Tim P.
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an attempt to make a trading game that simulates real-world motivation better. I always thought that trading in games like Settlers of Catan was odd. Only one player can ultimately win, so there's disincentive to help certain people, even if it would be mutually beneficial to your board position. It's not quite zero-sum, but it's more so than in real life.

Then there's a cooperative games, but they force cooperation by putting everyone in the same boat. What I want is a game where, in the final tally, each player wins or lose independently of other players. The game ends at a certain point; each player with less than X VP loses. Each player with X or more VP wins. If you trade in mutually beneficial ways, you're more likely to win together.

Working Title: Survival Trading

So, here's how the game works: Players live on large space station. Well, it's more like a slum floating in space than a research station, built to fight terrestrial overpopulation. The main power generator has been destroyed in catastrophic accident, and it's switched to auxiliary power. The bright lights have gone dark, and only dim lines of emergency lighting illuminate the halls. However, the auxiliary power is damaged too, and will soon fail as well.

The players trade resources to activate sites, which will generate more resources and provide them Survival points. Players will need a certain # of Survival points to win at the end of the game, the exact timing of which isn't exactly known. There are no turns; players can trade freely in real time. Play only briefly stops when a player call that he's activating a site and throws down the needed resources, discarding them. Site activation serves as the game's timer. The activating player draws an Event card, which determines which of the other players' sites produce, in a Catan-like way: sites either produce a resource if an "Alpha," "Beta," or "Omega" card is drawn, which have a 3/2/1 distribution. These event cards are also the timer for the game's end, as each activated site puts more strain on the failing auxiliary generator. The Event deck has three cards besides Production: Countdown, Disaster, and Feedback. If you draw one of those, they take effect, and then you draw again until you've reached a normal production card.

Countdown: Once 5 of these are drawn, the game ends.
Disaster: Leave it in play. For each Disaster card, 2 more survival points are needed to survive at game's end.
Feedback: Each player with X or more resources in hand has to discard half of their resources. You might recognize this from the Robber in Catan. In this game, some sites actually cost more than X resources to activate, but their risk has a tantalizingly good return.

Public Sites are drawn into a common pool that anyone can activate, and there are 6 on the table at a time. They're activated by whoever gets to them first in real-time, through some undecided clean mechanic of "Calling a phrase" or "first hand on the table" or something. They're mostly simple "Costs XXYZZ resources, Produces X at Y frequency, gives you X survival points" cards, with some weighted towards production and others survival. Some have common special abilities, like forcing the players with most sites to give resources to those with the least, for catch-up. All special abilities of sites only occur during activations....there are no trigger effects to miss while in real-time trading.

All players have a starting site, which produces a different resource at each frequency (Alpha, Beta, Omega). That way, they're assured to get at least something every time another player activates a site and produces. They also start with 1 of resource they can produce, and a few Secret Sites. Secret sites work just like public sites, except only you can activate them. This gives you something you can plan towards with at least some certainty. Also, every player starts with a "Home" secret site that costs 2 of a single resource (you won't have at the start of the game without trading), or 3 of any resource (which you automatically have, but is less efficient). These sites they're assured of being able to build at the game's start.

It's possible for everyone to survive at the end, for no one to survive, or for just some to survive. You still want the other players to be moving along too, since you need a trading partner, and your sites only produce when other players activate. This is a game where you have to be aggressive about trading. If you're left out of the deal making, they'll be propelling the countdown forward as you're left behind. That's the basic concept. The rest is mostly balancing of individual cards and resources. I hope to have a set for playtesting soon. For now, the 6 resources are:

Energy
Gas (Oxygen and fuels. Some sites are depressurized, so they'll need to be made breathable first.)
Bio
Access (If you want to get some sites back up, you'll need admin rights.)
Tools
Scrap

Some other things I'm considering:

