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What do you think of this idea: "Rube Goldberg's Revenge"?

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 11/01/2008

Hi! I've got an idea for a game based on the show Junkyard Wars. Here are the basic rules (I'm leaving out the tool and power up lists). What do you think? Note -- I'm thinking of replacing the d24's with d20's (they're obviously more common) but 6 does not divide 20).



Rube Goldberg’s Revenge

AGE: 12 to adult
DURATION: 1 hour

10 double-sided maze tiles, each with a 5x5 section of labyrinth and four exits
A package of Play Money
1 pad of paper
1 15-second timer
1 deck of task cards
1 rule booklet
6 d24's (twenty-four sided dice)
60 prefabricated tool marker tiles (5 of each type of tool)
30 improvement markers
100 object (junk and powerup) tiles
100 quality tiles: 50 Grade D, 30 Grade C, 15 Grade B, 5 Grade A
6 sets of 4 worker tokens
1 game board
1 tile draw bag

To build a working Rube Goldberg-style machine out of the objects found in the junkyard.

A Rube Goldberg machine is a device which accomplishes a simple task in an overly complicated way, using large numbers of components in unorthodox ways.

Start by choosing four of the maze tiles and placing them (in any orientation) in the four slots in the game board. This creates a 10x10 grid which will serve as the junkyard maze.

Each player rolls a d24 to determine who goes first: highest number starts, and play proceeds clockwise. The first player takes the four six-sided dice.

The players next choose entrances to the 10x10 grid (there are eight of them). They claim their entrance by choosing a color and placing their worker tokens in the construction zone just outside that entrance. This is where that team will build its machine.

Each player gathers $1,000 each of Play Money using whichever denomination bills is convenient. Strong players may be handicapped by giving them less money. Inevitably, one person will be assigned the task of dealing out the money.

While one player is dealing out money, another takes the pile of combined pile of junk/powerup tiles, flips them face-down, and place one of each on each square in the 10x10 grid. A third person takes the 100 quality tiles and places them in the draw bag.

Finally, shuffle the deck of task cards and draw one, placing it on the table next to the construction zone. This indicates the task the players’ machines are supposed to accomplish. The task may be simple, but the more complicated the machine is, the better...provided that the machine works.

Now jot down the starting time and let the game begin!

This game is based on a television show in which teams of four workers are asked to build some kind of machine out of scraps of metal and wood in a junkyard. They have a few hours to do so and are racing against the clock as well as their opponents. Starting out with nothing but a few tools of their own, the workers run through the junkyard, trying to find pieces of junk which could help in the construction of their machine.

Each worker brings his components to his team’s headquarters, where the machine is actually constructed. It often takes a while to transform a pile of junk into a machine.

When time expires, each team tests out its machine. The team whose machine works the best wins. If the team has not finished constructing their machine by the time the clock hits zero, they’re out.

A man-action (MA) is of a unit of effort involved in constructing a machine. Each worker may perform up to six actions during his turn, in any order. Since there are four workers on each team, a player has 24 MA to work with each turn.

Workers may attempt to speed up their construction work by buying prefabricated tools at the beginning of their owner’s turn (before any actions have been performed). Each construction zone comes with a tool shop, where any player can buy any (or all) of twelve different kinds of tools.

Only workers in a construction zone may purchase tools, and (unless stated otherwise) only the worker holding the tool can use it.

Worker may sell used tools back to a tool shop for half price at the end of their turn (round up prices to the value of the lowest denomination bill).

All tool transactions require that worker buying or selling the tool spend one man-action performing the transaction.

Note that the stock of 60 tools is shared between all of the tool shops. It is possible for a particular tool to sell out.

Each player issues one or more “action” commands to his workers during a turn: work on assembling or disassembling the machine; buy or sell a tool; use a tool; search the current square for junk; or move to an adjacent square. Different workers on the same team may receive different sets of orders.

