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Landlord income/late fee financial mechanics

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Trepid
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Joined: 07/01/2017

The game is a landlord based game where each player is a landlord and they buy/sell properties so the players control the entire city. There are two types of buildings: businesses (grocery, bank, jewelry store, hardware store, etc) and residents (houses, apartments, hotel, etc). Trying to keep the game pieces to a "minimum", I anticipate using custom card decks, multi-sided dice, and then the actual buildings.

What I would like to do is come up with a system that easily transfers and keeps track of funds back and forth during the player's turns. For example, on your turn, 3 of the 15 residents in 1 apartment building don't pay rent that month, so they are put on 1 month late rent. 1 of the residents paid late rent so you obtain a late fee. You are also evicting 2 different tenants because they have passed the 3 month no-rent policy. That is only 1 apartment building you have dealt with. Now you have rent in 5 homes to take account for, 3 businesses, and you still have to figure out how much you owe the city for your property taxes. While all that is going on, you still have to worry about buying other properties before the other players land the planning contract. You also have the other players trying to gang up on you and run you out of business so you have to bribe the city officials.

So really, I need to come up with a "simple" way to keep track of this payment, that payment, this fee. I'd love this to be a family-type game that can be played in 3-4 hours so this calculation method must be fast and easy to use. As it stands, I think what I'm trying to achieve would keep you from focusing on the game when it's another player's turn. Due to the complexity with the finances, I imagine it would force the player to spend all their time worrying about their next turn rather than enjoying watching the other player's turns. I do not want to rely on a calculator or some other mechanical device. Some of my other board game prototypes have become so complex, each player's turn takes from a couple to several minutes. It would be nice to get each players' turn to a very short intervals so the game rapidly progresses.

kos
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Types of income

Apologies in advance for the long post. Hope it helps.

I'm not clear on whether you have a "resource level" income or "accumulation" income. Accumulation income is like Monopoly -- you earn money, can store it over multiple turns, and can spend it to buy stuff. "Resource level" income represents spending power per turn, but cannot be stored or saved up for future turns.

Accumulation incomes are naturally fiddly, and with the number of properties you describe if you are using Monopoly-type money you will spend a significant portion of the game just collecting and sorting your cash. The addition of non-payments / late fees almost forces you down the path of additional counters to track who paid / didn't pay, further increasing the fiddliness of the game.

Resource level incomes may simplify a game like this, but also changes the economy / game balance drastically. In essence, it would be a totally different game. Say you have 10 properties, which means you can spend 10 income per turn but cannot store it. Gameplay could then revolve around the tension between actions to increase income vs actions to progress towards victory. Of course if increasing income also progresses towards victory, then there is no tension.

One way of simplifying an accumulation income that incorporates non-payment of rents would be to draw 1 card (or chits from a bag) for each property you own. 60% of cards are cash, 40% are IOU's. You can spend or hoard the cash as normal, or send in the debt collectors to try to turn the IOU's into cash (discard all your IOU's and draw the same number of cards -- which might be more IOUs!). If sending in the debt collectors wastes your whole turn (or incurs some other risk/cost), then players will only do it once they accumulate enough IOU's to make it worth the cost. Given the right balance, you may even incentivise players to buy and sell IOU's between themselves -- thus, player interaction.

Reading between the lines of your post, it sounds like lack of player interaction could be an issue. Long, fiddly turns with limited player interaction will kill just about any game. You could combat this with some combination of: rapid turns (e.g. collect rent from only 1 property per turn, so it cycles quickly), simultaneous phases (e.g. all players collect rent, then all players buy property, then all players do end-of-turn actions), and/or player interaction (e.g. bidding on properties for sale).

For example, say the board is divided into zones (or classes of property). On your turn select a zone. All players who own properties in that zone collect rent. Now you've got shorter turns (because you're only collecting from some of your properties not all), engaged players (because they get to collect rent on your turn), and strategy (do I buy more property in my core zone, or branch out to get "freebies" on other zones). You could also use the zone idea to simplify other types of record keeping, for example if you use tokens to show which properties have paid rent or are overdue you can do this on a per-zone basis rather than a per-property basis.

