Designing Microgames–Duel, Part 10

The Story So Far…

A new microgame is in development.  Duel supports two players, each with a deck of 20 cards.  Players have a hand of 4 cards and may (1) play a card into an empty space, (2) play a card onto an enemy card, or (3) move a card one space.  After this, the player refills her hand.  The game ends if a player is down to 3 or fewer cards in hand and chooses to end it.  The player controlling the majority of spaces in a 3×3 grid wins.

Kevin (APE Games) Brusky has given the prototype a look and wants to proceed together.  APE Games will release the game in two-player packs containing two unique armies.

We have taken an extensive look at three decks–Pirates, Sea Monsters, and the Shogunate.  Now we look at the Masters of Kung Fu deck who bring the Merge ability into the game environment.

A New Deck: the Masters of Kung Fu

In the late 1980s, every Saturday night at midnight, right after Saturday Night Live, our local NBC affiliate ran Black Belt Theater.  These beloved B-movies boasted bombastic titles like Kid with the Golden Arm, The Nine Demons, and The Invincible Armor. They frequently packed the entire hero’s journey into their allotted 90 minutes or less.  I would argue that these movies even set the visual style for modern action masterpieces like Django Unchained, The Man With The Iron Fists and Tai Chi Zero / Tai Chi Hero.

For years, I longed for an excuse to create a game in this high-flying setting. Developing Duel has given me just that excuse.

While this set is still in flux, its variety of card interactions has proven popular with playtesters.  Unlike the Pirates or the Shogunate who tend to cover one another with their remote Strike abilities, the Masters of Kung Fu deck boosting through cards that directly enhance one another.

Chi FocusThis theme is in the three Sword Sisters–Strength 6 cards which gain +1 Strength for each other Sword Sister in play.  This theme is in the slippery Drunken Master–a slippery fighter who cannot be pinned down and can therefore jump to the assistance of a beleaguered ally.  This theme is seen in the Flying Punch–a Coup de Grace that immediately returns to your hand.

The card which drives this theme home is Chi Focus–the first appearance of the Merge ability–which can join another card, effectively increasing the strength of the original by +3.

Testing the Masters of Kung Fu

As of this writing, the Masters of Kung Fu deck is undergoing its first major overhaul.

The Drunken Master was too powerful at Strength 8. In response, he has been reduced to Strength 6.

Flying Punch stands accused of being too weak since its low strength cannot hold any spaces on its own.  We have a few possibilities being passed around–the most prominent among these being the simple addition of the phrase “you may.”  No definite resolution has yet appeared however and the version given here is its original.

Kung Fu 1  Kung Fu 2Kung Fu 3

As Duel enters its next extended playtest cycle, we depart from it here for a while.  Our next entry in this column will take a look at one of the big buzz games at Gen Con 2014 and what it can teach us about triggered effects in a deckbuilding environment.  To what game am I referring? You’ll find out next time!

What’s your take on the Masters of Kung Fu?  What do you find most intriguing about them?  Which cards would you change?  How would you approach them?  Share with your fellow readers in the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress and follow this blog.  You keep reading. I’ll keep writing.

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Designing Microgames–Duel, Part 9

The Story So Far…

A new microgame is in development.  Duel supports two players, each with a deck of 20 cards.  Players have a hand of 4 cards and may (1) play a card into an empty space, (2) play a card onto an enemy card, or (3) move a card one space.  After this, the player refills her hand.  The game ends if a player is down to 3 or fewer cards in hand and chooses to end it.  The player controlling the majority of spaces in a 3×3 grid wins.

Kevin (APE Games http://apegames.com/) Brusky has given the prototype a look and wants to proceed together.  APE Games will release the game in two-player packs containing two unique armies.

We have taken an extensive look at two decks–the team boosting Pirates and the lone swimming Sea Monsters.  Each was created to focus on a certain part of the game.  Now we look at the Shogunate deck and bring the Ally ability into the conversation.

 

Rules Update: Terminology

The “Support” ability has given many players issues.  We have repeatedly seen them mistake this ability for a defensive boost rather than an attack boost.  This is natural, considering the connotation of the word.  To clarify, we ran through a list of replacements and came up with “Strike.”  The rules have been updated accordingly.

