How to Build a Game #64 Scripted Play & Incentives

This is a personal preference, but I really dislike scripted play. A specific example is when I play a game of Coup. Whenever a player has the coins for a coup, the immediate question is “Who has two cards left?” or “Who has the most money?” I understand this may be part of the social contract because no one wants to be eliminated from a game too early. I also realize this might be the strategic play. However, when the reason for who picks who to hit with something bad is the same reason every time, I consider that to be scripted play and incomplete design. On a general level, there are games where players have very similar opening moves because n one is close enough to each other to have any influence over another player’s decisions.

When we are building a game and we find situations like this, we will stop and talk about it and dissect what we are doing. At what point do we start making decisions that affect other players? Can we move the set up of the game so that players are making interesting decisions earlier in the game?

Alternately, what we have a game where players are looking at going after the first place player or the player with the most money, we look at possible small incentives to make players think about focusing on someone else. While the strategic play may be to go after the first place player, we want players to at least think about another option before they go after an “obvious” target.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Board Game Evangelist

This is the kind of thing I would tweet about but the stories will take more than 140 characters so I figured I would write a quick post about it.

A co-worker of mine asked me last week about the game of Life. We talked about her and her family playing the game at home and how her son was doing with the game. We talked about the games her and her family played and she was thinking about bringing out Monopoly but was worried about the length and how her son would do with the longer game and how he would do if he lost.

I happened to have my copy of Machi Koro in my office so I took the opportunity to email her the link to the Watch it Played video of Machi Koro and I offered to let her borrow my copy of the game. She enthusiastically took the game and said her family would probably play it that night. The next day, I asked her if they played and she said yes. She said the game was a lot of fun and they were going to look to get a copy of their own.

Feeling bold, I looked up fours games that I thought would be fun for her family to play. I went down the list of Watch if Played videos and found Rampage, Gravwell, Boss Monster and Splendor. I have a copy of Gravwell and let her know she could borrow it whenever she wanted.

I went to Michaels to get some prototype supplies and when I was checking out, the cashier asked me if what I was purchasing was all for the same project. I told him yes and no. I use all the supplies to design board games  but I use them for different board games. He perked up immediately when I said this and said it was really cool I designed games. He asked me what games I had designed and I told him they were games that were yet to get to market and we were going to Kickstart them later this year. I asked him is him what his favorite game was and he reference two mass market games.

We were done with our transaction so I told him that he should check out Ticket to Ride, it was available at target and it is a good gateway game. He smiled and said he would look for it. I have no idea if he will, I wish I had had a business card on me.

Let’s Design a Game #11 Random Thoughts…Major Problems and 2 Players

This post out of order but it is part of the process so I am going to insert it here and give you fair warning.

The first time I talked to Aidan about this game, I dawned on me that we have a real problem with two players. Players are going to know, just by looking at the open contracts, who is the owner of which contract. The other major problem we had at the time was how we were going to handle the agent side of the bidding process.

The entire time I was thinking that one player would be working on one job. It never occurred to me to have all the players in the game have agents working the same job. I was thinking about how to get a contract owner to accept specific agents without giving up their identity. This was a major issue because the whole idea of the game is to not know who you are working for. I honestly thought the game was dead.

At the time these issues came up. I was a few days away from figuring out the solutions. The two player problem is currently solved with a couple random cards drawn from a dummy hand. The agent problem, as you have seen in a previous post, has been solved with the use of player specific tokens and allowing all agents supplied to a job to participate in the job.

What I would like you to take from this is that I really thought these were game breaking problems when they came up. I was not sure we could come up with a two player variant, nor did I think the agent bidding problem could be solved without changing the entire concept of the game. Yet, the solution to both of these problems is as easy as a couple more cards to throw people off each other’s tracks and a simple token for each player.

There might be some major issues that come up during and after testing, but there are solutions out there to the problems we face in our games and the willingness to look for and find them can solve most of the problems out design will face.

Please feel free to visit the Google Doc of this project.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Let’s Design a Game #10 The Agents

Today we will give you the details on the agents.

