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Mechanics looking for a theme

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Maaartin
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Joined: 05/15/2011

I've got a mechanics idea and I'm looking for comments and a matching theme.

In some games, you obtain an advantage for being the best w.r.t. to some criterion of the game. For example, in Settlers of Catan you get 2 VPs for having the longest road. Whenever another player gets better w.r.t. to this criterion, they take the advantage over.

While obtaining such an advantage is just an additional bonus in many games, I'd like to make it to the core of a game. In order for this to work, there must be multiple such advantages and obtaining any of them must require supremacy w.r.t. to several criteria at once. Taking it over requires getting better than the current owner in all of the criteria at the same time.

Currently, I'm thinking of using maybe 5 different advantages, each of the requiring supremacy w.r.t. to maybe 3 criteria, which sums to 15 criteria altogether. This is quite a lot, so I'm not gonna use things like "longest road", but some more abstract things. Let's denote the advantages by A1, A2, etc., let's denote the criteria for A1 by A1-C1, A1-C2,. etc. Let A1-C2-3 denote a "thing" giving you level 3 in criterion 2 for advantage 1. There'll be many such things scattered across the map waiting to be explored and/or conquered. Being best w.r.t. to the criterion A1-C2 means simply controlling the A1-C2 thing with the highest level.

  • Is there a game using something like this?
  • Does anybody have an idea what theme could match it? (Actually, I can imagine a matching theme, but I'm not very happy with it. I'll post it here later, so I don't influence your ideas.)
ilSilvano
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Two suggestions

Two themes come in my mind after reading your description:

- a political game: you need votes from different groups of people (or creatures) to win different seats in a Senate / Galactic Board / King Arthur's round table

- a cooking game: you need the best ingredients to cook your meal (or prepare your cocktails) and win stars for your restaurant / bar.

sounde
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I don't think I have a clear

I don't think I have a clear enough understanding of your mechanics.

I was thinking down one branch --- this included things like having the best parts for your car before going into a race or having access to better training for your team before going into some sort of "sporting" competition (OLYMPIC TRAINING). Parts and training for a bike racing game?

Then you popped in ideas of map exploration and having to find these criteria, and my mind had to go somewhere else entirely. What happens when one person finds an item that another needs to gain/maintain advantage? Is there head-to-head confrontation in your game? Can the criteria item be stolen/bought/traded for? These things push theme hard in one or another direction.

DogBoy
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A few mechanical comments

Out of curiosity, why have you designed the advantages to use completely separate criteria? If each advantage required supremacy in 3 different criteria, there could be a fair degree of overlap and the advantages would still feel quite distinct.

Even with as few as 5 criteria, there are 10 possible combinations of 3. With 6, this rises to 20.

Using 8 criteria and 5 advantages, you can guarantee that no two advantages share more than a single criterion and no criterion is used in more than 2 advantages:

123
145
246
367
578

sounde
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what he said

DogBoy wrote:
there could be a fair degree of overlap and the advantages would still feel quite distinct.

I had a similar thought/question, but couldn't explain it well enough this early in the day. Thanks, DogBoy.

Overlapping helps a lot with the situation I started to hint at in my post -- "everyone has a lot of something but simultaneously has nothing of value and has to fight a heck of a lot to put together even the smallest of good things"

Maaartin
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Thanks to everybody

ilSilvano wrote:
Two themes come in my mind after reading your description:

  • a political game: you need votes from different groups of people (or creatures) to win different seats in a Senate / Galactic Board / King Arthur's round table

  • a cooking game: you need the best ingredients to cook your meal (or prepare your cocktails) and win stars for your restaurant / bar.

I'm a fan of more classical theme (fighting, fantasy, medieval, ...), so the cooking game doesn't fit my taste, but I like the political theme.

sounde wrote:
I don't think I have a clear enough understanding of your mechanics.

Neither I think, I have it.

sounde wrote:
I was thinking down one branch --- this included things like having the best parts for your car before going into a race or having access to better training for your team before going into some sort of "sporting" competition (OLYMPIC TRAINING). Parts and training for a bike racing game?

