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G. Uitz
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After watching Michael's (Toucan) review of ROTK, I couldn't get his comments about "should be stealthier" out of my head.
He remarked that he would have seen some sort of stealth elements like hidden movement for that kind of game opposed to the current mechanism where the ninja models are visible on the board at all times.

Well, there are already mechanisms for hidden movement on the market which basically require the hidden player to use the aid of some sort of mini map to track his moves. This is an easy task to implement.
The harder part is how it will actually affect gameplay. ROTK was not designed to be played as a game with hidden elements and involves all kinds of dice rolling against target values to perform various tests.

So the question is:
"What could be done to implement a hidden movement component without jeopardizing gameplay or reworking the established mechanisms of play?"

I collected several ideas to at least include a bit of stealth while keeping the rest of the game intact:

Preparation:
1) Print a smaller version of the map (e.g. use the templates in the download section).
2) Create or use an existing screen to shield the ninja's positions from the eyes of the guard player.
3) Use 3 meeples (preferrably matching the ninja's colors fromt the player boards) to mark and track the position of the ninjas on the mini-map.
4) Use some kind of markers to mark the position and type (shoji or plank) of doors and search tokens on the mini map or mark them with a pencil directly on the map.
5) It might help to generate a quick reference with all guards' AOIs and defense stats for the ninja player behind his screen.

Gameplay:
- The ninja models are only put in play once they are detected by making noise while in the AOI of a guard or by being actively detected by a guard's action.
- Detected ninja models are taken from the board if they sucessfully "fade into the shadows" and become undetected again.

* Ninja Actions
Whenever a ninja takes an action, he has to announce it upfront. This might give the guard player a clue about the whereabouts of a ninja, but I think it is necessary in order to have the guard player double check the test requirements and results.
Example: "I am trying to pick the lock of a Shoji door.", will let the guard player know the target number and possibly which ninja ("my stealth modifier is +1") performs the test. On the other hand it may be any of the doors on the boards.

Whenever a test fails and a noise token is generated, the guard player should get a hint like: Noise was generated in this board section or in this corridor or he points at the guard who was nearest to the source and says "this guard noticed some noise".

- Open doors: "pick lock". Not sure about this one. The easiest way will be to remove the door on a success. Thematically, it would be possible that the door stays on the board but is marked "opened" on the ninja player's board. The guard player will never know if a door was picked.
It could be ruled, however, that the guard player will be allowed to ask the ninja player "Is this door still intact?" if he moves with a guard model next to it. This information could be either for free or for the sacrifice of one space moved.
If its lock was picked, the ninja player would say "Yes." and remove the door from the board as well.

- Open doors: "Force open." As this test will always generate noise, the guard player will get some hint. In addition, a broken door should be removed as soon as a guard model has LOS to it.

- Evade: The ninja player announces that he is going to make an evade test against a certain type of guard. If he succeeds, the guard player will not know which guard was affected (only the type). If the test fails, the ninja will "pop up" detected in his current location. In case two guards are affected by one single test (overlapping AOIs),
the guard player will get a very distinct clue about this ninja's position.

- Melee or Ranged Attack: same as before. The ninja player announces an attack against a type of guard and the attack modifier may give a hint to a ninja. If successful, the ninja just removes the killed guard. The guard player will know the position of that ninja, but not the location after the kill, as he does not know
whether he had any move tokens left after the kill.

- Search: This is a problem, because a removed search token will immediately reveal the ninja's position. In this case, the mini-map could come in handy. If the positions of the search tokens are marked there, the ninja player would just announce the search test and the number of the token.
If successful, the ninja player would mark it on the mini-map and maybe track the total number of tokens gained in a distinct space.
The guard player wouldn't see that a marker was taken until actually entering the room with the marker. The ninja player would then check his mini-map and remove the physical token, if he already sacked this marker before.
I haven't come up with a solution for trap markers... maybe a dice roll with a 1 out of 6 chance after each successful test?

* Guard Actions
Apart from the "Detect Ninja" action there shouldn't be any changes.
- Detect Ninja: At the start of the guard's turn the ninja has to check the board and his mini-map to see if guard models have valid targets for a detect action. If so, he will tell the guard player: "You can try detect tests with two bushi, one alerted, one not". Without knowing which actual model it is,
the guard player spends one action token and rolls. If successful, the ninja "pops up" in front of the affected model. If unsuccessful, the guard player will not get any information. I know that it may be difficult for the guard player to name a specific model if he has e.g. 2 to choose from 5 without any clue.
In this case the ninja player could say "2 out of 5 Tesaki on the board may take a detect test, one on the left, one on the right." and based on this information the guard player choses which one rolls first.