2015-06-22 16.47.55

Agent Spread

Currently there are 48 agents in the game. Agents are used to pass skill checks for contracts and act as a way to boost die rolls.

Agent Card

Agent Card

Each agent has one of three skills. Those skills are Planning, Execution and Get Away. They also have a roll effect. Roll effects are used whenever a player rolls a die and they want to boost a poor roll. In the top left corner, each agent has a cost. The cost of each agent is the amount of money a player will receive when one of their agents is used in a mission/contract and they are successful.

Pending Mission

Pending Mission

Agents are used to pass skill checks and in the example above, you can see that the base level skill checks for this region are 5 Planning, 4 Execution and 5 Get Away. Add to the base level the checks required for the card and you end up with a total skill required of 8 Planning, 7 Execution and 8 Get Away.

Agents On A Mission

Agents On A Mission

Let’s assume these are the agents that have been accepted by the contract owner and they are about to attempt the mission. Each agent will roll a die, add their skill, combine that with the roll and skill of any other agents working with them for that particular skill. If this total is larger than the skill check required, the skill check is passed. If all the skill checks are passed and the mission is a success.

Mission Rolls

Mission Rolls

The six agents on this missions rolled really well and rolled an 18 Planning, 13 Execution and 12 Get Away. The contract owner would reveal who they were to collect the reward and the contract owner would then have to pay all the agents in the mission. In this case, the contract owner would have to pay $40K in agent costs. Some of the agents could have been their own but this was an expensive mission. There were a lot of dice rolled and the chances of the mission being successful were high, but that comes at a cost. You can try to use few agents to lower the cost, but risk the mission failing.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I know the explanation is fragmented, but I want to divvy out the game in pieces as not to throw out too much at one time and give people a chance to digest the pieces as they are released.

Please feel free to visit the Google Doc of this project.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Let’s Design a Game #9 The Main Mechanic, Revisited

 

Even though there has been a lot of progress on the game, I need to update you on the main mechanic because we made a change to the way it works and I don’t want to cover anything else until you have a chance to see it. For specifics, please see the previous post about the Main Mechanic since I don’t plan to cover the main mechanic in great detail in this post.

Players will start with the same set of contract cards

Starting Hand of Contracts

Starting Hand of Contracts

 

Players will also have a set of contract ID cards.

Set of Contract ID Cards

Set of Contract ID Cards

Above are the contract ID cards which include one card for each region and a set of numbers 1 thru 8. Players will be able to ID the contract(s) they turned in using these cards.

Players will now select one of their contracts to give to the collector. They will also set aside, face down, the ID cards that match the contract they turned in.

Contract and ID Cards

Contract and ID Cards

The contract collector will shuffle the contracts and display them in the middle of the table

Turned in Contracts

Turned in Contracts

Now that the contracts have been shown to the table. Players will start playing agent cards for the various contracts and accept or deny cards.

Contracts with Agents

Contracts with Agents

Close Up of Our Contract

Close Up of Our Contract

When players place an agent on a job, they will use a token to ID which agents belong to them. Players can play more than one agent on a job.

Accept/Deny Cards

Accept/Deny Cards

When a contract has 4 accept/deny cards played on it, the A/D cards are revealed, if there is an accept card, the job is attempted. If all the cards are deny, players take their agents back and the and the A/D cards are held until the end of the round.

Looks Like We Have a Job

Looks Like We Have a Job

Prior to this method, we were worried that players might forget what mission was theirs and two players might claim the same contract. Our plan was to test the game as it was and see if that was really a problem. While we were talking about this game this past weekend (6/12) we came up with this solution and I spent the rest of the weekend working on changing the prototype around. There were a few other changes but I will cover that in a later post.

As always, feel free to check out our google doc and leave us comments or questions.

