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Chemistry game - prototyping problem

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ruy343
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Joined: 07/03/2013

I have a packaging/distribution/mess problem.

So, I've created a really fun game about chemistry, where the players try to create molecules (indicated on their goal card; don't worry, no chemistry knowledge required) with the pieces found in a stack of atoms. I want there to be a large amount of atoms available to the players in specific proportions (I have that already figured out), but I don't want drawing from the deck to be a problem.

Let me explain further. I want the deck to be haxagonal (so there's enough bonding sites for the atoms), and I want some molecules to incorporate a large number of atoms (up to 25). This means that I can't have the hexes be too huge. However, I don't want the inside of the box to be a mess when I actually produce/prototype it.

My prototypes up until this point have been basically note cards (cut in half), but the molecules turn out the be ugly and huge, and don't actually look like molecules you'd see on the goal cards or in chemistry books/wikipedia.

I've found that The Game Crafter makes "shards", but they're really tiny, and a hundred of them would make a big mess when packaging, and wouldn't stack well into a deck. To get an idea of how large these "shards" are, visit here: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/publish/product/HexShard

If any of you have ever made something similar an could help me out, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks,
-Ruy343

anonymousmagic
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Joined: 11/06/2013
If you look past The Game

If you look past The Game Crafter, you might be able to find a company that can produce an inlay in your game box that stops the components from moving around. I would figure out what you want it to look like first, then find the best way to package it. Don't let what you know about the packaging and components now stifle your creativity. You can always rework it, if it's impossible, but you should start off with your "vision" of the game and see how close you can get.

Orangebeard
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Joined: 10/13/2011
Player mats?

Would it be possible for each player to have a game mat that is pre-printed with a hex design and then have players draw cards from a standard size deck? The drawn cards could then be exchanged for colored shards or tokens of some kind that fit nicely onto the hexes.

Your production cost might go up a little with the extra components, but the mat, deck and tokens could all be standard size pieces which might keep cost down a little. I glanced at TGC site quick and I think they already have all the components to support this change.

How does your game play? Do players collect sets of cards and then play them as a set to form a molecule? (Ha ha! One more free electron and my outer shell will finally be complete!)

Good luck with your design - it sounds fun

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
I remember the toys that we

I remember the toys that we got during chemistry class at the age of 14-16.

They looked like these:

80-90 ties:
http://0.tqn.com/d/chemistry/1/0/G/5/1/molecularmodel.jpg
wood version from 60-70 ties:
http://img.wylio.com/flickr/253/62554955
The basic box of these days.
http://boysbesttoys.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/41dqo2ck1vL.jpg

They atoms are marble sized. 1 cm to 2 cm.

And the game you thought of...we kinda had that as homework.

killerkilroy
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Joined: 10/04/2012
Have you tried...

...these hex cards ?

Messeya
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Joined: 01/13/2009
Did you check out the small

Did you check out the small hex tiles?
https://www.thegamecrafter.com/publish/product/SmallHexTile

ruy343
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Joined: 07/03/2013
Game play stuff

Mr. Orangebeard,

The game plays by the players selecting chemical goals worth a certain amount of victory points (a la Ticket to Ride) and collecting atoms they need to assemble the molecule. The players can start from anywhere in the molecule, and can trade with other players for atoms they need. This creates an interesting amount of perceived need, and the values of each of the atoms fluctuates throughout the game (Sometimes, even though carbon atoms are really common, they're really valuable because you're all building very carbon-heavy molecules. This occurs more frequently with oxygen and nitrogen, however.).

Additionally, there is another deck of actions cards that allow for you to interact with the other players (letting you steal chemicals from their workbench, unbond an atom from their molecule, or bond an atom into the wrong spot). The objective card is kept secret (though that might change) so the players could try to get away with a smaller molecule before getting picked on.

