Skip to Content

Cartel

First of all, I'm looking for playtesters! The Print and Play is still coming, but do leave a message if you can help playtest! :D

Cartel (v3) is a two to four (tentatively) player card-based board game where you play the head of a corporation in a Cartel. On the surface, you’re building a metropolis of thriving commerce, but in the shadows, you vie for dominance against other Cartel lords by racketeering for territories with your hired muscle and manipulating the City by pocketing shady officials… But careful, rely on corruption too much, and everyone may be snitched out by a traitorous member of the Cartel!

Please won't you keep these in mind as you go through my writeup, please please? :)

  1. How does the premise and theme sound? Does it need improvement? Would you want to play it?
  2. Do you wanna playtest? :D
  3. Thugs. I actually pretty much hate that word, but haven't found any other suitable ones that are short XD Can you think of any?
  4. Do the mechanics remind you of anything you've seen before? If so, what? (I like to know what's already out there)
  5. How would you describe Cartel's mechanics? I'm not sure if "traitor" is a right fit for the Snitch mechanic, or area-control for the thugs...

Thanks! And with that out the way, here we go :)


Isometric stacking buildings with cards!

The design of this game began with the idea of cards that make isometric, stackable buildings. This idea lent itself to a game of placement AND territorial control – and as I’m the BIGGEST Netrunner fan in the world, it had started as a game called Corporate War – the name of a Netrunner card. (How’s that for a piece of pointless trivia :P ) I’m not going into the history of this game much more than this :P

At the heart of Cartel are these buildings, or floors, or businesses, which give you points when they’re A) controlled by your thugs, AND B) placed correctly. There are four types of businesses in the game, each only generating benefits when placed in their preferred spot:

A – Anniewares General Stores are worth one point anywhere in the city. They are unrestricted in placement because Seven Elevens don’t care where they are.

T – TopTech Technologies are worth three points when they remain at the top of a building at the end of the game, because tech giants need a view.

G – Groundhog Coffees are worth two points when they’re on the ground floor, because I’ve never seen a Starbucks on the second storey.

D – DoubleDown Casinos are worth three points when they’re connected to another Double Down, because casinos need to be big.

The businesses are set up in the City, and each cartel boss vie for control with…


The Muscle

The thugs are what keeps what’s yours yours, and helps you move into what’s not yours. As you build businesses in the City, you gain more members in your gang, which you use to move around the board and control buildings. Conflict may resolve in the removal of opposing thugs if you manoeuvre a superior number into the right place!

Thugs are also one of the ways that the game may end – when any player reaches 10 thugs in their gang, the game ends because one of the gangs has reached super notoriety, and scoring commences.


No honour among thieves

There is another set of cards that represent city officials, the proud people of City governorship… that you can get into your pocket to do your bidding. In addition to adding to your score, each personality has special powers when you buy them into your service: Constable Fernandez can call a police raid and force all thugs in one place to evacuate their current location, Senator Johns is less subtle and can pull two thugs outright off the street with a crackdown order, and Warden Manny can keep your thugs from being thrown off the streets entirely, returning them to play as long as you have Warden Manny in your pocket…

…So why would you ever lose Warden Manny? There is more than one copy of every pocket card, so when you hold any pocket personality, when someone else plays another of the same name, yours is immediately discarded. The corrupt are fickle by definition!

Pocket cards also provide the second game-ending condition – The Snitch. When corruption becomes impossible to cover up, one of the cartel lords can turn state witness and rat everyone out, ending the game. The Snitch is worth A LOT of points. How much? I haven’t decided yet – it’ll require a heck of a lot more playtesting to get a feel for the points. It should be a large enough payout that it should win any game outright, but it should also be possible to overcome if a player has a solid enough stranglehold on the city’s territories.


Join me in The City

So that’s about it for the game. There are a few things I hadn’t spoken about like the road cards, which provide a sort of a limit to where buildings can be started, as well as the payment for for building up being discarding of cards, and the way you generate resources (card draws per turn) by occupying a tall building, but those are details that hold the game together while the exciting stuff happens. I LOVE thematic games, and with Cartel my goal was to create a game where you actually feel like a criminal lord jockeying for territory, using every available resource, while the cloud of being Snitched out hangs above everyone’s head.

