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Subject: Trick-taking too far? When to stop innovating! rss

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Robbolo Gaming
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Hello guys,

I've been watching and following this community for a long old while now, and think it's finally time I stick my toes into the participation-pool.

I've been designing a Trick-taking game over the last few weeks. At its core I think it's fun and it's received good feedback from a limited audience.

My main issue is I keep finding new ways to spruce up the rules, or find new things I think would make interesting interactions. I feel now I'm teetering on the edge of a simple game straying too far in complexity. But how do I know when to stop?

Trick-taking games are usually very similar in their core premise, so I believe it's vital to do something different. But at what point does that become convoluted?

Initially my game had three suits. Each suit would have a special power which is activated when that suit is trump. To allow control over this, trump is determined by players bidding.

However, now I've added special powers to lower value cards to mitigate against terrible hands.

I'm now also thinking about bringing in something new to scoring too. But I can't tell if these constant changes are good for the game, or me just adding complexity out of an anxiety that it's not different enough from other Trick-taking games.

How do you guys decide when designing a game when you're done adding features? Do you ever keep iterating because you feel it's not quite distinctive enough?

I think my only answer is to keep playtesting new iterations but I worry about burning out my participants.

Thoughts welcome!

Rob
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marc lecours
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I am torn.

On the one hand I want familiar rules. I want trick taking to work pretty close to the standard way. This reduces the rule overload. It allows me to jump right into a new game and have an idea what to do right away.

On the other hand if a game is very similar to an existing game then I prefer to play the existing game and become an expert at it.

My advice would be to build on existing rules but with one or two clever twists that makes your game fresh. If you want to change trick taking with a lot of changes then there is no point keeping it as a trick taking game. In that case it would be better to dump trick taking and make something completely different.

So if you go with trick taking then only change one or two things from the standard trick taking game....but make the changes spectacular. Make the players say: "Wow...that small rule changes everything!"
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Bleicher
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There are hundreds of trick-taking games already, so yeah, I don't think it should be a problem to make something more complex.

Are you aware of Trick of the Rails? The guy made a game about investing in railroad companies (you know, that kind of thing that commonly involves games with many components that last many hours), but as a card-only trick taking game. The design is utterly brilliant - some tricks let you "expand railroads" (made of cards that were played on that trick), some tricks let you "invest" (picking the cards you played on those tricks as "shares"), and some tricks let you choose each locomotive (of different range) will go to each railroad. So what you do is try to win (or lose) tricks so that in the end of the game you have a "portfolio" (the cards you picked up as shares) that returns the most dividends (i.e., you have most cards in the railroad companies that made the most money by being longer and having a good enough locomotive to earn money from as many cards as possible). This is a masterpiece of design for me, and a very nice example of what different, fresh stuff can be done with the trick taking mechanic.
 
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Robbolo Gaming
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rubberchicken wrote:


On the one hand I want familiar rules. I want trick taking to work pretty close to the standard way. This reduces the rule overload. It allows me to jump right into a new game and have an idea what to do right away.

On the other hand if a game is very similar to an existing game then I prefer to play the existing game and become an expert at it.


Yea, this nails my crisis pretty aptly.

I also think your advice of making smaller, significant changes is great too. This keeps it closer to player's wheelhouses while giving them something new to digest. It's a fine balancing act indeed!

Can I ask what you (or anyone else) thinks about having different 'modules' in a simple game?

What if I had my main game as a 'standard' mode. And then let players explore with adding in different parts, maybe an 'experienced' variant that brings in new scoring methods, or another variant that brings in additional cards with special powers.

On one hand, it allows that pure Trick-taking to shine through as an introduction with the potential to build up complexity over time once familiarity with the game has been established. However, on the other hand I'm always quite skeptical of games having lots of variants or modules as it sometimes reeks of indecision about what the identity of the game is.

Thoughts welcome and thanks again for your insightful comments!
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marc lecours
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20 years ago I would have said that modules are great. Players would explore each module a bit then try the next. This would have kept the game fresh.

But nowadays players don't play the same game often enough. They switch from game to game. Your modules would be ignored by 90% of players.

A much better idea is to present the players with only one way to play the game and make it awesome. Find the best way to play the game and present it right away to players the first time they play your game.

The only variants you could consider having are:
1. A solo variant.
2. A 2 player variant.
3. A multiplayer variant.
4. A beginner variant can be useful in a very complicated game...but a trick taking game is probably too simple to warrant this.

If the game catches on...then you make an inexpensive expansion with many many variants.
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The Joker
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If it's not distinctive enough, then the problem is at it's core.
If the cardgame doesn't feel fresh and new (without any features) … well, I don't think that adding features will mend the problem.

I think, they have to do ONE thing new and interesting. TWO, if necessary.
But most often, that is more than enough. Keep it simple.
 
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