There are also illegal molecules (I'm steering away from illicit drugs, but I do know their chemical structures - I'm a physiology major). Completion of these lets you break the game in a small way, like drawing extra cards, having more storage on your workbench, or being able to do mean things more easily.

Anyways, that's how it plays. Thank you to the man above me for pointing out the chipboard hexes: I'll look into that (though it'll raise production costs). Maybe I should put chipboard hexes like that into a bag with a drawstring in my earliest versions of the game?

Thank you for your responses up until this point. Any critiques or ideas for the game design are welcome. I have spent many hours on this (looking up chemicals, planning out balance, playtesting, etc. and I really can't wait to bring this to the next level).

EDIT: AnonymousMagic: I don't know of any other companies that would accept submissions for the Print-on-Demand business model, and since I'm a poor college student, I don't have a whole lot of money that I can put in to get myself started. Do you know anything on the subject?

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
If your looking for a good

If your looking for a good way to connect atoms?
Perhaps having plastics is the solution.

For a prototype:
Have you ever played with flippo's? They had these technical flippo's. About 1 inch in diameter. They where round too.
And each could have up to 8 connections. However, you can tape some off regarding the bonds that atoms would allow. And of course the distracting pictures on the flippos.
For the bonds themselves, you could cut pieces out of the flippo's in the length. So you only have a stick with 2 bonding possibilities.

http://static2.milkcapmania.co.uk/Img/Flippos/241-250%20Strip%20Flippo/3...

Messeya
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Just out of curiosity...

You're welcome. Organic chemistry was one of my favorite subjects.

Do your atom cards/tiles have different bonds on them? For example, will there be two different forms of oxygen (one double bond or two single bonds) or multiple forms of carbon (four single bonds, two single bonds and one double bond, a triple bond and a single bond, two double bonds)?

If you hadn't considered it, I think it could give an interesting connection element (no pun intended) to the game and allow you to work with smaller molecules (lower production cost) and keep things limited and still interesting.

Are you using hydrogen cards/tiles or just assuming any unconnected bonds are hydrogen atoms? Probably best to just assume to keep costs down.

Just a few ideas. I hope you enjoy them.

ruy343
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Messeya wrote:Organic

Messeya wrote:
Organic chemistry was one of my favorite subjects.

Me too!

Messeya wrote:

Do your atom cards/tiles have different bonds on them? For example, will there be two different forms of oxygen (one double bond or two single bonds) or multiple forms of carbon (four single bonds, two single bonds and one double bond, a triple bond and a single bond, two double bonds)?

The way I was going to do this is with a separate card that is called a "double bond" card, though it actually can be used to place an extra bond anywhere, meaning that triple bonds are possible as well. I would either include little "Catan roads" or a deck of micro cards that can be laid on top in exchange for one of those cards. The question is: should I put them in the interaction deck, or should I put them in the atoms deck? I'll playtest around with it....

However, I kind of like your idea of lowering production cost by sticking to smaller molecules, and perhaps having an expansion for 5-6 players that also includes more atoms and some bigger molecules for the players who want more from the game. Would that ruin the appeal for the original? The only downside is the number of real chemicals that one can make is rather limited when you stick to just small ones. Additionally, people complete molecules too quickly when you play with small molecules, meaning that big ones are hard to balance right because they take far longer to build.

Also, yes, I was going to imply Hydrogens at all unused ends of bonds. The idea is to simplify the system to make it accessible, but have it feel science-y enough to be interesting. It's a tough (but fun) balance to make.

Messeya
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More Thoughts

ruy343 wrote:
The question is: should I put them in the interaction deck, or should I put them in the atoms deck?

Why even have an atom deck? Why not have an atom bag and an interaction deck? I'm a big fan of streamlining.

If you're going to use "Catan roads" for bonds anyway, you could just use colored poker chips for the atoms. Sure all the elements would be the same size, but you'd be freed up for more complicated structures like pentagonal rings.

ruy343 wrote:

However, I kind of like your idea of lowering production cost by sticking to smaller molecules, and perhaps having an expansion for 5-6 players that also includes more atoms and some bigger molecules for the players who want more from the game. Would that ruin the appeal for the original?

