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Storyline mechanic: Need an alternative to stacked event cards

10 replies [Last post]
larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

I need to have some sort of partially planned story line where various events happens at different time. The only solution so far is a series of event cards stacked in a certain way. These cards are resolved in order of the draw throught the course of the game.

The problem is that making sure to stack this event deck efficiently can be pretty annoying. So I was wondering If there was not another mechanic that could simulate various events happening on a certain timeline.

One thing I have just thought is using a mechanic close to Shadow over camelot. You have a certain amounts of card types an you need to bring X cards of this type for an event to trigger. In shadow over camelot, you need like 4 pick/saxon card for the saxon to win. Here it will be accumulate 3 event cards for an event to occur. This way, you can somewhat see what is comming.

In order to reduce the number of cards, a variation could be that there is a dozen of cards and only 8 out of 12 are drawn. Each time the card is drawn, a token is placed on the table. When you get 3 tokens of that category, an event occurs. Then you reshuffle the cards.

Any other ideas?

I don't know if I could make something not too random with dices.

InvisibleJon's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
What about an event track?

What do I mean by an event track? Imagine a scoring track, but with special squares on it. When you land on specific squares, specific events occur. When you pass over certain squares, other events trigger.

If you want to avoid always having the same events each time you play, you could make decks for specific squares. Imagine that there are wandering monster squares on the event track. When you land on a wandering monster space, you draw one wandering monster card for every monster face on the square. Early wandering monster squares have only one face on them. Later squares have three or more faces on them. Imagine that there are three critical events that you want to have happen, a crisis (red), climax (yellow), and showdown (green). You can have three decks (red, yellow, and green) and have players draw from them.

Gotta go celebrate the inauguration now. More later, perhaps?

dnddmdb's picture
Joined: 01/06/2009
Resolve Scores?

From the above post, it seems to vague to give any really helpful tips. Perhaps if you clarify things a bit more.

Don't use dice, because that would feel unrealistic and too random.

I would probably recommend things have a quickness score, and ones with higher go last (as the score symbolizes the number of turns it takes for something to happen) and those lower go first.

Each event would have such as score, and when placed on the timeline they activate on the turns afterward.

For example, Event 1 is played on turn 1 with a score of 3. Event 2 is also played on turn 1 with a score of 7. Event 3 is played on turn 2 with a score of 3.

So you add the turns to the scores and order them in least to greatest:
Event 1
Event 3
Event 2

Or you could simplify that, but that is all i have.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Event track

Imagine a scoring track, but with special squares on it. When you land on specific squares, specific events occur. When you pass over certain squares, other events trigger.

I like the idea, it's like a "roll and move" made by the board game. And as you said, you can make sure that falling on the square and jumping over a square trigger something different each. I am not sure if I am going to use that but it's still a good idea.

For dices, I was thinking for example: Each turn you roll 3 dice: If you roll a 2-3 the event track increase if you roll a 4-5 the attack track increase. So let say that the event track has 3 square and the attack track has 9 squares. When each of these tracks fill up, either an event or an attack happens. I could even add that if you roll a 1, you place a token on the lowest track, if you roll a 6 you place a token on the highest track.

Now the number of rolls could be variable. For example, players could do good things which would increase the amount of roll for an event to happen. Maybe it could require 4 or 5 rolls now. Same thing for attack. In order to increase the amount of attack near the end of the game, I could say that after each attack the number of rolls required is reduced by 2. So the 2nd attack would require 7 rolls, the 3rd attack 5 rolls and the 4th attack 3 rolls. I could also make sure that the number of dice rolled could increase or decrease.

So it gives me a lot of variables I can control to make sure the story line is not flat. Else, I would need a calendar of event but the problem is that the storyline becomes predictable.

As for the event track described above, if I want a non flat story line, maybe I would need to make the track change during the course of the game. Either the track goes around the board and change with time. Either the track is modular and some pieces get changed through the course of the game.

Torrent's picture
Joined: 08/03/2008
Look at Knizia's Cooperative

Look at Knizia's Cooperative Lord of the Rings game. There are several of the concepts you mention and an event track that happens randomly, but steadily during the game.

Joined: 01/17/2009
story track grid

I've been thinking about something similar. Perhaps a story track with a lookup number that references a grid. The other axis for the grid would be some condition that varies during gameplay. For instance, your track might have values from A-G, and your character will have earned points from 1-6. The grid would look like so,

1 2 3 4 5 6

At each intersect you'd have an index to a book that explains the story point, or the story point itself, depending on available space.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I have seen that in a variant

I have seen that in a variant to arkham horror. I like the idea but I don't like the idea of using a text book. I would probably find a way to do it with cards instead.

ilta's picture
Joined: 12/05/2008
Dovetailing off the "grid"

Dovetailing off the "grid" idea, but avoiding a textbook:

Perhaps you could have three different decks, with different levels of effects -- basically, good / neutral / bad (or neutral / bad / terrible, or good / great / amazing, depending on the style of your game).

