Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
 Hide
12 Posts

Decktet» Forums » Variants

Subject: Off-Label!: A pretty light game about pharmaceutical sales reps rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: decktet_game [+] [View All]
Jonah O.
msg tools
I came up with this last summer after a conversation about jobs that are underrepresented in board game themes. It's mostly a filler push-your-luck game and has some kinks to be worked out, but it's short and sweet and utilizes most of the properties of the Decktet in an interesting way.

Premise:
The players represent pharmaceutical sales reps attempting to market their products to doctors. The goal is to make as much money as possible (side-effects be damned), but watch out! If the Department of Justice catches you marketing off-label, you'll have to pay up. Recommended for three or four players. There's nothing really stopping you from having more, so long as there are enough non-Personality cards for everyone to have a hand of three.

Materials:
You'll need one Decktet, a full set of 60 tokens (10 in each suit), two 6-sided dice per player, and one more 6-sided die. Feel free to include The Excuse and Crowns, but Pawns can be a bit much.

Setup:
Separate the deck into two piles: Personalities (henceforth Doctors), and everything else (henceforth Drugs). Shuffle each pile, and deal a hand of three Drugs to each player. Arrange the tokens into piles by suit in the middle of the table, and agree on an ordering of those suits from 1 to 6 (e.g. the usual Moons-Suns-Waves-Leaves-Wyrms-Knots, or however the piles are arranged on the table). Give two dice to each player, and place the leftover die in the middle near the chips. The player who takes the most prescriptions leads the first round.

Theme Stuff:
A Doctor's rank represents his prestige, and the suits represent his specialties. A Drug's rank represents its cost, and the suits represent the conditions which the FDA has approved the Drug to treat. Aces (representing generics) are 1, Crowns are 10, and Courts (if you're using them) are 11. The Excuse is a 0 and is approved to treat nothing; it's a placebo that your company is selling for some reason. The six specialties/conditions are:

Moons: Insomnia
Suns: Melanoma
Waves: Incontinence
Leaves: Allergies
Wyrms: Anxiety
Knots: Back pain

Gameplay:

1. Marketing
At the beginning of each round, a Doctor is flipped over from the deck for all to see. One by one, starting with the leading player, the sales reps choose one or more Drugs from hand to market to the Doctor. Doctors will often prefer cheaper Drugs, but more expensive ones will earn you more money. Whether or not the Drug is approved to treat any of the appropriate conditions is beside the point, and will only matter when the DoJ investigates in Step 3. If a player has earned tokens in previous rounds (see Step 4), she may lay some down with the Drugs now to spend money on research & development. This makes them more expensive, but can modify what conditions the Drugs treats: each token acts as an XOR on the Drugs' suits, canceling out a symbol if it is there or adding it if it isn't.

2. Selection
Now comes the time for the Doctor to decide which drug he'll prescribe. His preferences are a mix of the following principles:
-Cheaper drugs are better than expensive drugs.
-Companies with a history of treating a particular condition are favored over those without such a history.
-Drugs that entered the market earlier are favored over those that entered later.
-Whee, randomness!

These principles will determine each Drug's rank in the Line of Treatment. Each player rolls her two dice, adds them to the cost (rank) of the Drugs and number of R&D tokens she played that turn, and subtracts the number of tokens in her supply (NOT counting those used for R&D this turn) that match any of the Doctor's suits. The Drugs of the player with the lowest total will be prescribed first, with ties broken in favor of the player who went first this round.

3. Investigation
But wait! Now that you're earning boatloads of money and catching the attention of the Feds, are your Drugs approved to treat exactly the right conditions? If not, there's a chance you'll get in trouble: roll the spare six-sided die to determine one of the six conditions. If that condition is treated by both your Drug and the Doctor, or by neither, then you're fine. But if it's treated by either one but not the other, your CEOs are indicted and the company loses billions in a settlement. Return all tokens of that suit to the supply. Remember to factor in R&D, so the rules are as follows: you are indicted if the rolled suit appears in 1 or 3 of the following locations, but safe it appears in 0 or 2 of them: suits on the Doctor, suits on your Drugs, and suits on your R&D tokens spent this turn. If you were indicted, begin Step 3 again with the next-lowest player in the Line of Treatment (as determined in Step 2). If there is no next player, just skip to the cleanup phase; nobody earns money this round. If you made it past the watchful eye of the DoJ, you earn profits! Go to Step 4.

4. Payment and Cleanup
The player who successfully made it out of Step 3 earns money. Take tokens equal to half (rounded down) the sum of the Doctor's rank and the Drugs' cost (including R&D) in any combination of the Doctor's suits. (You can't take tokens from an empty pile.) Then return all R&D tokens used that turn (even on drugs which weren't prescribed) to the supply, discard all Drugs played, set aside the Doctor for the rest of the game, and deal everyone back up to three cards in hand. If the Drug deck runs out, shuffle the discards. Now begin a new round, led by the winner of this round.

