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Monster Keep: Fresh & New ideas for this DESIGN!

Way back when I was a younger man, "Monster Keep" (MK) had the principle that players would CHOOSE the "Operators" (think Math) and compute formulas. However this idea went by the wayside when I figured that the player should CHOOSE the "operands" instead (again different Math)!

Today while pondering on some of the other dilemmas ... I found myself THINKING why not ALSO choose a Monster's REACH. Let me explain.

questccg wrote:
Each monster has a value called the REACH. Same REACH values can combat each other. So IF I have a "1", I can battle other "1" opposing Monsters. But a "1" cannot attack a "2" or a "3" (to be more explicative). So "2" can attack any other "2" and the same for "3" can attack another "3".

I had these REACH values HARD-CODED. And I built up DECKS given the different Monsters used. But NOW I am thinking that MAYBE the "REACH" should be DYNAMIC!!!

Instead of relying on HARD-CODED values, players could CHOOSE which LEVEL of the "Keep" they want to play their MONSTERS on! This SMALL and seemingly insignificant change will breath NEW LIFE into MK for sure... That's it for now.

Cheers all.


Thematic Link

The "REACH Level" could be the FLOOR of "The Keep". So a Monster on Level #2 can only combat OTHER Monsters on Level #2... And I see these are being FLOORS for the game. Before I had no Thematic Link. Like why couldn't a Level #3 Monster attack a Level #2 or #1 Monster... No reason except that was the RULE.

Now that it is used to implicate the FLOOR LEVEL (I used to call it REACH) of "The Keep", it makes so much more SENSE. Also making the value DYNAMIC is another reason to explore further how this impacts the game and Deck Construction.

Going to think about this some more tomorrow. Cheers all!

More thoughts on the Level Mechanic

I figured that there need to be some RULES regarding the Levels. I mean without ANY a player could play ALL his Monsters on the SAME Floor and that would suck so bad! WHY? Because it removes an ELEMENT of the game and makes it UNI-LEVEL again... Which is something that I was TRYING to avoid.

The other idea that I just came up with is that MAYBE SOME of the Monsters have a LEVEL others do not and for those who do not have one you can CHOOSE their Level.

Again with some rules that you can only have maybe THREE (3) Monster per Level.

The game allows you to PLAY only FIVE (5) Monsters in TOTAL. So three (3) Monsters per Level is more than 50% of your deck (actually 60% to be exact).

I will see if I can REVISE the MK notes to see IF I can better WORK with the FLOOR Level Mechanic. Just some additional ideas to consider...

Some additional ideas

If you PLAY three (3) Monsters one the first phase of the game this would mean you would secretly choose FLOORS for those cards before revealing them to your opponent. If Player's REVEAL the Monsters they've chosen for the first phase, this means that the second phase can be used to thwart your opponent's plans...

And this could mean playing into your own strategy too (by choosing to ignore your opponent's plans). It's not DO-or-DIE type of game meaning that the third phase allows player to replace defeated Monsters with new ones.

Again more thought into this game tomorrow. I need to check my Notebook to see what it says about MK and where I am at with this design.

Display Floors

I'd suggest having a layout showing three (or more) different floors, and each player places at least one card at each, face down. The cards could have a monster that's at that floor, or it's a blank card.

To resolve floors, reveal all the cards next to them simultaneously. If a player's monster faces off with a blank card, then their monster is unopposed and they have an automatic victory. Otherwise the two opposing teams face off and resolve the conflict normally.

Beyond this, I'd also suggest there be a reason to choose one floor over another. Are there specific rewards for winning a given contest - beyond defeating the monster? There are plenty of ideas to make choosing one floor over another depending on one's situation: Command Points, Victory Points, earning consumables or money, etc. I'm just suggesting there be a reason to have different floors beyond adding complexity to the system.

Let me clarify a bit...

let-off studios wrote:
...I'd also suggest there be a reason to choose one floor over another. Are there specific rewards for winning a given contest - beyond defeating the monster? There are plenty of ideas to make choosing one floor over another depending on one's situation: Command Points, Victory Points, earning consumables or money, etc. I'm just suggesting there be a reason to have different floors beyond adding complexity to the system.