Within each deck, the cards have different groupings of backs, 20 have 1 hash, perhaps, 20 have 2 hashes, 20 have 3 hashes. These hashes show early, middle, and late story events, respectively. If your game is about detectives, for instance, they might be early leads and forensics, interviews and clue-tracking, and finally arresting the suspect and getting a confession (or not). If your game is about wandering knights, you've got tavern rumor and kings hiring you, going out on the quests, and then returning to town for the reward (or not). Or whatever.

So you have, in this example, 20x3x3=180 cards.

You lay cards out, face down, in three rows, one for each of the good / neutral / bad decks. Perhaps you deal out ten. Then you arrange them by hashes, so that within each row, all the 1-hashes are first, then the 2-hashes, then the 3-hashes. So you might get a layout like this:

G: 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3 3
N: 1 1 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3
B: 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3 3 3

Various moments in game play will make players draw a card and resolve its effects. In general, they will start at the left and move across. The story progresses as they move across, and provides rising tension by ratcheting up the effects (good or bad) of the cards.

At this point you can tweak the mechanic a bit:

1) There are 10 card-based events in the game, one per column. Players must choose between the three rows (or their position/condition/resource-x in the game will chose for them), discarding the 2 unused cards afterwards. Perhaps they may flip over the cards before they make their choice, or perhaps they simply have to pick blind. Note that in many cases, this will have them choosing between events from two different story stages, and in extreme deals (lots of 1's in one column, lots of 3's in another) might have them choosing between events from 3 different story stages.

2) There are up to 30 events in the game. Players work their way down rows individually until all the cards are gone or the game ends in some other way (basically the same as above except without discarding). This gives you more events but has the disadvantage of having players able to pick beginning events when they've already nearly reached the end of the story, or running through all of the cards of the "good" column and having no more positive choices, only bad or less bad.

3) There are between 10 and 30 events, depending on the card layout. Players "unlock" the middle elements in all rows by completing one set of hashes within any one row, at which point you discard all remaining cards for that game-stage. In the example above, after players have selected the two neutral-beginning events, they discard the remaining beginning events and the next time select one of the middle-story events from any of the three rows. This option will be very difficult to playtest but is probably the most fun if you can balance it right.

4) You could have a separate "final column" deck, which is activated at some point to form the end-game. This ensures that your game always has a climactic showdown at the end, or some other sort of real resolution, as it's possible that you won't have any 3-hash cards in any given column. You could also just deal out four of each hash-set (beginning/middle/end), giving you twelve columns, but then you leave the specific final event to chance and is a bit fiddly for set-up. It all depends on the make-up of the cards, I suppose.

You can also increase granularity by dividing the cards into further categories (four rows: great / good / bad / terrible, or five hash-sets instead of three), keeping in mind that this means either greater cost/development/playtesting (more cards) or decreased replayability (fewer cards per type means that players are more able to memorize all the, say, terrible three-hash cards, and account for them when they play).

A lot of this depends on the cards and what they do. You can have a dozen different kinds of swords to be found, but chasing a suspect down a flight of stairs and tripping is pretty specific and memorable, and you don't want that to happen twice in a story.

ilta's picture
Joined: 12/05/2008
Simpler still would be one

Simpler still would be one deck of cards, with paired good/bad halves on the front, and the hash-marks on the back. You deal out the cards, and then arrange them in hash-mark order, as above. When players flip over the cards, they resolve either the good or the bad effect, depending on a die roll, their level at skill-x or resource-y, some pre-existing condition being met, etc.

So, a middle-story card might be "chase suspect, fall down stairs" on one half, and "chase suspect, tackle him and arrest him" on the other. You might make the distinction by rolling 1-4 vs. 5-6 (it doesn't have to be even odds, after all), by having previously improved your agility skill to the necessary level at the training center or called in back-up (which costs a certain amount of organizational points, a scarce resource during the game), or by having previously drawn the "super-awesome running shoes" card.

adagio_burner's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
larienna wrote: I would

larienna wrote:
I would probably find a way to do it with cards instead.

Here's a nice twist on the card-driven storyline you could use. Separate the cards into several decks. You start with deck A, but certain cards in this deck can trigger a switch to deck B or C. Certain cards in deck B can switch the storyline back to A, and so forth.

Whether the switch happens or not, and to which deck, is controlled by players. You can use many mechanisms here: prerequisits (as in "switch to storyline B if certain players have done something or are at a particular location"), bidding, voting... or perhaps you can have a "master of fate" role that is contested between players?

Joined: 01/21/2009
Death Angel

Well, it's not a story mechanic, it's cinematic combat, but Death Angel (BGG is down, so I can't give you the link, but it's an almost comically grim print-and-play game about running from a slasher) uses various card decks for various events. You might want to check it out.

I'd also like to state that the idea of several series of staged events is brilliant. If I ever need a story mechanic (unlikely at the moment, I mostly write ameritrashy (and semi-ameritrashy) strategy games) I'll be working with that, if you don't mind. It really is one of the best ideas I've heard in a while.

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