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Idea: Survival Horror Game with Hidden Movement, Need Mechanics Help

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A Round Tuit
A Round Tuit's picture
Joined: 01/21/2016

Working title: In The Dark

I've been jotting ideas for a hidden movement, spooky/horror game where players are mostly in the dark and silence is key. The goal is to escape alive. The monsters are completely blind but can hear. Players can either move, listen to reveal limited information about every space around them, strike a match to see around you, or use a flashlight to light up multiple spaces in a single direction.
Bumping into a wall would make noise and might alert adjacent monsters. Accidently stumbling into a monster and screaming like a little girl because you're too cheap to use your matches would alert everything in a large area.

The basic idea was partially inspired by the nurse scene in the first Silent Hill movie... which I don't recommend at all. Guh! Just watch the scene, not the movie. I'm open to the idea of making it so the monsters can see, making matches and flashlights not only expensive but really dangerous, but I haven't spent much time with that yet.

I've brainstormed a few versions of the game but I keep running into mechanical hurdles.

►Mechanic 1, Cards in a grid:
The top of every card in the grid shows an Eye (sight) and an Ear (sound) symbol on either half. The face-down side has a monster, wall, empty path, teammate, trap, water dripping into a puddle, etc. Players can peak under the Eye or Ear but only one at a time. If you peak under the "listen" side you'll see something like, *drip drip*, *skitter*, *silence*, or *heavy breathing*. If you peak at the "sight" side, you'll see an image of what's there, but matches and flashlights are expensive to use. Listening is cheaper, but gives less reliable information. Monsters can only listen but they can move faster if they hear something.

Problems: If it's a co-op vs AI, how do monsters move without revealing to players exactly where they are? Writing their movements down on a piece of paper doesn't change the contents of the cards on the table. A two-player or one vs many game still has the same problem. Which led me to...

►Mechanic 2, A gimmicky vertical grid:
Imagine a custom, large, vertical card sleeve. The Human player's side would have a full grid of sideways Sight/Sound cards described earlier. Each card can be slid an inch or so in either direction (left or right) to reveal part of the card in the sleeve behind it. The Monster's side of the wall is filled in with various monsters, empty paths, walls, etc with their hidden sight/sound information facing the Human player. This would allow the Monster to move monsters (by switching them with empty spaces, for example) without revealing exactly where they're moving to and from. Humans could light a match one turn and see a monster in front of them and have it be missing when they light a match next turn.

Problems: I don't know how easy something like that would be to produce. Also, I originally wanted this to be a co-op which flows into...

►Mechanic 3, A blind cooperative experience
I wanted the original design to be cooperative with players being able to warn each other what is around a corner ONLY if they had well-lit line-of-sight. If you can't see each other, tough luck. Why not just tell each other what you see? I guess... but real-world noise will alert monsters as well. If you have line of sight, you must use sign language, scared faces and wild gestures to communicate with your team.
I also want players to be able to lose each other. Is that breathing from right behind you your teammate? It was a minute ago...

Problems: Keeping information from teammates. You can hide WHAT you hear or see but not where you are based on what cards you're peaking at. It's less of a problem for sight because it makes sense that you might see light from their direction, but someone listening quietly in the dark shouldn't be obvious.

►Mechanic 4, Sleeved cards for each location
Two cards in a sleeve. The front card has the generic Sight/Sound face and the back card contains the contents of the location. Lift the front card to reveal the bottom of the back card, *drip drip* or lift the back card to reaveal it's top *Just a puddle*.

Problems: Similar to mechanic two but on the table instead of vertical... but brings back the problem of players being able to see which cards are being looked at or manipulated.

►I can't think of any games with the peaking/only seeing half of the card mechanic but I don't doubt that they exist. Have you seen it before? Any ideas for implementing it better or at all?

•Things I want to avoid:
-Memory. I want the board to change to keep players on their toes.
-Complete Knowledge.
-Writing movements on paper. I've just never really enjoyed that in games and it has seemed to create just as many problems as it solves when I've toyed with the idea. And I just like the thematic feel of peaking under a card.

•Other games that have similar themes/mechanics (that I've played/researched):
-Nuns On The Run
-Escape From Aliens In Outer Space
-Specter Ops
-Mord Im Arosa

•Other Mechanics to brainstorm:
-Monsters aren't blind?
-Entire game as a hand of sleeved cards that is passed around (w/ Mechanic 4). Might require a pad to keep track of positions and movements.
-Colored decoder lenses to hide info from different factions/players.
-Have the game actually revolve around sound as well as sight.

