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Subject: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Contest Ready]) rss

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Drew Bowling
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Here is my entry to the 2018 54-Card Contest: Perfect Harmony

In Perfect Harmony, 2 players must work together to create identical hands of cards by strategically drawing and discarding cards. But be careful! Time is limited, and tension is growing. Can you create Perfect Harmony? [Perfect Harmony can be played with either a standard 54 card deck or a slightly modified print-and-play deck.]


Thanks to Mark Tuck for the idea which I subsequently ruined.


Here's a very rough picture of what the game will look like (with the custom deck).

It uses all 54 cards.
Playing time is 15-20 minutes.

What makes Perfect Harmony fun?
d10-1 Communicating telepathically with your opponent
d10-2 Trying to relay as much information as possible without discarding through the entire Harmony Deck
d10-3 In the Full Game, trying to figure out how to best use your Heart Cards
d10-4 In the Standard Deck Game, all you need is a Standard Deck of Cards



Categories:

d10-0 Best Overall Game
d10-2 Best Cooperative Game
d10-4 Best Euro Game (I'm not sure it counts, but I'll let the voters decide )
d10-7 Most Unique Game (mechanics and/or theme)
d10-9 Best Game Using a Standard 54-Card Deck

Components and Rules:

Here is a link to the folder containing all necessary files: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1Lfnc8an8jTkXd3_EHpDr...


This includes
d10-1 Full Rules
d10-2 Cards for Full Rules
d10-3 Rules for use with a Standard Deck of Cards
d10-4 Score sheet (should be able to edit)


Questions:
d10-1 Is the game too easy? Too hard?
d10-2 Do you feel as if some effects are too powerful/too weak? Are the costs proportionate to the power? (This is only applicable to the Full Game.)
d10-3 Does the game have variety? Are there a variety of strategies to use? (Ideally the Full version should have more variety than the Standard Deck rules, but both should have variety in play.)
d10-4 Are the initial Tension Zone / Heart Supply values good? Right now I'm just barely matching up the last card (or not!) by the time I get to the end of the game.
d10-5 How's the terminology? Is it okay?
d10-6 How depressing are the scores? I think my scores have been running in the negatives so far.
d10-7 How's the theme? Obviously the theme is light, but I'm trying to have a Relationship theme in general with the game. Is that too exclusive or off-putting?
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Perry Kleinhenz
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest Idea Phase)
Are players allowed to talk freely to each other about what cards are in their hand? Restricting their ability to communicate might be a nice wrinkle.

Another idea, if you decreased the size of the hand and used all 54 cards you could have two teams of two players competing against one another, with each partnership trying to build identical hands first. A 3 player variant might have one player as a spoiler who tries to prevent the other 2 players from achieving their goal.
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest Idea Phase)
Restricted communication was more or less a given; with completely perfect information, you can win in about 10 cards, if not less. Most communication should be based on what you discard. However, picking up from the discard is also very strong because your opponent also knows what you just picked up.

Having teams of 2 actually sounds really interesting! I'll have to give it some thought.
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest Idea Phase)
Well, I just ran a couple more trial runs with the following changes:

3x cards A-K instead of 4x cards A-10
Discard 2 from the top each time you take a card from the discard.

I think these changes put the difficulty at a much more engaging level. The first time I ran it against myself, I went down to 1 card left. The second time I went down to 7. Although, I still need to see how it is against another person actually...

But progress! Yay!
 