Game End and Scoring:
The game ends after all Doctors have been played. Whoever has the most tokens wins!

Example Round:
Lauren, Ibsen, Dolores and Ahmed are in the fourth round of a game. Lauren won the last round, so she leads. This time the Doctor is The Painter (3 of Suns and Knots).

Lauren begins by playing The Window (The Court of Suns-Leaves-Knots; like Windex, it cures a lot of things). It's pretty expensive, but she's got four Knot tokens already from selling to The Soldier last round, and the overlap between suits is pretty good. She has no Leaves, but probably wouldn't spend money on R&D anyway since the risk is already so small.

Ibsen plays the Ace of Knots, and kicks in a Sun token for R&D. He's looking pretty good--his Drugs only cost 2, and the DoJ can't possibly find fault with him! He also has one more Sun token in his supply.

Dolores has an awful hand of two Courts and one Crown, and she's sick of getting skipped for cheaper Drugs! She dumps all three of them at once, hoping to get better cards with the next deal.

Ahmed plays The Excuse. He has three Sun tokens from earlier rounds, but decides not to use them.

Next, the Line of Treatment:

-Lauren rolls a 1 and a 3, for a total of 1+3+11-4=11.
-Ibsen rolls a 1 and a 4, for a total of 1+4+1+1-1=6.
-Dolores rolls a 5 and a 6, and with the other cards she's played nobody blames her for not wanting to do the math. (42, for those of you playing at home.)
-Ahmed rolls a 2 and a 5, for a total of 2+5+0-2=1, so the Doctor prescribes his drug!

Unfortunately, Ahmed then rolls a 6 (Knots) in the Investigation phase, and so catches the watchful eye of the DoJ (because Knots are on the Doctor card but not his Drugs). On the bright side, he has no Knot tokens to lose, so play just passes to Ibsen, next in line.

Now Ibsen rolls for Investigation and gets a 2 (Suns). That's one of the Doctor's suits, but fortunately those are covered by his R&D, so he's okay! Ibsen then gets paid floor((3+1+1)/2) = 2 tokens, chosen between Suns and Knots. He takes two of the latter because he knows the Decktet card distribution so well, and in particular that there are more chiropractors than oncologists left in the Doctor deck. Then everyone discards his or her drugs from that turn and draws back up to 3 cards, and Ibsen leads the next round.

Thoughts:
Hey, I warned you it was light. There's a ton of luck here, and a bit of a runaway winner phenomenon, but the game is also short enough that it's not a huge problem. Some reasonable changes would be a more interesting final scoring system and a less swingy way of determining the Line of Treatment, but for now I'm pretty happy with the simplicity. And it's, like, the third game I've ever designed, so I've got to get a few more under my belt before I expect anything that's particularly good.
4 
 Thumb up
5.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls

Lacombe
Louisiana
msg tools
badge
Suddenly a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
Lauren, Ibsen, Dolores and Ahmed


This is the best thing I have ever read on this site or any other.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
P.D. Magnus
United States
Albany
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This is mesmerizing. zombie The theme is at once seems alien to the Decktet (because high fantasy pharmaceutical companies?!?) but it's well integrated into the actual game. The suit/malady mapping is brilliant.

I don't see a suggested number of players. Three to four, maybe?

ostroffj wrote:
...Crowns are 10, and Courts (if you're using them) are 11.


To wear my pedantic Decktet hat for a moment: Crowns are naturally 10, but Courts being 11 is rather un-Decktet. Courts are not above Crowns! It seems like making them also 10 would be fine in the game, anyway, since having three suits would make them play differently.

Taking off my pedantic Decktet hat: It's your game, of course, and you may do as you like.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jonah O.
msg tools
pmagnus wrote:
To wear my pedantic Decktet hat for a moment: Crowns are naturally 10, but Courts being 11 is rather un-Decktet. Courts are not above Crowns! It seems like making them also 10 would be fine in the game, anyway, since having three suits would make them play differently.

That's fair. Most of my playtesting was with people who weren't already familiar with the Decktet, so I felt it more natural not to have two symbols for the same rank. Also, the courtiers look like 1s. But I don't really have strong feelings either way, and it certainly doesn't change the game much.

EDIT: Oh and, yeah, whoops. Three to four players indeed. I'll edit that in.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
P.D. Magnus
United States
Albany
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Since the goal of the Decktet Wiki is to be an omnibus catalog of all things Decktet, would you mind either posting a copy of the rules there or making a page for the game with a link that points to this thread?

