] The Masters of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - idea phase)
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pointed out that Lady Lovelace was a real person (and an awesome one too if you google her) so I'll change the name of my character to something else.

In fact, the whole back-story needs some work...
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JK
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - testing phase)
I've just updated the top post with new back-story, prototype rules and a link to some cards.

Oh, and I changed the name AGAIN, of course!
 
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - testing phase)
Just made a slight tweak to the rules based on trials with Teddy and Big Baby Bear.

Very hard to playtest a bluffing game by yourself! Especially when your opponents have such good poker faces...
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - testing phase)
Hmm. When I first wrote the rules I guessed that the fool card in the 4 player version would work best if he won when the player to his right won because that's the card he doesn't know.

Then I worked through some of the logic chains and found that this unbalances the game (I'll post on this later). So I changed the rule so that the fool wins if the player opposite him wins. This fixed the balance issue.

Now I've done some more work on the game logic it looks like this makes it very difficult to deduce your card. But if the fool wins with the player to their left then the game is both balanced and allows logical deduction to also be balanced and equally fair to all four players. So it looks like I need to tweak the rule again...

Before I do, I need to mull on this some more and double-check the logic (which becomes a little convoluted with 4 players!). I'll update the cards and rules in a couple of days.
 
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - testing phase)
Having delved even further into the logic of the 4 player game, I think I'm going to keep the rules as they are. The change I proposed in the previous post is not as good a fix as I hoped, and doesn't feel as aesthetic to me.

I'll start posting the logic in the next few days, while I start delving into the mathematics of the action card combinations. There's a lot more here than I originally thought...
 
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - testing phase)
This game has two unique mechanisms: the deduction of who your patron is based on other players' actions, and the balance of action cards to determine progress of the council members.

I'll examine both mechanisms in detail. First, the deduction.

3-player game

Spoiler (click to reveal)
For convenience, call the players me, Lucy (to my left) and Rob (to my right). Now, each player knows the patron of the player to their left, but not their own, nor that of the player to their right. So I know Lucy's patron and Rob knows mine. But how can I deduce who my patron is?

Well, there are only two possibilities, because it can't be Lucy's patron. Therefore until I know which it is, I should support both, and presumably the other players will use a similar strategy.

Now, the action card mechanism (to be analysed in detail later) does not always allow you to support exactly who you want to. But in general I should be able to avoid supporting Lucy's patron more often than not. If the other players are doing the same, then by watching them closely across several rounds I should be able to pick out who they aren't supporting, which should be the patron of the player to their left. Whoever Rob doesn't support should be my patron. Whoever Lucy doesn't support would be Rob's patron, and once I know that then I know that my patron must be the one left after excluding Rob and Lucy's patrons.

But what if I bluff by supporting Lucy's patron, the one that I know I am not working for? This is risky since it puts my own patron behind in the scoring, so must be done sparingly. Let's assume Lucy's patron is hearts (you know this), Rob's is diamonds and yours is spades. If you successfully bluff hearts (which you know is Lucy's) then Lucy will conclude she has spades (because she knows Rob has diamonds). Rob knows you are not hearts, so will conclude that you think you could be hearts, which implies that you know that Lucy has diamonds. From this Rob will conclude that he has hearts. So a successful bluff could get the player to the left, Lucy, working to your advantage, but once the player to the right, Rob, sees her behaviour he could see through the bluff (because he knows Lucy can't be spades) and correctly deduce his own patron (by reversing her logic).


This all assumes the players are perfectly logical, when in reality they may not be. It also assumes the action card information is clear, but it may not be because of the constraints of what your chosen actions achieve in the context of the other players' current actions. So we need to consider that in detail.

But first we need to check the deductive logic in the 2 and 4 player games.
 
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - testing phase)
2 players

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Here one patron card is set aside and the players know their opponent's patron. Call my opponent Olly. As with the 3 player game, both Olly and I would tend not to play the suit of our opponent, allowing them to deduce it. Additionally, the suit that accumulates points most rapidly in the beginning will be the one that is set aside, since it is a possibility for both of us. This provides another way to deduce your own patron.

What about bluffing? Say I know that Olly has hearts and bluff hearts for myself. Olly knows I actually have spades, but if I think I could have hearts then that implies that I know he has diamonds and that the set aside card is hearts.

So in the 2 player case, successful bluffing would involve the cost of (temporarily) supporting your opponent's patron with the successful outcome being that they wrongly support the set aside suit. There is no real advantage in this except that it could help to diagnose the set aside card (and therefore your patron), and it sows some confusion and disguises your true intent. Of course, if Olly has already deduced his own patron, then he will realise you are bluffing and simply accept the extra help for his patron. It seems that bluffing may be less advantageous in the 2 player game than in the 3 player game.
 
