In my game "Good Fences," players take colored sticks and play them on a dots-and-boxes grid to try and build complete squares. The catch is that each square must either be all of the same color (red, yellow, green, blue, and white as a wild card) or all different color. When the wertung sticks come out you lose points if you've claimed a plot of land but haven't finished a complete legal box.
Players have the choice of taking one stick from a public display, or two sticks from the bag. The hand limit is five, and you either take sticks, play one stick to the board, or choose a plot of land (you can only play sticks that are either unclaimed or claimed by yourself.)
Anyway, with that out of the way I played the game with a friend and he absolutely crushed me. He would always take two from the bag, while I would vary my play: if there was a public stick that I could use, I'd take it, sometimes I'd draw from the bag.
It feels like there's not really a choice: two from the bag means you get more into your hand faster and gives you more options, and the downside of not getting what you need appears to be non-existent. I'd like for there to be two options so it isn't always "draw from the bag" or "your only choice is of these five face-up sticks," but I'm running out of steam. Any ideas?
Sounds like an elegant game...
This part lost me:
I can only play sticks on unclaimed land or land that I claimed?
How do I mark my claim?
Without knowing those answers, I can't say if this suggestion even makes sense, but why not combine the public stick and land claim actions. In other words, players can either:
1) Draw two hidden sticks, or
2) Take the public stick and claim a box, or
3) Play a stick to the board.
Seems like you could balance the power of option #2 by varying the end-game penalty for claimed-but-not-enclosed squares.
Your claim is marked by taking one of your houses and putting it in the box. You have to have four sticks surrounding your house before the wertung comes out or you suffer a penalty. The reasoning behind not playing on land that belongs to your opponent is that it would be far too easy to screw him over. If both players have neighboring claims (good fences making good neighbors and all), you can only make a play that would be legal for both of you. (This can result in a Mexican standoff where each player needs a different color to complete the box, as what works for one player will violate the rules of another: you can't place a stick that breaks the rules of all different or all equal.)
I like the idea of tying the smaller draw with claiming a box.
Could you add some colorless sticks to the bag that cannot be played to increase the risk of drawing from the bag? or possibly require the player to declare a color before drawing from the bag and if they don't get it on one of the sticks, then they return the drawn sticks to the bag?
I am grasping at straws here....
haha couldn't resist the horrible pun...
How about flipping things a bit?
1) Draw two from the bag
2) Take a public stick and play one to the board*
3) Claim an area
* This has two advantages, it is zero sum and it makes drawing from the bag the natural way to get more options into your hand.
I don't know if that would be too strong, though.
Perhaps you could tie picking a stick with immediately placing that same stick? So your options would be:
1) Take 2 random sticks;
2) Take a stick from the display and immediately place it (if possible / if wanted);
3) Place a stick;
3) Claim a land.
The fake sticks is also a good idea, since it adds to the notion that picking a stick from the display is way safer than taking two at random.
You could do something like having 8 colors instead of 5, and then giving more points for one-colored squares than for four-colored squares. You would have to test and tweak the exact amount of points given for these, but if done correctly, taking from the public display would often be a good choice (needing a specific color and finding it would be rewarded more, and getting the color you need from the bag would also be less likely).
It would be very difficult to have eight colors as the sticks I bought come in the six color wheel colors and black and white. Black is the wertung trigger, white is the joker, purple and orange as the player colors.
EDIT: I guess if I got the sticks from Spiel Material, I could get 'em in pink, brown, gray and "wood", but I really like the idea where you tie claiming property with taking a stick from the public market. It will help slow the game down, make the choice difficult, force players to manage the ebb and flow of when to claim property and when to take from the bag, and I think it balances the game nicely.