This is just an idea, a record of my thoughts and was not tested at all. Maybe this all gets too fiddly and complicated, maybe this it total nonsense but I wanted to share it with you anyway and ask for your feedback.

Dark.
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Ben Steer
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I'd be very interested to see how this develops, like you say it might not work, but i'm certainly willing to give it a try. I suspect the huge disadvantage to the guard player would mean he should start with a load more guards on the board to compensate.


DarkPadawan wrote:
Whenever a test fails and a noise token is generated, the guard player should get a hint like: Noise was generated in this board section or in this corridor or he points at the guard who was nearest to the source and says "this guard noticed some noise".


It would probably make sense to just place the noise marker on the square that the noise happened. The guard players needs all the help he can get after all, and it would be entirely thematic.

DarkPadawan wrote:
- Open doors: "pick lock". Not sure about this one.


I'd say the door is just removed as normal, whether lock-picked or forced. While the guard gets a direct clue, no noise was generated and he still has no knowledge of the ninja's end location. It could lead to some clever bluffing of opening a door then walking past without going through.

DarkPadawan wrote:
- Evade: The ninja player announces that he is going to make an evade test against a certain type of guard. If he succeeds, the guard player will not know which guard was affected (only the type).


This could be the perfect excuse to use those redundant footstep tokens. How about a successful evade has the ninja player put those footsteps in the AOI of the guard it stepped past. Again, i think the guard player will need all the help they can get and thematically, it's as if the guard got a sense of something, but doesn't know what it was.


DarkPadawan wrote:
- Search: This is a problem, because a removed search token will immediately reveal the ninja's position. In this case, the mini-map could come in handy. If the positions of the search tokens are marked there, the ninja player would just announce the search test and the number of the token.


How about this: The guard chooses the locations of the start tokens, but places the actual tokens by the side of the board, instead using replacements on the actual board with just the number of the test on. When the ninja successfully search, they instead draw a search token from a pile next to the board, corresponding with the number they just searched. This way, the guard will have a clue as to where they searched but wont be sure, and the ninja can still fall foul of traps while physically collecting the tokens.

DarkPadawan wrote:
* Guard Actions
Apart from the "Detect Ninja" action there shouldn't be any changes.
- Detect Ninja: At the start of the guard's turn the ninja has to check the board and his mini-map to see if guard models have valid targets for a detect action.


Is this before the guard moves and carries out normal actions? So he'd start his turn, ask if there are any detectable ninja and, if not, continue with any other movement and detection actions as per usual?


Anyway, some good ideas here. I'm happy to playtest it a little this weekend.
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John Paul Messerly
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Sherman Oaks
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Interesting. I like the idea of using the footstep markers and noise tokens. My favorite part of hidden movement is knowing that part of your location will be revealed and using that to confuse the other player.

What if the ninja player must collectively place a footstep marker once per turn. It can be from any of the ninja and it has to be placed on one of the tiles one of the ninjas moved through. Do you keep placing footsteps on the side of the map with only one ninja to draw the guards away, do you switch it up, is the marker where the ninja started or where they moved to?

This could also create the need to discuss where to place but the inability to talk openly about it (guard is listening) and that awkward half communication could be an interesting challenge. Just an idea...

...

Another simple option would be to have the guard leave the room (or close their eyes) when the ninjas act. They would return to find guards and search tokens missing and see noise tokens placed on the board. They use actions to move and search... but where to search? Is the ninja still right next to that noise token or did he hide around the corner?

I would avoid using a mini map or a screen because it slows things down and often leads to major errors in game state...
 
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G. Uitz
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the_bengine wrote:
I'd be very interested to see how this develops, like you say it might not work, but i'm certainly willing to give it a try. I suspect the huge disadvantage to the guard player would mean he should start with a load more guards on the board to compensate.

You are right. The guard player is anyway very weak in the beginning and the yellow level guards are merely cannon fodder. Their main use is to block pathways and shield search tokens instead of detecting ninjas and do some fighting. The more evade tests the ninjas have to perform the more likely they will eventually fail.
If the ninjas move unseen, the guard player will even be less effective in blocking and shielding. The easiest way without changing too much would be to place more guards as you say. Another option would be to add some amber level guards right from the beginning. This is vital for balancing the game.