Link to the Google Doc for this project

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Let’s Design a Game #8 Checking in With Aidan Part 2

We spent most of the time talking about the main mechanic, but the benefit of working with a co-designer are the ideas that can spawn and being able to talk about them immediately. Aidan had the idea to change the agents and the contract owners to just colors. There would be many colors for players to be and their identity would be hidden until they were done with that color, think Small World and setting your race into decline. As jobs were being completed, the contracts and the color owner would be set to the side and displayed for everyone to see. Players would not be able to collect on the jobs until they revealed who they were. Players could have agents they are upgrading over time so they need to balance how much reward they take in vs how fast they want to upgrade. I guess there would also have to be an incentive to let your jobs ride.

The game idea aside, what I want to get across is the generation of a new idea and how excited we were when we started talking about the new idea. We would not jump off the current project to chase the side ideas, but we make notes, talk out the idea for 10-15 minutes and set it aside until we get around to looking at it.

We did talk about the worker placement idea (#6) and we were both excited to start working on the game. I think what that means is I will start developing the worker placement game in parallel with “Who Are You Working For?” (I guess I just working titled the project) If that sounds like a lot of work, there is a lot of down time gaps in projects. As soon as one game is ready for testing, I need to develop other games. My only real concern is being able to keep up with a blog schedule for two games. There could be times when I make some great development progress on one game and have tests going on with another. I don’t think it will be a problem in the end, but the thought still crosses my mind.

Link to the Google Doc for this project

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Let’s Design a Game #7 Checking in With Aidan Part 1

The best part of being part of a design team is having a co-designer to check in with when you are working on a separate project. I took what I had on my white board and what I had made so far of the alpha prototype and walked Aidan through the game. We focused on the bidding mechanic right away as we both identified the bidding mechanic as the most interesting part of the game. While I was explaining the full game concept, I did mention that the first iteration  of the game used a hand of cards moving around the table. I talked about what I liked and didn’t like about the idea of a hand that moves around and while Aidan kind of liked the idea at first. I expressed my list of concerns with a hand of cards that could be dropped of lose its order and we both agreed that we need to find a better way.

Keep in mind, the main mechanic I wrote about earlier was not set in stone at this point, we were exploring all of our options.

We looked at the idea of having players turn in two cards, one would be the contract and another would be an identifier card. All players would turn in their pair of cards to, what we were calling, a “coat check” player. The Coat Check would have to shuffle the pairs of cards and display the cards on the board. We didn’t like this because the cards could easily get mixed up. We thought about making the Coat Check a player that would know who turned in what contract. They would not be allowed to bid on that set of contracts and the Coat Check player would have to rotate every turn. I didn’t like this idea because players would have to take turns watching the action and I don’t like it when I have to do that in games, so I will do everything to avoid designing a game that does the same. We talked about using envelopes for players to turn in and having one player open and reveal the contents of these envelopes. While that system could work, I did not like the idea of having a component in the game that could break down over time. Especially with hearing stories of Sheriff of Nottingham bags that are starting to lose their snaps, I wanted to pass on the idea of using envelopes.

We continued this back and fourth for at least an hour. What we really liked about the mechanic was the hidden identity and the reveal moments after a job was completed. We also decided that the bidding system, as it stood, was good to move on to testing and it would be used to complete the rest of the alpha prototype. The only problem we saw was the chance the a player could mis-identify their contract, but the amount of time from turning in a contract to seeing it back on the board was so short, we are thinking that players will be able to remember.

Moving on from the main mechanic, we talked about how we would handle agents. We talked about using a die for each agent and players will be placing agents on contracts and use those die to roll skill checks. What worried me was the idea that the cost of the game could get really high if we have a lot of dice in the box. If we had scale orders, this would be less of a concern but we are two guys in a kitchen so we are ultra aware of component cost. We also talked about adding an authority track to each region of the board. This was really fun because we liked the idea of adding risk to players should they fail a mission. We still need to work out how the authority track will work but we know we want to add the idea.

The last big thing we talked about was players motivation about why they wouldn’t always bid on their own contracts. Aidan brought it up and he was right, why wouldn’t a player do that? The best solution I had was the idea to give players tokens for completing other players missions and making the penalty really bad if players attempt their own mission and fail. Thematically speaking, if your own agents fail and get questioned, it is really easy for the authorities to track you down. If agents have no idea who they are really working for, you are safe.

