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Subject: [WIP] Breathe rss

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Nicolas Le Roux
Canada
Montréal
QC
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Link to the rulebook
Everything is fine, the three superpowers North America, Europe and China produce heavily, powered by coal plants. But the danger looms: the rest of the world is also power hungry and dramatic climatic changes are near.

Will you manage to stabilize the climate before it's too late or will you try to abandon Earth and colonize another planet, angering the international community?




Presentation
Breathe is a 3-player cooperative game with a twist: at any time, one of the players can decide to defect and attempt to escape. In doing so, they forfeit their ability to win with the others and will now actively compete against them.

I have the most fun when the game I am playing is merely a pretext to play the other players. Trying to figure out what they will do, if they will betray you, if they will be bold or conservative. I wanted to know which human behaviours besides risk-taking and agreement-maintaining could be useful to predict in a game. I ended up with "loyalty toward a common goal".

I have always been bothered by the traitor mechanic in coop games where the traitor was chosen by the game. I wanted to design a game where everyone could decide to be the traitor. Ideally, the game would be reasonably easy to win if everyone was fully cooperating but the suspicion generated by the possibility of betraying would make the game a lot harder.

3-minute rule explanation
The players will need to curb the CO2 emissions of the 4 neutral regions by providing for their needs and lobbying their governments. However, doing so will require a lot of energy that they cannot get through coal power plants, at the risk of polluting themselves. Together, the players will have to choose between:
- researching new sustainable energy sources to satisfy their energy needs
- build or update power plants
- lobby regions to reduce their increase in energy demand.
To win, the players must contain the energy increase in all 4 regions. However, in addition to that common goal, each player must also dominate at least one region to win.
If, at some point, a player believes winning this way is unachievable, they can pursue the spatial technology to leave Earth and colonize another planet. However, in doing so, not only do they lose the opportunity to win if the climate is stabilized, they also make it easier for the remaining two players to stabilize it. Hence, timing of the betrayal is essential.

Main elements of the game
- It is 3 players only. While I would have loved to accomodate more player count, I felt that this count was the best to create the tension.
- The optimal strategy is for each player to focus on a different aspect with some players more able to succeed if they defect. I wanted players to choose whom they trusted the most to fill that role.
- Even when the climate is stabilized, there can be 1, 2 or 3 winners.
- There is as little good/bad randomness as possible. All random elements drive you toward a path or another.
- All the information is readily available to all players. I did not want to have players ask the others what their status was. I want the game to disappear so that all the thoughts are on the strategy.

Influence track
I am fascinated with the representation of data. I wanted to find a simple way to represent the power struggle between 3 players. Whenever a player influences a region, they move the corresponding cube toward their area. This allows everyone to immediately see how they're doing.



What next?
- Polish the rulebook. You can find it here with the ability to comment.
- Tune the balance so that the game has the right difficulty and elicits the right emotions
- Make sure the game does not overstay its welcome. I am aiming for 60 minutes but realistically hope for 90 minutes.
- Have it played.

I created it on Tabletop Simulator so would love if people were interested in trying it. I also welcome any feedback as this is my first design.
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KC Schrimpl
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During play tests, what percent of games does someone defect?
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Nicolas Le Roux
Canada
Montréal
QC
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schrimpl wrote:
During play tests, what percent of games does someone defect?

Great question. At the moment, my playtests were more focused on the early game than the late game but I aim for a 30-50% defect rate.
 
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