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Help with "backstory" and/or theme needed

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questccg
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Well my first attempt to DEMO "Monster Keep" (MK) was a complete and total failure. BUT I did learn a lot ABOUT the game. Things that are simple to me (as the Designer) are not so obvious for first time players...

During my presentation, I was demo-ing for a "Magic Store Manager"... She has a LOT of experience with Magic ... but also games in general too.

So let me explain my issues ... and maybe someone has some "ideas"!

  • You DRAW a card at the end of your Turn.

Sounds fine but ... a bit weird when you explain it to new players. The argument was: "Why not start your turn by 'drawing +1 card' for your hand?"

The reason I had it at the end, because I felt like this was a "house keeping" act. Kind of "refresh" your hand... But it turns out that it is really NOT OBVIOUS why you would want to new players to do it this way.

  • When you PLAY a card into the Keep, it cannot attack THIS turn.

Again as explained it's very simple: it's Magic "Summoning Sickness". Well it turns out that I and Magic players understand this. But in general, this is NOT known.

How could I explain that the card you PLAY (on the same turn) cannot attack??? And YES, I just "explained" it... But the Store Manager wanted a logical EXPLANATION for WHY THIS IS SO!

  • Going back to the DRAWING of cards and HAND SIZE.

Player #1 has a four (4) card hand limit. While other players only have a three (3) card hand limit.

This is because going FIRST "sucks" in MK. You have to figure out what is the best card to play DEFENSIVELY such that it doesn't COST you a lot of points in the round. Can this be explained "thematically" somehow???

  • From whom do you LOSE points from?

This is something also a bit confusing. Basically in the game, each player starts with 50 POINTS(?!). If the opponent reduces you to 0 or less, the game is immediately over and a winner is declared.

But if there is no CLEAR winner, the player with the HIGHEST amount of POINTS(?!) is the winner of the game.

So the question is... What are these points? And how come your troops are doing the battles ... yet SOMEHOW, a mysterious entity TAKES the DAMAGE...? Hmmm...

Those are the four (4) most concerning points that need to be addressed. Any one with "ideas" or suggestion, please do reply. I'd like to hear what you all think of these "pain-points" and what can be done to resolve them.

Many thanks!

questccg
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The notion of "Tribute Points"

I almost forgot... The points you have in the game (for scoring) are called "Tribute Points". A loss, is considered "shameful" and therefore NEGATIVE attacks serve to "shame" a player. POSITIVE attack serve to "honor" a player and therefore PLUS values add points to the attacking player's Tribute "points".

BUT still the 50 Tribute Points START and falling to ZERO (0) all doesn't make "thematic" sense.

Yes, the game is very FUNCTIONAL. But it's problems are lack of "theme" working together with all the "rules".

Sorry forgot to mention the "Tribute" Points... Still a lot of the THEME needs to be worked on.

Tim Edwards
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Isn't the mysterious entity

Isn't the mysterious entity that receives damage *you*, the mastermind who is taking over the wills of these creatures and forcing them to fight? When one of them dies, it's bound to hurt you...

...at least that's how I imagined this game when you first mentioned it here. I guess now that idea doesn't sit well with the bribery mechanic and the hero characters, both of which make it hard to imagine the "monsters" lack free will.

If not the arch-monster-controller being hurt, perhaps the points represent territory gained, army moral, castle wall strength, boss (you) reputation, the score card of the arch-arch-monster-mastermind who has organised the match.

wob
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i would theme the tribute

i would theme the tribute points as "influence" when you run out, nothing will follow you and you are dethroned.
the "cant attack on the turn its played" can be explained as the time it takes for a creature to manifest (like the skeletons in the old jason and the argonauts) it takes time for the monsters form to solidify in the "battle realam"

Tim Edwards
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wob wrote:i would theme the

wob wrote:
i would theme the tribute points as "influence" when you run out, nothing will follow you and you are dethroned.
the "cant attack on the turn its played" can be explained as the time it takes for a creature to manifest (like the skeletons in the old jason and the argonauts) it takes time for the monsters form to solidify in the "battle realam"

I like both of those.

apeloverage
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questccg wrote: + You DRAW a

questccg wrote:

+ You DRAW a card at the end of your Turn.

Sounds fine but ... a bit weird when you explain it to new players. The argument was: "Why not start your turn by 'drawing +1 card' for your hand?"

The reason I had it at the end, because I felt like this was a "house keeping" act. Kind of "refresh" your hand... But it turns out that it is really NOT OBVIOUS why you would want to new players to do it this way.

