Casey Lynn
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Warning: This is both very long-winded and also involves a very rough draft of a game. If you read the whole thing you are a trooper and get virtual cookies.

So a couple of weeks ago I was inspired by the prompt of the 24-hour design contest and spent a day working on a game tentatively titled "Save or Slay." The basic idea is that the players are all vampire/demon/zombie/etc. slayers who are trying to kill the most monsters while not sacrificing innocent people. There are two major twists to the game: (1) When there is a new confrontation, you don't know whether the person is actually a monster, or is a baddie (with some exceptions, like zombies who can't hide what they are even if they want to...); and (2) the players themselves can be turned into monsters, leading to a possible traitor-style game ala Battlestar Galactica or Shadows Over Camelot.

The gameplay therefore is that players take turns playing cards from their hand that are things like weapons, spells, or research. So if you hit what you're confronting with holy water, then you can see what happens to it - if it's human, it's not harmed, but if it's a vampire, it takes damage. The current logistical mechanic I have in place is that each "state" card that indicates whether something is human/vampire/zombie/etc. has a column of amounts of damage - it is then covered by another card where you lift up what's doing the damage (holy water, shotgun, sunlight, whatever) and see JUST what was done by that thing and not what the entire card says. This is hard to explain so here's a picture:



Then, in short, if you kill a certain number of innocent humans or let a certain number of monsters escape, you all lose. If you cure or kill a certain number of monsters, you all win. Though some of you could be on the side of the monsters as well, in which case you are trying to help the monsters win.

There is a draft 0 version of all of the current rules and cards in the design contest thread here: Save of Slay? I tried playing it and there are a number of really obvious problems (not the least of which being that the numbers for things like damage haven't been thought through well enough at all), but I really do like the idea and so I'd like to continue working on it.

But here's what I'd especially appreciate some feedback on. After trying to play it, my major thought was: Should this even be a card game at all?

Let me explain the problem. Each player has a specific character that has special abilities (similar to, for example, Elder Sign or Last Night on Earth) - if you look at the card list you'll probably recognize the archetypes, as they're inspired by things like Supernatural, Buffy, and Dresden Files. Examples of character powers are things like... the "helpful hacker" gets extra help for "research" actions but can't use weapons, and the "loyal older brother" gets bonus points for exorcisms and attacks using guns. Each characters also starts with a card in front of them, like a weapon they specialize in. Weapons, research, spells, etc. are all represented by cards that you draw and play during the game.

The problem we ran into in trying to play it was that the randomness that's supposed to be afforded by only having certain cards in your hand was just frustrating because you didn't have what you needed for YOUR character to be useful. e.g., I was the hacker and kept pulling weapons cards but no research, and couldn't do much. Meanwhile, I had the weapons that other characters needed. Mid-game we made up a mechanic for being able to pass cards to other players, but it wasn't very fun and seemed forced.

So a thought I had was: What if instead of drawing and playing cards, you're rolling dice? So each character has a set of powers corresponding to sides of the dice. Rolling perhaps 2 dice each turn then gives you two actions that you can choose from. So for example, the loyal older brother on dice rolls can:
1: exorcism
2: shotgun
3: holy water
4: demon killing knife
5: research
6: gun with silver bullets

Or perhaps one of the sides of the dice is a "wild" where the player can choose any action, or could be "draw a card" and there's a set of cards as well.

There a lot of other things that still need to be thought out and worked on, but I was wondering for this very basic mechanic if anyone had any thoughts. Just from this, does it seem like cards or dice would be better? Or something else entirely?

Feedback much appreciated, thank you!
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Ian Richard
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My first instinct in on the dice is that they'll lead to a different version of the same problem. Imagine running into a vampire and realizing that your Hacker doesn't have anything on his dice to effectively fight it. This can lead to frustrating points where it becomes nearly impossible to win because of which characters are/aren't in the game.

The primary problem with the character powers is they are useless without the proper cards. Rather than modify the mechanics to work with the powers... why not just change the powers?

Give players powers that can be activated at any time. Instead of requiring a specific card to use your "Gun + 1" power... either activate the power with a wider range of cards (All ranged weapons) or without any card. For example: A vampire slayer may always have the ability to to stake an opponent.

The other option is to work on ways to increase the flow of cards. Allow players to discard items they don't deem useful in order to draw more cards next turn. Even if you don't have the cards you want now, the player has a way to get to them faster.

I haven't played the game, so obviously take this with a grain of salt.
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Casey Lynn
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McTeddy wrote:

Give players powers that can be activated at any time. Instead of requiring a specific card to use your "Gun + 1" power... either activate the power with a wider range of cards (All ranged weapons) or without any card. For example: A vampire slayer may always have the ability to to stake an opponent.


You know, this is actually something I've considered as well, but my instinct is that it will result in turns progressing the same way every round (doing the same actions in the same order), which would be boring. The idea was that there is a bank of actions that they can usually do, but you shouldn't always be able to do everything you might want to do...

But yeah, I absolutely see what you're saying about the dice potentially leading to the same problem.

I suppose another solution would be for it to be in part a deckbuilding game where instead of drawing random cards from a deck you're able to choose cards that you'll be drawing from. Though I think that would wind up with the same basic problem as the dice. Hmmmm.
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Jonathan McFarland
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I think converting this to a deckbuilding core mechanic could effectively address the issue of unplayable hands or unwinnable scenarios. The twist could also come from the elements allowing players to become monsters. You could either have each player's discarded cards remain face down before being reshuffled into their deck, or have the card which would indicate to the player they have become a monster be from a separate deck from which cards drawn are not revealed.

With the deckbuilding mechanic, each card could have a game effect relating to identifying or killing the monsters which may or may not be usable by the character, but each card could also be traded in to recruit more cards into your deck or allow you to permanently discard cards from your deck.
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James Hutchings
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thatmadgirl wrote:
You know, this is actually something I've considered as well, but my instinct is that it will result in turns progressing the same way every round (doing the same actions in the same order), which would be boring. The idea was that there is a bank of actions that they can usually do, but you shouldn't always be able to do everything you might want to do...


You could make the game such that there's a time cost to waiting for the best character to perform a particular task, and thus that the enemies/game AI come closer to winning.

For example, there might be viral demons that take over the server, meaning that before you do any research you have to pass a magic check to avoid being corrupted.

In this situation, the hacker character might choose to wait for the witch character to take care of it. However getting the witch character from the temple, where she's strongest, to the data centre where she can expel the demons, might take several moves, whereas the hacker character might be right there.
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