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Heir and Regent

Heir and Regent is a two-player card game. One player is the young Heir to the throne: at age fourteen (or so), too young to hold power in his or her own name. Opposing the Heir is the Regent, who holds power until the Heir comes of age, and who would like to retain the real power after that, with the Heir remaining merely a figurehead on the throne. The game represents the three or four years before the Heir comes of age, in which the two players maneuver for the support of the nobles at court. Scoring occurs at each Heir's Birthday; after the final Birthday the Heir has come of age and the game ends. The player who has garnered the most support is the winner.

Comments

Helpers

To KrinkleChip, infocorn, and anyone else interested in helping: by all means, chime in! But I recommend doing it here in this journal, rather than by PM. Currently the site's PM facility is too primitive to be useful--as others have pointed out, you don't even get notified when a new PM arrives.

I got sidetracked this week by my long-standing desire to design Railroad Tycoon, and spent my design time playing with a rail-game idea. But I'll be back to Heir & Regent soon. It's my most promising design at the moment.

Much promise, good sir...

Io. Heir and Regent already seems to be shaping up nicely, and looks to have some promise for good intrigue-y goodness. I'm interested in assisting... PM me if you'd like some additional input.

Regards,
Phil

An outline of play

An outline is all I have at the moment, because the components and rules are all still very fluid. Here's the view from 30,000 feet:

There is a deck of cards. Each card represents a Noble. Each Noble belongs to one of five Factions and has a rank (1 through 8, thematically Duke, Earl, Squire, etc.). Each card also has an Action, and each Action has a cost that is shown on the card. A card can be used in any of four different ways: as a Noble to be placed at Court, as an Action to otherwise alter the Court, as a way of influencing a Faction in the player's favor, or simply discarded as payment for executing an expensive Action from a different card.

In the center of the table is the Court, a layout of (probably) 4 x 4 face-up cards. At the start of the game the Court is random, but the players have the opportunity to alter the Court during play.

Remembering that Nobles belong to Factions, a Clique is an orthogonally-adjacent set of Nobles at Court that all belong to the same Faction. For example, three Nobles of the Progressive faction that are in a row, or in an L-shape, form a three-Noble clique.

On a side board, the five factions each have a track of nine spaces, with a pawn that starts in the middle. If the pawn moves from the center nearer to one end of its track, it shows that that faction favors the Heir; nearer the other end shows favor to the Regent.

Another pawn on the factions board indicates a single faction, the business at hand. Thematically this represents the issue that the King's Privy Council will take up today; mechanically it simply means that only this faction's favor can currently be influenced by the players. Whenever a player influences the current faction, the faction's pawn moves in that player's direction, and the "business" pawn moves to the next faction in order. The "business" pawn continues to cycle through the factions in this manner throughout the game.

When scoring happens, the players win influence (victory points) as a function of the cliques and the favor of the factions. If the Progressive faction favors the Heir (for example), the Heir will scores points according to the size of the largest Progressive clique at court. If the faction leans strongly in favor of the player, the points scored are multiplied by 2 or 3. Scoring happens (I think) three or four times during the game, at slightly unpredictable times.

On a player's turn, he first drafts or randomly draws two cards and adds them to his hand. He may then take as many actions as he can afford. To influence the current faction, he discards a card for that faction. (He can discard more to exert more influence, on a cost schedule I haven't settled yet.) To make changes at Court, he plays a card for its Action. Some actions allow the player to exchange the locations of cards at Court, paying for it by discarding one or two extra cards from the player's hand. Some actions allow the player to replace a card at Court with another card from the player's hand; in this case the replacement card must be of higher rank than the one it is replacing, or the player must discard extra cards according to the difference in rank.

In this fashion, the players seek to form large cliques at court and influence the factions of those cliques in their own favor. Also (of course!) they will seek to break up the cliques of those factions that strongly favor their opponent.

A few more questions...

The game looks like it'll play quite well. I have a few questions, and then my initial impressions.

-Do both players draw from the same deck?
-What is the hand limit?
-What triggers scoring?

The cards. The cards being able to be used in so many ways makes the likelyhood of having deadweight fairly low. Excellent, tight use of components.
-What are some of the actions available on the cards? Changing the 'Business at Hand', affecting a faction
not currently available, changing the order of the factions, reversing the direction of the 'Business at Hand'
marker, and scoring a clique for yourself outside of a scoring round could be other actions.
-Does the Rank of a Noble come into play outside of placing new Nobles in court? Perhaps it adds that
many points to your score during the scoring phase if its faction favors you (see below for alternate
scoring idea). Or, it is easier/more difficult to move about the court based on its faction's favor of you.