Well for the moment, I am thinking about two (2) reasons to choose a floor:

1. Affects the nature of the Monsters on the SAME floor.

This means that Monsters who congregate TOGETHER are STRONGER (Strength in numbers so-to-speak). Secondary effects can be bonuses or penalties that can affect the outcome of the mathematical computation.

2. Affects the mathematics used in equation building.

This means that "Level 3" math is done last and "Level 1" math is done FIRST. This is like PARENTHESIS in an equation. How you compute the equations matters. Here's an example:

1 + 4 x 2 + 1 = ??? = 10 = 11 = 15!

Just three outcomes depending on how you compute the equation:

1 + (4 x 2) + 1 = 10
((1 + 4) x 2) + 1 = 11
(1 + 4) x (2 + 1) = 15

This is my MAIN reason for wanting to use the FLOOR. It's not as simple... But this is generally the FEEL for what I hope to achieve. And one of the goals is to make MATH FUN for kids. Solving relatively easy equations to try to outsmart his/her own opponent.

This would be a DUEL game (2-Players).

It's still very much a Work-In-Progress (WIP)

The Turns, Rounds and such are very much in flux ATM. I generally LIKE the ideas that I've presented (because they work in reality -- I have a working prototype).

And I've tried various PRE-DEFINED decks (Deck-Construction).

But it's still not sufficiently "polished" ... At least not to my satisfaction. I clearly need more work on this design, but haven't had any new IDEAS lately.

So the IDEA fundamentally is to make MATH FUN. And simple EQUATION SOLVING is the name of this game. With these NEW and FRESH ideas, I may be able to solidify the design. Why? Right now, all I can say is that it can AFFECT the outcome of the DUEL part of the game and then... Figure out what the result of a Player's equation is (Total).

There was a 4th outcome that I did not mention...

1 + 4 x 2 + 1 = 12, "(How?) You ask...?"

(1 + 4 + 1) x 2 = 12

This involves some RE-ORDERING. Because it means that the equation is NOT solved directly as it is specified. But still the principle remains the same. And the FLOORS allow this method of calculation (and declaring an equation) to be possible.

I'll be busy writing e-mails over the weekend. But I will ponder FURTHER on this design (as well). Some interesting THEMATIC and IDEAS seem to be leaning on advancing this design further.

Right now I need to figure out ...

How to make the "equation" (Math) work with the Combat system. So far, there is no "tie-in" with the game and the "Monster Keep" (MK) theme. Right, we now have established that "Floors" are the primary reason Monsters can combat each other; and we know that there is a goal to achieve an "equation" (Math) with the game.

What I am missing is how BOTH come together... More thinking needs to be done. And I've figured that instead of ALL cards having an "Operator", an "Operand", and a "Floor" ... Some cards could have some of these elements as being pre-defined.

Again more thought needs to be put into this design to see how it all comes out together! Cheers.

I've reviewed the prototype a bit...

And I still REALLY LIKE this design. It's got a lot of NOVEL content ... But it's missing something to "tie-things-together". And the Mathematical aspect of this design still needs more "work". But clearly "Monster Keep" (MK) has a lot of potential to be a FUN and mindful game...

One aspect that I am a bit questioning ATM is the number of players. As of today the game is focused on 2-Player Duels. Which is OKAY... But we all know MULTI-PLAYER games are much more immersive and offer more depth of play. In a Duel, you know that the odds of winning are 50/50. But in a game of 8-Players, the odds of winning are 12.5% out of 100.

So this is something that I am thinking about much more CLOSELY than anything in the past! MK WILL be a multiplayer game. It's small footprint lends well to the GENRE and clearly there is possibility to make something NEW of this design... Sure I've got OTHER 2-Player Duels in my "repertoire" and so it makes sense that with this design, I take it to ANOTHER Level.

And since the game is CALLED "Monster KEEP", I definitely want to have an ASPECT that is about "Keeping the Monsters you defeat" and somehow "re-cycle" them into your own Hand or Deck ... Or something else (Not 100% sure)!