Workers may interleave their actions. For instance, Worker A may take two actions and may hold off on his remaining actions until one of his coworkers, B, has spent three actions to move into Worker A’s square. They may also take actions simultaneously: for instance, Worker B can help Worker A carry a heavy object after joining Worker A in his square.

A worker may only take action during his owner’s turn.
Determining the Number of Actions Available for a Worker
An unencumbered worker may take up to 6 actions. A worker carrying one or more objects may be penalized one or more actions each turn depending on the nature of the objects carried. The heavier and bulkier the load, the greater this “Action Penalty”.
If two or more workers work together to carry an object, the object’s Action Penalties are distributed evenly among the workers (round Action Penalties up, i.e. round action limits down).

NOTE: for the first turn, and for the first turn ONLY, the first player gets one action, the second player two actions, and so forth. This reduces the advantage a player would get for going first.

Assembling or Disassembling the Machine
Under normal circumstances, a worker may spend an action putting one man-action of work into building a machine. If two objects need to be connected to (or disconnected from) each other to make the machine work properly, the team must spend 72 MA in order to link them together or 24 MA to separate them (as we all know, it is much easier to wreck something than put it together). The player can keep track of these on his 24-sided dice (since 24*3 = 72).

A worker may only work on the machine if he is in his team’s construction zone and has at least one hand free.

Certain objects can help expedite labor. For instance, a Tool Kit can help one individual worker assemble machines more quickly.

Components which have been connected together may only be discarded (or picked up) together. A player must disconnect one component from the rest if he only wants to pick up, or discard, one of them.

Moving and Carrying Objects
Under normal circumstances, a worker may spend an action moving into an adjacent square (either horizontally or vertically). They may not move through walls (though tools exist which can demolish walls).

A worker may pick up and drop objects during a move for free. Objects carried by a single worker are placed face down underneath the colored token (the worker’s owner may look at it at any time, though). Dropped items are left face down in the square the worker had dropped them in, where they can be picked up by anyone who wanders over there.

If a worker picks up an item (or drops one) during his turn, he may continue taking actions if he has additional actions available. If the pickup or drop changes the worker’s load, his action limit for the current turn (and future turns) instantly changes to reflect his new load. If his new limit equals or exceeds his current action count for the turn, he can do no more work this turn.

Note that individual workers only have two hands, and as a result cannot carry more than two hands’ worth of objects.

Offloading Junk in the Construction Zone and Determining their Quality
A worker must offload an item in his team’s construction zone if he wants it to remain the property of his team. Objects offloaded in the construction zone are placed face down in that team’s construction zone.

When an object is first offloaded in a construction zone, the player draws a quality tile from the draw bag. This tile will be associated with the object for the rest of the game. The quality tile will indicate how well the object will work in practice. Poor-quality objects may want to be discarded in favor of better ones.

Due to space constraints, a team may only store ten or fewer objects in its construction zone. These includes tools and powerups as well as pieces of junk.

If an encumbered worker finds that his team’s area is full when he arrives, he cannot offload his items until his team makes space by either discarding objects the player has already offloaded, selling objects, trading objects, or temporarily picking up objects already in the construction zone.

If a player decides that he no longer wants an object he has already offloaded in the construction zone, he may re-enter the maze and leave it there with its quality tile, face down. This frees space for additional objects and allows other players to pick it up like any other dropped item. The object’s new owner may not look at the quality tile until the object has been brought back to that owner’s construction zone.

Note that objects may be placed in a container (shopping cart, knapsack, etc.) to save space. In that case, only the container counts towards the limit. Containers may not be placed in other containers. Objects must be removed from their containers in order to use them.

Any number of workers and/or pieces of junk may occupy a given space.

Certain pieces of junk can help change these rules for individual workers. For instance, a shopping cart will allow workers to carry more objects more quickly (wheels can be useful).

Searching the Area
A worker may spend an action searching his current square for junk. He does so by looking all tile(s) lying on that space, taking care to keep each junk tile associated with the appropriate quality tile.