Joined: 06/06/2016
AI in board games requires

AI in board games requires giving the players enough information to implement the mechanics of the AIR. For instance, if you want the monster to move, the players have to know where it is so the game can know where it is. The only possible workarounds are randomly teleporting monsters, or shrodinger's monsters (tracking its possible positions by probability until actual position determined). Neither of these options are good.

You would likely have to have an impartial gamemaster that has all the board positions. It could not be an opponent, because he knows where the players are.

You mentioned having the players communicate silently due to thematic consequences of talking, but the characters would need to be able to see each other to communicate silently, which would require light and alsother attract monsters.

If you do make the half-card peeking work, an opaque sliding half-sleeve may work best, especially for prototyping. Similar to your mechanic 4, but fewer resources needed.

Honestly, I don't see how this could work as a purely analog co-op game. Perhaps as an electronic board game. In fact, your idea sounds like a crossbreed of the old Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game and Haunted House for the Atari 2600.

Joined: 11/19/2012
The closest I can think of

The closest I can think of right now is the Aliens Vs. Predator card game.

The alien and human players could spawn units and relied on army tactics to fight. The predator had a single hunter that controlled and armed. In order to keep that one hunter alive during play they needed to rely on stealth and ambushes.

The way it works is that the Predator player has 3 "Stealth" tokens. On the bottom side, one shows the predator icon and the other two are blank.

When stealth is activated he places all three tokens onto the space his hunter is located on. Each turn, he can move all 3 as though they are his character. The tokens are revealed when they come into contact with an enemy unit, or step onto a "No Stealth Allowed" space.

I don't remember whether you reset the tokens each turn or if you needed certain activation, but when you do... take all the revealed tokens and place them on top of any token still on the board.

This means the tokens will "Split up" again and you still can't be sure which tokens are real and which are decoys.

It's not exactly what you're looking for, but thematically it can be explained as "Strange Sounds". You know there MIGHT be a threat down there, but it could just be a stray cat or a gust of wind knocking something down.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Hidden Information - Moderator Example

czarcastic wrote:
You would likely have to have an impartial gamemaster that has all the board positions. It could not be an opponent, because he knows where the players are.
This seems to me the simplest way to implement all the above. Having someone aware of everything going on, and just facilitating the game for the other players, would be helpful in accurately reporting information for players as well as ensuring all rules are followed.

I recall playing a game at an Unpub event earlier this year where there was a game moderator and four players. The players were trying to flee from an axe-wielding maniac in the woods, a la "Friday the 13th," in the middle of the night. The players all wore opaque glasses which concealed their vision of the board, and the moderator would communicate the position of the axe murderer, what players saw when they used their flashlight or threw a stone (marking distance from obstacles/walls, generating noise to attract the killer, and so on).

The players relied on touch to determine where they wanted to move their piece through the woods (represented by a large tactile board similar to a marble labyrinth), and the moderator was required for the initial placement of the player's hand on the board. The moderator would also report on the movements of the axe murderer, based on clearly-explained rules that controlled the AI. It was clear that the moderator wasn't rooting for the murderer, just carrying out the movements.

Obviously, that game wouldn't work in quite the same way without a moderator/referee. But in order to rely on so much sensory deprivation, I would suggest that a moderator may be the only effective way to go.

A Round Tuit
A Round Tuit's picture
Joined: 01/21/2016
Captain Sonar and The Absent Moderator

A moderator does seem like the easiest way to keep everything hidden but I don't know if requiring an extra player, who is only indirectly involved, is a good idea. But that never stopped D&D, so what do I know. I just don't want any player to feel disengaged.

czarcastic: My original design had the monster being blind. Light give only the human players temporary information about their surroundings. My idea was if you talk IRL then you've given away your position, at least to any monster than might be nearby. It would depend on how the scale of the board. I was thinking very close quarters, unable to skinny past someone blocking a hallway. As opposed to true hallways in a building.
As far as sleeves go... do they make ones that are open on both ends? Else I'm not sure how I would be able to choose which piece of information I revealed without potentially revealing too much.

McTeddy: I hadn't looked at AvP before. Thanks for the tip. :)
That splitting up mechanic sounds really cool although I'm not sure if fits for this game. I'll keep it in mind though.

Let-off: That sounds like it could be a lot fun! And it sounds like it has a similar tension to what I'm going for. So... the players never actually see the board? No cards or anything like that? Fascinating...

I wonder if it would work to have a large 3-sided shield that can surround the board so each player can look at the board and move around in privacy.
The Dice Tower's review for Captain Sonar just came out which looks really interesting from a design standpoint. While my main takeaway for my game was the really big shields... the radio operator's role was by far the most interesting part.

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