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The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences - A co-operative Steampunk game

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Casamyr
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Hi all. Firstly, let me say its been a long time since I ventured onto these forums - nigh on 4 years and its been an eventful 4 years of rebuilding after a major earthquake and other fairly life changing stuff, but finally, finally I am back tinkering with board game design. Now, enough of that, you'll be asking "Cas - The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences? Steampunk? tell me more!"

Well, hopefully that's what you are saying.

Now this idea I've had germinating for around a year or so and finally I've been able to start to get some ideas down. What I needed to do was to share it and get feedback and input on some design aspects that I am struggling with and BGDF was the first place I though of - before BGG I know. I just hoped this fantastic community was around.

So, here we go.

Players are taking the role of Agents in the Minstry of Peculiar Occurrences whose goal is to take on those weird assignments that others can't. It is a co-operative game where players must work together in order to win.

At the start of the game, players choose a Peculiar Occurrence to complete. Each Peculiar Occurrence requires a number of secrets to be discovered, or a certain event to occur, in order to stop it from happening. To find a secret, players need to investigate regions of the city. Each city area has a number of investigations that can take place there. The Palace District for instance will only ever have 1 investigation has it is heavily patrolled to protect the royal family. Whereas Whitechapel (tentative name - see below) can have up to 4 or 5 investigations – a place dank and devoid of light.

Each Peculiar Occurrence outlines the total number of investigations and secrets that need to be completed and the time limit

INVESTIGATIONS

To investigate. Players draw a card off the investigation deck and read it. There are two kinds of Investigations.

Weird Stuff (needs a better, cooler name) and Secrets
Weird stuff are cards that are, usually, negative events that affect players such as spawning a minion in a region, maybe causing the passing of time, strange things occurring that could affect players, or even gain a new talent or skill, who knows what else.

Secrets are vital discoveries. As each secret is uncovered and foiled, it takes the investigators one step closer to preventing the Peculiar Occurrence from happening. Each Occurrence has its own Secrets which are seeded into the Investigation deck. Secrets often have a number of things that need to be completed, such as going to x and doing y.

So a complete example:
A Dark England?
Vampires on the streets are agitated, more so than normal and with good cause. The Agency has uncovered a plot from a new vampire hive who are intending to turn Her Royal Majesty, Queen Victoria, into a Vampire and create a new Dark England. The Agents must find and kill the Vampire Queen before she reaches Her Royal Majesty.

Goal – Find the Vampire Queen and kill her before dawn (7am). The clock starts at dusk (7pm).

Number of investigations: 12 – 8 Peculiar Occurrences + 4 secrets
Secrets.

Locate and Destroy the Vampire Hive
· Destroying the Hive means the Vampire Queen has a lesser number of minions during the final battle.

Cull Vampires
· Vampires are terrorising a district or two. Place an infestation marker or two random locations. Each time an investigation spawns minions, these locations also spawn minions. Players can spend time to destroy an infestation marker as they stop it from spreading.

Gather protective charms
· Players must go to x place and gather protective charms and place them on the Palace Tile. Once there, thralls cannot enter or be spawned the Palace district and the Vampire Queen is vulnerable to normal weapons, rather than Vampire specific requirements.

Find Mina Harker
· Finding Mina places the Queen on the Map, prior to her activation. Players know where she is and can attempt to kill her, before it is too late. Of course, without the right equipment, Players may fall foul of the vampire plaque themselves.

BUILDING THE MAP
Players lay out tiles to build the city. Now here I am unsure whether to base this on a Victorian London or a unique city on my own creation. There are 7 locations in the game. They are not meant to be a true representation of Victorian London, if I go that route, just famous parts. Each area will have its own, unique number of possible Investigation sites, separate sub-locations and thus separate actions available to it.

Now where I am really stuck is how the players should interact with the board. I was thinking that each player is a unique agent of the Ministry, with unique skills. Now how I implement that is where I am falling down.

Do I look at a system like Pandemic where each agent has one unique skill that they can activate each turn?

Do I have a system where Agents are built using cards based on their role and traits that means that each character has a unique setup every time you play. So for example you could have an Agent whose role is Alchemist who has skills around alchemy which could be useful, his trait is Daring. Daring might give a skill where taking risks might give a reward - an extra reroll when outnumbered for instance. Just thinking out loud here.

Then on top of this, its how those cards are used - are they one use only cards, do they require dice to power, a bit of random factors into the gameplay. Granted at this stage, its still budding and more ideas will be coming as I nail things down and move closer to a play test format, but any ideas and thoughts would be much appreciated.

wombat929
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Established property

Hi,

Your post doesn't give any indication of whether you're attached to the established property or not, but I'm afraid this is a series of novels:

http://www.ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com/novels/

Your idea could hold up just fine, but you'd need to find a different name for it. Unless you're attached to that property, in which case, disregard this whole message.

Casamyr
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Not attached

Damn! that's why that name has been tickling the back on my mind for the last week or so. I read the first book in that series a couple of years ago and that's where it's come from. I vaguely remember something about an Octopus in it - the sigil of the bad guys maybe, can't quite remember now.

Actually, I was more inspired by the world of the Gail Carriger novels.

I'll have to think of a new name for it, rats.

Soulfinger
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Just don't settle on The

Just don't settle on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is to say that the whole Bureau of Steampunk Dudes Who Have Wacky Talents and Adventures thing has been done many times over -- although you are welcome to use the BSDWHWTA title, if you like.