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest Idea Phase)
So right now I'm thinking that, if this 39 card core works, that gives me 15 more cards to work with. Some thoughts on what I could do with this:

d10-1 Alternate game end conditions/ Objectives (What would these be?) A fun one that comes to mind is having both players have completely opposite hands. But, right now there aren't 14 different types of cards.

d10-2 Power Ups to use as the game goes on (Look at a random card from opponent's hand; draw x cards, take one into hand, and place the rest back in any order; take any card from a discard pile into hand; etc.)

d10-3 Player "Powers": These would need to be very balanced. Depending on how the game plays with actual players, I might need to include some drawbacks to powers as well. Thoughts as of now include...
-When you take from the discard pile, instead of discarding 2 cards from the deck, discard a random card from hand and draw a replacement from the deck. (You will discard a total of two cards.)
-At the end of each turn, discard the top card of the deck, then place a card from the top of any discard pile on the bottom of the deck.
-You may discard cards to your own private discard pile. Your opponent may not take cards from this pile.
-When you draw from the deck, draw two cards instead. Take one into hand and place the other underneath the deck.
-At the beginning of each turn, look at two random cards from your opponent's hand. You may not take cards from the discard pile.

d10-4 Trials: Players would have to do difficult things like... I'm not sure. Something with discarding cards and stuff. I don't know for sure yet.

I really like ideas 2 and 3 right now, but I'm not as sold on the others. But who knows what I'll end up doing.

Any ideas on how to use the other 15 cards?
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Dustin Culbertson
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest Idea Phase)
First thing that popped into my head was event cards. Some good, some bad. Kind of like Onirim. When a “bad” card pops up it causes discards/card sacrifices. When a “good” event comes up it allows for sharing info, digging through the discard pile/deck. Or other shenanigans.

One thing to remember in case you didn’t see it. You don’t have to be exactly 54 cards. A few less is still acceptable.
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest Idea Phase)
I also thought of event cards at first too. However, my first attempts at making event cards were... not the best. If the bad event cards get clumped near the beginning, they're not really bad at all. If the bad event cards get clumped near the end, they're devestating. I want to explore some other options first before going to event cards.

The thing that makes it really tricky is that, when you don't know if any of your cards match your opponent, then it is virtually meaningless to have to discard cards. When you have 6 out of 7 cards matching your opponent, discarding 1 or 2 cards becomes a nightmare.

But I might look into Onirim as well. Maybe they handle events in a way that works.

I also need to try it with someone else at some point, too. Hopefully soon...

Also, thanks for mentioning the flexibility with card count; I'll try to use all 54 if I can, but it's good to know that I don't necessarily NEED to.
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Perry Kleinhenz
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest Idea Phase)
Just played 2 games of this on my own. Lost the first one, won the second with 1 card remaining. I found the core puzzle pretty enjoyable but I would like to try it out with another player. It's hard to judge whether or not the things I think I'm communicating by discarding are actually comprehensible.

Also as a comment, as I was playing I just started putting the cards both players "knew" were the same face down out of my hand to get them out of the way and to better keep track of them.

Instead of completely opposite hands you could have players get hands that only have 1 card of overlap (or really any varying number of cards of overlap).
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest Idea Phase)
Okay, I tried it out with my friend. We played two games; the first one we lost by one card, and the second we won with 4 cards remaining. There was a lot of nudge nudge wink wink in both games, although basic deduction was still possible.

One thing that was interesting was that our biggest pitfall wasn't in necessarily leaving bad clues, but instead we struggled to trust that we each knew what the other was doing. For example, I might not pick up a card that my opponent wants to pick up, but that's because I already have it in hand. My opponent thinks, "Why isn't he getting the message I'm saying???" while I'm thinking, "I DID get the message you dingus, I just ignored it." Now, in our games a lot of these conversations happened out loud; it would be interesting to see how it would go if we were more strict about limited communication.

Also, blatantly slapping a card on the table when you think that you and your opponent both have that card is a little too revealing. Sometimes I'd think I interpreted a clue correctly, put a card down, and then my opponent would say, "I don't even know what card you're putting down." Ideally, my opponent wouldn't know that I'd incorrectly interpreted a clue.

In any case, now I know the game "works," and in fact it may be too easy. Now I just need to try it with more strictly limited communication.
 
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest Idea Phase)
Alright, I played it with my dad. We played one round with open hands just to talk about basic strategies, and then we played closed hand. The closed hand game we played with minimal nudge-nudge-wink-wink, only sticking with the mechanics specifically provided by the game. We ended up winning with 6 cards left.