- I'm thinking of giving each player's a role of different alien races, who have different needs for their survival, and get their Survival points at different rates from different sites.
- I might scrap the "activating a site moves timer," and just make it so there's an actual clock-timer that does it, like in Space Alert. With player-dependent drawing from the event card deck, there could be some situations where players can get stuck in a state and can't move forward. There can be a rule for this, but it probably wouldn't be elegant.
- Rarer resources beyond the main 6 that aren't produced by any starting sites.
- Plans: Drawn and activated like sites, except they have a one-time effect and are discarded.
- Not sure if I should let players trade secret sites from their hand.
8 
 Thumb up
0.02
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kevin B. Smith
United States
Mercer Island
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The real-time heavy-trading aspect is not something I would enjoy in a game, but I heartily applaud you taking a shot at an interesting game design. I hope it works out, since I see this concept as an exciting area of game design that almost nobody has explored.

Starting from your bare goals (game where each player wins/loses independently), the theme I keep coming back to is "escape". Think of the movie Poseidon Adventure (or just about any horror movie). You have a group of people, with a common goal ("Escape" or "Survive the night"). At the end, there is not one winner. Whoever survives wins, and whoever doesn't loses. You want others to survive, because the group is stronger as a whole.

However, unlike pure co-ops, if you end up in a situation where one of you must die, you'll try to make sure it isn't you. And if you escape, you win, even if everyone else died along the way.

Looking forward to seeing where this thread goes.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Clay
United States
Alabama
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It's a really cool idea. The only apparent "flaw" (using that very loosely) in the win-or-lose-independently endgame is that it's very possible to have one player lose and the rest win, which is fine once or twice but could lead to sour feelings in some groups especially if the same player gets left out multiple times. So really not a huge "flaw" and not even really a design issue so much as a "is this the right game for my group" issue when it becomes available, but still worth mentioning.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
One Armed Bandit
Canada
Surrey
British Columbia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
My first logistical thought is that the cost of sites needs to be very carefully balanced with the number of sites and frequency of generation.

Sites need to "pay themselves off" pretty quickly, along with a large starting allotment, or the game can stall.

Taking you example: Costs XXYZZ resources, Produces X at Y frequency, gives you X survival points

We'll say that XY frequency is Alpha and Beta, so 5 out of 6 times it produces 1 resource.
It cost 5 to put into play.

Now, lets have everyone with the same card, to keep it simple.
1: Play card, resources -5
2: Plays card, resources -10, triggers production on 1, resources -9
3: Plays card, resources -14, triggers production on 1 and 2, resources -12
4: Plays card, resources -17, triggers production on 1 2 3, resources -14
5: Plays card, resources -19, triggers production on 1234, resources -15
6: Plays card, resources -20, triggers production on 12345, resources -15 (equilibrium)
7: Plays card, resources -20, triggers no production, resources -20
8: Plays card, resources -25, triggers production on 123456, resources -19 (profit, barely)

At this point, you're now adding net resources to the pool (of all players) every play... but it will take 20 more turns to "pay it down"
In the meantime, there are 20 less resources available for use, sharply limiting what you can do.

If things are not played in a correct manner, or you get a bad run of event draws (like 3 gammas in a row), then it's entirely possible to exhaust the resource pool and literally lock the game in an unplayable state.
The only way to generate more resources is to draw events. You only draw events by playing sites. To play sites, you need resources.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Hutchings
Australia
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
tim_p wrote:
What I want is a game where, in the final tally, each player wins or lose independently of other players. The game ends at a certain point; each player with less than X VP loses. Each player with X or more VP wins. If you trade in mutually beneficial ways, you're more likely to win together.


This might work better in an online game where, as in the real world, people aren't face-to-face with their opponents and generally aren't going to have the opportunity to talk about how they did compared to each other.

Perhaps you'd get a situation where people compare themselves to others that are roughly 'in their league' (similar to the way that millionaires don't feel all that rich, because they're comparing themselves to their friends and neighbours ie other millionaires).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim P.
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The Message wrote:
It's a really cool idea. The only apparent "flaw" (using that very loosely) in the win-or-lose-independently endgame is that it's very possible to have one player lose and the rest win, which is fine once or twice but could lead to sour feelings in some groups especially if the same player gets left out multiple times. So really not a huge "flaw" and not even really a design issue so much as a "is this the right game for my group" issue when it becomes available, but still worth mentioning.


