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Subject: Dull mechanic needs livening up. Help! rss

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Daniel Howard
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Hey there,

I've been playtesting one of my designs recently which features a seasonal structure of gameplay where players take actions (gather resources and build etc) during Spring Summer and Autumn via a rough worker placement mechanic. In Winter they then have to have to pay a cost or suffer penalties. The trouble I'm having is that the Winter season just seems a bit... dull. I've tried to liven it up a bit but so far have failed. here is a bit more detail.

The game consists of 3 factories, each which produces a different type of resource. Gold mainly used for purchasing points. Money, mainly used for upgrading factories, and food which is mainly used for paying Winter costs and hiring workers (which also earns points). The amount of gold and money available per given season is random but food is always steadily available and relatively cheap.

When Winter comes, a card is flipped from a stack, which has the 'cost' of that Winter on it. This is a number which can be paid in any resource or mixture of resources, but is primarily paid for in food.

The problem I'm having is that I would like Winter to allow players to do something, to actually participate in something unique to Winter rather than just paying a cost.

I have put 'yearly modifiers' on the winter cards which affect the following year's resource yield which makes it a tad more interesting, but this is a passive effect and does not give any choice to the players.

I also tinkered with the idea of allowing players to have 1 action (normally they have 2 per season) in winter with which to build or gather resources. The problem with this is that if in winter you need to pay resources and have the option to gather more, then players always choose the action which gives them the most resources, in order to soften the winter cost. Again, not really an interesting choice.

So, I am asking for help. can anyone think of something interesting that can occur in the Winter phase of my game apart from simply paying a cost?

Thanks in advance for your replies!
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Markus
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How about giving the players a "joker" winter card of sorts that they can utilize once per game (or in some other limited way) to soften the winter costs? For example: "You may use this card during the winter. Your winter costs are now 2. Discard this card." This would give the players the dilemma of "use now or should I save for later?".
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Keith Ibsen
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How about a way of training workers to make them more productive in the other seasons. (like the super workers in Belfort).

Players would have one action in winter which could be any of the usual actions or could be used (along with expending some other resource, money or gold) to train a worker to be extra productive.
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M J
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so there is no production during the the winter season? i suppose you could change it such that winter is the time where one unique resources (or random ones) can be produced or (at an increased risk) then put the taxing stage after the production part.

Thematically your empire tries to brace itself for the cold in one last push.

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James Hutchings
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ChowYunBrent wrote:
The game consists of 3 factories, each which produces a different type of resource. Gold mainly used for purchasing points. Money, mainly used for upgrading factories, and food which is mainly used for paying Winter costs and hiring workers (which also earns points).


Why are gold and money different things, and why do factory workers not want money?

I'd consider re-naming these resources.
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David Montgomery
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What about some kind of festival in winter? This could perhaps give workers some kind of unique card to use the next year.

I second the notion of training workers. This gives you a chance to build from year to year and make later years feel more productive.
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Scott Westgard
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I agree with David.
In one little German placemat we have at home it roughly translates the 4 seasons, and in winter it states: "We Play". So why not have that season be the one where a player tries to gain some sort of FUN or Festivals (lovemaking?) results to gain points/winning conditions....The better the harvest, the bigger the festival.
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Daniel Howard
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apeloverage wrote:
ChowYunBrent wrote:
The game consists of 3 factories, each which produces a different type of resource. Gold mainly used for purchasing points. Money, mainly used for upgrading factories, and food which is mainly used for paying Winter costs and hiring workers (which also earns points).


Why are gold and money different things, and why do factory workers not want money?

I'd consider re-naming these resources.


Yes you are correct. I should point out that the game is not completely 'themed' yet so when I refer to them as workers or factories this is just a useful term to explain their role in the mechanics! Also the workers aren't stricktly workers in the sense that they aid production, they are more like a victory point earning device. I should have been more clear I apologise.
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Daniel Howard
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I like the idea of a festival. The feel of a festival also conjures up ideas of chance games and trying your luck. I would like it to interact with the other elements in the game as well.
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Daniel Howard
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This could potentially tie in with the festival idea as well. In the game of chance players could game their resources against the harsher winters.
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Matt Green
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It seems to me that you have a thematic/mechanic disconnect in that you are applying a seasonal variation to industrial output which is not seasonal.

Key Market and Agricola: Through the Seasons both have a 'winter does something bad to production' angle which makes sense as they are both agricultural themed and engined games. Factories don't stop churning out goods when it gets cold, transport might get less reliable or more expensive but, by and large, materials go in and products come out whatever the weather. Workers might have trouble getting to the factory too, which might be interesting.

Factories have more of a problem at the end of the financial year where they scramble to pay tax bills and the like. Flipping a card to see under what circumstances tax is going to be levied in the autumn might see players scrambling to hide/transfer/liquidise assets in the winter before they have to pay up. Getting players to decide whether or not to foot the bill or trade away potentially valuable stock could lead to some good interaction.
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Daniel Howard
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Yes I see what you are saying about a mechanics/theme dissonance. I should add that the theme is still under review. An agricultural analogy might be more useful. So instead of factories we have farms. That produce resources a b and c. A is for points b is for growth and c is for winter.

I think player interaction is something I'd like to stress in winter.

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Daniel Howard
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Also thank you all for your replies! This is very helpful!
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Chris Wood
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The more charcoal/ coal they use in winter for warmth, the more actions they have in the other seasons.
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August Larson
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Maybe have a new set of available actions AFTER you pay winter costs. They've spent all year planning for winter, and now they have to deal with what they have done for good or for bad. While living off their stored resources, workers could be doing different jobs than they do the rest of the year: canning food for storage, smoking meat for storage, go hunting, make more babies, etc. I also think a festival sounds cool. I imagine players donating food or resources to a big feast. Whoever donates most receives an awesome bonus from the Winter Goddess (or whatever). They would essentially blind bid. You could award second and third place prizes, too. Or if you want just one prize, then it better be big enough to entice players to donate the most food.
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Kevin B. Smith
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Based on this snippet, it sounds quite a bit like Walnut Grove.

What makes winter interesting there is that you know in advance just how bad it will be. That means you can plan your spring/summer/fall activities accordingly. Sometimes you know that you'll have to spend all year prepping for winter, getting nothing else done. Other times, you will see that you're already set for winter, and you can go out and do other things. Works great.

I have no idea whether you want to draw a lot of inspiration from WG or go off in your own direction. Either way, you should know what's out there.
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Jim Shaw
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You could use some of that excess food prior to the revealing of winter to purchase upgrades for workers, maybe towards creating a supervisor or advancing a worker on a track to create a special upgrade of some sort.

Or maybe layout a bunch of upgrades that you can auction off to the players, who would be risking a labor strike but get a permanent benefit for the rest of the game. This might shift the early rounds to focus more on the winter entirely as a player weighs the benefits of a happy workforce early against the potential benefits it would bring in later rounds.

Dependent upon your theme you may want to experiment with the idea of having any season potentially be the penalizing season, caused by some calamity or another. A fire in summer or a flood in the spring would be examples of this. But then you may be looking at a disaster preparedness game experience, as opposed to the engine building game you seem to have.
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Sam Phillips Beckerman
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Look to Java for a festival season.

Kingburg has 3productive seasons and then the monsters come.
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Daniel Howard
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Cheers guys, I'll check these games out.
 
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