Not exactly my cup of tee, but sounds interesting.

sounde wrote:
Then you popped in ideas of map exploration and having to find these criteria, and my mind had to go somewhere else entirely. What happens when one person finds an item that another needs to gain/maintain advantage? Is there head-to-head confrontation in your game? Can the criteria item be stolen/bought/traded for? These things push theme hard in one or another direction.

Yes, it all interacts with the theme. My original idea was to keep the things on the map, so they may be re-captured and there may be fights, but I don't insist on it. Collecting the things instead could make the game simpler (which is a good thing as I tend to overcomplicate matters).

DogBoy wrote:
Out of curiosity, why have you designed the advantages to use completely separate criteria? If each advantage required supremacy in 3 different criteria, there could be a fair degree of overlap and the advantages would still feel quite distinct.

The criteria indeed may overlap, I just didn't thought that far.

DogBoy wrote:
Even with as few as 5 criteria, there are 10 possible combinations of 3. With 6, this rises to 20.

This leads to probably too many advantages and too few criteria. With only 5 criteria it could be too easy to grab all of them and thus gain all 10 advantages. But this is just a very preliminary thought.

DogBoy wrote:
Using 8 criteria and 5 advantages, you can guarantee that no two advantages share more than a single criterion and no criterion is used in more than 2 advantages:

Using such an restriction diminishes the number of advantages, which is good think. Limiting the overlap is a good thing, too.

DogBoy wrote:
123 145 246 367 578

This lacks a symmetry (7 and 8 both gets used only once), but that's fine. Obviously, there's no symmetrical solution (since the total is 15, i.e. odd). There's a symmetrical solution with 6 advantages: 123 456 789 147 258 369.

If the symmetry is a good thing is unclear. Having 6 advantages instead of 5 doesn't matter. My biggest problem with using criteria for multiple advantages is that I've got no idea what theme it may fit.


The theme I'm thinking about now is sort of political: Each advantage is the favor of a god (What exactly it gives you gets obvious in the course of time). There are three criteria per god: Biggest statue, biggest temple, and biggest whatever.

This leads to criteria specific for each advantage (having biggest Zeus' statue doesn't please Poseidon at all). Do you like it? What could the "whatever" be? Any other thoughts?

sounde
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The gods were petty and

The gods were petty and envious/jealous.
Worshipping one often meant the others would actively make your life more difficult.
Would you go so far then as to make the favor of one god also bring disfavor with another.

Like for example... having the favor of Zeus makes you stronger in X but then you Poseidon wants to make your life unpleasant and movement through water becomes slower/more difficult.

RUNNING out the door for the weekend. I'm curious to see what's here when I get back.

Maaartin
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Jealousy and my further ideas

sounde wrote:
The gods were petty and envious/jealous. Worshipping one often meant the others would actively make your life more difficult.

This could be fun, but there are some problems:

  • Taken literally, it means that being in favor of some gods and disfavor of all others. By defining the base state as the disfavor, the feature gets lost completely.
  • When obtaing the favor of one god means getting disfavor of all others, it means that you need to keep track of one bonus and maybe 4 maluses.
  • Moreover, it's hardly any gain, unless:
    • The effect of the favor is greater than all the maluses. This has the problem that the maluses need to be tiny, which leads to working with big numbers at the end (with dice it'd be easy, but I'm not going to introduce such kind of luck).
    • The effect of the favor is more important at the given moment than all the maluses. This sounds good, but might be hard to achieve.

By defining some jealousy between some gods only, it could work. For example, worshipping Zeus could bring you in problems with Poseidon, but Hades doesn't care. This would require me to learn something about the mythology, which is a good idea anyway. It could solve all the above problems.


But for now, I postpone the whole jealousy idea as an future improvement spicing the game, since I need to solve more basic parts first: With 5 gods, each one with their own statue, temple, and whatever, it means there are 15 kinds of buildings on the map. Each of them should occur in maybe 6 levels, leading to 90 buildings. ideally, each building in each level should exist multiple times, in order for ties to be possible. This requires too a large board, especially when reaching those buildings should be hard. So what can be done:

  • Reduce the number of buildings by creating some levels only and allow them to be raised to higher levels (like excavations in Tikal). Of course, this must be quite expensive, especially when repeated.
  • Allow a building working at a higher level when operated by multiple meeeples. This could be restricted to some kind of buildings only, e.g., a temple full of worshippers should please the god more, while a statue just needs to be claimed by a single meeeple.
  • Restrict the meeple's movement by requiring something like a support chain. For example, the board is a desert and the meeples can't move too far from a base without having a supporting meeple nearby.