But it is definitely COMPELLING and I hope to make something more "interesting" with this design (obviously the prototype isn't enough). And I will be open to re-working the design in question for sure!

Some further thoughts after another EDIT

The whole "Keeping the Monsters"-bit just won't work. Also it looks like this design will ONLY be for 2-Player Duels. (I'm trying but nothing is working ATM!)

What is working is this:

A> Instead of choosing the Operators, they are specified for each Monster.

B> The Operands are blank but correspond to the Health of each Monster.

C> The Reach is blank also and allows players to put a value 1 to 3 there.

Monsters on a Floor (1 to 3) may combat other Monsters on the SAME Floor. This is both logical and thematic. The Reach is used for computing the equation during the "Scoring" Phase of the game (again values 1 to 3).

I re-did the Monsters to suit this NEW "configuration" and also made some edits to the "Scorecards" too. We'll have to see how this plays out... Given I will need to make a NEW "prototype" some time this week (Maybe towards the middle of the week...)

I will post update information with regards to this "experiment" and report back the level of success of this NEW "configuration". Cheers!

More on the re-design I did TODAY!

So what I did was to re-design the scorecards too... Because they just didn't have enough space to contain the 6th card in play.

And it made sense because there are three (3) Rounds for populating your side of "The Keep". And then the battling ensues and finally the game wraps up with a "Scoring" Round where each player tries to get as close as possible to the target score.

The Winner is the one closest to the target score (+/-).

Making the three (3) populating Rounds each for a Floor has worked very well. It actually works and makes sense (and from a thematic perspective TOO!) Having the Battle Round was something that I was unsure of previously because it just wasn't working "like-I-wanted-it-to"...

But now that Operands are tied to Monster Health ... It all comes together. The last Round (Scoring) is to formulate your Mathematic Equation.

More playtesting to DO ... After this latest prototype is done!

Note #1: I am still going back-and-forth with the COMBAT. It seems like there are two choices:

1. After each Floor Round, do combat with the NEW Monsters only

The advantage of this is that most battles will be local and there will be only a handful of Monsters to contend with and even less as we move up the floors of "The Keep". The disadvantage is that it is very hard to do any PLANNING.

Since you have resources to use, you may want to HOLD-BACK only to realize that you should have used those resources in the earlier round.

2. Or do ALL combat in a Round after populating ALL Monsters

The advantage to this is both players have a stronger grasp of the field and where you opponent stands. But there is a disadvantage which is the overall complexity of "The Keep": having six (6) Monsters in play and to analyze and try to compute the "Best Moves" or attacks ... Can be DIFFICULT.

But you have all your resources to use and you know exactly what to expect from your opponent; there are no places to hide in this version.

So you see my dilemma ATM. More thought will have to be done over the next few days as I figure out what works BEST! Cheers.

I'm still STRUGGLING with this DESIGN

Right now ... Printing & Cutting the NEW cards has forced me to take a real good look at the Monsters and their abilities. Right now the COMBAT method in my previous comment is up for debate. Why? Well some abilities like SCRY are good as the game populates floors and other abilities like a ABSORBING attacks are better in an End-Game Round where are the Monsters are in play.

I also realize that there are WAY too many "-" Subtraction Operators, making the game a bit confusing. I am thinking that I should have a "||" operator which is like an ABS(value +/-)55 = + (Positive result)...
The formulae aspect is now BROKEN.

No worries, it's not the end of the world. It just means I need to look under-the-hood a bit more and better grasp what is more important. And maybe this means adding some complexity (like the ABS idea).

I believe this will impact the game quite significantly ... But there is little for me to argue with this since the design needs a LOT more work than I had initially anticipated.

I thought that by making some MINOR adjustments the game would be GREAT. But it turns out, the opposite is TRUE: it needs a lot of work before it is ready to be made...

Explanation about how to determine a Winner!

1. The Player CLOSEST to the Target Score wins. If there is a tie, either above or Below, then proceed to the next check.

