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.
If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.