As an aside, you describe a "family" game as 3-4 hours. Any game of that length will seriously reduce the number of people willing to give it a go. If you go down to your FLGS and look for games more than 60-90 mins, you won't find many.

What I'm getting at is that if you, as the game designer, recognise the need to make the game simpler than it's pretty much a guarantee that it is massively, hugely over-complex to everybody else. (I'm speaking from my own experience making massively, hugely over-complex games, so don't feel bad.) Listen to that inner voice, and cut your game savagely to strip it back to the core "fun-factor" that inspired you to make it in the first place.

All the best,
kos

john smith
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Joined: 06/26/2017
Fun is a subject term. Look

Fun is a subject term. Look towards what you feel is a target audience. Some people like the whole LP album some people want to cut it down to 3:05.

Trepid
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Joined: 07/01/2017
Thank you!

Thank you so much for the comments! I am up against the ultimate dilemma. I want to design a game to play personally, and I really enjoy the long-play game. However, I agree that it needs to be simplified and directed towards a large group of people if I want to try and get it on a store shelf. With woodworking, music, design, and every other hobby I enjoy doing, I tend to make things complex on purpose so it's a great challenge to go towards the simpler game play. I suppose my objective with this game is to reach the largest possible audience that I can.

In response to Kos,

I haven't played enough modern board games to know the difference between accumulation and resource level income. I appreciate you pointing that out. As it stands, the game is currently accumulation income, definitely fiddly, and definitely lacking player interaction. I hate the idea of the player only paying attention to their own turn and their next turn. Rapid turns is definitely interesting to me and I am going to strive towards that type of play to improve player interaction. I considered doing property auctions each time a property card appears from the main deck (player 1 draws a card on their turn and it is "321 evergreen garden drive" minimum auction bid 10 moneys", so there's a back and forth interaction between players who outbid each other for the property). I had imagined using poker chips instead of paper money. Through reading some of the other forum posts, specifically James Mathe Game Design for Dummies, the last thing I want to use is paper money.

I also really like the idea of using zones so the players only work on small sections at a time. I think using the tokens that showed who is late, paid rent on time, etc. is a good idea.

Here's another possibility: the players all have pawns and on the roadways are spaces for the players to move along. You have to physically move your pawn to your owned building to attempt to collect rent. The same goes for buying and selling properties. Perhaps the player has to move to the auction house or vacant property to bid on the building, and you can use silent auctions or proxy bids. That way you only have to be on the vacant lot once and can move along. This method of play though might drastically extend the game to several hours, especially if the game board has a large amount of properties.

Trepid
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kos wrote:Apologies in

kos wrote:
Apologies in advance for the long post. Hope it helps.

Resource level incomes may simplify a game like this, but also changes the economy / game balance drastically. In essence, it would be a totally different game. Say you have 10 properties, which means you can spend 10 income per turn but cannot store it. Gameplay could then revolve around the tension between actions to increase income vs actions to progress towards victory. Of course if increasing income also progresses towards victory, then there is no tension.

Can you possibly expand your description of the tension which you discuss in the last half of that paragraph? And maybe give an example of what you mean? I suppose I don't understand quite what you mean about the tension between actions to increase income vs action to progress towards victory, and how does increasing income progressing towards victory reduce tension? Thanks

kos
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Tension

Trepid wrote:
Can you possibly expand your description of the tension which you discuss in the last half of that paragraph? And maybe give an example of what you mean? I suppose I don't understand quite what you mean about the tension between actions to increase income vs action to progress towards victory, and how does increasing income progressing towards victory reduce tension? Thanks

Imagine two hypothetical games:

Game A: The victory condition is to have the most money at the end of the game. There are various actions a player can take each turn, most of which revolve around spending money to earn more money. The skill of the game is to optimise your money spent vs income gained.

Game B: The victory condition is to be the first to finish building a Wonder. The Wonder costs money to build each of 5 levels, and each level costs upkeep which reduces your income on future turns. There are various actions a player can take each turn, most of which revolve around either getting more money or building the Wonder. The skill of the game is to decide how much to focus on optimising income and how much to focus on building the Wonder.