Observations:

d10-1 The deduction elements provided by the game itself work! Yay!

d10-2 Past maybe the first turn, we almost ALWAYS took from one of the two discard piles. The two discard penalty can also actually be worked to the player's advantage.

d10-3 Right now, it seems like the game might be pretty easy to win. If I do end up adding mechanics to the game, it's going to be much easier to add things to HELP the player rather than adding things to HURT the player. The easiest way I can think of to make the game harder is to either...

A Make the player discard more cards when taking from the discard pile

B Increase the size of the hand and therefore the number of cards players must match. However, if I make the hand TOO big, then players can strategize more about what cards they DON'T have rather than the cards they do.

C I think it would be a lot scarier if the two cards you discard when you take from a discard pile went out of play instead. But in order to compensate for that, I think I may give the players an option to discard a card from the top of the deck at the end of any turn. Doing so should have some added effect, but I don't know if that effect should be positive or negative. If positive, maybe allows you to move a card from out of play to the top of either discard pile. If negative, uh... discard two cards instead of 1?

d10-4 I'm not sure how much variety there is in the puzzle. It seems like as long as you have a basic vocabulary of moves that mean certain things, the game is pretty straightforward. And going back to point 2, almost all of that vocabulary involves taking from the discard.

I think I'm making progress? Maybe?

More tests are in order, me thinks.

Edit: The underlined change actually helped a lot! My dad and I went down to the last turn and barely won, with two of the cards being more desperate hopes than anything else. That said, I think I would make the following change-
Cards placed out of play are placed face down. (We had them all face up and available to see.) You may discard the top card of the deck to place one out-of-play card face up. (Or discard one to reveal 2, discard two to reveal 3, something like that.) This way it's harder to use process of elimination to deduce what's in your opponent's hand.

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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest Idea Phase)
So what to do with the last 15 cards?

So I'm torn between two choices: do I make this completely playable with a 54 card deck or not?

If I do not...

This gives me a lot of options. Power-up cards, player powers, alternate win conditions, the works. I haven't concretely worked out what these would be like, but they would help bring much more variety to the game.

If I do...

Then I would need to find a way to complete the game in a way that uses the remaining cards well and also adds variety to the game! Easy, right?

One fun idea I might try to implement is this:

Jokers: Jokers are shuffled in with the other 39 cards. Jokers count as wild. However, if both players have a Joker at the end of the game OR one player has 2 Jokers at the end of the game, then both players lose. (In essence, you can only use 1 Joker.)

Cards of one suit (let's say Hearts, for Harmony) A-K: I'm... not sure yet. Here's the idea I've thought about the most-

Setup: Stack the Heart cards A-10 in a face-up pile, in order with A on the bottom and 10 on top. This is the Hearts Supply.
Place the three Face cards in a pile next to this. This is called the Heart Pool.
Lastly, leave room for a Heart Discard pile along with the two discard piles and the Tension area (out-of-play; I think the "Discord" pile would be too confusing in regards to terminology).

Gameplay: In order to take from a discard pile, you must place a card from the Heart Pool into the Heart Discard. If there are no cards in the Heart Pool, you may not take from the discard pile.
At the end of each turn, you may choose to Sacrifice (discard the top card of the deck). If you do so, you may take two of the following actions (either two different or the same twice):
1. Move a card from the Heart Supply to the Heart Pool.
2. Flip a card in the Tension area face up.

At the end of the game, your score is equal to the amount of cards in the deck + the amount of cards remaining in the Heart supply (which is ever so conveniently equal to the top face-up card) - the amount of face-down cards in the Tension area.

I could easily combine the Heart Discard and the Tension pile into one thing, although they don't really represent similar things.

So that's one idea. My dad had another idea as well that I'm at least willing to try out. My immediate problem with just using the standard 54 is that it doesn't really add variety to the game or make one game fundamentally different than the other. I'm afraid it won't have as much replayability this way as opposed to if I had other, non-number cards.

