Skip to Content

Suitcases

12 replies [Last post]
rcjames14
rcjames14's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/17/2010

So... it's been revised, reconditioned, retooled, discussed and even playtested many times without any success. Despite my love for the theme, previous designs just haven't produced that fun factor... so it is one of those nagging designs that seems so close. Yet so far.

Perhaps you guys can help me see what I'm missing. Here's a link to the latest version:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hMjaCpoFI00KWluRi70NfVSUp0EYPeRpxic-...

It is a very casual card game, theme and mechanic alike. As a result, my major concern has been the balance of each card with the others. Every card needs to be conditionally good and there needs to be a sense of emergent control that players have over the table as they manage their hands. So, I have two primarily questions:

Is it all opportunistic play (or is there strategy)?
Is there one particular card that is always good or always bad?

If the answer to either of these questions is YES, then it needs to be fixed and I am open to suggestions.

Pastor_Mora
Pastor_Mora's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/05/2010
On Repacking

I see (think) one of the tricks you'll be trying to pull is to fill suitcases to a point where the next player in turn won't be able to fit a trinket (whatever that is), so he'll have to take a suitcase. I don't expect this to happen too often until the players get good at counting cards. So I see little point in giving the players a chance to repack. If I got it right, it gives them an additional chance to outmaneuver the trick the previous player tried to pull. Maybe there is an elaborate explanation of why that is there. This was just my first thought.

Well, actually the second. The first was: how many players? how much time?

And a third (most unprobable but nonetheless). What happens if there are no piles of luggage (the last player draw the last one remaining) and the player in turn doesn't have a suitcase in his hand to play? Could this be a variable ending condition? (maybe to counter card counting and add some strategy)

Keep thinking!

rcjames14
rcjames14's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/17/2010
Answers

Thanks for the insights so far.

To answer your first question, the idea of allowing players the ability to reorganize everything was a recent addition. It makes it harder to corner someone else into claiming a pile, but I think it balances trinkets well against suitcases. Suitcases become defensive cards and trinkets become attacking cards. It also fits well with the theme, being able to squeeze the last bit of space out of your bag.

However, I don't know if it will end up working like that or not. So... it is still flexible.

Number of players is 2 to 6 (60 is an even numerator)
Time for the game is 15 minutes

As written, the game ends whenever the last card is drawn... so players will always have 5 cards in their hand. Given the fact that people generally don't want to claim cards, I don't foresee more than one packing pile being empty at one time. The ending condition is also not fixed... it could be something else if you foresee a better alternative.

Pastor_Mora
Pastor_Mora's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/05/2010
My 2 cents

I thought managing to corner someone was the whole point, but maybe I'm missing something. Surely I am because I quite don't see how suitcases are "defensive" cards. Anyways, isn't repacking kinda fiddly? It will make calculations harder, and restacking the cards somehow annoying.

I think to keep the game from being just opportunistic play, you should be able to effectively count cards and play a cornering sequence of them. If you have 63 cards, chances are you won't be able to guess which cards the next player has (not until the very last rounds). Plus, with 6 people, the chances of playing a cornering sequence depend on the coordination of too many different people (who don't share information). So if a brilliant cornering sequence happens, chances are it will be just a dull coincidence, not a clever strategic maneuver.

I think you could make this game for 2 players and reduce the cards count by half or something.

I recommend you check the game Triumvirate by Indie Boards and Cards. It has a clever trick taking mechanic that allows interesting cornering strategies (for 2 players with just 27 cards).

Disclaimer: I haven't tested your game, so I might be imagining all this. Hope it still helps

Keep thinking!

Edit: almost forgot, even remotely possible, it could happen that there'll be not suitcases in place or in the in turn player's hand to add. So, then what?

drktron
drktron's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/18/2010
suitcases

First of all I like the mechanic and it melds well with the theme. In reading over the rules the game seems opportunistic. As it stands now each player has to fit random cards into random piles. I think the only real strategy is to try to force another player to claim a pile by filling them to the brim. Like pastor mora I think this would be difficult to accomplish especially in a multiplayer game, there would be too many variables to track. To make it more fun (and strategic) you need more direct player interaction. Maybe if a player "fills" a suitcase you can give it to another player to carry. The player who received the suitcase could on a subsequent turn try to pack that suitcase into another. At the end of the game you'd want to be the one with the least (lightest) luggage. Hope this may be helpful.

rcjames14
rcjames14's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/17/2010
Thanks Guys

Your insights about the game have been confirmed by previous playtesting. The game has been a bit 'fidgety' since most versions require players to pick up cards from the table in order to 'insert' other cards where there is room. It has also suffered from the counter-intuitive idea that a 10 suitcase doesn't actually hold 10 objects, but 9. Both of these things have reduced the fun factor of the game and proved to be huge burdens on the design because they seem to be inherent to the very theme of the game... suitcases nested inside suitcases.

