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Subject: [WIP] Monster Zoo (Brainstorming) rss

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Michael Nguyen
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Hi everyone,

This is my first post on BGG and my first attempt at designing a game.

I'd like to introduce my game "Monster Zoo". Right now it's in the brainstorming phase. It is a game that I'm making for my son (he's only 1.5 years old so he won't be able to play it yet). I'm thinking that by the time I'm done making the game, he'll probably be able to play it. He loves monsters and especially collecting monsters - rearranging them, looking at them, etc. So I figured why not make a game out of that.

The concept of the game is each player starts off with a small deck of cards consisting of Monster (red cards) and Money (green cards). They take turns buying cards to build their deck (similar to Dominion). To win the game, players need to move their Monster cards into their Zoo. Players win by building the best Zoo before other players.

The goals for the game are:
- Ages 8+
- Family Game
- 2+ Players
- 30 Minutes

Inspiration: Dominion, collecting things, my son
------------

Update - April 3rd

New Rule Book:
http://bit.ly/10tMUIo

New Cards:
http://bit.ly/UImF4L

------------

Here are the "rules" I have so far.

Rule Book

Introduction:

You are the owner of an amazing Monster Zoo! But there's only one problem, you don't own any Monsters. To create the best Monster Zoo the world has ever seen, you'll need to buy Monsters from the market and put them in your Zoo. Be careful though, there are other Monster Zoo owners who are trying to stop you as they build their own Zoos.

Object of the Game:

The goal of the game is to be the first player to build a Zoo worth 20 points. Players build their Zoo by moving Monster cards from their hand into their Zoos. Each Monster card is worth points equal to their cost (located in the upper right hand corner of the card). Specific Monster cards like the "Zoo Keeper" allow players to move Monster cards from their hand into their Zoos.

Types of Cards:

Monster Cards - Red Background. These allow you to perform specific actions when played and when placed in your Zoo, they give you Zoo points. Some Monster cards have a "Zoo Effect" that come into play whenever you start a turn with that Monster in your Zoo.
Food Cards - Green Background. These are your basic resources for catching Monsters.

Setting Up:

Each player starts with a deck consisting of 10 cards:
7 Snack
3 Zoo Keepers

Grab the rest of the cards (except for any left over Snack cards) and shuffle them into one large deck. Draw 5 cards from deck and place them face side up next to each other. This area and the cards in it are called "The Wilds" - this area will contain all the cards you can add to your deck, including Monsters you want to lure and extra Food you can use to lure Monsters. "The Wilds" Deck should be made up of 4 copies of every card in the game (except for Snack cards).

Every player then shuffles their individual deck and draws 5 cards.

Pick a random player to go first.

Game End:

The game ends at the end of any player's turn when either:
1) A player's Zoo is worth 20 points

Playing the Game:

Turn overview:
1) Play phase - the player may play any number of Monster cards from their hand.
2) Catch phase - the player may catch Monsters from The Wild using Food from their hand.
3) Clean up phase - the player may discard any number of cards and draws until their hand has exactly 5 cards.
After a player completes all three phases, his turn ends.

Play phase

In the Play phase, the player may play any number of Monster cards. Monster cards the cards with a red background. Since players start the game with only "Zoo Keepers", players may not want to play a Monster card during his first few turns.

The player may still play a Monster card even if he is not able to do everything the Monster card tells him to do; but the player must do as much as he can. If you started the turn with any Monster cards with a "Zoo Effect" in your Zoo, follow the directions on those cards. (Some "Zoo Effects" give you more Food per turn, Cards per turn, etc)

Catch phase

In the Catch phase, the player may gain any cards from The Wilds by playing its cost in Food. Any card that is in The Wild may be caught.

The Food cost of a card is located in the upper right corner. The player may play some or all of the Food cards from his hand and add the value of Food provided by Monster cards played during his turn. The player may then gain any card in the The Wilds of equal value of Food. The player then takes the purchased card from the The Wilds and places it face up on his Discard pile. A player is able to lure multiple Monsters, if the player has enough Food to catch all of the Monsters individually.

Food cards used to catch Monsters are placed into the Discard pile during the Clean-up phase. (Eventually the player will draw the Food cards and the captured Monsters since the Discard pile is shuffled into a new deck when the player runs out of cards to draw.)

Clean Up Phase

In the Clean Up phase, the player takes all played cards (Monster cards and Food cards) and puts them into the Discard pile. Monsters in a player's Zoo are not considered "played cards" and stay in the Zoo at the end of the turn. The player then chooses to discard any number of cards from his hand.