Certain objects, such as metal detectors, will make it easier for workers to search the maze.

Descriptions of each of the pieces of junk in the game (their composition, weight, function, and so forth) in the game can be found at the end of this document.

Passing Items to Workers in the Same Square
Workers may hand off objects to co-workers in their square at no cost. However, tools and powerups may only be transferred at the beginning of a turn, before any actions have been performed.

Note that there are several “blank” tiles in the game. These can represent ANY non-powerup object known to be in the junkyard. Once a “blank” has been assigned a function by a given player, its function may not be changed (though if it is dropped and picked up for the first time by another player’s worker, the other person may redefine its role).

Objects associated with blank tiles are always of quality grades C or D. If the quality tile associated with the blank is Grade A or Grade B, the blank tile is considered to be Grade C. Otherwise, it is considered Grade D.

Blanks not yet associated with a component count as 2 Action Penalty, 1 Hand.

A player may find that certain items can be used for unusual purposes (for instance, he may want to lift a magnifying glass with a shovel to keep a hand free). Unorthodox uses for items are permitted as long as all opponents agree to them (and to any proposed Number of Hands and/or Action Penalty requirements). Once an unorthodox use model has been agreed upon, it may be used by any player. Unorthodox use models often lie at the heart of a Rube Goldberg machine.

Note that tools can be used in a machine, in which case they are assumed to be quality B. Note, however, that once a tool has been connected to a component it can no longer serve its function as a tool.

Players may add their own powerups and/or tools to the junkyard. Each player is entitled to add the same number of objects, and one of the existing objects must be removed to make room for each new one before the game begins. Any unusual powerups and tools must be described in detail to all the players before the game begins.

The players may barter equipment (and/or Play Money) at any point in the game. For instance, if the Green team needs a shopping cart and sees that Red has one, the Green player can ask for a trade. Interesting auctions can result in games with three or more players.

If a player thinks he is in the lead, he may try to deliberately stall for time to make sure no one else gets a chance to finish their machine. To prevent this, a player can use the 15-second timer to limit the slow player’s turn to 15 more seconds. The slow player has 15 seconds to perform all of his remaining actions. If he cannot perform all of his actions, his unused actions are forfeited.

The teams have one hour to assemble a machine which performs the required task. In addition, they must draw a diagram explaining how the machine works. This diagram must be completed before the hour is complete.

When one hour has elapsed, all teams reveal their machines (turning the components face up) and each player explains how his machine accomplishes the task, using the diagram as necessary. If the opponents agree that the design makes sense, all is well and good. However, if the player cannot convince his opponents that the machine will work, a penalty of up to 10 points may be assessed on each test roll. Players who were unable to complete their diagram and assemble their machine before time elapsed get no points and automatically lose.

The players then compete to see whose machine is best by testing their machine 10 times. The outcome of these tests determines the winner.

To test a machine, the player computes the probability of the machine’s success based on the quality of the machine’s components. Each machine starts with Success Value of 6 (plus the design penalty, if any). That is, rolling a value 6 or higher on a 24-sided die means that the machine works. Each Grade A component decreases this value by 3 to a minimum value of 2. Each Grade C component increases it by 2, and each Grade D component increases it by 4 (maximum value 23).

The player then rolls the d24 to determine if his machine has passed the test.

TEST RESULTS If the die roll equals or exceeds the Success Value, the machine has worked. The player earns one point for each component in the machine.

If the die roll is greater than 1 but less than the Success Value, the machine has not worked properly. The player earns no points.

If the die roll is 1, the player receives no points. Worse still, the machine suffers a catastrophic failure which has damaged all of its components. Each component loses one level of quality (minimum quality D). The component is assumed to have its new quality for all remaining tests.
The player with the highest combined point total wins the game. If two or more players tie for the highest number of passed tests, these players add together the die rolls for their tests and the player with the highest sum is the winner.

