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Problem with card drawing

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 12/01/2008

I've been working on a light-hearted space opera type game.
Briefly, players explore the galaxy, perform missions, encounter aliens, etc. All the while collecting better upgrades for their character and ship, which allows them to do more and better things.

So, the problem I'm having at the moment is in the turn structure, and how items, missions, and random events are populated in the game.

My intention is that:
A player's turn will contain some random event that may help or hinder certain actions. There are items and missions available to be acquired. I'd like a small selection to be available but that changes slowly. After a few turns the selection is completely reset.

1) Right now, random events are controlled by drawing an event card at the beginning of your turn.

2) A small selection of items (cards) are available for any player to purchase when they are on an inhabited planet. (game-wide pool of 6) This selection remains until a random event occurs (from random event card) that resets the items. Right now, if you start your turn at an inhabited planet, you may add an item for the pool and get first chance to buy it. A player may stay at a planet trying to 'search for' an useful item by drawing extra item card(s) for the pool (and getting first chance at them) but effectively skipping their turn.

3) A selection of missions (6 cards) are available for player's to complete. I haven't really settled on how the missions are to be populated. (see below)

Now the problem is in the number of cards a player ends up drawing each turn, it seems to make gameplay a little awkward.

The events and items card mechanics work nice separately, together is still ok. But add in the missions, and it's getting to be a lot to keep track of, especially since it varies depending if you are at a planet.

One idea was treat them similar to the items. They remain in a global pool until a player completes them, with players getting a chance to add missions to the pool. (per turn? but more likely only when at a colony) Some issues with this approach is the number of 'global pool' items and missions on the table, and again, the number of cards one has to draw.

Another idea was to let players keep missions as a hand of cards exclusive to them, possibly a hand of 4 or so. During their turn they could draw a new mission from the deck, or from the discard pile. Discarding down to 4 missions in hand at the end of their turn. The discard pile might only reveal the topmost card, or I could make it a discard pool like the items for a hybrid approach, and then subject the pool to reset. But this is still a lot of card management, and even more as a the hybrid approach.

I thought about combining what cards you got to draw with the random event cards. Something like, "Engine trouble! No movement this turn. Also, draw 1 item card, and 1 mission card." The card drawing doesn't necessarily have a connection with the event. This reduces the things the player has to remember to do before they get their turn, while allowing a controlled build-up based on frequency of the instructions) but I don't feel completely good about this approach.

Does what I'm trying to do make sense? Any ideas come to mind?

Relexx's picture
Joined: 05/31/2010
Cards per turn

Have you considered reducing the actions per turn to a lower number, then giving the players a choice of actions they may perform. Sometimes reducing the number of decision points a player needs to make per turn increases the speed of the game, rather than draw it out.

Eg you might say that on a players turn they must pick up an event card plus do one of the following take a mission card, take an item card, etc.

Taavet's picture
Joined: 08/15/2008
Combo Cards

An idea I had while reading your post was to combine the item and mission cards.

So on the lower part of the item 'Warp Drive - move twice as fast toward a nearby planet' it could have 'Mission: Visit 3 planets in the system 2VP'. Or something to that effect.

Place would then have greater incentive to go after items/missions they wanted/needed. The side effect would be that the missions other players picked up could be tracked. I am not sure how that would effect your game but it should help to keep things managable and possibly add in some more player interaction.

Hope it helps!

Joined: 12/01/2008
Right now, each player draws

Right now, each player draws an event card, and then if they are also at a colony, they draw an item and mission. I may make it so they have to choose between an item or mission.

I can't really make the events a choice in the current set-up as they also control how often the items and missions get reset. (They way it works out now, as more players are in the game you'll see more items/missions in the pool, but they also get reset faster.)

I have considered making the item/mission drawing optional, but I have noticed that players then tend to take extra time trying to decide if they want a chance at an upgrade, or opt not to draw, thereby trying to prevent other players from possibly getting an upgrade. It's another level of strategy, yes, but I'm not sure the extra time it takes makes the game more fun, as it can be a complex decision. (Tracking what items are already drawn, how badly you need an upgrade and how much it will help, what opportunities will be likely unlocked, and then comparing all that to all the opponents' positions.)