Yup. Like I've heard, the games that most breed ill-will aren't pure competitives. Of course the other guy is trying to screw you; that's the game's rules. They're the semi-competitive ones, where a player is making an active choice to screw you (or just not help you out as much as you'd like).

I think that helps capture the theme of the game: You're in a ship that's sinking (well, space station in this case). It's supposed to feel tense and aggressive.

To match the group styles, I might make two optional expansions that can be mixed in to change the card pool. One focuses more on mutually beneficent cooperation, with a role card that gets extra points for each other player surviving. The second focuses more on "screw you" play and stealing resources, with a role card that gets extra points for other players not surviving. So groups can decide if they want a kinder or fiercer game...or use both and have tension between the two paths.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim P.
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
palmerkun wrote:
My first logistical thought is that the cost of sites needs to be very carefully balanced with the number of sites and frequency of generation...

...[]...

...If things are not played in a correct manner, or you get a bad run of event draws (like 3 gammas in a row), then it's entirely possible to exhaust the resource pool and literally lock the game in an unplayable state.
The only way to generate more resources is to draw events. You only draw events by playing sites. To play sites, you need resources.



Yup, that's what'll take a lot of playtesting to determine. A better example of a producing site is probably something like the home sites, which take 3 resource and produce 1 resource at a single frequency. Something that costs 5 would probably produce 2, or give a lot of survival points as a good late-game activation.

My basic math for activation cycles goes like this (assuming a 5 player game. The rules and deck composition will have to be changed for other sizes):

Start: Each player has 3 resources, and a secret home sites site that costs 3 of any. The starting site produces at Alpha, Beta, and Omega, so it will always produce. If all 5 players play their home for resources, they'll spend all and gain 4 back from the other players Event draws (possibly more, if they produce off the home sites, or trade to activate the home sites more efficiently).

On the second round of buying, we assume there'll be a site that can be activated for 4 or less resources. P1 activates it, giving all other players 5 resources (+1 assured from starting site), maybe more. P2 activates with 5 resources, giving the other players 6. P3 activates with 6 resources, giving the other players 7. P4 activates with 7 resources, giving the last P5 8 resources. He activates one with 8 resources, giving P1 4 assured resouces from his starting site (off P2, P3, P4, and P5's Event draws). He'll probably have more from his secret home site and the original 4-cost site he activated, so he'll probably start at least 5. So the cycle continues, with available resources fanning upwards as players add production beyond their assured-to-produce starting site.

Here's an example of some sites:

Warehouse Pod
Starting Site
Produces: Scrap (Alpha), Bio (Beta), Gas (Omega)

Depressurized Garden
Secret Site (Home) [Every player starts with 1 one of these in their hand. They have different resources, but activate and produce at the same rate]
Needs: 3 (Any) OR 2 Tools
Produces: Bio (Beta)

Nanotech Replicator
Secret Site [Every player also starts with 2 of these in their hand. They're generally cards that need to be planned out to use effectively.]
Activate: 1 Access, 1 Tools, 1 Energy
When Activated: For each Scrap resource you have, gain another Scrap resource.
Produces: Scrap (Beta)

Meeting Hall
Site
Activate: 1 Energy, 1 Gas
Produces: Access (Omega)
When Activated: Each player without the least sites must give a card from their hand to the player(s) with the least sites.

Control Terminal
Activate: 3 Tools, 1 Energy
Produces: Access (Alpha), Access (Beta)
+1 Survival

Algae Garden
Site
Activate: 5 Bio
Produces: Gas (Alpha)
+4 Survival

Algae Farm
Site
Activate: 8 Bio
Produces: Gas (Alpha)
+10 Survival

The design will be color-coded to read quickly from a distance, in terms of what they need/produce. For example, there will be distinct square symbols on the top showing what it needs, and distinct circular symbols on the bottom showing what it produces, in the colors of the resources.