Evil ColSanders
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The Department of Secrets and

The Department of Secrets and Obscurities.

Also, not to dishearten you, the game sounds a lot like arkham horror. Spawn portals in which monsters spawn. Use clue tokens to close them. Occasionally a mythos card starts a side quest such as everyone who goes to X location before a new quest pops, gets a reward... or evil guy is on the loose. Spend clues at Y location to stop him. If new quests pops, you fail and bad stuff happens.

It's steampunk, so I'm down to play it. If it's less than arkham horror, which is 4+ hours long, then I'll definitely play it. You just have to make it different enough that people don't draw similarities to arkham like I do.

Casamyr
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I like that name. That's

I like that name. That's pretty cool.

I hadn't really thought of it being like Arkham/Eldritch Horror to be honest, but I can see where you are coming from. Its something I'll need to be aware of as I get further into the design. Now its been brought to my attention I'll watch out for any Arkham creep.

I'm aiming for a game length around 1-2 hours which an ideal game time. There is nothing wrong with Arkham, it's a great game, but sometimes a 3-4 hour game is not what we want to play.

wombat929
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The Arkham Creep

Casamyr wrote:
...I'll watch out for any Arkham creep.

The Arkham creep is my least favorite monster to pull from the bag.

Soulfinger
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wombat929 wrote:The Arkham

wombat929 wrote:
The Arkham creep is my least favorite monster to pull from the bag.

But it's one helluva dance move!

Evil ColSanders
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I'm a wordsmith. No charge

I'm a wordsmith. No charge this time.

let-off studios
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I like the notion of having a

I like the notion of having a card/tile that indicates the role, and a second card/tile that indicates a character trait. "Quentin Porksmith, the Daring Alchemist."

Assembling characters based on word descriptors seems an interesting - and speedy - way to generate a useful character. The spell-crafting mechanic of Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards comes to mind.

There have been a number of videogames released lately that deal with added-on character traits, both positive and negative. Darkest Dungeon and Rogue Legacy have mechanics that add to successive characters. I could easily see a board game like this adopting such a mechanic, provided you went with adding similar descriptors to enemies and locations.

It's very nearly a "mad libs" style of game mechanic, selecting a Verb and a Noun to describe each member of the secret society. The advantage is that tremendous variety is created, at the cost of randomness and/or balance issues. It seems to me like a LOT of fun.

Casamyr
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That's what I was thinking.

That's what I was thinking. As well as generating character with a noun and verb, each has a unique skill that goes with it, thus each time you play, you have a different experience character wise.

Where I am struggling is how players interact with the game - whether they are moving around the board collectively as a group or as individuals moving around.

I think once i get through this part, the rest will come together fairly quickly, it's me trying to work how the best way for players to interact with the other mechanics in order for it to be fun.

Evil ColSanders
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I enjoy the "name and title"

I enjoy the "name and title" mechanic. Smallworld is a good example. I use it in my wargame but just a descriptor. One of my characters, "Janna Hartford - Distraught Mother" comes to mind.

In your game, please make sure characters and titles are chosen at random. I don't like gamers reading and analyzing the cards to get "the best combination".

Together is fast but easily boring since if you tackle the investigation together, you just choose who among the group is best suited for the challenge. (Unless you make every challenge nearly impossible, even as a group.)

Apart is fun, but takes a LOT longer and doesn't keep everyone engaged when it's not their turn. I would actually like the mechanic of not being able to talk to other players unless you are in the same location or have a communication device.

Oh! Oh! Oh! I just thought of something while wanting to talk about a possible secret bad guy... EVERYONE has to take a "Dark Secret" card. It has things such as: Bitten by a werewolf or Struggle With Split Personality. You have to do (or don't do) certain things in game before the game ends or could be timed, or you, personally, lose the game. I realized halfway thru writing this that the mechanic is in an Arkham expansion (though the "story" card was tied to the character and also optional.)

Casamyr
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I fully intend it to be

I fully intend it to be random otherwise you'll get the meta gamer who will analyse everything and pick the best combinations in order to win the game every time and that gets boring fast.

I've played with a guy who works out the statistical chance to a set action occurring on a calculator before taking the action with the highest probability of success and it was the most painful gaming experience I have ever had. Needless to say he hasn't been invited back to the gaming table.

Here is an idea that could work.

Now each player gets deal two cards - one is a role the other is a trait so for instance we get The Alchemist as a role, and Fearless as a trait. Each of these cards gives the player 2 unique skills/attributes, for a total of 4. These skills, for want of a better word, are the crux of the game, and specifically the management of these skills.

You see, in order to complete an investigation you need to use certain skills in order to meet the requirements, but when you use a skill you cannot use it again until you rest. Resting, however takes time, you you don't necessarily have - or something similar, maybe they are just exhausted for a set period of time. Investigations will require multiple skills to defeat so there would be no one best character.

The only issue here, is insuring the balance that no matter the combination of skills, there would always be a way to complete an investigation. Perhaps though, the Equipment of the Department, or items acquired in the streets is where the short fall comes in. Skills are permanent, though for times unusable, items are one shot things.

It's a possibility anyways.

I hadn't really thought of a hidden traitor, or end game goal for players. That's kind of like Dead of Winterish idea where a player may be sabotaging the rest for their own personal gain. It's something I will think about though.

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