I've got no idea what the third building should be, but I think I'm gonna use an artifact instead. Unlike statues and temples, the artifacts go into the player's hand and can't be taken over.

Ratmilk
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mob rule?

I was thinking about what kind of theme might fit for your mechanics. How about a city in chaos? You can make it a medieval or fantasy or whatever your preference may be. The underlying premise is that you are a leader trying to regain control after the king/government has fallen. Each of your 15 powers/abilities are factions within the city that you are trying to get on your side. Some of these factions agendas overlay etc and combine. The theme gives you the freedom to customize both the powers and the agendas of each.

Maaartin
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City in chaos....

A very nice idea, but today I've been thinking a lot about expanding my god-statue-temple-artifact idea and started to love it. I like your theme more then mine, but mine has already brought me to some mechanics details, which could work nicely.

We'll see. I think the basic mechanics (gaining advantage by getting supremacy w.r.t. multiple criteria) could be reused, so I try to follow both themes.


I was thinking about Vikings (as I know a bit about their mythology) somewhere in a desert ('cause I need moving far away from the base to be difficult), and indeed there legends about Vikings in a desert: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Ship_of_the_Desert


I was able to make quite some progress, nonetheless would appreciate comments of any kind.... Is the theme (Viking lost in the desert competing for the favor or Nordic gods) bearable? What is the most similar mechanics used? ...

Actually, each feedback helps me a bit.... even when it goes exactly in the opposite direction.

Ratmilk
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Ingvar the far traveled

Ever heard of Ingvar the Far-Travelled? He was a Viking from around 1041 or so. He led an expedition deep into desert, Saracen lands. There was a battle and then later some sort of defeat. What was left of the expedition had to make all the way back to friendly territory. There are something like 24 stones that chronicle his saga. Apparently only 1 ship out his entire fleet made it. Look him up, it may give you ideas.

NativeTexan
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Age of Mythology?

Maaartin wrote:
A very nice idea, but today I've been thinking a lot about expanding my god-statue-temple-artifact idea and started to love it.

One potential place to look for inspiration is the PC game: "Age of Mythology". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Mythology

There is an interesting concept in that game known as 'favor' and you acquire that differently depending upon your civilization. Likewise, you might have different gods expect different actions (prayer vs buildings vs fighting vs gathering vs exploring, etc.) to accrue favor with that particular god.

You may well find other interesting insights in the game design such as the ability to earn special powers that are single-use and/or limited use that differ depending upon the god that you are honoring. More over, there are lesser gods within a given civilization that permit players to select the path they want to go down for a particular game. This provides a tech tree of sorts that introduces another element of expansion and/or replayability.

The game also has an artifact concept, hero concept, etc.

Just food for thought.

Happy Gaming!

RK Gabhart
Driftwood Games
www.driftwoodgames.com

GreenO
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I think the mechanics lend

I think the mechanics lend themselves to the control of a criminal underworld (which was the first thing that came to mind, and might be slightly worrying for me from a psychological point of view, but anyway). Players would be trying to become The Don or Dogge of a city by claiming control of illegal operations (rackets) in 5 city districts (A-E). For each district players can try to gain control of 3 rackets giving 15 in total.

A player might need to control all the rackets in 3 districts to win or monopolise 2 rackets completely. The existing Don is probably not happy about an upstart looking to take over his city and will reward other players to balance the control of power and act as a levelling mechanism to stop a leader running away with the game.

Other games that have used a similar mechanism....it's a little like a share mechanism indirectly, I suppose but there are better examples:
Jambo's first expansion set has a masks option whereby you have to control various came marker to take 1/4 of the mask. Get all 4 and you win the game. It's insanely difficult.

And. Hi. I'm new. :)

Louard
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I dig the theme

I dig the theme but also liek the idea of overlapping criteria forcing players to compete rather than simply all race for whatever other players aren't involved with.

Now, given the godly theme, maybe players could perform sacrifices which could apeal to all the gods? Or, offerings if you don't want to get cruesome ^_^.