If you’re interested in helping me playtest Cartel, just get in touch with me (leave a comment here, or get me on my twitter (http://www.twitter.com/tuism), or email me at twoplusgames at gmail dot come) and I can send you a Print and Play copy of the game when it’s ready! (It’s still quite messy right now despite the clean look it has in the photos)

Thanks for reading!

(content duplicated from my blog: tuism.com)

And finally, the questions again:

  1. How does the premise and theme sound? Does it need improvement? Would you want to play it?
  2. Do you wanna playtest? :D
  3. Thugs. I actually pretty much hate that word, but haven't found any other suitable ones that are short XD Can you think of any?
  4. Do the mechanics remind you of anything you've seen before? If so, what? (I like to know what's already out there)
  5. How would you describe Cartel's mechanics? I'm not sure if "traitor" is a right fit for the Snitch mechanic, or area-control for the thugs...

Thanks guys :D

Copyright ©2014 Twoplus Games

Comments

I've had a few more playtests

I've had a few more playtests of late, and here are my findings:

  1. The rules could do with some clarification, so that'll be my next goal. All the information needed is there, just some of them aren't super clear and some of can be easily misunderstood.

  2. To go with the above, I'm gonna make a video explaining how it plays. It's really not that complicated :P

  3. Gameplay wise, I have yet to confirm a dominant strategy - which is really a good sign. A eggs-in-one-basket approach is bound to be screwed up by one or two big counter cards.

  4. Though, some big counter cards feel a bit too swingy. I'm finding that keeping those held back to the end of the game makes those last few turns exceedingly important. I'll need to alleviate this by having cards that make keeping cards to the last a dangerous proposition. Cards that are big, almost undesirable swing cards when held back to the last turn/s: Tracy who kicks three associates (I changed it from all to 3) to the curb, Sven, especially when he flips sides,

  5. Streets - they are polarised by two directions - they're relatively blank making them great payment cards, which speed up the game, yet sometimes they're a bit too bland for taste. But they're still useful though - they open up cheap building spots if you do hold onto them. Which is great for amassing Associates quickly.

  6. One thought to alleviate the above is to make streets DO SOMETHING. In fact they could even absorb the pocket cards and further simplify the game rules. It's under consideration.

  7. The Snitch would have to find a new home if I kick the Pockets to the curb - I'm still up in the air as to whether to keep the Snitch or not. The Snitch really rarely comes out, but when it does it's usually in the Snitch's favour (as it should).

  8. Tracking points throughout the game is a bit tough despite it being all open information on the table, but that' mostly because I'm a maths fail, I think.

Cool, so an update is coming soon, methinks :)


Playtesting at a picnic, with one experienced boardgamer and one inexperienced boardgamer. So that was pretty positive that she got the hang of it. Also it was the first time the Snitch got played with me! And I didn't win :P


Playtesting at Ludum Dare, among game developers, which was really awesome. Ernest tried to break the game by doing a super focussed strategy of building nothing but a big tower and far away from other players. It could have gone either way. Need more testing on that front. Also tried a combat rule where moving into a space killed one associate from both sides. It was a bad rule change :P


Playtesting with Pudding and Tracy, who had their own copy made, kudos! :D This one went quite smoothly, and we discussed how the game should end - whether the player who triggers the last turn ends the game right there, or whether everyone gets another round. This last round thing is super important as there are potential for some really swingy plays. Like REALLY swingy. I think the swingyness should be defendable, so that's another balance thing to look at.

How to *improve* your game

Tuism, I think the really cool aspect of the game is the "compilation" of cards for the 3D/isometric views.

I think this concept is very interesting. I have not seen it any other games. But I could be wrong - I have not seen all games...

If you focus on the "building" aspect, like add more stories and make it like "Corporation Wars" (or something like that) and blend something like Monopoly and Underground subways stations...

You could really have a unique "building" game. I don't know if the "mob" aspect of fighting on top of buildings will match the theme and make for a good game.

