I enjoy the Z-Man B-Movie card games. In fact, I now own all of them, though I haven't played all of them yet. The other night, I was playing Bell-bottomed Badasses on the Mean Streets of Funk and I was reminded again of the one thing that always seems to drag the games down a bit -- the lag time while folks try to figure out their current Defense Strength totals and remember which special abilities would affect their Defense Strength.
What invariably seems to happen is that players looking to attack someone else go around totalling up everyone's scores and reading the special abilities of each and every card. Then, once they decide whom to attack, the defending player then re-reads all of his/her cards AGAIN. This can really make an otherwise light game drag on and on.
So, I started to wonder if maybe some sort of "strength-tracking" counters would help.
Here's what I'm thinking: In the center of the table, there's a supply of two different colors of chits. I'm going to call them "beads" here because I think little beads would be a good size, but you could probably also use tokens, poker chips, meeples, little wooden blocks from Pandemic, etc.
Beads in one color (let's say white) represent the current defense strength of an individual character or location. Beads of the other color (let's say red) are use to mark any character who has a variable Defense Strength based on the type of attack and/or who have some other impact on an attack (example: props that you can discard to immediately stop an attack). At the end of your turn, you put out the appropriate beads in front of each character card.
Example 1: On my first turn, I put out Cop (Defense Strength: +3), Spoiled Little Rich Girl (Defense Strength: +2) and the Abandoned Building (Defense Strength: +2). I also play the Rifle on the Cop. The Rifle has a printed Defense Strength of +3, but the Cop's special ability allows him to double the Defnese Strength of any "gun" prop. So, the Cop's Defense Strength is now +9. At the end of my turn, I would put two beads in front of the Abandoned Building Card, two beads in front of the Spoiled Little Rich Girl card and nine beads in front of the Cop/Rifle cards. It will (presumably) be easier for folks around the table to total up 3 + 3 + 9 than it would be to re-read each card and try to figure out which ones have abilities that would affect an attack.
Example 2: Let's say that I played the Old Priest in my movie. The Old Priest has a printed Defense Strength of +3, which would mean three white beads. But he also has a special ability that gives him a Defense Strength of +6 against "supernatural" attacks. This is where the red beads would come into play. In addition to the three white beads, I would put out one red bead. The red bead doesn't give specific information (i.e., you can't look at it and magically know, "Aha! I don't want to use a 'supernatural' attack against him"), but it does give other players a heads up that there's something funky going on with the Priest which would come into play in some attacks. This would be a way to speed up knowledge-sharing and keep folks from having to re-read the special abilities of each and every card in play. Most character, prop and location cards have some sort of special ability, but may of these special abilities either be (a) represented by the white beads (i.e., a Defense Strength Bonus that applies 100% above like the Cop/Rifle example above) or (b) do not directly relate to Defense Strength (i.e., the Spoiled Little Rich Girl's ability to carry extra cards). The red beads would be used specifically for abilities that affect attacks and can not clearly be represented by white beads. This would (hopefully) help cut down the re-reading of text.
Example 3: The white beads would be particularly helpful in situations where character's traits affect each other. This happens quite a bit in the later games in the series. One exaple from the original game is Mom. She gets +1 to Defense Strength for every "young" character in the movie. In my experience, this means that you must first re-read her card, then study every other card in that player's movie to re-calculate the Defense Strength total. If you're playing with beads, you just plop another one down in front of Mom whenever you play a "young" character.
Clarifcations and special cases
* Beads would go in front of each "cluster" of your cards. So, if you had a location, plus two characters who each had two props, you would have three groups of beads -- one for the location, one for Character #1 (including his/her props) and one for Character #2 (including his/her props). You would not place a different groups of beads for each prop, as the individual props would be part of the "cluster" with the attached character.
* Some cards (particularly locations) have a negative printed Defense Strength. While it's very clear on the cards that this is negative, it might also be misleading to put white beads representing the negative value in front of the card as if it was a positive value. In this case, I'd say you put the white beads behind the card (closer to you than to the other players) instead of in front.
* If it's not your turn and someone does something to you to affect your Defense Strength, you immediately adjust the beads in front of you (rather than waiting until your turn).
* Red beads would be strictly used to represent things that would change an attack, so abilities allowing you to draw more cards, look at other players' hands, etc., would not get a red bead. Cards that allow you to immediately end an attack WOULD get a red bead though, because that's directly related to the attack (even if it doesn't really have anything to do with Defense Strength). I know that there are a LOT of cards between all of the games, so this is a bit of a gray area; I would say the rule of thumb could be, if you think it might need a red bead, it probably does!
* Extra time: You'll have to take the time to sort out your beads whenever you add (or remove) cards from your movie. However, I think in the long run it's still a lot faster to do this while the new cards and abilities are still fresh in your mind than to have to refresh your memory anytime someone wants to attack you.
* Removes some of the "fun": I think there are probably people who play this game and just try attacking without really figuring up their opponents' Defense Strengths, hoping that the attack will succeed. If you play the game like this, hats off to you! Anyone I've ever played with (myself included) seems to try to total everything up again and again and again throughout the game. So, depending on how you play the game, this variant may not be for you!
* Untested: Yep, I'm just writing this out but haven't actually even play-tested it out. Not sure when I will either, but next time I play, I hope to do so. In the meantime, if this sounds appealing to you and you decide to play the game like this, please let me know how it goes!
I use Icehouse pyramids to track the current strength of each character in my movie. It works fine. If a character gets a prop or SFX bonus, I add more pyramids, one pip per DS point. I think the tall pyarmids are more eye-catching and easier to handle than flat chips or beads. If a card is worth negative points, I tip the pyramids sideways to indicate so.
In this photo, I was the player on the far side of the table using pyramids to track my current score:
I have found that deck familiarity has helped speed the game up. The more I see the cards in the deck, the more I know which to look for when scanning for triggered bonuses.
- Last edited Wed Sep 10, 2008 8:00 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Sep 10, 2008 7:58 pm
Yeah, that would work too. Good thought!