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Action Selection Mechanic

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Cool Among Camels
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My new project, dubbed the ever-so-clever "Superhero Game", is pretty straightforward. You are a superhero in a big city. You want to be the best of the best. You do this by saving people, stopping bad guys, and doing other superhero-y stuff. You win by getting 10 glory (points).

There are four sections of the city, each represented by a deck of emergency cards. Emergencies are resolved through dice rolls. Your hero has three resources (strength, speed, and smarts), and these resources are spent to roll dice. If you don't resolve an emergency by the end of your turn, it does bad stuff to you.

After you complete an emergency, you collect glory. Back at headquarters, however, you have the opportunity to cash in your glory for fame (money), allowing you to buy upgrades. As the game continues, emergencies get harder, so upgrading is generally a good idea.

All these systems work well. However, the glue that holds the game together—action selection—is lacking.

There are two types of actions, ones that you can use in the city (C) and ones that you can use in your headquarters (HQ). You perform one action per turn:

• TRAVEL (C & HQ): Move to a city section or to your headquarters.

• SEARCH (C): Discover an emergency at your current city section, gain 1 fame, but encounter that emergency immediately.

• ENGAGE (C): Encounter a discovered emergency at your city section or fight with a player in your section.

• REST (HQ): Restore all of your strength, speed, and smarts at your headquarters.

• SHOP (HQ): Purchase any number of upgrades at your headquarters.

• BOAST (HQ): Exchange any amount of honor for an equal amount of fame at your headquarters.

The game is intended to be fast. Take one action, go to the next player. Resolving emergencies takes the longest of all actions, but even that is finished within 20 seconds (or however long it takes someone to total two or three dice). While having quick actions reinforces the fact that the game is a race (10 glory first), I'm wondering if there's something better.

Maybe action selection could work like Puerto Rico / San Juan where after the action is taken that round, other players must select a different action (but are given some benefit from your action). Within the same vein, maybe it could operate like a worker placement game where being on a space (city section, shop, hospital to rest) gives you an immediate bonus and prevents other players from doing the same as you, though this would slow things down. Maybe actions aren't the way to go at all and instead it would be better if your turn consisted of phases (move, encounter, shop, etc.), though, again, this would take significantly longer and slow the pace of the game.

While the action selection does work, I'm really hoping to make it stronger. Any thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Squinshee
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I don't have any advice or

I don't have any advice or ideas about different action selection mechanics. It does seem like a good idea to have your actions affect the types of actions your opponents can do.

I see that your VP's also function as currency as well for hero upgrades. I love this idea (and have tried to implement it in designs of mine) but find it never works the way I want it to. I think that's the case because players don't like to go backwards (trade in their lead), because it can give games a two steps forward one step back feel, which isn't entirely rewarding. Can players win without ever upgrading? And even more important, is that a fun way to win?

czarcastic
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Thematic mechanics

Both your propositions include action denial as part of the mechanic. I can't see how doing any one of the listed actions would prevent another superhero from doing the same thing.

Without the action denial, either way could work.

As it currently stands, there's only trouble when heroes go looking for it. Thematically, it may be better to have these pop up at intervals with consequences for all if not resolved within a time limit.
However this would introduce a semi-cooperative element and may detract from the "race for glory" feel you're looking for.

Cool Among Camels
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VP and Upgrades

Squinshee wrote:
I see that your VP's also function as currency as well for hero upgrades. I love this idea (and have tried to implement it in designs of mine) but find it never works the way I want it to. I think that's the case because players don't like to go backwards (trade in their lead), because it can give games a two steps forward one step back feel, which isn't entirely rewarding. Can players win without ever upgrading? And even more important, is that a fun way to win?

I've only playtested it a handful of times, but so far all games have been very close. As a player, I usually hand my VP in so that I can get the best stuff and take down the big emergencies (there are also supervillains that you can fight to get a big boost in points, but they're strong).

During the last game that I played, I traded in all of my glory from emergencies and tried to go for villains instead. I defeated one (5VP), and then missed defeating another villain (also 5VP) literally by one dice pip. The player after me won, but did so with only three items (I had maybe seven) and by only resolving emergencies worth 1VP and 2VP.

I think you are right, though. Trading in your lead for a better position later can sometimes be annoying. It's certainly a system that needs more testing.

czarcastic wrote:
As it currently stands, there's only trouble when heroes go looking for it. Thematically, it may be better to have these pop up at intervals with consequences for all if not resolved within a time limit.
However this would introduce a semi-cooperative element and may detract from the "race for glory" feel you're looking for.

That's an interesting idea. How would you count the intervals? Would it be each emergency loses "time" per player turn, or would you suggest doing it in more of a round structure?

czarcastic
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Emergency intervals

Yes, my train of thought was that a number of emergencies (likely proportional to the number of players) would hit the board during setup and each time play reached the first player again.

Or a new one is added once one emergency is resolved or expires, so there's always X number of emergencies on the board, though that would make the expiration timing harder.

If an emergency remains unresolved for a full turn, it gains a time token. Once it has time tokens equal to its Expiration, it resolves with a negative outcome.

May want to add a First Player token that gets passed after each round to alleviate first player advantage, if you don't have one already.

Cool Among Camels
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Neat Idea

This is an interesting idea. It's something I'll try implementing. However, the core of the game will still be lacking. Maybe I can find some sort of core mechanic that compliments the one that you described.

keirion
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What about actually giving

What about actually giving players a benefit from going to the same city segment as one another?

Thematically you're all superheroes dealing with emergencies. If player 1 is already in sector A and player 2 shows up and deals with an emergency then it seems like there should be a sense of player 1 helping out. An extra die or a re-roll or something.