Game A is an optimisation puzzle, which for many people (including myself) can be a fun and absorbing passtime. A well designed Game A style game will have multiple valid strategies to explore, hopefully of the type that involves both forward planning and player interaction: "It looks like my opponent is trying to get X, so I'll swoop in and get Y first which gives me an advantage over X. But if I'm wrong and he's actually trying to get Z, then I've wasted my money on Y for no reason."

Game B has tension between the two (or more) core options each turn. Spend too much time increasing income, and your opponent will steal the win by completing the Wonder first. Spend too much time building the Wonder, and your income will run dry before you finish it. A well designed Game B style game will also have multiple strategies to explore, as well as hopefully forward planning and player interaction.

There are many excellent games which would fit into each category, so it's not necessarily a case of A > B or vice versa.

I would classify Settlers of Catan as primarily Type A, because the core actions you want to take (building towns and cities) both increase income and progress towards winning (10 victory points). There is no tension between "Shall I upgrade a city or do something else." If I can upgrade a city I'm going to do it every time because it gives me both income and VP. There is a smattering of Type B, such as buying Development Cards which may or may not make progress towards victory, and the existence of Longest Road and Largest Army bonus cards which can rapidly swing a bad investment into a win (or vice versa). But at it's core, it's still a Type A.

Vast numbers of Eurogames are primarily Type B -- in fact it's one of their key factors. The more complex ones have multiple separate income sources and multiple victory conditions, leading to ever more complex and involved strategies to win.

Many (most?) deck builders also follow the Type B pattern, following in the footsteps of Dominion where in order to win you have to buy VP cards but the VP cards themselves are completely worthless and actually weakens your deck the more that you buy. If Dominion was exactly as it is now except that every VP card also gave income, it would (in my opinion) be a worse game because it would lose the tension and simply become a steamroller.

In Puzzle Strike you buy new cards (abilities) at the end of each round, and generally have a choice between increasing your income (so you can buy even more powerful cards later) vs attacking your opponents (to eliminate them from the game). Spend too many turns increasing income and you'll get eliminated before you can spend it, but spend too much on weak attacks in the early-game and you'll get stomped by a mega-combo in the end-game.

My personal preference is towards Type B games, but I do balk at the more complex Eurogames. I've played too many complex Eurogames where what seemed to be a valid early-game strategy turned out in the mid-late game to be worthless, which leaves me more with a feeling of frustration than being inspired to try again. Of course, others may have the alternate response.

Once again a bit of a rambling post, but I hope it helps.

Regards,
kos

Trepid
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thanks kos

Thanks you kos for further explaining the tension and the workings behind each style of income. What do you think about the dual type of incomes in one game (more than settlers of catan)? For example in this game:

Each player gets a wealth wheel (wheel with numbers and it turns to keep track of where your wealth is), and they start with 20 wealth. They can spend the 20 each turn, but certain things require cash so you have the option of exchanging 10 of your wealth into cash. now you only make 10 wealth per turn but you have 10 hard cash to play property lottery, bribe city official, etc. ..or does this simply add a layer of unnecessary complexity? I still love the idea of handling the poker chips (as hard cash) and using the wealth method.

Going back to your example of building a wonder, what kinds of upkeep is there for a game like that? What would require upkeep? Are you following a technology tree or blueprint of some kind that requires your wealth each turn? Are you moving your wealth pieces around the board constantly to focus on what you're working on? Or do you just buy this property which costs X and buy this object that costs X? I recently watched a walkthrough of a board game that uses the wealth style where you are working with planets or spaceships. You place your wealth pieces (squares) on the planet to show that you are working on it, and then if you lose control of the planet you put the square back on your wealth graph. That seemed okay but probably not that exact style for this game. I do want to use a simple counting method in whatever I do though.

kos
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Allocating wealth

Trepid wrote:
Each player gets a wealth wheel (wheel with numbers and it turns to keep track of where your wealth is), and they start with 20 wealth. They can spend the 20 each turn, but certain things require cash so you have the option of exchanging 10 of your wealth into cash. now you only make 10 wealth per turn but you have 10 hard cash to play property lottery, bribe city official, etc. ..or does this simply add a layer of unnecessary complexity? I still love the idea of handling the poker chips (as hard cash) and using the wealth method.

