I'm developing a game with a robot noir theme around the basic idea of shifting alliances, and on the parts of the game that feels really nessicery is an element of researching technologies and gaining power (that you spend resources to gain), but without the player's knowledge. But I'm not sure how to do this, and keep a record of some kind (to keep players honest)on what they purchase without having some sort of "DM" type character. I'm wondering if this is even possible to do.
I can't think of any game that really does this (probably for good reason).
I'm considering instead it being in the open and has some sort of chance element to simulate the character's suspicion, but this doesn't seem quite as eloquent.
I know of a couple of games where players have a secret technology or something similar that they are trying research or influence, and both games handle it the same way;
Each player has a technology deck and they either choose, or randomly select, one of these tech cards and place it face down in front of them. Each turn, the player has the option of taking resources from their "pool" and placing it on the back of the card. When the resources on the back of the card reach a certain level, the card is flipped over and it becomes an active card. The spent resources go to the resource bank.
Other players will know you are working on something, but they won't know what it is for certain. Some of the games have a mechanic that allows you to take resources off the backs of cards if you don't want to research that tech anymore.
With regard to your game, you could introduce some kind of system that allows for multiple cards to be researched at the same time. This would make it much harder for players to know the true agenda.
The record keeping issue resolves itself as each player can see exactly on which cards the other players are spending resources.
Good luck with your design - it sounds fun!
Yeah, I was thinking something along those lines. I guess I didn't say it very clear, but I was thinking I wanted a way where the research was completely obscured (that is, no one knows your even working on a project until done) but that seems unrealistic, and thinking about it, the system you mention above sounds like it'd work well in the game. Thanks.
I can think of a system that might work with multiple decks or at least different cards with identical backs.
If the players have research project cards with identical backs to player action, move action or some similar type of card, then all cards could be shuffled into 1 deck. As the player draws cards each turn, they will naturally collect cards for their research project; when they have a certain number of cards, the project is completed.
Alternatively, you could allow the players to build multiple decks with the cards and they simply draw off the deck that has the cards they want. This will work until the midpoint of the game at which time most players will be able to tell which of the opposing decks is generating which type of card.
Finally, if you really like shuffling cards!, you can have a deck that players draw from that is 10 or 20 cards. After each draw, the player adds cards of their choice from a "pool" of cards to the deck and shuffle. The player can't control what they draw each turn, but they can increase the chances of getting what they want on future draws. I'm not sure how I feel about this level of deck management, but I thought I would throw the idea out there for you...
Games like Magic: The Gathering and Rummy (or even Gin) have a similar mechanic, in which you are working toward what you want to accomplish, and all someone knows is what you have in play in front of you, but since all of your cards have the same backing, they will be unable to deduce what you are working toward.
For M:TG, if you have a combination that will work with three cards, but is defensive (i.e. - you can destroy nearly everything the opponent has, but only in response to an attack), the other player would have to anticipate this combination based on memorization of EVERY CARD IN THE AVAILABLE POOL (which is in the 30,000's at this point, I think). This makes it nearly impossible, and instead forces them to concentrate on a similar surprise strategy of their own that you are unable to deduce in an effort to destroy you (or gain more life, or draw more cards, or any number of other game-winning objectives)
for Gin and Rummy, the opponent knows you are looking for, say, the 4th Ace to match the 3 Aces that you have already played on the table, or since they've seen you picking up spades from the draw pile, they may be able to deduce that you are looking for a run of spades, but if you continually draw cards from the deck, anything you are working toward in terms of runs and sets must be deduced instead by what you discard, meaning that the opponent must work on assumptions based solely on process of elimination (i.e.- if you discrd two 4's, it is most likely that you are NOT trying to make a set of 4's.).
That said, you could have the players start with 45 cards, say, ALL WITH THE SAME BACKING.
Then, each player takes their 45 cards and arranges them into 3 decks of 15 cards. The rules then dictate how players draw from which deck on their turn. It could be anything like:
1) based on which space you land on - when you land on this space, draw a card from deck 2, or something,
2) player rolls a die (d3) and must draw according to the roll (exhausted decks are rerolled),
3) a player marks which deck they draw from this turn and must move the marker every turn, ensuring that they can only draw from one deck per round, but never the same deck two rounds in a row,
4) a player may choose which deck to draw from each round, but only 1 deck no matter how many cards are drawn that round,
5) a player must draw 1 card from each deck each round,
any of these would make the dynamic different, so you chould choose based on how you want gameplay to evolve or how you would like to limit player choices.
Also, this will allow the players to customize their strategy ahead of time, without allowing the opponent to understand their objectives. For example,
If I started with 25 recource cards out of the 45 cards that each player starts with, and I wanted to accelerate the "random" allocation of resources in my favor, I could put most of my resources in a single deck (i.e.- 13/15 cards are resource cards, and 2/15 are action cards that "grow" existing resources). This way, when I draw from that deck, my gameplay that round will be based on the fact that I am guaranteed additional resources. If I am running low on soldiers, I would choose to draw from a deck stacked with soldiers in an effort to recover more quickly, which could make my gameplay more aggressive (losing an attack against opponents would carry less weight for me if I knew I could reinforce less randomly and more strategically - by drawing from the deck where 10/15 cards are soldiers). Also, if you had to choose only one deck to draw from, difficult choices would need to be made later in the game as you began to exhaust certain stacked decks. This might make people instead choose the strategy of balancing their 3 starting decks, etc...
It all will go toward allowing the players to customize a gameplay strategy from the start that their opponents will have to deduce and react to, but will remain hidden while allowing the player freedom to execute the plan.
This way, even if those three 15-card decks are shuffled, the "energy/resource", "objective/goal", "soldier/equipment", "action/bonus", or whatever cards you have planned, matter instead based on their concentrations in each deck, and how the rules determine when you may or may not draw from that deck.