I have not been able to figure out a way to have nesting without causing this handling issue. So... the design for the game either has no handling and no nesting or it has nesting and is 'fidgety'.

And, your observations about opportunistic play being linked to player number are spot on. In all versions (except the one where you have your own personal suitcase), more people make it less strategic. It becomes a game of hot potato with little strategy and a lot of in/out of cycle issues. It is for this reason, that I am inclined to pursue the game further only as either a two player game or as a real time card game. With only two players, you could control what each suitcase has much better. Whereas a real time card game would reduce the issue of control to speed/dexterity rather than strategy.

However, I wish I could salvage the multiplayer turn based game because I see this as a very light hearted family game rather than either a serious strategy game (two players) or a drinking game (real time). And, in order to fit that feel, it needs to be able to handle x number of players in turn based play.

If that is the direction it must go, then your feedback actually confirms to me again what I have known (and been unable to solve) about getting rid of the existing 'nesting' mechanism. As I see it, each suitcase is really just a stack with a finite limit. The goal of the game is either to collect as few as you can (like Poison) or as much as you can (like Rummy). And, if there is no nesting allowed, each stack can either be started with a suitcase (if the goal is to avoid collecting) or capped and claimed by a suitcase (if the goal is collect a lot).

However, in both circumstances there is a huge imbalance between a suitcase and a trinket... the suitcases become power cards because they allow you to choose your time of attack. Poison gets around this by making the Cauldrons a finite size so all cards are potions. But... the problem with adopting that solution is that it would likely mean recreating poison and getting rid of the whole theme of the game about packing suitcases.

So... the real question is how do you make a design where things can stack in one direction (or not be stacked at all) and at the same time let some of the objects simultaneously hold and not hold other objects?

Perhaps you have a suggestion... but I'm not sure there is one that involves stacking. I think the only solution is to have a common pool of all objects which are un-ordered. Players can then impose order by playing cards to the pool which can be used to combine with the existing items in a way that fills up a suitcase. That way a trinket and a suitcase both have equal potential to trigger a match.

I have already explored a design like this which has the players trying to avoid making a match... but it felt rather monotonous. There were never more than six suitcases on the table at a time because after six there would always be some way to match up items. The alternative is to give the players the goal of collecting items instead. But, I'm not sure how to do this without introducing a cycle / king maker problem where your opportunity to win depends upon where you sit in the turn order. Ultimately, when the board is being cleared based upon some combination of order, the previous player will have a huge influence on what you do and more often than not his decisions will determine whether you can win or not. That's why I tend to feel like 'avoidance' games are more stable in multiplayer environments than 'capture' games.

But, perhaps you can think of a way to structure play to a common pool which requires people to be very strategic even though they want to claim items there.

Coloretto does this somewhat effectively by entwining the destiny of objects and imposing penalties on collecting 'off' colors. Since you can only claim once per round and you must claim all in a row, the game creates a lot of patience and strategic thinking. However, it nevertheless suffers from a long-term king-maker problem. You want to avoid competing for the same colors with as many people as you can... so ultimately, the game tends to devolve down into a better of two bad choices for the third party. Essentially, once the other two players have committed to certain colors, you must choose who you are going to help lose with you (as you will end up splitting a finite resource).

So... the design remains vexing.

Btw, here are some of the previous designs/thoughts for the game:
http://www.evertidegames.com/?s=suitcases

drktron
drktron's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/18/2010
some suggestions

It seems like this has been very frustrating for you. I hope the game's issues can be solved because it seems to have potential. Don't give up :) I'm not sure how much this can help but here goes:
It seems in your approaches so far you either create a power imbalance between suitcase and trinket and/or a cycle/kingmaker issue. What if each trinket had a size value and a point value. Suitcases have a size and nesting capacity but no point value. This hopefully can balance out the power of the suitcase vs. the trinket. Now the kingmaker issue is difficult in a turn base multiplayer game. The person going before you will have a large effect on your turn. This is especially true if the same person goes before you each turn. So what if the game had a variable turn order? This will not eliminate the kingmaker effect completely but at least minimize it.

rcjames14
rcjames14's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/17/2010
Thanks Again

In fact, what you suggest was written into the very first version of the game as well as the one that went the farthest in playtesting. It seems rather natural that trinkets are worth points and suitcases can hold things.

Ironically, it is the very theme/name of the game that is the source of the frustration. It is the fact that suitcases can hold things means that the game is fidgety and counter-intuitive. So, it is these entwined properties which become the source of all the problems with the design. How do you allow nesting without repacking?

