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A finalist for the 2019 Novel Games Contest by Escape Velocity Games.



Players: 1-2 Time: 30 minutes Ages: 10+

Mechanics: Area control, hand management, secret unit deployment, variable player powers

Overview: In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Mr. Hyde commits a murder that starts a downward spiral for the poor doctor, ultimately ending in his demise. In Jekyll & Hyde: The Murder of Sir Danvers Carew, you will relive the days and weeks leading up to that fateful night: Dr. Jekyll will try to prevent the murder from taking place, while Mr. Hyde will try to ensure that the deed is done.

This battle for control of the doctor's location and personality is carried out through a series of encounters. Both players wage their influence over each encounter, and whoever comes out on top chooses the outcome. Dr. Jekyll wins by regaining full control of his personality, while Mr. Hyde wins by controlling the doctor's personality while at the scene of the crime. If time runs out, then whoever is in control of the personality wins. Will Mr. Hyde complete his sinister task? Or will Dr. Jekyll rewrite history and preserve both his life and the life of Sir Danvers Carew?

Components: 83 cards, 8 tokens, 3 player aids, 1 game board

Files:
Rules
All Components


Website: Cardboard Crucible
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Justin Schroeder
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Re: Jekyll & Hyde: The Murder of Sir Danvers Carew - An Escape Velocity Novel Games Contest Entry (Contest Ready)
Update (25 Feb 2019): Contest-ready

My work here is finally done! I have updated both the rules and components to reflect my final version submitted to the contest. Most notably, I removed the personality trait mechanic completely. I really liked the idea of abilities that flipped back and forth between Jekyll and Hyde as they were used, but ultimately these slowed the game down a bit and took away from the main mechanic of bluffing and deduction through the secret auction.

I also added a (rather poor quality, sorry!) image of the game in action.
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JK
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Best of luck in the contest!
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Thanks! To you as well!

By the way, I enjoyed reading the forum for your post; great work! And I'd especially be intrigued to see if you can iron out the 2-player issues, because realistically that's how I play 95% of the time.
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Designer Diary #1: A Narrow Escape

Jekyll & Hyde: The Murder of Sir Danvers Carew is not actually the first game I’ve designed; that honor belongs to Alien Aftermath: Tetraforming USA. While I will chronicle the development of that game in another series, what you need to know now is that it is a polyomino tile-laying game.

As those of you bitten by the design bug surely know, finishing one game opens up the door to a hundred new ideas. So I designed a roll-and-write game! Featuring polyominoes. And I designed a card-drafting game! Featuring polyominoes. I even designed a second full-scale polyomino tile-laying game. While each game had its own unique twist, I clearly had no idea how to escape the gravitational pull of those magical blocks.

Left to my own devices, I may never have reached escape velocity; thankfully, Escape Velocity found me! Or rather, the Escape Velocity Novel Games Contest caught my eye on Board Game Geek. As a new and completely unknown game designer, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to have a game seriously considered for publication. Moreover, it was going to be very hard make a Jane Austen-themed Tetris game, so it also seemed like the perfect opportunity to cure my unhealthy fixation with polyominoes. I opened up a Wikipedia page on public domain works, took one look at the list, and knew immediately what I had to do…
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Designer Diary #2: Thank You Mr. Stevenson

Most of my gaming is done with my wife, so naturally I enjoy many 2-player-only games. An asymmetric game is even better, because it’s basically two games for the price of one. It is no surprise, then, that as I was reading through the list of books and short stories in the public domain, my eyes settled on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I have no doubt that Robert Louis Stevenson, surely an avid Android: Netrunner fan like myself, wrote this story specifically to facilitate the development of asymmetric 2-player games. It’s almost too perfect. (I’m clearly not alone in this thinking, because there were more Jekyll and Hyde games submitted to the contest than for any other work.)

Once the idea entered my mind, the game started to design itself: it would be a battle for control of Dr. Jekyll’s personality. Players would secretly bid to win cards, and each card would offer different choices depending on who won the card. To amplify the asymmetry, the decks of cards each player used to bid would have different sizes and values. It was all coming together! The only thing left was to actually read the story…
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Designer Diary #3: Murder Comes Upon Me

So this is the point where I confess that, prior to designing this game, I had never actually read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But did I really even need to read it? I mean, everyone knows the story, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. For example, did you know Dr. Jekyll is the good guy??? How is Jekyll not the evil name of the two?! (Also, he’s not really that good: he created Mr. Hyde as an outlet for all his evil desires!)

