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The Queens Shepherd

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Chad
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Joined: 12/31/1969

Hi There,

This is my first post, so greetings to all!
I have been working on a little euro style game called The Queen Shepherd. Its a light strategy game with some tile-laying, card management and economic/trading aspects. It uses action points to resolve play on the board. Basically, the players are shepherds competing to breed the greatest flock of sheep. They sell wool and score with an overseer pawn which travels round the hex tiles (pastures). Space is limited on the pastures so players compete to get their sheep in there in time to score with the overseer, in order to get money to breed more sheep. Of course there are black sheep which turn up in the flocks procreation - which take up space, but score nothing. Players can manoeuvre these, and their own sheep around the board to hinder other players with scoring, whilst also trying to maximise their own profit. The Sheep win the game the first player with 12 sheep is given the honoured title of Queens Shepherd.

Weve play-tested it a few times and the basic game is indeed fun. The structure is enjoyable with some strategic elements and a lot of tactics. I would like to add and additional ‘layer’ of complexity by adding an element of, what amounts to, role selection. These are special items (Shepherds staff, Key, Wagon, Purse and Quill) which break the rules and give the player an edge. They are all useful, so as always, I think the fun would be figuring out which item to pick once your opponents have certain items to get the most advantage.

My question is about the selection system. I am currently thinking of basing it on a bidding mechanic. Players bid gold coins for the use of Special Items, placing their bids next to the item of choice. If you are the only player bidding for a tool you automatically get it for 1 coin. If 2 or more players bid for the same item, the highest wins. In the event of a tie the noone gets it unless one of the bidders raises their bid - if its go’s unchallenged he gets it. Money is tight in the game - every coin counts, so I think that would make things pretty interesting.
I am worried that with this approach the play length might become a problem. Another concern is that a player already in the lead with coins would have a distinct advantage. I have considered bidding with action points, as everyone always has only 4 of these...
Any other suggestions? I havent had much experience with bidding mechanics and wonder if there isn't amore elegant way.

Thanks in advance,
Chad

sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008
The Queens Shepherd

Hi, and welcome to the BGDF!

Your game sounds pretty interesting. I must admit that at first I didn't think I'd be interested, but your description sounded more and more like a good game as it went on.

Regarding these items, I would probably recommend that you simply have a bid for turn order in choosing them (if you have a bid at all). But before I go ahead and make that recommendation, I might like to know what else you need money for in the game. Presumably you sell wool to get money, and you use money for some purpose. Adding this auction for the right to choose your special power for the turn (as well as maybe act first) seems like a good way to introduce agonizing decisions -
"do I bid high to get this action which is really useful to me right now, or do I conserve my money and make do with another action? Will the action I want be chosen by one of the two people bidding high? Maybe I should just go for 3rd..."

Or "I don't really need any action in particular, but if I don't go first, then I'll miss a good scoring opportunity!"

El Grande is much like this. As is Railroad Tycoon/Age of Steam.

Oh, and regarding the actions themselves, perhaps the 'lesser' actions could include some kind of income or scoring, so you choose between a more powerful action (with respect to board position), and a lesser action with a more direct reward (money or VPs).

If you care to send or post your rules, I'd like to take a look!

- Seth

Gogolski
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Joined: 07/28/2008
The Queens Shepherd

After reading your description, my first thought was:
Forget about bidding; just let it cost action-points!!

You have 5 items: Shepherds staff, Key, Wagon, Purse and Quill; which give an advantage. Let players buy that advantage for -let's say- 2 actionpoints. They can then use the advantage every turn they posess the item.
If another player spends two actionpoints for the item in your posession, you have to give it away to that player.

If you have a maximum of one item/player, it gets interesting, because now players with an item that buy off an item from another player, have to give their own item in return.

Note that by changing character-cards during your turn, you can use two advantages.
example:
- You have the purse at the beginning of your turn and collect an extra gold (=purse-advantage).
- You lay an extra tile to the board for one point.
- Then spend two actionpoints for changing your purse with the staff.
- Lastly, you spend the final actionpoint to herd sheep to that tile, but you can now beat twice the amount of sheep onto the tile because you have the staff!

It reminds me a bit of the character-cards in Maharadja, which is a very cool game!! In Maharadja, turn order is also determined by character-card.

Chad
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The Queens Shepherd

Thanks for the encouraging response!

Seth, money is used to buy resources Hay, Wood and Water from the resource stack. Although resources are earned primarily through breeding - when lamb is bred a resource card is drawn into the player hand, which has a black sheep, ordinary sheep, prize sheep icon in the top left corner. This determines the kind of sheep produced. When players buy resources however, they may draw 3 cards choose one and place the remaining 2 back on top in any order. So really, they are also buying the opportunity to manipulate the result of a future breeding, whether its to advantage themselves or disadvantage another player.

Hay is used to breed sheep, Wood is used to build gates, and Water + Wood is used to develop pastures (lay tiles). Breeding, Gates and Pastures also have coin cost, in addition to the resource cards. When gates are built on a hex side, players have to pay the owning player a coin toll when herding sheep through that side.

I really like your suggestion for making lesser order special items more immediately attractive by rewarding their use with coins or some other means.

I will put together a pdf of the ruleset and post a link, any feedback would be very welcome.

Wow, Gogolski its like you already read the rules. You even guessed the use of items (I guess it’s pretty obvious.)I must say your action point argument makes sense. Perhaps ‘lesser’ items could have a lower AP cost? Making them easier to use but fast to loose?