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - testing phase)
4 players

Spoiler (click to reveal)

Here there is an extra fool card, and each player knows the patrons of both the player to the left (Lucy) and the player opposite (Olly) but not the player to the right (Rob).

A previous version of the rules specified the fool wins if the person their right wins, but this was unbalanced, as the following argument shows. Say you know that neither Lucy nor Olly have the fool, then you can deduce immediately which patron to support: the one remaining. For example, if you know Lucy has hearts and Olly has diamonds then you and Rob must have spades and the fool. If you have spades, then you should support spades. But if you have the fool then you win if Rob wins, and he has spades. So either way you already know which patron to support. There will be two of the four players in that position; they will be sitting next each other but they will be supporting different patrons. The fool card will belong to the rightmost (most anticlockwise) of these two players. The player sitting opposite the fool has the patron that neither will support, so has a real disadvantage.

If however the fool wins when the player opposite them wins, the logic is as follows. Say Lucy has hearts, Olly has diamonds, Rob has the fool, and you have spades. Initially Lucy will promote hearts and spades, while Olly promotes hearts and diamonds. You and Rob have a harder time because you don't know where the fool is. Rob knows he is either diamonds or the fool; if the latter then hearts will win it for him. Therefore he promotes hearts and diamonds. Similarly you will promote diamonds and spades. So initially, hearts and diamonds have three supporters each, and spades has two. So there is a slight bias against the suit to the left of the fool, but it is more balanced than the previous rule version (where the fool wins if the player to his right wins) and is as close to balanced as we can get. (A similar result arises when the fool wins if the player to their left wins.)

The challenge then comes in deducing the identity of your patron. In the example above, Lucy and Olly (who both know where the fool is) can deduce their card as the one initially supported by the players to their left and opposite, but not by the player to their right. But the remaining players (who each might be the fool) don't have a consistent rule like this with which to deduce their card. Rob needs the suit initially promoted opposite and to his right, but not to his left. And you need the suit promoted to your left but not opposite or to the right. Fortunately these players have a different way to deduce the position of the fool and therefore their own card. Note that Olly and Rob, sitting next to each other, will both promote the same suits (hearts and diamonds) and that the leftmost of these players (Rob) holds the fool. This means you and Rob can find the fool, and therefore their patron, by identifying which pair of players are initially supporting the same pair of suits.

So, the deduction strategy is: If you know where the fool is, then your patron os the one supported by the players to your left and opposite but not to your right; but if you don't know where the fool is then look for the two players (one of them will be the player to your right) supporting the same two suits, as the leftmost of these holds the fool and this allows you to deduce your card.

The next thing to check is what happens when a player deduces their patron and starts supporting only one suit - does this help the other players deduce their own patrons? Using the same example as above, if it becomes clear that Lucy has hearts then this immediately allows Olly to deduce he has diamonds, but does not immediately benefit you or Rob, who already knew the Lucy was hearts. But once Olly shows he is diamonds then Rob knows he must have fool, and his support for heart then tells you that you have spades. So Lucy, by deducing first, has a distinct advantage because the information takes some time to percolate through the other players.

Similarly, if Olly deduces first that he has diamonds then this tells Rob he is the fool, which tells you and Lucy what your cards must be. If Rob deduces first, then this allows all of the other players to immediately deduce their own cards; in this case there is no percolation effect. But if you deduce first, then Olly and Rob can't deduce their cards until after Lucy does.

Bluffing is likely to less advantageous in the 4 player game because the two opponents to the right already know your card and will see through the bluff. I'm not going to fully analyse the implications of bluffing in the 4 player game, but there are cases that may be advantageous. For example, in our well worn example case, you (with spades) might bluff hearts. Rob knows that you are bluffing because he knows you know that Lucy has hearts. However, Lucy might be fooled into thinking she has spades. Meanwhile, Olly knows you are wrong, but might think you have mistakenly deduced you have the fool, which suggests he has hearts (he actually has diamonds). Your bluff could confuse two players and perhaps encourage one to support your card, though you may not know what it is.


All of this suggests that the 4 player game is quite different (less balanced, more challenging) than the 2 or 3 player versions!
 
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Artwork
Well, I've finally had a preliminary go at some artwork for the cards. I have been playing with transparency and glow effects in Powerpoint and tried to come up with a style that is kind of medieval fairytale.

I have changed the symbology: hearts become doves, diamonds become purses and spades become daggers.

Here are some samples of before (low ink prototype cards) and after (full colour cards):







I will pull them together into 3x3 sheets and upload when I get a chance. For now it's late and time for bed...
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - components ready)
Hurrah! I have just made the full colour cards available and updated the top post and geeklist entry.

