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Sniper Spy Chauffeur: Asymmetric Real-time

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Joined: 01/11/2012

So I am currently working on a separate game, but one day this game idea came to me and I needed to write it down. I'm mostly putting all of my energy into a different project, but I thought I'd share the concept.

Sniper, Spy, Chauffeur is a asymmetric, real time, negotiation game with bluffing, tactical movement, and route optimization.

So What the hell does that mean?

Asymmetric: Players are playing significantly different games together. “Tag” is asymmetric, some players run and some players chase. This game has three different roles with unique mechanics and win conditions for each.

Real Time: The game does not have turns, once the game begins players play as fast as possible. The card game “Speed” is an early example of this. There are various constraints in my design to control the pace of the game, but it is certainly frantic.

Negotiation: Players have a variety of things they can trade and a variety of ways they can interact, and must do so to gain an edge in the game.

Throw these three elements into a game, and you get a very frantic game with heavy player interaction that also has strong strategic elements.

Each player type has specific pieces, restrictions , and separate (but related) goals.

The Board
There are 20 person tokens, each with a secret destination. 10 of them are also secretly spies. There are 16 buildings, a taxi cab driver, and a sniper on the rooftops. 20140506-145731.jpg
The Basics:
The Spy player is trying to move the correct spy tokens to the right buildings. The Sniper is trying to shoot the spies, but avoid shooting civilians. The Chauffeur is trying to make money by delivering civilians and spies to their destinations.

Real Time Actions:
Because the game occurs in real time, the way actions work have to be tempered in a very specific way. For example:

The Spy can move any piece one space in any direction, but cannot move two pieces in the same quadrant consecutively. Otherwise they can move as fast as the player can move the pieces.
The Sniper has an action deck, and can have three cards in front of her, if she gets 3 of a kind, she can discard them to take the corresponding action. So the Sniper is constantly cycling through the deck to take actions.
The Chaffeur can spend a dollar to move up to 3 spaces, when he stops he can pick up or drop off civilian / spy tokens. The other players can also trade him a certain amount of money in hopes of moving certain pieces around.
The hope with these actions is that players can act as quickly as they can move pieces, but they may not want to until they gain more information about the other player’s actions. Furthermore, with the taxi providing a valuable service that can be traded, players can juggle deal making with real time action. When you have three players, each moment that two players are making a deal, the third player has the opportunity to make progress.

To win: The Sniper needs to take out 5 spy tokens, the Spy needs to save 5 spy tokens, and the Chauffeur needs to buy three $10 victory tokens.

Asymmetric Alliances

Though it’s asymmetric, each player has abilities that can help or harm the other players, so that when one player starts to get out ahead the other players can team up with a set of counterbalances.

If the Sniper is winning: the Spy can send his tokens for cover and the Chauffeur can shield spy tokens.
If the Spy is winning: The Sniper can take more risks with his shots and the Chauffeur can pick up Spy tokens against their will.
If the Chauffeur is winning: The Sniper can take out tokens near the taxi and the Spy can pay $1 to have the taxi occupants bail out.
Balance is something that is particularly difficult in an asymmetric game. If the ability for a player to win is different between the 3 roles, players will generally reject the game. Since the rules for each player are substantially different (by definition of the game) it is (arguably) impossible for the roles to have a perfectly equal chance of winning.

My workaround is through player interaction. If two players work together they can nearly stonewall a third player; regardless of roles this should be true. However, if two players are actively opposing each other, the third player can leverage a quick advantage. While the game bits are asymmetrical, the game is won and lost by a players ability to be that “third player”.

The most significant element towards victory is your ability to read the situation and manipulate the other players, and that is certainly equal for all players. The asymmetry simply adds an interesting obstacle against the players’ ability to read the game.

Or at least we’ll see how that pans out in play testing.

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