That was half of what we talked about and in the interest of space, I will leave the rest to a second post. Thank you for following along and please feel free to check out the Google Doc below.

Please feel free to visit the Google Doc of this project.

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Let’s Design a Game #6 Picking a Theme

I start 98% of our games with the mechanics first. I have tried to make games with the theme first but I find that making mechanics fit to a theme is more painful than finding a theme that fits a mechanic. Part if that could be the way Aidan and I work, it could also be my feelings that the worst that could happen to a developed mechanic that never finds a theme is the mechanic sits in storage waiting for the right theme to come along. We still have an asset at the end of the process. If we fail to find a mechanic for the theme, the opposite is true, there is nothing left over at the end of the brainstorming session.

For this project, I knew I wanted to go with a bad guy theme. I did spend a little time thinking about potential good guy themes but the idea that you don’t know who you are working for lends itself to the bad guy side. I did not want to do fantasy or sci-fi with this because those are overdone themes and we already have a couple projects in that space. With all of these “limitations” I ended up with robbers in the city stealing things for other bad guys. This may not be the theme we finish with, but it makes the most sense. Also, everything that I want to do with the game, at this point in time, fits within a universe of robbers and bad guys doing what they do in a city.

Please feel free to visit the Google Doc of this project.

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Let’s Design a Game #5 The Main Mechanic

I think by this point, if you are following from the start of the series, you have a rough idea of where this game is going. The way I work, at this point in the process is to start developing the main mechanic so that I know it works. If it doesn’t I will make the changes required to make it work while maintaining the feeling I want in the game. In this game I am really interested in the tension that comes along with when a mission is being attempted and there are two people at the table interested in the outcome, but one person really can’t identify themselves if it their contract being worked on. Google Doc for this Project

So without further ado, here is how the main mechanic of the game works

Players will start with a hand of contract offers. Each player will have one contract card from each district. The contract cards have the district name and a number. Each district has eight cards and each player will have one card from each district in their had at the start of the contract offering process.

Starting Hand

Starting Hand

Players will give a mission card to the collector remembering what their unique mission card says. The picture below represents all the contract cards collected.

2015-06-01 17.18.13

The collector will shuffle the contract cards and display the contracts face up in the middle of the board. The picture on the left are the four cards collected, shuffled and laid out. Our contract is the Jewelry 1 contract. The picture on the right shows each contract being laid out to a contract slot on the board. Each player would secretly identify their contract, and use their personal set of ID cards to identify their contract. In this example, we would take the 4 ID card and place that face down on our player board. (Player Board not Pictured)

2015-06-01 17.20.522015-06-01 17.41.06

Once the contracts have been displayed, players will start to take actions. Actions include playing Accept/Deny cards, play Agent cards, Block Agent cards and Recruit Agents. For this post, all I want you to worry about are playing agents and playing Accept /Deny cards. In the first picture, Players are playing various agents to the right of the open contracts. In the second picture, you can see players adding their Accept/Deny cards to the open contracts. Players are allowed to play their Deny cards on any contract (including their own) and can play their accept card on contract that belong only to them. (Players have 3 deny and one accept card in their hands) When a contract has collected a fourth Accept/Deny card;the cards are taken off the board, shuffled in secret and displayed. In this example, our contract has collected four A/D cards and we will now find out if the job has been accepted. (Of course, we know it has one because we added our accept card to the pile)

6/4/15 UPDATE: Is there any reason you would deny your own contract? Yes. What I have yet to cover is the idea that agents will need to be paid for their work. The players who control agents will earn dollars, while the player with the contract gets loot. This could change when I get to working on the agent/reward side of the mechanic, but for now, just know that agents cost money to us. If the cost of the agents is too high, you can deny the job. The agents will need to pass skill checks, if you don’t think the agents available can pass the checks, you can deny the contract.