Such a system could work, and I'd encourage you to give it a go. The earlier you try a set of rules, the earlier you find out if it suits the style of game that you want. I would definitely be careful about unnecessary complexity though -- each type of currency needs a good reason to exist (in game mechanics) and needs to reinforce the theme.

If you have a one-way transfer from resource A (permanent) to resource B (temporary), this creates a meaningful decision for players and options to pursue different strategies. "Do I overload one of my power cores to get a speed boost for this turn but at the cost of permanently reducing my speed for the rest of the game?"

From a game mechanics perspective, "wealth" can be represented in many different ways and themes. Having a wealth wheel is no different to counting the number of properties owned, or the number of planets in my galactic empire, or workers in my vineyard, or politicians that support my bill.

Trepid wrote:
Going back to your example of building a wonder, what kinds of upkeep is there for a game like that? What would require upkeep? Are you following a technology tree or blueprint of some kind that requires your wealth each turn?

I included upkeep in my hypothetical game because it dis-incentivizes early progress on the "Wonder" (thus creating an early-game, turing-point, end-game progression) and further differentiates the strategies of building income vs building the wonder. However, upkeep is not a necessity for the style to work.

The nature of the "wonder" and "upkeep" is entirely dependent on the theme. I could be building research labs to cure a mysterious disease, where each lab costs X dollars per turn to maintain. I could be building a grand monument in my honour, where every worker I allocate to the monument means 1 less worker mining for coal. I could be painting a masterpiece, where every day I spend painting is a day not spent scavenging rotten food from the dumpster.

Victory could be a simple "first to build 4 research labs wins". Or it could include a random element: every time you build a research lab draw 1 research card; if you have at least 1 each of cards A, B, C, and D you win. Extending this, it could include player interaction: Spend an action to buy a research card from another player. Now you have created uncertain progression towards victory (generally a good thing, in my opinion), and player interaction through bluffing, negotiation, and deal-making.

In each of these examples, the players use the core currency of the game (dollars, coal, and food respectively) to take actions, but this currency does not contribute to the victory condition. The "victory currency" is research, size of monument, and progress on the masterpiece.

Trepid wrote:
Are you moving your wealth pieces around the board constantly to focus on what you're working on? Or do you just buy this property which costs X and buy this object that costs X?

Either method would work. Personally I like the tactile nature of "allocating" wealth pieces, whether they be workers, coins, or death stars. I also dislike fiddly games, so having a smallish number of tokens to allocate each turn appeals to me more than collecting money from the bank and paying it back every turn.

Many games use individual player boards for this purpose. The use of simultaneous secret allocation is somewhat common, especially when paired with rules where the person who assigned the most to a particular action gets a better result. E.g. whoever allocated the most money to bribing the mayor gets 1 special action. This creates instant player interaction, because you want to get the special action for a low cost, or at least block somebody else from getting it. Example: Samurai Swords, where you secretly allocate income between initiative (turn order), recruitment, building, and hiring the ninja.

Other games use a common board where players take turns placing tokens (typically workers, but they could be anything) on action spaces. There is a limit to the number of workers allowed on each action space, leading to indirect player conflict as they try to get the best actions using the least number of workers. This style of game usually needs another rule for determining or bidding on turn order each round, since simple round-robin often leads to first-turn (or last-turn) advantages. Examples: Every second Eurogame released in the last 10 years.

Trepid wrote:
I recently watched a walkthrough of a board game that uses the wealth style where you are working with planets or spaceships. You place your wealth pieces (squares) on the planet to show that you are working on it, and then if you lose control of the planet you put the square back on your wealth graph. That seemed okay but probably not that exact style for this game. I do want to use a simple counting method in whatever I do though.

If you are placing workers/resources/control markers on a common board, then you need unique tokens for each player (e.g. different color meeples). However, if you are placing them on a player board you can have generic tokens (e.g. coins).

I've given a bunch of random examples to try to show that there are lots of different styles of game and any/all of them could be great. I hope you find the style that works for you.