Duel Rules 3-2

 

A New Deck: the Shogunate

NagamakiClose on the heels of the Pirates and the Sea Monsters were the Shogunate. This deck was conceived around the kind of large-scale battles we see in films like Akira Kurosawa’s Ran.  And Ninjas.  You gotta have ninjas.

The Shogunate became an effort to blend elements from each of the previous two decks.  In this deck, we see the Ninjas equipped with a first strike ability akin to that used in the Sea Monsters.

We see Archers with a Strike ability similar to that of the the Pirates.  

The Shogunate also feature the first appearance of the Ally ability–Nagamaki cards that can to add to the defense of a space.

Testing the Shogunate

As of this writing, the Shogunate deck has been through three major overhauls.  The Ninja were too weak at first, the Swordsman too strong.  The version you’re seeing here has been testing well, however and I don’t anticipate any major changes any time soon.

Shogunate 1 Shogunate 2Shogunate 3

 

 

We’ll take a look at the Shogunate’s chief rivals next time when you’ll see The Masters of Kung Fu deck.  How do these decks interact with one another? You’ll find out Friday!

 

What’s your favorite Microgame?  What do you like best about it?  Have you written one? How did your players respond to it? Share with your fellow readers in the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress and follow this blog.  You keep reading. I’ll keep writing.

Triggered Effects, Part 4

The Story So Far…

Triggered card effects all fit under a general “when TRIGGER occurs, do EVENT” template. They can make a card situationally powerful.  They can give cardsets a mechanical theme.  They can create opportunities for counterplay.

We have taken a look at several categories of trigger and effect, including several from our insightful readers.

 

Putting Them Together

We have put quite a few tools into our designer toolbox over the last two weeks.  Having tools is great.  Using them is better.  We need to try combining some triggers with events and take a look at which combinations best fit which games.

Triggered Effects in Columns

This list has nine categories of trigger and an equal number of event categories.  Multiplying those 81 combinations by the huge number of game categories out there and my mind became overwhelmed.  There were too many options pick a starting place.  Then I remembered A Whack on the Side of the Head and the power randomness can offer to driving creativity.  Rather than trying to take each combination on in turn, I elected to let ranom.org pick one from each column and discover what those combinations inspire.  Here we go…!

 

Combination 01: B + C

Trigger (B): Receives Damage

Event (C): Endurance

This combination evokes images of firefighters in me.  Starting from there, How might a game which includes a triggered effect like this one look…?

Sally JoIn towns of the American frontier era, volunteer fire departments competed for the honor of being the ones to put out the fire.  So extreme was their enthusiasm that this rivalry sometimes devolved into fisticuffs, even as the building burned down beside them.  

For a game set in this era, players draft firefighters, then fight fires with their teams.  Firefighters are represented by cards which have two attributes–Bravery, Fortitude.

This a triggered event of this type in this setting suggests a character with low Bravery but high Fortitude.  Let’s make it our mascot–the classic dalmatian–and name her Sally Jo.

 

 

Combination 02: D + D

Trigger (D): Revelation

Event (D): Cards

CoachThis is a combination quickly found its way into Duel. Playtesting has shown that in many decks, certain cards are better at some times than others.  This means that an important element of play is dealing with cards that arrive at better or worse times.  This is on its face not a major issue.  Card games like Magic: the Gathering, Sentinels of the Multiverse card game, and Cheat (Bullshit) all present exactly this challenge to players.  

Since players may place cards face up or face down, revelation effects fit perfectly into Duel. I’ve been experimenting with quite a few of them. What if one of the Duel decks emphasized card combinations but also included a way to exert control over your hand?  One of the decks I’ve been developing has a Sport/Athletics theme and this sounds like a perfect job for a coach.

The Coach card was given low strength but I think his ability text is a solid match for a Revelation + Cards combination.

 

Combination 03: C + B

Trigger (C): Deal Damage

Event (B): Currency

Sylvan Sea SerpentMany of the people in my design group play M:tG regularly.  It’s only natural then that discussions about its design should occur around the design table quite often.  Apart from the occasional draft match, I haven’t really played M:tG since the 1990s but looking at this combination immediately made me think of Mr. Garfield’s game.