At the same time, you could add a mechanic where if a segment has no heroes in it at the end of a round everyone takes a hit due to letting crime run rampant. Maybe at the end of the round each hero loses 1 glory for each city segment with no heroes in it? That might not scale as well in a game with fewer players, though.

Ideally this would make a nice tension of choosing to go where other players are to have an easier emergency due to getting help or going to a new segment to stop the loss of glory.

Optionally, you could also make it so that if you attempt an emergency and fail, you don't have the negative thing happen, but rather it stays face up on the top of that deck and if another player comes and successfully completes it before the end of the round then you aren't harmed, but if no one completes it then everyone in that city segment gets dinged.

ruy343
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Non-centralized action selection

OK, so it looks like you're trying to make a heavily thematic game, but add Euro mechanics to it. This is going to be hard (although not necessarily impossible) because eurogames are typically based on a system, around which a theme is pasted. American games tend to be the opposite way - design the theme of the game to work as intended, and let the mechanics exist to serve the theme.

The idea of adding an action-selection idea to a thematic game like this is the questions you've been getting from other commenters - "Why should my choice of action right now prevent another superhero from doing the same?"

However, I do have an idea that might work well for you. There's a game that was kickstarted a while ago (I forget the title) that was intended to mirror a two-player fighting game, where each player selected two cards (one had to be a style card, while the other was a fight card) to determine their action on the turn. Once the card had been played, they wouldn't get those cards back for two turns (they would move along card spots on the board itself at the end of each turn), meaning that you couldn't keep spamming a particular strategy.

Now, in that game, the style cards were all unique to the hero you were playing, as was one or two of the fight cards, which gave each hero a unique flavor. You could try to employ something similar with regards to your action selection, making each player's limitations independent of other players. perhaps certain actions also take more time to employ, influencing turn order with other players, which would make it both interactive and simultaneously self-contained.

There are other methods for this too. Trajan employs a Mancala-style game board for each person, which lets them plan ahead to decide their moves, and the more stones you move on a given turn, the faster the season ends, which can mess with other players' sense of timing.

ElKobold
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Lords of Waterdeep is highly

Lords of Waterdeep is highly thematic and has no problem with justifying worker placement.

Squinshee
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ruy343 wrote:There's a game

ruy343 wrote:
There's a game that was kickstarted a while ago (I forget the title) that was intended to mirror a two-player fighting game, where each player selected two cards (one had to be a style card, while the other was a fight card) to determine their action on the turn.

I believe the game you're referring to is BattleCON.

Cool Among Camels
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Thanks for the great

Thanks for the great feedback, everyone!

From the sounds of it, people would be more interested in this game if it were cooperative. I've never worked on a cooperative game before but I think I'll give it a try.

czarcastic wrote:
Or a new one is added once one emergency is resolved or expires, so there's always X number of emergencies on the board, though that would make the expiration timing harder.

If an emergency remains unresolved for a full turn, it gains a time token. Once it has time tokens equal to its Expiration, it resolves with a negative outcome.

I've been thinking about this a lot. I'll try this:

• At the beginning of each round, draw an emergency card and place it in the city (there will be an actual city board instead of just having decks).

• Emergency cards have an expiration time. When an emergency is placed in the city, you look at the expiration value. Draw cards from the top of the emergency deck equal to the value and place them facedown beside the active emergency card.

• At the end of each round, remove one facedown expiration card from each active emergency (when the last expiration card is removed, discard the emergency). These removed cards are turned face up and placed in the city as new emergencies. Draw and place facedown cards by each of these new emergencies equal to their expiration value.

The longer you let an emergency go, the more chaos it causes in the rest of the city. Also, you don't need tokens or counters for expiration time; the facedown cards are the counters.

keirion wrote:
Optionally, you could also make it so that if you attempt an emergency and fail, you don't have the negative thing happen, but rather it stays face up on the top of that deck and if another player comes and successfully completes it before the end of the round then you aren't harmed, but if no one completes it then everyone in that city segment gets dinged.

These are very interesting ideas! I'll try something similar. Players roll to resolve emergencies. Emergencies have a difficulty value. If your roll is equal to or greater than the difficulty value, you remove an expiration card from the active emergency. You can also score 'critical' rolls by rolling double or triple the difficulty value.

Difficulty values generally won't be super high (maybe between 10 to 15). Under most circumstances, players will be able to, at the very least, reduce the effectiveness of each emergency.

ruy343 wrote:
However, I do have an idea that might work well for you. There's a game that was kickstarted a while ago (I forget the title) that was intended to mirror a two-player fighting game, where each player selected two cards (one had to be a style card, while the other was a fight card) to determine their action on the turn. Once the card had been played, they wouldn't get those cards back for two turns (they would move along card spots on the board itself at the end of each turn), meaning that you couldn't keep spamming a particular strategy.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure this is BattleCon. It's definitely a cool system.

With the switch to cooperative, I think I'll try giving the players just two available actions. Either:

• TRAVEL: Move to an adjacent city section or to the headquarters. You may spend resources to move additional spaces. If you enter a city section, encounter any emergencies in that section. If you enter the headquarters, restore all resources and buy any number of upgrades.

• RETREAT: Move from any city section to your headquarters. Restore all resources in the headquarters and buy any number of upgrades.

These are very simple actions, but I think that's okay. Decisions won't come so much from which action to choose (you generally want to Travel unless you have no resources or really need to upgrade). Decisions will come from which emergencies to resolve and in what order. I plan to have different emergency effects that combine together in interesting ways, so it'll be a tough call on which ones to take out first.

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