Regards,
kos

Trepid
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Joined: 07/01/2017
Thank you again for all of

Thank you again for all of your thoughtful insight. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain these mechanics to me. I hope your project(s) are going well.

Trepid
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kos wrote: Many games use

kos wrote:

Many games use individual player boards for this purpose. The use of simultaneous secret allocation is somewhat common, especially when paired with rules where the person who assigned the most to a particular action gets a better result. E.g. whoever allocated the most money to bribing the mayor gets 1 special action. This creates instant player interaction, because you want to get the special action for a low cost, or at least block somebody else from getting it. Example: Samurai Swords, where you secretly allocate income between initiative (turn order), recruitment, building, and hiring the ninja.

I watched a review/walkthrough of Samurai Swords but didn't see anything about the secret allocation of income. How do you allocate income in secret so the other players can't see what you have done until it is time for the reveal? Can you think of any other games off the top of your head that use secret allocation? I have considered blind auctions in this property type game when a new property comes up for bid. I haven't figured out how to do a blind auction sequence though. There's also the possibility of bribing a city official or planner to get the contracts for most desired building locations.

I've decided that I really want to use wealth income for this game. I am struggling to figure out how

kos
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Secret Allocation

Trepid wrote:
I watched a review/walkthrough of Samurai Swords but didn't see anything about the secret allocation of income. How do you allocate income in secret so the other players can't see what you have done until it is time for the reveal?

Samurai Swords (with an 's'), also known as Shogun, is a conquer-the-map game similar to Risk or Axis and Allies. Samurai Sword (no 's') is a card game similar to Bang. Google may have shown you the latter.

In Samurai Swords you earn income each round based on the number of territories you own (similar to Risk). You have a plastic container with 5 sections in it, with which to allocate your coins between the different options. The plastic container has a cardboard shield to prevent the other players seeing. The allocation is done simultaneously at the start of the round. You cannot store coins; you have to spend them all each round.

Trepid wrote:
Can you think of any other games off the top of your head that use secret allocation?

I've played a Hawaii themed game (I forget the name now) that used secret allocation. It was similar to Samurai Swords in the mechanism, and similarly had a cardboard shield to hide your allocation.

I've played a Carribean themed game (again, forgot the name) where you have a hand of action cards and play a sub-set of them each round (face down, simultaneous).

A combination of these mechanics would also work to avoid using the shield: Play action cards face down from your hand and then place coins on them.

Trepid wrote:
I have considered blind auctions in this property type game when a new property comes up for bid. I haven't figured out how to do a blind auction sequence though.

There's a list here, which you could use to look at reviews/mechanics:
https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/9537/blind-bidding-games

Trepid wrote:
There's also the possibility of bribing a city official or planner to get the contracts for most desired building locations.

The city official sounds like the Ninja in Samurai Swords. Whoever allocates the most coins to the Ninja gets to use its ability (in this case, assassinate an enemy general), but if there is a tie nobody gets it. It's a powerful, fun ability and encourages bluffing.

Trepid wrote:
I've decided that I really want to use wealth income for this game. I am struggling to figure out how

What other things do you have in the game so far? What style do you want it to have?

Regards,
kos

Trepid
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theme + mechanics

kos wrote:

What other things do you have in the game so far? What style do you want it to have?

Regards,
kos

Honestly, I am probably too far ahead of myself kos. I have multiple board games I am trying to build simultaneously. I have the TimeKillers game under the new game ideas forum, plus a gold mining game, food fight cafeteria game, this landlord/slumlord style game, a clan game, and a military building takeover style game...and all of these games are in the same condition (missing the main objective). At the moment though, I am bouncing back and forth between this and the timekillers time travel game. For this game I have still not come up with a good main objective to the endgame. After reading through some of the information on mechanics and theme on this site http://www.boardgamedesignlab.com/mechanics/, it seems that my struggle is that I am missing part of the theme. Perhaps when I figure out what the end of this landlord game should be, I imagine the wealth mechanics might work out easier. I am trying to avoid stealing end game objectives from other board games.

