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Scavengers - Autumn 2017

The months and seasons have come and gone, and Scavengers is taking on a new shape.

In the early Summer I'd felt I'd encountered an impasse. The game was growing in size, but it seemed to be mostly bulk that was slowing down the game instead of adding to its intensity and fun. As soon as players had tied bids, the game ground to a halt and there were all sorts of fiddly things to do to satisfyingly resolve them. The prototype sat in a drawer for some time, with me being turned-off by the idea of adding in more components and aspects I felt were inelegant solutions.

Then a fellow designer friend of mine mentioned something about non-transitive number sets. I was gob-smacked at the potential of the idea: ties would be impossible when each player had a completely different set of bids? AWESOME! On paper, at least...

Long story short: I tried this, and it's not the best solution. Out of the four sets of non-transitive combinations I'd implemented for a playtest, it was not very satisfying most of the time. If there was one player who felt their set was "weaker" than the others, that coloured their perception of the entire mechanic. Rounds become more and more predictable as they went on, and the surprise of final bids combined with some sort of "dirty trick" was lost when ties were impossible.

NEW BIDDING MECHANIC
My next attempt - before returning to the older system - is to develop a universal set of bid cards that is shuffled and dealt between all players, and a new bidding criteria: instead of simply trying to have the highest bid out of all players, have the closest bid to a given sector's number.

For example, the Bid deck would be comprised of cards uniquely numbered from 1 to 100. Sector values would range from 10, 20, 30, etc. When a sector is up for bid, each player places their bid, hoping they have the bid number closest to the Sector's value. The closest bid would win. Since the bid deck has no reoccurring numbers, then there would be no ties to slow down the game.

EDGE CARDS
One-time-use "Edge" cards (their name being stolen from the previous version's "Edge Token") would be played instead of a bid, and when revealed, would increase or reduce the Sector's value by 5, 10, or some other number. The player that used the Edge card would then reveal a bid, with the hopes they had a better chance at winning the Sector now that it had a different value.

This is an attempt to increase variety from one game to the next, while addressing the problems that repeated ties presented to the core of the game. It also maintains complexity and competition that was present in the original version.

EARNING EDGE CARDS
Earning new Edge cards is something to consider, as is how Edge cards modify Sector values. Possibilities for Sector value modification include comparisons to the number of Company symbols on a Sector card, the number of Alien Pod tokens collected by one or all players, the number of Sectors claimed by the player who uses it, etc.

I must also take care to make sure these are distributed equitably, and that they don't present "rewarding the leader" problems. If anything, I'd hope Edge cards are more a "sandbagging" mechanic for the current leader, or most-recent winner.

CONCLUSION
New cards to make and sleeve, and more playtests to execute. At least my next steps are clear, and I've learned that non-transitive numbers are interesting and a very cool mathematical phenomenon, but aren't the solution that I'm seeking for this game.

...NEXT! :)

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gamejournal | by Dr. Radut