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Event card mechanic

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jwarrend
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I came up with a simple mechanic for handling events that I thought might be useful to others.

There is a deck of 12 event cards, numbered 1-12. These are shuffled together, and 3 are revealed and resolved each turn, and then the lowest number card is discarded, and a new card is drawn from the pile to replace it the following turn.

That's it -- pretty simple. What is neat about the system is that you can structure the deck so that different events are more likely to "hang around" (by giving them higher numbers) while others will almost certainly occur only once and then disappear (the ones with the lower numbers). You can do other tweaks such as shuffling other cards back into the deck, occasionally discarding the highest number card to prevent truly long term stagnation, etc.

I'm trying to implement the mechanic for my game "Sands of Time" and the events system has been a struggle throughout the game's development; I need something impactful enough that people will have to struggle against it, but not so devastating that it unduly influences the course of the game. Additionally, the system needs to be pretty quick to resolve and shouldn't involve very many player decisions. This system seems to provide a useful solution; each event is fairly minor in its effect but you face up to 3 each turn, and some of these, if they hit you turn after turn after turn, will build up in impact over time.

The system is still in pretty early testing but so far it seems interesting; the fact that you know what 2 of the 3 events are going to be gives you some ability to plan ahead. I don't actually know if having the events occur continuously until discarded is important or not; if not, it's easy enough to switch to "discard the lowest card and then shuffle all the others back into the deck".

MatthewF
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Neat mechanic, Jeff. I've

Neat mechanic, Jeff. I've seen a broader form, where some cards are discarded from the game after play and others go into the discard pile, but this is much tighter and makes for a more interesting system. Fun!

Jeremiah_Lee
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I like it!

Thanks for putting this up. I could see switching it around a few different ways for different uses, and it could really be helpful in getting things moving in one of my stalled games moving.

Thanks for the idea.

sedjtroll
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Maybe just 2

Maybe even just 2 events at a time would suffice, with one to stick around until next round.

I like the idea of each event lasting an indeterminate number of rounds, with the lowest number (or highest, either way) leaving so you can make big, influential events short lived and incremental events last a bit longer.

Note however that in your example, event #12 would never leave play once it comes out, and then #11 (if both it and 12 are out), etc.

A similar thought is to number each event some number between 1 and 6, and then roll a d6 to see if the events stay or go (if the number rolled is = or greater than the event goes away)... so each event could be given a greater or lesser chance of ending. Similarly, instead of a die roll, the number could be attached to another part of the game. If there's X or more unrest (for example), then the event ends. Each event could be tied to a specific thing that makes sense for the event perhaps, and should count total contribution of all players.

Just some ideas to go along with your event card thing... Neat idea to start with!

- Seth

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
sedjtroll wrote:Maybe even

sedjtroll wrote:
Maybe even just 2 events at a time would suffice, with one to stick around until next round.

Absolutely. In "Sands", there are 3 events because it's symmetric with the three "achievement" categories, political, cultural and civil. (Going into "too much information" mode here for a second...) The latest version has the 8 available actions in a 4x2 array and above each column is one of these three symbols, or the "unrest" symbol, and if you use one of the actions in a given column, you get a token in that achievement category (or unrest). So the three events cards go in bins that correspond to the three achievement categories, and if you used an action in the corresponding category, you incur the event in that bin.

But sure, you could go with 2, or 4 events, if that was a better fit for a given game.

Quote:
I like the idea of each event lasting an indeterminate number of rounds, with the lowest number (or highest, either way) leaving so you can make big, influential events short lived and incremental events last a bit longer.

I think that's the real strength of the system, it allows events that are very different in scope to be included in a game's event system. You could even (perhaps) trigger scoring rounds in this way.

Quote:
Note however that in your example, event #12 would never leave play once it comes out, and then #11 (if both it and 12 are out), etc.