I considered the main objective being you have to buy out the other players' properties/buildings, where you bribe city officials once your wealth is substantial (eurogame style where you don't save every turn, you have to spend your wealth each turn). By bribing the officials or building planner, you buy rights to either evict and rebuild, or evict and improve. I imagine this might bring research and development cards into play, where you have to research things like framing, roofing, masonry work, carpentry, carpeting, drywalling, etc (all stages of building or a home).

Getting down to the core basics of this game, I want to see:

Purchasing properties
Renting properties
Some type of wealth graph/dial/scorekeeper or whatever to keep track
of how much you can spend each turn
Some type of research and development so you can either rebuild a
property you have to make it provide more wealth AND/OR Research
and development so you improve the building to add more wealth.
Property bidding
City planner or city official that can be bribed
Different "classes" of buildings that provide more wealth than others
(slums or huts, small and large houses, apartments, businesses,
mansions, parking garages). These could actually be the "zones"
which you described in one of your other posts on this forum.
Either workers that you move around (which relate to your actual wealth) that serve as "actions", or your actual pawn player that you move around to collect rent or buy properties/manage properties.

Things that might be nice but not absolutely necessary:

A second financial type where you can reduce your wealth but get hard
cash to bribe officials or achieve other difficult objectives.
A simple way to count the late rent/missed rent which would lead to
evicting your residents if they miss 3 payments.
Maybe some type of way to sabotage the other players (arson cards
where you can hire a troublemaker to burn down a player's building,
or flooding an apartment, or some other type of mischievous event)

There are so many unanswered questions that I have for this game still which have me kind of stuck, and I imagine it is from the lack of main objective.

Some questions are:
Should I use pawns for the players and spaces on the streets, where the player has to roll dice to see which property he can land on?

What is an interesting objective that would draw players to want to play the game?...something else besides "try to buy out the other player".

What else can I do to force more player interaction besides bidding on properties and bluffing the city officials?

Should I make different classes of players which gives each player
different attributes? For example, a slumlord exceeds at owning
craploads of cheap housing, so every 10 cheap houses you get a
wealth bonus. A developer is good at tearing down older buildings
and rebuilding, giving them a wealth bonus when they rebuild. A
carpenter has experience working with materials so they are good
at saving you money and improvements, so you get a wealth bonus when you improve a building.

As always, I am up for any criticism and suggestions. I
believe the right theme though would answer a lot of my problems.
Can you give some direction please on how I might go about coming up
with a really great main objective? (how to win)

I am considering turning this into a Japanese or Chinese theme because I absolutely love their traditional architectural styles. I don't know if the architecture style will matter much, considering that the board view with be as if you are looking straight down on the city. If that becomes the theme though, then I could see building a particular monument or housing type, and making a separate income graph for that monument. Once you have earned 100 money from that property you win the game or something.

Thanks,

Trepid

kos
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Joined: 01/17/2011
The main objective is... the main objective

Pre-warning: My comments below follow a theme-then-mechanics approach. It's the approach that works for me, but is not the "one and only" way to approach game design. And it's not that cut and dried anyway -- once you iterate a few times between theme and mechanics it doesn't matter much which one you started from as long as they support each other.

Trepid wrote:
There are so many unanswered questions that I have for this game still which have me kind of stuck, and I imagine it is from the lack of main objective.

I agree with your assessment. The main objective is what makes the game, or you could say that the main objective _is_ the game. It sets player expectations even before they start playing, and it drives their behaviour during the game.

I can't give you your main objective, but I can throw out some examples and see if you can draw inspiration for what you want your game to be.

Imagine you are giving a 30-second pitch to prospective players to convince them to play your game, or to introduce the rules.

"You are all space cowboys in the showdown at the KO Korral on Alpha Ceti. It's the lawmen vs the bandits, but watch out for the Wildcard Wascal."

Without knowing anything about the game mechanics, you'd assume that this was a quick filler game that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's probably team based, or at least encourages temporary cooperation, but also involves backstabbing. The core mechanic involves direct conflict, and probably has a last-man-standing victory condition.

"You are crew members on the pirate airship Revenge. Can you work together long enough to fend off the Privateer and reach Gold Beard's treasure, even knowing that only one of you can end up with the Parrot Parrot?"

