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Subject: Addressing the randomness of the night deck rss

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The Cyborganizer
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Last night, I won a game of Morels against my girlfriend with some very lucky draws. We each had two chanterelles, and we had just drawn the last card in the day deck, so the game was about to end. I drew a moon card, and turned up the night chanterelle. This resulted in a 32-point swing - I got 16 points from cooking the chanterelles, and she would have gotten 16 points from cooking them had she drawn the night card instead.

Now, neither of us were particularly chuffed - it's a short game, so I don't mind some luck - but it got me to thinking about variants that would reduce the swinginess introduced by the night deck.

So, here's the options as I see them:

- Current system (moon cards let you draw a card from the night deck at random)
Pros: Nice little "slot machine" feel, some strategies favor moon cards while others can safely ignore them, good comeback mechanism
Cons: Potentially swingy

- Instead of keeping the night deck separate, remove the moon cards from the day deck and shuffle the night deck into the day deck after drawing initial hands.
Pros: Both players have a decent chance at getting critical "night deck" cards. Less randomness. If a night card is about to be drawn, you can plan for it, since it has a different back.
Cons: Some cards in the forest are now waaaay better than others. (Hmm, should I take this porcini, or this night porcini?) Sticks are suddenly a lot more important, since you'll need to stay competitive when night cards come out.

(Slight variant on this variant - leave the moon cards in, when a moon card comes up, replace it in the forest with a draw from the night deck.)

- When a player draws a moon card, reveal the top card in the night deck. Starting with the active player, take turns bidding sticks for the card. The active player gets one "free" stick towards this bid.
Pros: Draws from the night deck now reflect their actual relative value to each player. Bidding is always interesting. Allows cool bluffing where you trick your opponent into thinking you really want something.
Cons: Inelegant, compared to the other rules of this game. Sticks are suddenly a lot more important.

Any thoughts?
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Brent Kinney

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Interesting Variant.

I think I would prefer the original rules for the night deck, because outside of the initial hand of 3 cards, all other information would be public and known to all players in the game. Personally, I like a little luck and surprise in my games, and I find that the night deck satisfies that very well.

That being said, I am going to try out this variant and see how it goes.

Great thoughts!
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Jon Ben
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Of course I've been up all night! Not because of caffeine, it was insomnia. I couldn't stop thinking about coffee.
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I like your idea. Having more emphasis on sticks and more relative value between cards could add some more tension, planning and tactics. I would have to play this variant a few times but it sounds like a reasonable way to go.

Before reading your suggestion I thought of a different method. The night deck is random so there is a huge incentive to grab them early so that you can plan. If you grab a useless card at least you can exchange it for sticks. So the issue you raise is really a late game thing when someone gets lucky by drawing the exact card they need from the deck. We could accept this as a calculated risk, depending on how much of the night deck had been drawn and already made public. If the moon cards were shuffled into the top 1/2 or 3/4 of the deck this might also address the perceived late-game swing a bit.
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Serious? Lee
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I prefer having the night deck add hidden information to the game with its serendipitous draws. The chance element associated with the night deck is also a nice little risk vs. reward choice.

As for wanting to introduce house rules which change the strategies involved with obtaining night cards and which give greater importance to the usefulness of sticks, I'll refer to the situation you described where it seems both you and your girlfriend were waiting to acquire the last night card to complement the pair of chanterelles in each of your hands. The element of chance should have been mitigated by the use of sticks to obtain it. The sticks can't get more useful than that, can they - used at game's end to snag the winning card from your opponent?
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Juan Crespo
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I think it's an interesting variant, but I fear that it might change the swingy aspect with a runaway leader problem. Just imagine this: you get enough sticks to buy the night mushrooms as they come out. If it's not the mushroom that you want to cook, you can still sell it for more sticks, and so forth... in a feed-forward loop. Whoever grasps the first night mushroom most likely will dominate the game.
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Donnie Clark
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How about drawing two night cards when you pick up a moon, choosing one, and returning the other to the top of the night deck? Sticks are still important, but it won't completely eliminate the luck of the draw, but it will give each player a bit more penetration into the pile. The only one stuck out is the player who happens to draw the last card, which the other player will know.
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Jon Ben
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Of course I've been up all night! Not because of caffeine, it was insomnia. I couldn't stop thinking about coffee.
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juanma99 wrote:
I think it's an interesting variant, but I fear that it might change the swingy aspect with a runaway leader problem. Just imagine this: you get enough sticks to buy the night mushrooms as they come out. If it's not the mushroom that you want to cook, you can still sell it for more sticks, and so forth... in a feed-forward loop. Whoever grasps the first night mushroom most likely will dominate the game.


If this were true the problem would already exist in the game The moon cards get you a night mushroom which can always be sold for sticks. If my opponent is selling many night cards for sticks I'm pretty happy.

EDIT: Actually I think juanma99 was talking about the bidding variant, the second suggested in the OP. I was thinking of the first one. So I think their point stands and I was confused because this point doesn't apply to the first variant suggested in the OP.
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The Cyborganizer
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leemc13 wrote:

As for wanting to introduce house rules which change the strategies involved with obtaining night cards and which give greater importance to the usefulness of sticks, I'll refer to the situation you described where it seems both you and your girlfriend were waiting to acquire the last night card to complement the pair of chanterelles in each of your hands. The element of chance should have been mitigated by the use of sticks to obtain it. The sticks can't get more useful than that, can they - used at game's end to snag the winning card from your opponent?


This is a good point - the swinginess introduced by the night deck is more of a late-game thing. If you're drawing from the night deck early on, then you're probably using those night cards to form the basis of your sets. If you're drawing later on, then you're just taking shots in the dark, so to speak.

I do like the hidden information that the night deck provides, and I suppose that that sort of mitigates my "bluffing" strategy, since the only secret information otherwise would be the three cards you start with.

Anyway, I do think this game is basically good as is - I'm not proposing this as a fix, really, just something different to try.
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Sam Cook
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The second variant presented sounds interesting. In the games I have played, selling for sticks seems to happen maybe only once per person, so I like the idea of giving them increased value.

I would maybe consider just bidding on them as soon as they come out starting with the current player though. I don't think I would want to spend an action on bidding when I was guaranteed to get or play something else.


I'll also propose another minor variant: If a moon card is trashed from the decay, then also discard the top night card deck face up. This would give players a slightly better idea about what is still left in there toward the end of the game.
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Brad McKenzie
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Sounds interesting, but I think I'll stick with the night deck as originally designed. It's night time - who knows what you might stumble across...
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