(It doesn't need to be final; a comment at the top of the wiki page indicating that it's a work in progress is kosher. If you are averse to operating a wiki, I could add the page there pointing to here.)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jonah O.
msg tools
I'm a little wiki-averse for now, so perhaps you could add the page? Thanks.

Also I should probably note that 4 out of the 6 maladies came from a playtester; my original mapping (e.g. Suns: Sunburn, Waves: Seasickness, Wyrms: Intestinal parasites) was amusing, but she managed to come up with an equally awesome correspondence using conditions that people actually take a lot of pharmaceuticals for.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
P.D. Magnus
United States
Albany
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ostroffj wrote:
I'm a little wiki-averse for now, so perhaps you could add the page? Thanks.


No problem. I'll add it when I get a chance.

Done.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
午餐先生
United States
San Mateo
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
pmagnus wrote:
This is mesmerizing. zombie The theme is at once seems alien to the Decktet (because high fantasy pharmaceutical companies?!?) but it's well integrated into the actual game. The suit/malady mapping is brilliant.


Not trying to rewrite the theme here, just trying to tweak it...

Maybe they are guild merchants selling various herbs and such to apothecaries in a market. These merchants aren't the most honest and will foist any goods they can. The FDA is then the local government in charge overseeing these dealings and the merchants are trying to avoid taxes or investigation. The investigation phase could be to see if their goods are real or counterfeit ("Bah! These leaves won't cure your allergies! They'll make you smell nice, but no more than that!")...

Just some musings.

I do like the sound of your game.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
P.D. Magnus
United States
Albany
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
mister lunch wrote:

Not trying to rewrite the theme here, just trying to tweak it...


A natural name for the rethemed version would be Snake Oil Salesmen.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
午餐先生
United States
San Mateo
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
pmagnus wrote:
mister lunch wrote:

Not trying to rewrite the theme here, just trying to tweak it...


A natural name for the rethemed version would be Snake Oil Salesmen.

I was thinking to call the merchants "snake oil salesmen"!

Great minds and all that... whistle
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
P.D. Magnus
United States
Albany
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I got a chance to try the game this week. I had fun with it.

Feedback from the other two players: "Boooo" and "I didn't mind it".

Most of the choices involve how to use your chips and when. Spend them (to avoid investigation) or keep them (to drive down costs)?

The player who booed the game didn't win very many rounds, so he didn't have very many chips, and so he wasn't in the position to make very many choices.

As you say, there's a bit of a runaway leader problem. Part of this is the tie-breaker rule, which we had come up several times: If a player wins a round, then they go first and so win ties in the next round. (Going first is a bit of a disadvantage, but not that much of one.)

This could be fixed either by having the player on the winner's left go first in the next round or by changing the tie-breaker. (Having the player with the fewest chips in reserve would be a bit of a catch up mechanism, although it wouldn't be thematic.)

A separate thing is that the variance on 2d6 just seems too large. One way to tighten it up would be to make the die-rolls be 3d4 instead. (Downside: You'd need nine or twelve four-sided dice. Upside: You'd get to use a dozen four-sided dice.)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe
United States
Shoreview
Minnesota
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I was just playing this with some friends and we had a good bit of fun with it but all agreed on similar issues. A couple thoughts I had:

-Don't give tie-breakers to whoever won the last round. Give it to whoever had the most expensive drug last time. OR whoever had the most expensive drug never sold anything so they take the first player marker of some sort and then get to go first in the next round. Perhaps there could even be some kind of bonus to having the most expensive drug, that way if you have a crappy hand you can mitigate that bad luck by playing for the highest drug so you can go first and get the bonus for next round.

-If you're sticking with 2d6, one thing you could do is use averaging dice which are numbered 1-3 or just say 1 and 2 is a 1, 3 and 4 is a 2, 5 and 6 is a 3. This could tighten up the game and most won't have to acquire weird dice they don't own.

-What about dividing the payout by 4 instead of only by 2? This would make it so you're less likely to run out of a kind of suit token and the winnings won't swing as much either.

-Also, how about you can only make your drug cheaper by the suits that are common between the doctor and the drug? This way, if you're ahead you can't just throw out any old card because you've got a ton of chips?

EDIT: And I second the Snake Oil Salesman theme. That could make it so the doctors are the actual customers who intend to use the drug for themselves, which is kinda fun. Then you have little stories forming because the customer is buying the drug to correct a need they actively have and there may be some humor that gets injected when the author needs something because he can't sleep and has back pain. Totally makes sense as he's huddled over his parchment late at night writing sappy poems.

EDIT EDIT: I severely misread the rules and we played very wrong. I thought that the numbers you rolled with the dice were added to the drugs cost so when you halved the total for payout you kept that total giving winning players far more chips than they should have gotten.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.