2. Count the amount of UNIQUE operators, the player with the highest amount is declared the winner. If however both players have used the SAME amount of operators, then proceed to the next check.

3. Add up all the OPERANDS to make one total. The player with the HIGHEST amount is declared the winner. If this check does not determine a winner, proceed to the next check.

4. From the OPERAND pyramid, start at the highest level (3rd Level). The player with the HIGHEST OPERAND wins. If this does not determine a winner, go down a level and ADD 2 OPERANDS together again and see the TOTAL for this LEVEL. If there is a tie on the 2nd Level, proceed to the 1st Level and again ADD all 3 OPERANDS again determine which player has the highest score.

This should suffice at some point to determine a Winner! Just feel like I would SAVE this information on my BLOG to ensure that it doesn't get lost as I have yet to write the rules for "Monster Keep" (MK).

So I reviewed my latest prototype (#16) and...

I will be ready to cut the cards tomorrow. I've got a good feeling about how the newest and latest prototype will be much deeper in terms of feel and gameplay ... But there are still some issues which need to be analyzed further.

One of these issues is that I RESTORED "Primary Attacks" and each one uses one of the three (3) Mana Pools each player has. Furthermore the Reach of a Monster limits which Monsters can interact with each other. This is As-Per-Design. One of the reasons for this, is that I did NOT want players to be able to attack just any Monster in play. Values are 1 to 3 and one Monster can do a +1 Reach as its Instant Tactic.

This is very important, because this was why Prototype 13 FAILED. Analysis-Paralysis (AP) and Prototype 15 was simpler ... but TOO simple. You have to be willing to accept that you do need to Analyze the Play Area and figure out HOW best to use your Mana Pools.

But NOW with Reach, you have Circles of Monsters which can do battle. And instead of Gaining Operand Values, you LOSE them. Meaning your opponent can knock-out values available for you to use given the Operator...

This feels much more COMBATIVE too... I also revised the Tactics to be closer to Prototype 13 because Prototype 15 mostly focused on affacting the Mana Pools. While this was valuable and good... It made the abilities too GENERIC.

Another issue that I need to figure out is Rounds and Phases. Prototype 15 had 3 Rounds with 3 Phases each. It all made good sense even if the prototype needed more work. Prototype 16 has 3 Rounds but only 2 Phases per Round.

Round #1 has Population (3 Cards) and Knock-Outs.
Round #2 has Population (2 Cards) and Knock-Outs.
Round #3 has Population (1 Card) and Formulation.

It still works, just 3x3 was more mathematically compatible than 3x2. I need to playtest it and see HOW prototype 16 needs to be played.

The other issue is that Prototype 16 has Primary Attacks which rely on Mana Pool to select which value (Operands) get Knock-Out in Round #1 and #2. Most Monsters have 2 Attacks and the deal is ... How to MANAGE the Combat portion of the game.

An example of what I mean is: "Does Player #1 Monster get to do 2 Power Damage to one Monster or should it be 1 Power and then the opponent can react??? And what if one Monster wants to do 1 Power Damage to TWO (2) opposing Monsters... Is that one turn or two turns???

Just very technical details.

I guess, as an update, I could make the Rounds with 3 Phases as follows:

Round #1 has Population (3 Cards), Reveal and Knock-Outs.
Round #2 has Population (2 Cards), Reveal and Knock-Outs.
Round #3 has Population (1 Card), Reveal and Formulation.

Where Population is done in secrecy and the Reveal is a separate phase too. That could work and restore the 3x3 mathematical compatible version...

Amazing new development!

I just found out that the card format (which is NOT Poker Cards) will fit correctly in "The Game Crafter" (TGC) Mint Tin. This is great news because previously I didn't have a FORMAT for which to "transport" your cards to say a Tournament or FLGS. Or even had a way to PACKAGE the game. I've been working on the Sales Model. It's more of a CCG (Collectible game) but there aren't too many "core" cards in the first "set". And you can build a VARIETY of Decks with different PLAYSTYLES.