(But actually, now that I think about it, there's nothing saying that I can't eventually combine these ideas in some way. For example, I could create powers for the Heart cards. When you use a card from the Heart Pool, you can either take the top card of a discard pile OR use the effect on the card. But for now, I'm just going to try it the simpler way.)

I'll report back as soon as I can, I guess.
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
All right, I think I'm ready to call this game Components Available! It needs some tweaking, but the ruleset is good to go.
 
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
I got some rules and components scraped together for the "Full Game," which makes use of certain cards that aren't in the 54 card deck. It is a little bit more complex than the rules with the Standard Deck. There are a variety of Powers in this game- it is yet to be seen if every power is useful or not

I've played a few games solo, and I'm running it VERY close to the end. The last two I played came down to a 50/50 choice.

 
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
After doing some more solo playtests with the Full Game, I found that a lot of the time I was just digging for the cards that let me take from the top of a discard pile. This was at least in part because, while revealing cards is nice, those need to be complimented by effects that let you draw more cards.

Also, moving a card from the top of one discard to the other is essentially useless except for communication in SOME games where you're already having a conflict of opinions.

I also was slightly annoyed by the fact that there were two cards that were identical and all the others were unique.

So, I did some editing, made it easier to draw cards, and even added an effect where you can take the top card of BOTH discard piles (woah there) to replace the useless "Move a card" effect.

I only ran it once, by myself, but I can tell you for sure that it's better than what I had before.

The Full Rules have been updated to v1.01 due to the update in cards. (I've actually made a few small changes here and there with the rules and not changed the version number. Make sure to check it again.) If I'm satisfied with the changes, I'll turn it to a full 1.1.

Also, anyone interested in an annoying conversion chart that lets you play the Full Rules with a Standard Deck of cards? It would do something like assign each Heart card one of the cards from the Full Rules. That said, I'd still like to develop the game with a version that only uses a deck of cards.
 
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
Okay, a couple more things.

1. One of my friends has been testing this out the Standard Deck rules with his brother- yay! I'm asking some preliminary questions, and so far I'm getting the following tidbits:
d10-1 An open-handed training game between two players who have never played together before is important for establishing basic strategies. I'm not sure if this is something I'd put in the rules or if this is something I'd leave to the players' discretion. Any thoughts?
d10-2 They were placing each discard pile closer to a certain player and using that to convey some information. I'm not positive about how I feel about this strategy, but I don't know if I necessarily want to do anything to stop it. In fact, if it proves to not be game breaking, that might be a good thing to add to the rules.
d10-3 It could be more clear about what sort of communication is and is not prohibited.

2. My dad and I got in a couple games with the Full Rules. Both games were losses, but we were only one card away each time. Thoughts on my end:
d10-1 I'm glad it's close, and I'm glad we're not easily winning the game.
d10-2 There are definitely some times where we failed to communicate what we wanted each other to do; this may have resulted in our losses.
d10-3 I'm beginning to doubt the usefulness of cards that let you take any card from the discard or a card from the Tension Zone. In theory, these effects sound quite powerful, which is why they have such a high Tension Cost. However, there isn't really a terribly practical way to utilize them. Often, if one of those cards is in one of those places, you don't know enough about your opponent's hand to make much use of it. I'm considering swapping out these effects with something that would allow you to shuffle cards back into the deck. I'll have to think about how to balance those effects. Hmm... Probably something like, "0: Draw a card. Shuffle a face up card from the Tension Zone back into the Harmony Deck." and "1: Draw a card. Shuffle two face up cards from the Tension Zone back into the Harmony Deck." Both effects give you a little more time and MAYBE a little more information.
d10-4 Okay, I at least have to consider the possibility of having a 6 card hand instead of a 7 card hand. My gut says that this would push the game over into the "too easy" category, but maybe the game is just too hard at 7 cards.
d10-5 The game works. It don't have any glaring structural flaws. What more can a man ask for?