Are you asking whether there's any reason not to just move drawing a card to the start of the turn, or for an in-game rationalization of keeping it as is?

apeloverage
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questccg wrote:This is

questccg wrote:
This is something also a bit confusing. Basically in the game, each player starts with 50 POINTS(?!). If the opponent reduces you to 0 or less, the game is immediately over and a winner is declared.

But if there is no CLEAR winner, the player with the HIGHEST amount of POINTS(?!) is the winner of the game.

So the question is... What are these points? And how come your troops are doing the battles ... yet SOMEHOW, a mysterious entity TAKES the DAMAGE...? Hmmm...

It could represent your troops' morale, or your backers' willingness to keep funding you.

Jay103
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questccg wrote:Well my first

questccg wrote:
Well my first attempt to DEMO "Monster Keep" (MK) was a complete and total failure. BUT I did learn a lot ABOUT the game. Things that are simple to me (as the Designer) are not so obvious for first time players...

During my presentation, I was demo-ing for a "Magic Store Manager"... She has a LOT of experience with Magic ... but also games in general too.

So let me explain my issues ... and maybe someone has some "ideas"!

+ You DRAW a card at the end of your Turn.

Sounds fine but ... a bit weird when you explain it to new players. The argument was: "Why not start your turn by 'drawing +1 card' for your hand?"

The reason I had it at the end, because I felt like this was a "house keeping" act. Kind of "refresh" your hand... But it turns out that it is really NOT OBVIOUS why you would want to new players to do it this way.


It's weird.

Exploding Kittens does it, and it's weird there, but makes sense.

If you're refilling your hand to full size at the end of the turn, it makes some sense to me. If you're drawing 1, it's 99% a start-of-turn action in games.

Quote:
+ When you PLAY a card into the Keep, it cannot attack THIS turn.

Again as explained it's very simple: it's Magic "Summoning Sickness". Well it turns out that I and Magic players understand this. But in general, this is NOT known.

How could I explain that the card you PLAY (on the same turn) cannot attack??? And YES, I just "explained" it... But the Store Manager wanted a logical EXPLANATION for WHY THIS IS SO!


I think you have a valid reason for it, or at least you could. They're tired, etc.

Quote:

Player #1 has a four (4) card hand limit. While other players only have a three (3) card hand limit.

This is because going FIRST "sucks" in MK. You have to figure out what is the best card to play DEFENSIVELY such that it doesn't COST you a lot of points in the round. Can this be explained "thematically" somehow???


This is questionable. There is definitely cause to give the first player a bonus, if that's a hard position to have. However, you're giving a FULL-GAME advantage. That seems excessive to me, without knowing the game. Starting with one extra card would seem to me to be a better choice.

Quote:
+ From whom do you LOSE points from?

This is something also a bit confusing. Basically in the game, each player starts with 50 POINTS(?!). If the opponent reduces you to 0 or less, the game is immediately over and a winner is declared.

But if there is no CLEAR winner, the player with the HIGHEST amount of POINTS(?!) is the winner of the game.

So the question is... What are these points? And how come your troops are doing the battles ... yet SOMEHOW, a mysterious entity TAKES the DAMAGE...? Hmmm...

Those are the four (4) most concerning points that need to be addressed. Any one with "ideas" or suggestion, please do reply. I'd like to hear what you all think of these "pain-points" and what can be done to resolve them.

Many thanks!


I'd have to know more about the game's plot. Is it like MtG, where troops are damaging the player directly?

If so, your answer is that the General is one of the troops, in a sense, and when the General dies the war comes to a conclusion. Though it's weird that player who hits 0 doesn't lose automatically. I'd think you could figure out how to fix that glitch (how DO you compute who wins?)

If not, you'd likely need to redefine points as "Influence" or "Political Power" or similar, and certain actions raise or lower that, which separates it from the battle damage itself (though losing a battle could lose you Influence, of course). edit: Wob beat me to this one!

ceethreepio
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So, you have the mechanics

So, you have the mechanics for your game but not the theme, or at least, a fully coherent theme?

What are the basic rules at the moment? It sounds like MTG but not? Does it follow the same idea, play a land, tap for mana, play spells, summon creatures, summoning sickness, play more spells, draw a card, end turn? Do monsters attack? Is the 50 HP your life?

questccg
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Not like Magic at all...

ceethreepio wrote:
So, you have the mechanics for your game but not the theme, or at least, a fully coherent theme?

The GAME "works" and is very FUN. But there are aspects which tend to give the game's theme as not being coherent.

ceethreepio wrote:
What are the basic rules at the moment? It sounds like MTG but not? Does it follow the same idea, play a land, tap for mana, play spells, summon creatures, summoning sickness, play more spells, draw a card, end turn? Do monsters attack? Is the 50 HP your life?

No the game is nothing like Magic (MtG). The game is played on a Dynamic 5 x 5 grid which lends itself to my inspiration which was Tic-Tac-Toe. As such there is a very STRONG "Area Control" aspect where you try to FORCE your opponent to make a "territorial" mistake or play a card that may advantage your troops. For a 4 Player game the grid is 7 x 7.

There are no lands, spells or taping. Your units do attack each other based on "chess-like" attack patterns. This is borrowed from chess and makes the game primarily a Tic-Tac-Toe/Chess type of game. Simple to play, hard to master.

You do however play "units" into the "Monster Keep" (MK) and you start with 50 Tribute Points ... which I think I will change to "Morale" Points as per the various suggestions in this thread. You MUST play only one (1) "unit" per turn. As such the game lasts for only 12 rounds and takes about 20 minutes for 2 Players and 45 minutes for 4 Players.

And yes I did "borrow" the Summoning Sickness from MtG ... Because otherwise it would be completely unfair for Player #1 who would be going first all the time and allowing the opponent the opportunity to capitalize on HIS/HER move (as a counter). Having a 4 card hand helps by offering more alternatives and works like a counter-balance to being the first player.

So the only common aspect to MtG is "Summoning Sickness". And like I said I didn't have a way to EXPLAIN this.

Jay103
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The card game I'm working on

The card game I'm working on (occasionally) has summoning sickness. It's just that you come onto the field tired. I have a token used for "stunned" and it can serve that purpose as well.

questccg
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Any other suggestions(!?)

Jay103 wrote:
It's just that you come onto the field tired.

That doesn't seem like something I would choose to say. Maybe a "unit" is "not ready" to receive orders until the next turn. IDK!!!

(In relation to how this game is played)

A turn is divided into three (3) phases:

  1. Draw one (1) card from your Micro Deck and place it in your hand. You MUST do this once per turn.

  2. Play one (1) card from your hand into the grid (5x5 or 7x7). You MUST do this once per turn.

  3. Battle/Skirmish (Optional). You may attack one (1) opposing card which is already in play. However you may not attack with the card your have played in Phase #2.

It's not much more complicated than that. I know it sounds very simple. It's actually much more strategic and sometimes a game can be won by a single "skirmish" that occurred in the middle of the game. Other times, it can be continual battling each turn, one after the other. Like I said it varies according to the cards you have in your hands.

Jay103
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questccg wrote: 2. Play one

questccg wrote:

2. Play one (1) card from your hand into the grid (5x5 or 7x7). You MUST do this once per turn.

3. Battle/Skirmish (Optional). You may attack one (1) opposing card which is already in play. However you may not attack with the card your have played in Phase #2.


Can you put phase 2 after phase 3?

questccg
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I have about 2 months of playtesting

Since middle February, I have about 2 months worth of playtesting. Many different outcomes (in terms of points) and the winner sometimes is a swingy thing, other times it's more predictable. Sometimes playing a card can seem like the RIGHT thing to do... And it turns out to be a BAD move.

So it's very much "tactical" too... As you would expect from a game inspired by "Tic-Tac-Toe". The Area Control is magnified by the chess-like attacks which means you can't always attack whomever you want, whenever you like.

Sometimes there are battles to control parts of the board (territory).

Like I said, I've been having FUN trying all kinds of variants and games with different strategies, learning what to do and what not to do, etc.

questccg
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Explanation

Jay103 wrote:
Can you put phase 2 after phase 3?

You COULD ... but it's (IN SOME CASES) preferable to play a card into the area of play because it may open up the board to the possibility of "attacking" an opponent's card.

Here let me show you what I mean:

The triangle in the middle is the "current card" (Aka YOU). This attack formation says that the card may attack either ONE (1) of the three (3) cards two cards away, in front OR in behind.

But the TRICKY part is that BETWEEN cards, you need a CARD IN-BETWEEN.

So sometimes you'll want to PLAY a card down into ONE of those 2 POSITIONS and then ATTACK with this card on the SAME turn.

Note: This is the PRIEST attack formation. There are ONLY ten (10) attack formations and 90 different types of cards. But there can be triples of a card and there could be variations of the same card "class".

