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Subject: Balance and Themes rss

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Iffix Y Santaph
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I'm looking for a theme involving balance. If you have an idea, I'd love to hear from you. I'll tell you a little more about the concept first.

I'm working to take another attempt at a game I recently developed. (This game has already spawned another, but I still think there's potential in the basic idea.) Here's what I know.

This game is for 2-4 players.

There will be 4 elements (what these might be is entirely debatable. That's the point of this search). A card will feature all 4 of these elements in varying values 1-6 (1 value per element). There are only 12 cards. Each card will feature all 4 elements in values ranging from 1-6.

To begin, cards are dealt out so that each player receives 2 cards.

A player will decide which of the elements he wishes to acquire, setting the card with that element's side up. He will place the second card next to it (though it is harder to score points on the second card.)

Next, 2 six-sided dice per player are rolled, and drafted out in player order. (The last player chooses 2 dice and order is reversed back to first player.) If the player has chosen an element with the appropriate value, he acquires this number of the indicated element. If unable to gain a value due to not having the appropriate card, he will still choose 1 of the available dice. Perhaps his choice will stop another player from gaining an element.

The next player will deal and be the first to draft a die, and so on.

Now, here's where the balance comes in. Prior to gaining 11 points in total (all elements are added up to create a total point value), a player must have acquired all 4 elements. If not, his highest valued element is brought back to 0. At the same time, each player must keep all of his resources within a range of 4. (For example, a player must have acquired at least 1 point in his lowest element before receiving 5 points in his highest element.)

If a player fails to do so, his highest value will be dropped.
Here's where it gets messy.
Starting with the 2nd round, prior to drafting dice, any elements with point values corresponding to the dice rolled are increased by 1 point.
While this may be beneficial, it may also bring a player's elements out of equilibrium, causing a crash.

The game ends when any player is able to reach 8 points in any element, at which time, all players add their element points together. Each player also subtracts his lowest element from his highest element and deducts these points. The one scoring the highest total points is the winner.

I'd like to work within the realm of a theme. Can you think of any theme that might involve balance?
 
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Scott Allen
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Not sure about balance, but 4 elements kinda screams alchemy to me; fire, water, air, earth. Or, is that to easy?
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Carel Teijgeler
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You can use ordinary playing cards for this.

What you describe is an abstract.

The four winds or the 4 elements in alchemy (mentioned above) are not a theme.
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Magnus Carlsson
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XendoBreckett wrote:
A card will feature all 4 of these elements in varying values 1-6 (1 value per element). There are only 12 cards. Each card will feature all 4 elements in values ranging from 1-6.


Are you sure that you need the entire range, if you only have 12 cards? It's almost that with 4 elements you can create 12 different cards with only having 0 or 1 in each element?
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Tom anonymous
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How about newtonian physics?

something about flying: Thrust, drag, lift, gravity

Too much lift vs gravity and you go up too much.
Too much gravity vs lift and you can't go up enough.
Too much thrust vs drag and you crash by going too fast
too much drag vs thrust and you don't move

Not sure about the rest of pair matchings, thrust can produce lift so maybe those become interchangeable, idk but there's definitely balance there, things that need to be kept in check with each other.

Similarly could look at a racing game - balancing acceleration/speed, torque, grip and something else to get around a corner/series of corners.

or husky racing. 4 dogs all need to be kept in balance with each other, can't have one going full pelt whilst another strolls along.
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Oblivion Doll
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Narrow Gate Games wrote:
Not sure about balance, but 4 elements kinda screams alchemy to me; fire, water, air, earth. Or, is that to easy?


It screamed "alchemy" to me as well, but NOT because of the image of the classical elements. The line "4 elements" does bring that to mind, but the use of that phrase doesn't make it magically work as a theme. Also, as anijunk said, the 4 elements aren't a theme in and of themselves - although they CAN form a basis from which to create one. Constructing a theme in which the 4 elements on this game's structure are THOSE 4 elements is far from being as "easy" as you're suggesting.

anijunk wrote:
You can use ordinary playing cards for this.

What you describe is an abstract.

The four winds or the 4 elements in alchemy (mentioned above) are not a theme.


Just because the basic outline CAN be an abstract game, doesn't mean it can't have a theme overlaid onto it. Most themed games CAN be described in a manner which detaches them from the theme. Almost every boardgame is an abstraction of something. This topic is about taking an abstract design and finding a theme which fits.

Also, while I *TECHNICALLY* agree with you about the 4 elements, they aren't automatically ruled out as a possibility. You can build a theme around them. For this game, I don't think it's necessarily a valid option for theme, though.