Faction Track. The twist for the game. It simulates the machinations of a court quite well. The factions would be better as individual cards so they can be in a different each game (as well as be manipulated through action cards) instead of a static board. As it stands, the 'Business' marker moves after every time a card is played for influence. Could the marker move after both players take a turn instead?
-Having 3/4/5 factions in your favor during any scoring round could automatically win you the game as an
alternate win condition.

Scoring. It appears that scoring is based solely on size with a multiplier if the faction favors you greatly. That looks as it could work. Here are some other ideas...
-Scoring as above, with bonus points equal to the highest rank Noble in the clique.
-Score is the total of the Nobles in the clique. The Faction Track determines the highest value of Noble that
counts during scoring.

Players' Turns. The game seems to have a LOT of cards going through players' hands, be it through play or discard. With players only drawing two cards per turn, I see players running out of cards quickly and unable to afford the more expensive actions quickly. Have you found a problem with players drawing back to starting hand size?
Some ideas for cards in hand...
-Instead of discarding more cards for more influence, could the rank of the Noble determine how far the
Faction Track moves?
-If a Noble is played to replace a higher ranked noble, what if a single Noble from a different faction from
the one being played is discarded (simulating the discarded Noble pulling strings to get a low ranking Noble
into the King's court)?

This game has serious promise. Good designing, Rick.

Regards,
Phil

KrinkleChip wrote:The game

KrinkleChip wrote:
The game looks like it'll play quite well. I have a few questions, and then my initial impressions.

-Do both players draw from the same deck?
-What is the hand limit?
-What triggers scoring?

The same deck. The hand limit is not yet firm, but probably about 8. Scoring is triggered by drawing the "Heir's Birthday" card from the deck during play. This card is semi-randomly salted into the deck, so that it's uncertain when it will appear. There may be more than one of these cards, if I determine that a "year" should happen more often than once through the deck.

KrinkleChip wrote:
The cards. The cards being able to be used in so many ways makes the likelyhood of having deadweight fairly low. Excellent, tight use of components.

Thank you. Wish I could say I thought of it myself, but any number of excellent games use a similar notion.

KrinkleChip wrote:
-What are some of the actions available on the cards? Changing the 'Business at Hand', affecting a faction not currently available, changing the order of the factions, reversing the direction of the 'Business at Hand' marker, and scoring a clique for yourself outside of a scoring round could be other actions.

That's the sort of thing, yes. Currently most of the card actions involve placing Nobles at court, and swapping the positions of Nobles at court. Some of them do affect the factions directly. A private-scoring action is a nice idea; that plays well in several other games I like.

KrinkleChip wrote:
-Does the Rank of a Noble come into play outside of placing new Nobles in court? Perhaps it adds that many points to your score during the scoring phase if its faction favors you (see below for alternate scoring idea). Or, it is easier/more difficult to move about the court based on its faction's favor of you.

Good suggestions. I would actually like for the rank to be used more than it currently is. At the moment, it only affects the actions that add Nobles to the court. In this capacity it affects story arc, because over time the lesser Nobles tend to get evicted and replaced by greater Nobles that are harder to displace. (I'm a big fan of story arc, but I'm not convinced that H&R has a good one yet.)

KrinkleChip wrote:
Faction Track. The twist for the game. It simulates the machinations of a court quite well. The factions would be better as individual cards so they can be in a different [order? -RH] each game (as well as be manipulated through action cards) instead of a static board. As it stands, the 'Business' marker moves after every time a card is played for influence. Could the marker move after both players take a turn instead?

I don't think static order is a drawback, because the starting court is randomized so that the factions will have random values at the start of any game.

The faction 'cam' (which is how I think of cyclic things like this, as an irregular wheel) could certainly be moved at other times and by different triggers. Initially I had thought it would simply automatically advance every turn. A given player would normally get the chance to influence a faction every other time through the cycle (because there are an odd number of factions). But I prefer the current rules which give the players some control over the movement of the cam. Part of the price you pay for influencing the current faction is that you set your opponent up to influence the next faction. Or you can choose not to affect the current faction in order to "strand" your opponent there, and perhaps let him set you up to influence the next faction on your next turn.