Here's an idea:

Make it more like Rummy, where you can draw cards into your hand. In that case, the players can repack (arrange sets) at their own leisure in their hand and cards are thus either picked up one at a time or played altogether to be scored.

But how to make it different than rummy and interesting?! Got any suggestions?

What if instead of a draw pile there are draft piles? And, what if, instead of adding to someone else's sets, you could 'capture' someone else's luggage if you can pack it in a larger suitcase? The game might still end when a player 'goes out', but if the trinkets are colored, then maybe you only score one of your colors and the rest count against you. That way, players might be wary about 'stealing' other people's luggage without requiring a poison pill dynamic.

What do you think?

schaur
Offline
Joined: 08/20/2010
Ditch the cards and go to

Ditch the cards and go to tiles or cut-outs.

Each packed item would be a different shaped tile (multiple of the same size is expected)

Suitcases can be packed in other suitcases

I would also remove the option to move items from one suitcase into another (nested or otherwise).

To remove the option of putting a 10 size rectangle into another, only have one 10 size rectangle suitcase.
10 size suitcases could take many forms, boxes, rectangles, odd shapes.

Any item not packed losses the value of the size
Any collected suitcase subtracts some value (suitcase size or unfilled squares)

In general the idea is similar to Blockus.

Pastor_Mora
Pastor_Mora's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/05/2010
Variants suggestions

schaur wrote:
Ditch the cards and go to tiles or cut-outs.
In general the idea is similar to Blockus.

While I read this, I was thinking Ubongo, that plays in real time. Lots of fun, but this could be a whole new deal design-wise.

I got kinda lost in your thoughts RC (I'm not a fan of the genre), so this may not have any sense:
- How about having 4 people with separate luggages and everyone plays 2 cards in his turn (one in your own suitcase and one in anyone else suitcase)? This way you alter turn order effects without actually altering turn order.
- How about having two different stats for each trinket (size and weight) so you need to carry the less weight, whatever the size? This makes scoring less intuitive but makes sense thematically (I rather carry two bags of cotton than one bag of books).

Yep, designs burn you up sometimes. I have my share of that. Still, keep thinking!

rcjames14
rcjames14's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/17/2010
Light and Humorous

Unfortunately, Suitcases was never envisioned as a boardgamey game. It was originally conceived by a friend of mine (who still retains creative veto on it) as a light, family friend, rather fast paced, silly card game. And, I continue to believe that that is its telos.

Unfortunately, in trying to balance the game and solve some of the trump card flaws in the original design, the redesigns got bogged down in physical card laying problems, counter-intuitive matching and general monotony. So, it became neither a very strategic game nor a very fun game.

But, here I am again, trying to make it work. ... Sometimes in what must sound like a stream of consciousness mind dump. Sorry about that Pastor_Mora.

In all that rambling, I actually did make cognitive headway and I found what I think may be a solution to the problem that has vexed me for so long. I wrote up something soon after the post and I plan to polish it up and post the new idea soon. But, basically, I think, if I can finesse one or two issues, I might have something that achieves the experience the game was always meant to me. Let's say, it's kind of like Hearts meets Rummy meets Pit.

Thanks all for your help so far.

schaur
Offline
Joined: 08/20/2010
Designer or Audience Loyalty

I don't know the best implementation for suitcases; but you should recognize whether you are designing this game for the designer or for the audience. (Of course, either is fine). Using words likes "intended" and "continue to believe ... telos" typically sacrifice finding an optimal/fun solution for a preconceived idea.

Question about your audience: By family game, I take it to mean you expect kids and parents to play. I think having actual pieces that can be shifted around in the luggage would be a lot more appealing to kids than a rummy based card game. You could design the pieces with vibrant colors and fun shapes representing really cool souvenirs. A fun aspect of the game is deciding which souvenir you must keep (play now) and which can be risked being left behind (play later). This aspect is made more real with pieces that you hold. How many kids enjoy playing Hearts, Rummy or Pit?

Anyway, the best of luck.

rcjames14
rcjames14's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/17/2010
Quite Right

Sometimes it's easy to forget that kids don't play card games. If you can get them away from a video game, it's usually boardgames that they want to play because of the tactile and non-abstract nature of them. However, with my family now well beyond those years and much more enthusiastic about casual card games... it's easy for me to lose sight of this fact.

I think, as far as the style of the game goes for Suitcases, I guess I should have said a game design that fits in the same genre as Uno. Something that kids will play along with adults but one that is defined more by the casual (variable number of players) environment than the age of the audience. Under some circumstances, people of all ages want a game that they can play that doesn't involve too much thought around a table or at the beach or at a picnic, where they don't need to pay too much attention to everything that is going on but nevertheless has a bit of a surprise factor to it.

This is the audience experience that both the original creator and I seek. However, you're quite right about about how there could still be viable games in other design directions.

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut