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Looking for mechanics AND theme

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pompoli
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Joined: 10/19/2008

Hi everybody, this is my first post here. I've been lurking for two days and haven't really designed anything yet. I guess I'm still welcome?

I have a vague idea for a game, but no mechanics or theme yet. The idea is to have something where at first you build, (not necessarily concretely) and maybe fight the other players a little for resources, but then the game slowly starts turning against you, (and everyone else, naturally) tearing apart everything you've built, until it becomes impossible to survive. Last man/woman standing wins. Or possibly the best survivor, whatever that means. So it should be a contest of who can build the most durable whatever it is they're building. I don't want the rules of the game to suddenly change, rather it should be the same game from the beginning to the bitter end, just gradually turning into hell. I would also like to encourage the players to do some teamwork when the world starts crumbling around them.

As I said, I have neither theme nor mechanics, (unless you count what I just told you) and I shamelessly ask you for ideas. My ideas so far:
- Increasing costs for things, upkeep and such.
- An enemy that keeps growing in strength.
- Running out of resources to gather.
(- And maybe making it abstract)

But I would like to have something a little less obvious. Sorry if I'm being too vague, and thank you in advance.

Also, has this been done? I couldn't think of any games with a similar idea.

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
Financial crisis

pompoli wrote:
...just gradually turning into hell. I would also like to encourage the players to do some teamwork when the world starts crumbling around them...
...
- Increasing costs for things, upkeep and such.
- An enemy that keeps growing in strength.
- Running out of resources to gather...

Financial crisis? ;-)

Néstor

Raiderjakk
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Joined: 10/19/2008
I second this. We need a

I second this. We need a good game of financial meltdown to take our minds off of, well, financial meltdown. :-)

tlmirkes
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Oddly enough...

I was just thinking about something akin to a financial meltdown game today, and precisely in the context of a game in which you create a system, and your only goal is to be standing when that system gets done tearing itself apart. Does anyone else know of any games right off hand that start with the premise "You can't win, only die later than the other guys"? I'm awake long after I should've been asleep, so I'm drawing a blank at the moment...

benshelmars
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Meltdown

The game I am currently compiling is "Critical Collapse", it doesn't begin with a meltdown but the odds are that it ends with one. It takes more than one player to avoid the impending disasters, some of which the players have set in motion by their own actions and some which are just Mother Nature. However the game is quite complex and not very appealing to many people.

GrimFinger
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And who is going to want to

And who is going to want to play yet another boring old financial game? Oh, come on, now. You know it. I know it. Even they know it. You do want people to play your game, don't you?

What you might want to consider is a game more along the lines of...

C*A*T*A*C*L*Y*S*M

Yeah, that's right - Cataclysm! The idea comes from pre-Conan times, before the Hyborian Age. Here's a quote from Robert E. Howard:

"Then the Cataclysm rocked the world. Atlantis and Lemuria sank, and the Pictish Islands were heaved up to form the mountain peaks of a new continent. Sections of the Thurian Continent vanished under the waves, or sinking, formed great inland lakes and seas. Volcanoes broke forth and terrific earthquakes shook down the shining cities of the empires. Whole nations were blotted out."

You don't have to set the game on the Thurian Continent, though. The Cataclysm, itself, doesn't even necessarily have to occur during the game. It should certainly be a possibility, though. The setting could just as easily be modern day.

The terrain can physically change, or you can simply utilize effects without having changeable physical terrain. The Cataclysm could be triggered different ways, such as drawing a certain card, or a certain roll on a player's dice, or via a timer mechanism.

By the Cataclysm not being a certainty, players would need to still focus upon building and growing and living their everyday lives in the game setting. That may be empire building or picking bananas, just pretty much whatever suits your fancy. But, once and if the Cataclysm does strike, the game changes dramatically. You would want, I think, a lot of uncertainty to loom large over the game and players, at that particular point. The pace of the game might become more frantic, and turns between players grows shorter in duration. More than one deck of cards might help, a cataclysm deck and a non-cataclysm deck, at the very least. Or, the same deck, and individual cataclysm events scattered amongst one deck with other non-cataclysm event cards. Or, when the cataclysm strikes, players continue to draw from the non-cataclysm deck each turn, but they also then start drawing one card from the cataclysm deck, too. It all just depends upon what you have in mind.

If a player can play a cataclysm card that they draw against another player of their choice, then players might take delight in play, once the cataclysm strikes. It might be fun to wreak havoc on other players' carefully crafted empires/villages.

This may not be exactly what you had in mind, but perhaps it will be of some help, just the same.

dannorder
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I think the idea has a lot of

I think the idea has a lot of potential, but as GrimFinger says, whether it is something people will want to play or have fun playing can have a lot to do with the theme you choose.

I agree that a financial situation will probably scare people off. But other scenarios certainly are possible. Halloween is approaching, so those kind of themes spring immediately to mind. For example, there are a lot of zombie-themed games, but none really seem to capture the flavor of a hopeless zombie apocalypse style situation as in most modern movies on the topic. Similarly, there are a number of Cthulhu-inspired games, but few get that the whole point was that humans are supposed to be completely hopeless in those situations; instead people pick up shotguns and start killing monsters left and right. GrimFingers' idea of a cataclysm sounds promising too. Something like Atlantis everyone will have heard about, so when it sinks nobody (or almost no one) is going to cry foul with the expectation that they would have survived.

MatthewF
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In The Year Of The Dragon has

In The Year Of The Dragon has definite elements of this, as does a Ragnarok-themed game I once played.

There was an interesting article on BoardGameNews by Tom Rosen about games that tear things down as they go on, which he called "survival games." He has some great examples, I recommend checking it out.

kodarr
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Joined: 08/04/2008
Games where you are trying to survive

The only one I can think of with that premesis is EVO. You play dinos and the world around you slowly kills you off. You need to different temperature zones before everything dies out. In the end you must be the last standing and even then you still are considered to die out just you win the game also. I never played it but reading reviews this is what I got out of it.
I know it uses powerups etc allowing you to be more adaptable to different environments etc.

grubby
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Joined: 12/11/2008
All hell breaks loose

This sounds like you've hit on an idea for a global warming game maybe?

kungfugeek
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Joined: 09/10/2008
Other games...

Galaxy Trucker has you building up a spaceship and then a bunch of random events tear it apart, but I haven't played it.
Merchants of Amsterdam has a turn marker where things happen in a preset schedule, and things generally get worse for everybody.
Tulipmania (another I haven't played) simulates a kind of Tulip investment market that inevitably crashes.
In Princes of Florence, the minimum value that a work needs to be in order to be worth anything at all increases each turn. Making it harder and harder to finish great works.
Pompeii from Mayfair (might not be the right name) has players moving people out of the city to escape an erupting volcano.
Mall of Horror has someone die every turn from zombies...
Werewolf/Mafia also have an auto-kill each turn.

In your game, a simple upkeep mechanic that grows exponentially with the size of a player's empire/team/bank account would make resources in general tighter and tighter as the game progressed.

SiddGames
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Gloria Mundi

Although still a Euro building game at heart, Gloria Mundi has players buying cards that are used to generate "steps away from Rome" as the barbarian hordes march from northern Italy toward Rome. Each turn, a player must either offer tribute (money) to the horde or they destroy one of your cards in play. Eventually someone won't pay tribute and when that happens, ALL the accumulated "tearing down" spaces on the track activate; no matter what, the same number of "destructions" happens each game, it's just delaying the turn-by-turn losses into periodic bigger losses.

I have some game ideas for a semi-coop survival game, originally based on the movie Aliens, toward the end when they are trying to survive until the drop ship can pick them up. My idea was that individuals were so weak compared to the alien horde that they had to stick together to help fight them off, but at a certain point, someone can make a break for the ship to try escaping. The tension would be deciding at what point are you able to break from the group and not die to beat the others to the ship. Not sure if that's the sort of thing you were thinking of. I've also thought a zombie survival version of this where players barricade themselves into a house and eventually must retreat room by room... at what point does a player barricade himself into one of the last rooms, leaving everyone else to die.

Whymme
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There is this game that is

There is this game that is used in management courses. A sort of prisoners' dilemma (pay-off is a bit different). It is for four people, and consists of ten rounds.
Everyone has two cards, one marked with an X, one with a Y. Each round, they show one of the cards, and then get points based on what everybody plays. The points are somewhat like this:

0X, 4Y: Everyone gets 1 point
1X, 3Y: The person playing X gets 3 points, people playing Y get nothing
2X, 2Y: People playing X get 2 points each, people playing Y get nothing
3X, 1Y: People playing X get 1 point each, person playing Y gets nothing
4X, 0Y: Everyone loses one point.

In most rounds conferring is forbidden; you can only confer three times or so during the game. Also, some rounds have a multiplier, where you can gain (or lose) two, three, or five times the normal pay-off.

The base idea is that the group as a whole is best off if everyone plays Y all the time. However, if people do that, the individual can gain more points by choosing X. If you choose Y, you are loyal to the group, if you choose X, you are selfish. If one or more persons act selfish, the loyal people are punished, which encourages them to be selfish as well, However, if everyone acts selfish, everyone gets punished - harsher than if they had stayed loyal in a selfish world. But at least they have the satisfaction that the other selfish people don't profit from them.

Edit: anyway, I'm posting this here because I think that it would be cool if the trigger for the disaster that you want, is the selfish behaviour of the players. Something like, resources grow from round to round, and players can gather those resources. There could be some kind of balance, if players don't take more resources than what is growing. However, if one or more players take more resources, the balance is distorted, and resources cannot grow fast enough anymore to keep up with the players' needs. So if one player picks more than he should, the system falls down. But you cannot win from the others if you don't take more than you should.

(Yeah, I know - it sounds like a pretty moralistic ecological tale).

Lucas.Castro
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Couple of Thoughts

grubby wrote:
This sounds like you've hit on an idea for a global warming game maybe?

I think one potentially interesting way to go is mentioned here by Grubby.

Another potential direction that came to my mind: the game has different stages, with the following being a possibility.
1. Opulence [players build and thrive]
2. Disaster/Cataclysm [major change, there is destruction and deterioration of systems]
3. Survival [trying to outlive the chaos].

You could even have different strategies on Phase 1: players could go for building in a way that helps living through Phase 2. But this approach leads to diminished production. Or they can go for building a Phase 1 golden age, where they receive major production/riches/etc, but their society falls apart quickly in Phase 2. The trick would make the advantages of each be different.

brisingre
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Joined: 01/21/2009
A take on the idea

I'm seeing a fairly standard economy/diplomacy/combat game (pick a big-box amerigame, you've got about a 50% chance of getting one.) There would be one primary difference, manifesting as a deck that caused disasters. Each card represents a sort of catastrophe, of various magnitudes. Some of them just kill off troops or workers or buildings. The worst of them renders a territory completely unoccupiable. A very few of them might be helpful. Each card has a frequency. At the end of each round (most games with this scale end up using rounds, rather than turns) you roll a die for each card in play. If you roll over the frequency, it activates and you do whatever it says. This usually entails drawing a random territory to hurt, but not always. These cards represent, effectively, the Wrath of God. (Well, probably The Gods. I'm seeing this as fantasy.) Therefore, you draw a card whenever someone does something that irritates them. The real catch is that the things that irritate the gods happen to be exactly what you want to do. The gods are a selfish lot. You irritate them by colonizing the really rich territories, using whatever the top military unit is, etc. Things that are helpful to you, bringing us back to the Prisoner's dilemma. Each player's attempt to get ahead screws up everybody. If nobody takes anything too great, the game proceeds as a strategy game. If one person betrays the group and irritates the gods, everybody suffers. This includes the person who made the power-grab, but they get the benefit of whatever they took. Of course, if everybody grabs for the good stuff, you're rolling thirty catastrophes a round and at least ten of them are connecting. If this happens, the Gods are actually eliminating players. Everybody suffers.

I have a feeling this isn't quite you had in mind. After all, this is a self-destructive strategy game, rather than a survival game with preparation time. I really like this idea, and unless you take it I'll probably prototype it myself at some point.

The Magician
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Joined: 12/23/2008
GrimFinger wrote:And who is

GrimFinger wrote:
And who is going to want to play yet another boring old financial game? Oh, come on, now. You know it. I know it. Even they know it. You do want people to play your game, don't you?

What you might want to consider is a game more along the lines of...

C*A*T*A*C*L*Y*S*M

Yeah, that's right - Cataclysm! The idea comes from pre-Conan times, before the Hyborian Age. Here's a quote from Robert E. Howard:

"Then the Cataclysm rocked the world. Atlantis and Lemuria sank, and the Pictish Islands were heaved up to form the mountain peaks of a new continent. Sections of the Thurian Continent vanished under the waves, or sinking, formed great inland lakes and seas. Volcanoes broke forth and terrific earthquakes shook down the shining cities of the empires. Whole nations were blotted out."

You don't have to set the game on the Thurian Continent, though. The Cataclysm, itself, doesn't even necessarily have to occur during the game. It should certainly be a possibility, though. The setting could just as easily be modern day.

The terrain can physically change, or you can simply utilize effects without having changeable physical terrain. The Cataclysm could be triggered different ways, such as drawing a certain card, or a certain roll on a player's dice, or via a timer mechanism.

By the Cataclysm not being a certainty, players would need to still focus upon building and growing and living their everyday lives in the game setting. That may be empire building or picking bananas, just pretty much whatever suits your fancy. But, once and if the Cataclysm does strike, the game changes dramatically. You would want, I think, a lot of uncertainty to loom large over the game and players, at that particular point. The pace of the game might become more frantic, and turns between players grows shorter in duration. More than one deck of cards might help, a cataclysm deck and a non-cataclysm deck, at the very least. Or, the same deck, and individual cataclysm events scattered amongst one deck with other non-cataclysm event cards. Or, when the cataclysm strikes, players continue to draw from the non-cataclysm deck each turn, but they also then start drawing one card from the cataclysm deck, too. It all just depends upon what you have in mind.

If a player can play a cataclysm card that they draw against another player of their choice, then players might take delight in play, once the cataclysm strikes. It might be fun to wreak havoc on other players' carefully crafted empires/villages.

This may not be exactly what you had in mind, but perhaps it will be of some help, just the same.

This theme is really cool. I had some ideas for chaos or cataclysm that occured in a "year of Chaos" in a five year cycle. THe first four years of game play, game years, players played the game and had the option to aquire things that would protect there home or castles or whatever from disasters. So you have your little house, then empty squars next to it, where tiles would be placed that offer protection from certain disasters. On the fifth year, year of chaos, disaster cards are drawn, players who are unprepared suffer the consiquences, and visa versa.

For example, I as a player who is really considering getting prepared for disasters, while my oponents are dinking around in other actions in the game, decide to purchase a food starage for a potential food shortage. I buy the food storage, and a food token with a corn cob or something on it is placed on the little grid next to my house. I have that base covered. Later, I decide to build an underground (UG) next to my house, that I can live in to be protected from a major disaster. I place a UG tile on my grid. "The Year of Charos" comes, and disaster cards are drawn. The first just happens to be "food contamination"-I'm covered. A little later another disaster card is drawn: The worst fire in recorded history, the sky is on fire the earth is scorched. Or it could be floods, or armies lay siege on your village and house. If you have that UG tile next to your house, your covered again.

MusedFable
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I like fictional themes like

I like fictional themes like zombies, nuclear war, overwhelming fantasy doom (LOTR but you fail), sci-fi civilizations facing the end of time because of entropy.

Taavet
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I think it's Dungeon Twister

An old fantasy dungeon crawl where you head into the dungeon in seach of treasure which is found in the middle of the area under a sleeping dragon.

Doom and destruction could be and are almost at every turn. If you do make it into the middle the more gold is taken the better chance the dragon wakes up.

So players could prepare with various types of equipment to enter the dungeon then use them to overcome obsticles on the way. As their equipment gets used up it becomes harder and harder to progress and at dusk if they aren't out, the dragon wakes up for its nightly prowl and would surely smell and easily chase down any intruders within its lair.

You could also add 'impending doom' by stacking a deck/chit bag. At the beginning of the game you have a 1-20 chance of pulling a tragedy. On your turn you must take one which gets replaced with a tragedy card. So eventually all the good stuff will get used up and it will just be tragedy after tragedy befalling the players. Whoever pulled the most beneficial cards would have the best chance of surviving.

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