I readily admit that I was probably more naive than most when it comes to this story, but it was chock full of surprises. In addition to the revelation that I had the protagonist and antagonist reversed, it turns out that neither of them is even the main character. That honor belongs to the narrator, Mr. Utterson, a loyal friend of Dr. Jekyll. Additionally, the book was quite a bit darker than I expected. From what I knew I anticipated something akin to a children’s story, perhaps trying to teach something about good and evil. What I got was a book full of crime and deceit.

From out of this darkness, however, a light dawned on me: I could rewrite the story and give it a happier ending. Or rather, I could give the players the opportunity to rewrite the story and redeem the maligned doctor. The low point in the story occurs in chapter 3, where Mr. Hyde randomly and savagely murders Sir Danvers Carew. Dr. Jekyll is never able to fully recover from and escape this brutal act. But now, thanks to Jekyll & Hyde: The Murder of Sir Danvers Carew, Dr. Jekyll is given a second chance to prevent this senseless crime…
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Designer Diary #4: Avert Your Eyes

Having studiously read the story, I was ready to design the game. There would be two pieces of information that were vital to track: the physical location of Dr. Jekyll, and who was in control of his personality. These would determine who won the game, with each player having a different goal. Dr. Jekyll needed to regain full control of his personality (thereby preventing the murder, no matter where he was physically located), while Mr. Hyde needed to have some level of control over the personality while being located at the scene of the crime (giving him the opportunity to carry out the murder).

These location and personality tracks were of utmost importance, but the heart of the game would be in the encounter cards. Each round (representing one day), Dr. Jekyll would face three encounters featuring people, places, and events taken straight from the book. Players would secretly bid for the right to determine the outcome of each encounter, and here’s where one of my key ideas came into play: many of the cards would offer different outcomes depending on which player won the bid. Moreover, I thought the best way to make these cards readable to the players was to split each card in half, with one side oriented north and one side oriented south. Thus was born one of the ugliest card designs known to mankind. Look below for some sample cards, but please beware, these images may not be appropriate for all readers…

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Designer Diary #5: Symbology Saves the Day

It quickly became clear that if I wanted my wife to continue playtesting this game with me, I would need to clean up the cards and simplify the presentation of information. But that turned out to be a tricky tightrope to traverse. Use too many symbols, and people won’t remember what any of them mean. Use too few, and your cards are cluttered by text.

As an example, there are several card abilities that allow you to modify your hand: drawing extra cards, putting one from your discard pile on top of your deck, destroying one, etc. At first, I had a unique symbol for each action, but even I was having a hard time remembering what each one represented. And although I ultimately included player aids in the game, I didn’t want players to have to consult them every turn. So I settled on two symbols for card abilities: an exclamation point to denote an ability that is applied immediately, and a treasure chest to denote an ability that you can save and play when desired. Additionally, I added a bit of color to the cards to get away from the monochromatic 1940s TV vibe the game was giving off. The result was, well, better than the previous cards at least! Now the question is, what do I do with the special special ability cards…

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Designer Diary #6: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Game design is a lot like relationships. You spend a lot of time with an idea, you become familiar with it, and you start to overlook its flaws because, hey, it has a nice car. For me, the idea of Personality Cards in Jekyll & Hyde was my friend with a nice car. No, they were not perfect, but they were really thematic and gave the game variable player powers (buzzword!).

The idea was to have a set of extra special abilities (since many of the normal cards offer special abilities as well) that started out in Dr. Jekyll's control; these were like a bag a tricks he could reach into if he was desperate. But once he used one of these abilities, it flipped over and become a slightly different ability available to Mr. Hyde. The more Dr. Jekyll resorted to these sneaky means, the stronger his alter ego became. Thematically, I loved it! But gameplay-wise, these abilities kept falling flat. They were often simply ignored by Jekyll to prevent Hyde from gaining any abilities, or they were used in game-breaking ways that gave Jekyll an easy, joyless victory. The intent was to use some thematic spice to take a solid game and make it great; instead, the Personality Cards were just adding superfluous rules and mechanics for little to no benefit. As difficult as it was to say goodbye to my friends (and this confusing metaphor), I had to let them go. If I still wanted to spice up the game a bit, I had to look elsewhere...
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Designer Diary #7: Fun Potion Number Nine

The core mechanic in Jekyll & Hyde is a blind bidding of sorts to win encounter cards, which offer the winner a choice of rewards. The bidding is done by playing influence cards from your hand face down on the available encounters; these influence cards have a printed value from 0-6, and whoever plays the highest total on each encounter claims the associated reward. As part of the asymmetric design of the game, Jekyll and Hyde have slightly different decks and rules governing their influence cards. Hyde generally has higher value cards, while Jekyll gets to draw more cards each round. Combined with the asymmetric winning conditions, this means the strategy and gameplay vary quite a bit from one side to the other.

Many of the encounter cards offer rewards that affect your hand of influence cards. For example, you can add a couple higher value cards to your deck, permanently remove cards, or simply draw extra cards between rounds. One of the most exciting rewards on offer was the Serum card, which Jekyll could earn by winning the right encounter; playing this card on an encounter gives Jekyll automatic victory, regardless of the other influence cards played. This card was really fun to use! For one, it helped make up for Hyde’s overall stronger deck. It also opened the door for some interesting mind games. When Jekyll put a single influence card on an encounter, you immediately had to wonder if it was the Serum card. If it was, it would be pointless to play your own influence cards on that encounter. But maybe Jekyll knew you would think that, and so he played his lowest card on that encounter to try to sneak in an easy victory! This card opened up a lot of fun doors. There was just one problem: Jekyll almost never won the encounter that gave him the Serum card.

The solution to the problem was obvious, of course, but it took me a while to see it: just give Jekyll the Serum card from the beginning! This one simple change took the game to the next level. I wanted to create an asymmetric two-player-only game with some hidden information, because my wife and I find these offer the most tense decision making. Before the Serum card, I had the basics in place, but the tension was missing. One card was all I needed to unlock that delicious anxiety I so desired. One card to rule them all…
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Designer Diary #8: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go...

…cause I’m not planning on going solo.

I never intended to include a solo version of Jekyll & Hyde for two main reasons. First, I rarely play any solitaire games, choosing instead to invest my free gaming time into designing games. Second, my favorite feature of the game is the blind bidding that allows ample opportunity for bluffing and misdirection. But after seeing many gamers on Board Game Geek talk about how they value games with solo rules, I thought it might be worth a shot.

My main goals with the solo game were to keep the tension and to make it hard to win. To accomplish these, the solo player takes the role of Dr. Jekyll (you wouldn’t want to be the bad guy, would you??) and gives the automatic-win Serum card to Mr. Hyde. Now your opponent has all the strong cards, but you have the brains. Is that enough to save Sir Danvers Carew? Well, I might not be the best test case, because after dozens and dozens of playtests it’s likely I have some insider info on the cards and/or I am blind to certain strategies, but I win about 40% of the time, which qualifies to me as “hard to win”. Much of the tension from the 2-player was also retained, as I found myself facing the decision over and over again of (mostly) guaranteeing I win one of the three cards or gambling to try to win two, all the while hoping the Serum card didn’t rear its ugly head. The solitaire version of Jekyll & Hyde was quite unexpected, but I am happy with the results and eager to see what others think of it…
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Designer Diary #9: Walking the Tightrope

There are probably few words as important in board game design as “balance”, especially for an asymmetric game. Jekyll & Hyde had a number of different things to consider as I tried to find that delicate balance. How far should Dr. Jekyll have to move on the personality track to claim a victory? How many cards should each player draw at the beginning of the game? Who should go first each round? Should Mr. Hyde have two 0 cards or three? Some of these questions seem almost trivial, but I was constantly surprised by how much a small change in the answer to one of these questions affected the whole game!

Another issue I had to tackle was, do I even want this to be a perfectly balanced game? My favorite game is Star Wars: Rebellion, and one of the things I love about it is that—at least with the expansion—it is probably harder to win as the Rebels. In the book, Mr. Hyde “wins” and Sir Danvers Carew is murdered; I actually wanted Dr. Jekyll to have more of a challenge trying to rewrite this outcome, and I think that comes through in the game (both 2-player and solitaire). In fact, it’s technically possible for Mr. Hyde to win after only one round of the game, so the Jekyll player feels the tension and pressure immediately. As the Jekyll player, you will probably spend a majority of the game feeling like you’re not actually making any progress towards victory; rather, you’re just putting out fires, desperately staving off Hyde’s murderous intentions. But after doing that for 6 or 7 or even 15 rounds, you’ll look up and realize that everything has fallen into place for you to make your big push. Maybe this time you can finally put an end to your evil alter ego’s antics. Maybe this time, Sir Danvers Carew will live to see another day…
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Designer Diary #10: Time to Breathe

The emotions of designing a board game are like a multidimensional roller coaster. Joy, frustration, motivation, anger, excitement, nervousness, and many other feelings wax and wane simultaneously as a game morphs from a “great” idea in your head to a barely functional prototype, and then as it evolves through dozens or even hundreds of playtesting sessions. It can be exhilarating, but it can also be exhausting.