Perhaps deeds could be done in the name of a god? A player could dedicate an action, like tearing down an opponent's monument or liberating a city etc. to a particular god for extra favour?

As for a third 'thing' you could offer a god, how about naming a city after him/her?

Maaartin
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Thanks to all

Ratmilk wrote:
Ever heard of Ingvar the Far-Travelled? He was a Viking from around 1041 or so. He led an expedition deep into desert, Saracen lands. There was a battle and then later some sort of defeat. What was left of the expedition had to make all the way back to friendly territory. There are something like 24 stones that chronicle his saga. Apparently only 1 ship out his entire fleet made it. Look him up, it may give you ideas.

While I consider real story to be far more appealing then a fictional one, it's also more constraining:

  • Ingvar travelled along the Volga river, which flows into a Caspian Sea near Astrakhan. There is "steppe climate with cold winters and hot summers. Astrakhan is the driest place in Europe", but no desert (at least according to what I've found). This may or may not be a problem, there are still a lot of unknowns in my design.
  • The journey took 6 years, where I was thinking about some growing population. This is quite unimportant.
  • It happened at about the time when Scandinavia was becoming Christianized. But "13th century runic inscriptions from the bustling merchant town of Bergen in Norway show little Christian influence", so it's fine.

I'll continue reading and get some inspiration from it.


NativeTexan wrote:
One potential place to look for inspiration is the PC game: "Age of Mythology". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Mythology

I played the game long long time ago and will have a look at it. Btw., I also own the board game, but it's a hopeless piece of crap.


GreenO wrote:
I think the mechanics lend themselves to the control of a criminal underworld (which was the first thing that came to mind, and might be slightly worrying for me from a psychological point of view, but anyway).

For me it's worrying too, the longer I think about it, the more. Being ruled by the elected rackets is bad enough.

GreenO wrote:
Players would be trying to become The Don or Dogge of a city by claiming control of illegal operations (rackets) in 5 city districts (A-E). For each district players can try to gain control of 3 rackets giving 15 in total.

A player might need to control all the rackets in 3 districts to win or monopolise 2 rackets completely.

What do you mean by "monopolize" as opposed to "gain control"?

GreenO wrote:
Other games that have used a similar mechanism....it's a little like a share mechanism indirectly, I suppose but there are better examples: Jambo's first expansion set has a masks option whereby you have to control various came marker to take 1/4 of the mask. Get all 4 and you win the game. It's insanely difficult.

I'll have a look at it soon.

GreenO wrote:
And. Hi. I'm new. :)

Hi, and welcome here.


Louard wrote:
I dig the theme but also liek the idea of overlapping criteria forcing players to compete rather than simply all race for whatever other players aren't involved with.

Now, given the godly theme, maybe players could perform sacrifices which could apeal to all the gods? Or, offerings if you don't want to get cruesome ^_^.

Global offerings are fine, although I'm not sure yet how to fit it in my concept (see below).

Louard wrote:
Perhaps deeds could be done in the name of a god? A player could dedicate an action, like tearing down an opponent's monument or liberating a city etc. to a particular god for extra favour?

Good idea, too.

Louard wrote:
As for a third 'thing' you could offer a god, how about naming a city after him/her?

Currently, there's nothing like that, but I'll keep it in mind.


Here I describe where I came to before:

  • All the parties belong to one clan and compete but do not fight each other. There may be some cooperative aspect, too.
  • There are 5 gods, each of them offering distinct advantages for his favor.
  • A player having gained a god's favor keeps it until another player gains it.
  • For each god there are three kinds of objects of different levels, each of them working a bit differently:
    • Statues may be controlled at any time by a single player only.
    • Temples may be jointly used by all players having meeples nearby.
    • Artifacts may be collected and then controlled exclusively be the owner.
  • There are also ways to increase the level of existing objects, also different for each kind.
  • A player controlling a higher level statue, temple, or artifact of a god than all others is said to be the best at the criterion.
  • A player being best in all three criteria corresponding with a god gains his favor automatically.
  • A player being best in only one or two criteria may gain his favor by doing other things (e.g., making offerings) to please the god. This can lead to taking over favor again and again, which gets very costly.
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