To accommodate more PLAYSTYLES you would need to have three (3) of each card for maximum customization. That equates to forty-five (45) cards. This means that the "core" card count is fifteen (15) cards. Which is very reasonable ... If you focus on "the game" rather than the collectible aspect.

I'm still actively working on this "design". We'll have to see how it evolves!

Prototype 16 — Fresh out of the oven...

Great news: I have finished cutting Prototype 16!

This is great because I can spend the next couple of days playtesting and seeing how effective this NEW "version" really is. Of course there are still some minor outstanding issues which are related to the "Knock-Out" phase of the first two rounds...

My issue with this is how to use the "Primary Attacks", is it one turn, two turns or some other considerations depending on factors with the design.

I'm hoping some of you chime-in and comment.

Right now, I am undecided how I should treat the "Primary Attack". Hopefully the idea is to REDUCE "Analysis-Paralysis" (AP) because the extra stats per card are more than a bit daunting, especially during the Population Phase of Round #1 and #2...

One small comment

I think that the Reach can serve a DUAL-PURPOSE with a bit of a number changing. What I mean is that "Reach 1" is used for "Power"-based Monsters. And "Reach 3" is used for "Magic"-based Monsters. If I FLIP these two (2) around (and keep the "Reach 2" the same), well the Reach can also be Build Points (BPs) as before with a cap of 30 BPs per Deck.

Why would I want to FLIP the two (2)??? Well most "Magic"-based Monsters are more complex Operators (like Multiplication and Division), so I would want these to have a LOWER BP count than easier Operators (like Addition).

IDK... This is just an observation ATM.

Playtesting and computing the Deck will help me figure out if this DOES or DOES NOT make sense. I will do that NEXT (Compute a Deck with the inversion) and see what I come up with (as a total BP Deck count).

Note #1: The tight Control Deck = 24 Points. If this is to be calculated from a max BP = 30 Points, this means that this Deck is very LEAN and contains only one (1) "Reach 3" card ("Power"-based Monsters).

You could potentially add three (3) "Reach 3" cards to this Deck and be at the limit of 30 BPs.

I'm re-working the Starter Deck Designs (to compute the BPs and make sure they are acceptable).

Well it seems to work-out pretty decently (to my surprise)!

Indeed the Build Points (BPs) and Reach work in Tandem so far. I will conduct more playtests starting tomorrow. Just to see how the Reach plays into the game and if there is Balance without any Analysis-Paralysis (AP) when it comes to the Primary Attacks. I've got to figure out how to manage these Mana Pool Points and see what flows best.

But I'm happy so far with the more "complex" card layout. By ADDING the "Primary Attack", it gives the card more DEPTH. Granted there is the issue with the attacking that needs resolution... But I'm sure with a few playtests I should be able to iron things out a bit.

So more on the playtests this week (as of tomorrow)!

Okay ... Done Playtest #1 for Prototype 16

Player #2 won (13 vs 14, where 13 was the Point Goal)! Was a very close match Player #1 knocked-out one of Player #2 cards (a Subtraction).

It's indeed "interesting". Is it STRONG enough of a game...?! Hmm... IDK Yet!

If there would have been a TIE (and indeed this was one card away from making the difference), Player #2 would have won after going to Step #3 (Operands from the TOP of the pyramid).

The thing is that THINKING about the OPERANDS while choosing cards to battle with are TWO (2) DIFFERENT GOALS. And it is this dichotomy that concerns me. It's hard to determine what cards should be played to chip away at the opponent and then it's difficult to later "work with the cards and operators you HAVE..."

I'm not saying the game is "terrible". It's OKAY, nothing too fantastic ATM. I think that SEPARATING Build Points and Reach will be necessary. Why? Because BPs are inverted and that means that "Additions" are more expensive to stock than "Divisions" and that will work just fine.

Where I am thinking about SWITCHING things up is the REACH. I'm thinking what if it were DYNAMIC, the player chooses which card to ASSIGN a REACH and therefore allow him/her to better TARGET his opponent's cards. This is something to consider because it may impact the design just a little bit making it a bit more FLEXIBLE and that could maybe change the game JUST A TINY BIT...

