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Faction Quirks

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LunarGiantNeil
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Joined: 06/21/2014

I'm designing the Delve Deeper board game edition, based on the already rather tabletop video game of Delve Deeper--and having trouble coming up with good faction benefits for each of the Guilds you can play as. Players are Representatives of various dwarven Guilds sent to go exploit a mountain, so each team should have some benefits as well as unique units. But without knowing what's too much and what's too little, I'm kinda stuck, and it's slowing down playtesting.

What games do this especially well? I feel like I'm floundering a bit here. At the moment I'm playtesting with myself as an ad-hoc gamemaster, just to automate this aspect because I don't have any specifics written in.

Ideally, each faction will have a nice spread of special quirks they have and can unlock:

Like if the Mining Guild player gets a benefit that drops their tunnel construction cost from 4 to 2, then they can offer to do the tunneling for other players at a cost of 3, a profit for the Miners and a savings for everyone else. This alters the economy somewhat (less of a gold-sink, more money kept between players, etc) and gives everyone a bonus, though a bigger bonus to the Miners.

That's not very exciting, but it's thematic and works out well for the game. But it feels like I'm doing this the wrong way, and it's bogging down playtesting. So in addition to "Are there any good examples out there" I have a few specific questions:

1) How many special powers are the right amount for players to juggle personally, and how many can you "remember" so that the abilities of your allies don't keep slipping your mind? If each faction gets 1 benefit that seems small, but 10 would clearly be way too many.

2) Do players prefer active powers or passive powers? I prefer active powers myself--feels more energetic--but I know a lot of games work almost entirely off a basis of passive upgrades.

3) Is there a way players, in general, prefer faction benefits to impact the game? Some games make them minor quirks, some make them game changing. I know what I like, but without some outside examples I'm not positive what to design towards.

4) Would people prefer a single ability that gets upgraded to include new quirks and special functions, or would they prefer several different abilities that could be unlocked in any order? I feel like the first feels really good, but the latter offers more flexibility.

Lastly,

One of the aspects of the game is that getting a new ability requires a Work Permit to granted: this requires a simple majority among the players at the table. The concept behind the table-approval of your Work Permit is that it gives more opportunities to negotiate, make some deals, trade some favors, etc.

But because I'm not making the unlocking of a new power too difficult (ie, it's not a big resource sink or something) people can expect to gain access to at least some of them fairly quickly, presumably trading votes with other players in a reciprocal deals. So I try to stagger out a few benefits that help everyone, and then some that are mostly selfish, and some in between. You're only likely to get a selfish work permit through arm-twisting or some real palm-greasing.

You could also end up not getting access to them at all, if nobody was playing that Guild or your buddies at the table are screwing you, so none of these can be essential. They've got to be fun, beneficial, but optional.

(I may include a way to buy a Permit even with zero approval at the table, just as a safety valve if you get entirely stonewalled)

So what next?

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Thoughts

A couple of comments that sort of answer your questions.

Starting abilities: No more than 3, with at least one passive and at least one active. In fact, 2 -- one of each -- is probably fine.

Gaining abilities: I'm ok with the vote, but make it so that you only need half, not a strict majority. So, in a 4-player game, you only have to bribe one person; in a 5- or 6-player game, two others. Generally there will be one-third of the other players desperate enough for money that they can be bribed reasonably.

Rather than having one player selling his services to another, which just makes for a book-keeping pain, you might just make the "Miners' Guild" passive benefit be that whenever anyone builds a mine, it costs them (per unit length) 4 gold, of which one goes to the Miners' Guild player.

Similarly, when you sell gems, for every 5 gold you get, the Jewelers' Guild player gets 1.

Some more ability suggestions:
* start with one or two extra workers
* Farmers: food is free
* Rabbit-people: faster population growth
* Landlord player, to whom everyone must pay rent based on their population
* Auctioneers: Take a cut when cards/skills/whatever are auctioned off.
* Inventors: Gradually invent tools to eliminate the other players' benefits with respect to himself. e.g. an automated mining device that enables them to build mines for the same cost the Miners' Guild can build them himself, and pays nothing to the guild.
* Clergy: Other players must pay him or starts having 'accidents.'
* Extortionist: Other players must pay him or starts having 'accidents.'

Some Random Dude
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Joined: 01/30/2014
So I'm probably in the

So I'm probably in the minority in this, but I don't really think there is an upper limit for how many abilities each player gets (depending on the weight of the game). Sure, a 30-45 minute game doesn't need a whole bunch of special things, but you look at something like TI3 and Rex, which have multiple different abilities, different starting units, different win conditions, different starting positions, etc. I think it adds a WHOLE lot to a game. On the flip side, Cosmic Encounter has only one special ability per alien typically, but the abilities change the game in such drastic ways that the games are completely different and dynamic.

I think if you limit it to 1-3 unique things, then they better be big changes. Buying stuff at a discount isn't big enough in my opinion - but your example (buying at a discount and having people sell to you to get a partial discount) is good. That's a basic trading principle used in Settlers of Catan all the time, but it works.

I don't know all the details of your game, but different abilities that trigger at different times is also nice. Something at game setup, an ability or two that change your play throughout the game, and an alternate win condition will give players a lot of variety that will keep them satisfied. For active vs. passive, I prefer neither one over the other. Active is definitely more dynamic for people, but passive can be just as distinct.

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