That's where I am at for now. I'm going to be heading down to Arkansas in a couple days- it is yet to be seen whether that will lead to more or less progress on this game... But family is cool too, I guess

Oh, and one last thing. Which logo is better?


 
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Mark Tuck
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])

I like the heart one better as its simpler - but I also like the idea of the other one i.e. using cards to create a shape.

How about combining both ideas?

I quickly did this just to show the thought (hope you don't mind - feel free to ignore!):

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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
Wow! That looks great! The other idea was actually more me just playing with an online symmetry art program to get away from the "mushy" relationship theme and go with a more broad "zen" theme. I've made the following cards off of this idea:



I don't know if this would still be compatible with the relationship theme or not. That said, I wouldn't really want hearts and roses and romance on every card even if I was sticking with that theme.

The only reason I would ignore your option is if I decided to completely remove the heart/ relationship theme. That said, this theme really goes well with the mechanics of the game. As it is, I'll wait and see what I want to do for the design of the cards.

But thank you for your input!

 
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
Okay, I tried to use Mark's advice and combine it with the symbols I've been working on with the cards. I don't know if the symbol outline seems garish or not-



What do you think? (To be fair, for the sake of originality, I combined Mark's wonderful design with my own touch of mediocrity.)

For the backs of cards, I would just use the two copies of the heart symbol and arrange it so that the card look the same right side up and upside down.

Edit: For now, I'm going with it. I think the copy of the game I'm putting up now is solid enough to withstand some playtesting. Enjoy!
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
Okay, that is way too abrasively saccharine. I toned it down a little.



Any better?

Edit: I did note that the green symbol near the upper right is a little too bright. I've fixed it on my laptop, but it's such a minor fix that I haven't done it here yet.

Also, we leave for Arkansas today! For the next few days, any progress I make will probably be on the Standard Deck Game.

Merry Christmas, everyone!
 
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Gary Boyd
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
I really like the idea of more games promoting harmony, peace, and love. So, that excites me. The more we encourage themes of cooperation in games, the more people will consider cooperation an option in formerly, exclusively settings.

I think of three games when I read the rules, that I believe could inform your design: The Grizzled (because hey, love is a battlefield), Hanabi, and Bohnanza. I don't know why these instantly sprang to mind, but they seem to be good card games with mechanics that you might consider adopting for thematic resonance.

The Grizzled uses closed communication so effectively. There is a sense of closeness, but also extreme distance. All of the characters are literally or otherwise, wounded. This game has seen more play in our house than nearly any other game we have. Dollar for dollar, I think it's probably still the best cooperative game out there. The goal in this game isn't to achieve something so perfect, it's just to make it through. I think you might re-evaluate the "Perfect" part of your Harmony game and whether or not that allows for closed communication.

The reason I say this, is because it seems to me that a game about harmony in a romantic relationship would be about more open communication. Making a statement that perfect harmony in a relationship—which in my mind is a questionable topic in itself—is achievable through intuition, or without verbal communication, is not something with which I could relate.

The reason Hanabi comes to mind is because the mechanics of the game—the game of love, in this instance—inhibit your communication and your knowledge in interesting ways. So the game might be played with half your hand facing towards you, and half in the other direction. You have the way your partner perceives things, and the way you feel.

The reason I mention Bohnanza is strictly mechanically, as a possibile harmony mechanic (not just having the same numbers but in the proper order). I'm not sure of a thematic idea except that people are on the same page.


A couple of things I noticed in your initial post are that you mention your opponent. It's funny, I do this often when I mean "the other player." It shows just how ingrained competition is in our minds.

You also mention telepathic communication. I think what you're looking for here is non-verbal communication. But then my question is, why are we attempting to come into harmony non-verbally? In ...and then, we held hands. two lovers have had a fight, they're struggling to make sense of their feelings and come together, and it makes sense to do this. In this game, I'm not sure it helps evoke the theme at all. In fact, I think it may hurt it.

Good luck with the game.
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
Hey, thanks for your comment! It certainly gives me a lot to think about.

