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Subject: Altering Rules Based on Play Count rss

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Iffix Y Santaph
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I find myself doing this a lot with my designs. If a feature of the game doesn't work as well with a different player count, I hunt down an option that still uses all of the components but changes the rules significantly.

Example: In one recent game I designed, I found that the game couldn't be played solo per traditional rules, so I took the game and its components and created a completely different mode of play that feels nothing like the original but is a better game for solo players.

In my current game design project, a trick taking game, I discovered that the 2 player game is not as satisfying as the 3 or 4 player game, but I also discovered that if I changed some of the rules, for example, swapping from traditional 1 card at a time to simultaneous selection significantly improved the 2 player game. The feel is very different, but the basic concepts are still the same.

My question is, does this sort of thing confuse players? Why don't I see it done very often? (For example, one game I found on the Geek, I love because of a player designed variation that the designer never thought of, though the game play is significantly more satisfying for solo players.)

Do designers generally shy away from this sort of thing? And is there a reason? And if I go to the extra mile of figuring out how to add to the enjoyment of the game, will my players later despise the effort? In other words, am I wasting time?
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Jeremy Lennert
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I don't think anyone objects to having more optional play modes in their rulebook.

But I don't think they're generally willing to pay much extra for them, either. Furthermore, if you have one awesome play mode and one OK play mode, some players will play just the OK mode before deciding they don't like your game (you can mitigate this if you clearly present one as the "main" mode and the others as variants, but if they support different numbers of players, someone is going to start with the variant just because of player count).

So from a business perspective, this is probably only worth doing if your secondary mode is similar in quality to the primary mode and yet doesn't take much additional time to design or playtest. Generally, the more complicated or specialized the original game, the harder those conditions are to fulfill.
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Mark McGee
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If the rules are different at different player counts in any significant way, I will probably only play it with the player counts that use the "regular" way of playing.
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Iffix Y Santaph
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I totally respect that. Here's where the question gets tough. If neither way is portrayed as the "regular way" (I haven't decided what that is, but I'm currently enjoying play-testing both), would you simply avoid the game like the plague? Or would you be content enough to try it both ways and see which version you liked better?
 
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Oblivion Doll
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If the game has significant rule changes for different player counts, then your rules (on both ends) will seem like they don't scale well. This is probably true, but what might not necessarily be true is the associated implication that the design of the rules is inelegant.

Having 2 (or more) separate sets of rules which behave differently - even if they convey the same feel - depending on the number of players WILL give some people this automatic negative impression. It makes it hard to describe the game in a short webstore description, or on the back of the box. It similarly makes it difficult for players to describe the flow of gameplay to their friends - particularly with extreme examples like a switch between conventional turn-based play and simultaneous actions.

While these are not necessarily objective reasons not to do it, the fact that you're so likely to catch at least a couple of the potential issues along the way tends to discourage designers from doing so. As mentioned, if the game does work like this, you've had to design multiple sets of rules, but are only able to charge the players for one game.

It might be possible to market the game as "2 (or 3) games in one!" and try to use the varied rulesets as a selling point. I don't know of many games which have done this well, and the few I've seen tend to come across as "cheap", and usually aren't very good at doing any of the games they include. I find the idea interesting, personally, but it does seem to have the weight of bad expectations hanging around its neck a little.
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Mark McGee
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I imagine that at least theoretically one way would be better than the other, and I'd try to figure out which version that is. At least part of me would think that having multiple rules versions is an indicator that there wasn't enough clarity of design vision for the designer to settle on what they want the game to be, which would definitely put it in the "wait and see" bucket for me.

Those thoughts may not be fair or even accurate, but I definitely think them when I see games with multiple rules versions, with the exception of a solo mode in some games, because I normally just ignore that since I don't play solo.
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Iffix Y Santaph
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I'd really value a second opinion. (Yours are all awesome, to clarify.) If someone would be willing to give thoughts on my 2 page rule sheet (which actually contains both sets of rules), I'd be happy to send a copy in exchange for honest feedback.
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Allan
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I generally dislike having so many variants to a game. I find it hard to remember what works for what ruleset and to keep track of all of them can get confusing. Would it be possible to develop each into separate games? If they play nothing like the original but they are all still engaging and fun. it might be more intresting to develop each idea on its own as separate games instead of trying to combine them?
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wayne mathias
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I only have 1 game with variable players (2-6).

Only the allowed winning factions change by player count (2&3 no factions, 4&5 allows 2 player factions, 6 allows both 2 and 3 player factions - a winning faction cannot be more than half of the players is the rule).

The use of alliances (which factions require) ends up being more "at the moment tactical" (or temporary truce) without factions in the game but the rules are unchanged.

That being said, if the board and the components are the same but some rules are different, put it on the box something like "two games in one" "Wargod:Invasion 4-6 players" plus "Wargod:Beachhead 2-3 players" with a complete set of rules for each version (even though most of those rules will be the same - you can highlight the parts that change in each rule book).
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Iffix Y Santaph
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That was how I released it. I grouped Outlaw Tricks as Two Games in One; One I called Tombstone, which is for 3-4. One I called Quick Draw, which is for 2. (Quick Draw seemed to fit with the simultaneous selection.)
 
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Cameron Rothlisberger
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XendoBreckett wrote:
I'd really value a second opinion. (Yours are all awesome, to clarify.) If someone would be willing to give thoughts on my 2 page rule sheet (which actually contains both sets of rules), I'd be happy to send a copy in exchange for honest feedback.


I'd be happy to look and give feedback. My initial reaction without the details is that having a separate rule set for different player count would feel kind of forced. Like this is actually 3-4 player game that doesn't work well with 2, but the designer just wanted to be able to say it is 2-4 on the box. I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with trying to get that 2-4 on the box, but if it requires a separate rule set it does seem a little inelegant. I have had a similiar experience with a game I am working on that seemed best for 2, but I wanted it to play up to 4. In my case it was possible to do with only one rule set, although I must admit it feels different playing with more than 2 (more chaotic).
 
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ace base
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Not sure this is what you are going for but RISK LEGACY changes the more you play. Starts super simply, by the end its totally crazy. It was a really legit experience.
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