Now, I could remove the drawing of items/missions if you start your turn at a colony, and let the reset mechanism repopulate them. And instead give the player the option of staying at the planet for extra draws if there is currently nothing desirable.

That's a really interesting idea; It gives more depth to the strategy of what items to pick up, but that could also work against the player too. It might be too limiting as the player may be forced to keep sub-standard items just for the VPs. In itself, this can be an interesting mechanic, but it's already a challenge to get optimal items. So ultimately, this would practically redesign the whole game. Also, there's a physical constraint too, as the item cards are relatively small as it is and there isn't room to add mission text. (Increasing the card size leads to a cascade of gameplay changes in itself.)

Ultimately, I might be over-thinking what isn't really a big issue anymore. This is already a positive change from the original idea, which was to tie some random events to a die roll every round of turns (a game-wide effect for all players that round), and some events tied to planetary exploration. It was overly complicated, and also necessitated rotating which player acted first, as getting first crack at the random events was a huge advantage. Compared to that, it's a success. Still...

Interestingly, tying random events to planetary exploration isn't a bad idea, and may be an improvement by itself - though it will mean less event variation. The big issue is the resetting of pool cards, as tying this to exploration is unsuitable (not consistent enough, and gets worse as the game goes on)

So maybe the real question is how to regulate card pool resets, as the other mechanics can be shifted around with less impact on the game. (with a 4 player game, the pool resets roughly every 3-5 game turns)

Pastor_Mora's picture
Joined: 01/05/2010
I run into something like that with Space Rangers

I quite don't get the common upgrades pool. So there's only six engines in the whole galaxy (apparently everywhere) but if the first player picks one, then there is no other nowhere else? I may be tempted to by something just for resell. But I fear that is a sure candidate for the logical inconsistencies list in BGG.

In Space Rangers I used the upgrades-in-place mechanic. When a player lands in a colony, he draws the upgrades available for him only. The amount depends on where he is landing. Three for a full colony, two for a station, or one for an outpost. If he chooses not to buy any, the cards are removed.

I like space opera. Keep thinking!

Joined: 12/01/2008
Yes, the available items are

Yes, the available items are shared between all ports. However, the items pool is frequently more than six items, as every time a player begins his turn on a planet, an item (or mission) card is drawn. If they don't want it or can't afford it, it will get added to the pool. If they sell an item back, it goes to the pool. So the pool is constantly growing and frequently getting reset. So even when a player is not at a colony, an item may come up that prompts him to come back to civilization to buy it. Even if an item is bought by someone else, or you missed the window, chances are something similar will be available in a few turns.
There is also the option of turning to piracy and attempting to rob another player of an item, though this comes with its own social and game mechanic consequences.

This adds another element of strategy, such as what to purchase right now, and what can wait until next turn. Should I get that scanner or the engine? But I know my opponent will want that weapon, should I try to block him or boost myself? It didn't seem relevant to mention before, but you can only by purchase one item per turn, so players will be making choices like this.

Drawing private upgrades could certianly work, though in my case it would have to be a larger number of cards as there are many different types of items. Something like double the amount of cards to draw. With a lot of cards and no ability to plan for items before you draw them, this will probably disrupt play quite a bit. I may experiment with that mechanic a bit though. I do like that some ports will effectively have different selection sizes.

I've also given some though to having some basic functionality items be available for purchase at all times, and not dependent on the random element of card drawing. However, adding yet another stack of cards isn't attractive at this juncture. Instead, this is somewhat covered by different ships having a 'stock configuration' that includes some basic items. As well as different characters having some basic abilities, like perhaps reflexes to improve defense, or mechanic tools to provide repairs. Things that would otherwise need to be bought.

EDIT: As a side note, while that list is amusing, judging by the posts there's probably not a boardgame on the planet that couldn't find its way onto it.

Joined: 12/15/2009
Well, you could try having a

Well, you could try having a constant flow of new upgrades rather than periodic resets. Suppose you have 6 upgrade card slots. Colour the card slots in 3 different colours; give colony a colour. When a player starts a turn at a colony, they must replace one of the two corresponding-colour upgrade cards with a random card from the deck. When a player buys an upgrade, they replace it with a random card from the deck.

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