Quote:
It would probably make sense to just place the noise marker on the square that the noise happened. The guard players needs all the help he can get after all, and it would be entirely thematic.

I like this idea. However, it would impact the way the alert tracker moves. If noise tokens are placed by hidden ninjas, the ninja player would have to inform the guard player at the end of his turn, how many ninjas in total generated noise tokens.

Quote:
Open doors: "pick lock".
I'd say the door is just removed as normal, whether lock-picked or forced. While the guard gets a direct clue, no noise was generated and he still has no knowledge of the ninja's end location. It could lead to some clever bluffing of opening a door then walking past without going through.

You are right. It would also remove the book keeping portion for doors which is good.

Quote:
- Evade:
This could be the perfect excuse to use those redundant footstep tokens. How about a successful evade has the ninja player put those footsteps in the AOI of the guard it stepped past. Again, i think the guard player will need all the help they can get and thematically, it's as if the guard got a sense of something, but doesn't know what it was.

Again a great idea to use those move tokens.

Quote:
- Search:
How about this: The guard chooses the locations of the start tokens, but places the actual tokens by the side of the board, instead using replacements on the actual board with just the number of the test on. When the ninja successfully search, they instead draw a search token from a pile next to the board, corresponding with the number they just searched. This way, the guard will have a clue as to where they searched but wont be sure, and the ninja can still fall foul of traps while physically collecting the tokens.

Yes, that would work perfectly.

Quote:
* Guard Actions
- Detect Ninja:
Is this before the guard moves and carries out normal actions? So he'd start his turn, ask if there are any detectable ninja and, if not, continue with any other movement and detection actions as per usual?

Yes, that was the idea. The only problem is that he will not know if he moves into detection range of any ninja during his turn. This means that it will be very hard to detect ninjas, if they manage to always leave the AOIs of the guards in the ninja turn. Would it help if the ninja player was forced to tell the guard player whenever a guard moves into detection range during the guard turn?

Dark.

 
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G. Uitz
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mermuse wrote:
What if the ninja player must collectively place a footstep marker once per turn. It can be from any of the ninja and it has to be placed on one of the tiles one of the ninjas moved through. Do you keep placing footsteps on the side of the map with only one ninja to draw the guards away, do you switch it up, is the marker where the ninja started or where they moved to?

Hmmm... interesting idea. This means that the ninja player must at least place one move token per ninja turn. This is important, if he didn't have to place one to mark a successful evade action.

Quote:
This could also create the need to discuss where to place but the inability to talk openly about it (guard is listening) and that awkward half communication could be an interesting challenge. Just an idea...

Yeah, if you play it with more than two ninja players. I can imagine that this gets played 2-player very often.

Quote:
Another simple option would be to have the guard leave the room (or close their eyes) when the ninjas act. They would return to find guards and search tokens missing and see noise tokens placed on the board. They use actions to move and search... but where to search? Is the ninja still right next to that noise token or did he hide around the corner?

While it would work mechanically, I don't like games where people leave the table. I think this will ruin the feeling of "get together at a table to play a boardgame". A second point is that you wouldn't know if the ninja did all the dice rolls correctly.

Quote:
I would avoid using a mini map or a screen because it slows things down and often leads to major errors in game state...

I agree that it will make the game more fiddly with a mini map. On the other hand I have no idea how to track or memorize the position of three ninjas between turns. It would be possible to just put down numbers if each space on the board would be numbered.

Dark.
 
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Bowen Jacobs
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While I am intrigued by the idea, I feel that it would make the game a lot more complicated and it would be even more difficult to keep track of everything- and it's already fairly complicated to begin with.

That being said, to help balance things out and to simplify things a little I would let the guard player have 1 free detect action for each of his guards every turn. It will require play testing to be sure, but for starters I would say that the free detect action still takes up 1 action, but doesn't require the guard player to spend an action/noise token. He can of course spend tokens to perform additional detect actions with the same guard- only the first one would be free. He could also opt to NOT perform any detect actions with a guard and instead spend tokens to perform other actions as normal. Also, the guard player could choose when during each guard's activation to perform the free detect, allowing him to move first and then try to detect if he wished.
 
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