Among the many benefits of designing a game for a contest is that you have a hard deadline; in other words, you know the roller coaster ride will eventually come to an end! One of my biggest frustrations in designing Alien Aftermath (a polyomino game about rebuilding the USA after an alien invasion) has been that I never know if I’m finished; and every time I start to think I might be, a new idea enters my mind and I have to rework everything again. But with Jekyll & Hyde, I was able to—at least after a 17th proofread of the cards and rule book—submit it on the Escape Velocity website and breathe a deep sigh of relief. All that was left to do was to wait…
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Designer Diary #11: Favorite Features --- Hidden Information

Over the next three entries, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite things about Jekyll & Hyde: The Murder of Sir Danvers Carew. Naturally, we design games that we would want to play, so this series of posts has two purposes: 1) to show you what kind of games I like; and 2) to help you determine if Jekyll & Hyde is a game for you!

In a recent Top 10 list, I mentioned my favorite features in board games. The top entry in that list is hidden information, so it’s little surprise that I would design a game featuring secrets and deception. In fact, Jekyll & Hyde is designed so that you can attempt to bluff both with how many influence cards you play, as well as when you play them. The only purpose of the 0 influence cards, of course, is to increase the opportunity for bluffing. For example, if I play three influence cards on one of the encounters, it could just as easily be a total of 1 influence as 10! Moreover, if I play several influence cards on one encounter right out of the gate, I could be trying to scare my opponent away from bidding because I really want to win that encounter. Or maybe I’m luring her into a bidding war that I have no intention of winning! There are many games that have some form of deception, but I really love the multifaceted bluffing possible in Jekyll & Hyde. And it becomes even better when you consider that each player is bidding with different decks…
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Designer Diary #12: Favorite Features --- Asymmetry

Following close on the heels of hidden information is my second favorite feature of Jekyll & Hyde (and other games!): asymmetry. A good asymmetric two-player game is almost like getting two games for the price of one. The best ones (Android: Netrunner and Star Wars: Rebellion, for my money) have two sides with different resources chasing different goals and creating different emotions, something that I tried to replicate in Jekyll & Hyde.

Although the two sides may not be quite as diverse as the Rebel Alliance and the Imperial Empire, there are notable differences in Jekyll and Hyde that give each side its own flavor. Hyde has stronger cards, but he has to play first each round, giving Jekyll the opportunity to react. Jekyll has much farther to travel on the personality track than Hyde, but Hyde needs to gain ground on both tracks to win the game. And of course, Jekyll has the all-powerful serum card lurking in his deck, meaning Hyde—even with all his might—can never get too confident in his position. I’ve played both sides many times, and I really enjoy the unique challenge that each one provides. And while the challenges are great, I enjoy even more the emotions that each side evokes…
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Designer Diary #13: Favorite Features --- Tension

I play games for many reasons—social interaction, stress relief and mental exercise, among others—but there’s nothing I enjoy more than a game soaked with tension. A game where each decision causes my brain to sweat. A game where you are on the edge of your seat no matter whose turn it is. A game where each play you make could be your last.

There are two main ways, in my opinion, that games cause mental stress. The first is by giving you a myriad of choices and challenging you to find the best one. Many abstract strategy games fit this mould, as do games like Five Tribes or Caverna. The second—and the preferred one for me—is by giving you just a few choices, but making each of those choices seem equally great (or terrible!). Hanamikoji is great at this: each round, you only have four actions to choose from, and you must do each one of them once. But picking which one to do when, and which cards to use for that action, can be excruciating. And since Hanamikoji also has a fair amount of hidden information, you can never be sure that you’re making the right choice. The result is a 15-minute game that leaves your palms sweaty and your mind feeling like it ran a mental marathon. This, more than anything else, is the kind of emotion I wanted Jekyll & Hyde to create.

Whether it succeeds or not is ultimately up to the players to decide, but I found that my plays were often rife with tension. When I win an encounter, do I take the immediately reward of moving along one of the tracks, or do I save the card to use later for its special ability? If I do choose to move along one of the tracks, which one do I prioritize? Do I go all-in this round, or do I let my opponent claim all of these encounters and save my big guns for the next round? Each decision point may only offer you two or three options, but the best choice is rarely obvious.

Jekyll & Hyde is a game of thrust and parry, doing just enough to keep your opponent off-balance as you position yourself for a big, final push. I’ve played games where, after 10 rounds, all of the markers were right where they started, as if nothing had happened. But both players were stockpiling abilities and refining their decks, waiting for the right time to make a move. Once that move happens, the game is usually over in a flash, as making the move will either lead to victory or leave oneself vulnerable to a swift counterattack. And waiting for that move to happen—or deciding when to do it myself—more often than not left me in nail-biting tension. Jekyll & Hyde is the type of game I truly enjoy playing over and over again…
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