In Sands, I added a rule whereby after a scoring round, you remove the [i]highest[/i] number rather than the lowest. Presumably any implementation of the mechanic would need something like this to prevent stagnation.

Quote:

A similar thought is to number each event some number between 1 and 6, and then roll a d6 to see if the events stay or go (if the number rolled is = or greater than the event goes away)... so each event could be given a greater or lesser chance of ending. Similarly, instead of a die roll, the number could be attached to another part of the game. If there's X or more unrest (for example), then the event ends. Each event could be tied to a specific thing that makes sense for the event perhaps, and should count total contribution of all players.

I think those are good ideas for ways to flesh out the mechanic. I particularly like the idea that players can collectively deal with an event and remove it from the deck. I had a thought that you could give each player an individual event deck and taking certain actions lets you remove actions from the deck, but the common deck is a bit easier to implement.

-Jeff

tdishman
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Joined: 08/05/2008
Nice idea

This is a nifty idea which really turns the light bulb on for many other similar mechanics. Thanks for sharing!

InvisibleJon
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Joined: 07/27/2008
A quick idea...

Aside from having effects of different "stickiness" you can also have pair-linked effects. An example:

Card 5 says, "All players gain a pineapple. If Card 12 is in play, all players also lose three lemurs."

Control Group
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Quote:In Sands, I added a

Quote:
In Sands, I added a rule whereby after a scoring round, you remove the [i]highest[/i] number rather than the lowest. Presumably any implementation of the mechanic would need something like this to prevent stagnation.

Is a scoring round triggered by a random event or a player event (sorry if you've explained this elsewhere; I'm new here)? I ask, because if it's the latter, I like the extra layer of strategy added by the mechanic. Either way, it's an idea I like a lot.

larienna
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Similar to Pandemic

This mechanic is simmilar to pandemic, it's an event management mechanic, but does not have the same outcome.

In pandemic the discarded cards always come back on top of the deck and cards from the bottom of the deck get's added to the top. So the outcome is that the same cards keep appearing over and over again.

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Joined: 07/22/2008
Twilight Struggle

Reminds me a bit of the way cards are handled in Twilight Struggle. Players draw cards from a common deck, and have the choice of playing a card for its "operations points" or for its event. A card that is played for ops points is discarded afterwards, and the discards may later be reshuffled and played again. A card played for its event may afterwards be discarded or removed entirely from the game, depending on the card. Furthermore, the deck is really three decks: the first deck is in the game from the start, the second is added in some time later, and the third is added late in the game.

This mechanism lends a really nice "story arc" to the game.

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Control Group wrote: Is a

Control Group wrote:

Is a scoring round triggered by a random event or a player event (sorry if you've explained this elsewhere; I'm new here)? I ask, because if it's the latter, I like the extra layer of strategy added by the mechanic. Either way, it's an idea I like a lot.

In my game, it's triggered randomly, but this is mostly a consequence of the fact that there are only 12 rounds in the game, and 4 of those will be scoring rounds. A game that had more turns could easily have a player-triggered scoring round that would indeed complement a mechanic like this: if that high-number event is killing you turn after turn, you might actively want to end the round sooner to get rid of it.

I think it's quite possible the mechanic would be a better fit for other games than mine!

Larienna wrote:
This mechanic is simmilar to pandemic, it's an event management mechanic, but does not have the same outcome.

It is similar to Pandemic in a sense. Unlike Pandemic, there isn't really a good way to "mitigate" the events; you can't prevent them from happening but since you do have some awareness of what is probably coming down the pike, you can factor that into your planning. The other and biggest difference is that it explicitly defines some events as "worse" than others, and arranges them in a hierarchical fashion that controls the relative frequency of "severe" and "less severe" events. In a sense, this is the whole purpose of the mechanic. Pandemic's system is more about getting something to happen repeatedly, and it works great, but it makes no judgment about which location is "worse" than another; it sort of lets players figure that out for themselves and plan accordingly, which works great in that game.

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