There are two ways I have been considering handling it; the first way you hold on to the item you buy, until its swopped away - a lot like maharaja as you say, a very good game, but I dont want to be too blatant in my mechanics pilfering. Although opens up interesting tactical decisions “do I give him the Staff and he gets those extra sheep in here, but i get those 2 coins for my future sheep from his Purse card?”

The other way is that the objects are ‘rented’ and returned after each player turn. Players have less overt means of manipulating each other this way, but is balanced I guess..

What turned me on to the bidding mechanic is that I liked the idea that once an Item was engaged by another player it is gone - you have to find the best way to use the tool you did get. But alas, I cant seem to find a balanced way to do that...

Cheers,
Chad.

Gogolski
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The Queens Shepherd

Chad wrote:
Perhaps ‘lesser’ items could have a lower AP cost? Making them easier to use but fast to loose?
If players hold on to the item untill it is swapped with another player's item, I strongly advise to make the items equally strong or influencial at a standard cost. The need for items/advantages will probably encourage player's enough to switch items.

But if you want to go bidding, check this:

Chad wrote:
What turned me on to the bidding mechanic is that I liked the idea that once an Item was engaged by another player it is gone - you have to find the best way to use the tool you did get.
Chad wrote:
They sell wool and score with an overseer pawn which travels round the hex tiles (pastures). Space is limited on the pastures so players compete to get their sheep in there in time to score with the overseer, in order to get money to breed more sheep.
Maybe there are several bidding-rounds, triggered by the overseer or when a total of 'X' amount of wool is sold to the overseer.

Chad wrote:
Of course there are black sheep which turn up in the flocks procreation - which take up space, but score nothing.
Now here's an interesting use for those black sheep: You multiply your bid by the amount of black sheep you have, or you add two/black sheep to your bid.

This could turn into a nice tactic:
=> I can see that there's no way for me to compete in the bidding with money and the overseer will start an auction soon. I have the option to generate a couple of black sheep that will certainly buy me the purse (more money...) or the staff (more sheep in the right place and thus more wool sold and thus more money...)
It could work out as an autobalancing mechanic. Black sheep = bad immediately / black sheep = good after a while...

[EDIT]
Oh, I forgot: If players keep the card for X amount of time, you can introduce an actionpoint cost to use the unique ability. If the abilities are not equally strong or influencial, the costs may vary (or even increase with each use...)
[/EDIT]

Cheese!

Jebbou
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Joined: 07/29/2008
The Queens Shepherd

Hi there,

Here's an alternative that would keep things simple:

You could add a role that allow its owner, at the begining of turn, exchange his role with someone elses.

To make things even more easier, the player with the smallest amount of sheep could exchange his card with one of another player. That would give an edge to the player who is starting to fall behind.

One advantage of these techniques would be to keep the focus of the game on the mechanics that you have already defined, rather than transforming the game into a bid-driven game. It would also be fast to resolve.

Regards,

Jeb

Jebbou
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Joined: 07/29/2008
The Queens Shepherd

By the way,

Welcome aboard !!! :D

Jeb

Jpwoo
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Joined: 03/26/2009
The Queens Shepherd

Quote:
You could add a role that allow its owner, at the begining of turn, exchange his role with someone elses.

I like this solution, but it is harder to pull off in say a 3 player game.

To be honest I'm not sure that your game needs a role selection mechanism at all. It is complex already, with tile laying, sheep managment and other factors.

When I hear about the theme and some of the mechanics this sounds like a light-middle weight game, like say settlers. But as you describe the game more it keeps on sounding heavier and heavier. Not that this is bad. Just something to consider as you design, where you want you game to fall.

Chad
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The Queens Shepherd

Hi All,

Thanks for the all helpful comments, and warm welcome.

Hi Jeb!~ I agree I dont think turning it into a bidding game is where I want it to go at all. It would really fragment the focus of the game, and I think that would ultimately make it less fun too. Both your role selections suggestions would work pretty well I think, although the lowest sheep option got me thinking. It might work well if the person who scored the lowest or not at all in the last game turn, gets first choice, followed by second place ect. It would have that balancing aspect, and might turn not scoring at all into an interesting strategic gamble.

Gogolski, I play tested your 2AP per role selection suggestion last night. And you know it worked well - its so simple, yet because you are giving up half your action points it really makes play very interesting. This is because every single point you are spending, you tend to squeeze to try and find the optimal solution; including how to use the roles cleverly. That, to me, is a fun thing.

Hi Jpwoo, I hear you about the additional complexity, and I think I will have to play test it a bit to see if it works with the game as a whole. Last night it seemed to be fun, and added a bit a pizzaz, and interestingly, didn't become overly complicated. But it was with people who know the basic game, so it may have just been the novelty of the new mechanic. However, one of the reasons i looked into it to begin with was because it seemed that the basic game needed a dash more depth, and that although it was fun because of the player interaction, and because its neat herding those sheep around; I feel that it could be a bit less light.

Best,
Chad

Discord
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The Queens Shepherd

Don't forget...a sheep-shepherding game looking for an extra layer can always call upon the trusty Wolf.

:)

Chad
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The Queens Shepherd

Indeed, the wolf does feature as a Trouble card!

Here is the rules PDF as promised:
http://www.ookytentacles.com/Queens_Shepherd.pdf

Best,
Chad

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