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seeking mechanic refinement suggestions (pics & name of prototype included)

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Joined: 01/20/2011!/pop!%20pic2.jpg!/pop!%20pic.jpg!/dart%20cards.jpg

As you can see in the pictures, "Pop!" is meant to be a light filler/family game based on the balloon game played at fairs and carnivals. I’ve experimented with various mechanics such as dice rolling to simulate the popping of balloons but movement cards seems to work best at the point. Visually, I really like the idea of the darts piercing the balloons as you can see in the pics. I purchased some plastic darts for the prototype and a good friend made me some custom acrylic bases that the darts screw into. Ideally, there would be pictures of popped balloons on the other side of the unpopped balloons but I couldn’t find any suitable clip-art to give this effect (I have no Photoshop skills unfortunately) so it just says “pop!” as it stands now.

Earlier, the scoring was based on Bohnanza set collection to get points but it felt a bit generic although I haven’t completely given up on the idea. I decided to try a racing concept where the first person to pop all of their balloons wins. There are two decks of matching balloons (24 each)- the first one is shuffled and laid on the 6x4 grid and the second is shuffled and dealt out to players, e.g., 8 each in a three player game (see pics of line of cards in front of players). Players race to pop the balloons on the grid based on the balloons they have in front of them.

There are two decks of movement cards. One deck consists of cards allowing players to move one and two spaces (eighteen 1’s & nine 2’s) and the other consists of two and three space movement cards (eighteen 3’s and nine 2’s). One of the links above shows what the cards look like. Players can choose what deck to draw from (including both decks) with low cards allowing more precise movement and high cards more speed. In the session yesterday, we played with a hand limit of five. You must hit one of your balloons on your turn. Before each turn, a player will roll a dice determining where on the starting line they will be throwing from. The player can use as many cards in their hand to hit a balloon. There is two row buffer zone between where they throw from and the grid of balloons. If a player lands in this area, they can refresh the card(s) they used to move here but once their dart reaches the balloon field, they have to hit one of their balloons with no card refreshing allowed. If they can’t, they “miss” and will have to start over the next turn. When a miss occurs and you can't reach one of your balloons, we came up with a rule that you have to play all of your cards to move your balloon off the board and then refresh your hand.

Here were some problems we noticed when playing so I’m looking for suggestions to refine the game play.

1. I was hoping for more misses but there were only a few that happened towards the end so it’s too easy to hit balloons. The first change that came to mind was to reduce the hand size down to four cards instead of five restricting movement choices. This also may make the choice of what deck to take cards from more critical. If someone falls behind, I'd like there to be a push-your-luck factor from desperately drawing cards from the speed deck only with the chance of catching up. Another idea was players had to hit their balloons in order from left to right instead of getting to choose whatever balloon they want to pop.

2. The players sitting on the side of the board said it was a challenge to look at their cards and visualize exactly where their dart was going to land. One player said square cards might help since the cards and arrow icons can be orientated to match how they move on the board.

3. Low interaction. Since everyone has their own darts they must hit, there isn’t any interference from other players since players can only hit or miss their own target balloons. I suppose this is the nature of a race game as opposed to Bohnanza style set collection. Could there be one more scoring element added so that you must be first to finish and something else?

4. When playing cards, you can move straight, diagonal left and diagonal right. This is unthematic in the sense that your dart zig zags as it progresses through the air but I can’t think of any mechanic that involving straight shots so hopefully it’s a tolerable abstraction.

Feel free to offer comments & suggestions.


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