But the city building aspect is a real WIN (IMHO).

I would FOCUS on that instead of the "battling" aspect of the game. I know you probably have a "game-style" in mind with "Cartel"... But there are several possibilities you can have with your "game concept".

Note: I know I mentioned the Mech theme, that could work also.

But I'm thinking that the "building" aspect is the way to go. And you could of course add "corruption" some business are less "legit" and others are more "legit". You could use corruption as a "factor". Like in the "TopTech Technologies" there is no corruption at the beginning - but it can build and lead to a BUST (like embezzlement or fraud, insider trading, contract bribery, etc.)

questccg wrote:Tuism, I think

questccg wrote:
Tuism, I think the really cool aspect of the game is the "compilation" of cards for the 3D/isometric views.

I think this concept is very interesting. I have not seen it any other games. But I could be wrong - I have not seen all games...

If you focus on the "building" aspect, like add more stories and make it like "Corporation Wars" (or something like that) and blend something like Monopoly and Underground subways stations...

You could really have a unique "building" game. I don't know if the "mob" aspect of fighting on top of buildings will match the theme and make for a good game.

But the city building aspect is a real WIN (IMHO).

I would FOCUS on that instead of the "battling" aspect of the game. I know you probably have a "game-style" in mind with "Cartel"... But there are several possibilities you can have with your "game concept".

Note: I know I mentioned the Mech theme, that could work also.

But I'm thinking that the "building" aspect is the way to go. And you could of course add "corruption" some business are less "legit" and others are more "legit". You could use corruption as a "factor". Like in the "TopTech Technologies" there is no corruption at the beginning - but it can build and lead to a BUST (like embezzlement or fraud, insider trading, contract bribery, etc.)

Hey Quest! Thanks for commenting! Super appreciated! :D

I actually do agree on the focus of the game - I tend to want to simplify rather than diversify - the initial design of the game was purely focused on the buildings!

But. There's always a but XD

Then because I wanted the cards to be shared among players instead of developing separate decks, I wanted to make sure that the facet of ownership of buildings existed - the ownership introduces the possibility to shift the landscape, as it were, so that what a player puts down to mean one thing may change to mean something else by the end of the game - when the scores were tallied.

The alternative was to score according to placement at the time of placement - but that meant there would have to be victory point tokens a la Lords of Waterdeep or Infiltration, piles and piles of tokens for points, which I didn't want - I wanted this game to have as few moving components as possible.

So the Thugs (ironically more tokens, though at least they didn't need face values or be identifiable by any means other than colour) are there because I want the prospect of ownership in this city.

Though that said, I more than open to changes to the game's mechanic - what I have now is preliminary prototype more than anything else. If it doesn't work out great I'm absolutely prepared to level it and start over looking at different aspects :)

The Print and Play version should be ready today sometime! :)

First couple of playtests! :D

Version 3 of Cartel had its first couple of playtests and I must say it's feeling pretty good :)

Getting ready to get the Print n Play files out :D

They were with three players, which was a first for Cartel, and they turned out to be pretty good! First game was with non-boardgamers so it took some explaining but they got it in the end, and I dominated with a corner strategy, and the second game was VERY well rounded, ending score at 19-19-22 with the Snitch almost getting out towards the end, and I didn't even win :)

Playtest 2: 3 player, score 31-17-4 (shame the one guy didn't get the point of discard as cost at all and held the Snitch the whole game hoping to play it)

Playtest 3: 3 players, score 19-19-22, some really cool brawls happened in the centre while I sidled off to the edge and built up some income after a while.

Hi Steven, I've been

Hi Steven,

I've been following this over at BGG and I think it's a really cool concept. I'm not particularly attracted by the theme, but I would probably overlook it just to stack cards and make an isometric city.

I'm going to print this out and give it a shot. It might take a couple of weeks to get to the table but I'll report back when I have a chance to try it out.

I need to get some A4 paper if I'm going to be printing out things from the rest of the world :) I was able to make this work, but printed without thinking and ended up with tiny cards.

Best,
Gary

Syndicate content


gamejournal | by Dr. Radut