The main 6 resources will be needed and produced at equal frequencies, but they'll tend towards certain types of cards...Scrap will be more towards resource production, Bio will be more towards +Survival, Access will be more towards special abilities, etc.

Produces:

And if it wasn't clear, when you discard resources to activate the site, they return to the pool and can be gotten again through production. Resource cards aren't permanently used up, they just flow back and forth from the bank.

I think the best rule for getting around this would be allowing players to draw a new Event, if they all agree they can't play something, at some penalty. Say, an automatic Disaster card is put in play. More dramatically, I could make getting stuck a game-loss condition, but I think it's better to just punish them 10% for it than punish them 100%.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim P.
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
apeloverage wrote:
...Perhaps you'd get a situation where people compare themselves to others that are roughly 'in their league' (similar to the way that millionaires don't feel all that rich, because they're comparing themselves to their friends and neighbours ie other millionaires).


Yeah. You could play any VP game like this game, really, if you just set an independent benchmark and won or lost by it instead of how the other players did. I need to drive home the binary, and I think the goal of "survival" does that well: you're either alive, or dead. It's not about who won "better."* I think I'll use the term "+X Survival" instead of "Survival Points"..."points" gives the wrong connotation. Still, you can't just give your +Survival away to other players, since you never know when Disaster cards will show up and push you back over the "not surviving" threshold.

* In fact, in this game, thematically, if you've managed to survive until rescue comes, you have to give back all the sites and resources. They're not legally yours, you just commandeered them to survive in a disaster situation. So by getting lots of points and such, you're really not "winning better." Heck, you might even get in trouble for misusing the nanotech replicator!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
One Armed Bandit
Canada
Surrey
British Columbia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
tim_p wrote:
Produces:

And if it wasn't clear, when you discard resources to activate the site, they return to the pool and can be gotten again through production.


I figured. When I said "pool" what I meant was "the total resources available among all the players", not the bank.
If everyone spends themselves broke, nobody can build, nobody produces.

The part I'm confused is how secret sites work. If they're secret, how can you use them without revealing what they are?
Also, the cheating problem.

Ultimately, you have a nice idea, but it won't work.
You can say "Everyone with 40+ survival wins", but people are going to go "yeah, you got 43, but I got 138. So I'm the REAL winner"

If people can comparatively measure something, they will. Having a concrete and measurable gauge of performance (VP/Survival) means people will compare it to each other
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim P.
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
palmerkun wrote:
[q="tim_p"]The part I'm confused is how secret sites work. If they're secret, how can you use them without revealing what they are?
Also, the cheating problem.


Secret sites are only hidden when in your hand. When you activate them, you reveal them to all players, and put them on the board with your sites face-up. There's probably a better term than "secret"...maybe "unknown" or "private." The concept thematically is that they're places on the station only your character knows about or can get to.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
One Armed Bandit
Canada
Surrey
British Columbia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
tim_p wrote:
palmerkun wrote:
[q="tim_p"]The part I'm confused is how secret sites work. If they're secret, how can you use them without revealing what they are?
Also, the cheating problem.


Secret sites are only hidden when in your hand. When you activate them, you reveal them to all players, and put them on the board with your sites face-up. There's probably a better term than "secret"...maybe "unknown" or "private." The concept thematically is that they're places on the station only your character knows about or can get to.


Personal sites vs Common Site Pool

Now, one thing you could do is just have a pool of Sites.
Aside from your starting one (which should just start in play), you make a deck of all sites, deal out X to everyone, and the remainder form the common pool.

This gives you a variable startup, which can really mix things up replayability wise.

You also don't need terms then. It's just the action of "play a site from your hand, or from the pool"
Actually, even if you keep separate common and secret sites, you don't need a name.