Example: Fighter #1 (John Brutus) or Fighter #2 (Max Agony) which have different stats and abilities. Those are just some examples of the SAME "class" but different cards.

Jay103
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I understand that it would

I understand that it would change the complexion of the game in some cases, but.. it would completely remove any objection about summoning sickness. So even if it would be preferable to play a card first, well, sorry, but that's not what the rules say :)

questccg
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Ah I see your point now!

If you do "Skirmishes/Battles" BEFORE playing a card in the play area, that would REMOVE the need to explain why the "card you played on THIS turn cannot attack". Obviously that would mean that it would be natural since the card COULD NOT be in play if the battle PRECEDES it!

Did I correctly understand your hypothesis???

Interesting. I'll take this PLAY structure into some playtests and see how it fares. But generally speaking this is COOL! I hope it doesn't alter the performance of the game by much...

Would be a bit of a "disappointment" since this is SO LOGICAL!

Thanks @Jason ... I will test it out and see how it goes...

Cheers!

questccg
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Okay ... some conclusions

Based on everyone's input, I have put together a "recap" of HOW each one of the earlier "pain-points" has been addressed. Here I go:

  • You DRAW a card at the end of your Turn.

Instead Player #1 starts with a hand of 3 cards and all other players start with only 2 cards. At the START of each player's Turn, they DRAW +1 Card.

Again like @Jason suggested, most game draw at the beginning and it's a bit WEIRD not doing it this way,

  • When you PLAY a card into the Keep, it cannot attack THIS turn.

So by altering the Phases in a Turn, this issue resolves itself. @Jason again thanks for pointing this out. It's a small "tweak" to the rules... but it makes a BIG difference. So a turn looks like:

  1. Draw one (1) card from your Micro Deck and place it in your hand. You MUST do this once per turn.

  2. Battle/Skirmish (Optional). You may attack one (1) opposing card which is already in play.

  3. Play one (1) card from your hand into the grid (5x5 or 7x7). You MUST do this once per turn.

By battling/skirmishing BEFORE playing another card into the play area, you make it no longer necessary to "force" a wait on the card being played. Since it happens at the END of your turn and battles/skirmishes happen before, naturally it makes it that the card played at the end of your turn MUST wait until its next turn to attack (if possible).

  • Going back to the DRAWING of cards and HAND SIZE.

I'm preserving the four (4) card advantage for Player #1. At the start of the game, players draw 2 cards from their Micro Decks. In addition, Player #1 draws an ADDITIONAL +1 Card at the start of the game.

This means that Player #1 will always have a hand of 4 cards versus only 3 cards for the other players. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

  • From whom do you LOSE points from?

So this I am changing thanks to @Wob and @Tim. Instead of having "Tribute" points, I will have "Morale" points. Each player starts with 50 "Morale" points and morale can go UP or DOWN depending on the card battles during the game.

It makes 100% sense, if you LOSE a battle effectively you "lower" your overall morale too. I you WIN a battle you also "boost" your morale too. So thanks for that suggestion, it makes 100% sense too!

Thank you all for your input... I'm good to go do a bunch of playtests to see if the results of your contributions will work well with the design.

Cheers!

Jay103
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questccg wrote:If you do

questccg wrote:
If you do "Skirmishes/Battles" BEFORE playing a card in the play area, that would REMOVE the need to explain why the "card you played on THIS turn cannot attack". Obviously that would mean that it would be natural since the card COULD NOT be in play if the battle PRECEDES it!

Did I correctly understand your hypothesis???


Yep

questccg
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Doesn't seem to be any NEGATIVE effects

Jay103 wrote:
Yep

I've been playtesting a couple games in-between my activities ... and ... well so far there doesn't seem to be any "negative" effects to changing the order of things.

Remember that I also changed the "Card Draws" to the START of a player's turn, in addition to moving the "skirmishes" as the optional second phase of a turn too.

So there were a few changes ... wanted to get a grasp at the deeper impact. And my conclusion so far is that there are no "swingy" consequences. Just a change in how you play the turn (which seems FINE to me)!

Thank you all for your help. Usually when we help a Game Designer, they disappear (back into their man-caves) ... So I wanted to simply thank you all. The input was much needed and rather "to-the-point"! It's not always obvious when you've worked for months on a design ... to not be able to see that all you needed was a re-sequencing of a turn to simplify the game and make it more understandable to the "average" human being (or gamer).

Cheers!

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