Again, this game doesn't take itself too seriously. It's semi-cooperative in that the players have to work together in the early part of the game to overcome the game obstacles (the Privateer), but things are likely to unravel in the later part as the players race for the treasure. Expect role-based special abilities and steampunk piratey flavor text. Expect plenty of backstabbing and take-that mechanics. Expect the victory condition to be a specific event (attaining the Parrot Parrot) rather than a gradual accumulation of victory points.

"You are a Daimyo in the Warring States period, striving to gain dominance over the other clans and ultimately be declared the Emperor of all Japan though might, honor, or subterfuge."

This game does take itself seriously, and is likely more lengthy and involved. Expect Japanese ink-wash artwork and zen-like flavor text. Note it is not a last-man-standing victory condition, and the description implies at least 3 viable strategies to win probably involving accumulation of victory points in different categories. So the players can expect multiple options to choose from each turn rather than a pure military strategy (like Risk).

All three of these examples embody a series of assumptions and expectations about the game in just 1-2 sentences, without once mentioning game mechanics or victory points or turn sequence. I would then experiment with game mechanics that support and enhance the theme. Sometimes I find a mechanic that I really like but doesn't suit the theme, in which case I might change the theme or shelve the mechanic for my next game.

So what about your game? How would you describe it?

Try a couple of different versions and see which one resonates with you.

Trepid wrote:
Should I use pawns for the players and spaces on the streets, where the player has to roll dice to see which property he can land on?

Roll-and-move is currently out of favor amongst gamers. That doesn't mean it is always bad, but you'd want a strong thematic reason to have it. For example, my Voyage of Discovery game uses roll-and-move because it represents getting (un)favorable winds in the Age of Sail. When I replaced the dice with a fixed number of action points, the play-testers asked to bring back the dice. But in general, I'd avoid it.

Trepid wrote:
What is an interesting objective that would draw players to want to play the game?... something else besides "try to buy out the other player".

Player elimination is also currently out of favor amongst gamers, unless it is a very short game where you play multiple times in a session. I'd try something more goal-oriented with a fixed game length.

"You were born and raised in the slums, but you have a chance to rise out of poverty through property. Will you use your wealth and influence to improve the lives of your neighbours, or will you extort them for personal gain, or will you aspire to political office?"

"You are an aspiring property developer with your eyes on the mayor's office, and the city's sprawling slums present you with opportunity. Will you win the hearts of the people by making their lives better, or clear them out to make way for development, or beat the corrupt politicians at their own game?"

"City council has granted planning permission to multiple developers to clean up the slums. After three years council will vote on which developer performed the best to win the next multi-million dollar contract. Can you convince enough councillors that you are more deserving than your rivals?"

Note that in all these examples attaining money is not the victory condition. Doubtless the game is going to involve gaining and spending money, but the money is only the means to an end not the goal itself.

Trepid wrote:
What else can I do to force more player interaction besides bidding on properties and bluffing the city officials?

There are many different forms of interaction. E.g.
- Competing for scarce resources.
- Direct attack / take-that.
- Bidding.
- Cooperation / alliances.
- Select how to apply a bad (or good) event.

Trepid wrote:
Should I make different classes of players which gives each player different attributes?

Given the already long list of things you want to include in your game, I think you could re-use something that you've already got rather than add a new element.

E.g.1: If you already have the concept of influencing (or bribing) officials, then this could achieve the same effect. "Buy" the Ports official to get +1 on all port properties. "Buy" the Commerce official to get +1 on commercial properties. That way players are not locked into a role, but have to pay for it -- and the amount they are willing to pay is proportionate to the expected return. Thus, you have a player interaction opportunity through bidding (either open or secret).

E.g.2: The same effect can be achieved in a less "thematically corrupt" way through a tech tree. Spend money to do a training course and get +1 on redevelopments or +1 on commercial properties.

Note that examples 1 and 2 above could have very similar game mechanics, but are quite different in how they support the theme. Example 1 teaches players that the path to success is bribery and corruption. Example 2 teaches players that the path to success is education and self-development. The only difference is the words that you put on the cards.

Regards,
kos

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