Now back to the main topic:

My first instinct when reading the rules you described was "so it's a potion-making game" (see why I agreed about alchemy?). It very quickly clicked that, while balance is important, this would be about mass-producing the potions, instead of designing/modifying them. Then I realised that this game works to describe basically any mass-production process. Theming the game around running a candy factory would work better than the potion idea. You could theme it around building cars if you wanted. Having too many wheels and not enough bodies to put them on throws everything out of balance.

Going back to the 4 classical elements, though... why would someone need to keep those elements in balance? Maybe the players are lesser deities in a pantheon. They could be competing to move up in the ranks and become a more powerful entity, but they need to master control of their realm - by demonstrating the ability to expand it in a stable and balanced manner. If it loses balance, the powers above you smite you and destroy the strongest pillar you've constructed as punishment.

Another option could be that the 4 elements represent emotions (or the "humours" of classical psychology), and players are trying to balance these elements of their personality. This idea could, in itself, be re-themed in a lot of ways. You could turn the game into a semi-solo experience, or a viable solo game with a certain score target instead. This would turn the game, in effect, into a simple and abstract meditative game about the process of meditation. You could also tie the concept to an eldritch horror game and use it as a combination progression and sanity meter. The stronger your connection to the 4 pillars of your emotional state, the more connected you are to the powers of the abominations you're fighting, and the more of their energies you can direct. If you overdo it, you tip your character into madness, and become the abomination yourself.

Hope this helps to give you a few ideas
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marc lecours
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There was a balancing game a few years ago called Ark. It involved loading animals on Noah's ark.

Possible themes:
1. Go direct: Trying to build a human pyramid.

2. Loading a container ship.

3. Trying to design the most handsome man or beautiful woman with just the right proportions.

4. Balancing your life forces (chakras etc.) in some eastern religion.

5. A government balancing the budget (defence spending, debt reduction, low taxes, services for the poor)

6. A balanced diet: Protein, vitamins, carbohydrates, bran. Each card is a different type of food that is a source of two of these. Game title "balanced diet".
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Iffix Y Santaph
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anijunk wrote:
You can use ordinary playing cards for this.

What you describe is an abstract.

The four winds or the 4 elements in alchemy (mentioned above) are not a theme.


Actually, that's how I've been playtesting it. (And I really enjoy the mechanics, but themeless still feels hollow to me.)
 
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Iffix Y Santaph
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grimmymail wrote:
XendoBreckett wrote:
A card will feature all 4 of these elements in varying values 1-6 (1 value per element). There are only 12 cards. Each card will feature all 4 elements in values ranging from 1-6.


Are you sure that you need the entire range, if you only have 12 cards? It's almost that with 4 elements you can create 12 different cards with only having 0 or 1 in each element?


With playtesting thus-far, I've used 8 cards valued 1-4. (I should mention I haven't played with anyone else yet. I'd like to have a really stellar concept first.)
 
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Joe Kell
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I would consider using a 4 sided die instead so that you actually do get an element each time. As far as what the elements could be I agree with others that this makes most sense to be abstract to have that "you can't have too much of one without the others" feel.
I have another question: if you laid a card that had a value of 6 for the first element and then rolled 2 6's you would get 12 of that element right? Then if it was your first turn you would just lose them all because it needs to be within 4 of the others? Am I understanding this right? If I have a clearer understanding I may be able to come up with better ideas for the elements.
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Iffix Y Santaph
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spicyqueso15 wrote:
I would consider using a 4 sided die instead so that you actually do get an element each time. As far as what the elements could be I agree with others that this makes most sense to be abstract to have that "you can't have too much of one without the others" feel.
I have another question: if you laid a card that had a value of 6 for the first element and then rolled 2 6's you would get 12 of that element right? Then if it was your first turn you would just lose them all because it needs to be within 4 of the others? Am I understanding this right? If I have a clearer understanding I may be able to come up with better ideas for the elements.


And now I reach the overall reason for going 6 rather than 4. I, along with about 50+% of boardgame/roleplayers despise D4's. (That's a conservative estimate. They're neither fun to roll nor fun to step on, though most prefer the latter.) I haven't found a place that will sell an 8 or 12 sided D4, which would make the option viable.

However, what I have done in playtesting is added a rule whereby, drafting a 5 result gives a player 1 of any element, and a 6 result gives a player 2 of any element. (Which is useful if the cards weren't quite what you wanted them to be.)

Also, I like increasing the value to 6 because of the increase that happens before drafting dice, which will still throw a player off on the high values.

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Iffix Y Santaph
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And now, having read the comments, I'm thinking fusion reactors, just because getting it wrong would really mess everything up.