Feedback and suggestions are welcomed!
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Scott Allen
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - components ready)
Nice looking cards. And, nice sounding game. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll be able to playtest it, but I read through the rules. Sounds good, seems to all make sense, mostly.

I assume for 3 and 4 player games each player gets one of each card (Charity/Bribery and Violence/No Action), or can players choose which cards to take? I'm guessing everyone would want one of each possible action.

I like the green tones of the main game image. The blue, orange/brown, and blue colors don't quite seen to fit as well for me personally. Minor critique. Maybe someone with more graphic design skill than me (that would be just about anyone), can give more useful feedback on colors.

Overall, looks good.
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - components ready)
Narrow Gate Games wrote:
Nice looking cards. And, nice sounding game. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll be able to playtest it, but I read through the rules.


Yeah, it's not an easy one to playtest. The hidden info mechanic makes it impossible to play against yourself, and the very intellectual nature of the game means it will be hard to find the right partners to play with! I'm struggling myself, which is why I've put some effort into analysing the logic and mathematical properties underlying the game.

Narrow Gate Games wrote:
I assume for 3 and 4 player games each player gets one of each card (Charity/Bribery and Violence/No Action), or can players choose which cards to take? I'm guessing everyone would want one of each possible action.


Actually, all of the action cards are identical and each has all four possible actions on it. Players get two of these cards (or three in the 2 player version) which gives you some power to influence the current balance in your turn. I've analysed some of the probabilities involved in this mechanism and will post on it soon.

I'm also toying the possibility of special actions to replace the "no action" on one of each players cards...

Narrow Gate Games wrote:
I like the green tones of the main game image. The blue, orange/brown, and blue colors don't quite seen to fit as well for me personally. Minor critique. Maybe someone with more graphic design skill than me (that would be just about anyone), can give more useful feedback on colors.


I'm not completely sold on the colours either and will look at some other options. I had tried to avoid green because I think some people have issues with it re colour blindness, but this was just an assumption. I also think I need to revisit the fonts I've used. I pulled these prototype colour cards together in a single evening so didn't spend enough time on such niceties (yet...)

Narrow Gate Games wrote:
Overall, looks good.


Thanks Scott for the feedback. I'm planning to try out your game in the next week or two.

Cheers, JK
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Caroline Berg
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - components ready)
JohnKean wrote:
I'm not completely sold on the colours either and will look at some other options. I had tried to avoid green because I think some people have issues with it re colour blindness, but this was just an assumption. I also think I need to revisit the fonts I've used. I pulled these prototype colour cards together in a single evening so didn't spend enough time on such niceties (yet...)

It entirely depends on the type of color blindness. My husband has issues with blue and purple, he only has a mild red-shift which affects very few colors. Meanwhile a friend we game with has color blindness to the extent where he only plays with yellow or white, because all other colors tend to look the same to him - basically, if colors are different tints, shades, or tones, he can tell the difference, otherwise green, orange, brown, red, pink, blue - they are all the same earthy color.
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - components ready)
For this game, since the icons are different shape, the colors don't really matter - you don't have red swords meaning something different than blue swords for example - and that's good in my opinion.

So, I think your main concern related to color blindness is: can all players distinguish the shapes from the card background? That should be relatively easy to resolve.
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - components ready)

OK how about these colours?



(I have run them through a colour blindness simulator and they work fine).
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - components ready)
I think those are good.

Part of it for me, I think - and I'm just sort of thinking out loud here since I am not trained at all in graphic design - is the cover image is a pleasant pastel looking image, then the card icons are more bold. It just feels (to me) as sort of a mismatch.

Do you think you could incorporate the blue, green, and red colors of the icons into the cover image, maybe into the big "bubbles" behind the castle/town?

Again, please take this as very minor criticisms from a person not trained in graphic design. Overall, I think the card design looks very good.
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - components ready)
Narrow Gate Games wrote:
Do you think you could incorporate the blue, green, and red colors of the icons into the cover image, maybe into the big "bubbles" behind the castle/town?


Thanks Scott - all feedback is useful and I'm very grateful that you have taken the time to look and comment.

The blue and green colours are from the cover image, but I could try including the blood red in there somewhere (sun? town?). The "bubbles" are supposed to be hills (cough!), so I may need to adjust them somewhat...
 
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - components ready)
Maybe try making the sun the dark red, or maybe the smallest hill/bubble dark red?
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Re: [WIP] The Council of Colbridge (18 Card Microgame Contest 2016 - components ready)
Narrow Gate Games wrote:
Maybe try making the sun the dark red, or maybe the smallest hill/bubble dark red?


Tried the sun, the city and the smallest hill in red, but how's this?



I kinda like how it also suggests the three councilors looming ominously over the town...
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