Then, the player draws until his hand reaches 5 cards. If the player already has more than 5 cards in his hand, the player does not draw any additional cards, instead he discards until he has 5 cards in his hand.

If there are not enough cards in his Deck, he draws as many cards as he can, then shuffles his Discard pile to form a new Deck. He then draws the rest of his hand.

The player ends his turn. Next player starts his turn.

Cards

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pr1yzfh334m2gip/ZvKp9ppxu2

Initial Thoughts

Initially the game was much more complicated, with attacks/defending the Zoo, but I ended up stripping all that away because feedback was always that it was too complicated. I like having only one number on each of the cards since it is easier to tally scores.

I copied some of the Dominion cards to get started, but after playing the game a few times I'm slowly transitioning the game to be more about the "Zoo" mechanic - moving things in/out of the Zoo, copying/stealing cards from the Zoo, creating an effect when a Monster moves in/out of the Zoo, etc.

A couple things that I'm trying to work on:
- How can I make this more fun?
- Balancing Money cards. Right now they seem weak.
- Trying to make the rules more clear (I used Dominion's rule book as a starting point)
- Coming up with more cards to play with.
- Focusing more on the Zoo concept and moving away from the Dominion style cards.

Well that's what I have at the moment. Really looking forward to some feedback and getting to know the community.
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Nate K
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Welcome to the contest! I can definitely see the Dominion influence, but it looks like there are enough differences to interest players.
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Tony Miller
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So, off the bat, I think 2 things that you can do to get rid of some of the left over Dominion flavor is make 2 subtle changes:

1. Rename the Market to something more thematic like "The Wilds"

2. Rename the Coin cards to be something more thematic like "Food"

If the game becomes about luring monsters into your zoo from the wild using food, it just feels different than purchasing your monsters from the market with coins.

I'll look at the rest of it once I get a break from work. I love deckbuilders, and as someone with a little one on the way, I'd love to have a tiny deckbuilder for my tiny man.
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todd sanders
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welcome as well.
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Michael Nguyen
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awmiller wrote:
So, off the bat, I think 2 things that you can do to get rid of some of the left over Dominion flavor is make 2 subtle changes:

1. Rename the Market to something more thematic like "The Wilds"

2. Rename the Coin cards to be something more thematic like "Food"

If the game becomes about luring monsters into your zoo from the wild using food, it just feels different than purchasing your monsters from the market with coins.

I'll look at the rest of it once I get a break from work. I love deckbuilders, and as someone with a little one on the way, I'd love to have a tiny deckbuilder for my tiny man.


Thanks for the feedback - totally agree that renaming the Market/Coin to something more wild like would help. Going to incorporate that in my next revision.
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Dominique DeMille
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I agree, on The Wilds and Food. That's a good tweak to differentiate it. (Such a simple thing) I'm going to look at this a bit more when I get a moment and see what other feedback I may be able to contribute. I actually really like the idea and think it would make a fun game!
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David Thornton
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I'm not sure how I feel about not discarding your hand at the end of your turn. By forcing players to discard, you create tough decisions when multiple good cards come up in a single hand. If the player can just hold them until the next turn, this becomes much less critical and more about playing the card that is "best." Obviously play testing will help determine this, and your game is aimed at a younger audience, so I may be very wrong...

Also, are the Zookeepers always in the market? I don't remember reading that in the rules. What about the Master Zookeeper?

Nice work so far! Rules are concise and easy to follow!
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Sarah Reed
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I like the theme of getting monsters in your zoo, and I like the suggestion on BGG to make it capturing them from the wild rather than bying from the market and having food instead of coin to get them. You might want to introduce other kinds of lure besides food, but it depends on how complicated you want it to be.

I also like the idea of having attractions to put in your zoo, like in Zooloretto. They could also be worth points or improve the points on certain monsters.

I'll take alook at your cards when I can, but looking forward to see how you develop this.
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Dominique DeMille
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[Edit] gah I can't read, ignore me
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Michael Nguyen
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Yeah, right now the rules allow for any number of cards to be discarded at the end of your turn. This way you can hold onto any Monster cards you want to play in a future turn. You can also discard any cards you think are not useful.
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Sarah Reed
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While I still haven't been able to look at the cards yet, it'd be neat if the monster had other effects when played in your zoo. Maybe make it a little more challenging on what can be put near what. For instance, a fire monster can't be put next to an ice monster as they'll cancel each other. But a fire monster could be put next to a monster that likes heat, which may give bonus points.