Joined: 08/20/2008
For me, a Scrapheap

For me, a Scrapheap Challenge/Junkyard Wars game should be about building the machine, not about micromanaging a group of people.

Have you played Galaxy Trucker? That style of play, where the parts are mixed up in the middle of the table and then players simultaneously build their machines by taking pats from the middle and either adding them to their machine or placing them back on the table, could work better. Have a sand timer that can be flipped n times, and when the last grain drops on the last time, the machines are finished.

Your method of determining whether the machine works doesn't really appeal to me either, but perhaps that's because it's different to the idea I've been thinking about along a similar theme. The way I wanted to do it was that the machine would have one or more energy producers (engines, batteries, etc), a number of energy transmitters (chains, cables), and some energy users (wheels, lights etc). Some of the energy users could actually be transducers, converting one type of energy into another. Other users would generate actions when powered.

When the machine is turned on, each of the producers would generate energy, which would flow along the transmitters, one block per turn. Different types of energy would be represented with different colours of token, and when a colour of energy could no longer spread, all the tokens would be removed and the producer would send out a fresh pulse.

The objective would be to create the actions specified by the task card, in the correct order. The first player to complete the task would win.

Yes, a very vague and poorly formulated idea right now! But I feel the simultaneous scrabble for bits from Galaxy Trucker could work nicely for this theme...

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

Where the hell do you find d24s?

Would the game work with some combination of standard dice?

pelle's picture
Joined: 08/11/2008
d24 with normal dice

24-sided dice are not uncommon in online stores that sell rpg dice, from what I have seen. Google rpg and dice or something.

d24 using only normal dice (ie d6, of course) sounds a bit tricky. For no good reason at all I spent some time a while ago trying to come up with optimal ways to get random numbers of equal probility from 1 to n using only a d6, but I didn't go all the way to n=24 before it got too much work to do manually.

The easiest (ie fewest dice) I can come up with quickly would be using three dice of different colors. First two are combined as two binary d2 (d2-1), to get four different results:
00 -> 0 (both die 1-3)
01 -> 6 (first die 1-3, second die 4-6)
10 -> 12 (first die 4-6, second die 1-3)
11 -> 18 (both die 4-6)

Then that is just added to the result of the third die, read as a regular d6.

A table to easily look up the result may be required at first... Of course you could cheat and use a d4 to replace the first two d6. Perhaps there are easier ways?

fecundity's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
The d24 tangent

pelle wrote:

A table to easily look up the result may be required at first... Of course you could cheat and use a d4 to replace the first two d6. Perhaps there are easier ways?

It could be done with two dice, but you would have to reroll a 5 or 6 on the first die. This effectively makes the first die a d4, which serves the same function as the 2d2 in your scheme.

Without rerolling, 3d6 are required-- just as in your scheme. For a proof of this, note that 24 factors into 2x2x2x3. This means a d24 is mathematically equvialent to 3d2 and a d3. Each d6 factors into 2x3, so they're each equivalent to a d2 and a d3. If you want to accept the first roll, you need 3d6 to get 3d2; one of the d3 is used, and the other two are ignored.

For similar reasons, there is no way to simulate a ten-sided die by rolling two six-siders (unless you're willing to reroll one of them if it rolls 6). 10 factors into 2x5 and so has prime factors that 6 simply has not got.

pelle's picture
Joined: 08/11/2008
That's the exact same

That's the exact same reasoning I've used to factor down bigger dice into d6-equivalents. I think it should be quite easy to write a program that can output optimal tables to solve it as well. I prefer adding an extra die to having the player sometimes reroll.

Joined: 08/20/2008
The D24 tricks are all very

The D24 tricks are all very impressive, but I just don't see the point. In the original idea, it seems that D20s could be used just as easily, with very little modification of mechanics.

Keeping track of progress on a die seems unwise - far better to have a scoring track style thing, or accumulate progress counters and trade them in when they hit 24/72/whatever. Progress dice are vulnerable to being knocked and/or accidentally picked up and rolled.

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