They're all sites. The common ones have the "Common" trait. The rest go into hands. Problem solved
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andreas Pelikan
Austria
Vienna
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The basic concept (players winning/losing independently)is A Weird Exceptional Sideline On Multiplayer Experiences (in short: AWESOME!)

Two comments:
Triggering resource generation (positive) and events (mostly negative) when a player activates a site seems quite neat. How about allowing multiple activations in each round, i.e. more than one player could activate a site, and in rare cases a player could activate more than one site. In the worst case, 'multiple' could mean none (trading stuck without anybody having the resources to activate anything).
Of course this means that you need to 'grab' common sites you want to activate, because more than one player could have the necessary resources.

I envision a short timer (something like 15 or 30 seconds). When you're happy with the trading success, you start the timer (turn the sandglass). After that you mustn't grab any more common sites, while others still may. Also, if you feel you won't succeed in that round, you can start the timer. When time's up, trading stops. Each player may activate sites, and then the event and production are triggered. You'll want to activate sites as early as possible, to get their payoff more often, but if no progress is made, you may feed in new resources (at the cost of the game drawing nearer to the end, and potential other bad events).

---

You mentioned that any VP game could be played in benchmark mode, but likewise, if you have VPs, player will compare them. Sure, Victor and Victoria both hit the target, but one of them will have surpassed it 'just a little bit more', so despite both of them winning, one of them will feel like the true victor(ia).

How about replacing the linear scale Survival Points by more varied 'Production in Phase "Omega"', i.e. a sustainable long-term production at the end of the game. Give each player a secret target scenario, showing the Omega production he needs in order to survive. This will be more tricky to balance than a simple VP benchmark, but it would eliminate the fact that some winners will feel more equal than others (simply comparing surplus production is not really valid).

If you're going that route, you will probably need lot of rotation of available sites (discard secret sites and draw new ones if you're not happy), and maybe sites with joker production (e.g. bio OR gas) and/or converters (e.g. turn bio into anything).
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kevin B. Smith
United States
Mercer Island
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I just wanted to mention that there is an about-to-be-released game that uses the "each player can win or lose independently" model: Level 7 [Escape].
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Judy Krauss
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
but I'm not the only one
badge
My hands are small, I know, but they're not yours, they are my own
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Are you still working on this (or is it finished, perhaps?) because I am interested.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim P.
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Jude wrote:
Are you still working on this (or is it finished, perhaps?) because I am interested.


I have finished a prototype, but it hasn't been playtested much. It's been put on the backburner for a few different iterations of other games playing with the same concept. I think I'll get back to this eventually, though, since I like this game's concept of "player-driven real-time."

The current game I'm focusing on is called "Beyond Survival." It has the same "win or lose independently of other players" core, sci-fi survival theme, and other mechanical inheritances. It also has a large variety of hidden goals for players, some of which compliment while others conflict. The goals are actually my favorite part of the game. It's a bit more like a condensed Battlestar Galactica/Illuminati than a trading game. If you're interested in blind playtesting it, I might be able to send you a simple prototype around early December.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Judy Krauss
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
but I'm not the only one
badge
My hands are small, I know, but they're not yours, they are my own
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
tim_p wrote:
Jude wrote:
Are you still working on this (or is it finished, perhaps?) because I am interested.


I have finished a prototype, but it hasn't been playtested much. It's been put on the backburner for a few different iterations of other games playing with the same concept. I think I'll get back to this eventually, though, since I like this game's concept of "player-driven real-time."

The current game I'm focusing on is called "Beyond Survival." It has the same "win or lose independently of other players" core, sci-fi survival theme, and other mechanical inheritances. It also has a large variety of hidden goals for players, some of which compliment while others conflict. The goals are actually my favorite part of the game. It's a bit more like a condensed Battlestar Galactica/Illuminati than a trading game. If you're interested in blind playtesting it, I might be able to send you a simple prototype around early December.


I don't have a gaming group. But if you have a game that can play solo, let me know. I may very well be interested in testing it.

Good luck with your games.
 
 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.