I dunno. Just a thought.

Oh, and instead of food, what about bait? That way it could be more than just food, especially if monsters are drawn to shiny objects, for example. Gives you a wider array of pictures and flavor.
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Tony Miller
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I can see using all sorts of objects as bait under this model. If you want to keep age level down so that you can play it with your little one, you could have everything from dirty socks to marbles as the bait if you wanted. It really depends how granular you want to get into it.

I love the idea of monsters being worth different points based on different conditions, and the examples that you gave are very cool. I think it really does depend on how complex you want the experience to be.
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Michael Nguyen
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Pear Annoyed wrote:
I'm not sure how I feel about not discarding your hand at the end of your turn. By forcing players to discard, you create tough decisions when multiple good cards come up in a single hand. If the player can just hold them until the next turn, this becomes much less critical and more about playing the card that is "best." Obviously play testing will help determine this, and your game is aimed at a younger audience, so I may be very wrong...

Also, are the Zookeepers always in the market? I don't remember reading that in the rules. What about the Master Zookeeper?

Nice work so far! Rules are concise and easy to follow!


Right now I have it so that you can retain any cards you want until your next turn. You have a choice of discarding.

As for the Zookeepers/Master Zookeepers - there are 5 each in the market. I'll make that clear in the rules. You start off with 3 Zookeepers in your deck and then you can buy more Zookeepers/Master Zookeepers if you want during your turns.
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Andrew H
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You could have the supply of cards face down at the start of the game. A player could "discover" and flip over the pile instead of a buy action. For advanced players this could force a choice between finding that high value pile or buying a known amount. Against children, it could balance out the skill level.
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Michael Nguyen
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So I ended up playtesting a bit more over the past few days with some variations to the rules:

Default

1) Default "Wilds" setup (10 individual cards available for purchase), "Food" cards available for purchase in separate piles.
2) Discard as many cards as you want end of turn
3) Bait 1, Play 1 Monster

Random Wilds - Food Mixed

1) All cards mixed into one "Wilds" deck. 5 cards are drawn from the "Wilds", face up. These are the cards you can Bait. After a card is removed from the face up Wilds, more are drawn from the "Wilds" deck to replace it. "Food" cards are mixed in to Bait as well.
2) Discard as many cards as you want end of turn
3) Bait 1, Play 1 Monster

Random Wilds - Food Separate

1) All cards mixed into one "Wilds" deck. 5 cards are drawn from the "Wilds", face up. These are the cards you can Bait. After a card is removed from the face up Wilds, more are drawn from the "Wilds" deck to replace it. "Food" cards available for purchase in separate piles.
2) Discard as many cards as you want end of turn
3) Bait 1, Play 1 Monster

Free For All Random Wilds - Food Mixed

1) All cards mixed into one "Wilds" deck. 5 cards are drawn from the "Wilds", face up. These are the cards you can Bait. After a card is removed from the face up Wilds, more are drawn from the "Wilds" deck to replace it. "Food" cards are mixed in to Bait as well.
2) Discard as many cards as you want end of turn
3) Bait as many cards as you can afford, play as many Monster cards as you can from your hand

Free For All Random Wilds - Food Separate

1) All cards mixed into one "Wilds" deck. 5 cards are drawn from the "Wilds", face up. These are the cards you can Bait. After a card is removed from the face up Wilds, more are drawn from the "Wilds" deck to replace it. "Food" cards available for purchase in separate piles.
2) Discard as many cards as you want end of turn
3) Bait as many cards as you can afford, play as many Monster cards as you can from your hand

---

The Default setup had the most strategy as you could plan out how you were going to build your Zoo ahead of time and also get a sense of how other player was trying to build their deck/Zoo. The "Free For All Random Wilds - Food Mixed" variant was the easiest to setup and easiest to play, felt like we didn't really need to think much other than some basic strategy and try to purchase what we could. Having the "Food" mixed in was good and bad in that it encouraged "Food" buying but was bad when we really wanted to buy Monsters.

I actually thought the fully mixed in version with free play rules was the version that was most accessible to kids. I'll need to think about how this affects the card balance as it was less fun with too much "Food" in the draw deck.



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Sarah Reed
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Wow, you've certainly got a lot to think about. It'll really come down to what audience you want the game to be for. Big difference between strategic older players and kids.

Looking forward to seeing which way you go! But so far, like all the changes you're making.
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Michael Nguyen
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Thanks for all the suggestions everyone.