Note #1: The thing to remember is that IF Reach was CUSTOMIZABLE, the 2nd Round (Level #2) would take much more precedence as an important phase in Knocking-Out an opponents "sweet spots" for flexible Formulation. Instead of just reacting to the cards and figuring out what you want as far as OPERATORS, you could tailor the REACH to do more damage to the cards in play FURTHER. Making combat a bit more important in the game (overall)...

My GOAL with the dynamic Reach is

To make the combat rounds more intensive and PLAYER controlled. Versus a pre-defined Reach which suggests some flexibility but not tailored to each and every playthru (which can VARY a lot).

I don't need a new prototype to test this out, there is ample room on the card to simply WRITE DOWN the custom Reach Value on each card and during the Reveal Phase show the custom values...

This will make the 2nd Knock-out Round much more important as this will also make it more challenging to "protect" the current lot cards in play. More cards will be knocked-out and allow for specific TARGETING too.

Tomorrow, another day and another playtest with these considerations! Cheers...

Over the weekend...

I plan to playtest this "Dynamic Reach" and see if it leads to more STRATEGIC "gameplay"! Clearly my goal is to "empower" the PLAYERS and give them more choices to make ... but at the same time, lower the amount of ANALYSIS that is required per Round.

Round #1 is a crap-shoot... Meaning it's a bit about LUCK and good PREDICTION.

Round #2 is more strategic... In determining what Monsters to target and inflict wounds upon. And maybe even Knock-Out a Monster or two...

Round #3 is less about strategy and more about figuring out what works best for your Monsters (in terms of what BOSS will allow the best Formulation Phase). And so NO COMBAT during this round like the two (2) previous rounds!

It's not too complicated of a game TBH. Just needs another couple PLAYTHRUs to see where I stand with this design (and prototype 16).


Update: I found some time to do a PLAYTEST tonight. The Total to Win was 13 and Player #1 got 11, Player #2 got 12. Player #2 won by 1 Point!!!

Boy it was "tough" computing the scores during the Formulation Phase!

It's not the simplest of calculations with Exponents, Divisions and such... Makes it HARD to compute the correct formulas.

The "Knock-Out" phases were INTERESTING! A lot going on, targeting all kinds of cards and the result was a challenging computation to win the game. It makes me think of SIMPLER days when all you needed to worry about was ADDITION and SUBTRACTION! Add to this Division and Multiplication... The whole phase is hard to work out.

But the playtest with the "Dynamic Reach" is concluded.

Less ANALYSIS-PARALYSIS (AP) as planned ... But more going on to figure out HOW to eliminate the opponent from winning!

I'll try again TOMORROW (at some point in time). The game has more MEAT to it this way... Meaning that you just don't play a card and that's it. No you need to see what the opponent plays and figure out how best to "do damage" to make it more difficult for your opponent to Formulate a GOOD equation.

Like I said, tonight the MATH was NOT simple. So the question that remains is this: is it enough that the game is INTERACTIVE and CHALLENGING to make it a sufficiently good card game???

IDK... More playtesting is necessary.

So I will conduct ANOTHER Playtest tonight...

Again using the HARD Decks (24/30 BPs) meaning there is still room to OPTIMIZE these decks into more "general" decks.

The plan is to conduct another playtest to again see how CLOSE the players can get to the "Score Total" obtained by rolling 4d6s.

Again DYNAMIC "Reach" meaning that the value is selected by the Players and then reaction to these values occurs during the two (2) "Knock-Out" phases.

Much more excited now that I know the "24 Game" or POGs (Flippo) had there own MATH-oriented game ... Which is the opposite but still, it encourages me that the players should be able to HANDLE the "extra" cards (+2) and therefore a bit more operators/operands.

And just as a NOTE, in the case of First Player Advantage ... It isn't much but you do get to go first... There is a Monster whose Tactic is Passive: "First to activate starts the next Round". Which is another way of restoring balance or encouraging the second (2nd) Player to take the LEAD and start Round #2 or #3...

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