Contract Board

Contract Board

Contract Board

Contract Board

If there is an accept card in the pile, the job is attempted by the agents currently available. I will cover the mechanics of attempting a job in another post. In the case where all the cards are deny cards, I think the contract would remain on the board so players could continue to bid

2015-06-01 17.59.56

When a job is completed(or failed), players will draw a new contract card from a district to replace the contract card used. Players will always have one contract card from each district unless they have a contract on the board.

There is the main mechanic of the game. Let me know what you think. If anything jumps out as problematic or if you would like some more explanation please leave a comment or shoot me an email. Below you can see the To Do list I have running for this project, specifically the building of this proto. At this point in the process I think this proto is almost ready for it’s first play through with Aidan and me. During the upcoming weekend, I will get the last of the proto done and playable.

To Do

To Do

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Let’s Design a Game #4 Whiteboarding the Game

Moving to the Whiteboard……finally.

I started by drawing a simple diagram of players adding cards to their hands and the hands moving around the table.

The Beginning

The Beginning

This may not look like enough but it is what I need to get myself started. My process is to stand over the table and pace back and forth and talk out what I am trying to do. I will then look back at the basic diagram and keep working my way through the thought process. I worked like this for at least an hour and I kept running into the same problems. How do I keep people identified, how do I keep the hand in order, how do I prevent players from taking too much time with the hand? I was able to generate solutions for all of these issues but the solutions either made the game more complicated or required players to do extra accounting. Accounting, in my opinion, is ok for a game, but if the accounting does not have a direct effect on the game, I think it needs to go. The accounting in this case, was only there to manage a mechanic and not add any richness to the game.

The result of all this pacing and talking to myself is the realization that a hand moving around the table to too fragile a thing to make this complicated, so this kind of blind negotiation is out. I could keep working the problem but I don’t want a game to fall apart when during the second to last turn, the hand is dropped and the game is ruined. I don’t remember a hand of cards ever being dropped in all the games I have played, but I remember cards falling off the table and if there is ever one instance where players have to reveal who they are in order to keep the cards in order, that is a weak point in a game I don’t want to build. So blind negotiation is out.

Just a quick aside, does the idea of seeing a game created via YouTube sound interesting to anyone? I think what this kind of development blog lacks are the times I spend pacing back and forth talking out what I am thinking. It also misses the detail Aidan and I talk about during the weekends when I check in with what I have. There are times when game ideas are spawned that, to me, are really interesting to hear. However, I am really close to this process and I don’t know if an edited video showing the most interesting moments of game design would be worth watching. Please leave me a comment or send me a message on twitter.

With blind negotiation out, I still wanted to use a blind bidding system. The idea is to have players work for each other and not know they are working for one another until the job is done. That means the jobs need to get to the board anonymously so players can bid on them. It also means players need to be able to bid on their own jobs to keep their contracts a mystery. My plan is to go over the mechanic is detail in another post. Just know for now, I am happy with there the game is now headed. I spent about three hours working on the whiteboard. In that time, I was able to attache a theme, work my way through a full turn, and I started the alpha prototype.

2015-05-20 17.42.52 2015-05-20 17.42.47 2015-05-20 17.42.37 2015-05-20 17.42.30 2015-05-20 17.41.03 2015-05-20 17.18.162015-05-20 17.42.59

Using the whiteboard notes above, I was able to get the first prototype cards done and I was able to build a list of cards that need to be created. Some of those needs are straight forward and others involve some more work. Most of that work is stat creation and stat creation means balancing. The balancing can be taken care of later but I still need to sit down and create a number of cards that have a decently spread of stats.

Proto To Do List

Proto To Do List

In our next post, we will talk about the main mechanic and how it works, complete with pictures. After that, we will talk about the theme. If you want a preview of what to expect, you can look at the photos can get an idea of what where the game is going. Please feel free to comment on whatever you want, anything you see in the notes. Or anything that is too chicken scratchy to read.

Please feel free to visit the Google Doc of this project.

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.