After some more playtesting, I've decided to go with the single central deck (with the bait directly in the central deck). It's much more luck based and easier to understand, which I think fits the younger audience. The setup time is much lower as well.

There is less strategy but that's alright.

I'm currently working on redesigning the Monster card actions and costs (and adding more bait value to Monsters).

One thing I'm playing around with is adding Zoo specific actions, like:
- When a card enters or leaves the Zoo, something happens.
- While a card is in the Zoo, something happens.
- While a card is in the Zoo AND there are X other Monsters in the zoo, something happens.


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Sarah Reed
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Those are great ideas! It'll add strategy to game, which would be very cool.

I like games that have a random start, like with one deck, but it's the way the cards interact with each other that adds the strategy. Smash Up comes to mind that it's very random with the cards, but how your cards interact provides the strategy.

Good luck and can't wait to hear more about it!
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Michael Nguyen
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I just revised the rules/card list in my original post.

Here are the revised cards:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pr1yzfh334m2gip/ZvKp9ppxu2

I added some additional cards and reworked a few cards to fit the central deck mechanic. Also added the "Zoo Effect" mechanic to some cards that come into play whenever a specific card is in your Zoo. This gives more incentive to put cards into the Zoo earlier.

I need to work on the names/flavor of the cards and wording. I'm thinking of making unique monster names for every card (similar to Pokemon/Moshi Monsters).

Would love to hear what everyone thinks of the revisions and how I can continue improving the game.
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Michael Nguyen
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I've worked on this a bit more and have another version of the cards and rules.

Rules:
http://bit.ly/YIFbaz

Cards:
http://bit.ly/UImF4L

I've introduced a new type of card - the "Visitors" card, which represents children coming by to see every player's Zoo. These cards get immediately played and usually affect every player in some fashion.

There are also now three types of Monsters - the Ooglies, the Booglies, and the Zooglies. Just some names that I thought would be fun and fun to say out loud. You can win the game by building a Zoo with 20 points or collecting 2 of each type of Monster in your Zoo.

What does everyone think of the changes/card names? Would really appreciate a read of the rules and I'll take any feedback positively.
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Sarah Reed
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dyn4mik3 wrote:
I've worked on this a bit more and have another version of the cards and rules.

Rules:
http://bit.ly/YIFbaz

Cards:
http://bit.ly/UImF4L

I've introduced a new type of card - the "Visitors" card, which represents children coming by to see every player's Zoo. These cards get immediately played and usually affect every player in some fashion.

There are also now three types of Monsters - the Ooglies, the Booglies, and the Zooglies. Just some names that I thought would be fun and fun to say out loud. You can win the game by building a Zoo with 20 points or collecting 2 of each type of Monster in your Zoo.

What does everyone think of the changes/card names? Would really appreciate a read of the rules and I'll take any feedback positively.


I hope to have some time soon to look over your rules and cards, but just wanted to say that I like the concept of the Visitor cards, I think it will really add to the strategy of the game. And the monster types are just awesome! That is so much fun to say out loud and if you keep that fun throughout the names, everyone should be laughing and smiling while playing the game.

Kudos! The game sounds like it's really shaping up.
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Michael Nguyen
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Thanks - I think I've been making good progress. Really interested to see what you think of the rules and cards.
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Michael Nguyen
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Quick update - I spent the weekend blind play testing this with a few groups. Actually was really rough and I could tell the rules were too long/complicated.

Anyone have tips for shrinking down rule books or good examples of rule summaries?
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Nate K
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rubycowgames wrote:

Anyone have tips for shrinking down rule books or good examples of rule summaries?
Reduce repetition. And break things into small, digestible chunks.

For example,

Quote:
Object of the Game:

The goal of the game is to be the first player to build a Zoo worth 20 points or to build a Zoo with 2 of each type of Monster (Ooglies, Booglies, Zooglies). Players build their Zoo by moving Monster cards from their hand into their Zoos. Each Monster card is worth points equal to their cost (located in the upper right hand corner of the card). Specific Monster cards like the "Zookee Zoogly" allow players to move Monster cards from their hand into their Zoos.


can become:

Quote:
How to Win:

To win, you must either:

--Be the first player to build a Zoo worth 20 points.

OR

--Be the first player to build a Zoo with 2 Ooglies, 2 Booglies, and 2 Zooglies.


Monster cards are worth points equal to their cost, as shown in the upper right hand corner of the card.
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Michael Nguyen
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Thanks for the advice - really helpful.

What do you think about this "quick start" revision:

http://bit.ly/Xxwqx4
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