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D20 vs. Action Deck for Workers with an Attitude

4 replies [Last post]
Joined: 06/02/2015

In most games, Meeples do exactly what you ask them to do. In my current design, they have a mind of their own and can be quite chaotic.

I have a mechanism for worker production that involves an element of randomness to support the game theme of evil chaos. Players start with 1 worker, and then gain/lose workers during play. The number of Workers never goes higher than 11. Each worker gets either 2 moves, 1 move and 1 work, or 1 work action. It is still mostly based on skill, because negative random effects are balanced with opposite and equal positive effects. It’s the mechanic that I’m not sure about. Here are my thoughts on the approach:

1) Use a d20 during each move action, and a d10 during a work action. Upper and lower numbers determine extremes of effect from losing/gaining a worker to doing double effect/no effect, etc.
PRO: Player retains move/work strategy and risk management decisions, while having to compensate for workers who don’t always do what they’re told. I like this option best, but some folks seem to avoid any game with dice, especially d20’s.

2) Draw 2 cards from an Action deck for each worker, and use them in either order. This doesn’t seem to work very well because you might draw effects that don’t support your strategy at all, such as 2 moves when all you wanted was to stay put and work. Too random.

3) Draw enough cards all at once to cover 2 per worker, and consume your choice of any 2 actions per worker resolution. I think this option reduces the level of danger because you can assign any bad effects to the least useful worker, and the best effects to the one best positioned to benefit. This is higher skill and lower randomness, but I’m not sure it makes sense (it isn’t chaos if you can choose when and where the bad stuff happens.) Besides, with my theme, it is important that traveling from place to place is significantly dangerous.

4) Use 2 action decks to replace the dice; 1 deck for moving and 1 for working. Unfortunately, I already have 4 card decks that drive abilities, goals, and cooperation between players (Skill, Conspiracy, Mischief, and Luck decks), in addition to a stack of random location tiles that players use to modify the board. Adding 2 more decks of cards seems like going overboard on cards and tiles. (And yes, I have played Firefly, with its 14 decks of cards. ;-) It know it’s been done before.)

Basically, the dice seem to be the most effective solution, in my opinion. Does anyone have a better suggestion? Am I overly concerned about using dice? Is it really that bad to use d20s and d10s?

I want this to be sort of a gateway-level game, not hard-core. I don't want to scare folks away who grew up on Monopoly and don't (yet) know any better.

Your thoughts?

Soulfinger's picture
Joined: 01/06/2015
Acceptance of dice is

Acceptance of dice is determined by the player subset. Casual gamers don't want to roll more than one or two dice in a turn. Wargamers, on the other hand, are more than happy to sort through buckets of dice every turn. If you are targeting Monopoly players, as opposed to FFG's customer base, then you'll want to shy away from the d20. Polyhedrons are best reserved for distracting advanced players from crunching numbers. Rolling up to 11d20 would make this a gamer's game.

Your card solutions sound too unwieldy though. How about a threshold system. You can activate x to y workers without penalty, and if you only activate x then you receive a card from the Positive Deck. You may activate additional workers but each one yields a card from the Negative Deck. That way, players are assured of achieving certain goals but must take risks to outdo their opponents.

JohnMichaelThomas's picture
Joined: 05/30/2015
I second Soulfinger's

I second Soulfinger's feedback about dice, and although I think dice add an important element of randomness to some games, I try to keep the number of dice rolls each turn to a minimum so they don't distract less hard-core players or make more hard-core players feel like the game is too random.

Regarding your solution, I don't think I fully understand what you're doing. From what I do understand, it seems to me that you might be able to draw a single card for each worker, with the results being either that they do what they're told or do something different (or do something random, which might also turn out to be what you want). So you still get to decide what you want them to do (2 work actions), but you then might draw a card that says they do what you want, do only half of what you want, do what you want but do a half-assed job (supposedly working but not really producing much) or completely ignore you (move, goof off, whatever). If the cards had 3 or 4 simple results like Obedient, Partially obedient, Half-Assed, or Rebellion that seems like it might capture most of the possibilities? Again, I don't fully understand what you're doing so ignore me if I'm totally off base.

You might still be able to deal with the same probabilities as a die roll by just varying the number of cards of each type in the deck. And you might also be able to add a few more rare and different types of results like sabotage (where they don't just avoid work, but actively sabotage your efforts) that sound like they might be in the spirit of your game.

Joined: 06/02/2015
JohnMichaelThomas, I'm

JohnMichaelThomas, I'm warming to your idea, as well as Soulfinger's discussion of dice.

With the max of 11 workers, you could end up with 22 die rolls, plus some bonus rerolls--every turn. I would like that just fine, but felt like it wasn't an optimum mechanic.

Limiting it to a single card (actually 1-11 cards) sounds like a better solution. Plus, as you said, I can throw in some unique actions. Basically I want the game to have a chaotic feel to it, but not wildly random. As a designer, I want the chaos to be roughly zero-sum, so that in the course of a game players will experience a reasonable share of both good and bad events, but retain a sense of control and forward movement.


ElKobold's picture
Joined: 04/10/2015
You could...

Use a bag and draw meeples blindly. Green meeples do what they are told. Red meeples do something else. For each 2nd red meeple you draw, you loose a worker.

So once you draw your first red one, you can either risk and draw more, or stop there and avoid loosing workers.

Thats pretty beginner-friendly too.

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