One note: it's important that it not usually be possible for both players to affect the same faction in adjacent turns. That would allow a rather pointless tug-of-war. The cam is designed to prevent that, as well as to allow for tactical planning about which factions you and your opponent will be able to influence over the next few moves.

There are exceptions. As mentioned above, there will probably be a card action that allows moving the cam out of turn, and/or influencing a non-current faction.

KrinkleChip wrote:
-Having 3/4/5 factions in your favor during any scoring round could automatically win you the game as an alternate win condition.

I'm not fond of this notion, for a couple of reasons. For example, random card luck at the start of the game could let one player win very quickly. To prevent this might require some irritating "patch" rules. But more importantly, such a win discounts the value of the court completely, making more than half of the game action meaningless.

KrinkleChip wrote:
Scoring. It appears that scoring is based solely on size with a multiplier if the faction favors you greatly. That looks as it could work. Here are some other ideas...
-Scoring as above, with bonus points equal to the highest rank Noble in the clique.
-Score is the total of the Nobles in the clique. The Faction Track determines the highest value of Noble that counts during scoring.

"Bonus points equal to the highest rank Noble" -- I like that, could be a nice twist.

"Faction track determines the highest value of Noble that counts" -- I'll have to think about this, but it could be cool. It makes rank more thematic, and gives the players another axis of decision-making because it is now the "weight" of the clique's Nobles rather than merely its size that matters. But it could complicate the scoring a bit. If there are two or more cliques for a faction, which one scores? Used to be easy: the largest one, and ties didn't matter because only size counted. Now it would be more complicated. Still, that's not necessarily a deal-breaker.

Both of these suggestions have a quality I like a lot: they lend story arc. Factions can become more valuable over time not merely by becoming bigger, but by swapping in more powerful Nobles. This has several nice effects. Players have another interesting goal late in the game when it may be hard to seriously affect the factions or change the size of the cliques: they can work on swapping higher Nobles into their own cliques. Scores will be higher later in the game as higher-ranked Nobles enter the cliques, giving a nice build-up of tension. There will be more of a feeling of building over the course of the game, because now you not only want large cliques but also more powerful cliques. All good!

KrinkleChip wrote:
Players' Turns. The game seems to have a LOT of cards going through players' hands, be it through play or discard. With players only drawing two cards per turn, I see players running out of cards quickly and unable to afford the more expensive actions quickly. Have you found a problem with players drawing back to starting hand size?

Some actions are cheap, so players can usually find something to do on their turn. Sometimes not, but then that's a tactical decision: do I spend all my cards this turn to achieve some goal, at the price of possibly "losing" my next turn or two by having nothing to do but rebuild my hand?

KrinkleChip wrote:
Some ideas for cards in hand...
-Instead of discarding more cards for more influence, could the rank of the Noble determine how far the Faction Track moves?

The faction tracks aren't that long. I think it unwise for it ever to be cheap to exert extra influence. Otherwise they become more fluid than I'd like. Building up strong influence in a faction should take time, effort, and planning, and should not be easily undone by your opponent's play of a lucky card draw.

KrinkleChip wrote:
-If a Noble is played to replace a higher ranked noble, what if a single Noble from a different faction from the one being played is discarded (simulating the discarded Noble pulling strings to get a low ranking Noble into the King's court)?

it's actually more painful to discard a Noble of the same faction. You're clearly interested in gaining influence in this faction and building its power at court; every card in that faction is therefore valuable as a faction-influencer or a clique-builder. Having to throw one away in order to place another at court can be an agonizing decision.

As for "single" Noble, the number that must be discarded varies with the location at court. Center locations are best because they have four orthogonally-adjacent neighbors, offering lots of possiblities for expanding the clique. Corner locations are worst, with only two neighbors. The middle edge positions are in between, with three neighbors. There are separate actions with proportionate costs for placing in these three kinds of locations.

Some great stuff here. Thanks, Phil! One of these days I'll get a straw-man rulebook posted. This last week I got distracted by another design, but I don't want Heir and Regent on the back burner so I'll be working on it some more soon.

!!!

I'm sold. I'd love to help out, and in the spirit of the courtiers, perhaps quid pro quo on one of my own designs?

PM me or whatever. I have GJ for "DOOMSDAY" and I think I'm going to start one for another game here...

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