Will generate currency–mana–green and blue seem like natural colors for the job.  Playing with a few combinations gave me the Sylvan Sea Serpent shown here.

 

 

Combination 04: E + G

Trigger (E): Acquisition

Event (G): Component Condition

Let’s try applying one to a pure eurogame–something which would easily sit alongside Princes of Florence on any gamer’s shelves.  Each player gets a play mat with a grid of squares.  Each player is working to fill his grid with buildings in order to achieve the best (highest scoring) town.  

A number of resources appear each round according to the roll of four dice–one for each resource type.  The particulars of these dice is not terribly important to this exercise but let’s say that these are averaging dice which show 2-3-3-4-4-5 on their faces (eager shoppers can find them here).

BayardAt the heart of the game will be card drafting/play mechanisms to navigate.  Cards collect resources, spend resources for build buildings and the like.  At the beginning of each round, a number of cards equal to the number of players is revealed from the deck.  These cards generally generate labor to construct buildings, make certain buildings cheaper to acquire or award endgame bonus points for building types.

Into this game, we bring Bayard the Stevedore.  He contributes little to your labor pool but offsets this with his particular ability to manipulate the resource supply.

 

 

Your Weekend Project

August means back to school season and what better way to gear up than with a nice homework assignment?  Try this combination out for yourself.  See what you can think up and submit your ideas to our comment section.

Trigger (E): Receives Damage

Event (G): Component Condition

 

These were my first four examples of the “when TRIGGER occurs, do EVENT” formula.  Next time, I will attempts to take on four more.  How will I do?  Come by Tuesday and find out!

What combination did you find most interesting?  What made you like it so much?  Which one did you like least?  What keeps it from being more enjoyable?   Share with your fellow readers in the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress and follow this blog.  If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

Designing Microgames–Duel, Part 1

Microgames are something many publishers need from time to times–particularly so for mainstream publishers. With the huge success of Love Letter, microgames have begun appearing on gamer radar as well.

When thinking of a microgame, four criteria spring to mind: (1) short playing time,(2) short rules, (3) low component count and (4) low price point.  The best ones also feature (5) rules which are short but deep.  The aforementioned Love Letter satisfies all of these criteria, as do Cthulhu Dice, chess, 6 Nimmt!, and my own Nobody But Us Chickens.

Covering microgames has been on this column’s “to do” topic list since its inception but finding the right way to present it eluded me until recently when a publisher I work with expressed an approaching need for microgames. The opportunity to write small games excited me. Most of my design work lately has been focused on games with a large number of moving parts.  Crafting a tight game with a confined design space was a welcome change of pace.

Several days of brainstorming yielded a few promising ideas.  Half a dozen of them seemed promising.  These were fabricated into playable prototypes and brought to the test group.  Predictably enough, some didn’t work.  One of them however has evolved into something rather interesting. I showed it to Kevin Brusky–Mr. APE Games–and he agreed. With plans to move forward now in place, I thought you might enjoy coming along for the ride as this microgame gets developed.

 

Inception

Here are the first notes written on the game.  At the time, it was called “Sub Hunt.”

Duel 01

The high concept was to combine Stratego with Battleship.  Everything at this stage is vague. Changes were happening even as the first ideas were hitting the page. I thought initially that the game would support a 5×5 play space. By the end of the page, I’d realized this would give players too much room to dance around one another.  Bringing conflict earlier yields a stronger narrative.

A bit of scratch work refined the army concept into something playable. One quick print job later and we were ready for a test run. Here is the set that first hit the table:

Duel 1-0 Page 01 Duel 1-0 Page 02

Duel 1-0 Page 04  Duel 1-0 Page 03

Feel free to print everything and take it out for a spin yourself. Let’s see if you would make the same changes I did.  Next time, we will go over the results of the first tests; what worked, what didn’t, and what I did about it.

 

What’s your favorite Microgame?  What do you like best about it?  Have you written one? How did your players respond to it?  Share with your fellow readers in the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress (http://wordpress.com/) and follow this blog.  You keep reading. I’ll keep writing.