That seems to be the way expansions work quite often. You have a simpler game for a more general audience and expansions to add depth and keep more dedicated players interested.

ruy343 wrote:
The only downside is the number of real chemicals that one can make is rather limited when you stick to just small ones. Additionally, people complete molecules too quickly when you play with small molecules, meaning that big ones are hard to balance right because they take far longer to build.

When I was saying small I was thinking in the 5-10 non-hydrogen atom range. I'm pretty sure there are a lot more possible "real" chemicals that can be made than you may be considering. They may not have a common name or a practical use, but they could still be named and made.

As far as balance between small chemicals and large chemicals, I would think something similar to the route scoring in Ticket to Ride where the point values are somewhat exponential would be a good way to balance. i.e. 5 atoms 5 pts, 6 atoms 7 pts, 8 atoms 9 pts, 9 atoms 12 pts, 10 atoms 15 pts, etc.

questccg
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Use Victory Points (VPs)

Messeya wrote:
As far as balance between small chemicals and large chemicals, I would think something similar to the route scoring in Ticket to Ride where the point values are somewhat exponential would be a good way to balance. i.e. 5 atoms 5 pts, 6 atoms 7 pts, 8 atoms 9 pts, 9 atoms 12 pts, 10 atoms 15 pts, etc.

Just make the game about Victory Points (VPs) and that you need to have a specific amount of points to win the game... Like Messaya suggested: X atoms = X VPs. So this way some people will want to build one big chemical taking longer while other may elect to build two (2) or three (3) smaller ones. Either way it will probably balance the game nicely.

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
VP system is a good idea

I second on the VP idea.

If it is hard to get more different atoms for your model.
Perhaps a bonus VP for each additional "different" atom?
I am still counting hydrogen too. If an empty stick (bond) counts as one, I guess it's ok?

[Sometimes I have trouble with writing down the right words, sorry if this is the case for the named molecules]

Some examples to start with:
Methane, 2 different atoms, 5 atoms, 6 VP.
Water, 2 different atoms, 3 atoms, 4 VP. *
Oxygen, 1 kind of atom, 2 atoms, 2 VP. *
Hydrogen, 1 kind of atom, 2 atoms, 2 VP. *
Ethanol, 3 different atoms, 9 atoms, 11 VP. (since shortly, considered to be toxic, so "drugs" and thus illegal by your standards)
In that case:
Methanol, 3 different atoms, 6 atoms, 8 VP. (Already toxic, but not a drugs, thus legal by your standards)
Sulphuric acid, 3 different atoms, 7 atoms, 9 VP.
Sodium Chlorate, 2 different atoms, 2 atoms, 3 VP.
Chloral, 1 kind of atom, 2 atoms, 2 VP.
Helium, 1 kind of atom, 1 atom, 1 VP. (A joke situation, but a true one, if players wonder why, they will look it up and learn from it)
Chloral Methane, 3 different atoms, 5 atoms, 7 VP.
Di-Chloral Methane, 3 different atoms, 5 atoms, 7 VP. (Players can get rid of additional atoms this way that have no (more) use in the game.
Tri-Chloral Methane and Tetra Chloral Methane, all 7 VP.

* Another idea:
Allowing reactions. If a player achieves building 2 hydrogen molecules and 1 oxygen molecule. The player already has 2x2 VP + 2 VP = 6 VP. But a reaction will follow. Resulting in 2 water molecules, each worth of 4 VP. A total of 8 VP.
Up to you to let the 8 VP replace the 6 VP or a simple adding up for 14 VP.
So setting up reactions will mostly lead to more VP too.

Players will be hunting for the oxygen molecules. Even though they are only 2 VP. But since these will support all the oxidation reactions, players can get more VP out of other molecules. Thus a good strategy for gaining extra VP.

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