I've also considered balance in nature, vs things like deforestation, greenhouse gasses, etc.
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Joe Kell
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One last idea would be loading chemicals into a truck. They need to be balance so the truck(semi) drives properly and they need to Ben separate stacks because the reactions of the chemicals are bad. Just a rough idea, I'm sure you could make it better. Good call on making the 5 and 6 modulo 4.
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Iffix Y Santaph
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Now I'm thinking about a more fun game theme where an inventor was working to create a portal to another dimension but his design went horribly wrong and all sorts of strange monsters have emerged. Now you need to keep the portal open (using the mechanism described) while also chasing the monsters back to where they came from (I'll need another mechanism for this). I think the game should have dice placement elements, where you decide which dice do what, but the roll still effects how numbers advance on the portal.
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Sight Reader
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What about the four medieval temperaments/humors?

- sanguine (enthusiastic, active, and social) - blood
- choleric (short-tempered, fast, or irritable) - yellow bile
- melancholic (analytical, wise, and quiet)- black bile
- phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful) - phlegm

There are all sorts of excuses for combining these: balancing (or sabotaging the balance) of a body, finding herbs for an apothecary, seeking the ideal members for a team, combining ingredients for a potion, designing a curse with a particular effect, interpreting a divination, so on and so forth.

Tarot cards also come to mind...
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Magnus Carlsson
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XendoBreckett wrote:
spicyqueso15 wrote:
I would consider using a 4 sided die instead so that you actually do get an element each time. As far as what the elements could be I agree with others that this makes most sense to be abstract to have that "you can't have too much of one without the others" feel.
I have another question: if you laid a card that had a value of 6 for the first element and then rolled 2 6's you would get 12 of that element right? Then if it was your first turn you would just lose them all because it needs to be within 4 of the others? Am I understanding this right? If I have a clearer understanding I may be able to come up with better ideas for the elements.


And now I reach the overall reason for going 6 rather than 4. I, along with about 50+% of boardgame/roleplayers despise D4's. (That's a conservative estimate. They're neither fun to roll nor fun to step on, though most prefer the latter.) I haven't found a place that will sell an 8 or 12 sided D4, which would make the option viable.

However, what I have done in playtesting is added a rule whereby, drafting a 5 result gives a player 1 of any element, and a 6 result gives a player 2 of any element. (Which is useful if the cards weren't quite what you wanted them to be.)

Also, I like increasing the value to 6 because of the increase that happens before drafting dice, which will still throw a player off on the high values.



Have you considered lowering number of elements to 3? Then you can still have d6 with each element twice? As you have a really low number of cards it feels a little strange that you have so many unused combinations.
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Iffix Y Santaph
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The strange thing is, when I went with 10 cards, each of the numbers appeared 10 times. I have considered that idea last night, reducing down to 3. I sort of prefer balancing 4 over 3 though. It's slightly more hectic.
 
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Koen Hendrix
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XendoBreckett wrote:
I haven't found a place that will sell an 8 or 12 sided D4, which would make the option viable.


I just googled for "12 sided d4" and that got some results meeple
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Simon NIghtingale
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Some have mentioned alchemy as a possible theme based on your 4 elements. That made me think of humours in renaissance medicine which correspond to the 4 elements but which also cohere around the idea of balance. The 4 humours are black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Now, like alchemical elements, that in itself does not give you a theme. But a healthy renaissance person was someone who had a balance between the four humours. You could bring that balance into the victory conditions. Too much blood and you be overly sanguine, too much phlegm and you become too phlegmatic. Penalties based on these conditions could then accrue. If you have none of any given humour that could translate into even more penalties. Winning, of course, would then depend on having a perfect balance. Not sure how this would work out specifically, but it might give you something to play around with, Hope it's helpful.
 
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Simon NIghtingale
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Oops. Sorry. I missed an earlier post which said pretty much the same thing.
 
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Iffix Y Santaph
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Welcome to BGG Simon!
 
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Bill Cook
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How about.... the four elements that must be kept in balance are:

: water
: barley
: hops
: yeast

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Paul Tavener
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EMBison wrote:
How about.... the four elements that must be kept in balance are:

: water
: barley
: hops
: yeast


I'll drink to that!
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Iffix Y Santaph
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EMBison wrote:
How about.... the four elements that must be kept in balance are:

: water
: barley
: hops
: yeast



That's a very cool concept. Especially if you add ice cube.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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EMBison wrote:
How about.... the four elements that must be kept in balance are:

: water
: barley
: hops
: yeast



Love it!!
 
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