First, the telepathic communication thing was more of a joke Nonverbal communication may be the more official term, but telepathy is more fun!

More seriously, as a designer I am more likely to shape my theme to my game than my game to the theme. That is just personal preference. I’m still uncertain about if I want to use the relationship theme or not. So if I determine that a mismatch between theme and mechanics is a problem, it is most likely the theme that will change.

That said, I would say that the premise of the game is to try to find new ways to communicate, rather than being unable to communicate. It requires you to understand what your opponent is doing and why they are doing it. One of the easiest pitfalls is to play selfishly. I would say that seems to go along with relationships, but admittedly I am inexperienced in that field.

Lastly, I have played Hanabi, and that did influence some game design decisions. I know something of The Grizzled, but I’ve never played. As for Bohnanza, I’ve played once, but I’m not sure if that is going to impact my games.

But I’m interested- how do others feel about the theme of the game?
 
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
Alright, I playtested against myself a few times and squeezed a playtest out of my dad.

Thoughts and/or comments:

d10-1 When I played against myself, I felt like the game worked well. I was winning with a score of 4, but I was playing myself. I was bound to do KINDA good.
d10-2 I think a lot of the card powers are at a good place. There may be room for improvement, but for the most part, I'm happy.
d10-3 When I played against my dad, we used 6 card hands and won handily with a pretty blunt and brute force strategy. As I suspected, I think 6 card hands are a little too much for making the game easy.
d10-4 Another thing we did was use the concept of having one discard for each player. This, again, made the deduction a little simpler. It leaves a very direct way for players to communicate that I don't really like. Now, there are some times where it falters a little bit; for example, there was a time where my dad had to go to great lengths to signal for me to take a card that I had discarded into my own pile. There were also times where I would have liked to discard a card to flip some cards, but I couldn't because that would lead to a false signal. But I think that these pitfalls could be avoided by experienced play, and that ultimately this would lead to a lot of information conveyed that I hadn't intended.
d10-5 I am beginning to fear that the "deduction" might be too straightforward. As much as I would like there to be more subtle ways to communicate information that are more efficient, I'm beginning to think that the obvious might also be the best. Which isn't very good. I think the easiest way to change this would be to remove one or two of the cards that allow players to take a card from the top of the discard pile. But I'm not POSITIVE if this is necessary yet.
d10-6 I also need to make a note in the rules about the Checkmarks I put on the cards. They aren't meant to be used for communication when discarding, so I probably need to regulate how cards are oriented in the discard pile.
d10-7 This doesn't have to do with game play, but the icon for 9 has 7-way rotational symmetry instead of 9. Oops.

This game definitely needs some tweaking, and it may even need some significant adjustments to take it where I want it to be. And that means, you guessed it, play testing! Most specifically, I need to see how different strategies do and which ones result in the highest scores. Can a simpleton approach do better than a deep and nuanced strategy?

I guess I'll have to find out.
 
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
Well, good news! I got another play out of my dad using the Full 1.02 rules as is and we won! We got a score of -2, so there's room for improvement. But we won!

We did primarily use a "discard to tell info" strategy, but we had some other fun tricks in there as well.

I need to try other strategies in the game and see if they work.

But getting a true, blue win felt nice.
 
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Drew Bowling
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
Hi everyone! It may seem like I've stopped working on Perfect Harmony. That's only partially true; college has started back up, and time is a lot less available than it was. Nevertheless, I felt like I left the game at a good point, and now I'm more or less waiting for feedback. Feel free to give the game a try, and let me know how it goes!
 
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Rachel Bruner
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Re: [WIP] Perfect Harmony (2018 54-Card Contest [Components Available])
tucky60 wrote:

I like the heart one better as its simpler - but I also like the idea of the other one i.e. using cards to create a shape.

How about combining both ideas?

I quickly did this just to show the thought (hope you don't mind - feel free to ignore!):


Wow, I love these designs, Mark, and how you combined the ideas!
 
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