Rewards for Events

After recently playing Friday, a solo board game, I wanted to contrast the difference between how it gives rewards to players and how a game like Munchkin does. When the player tries something risky, how does that change the reward?

Friday is a single player game where you get to choose between two events to “fight”. The card is a great example of a dual purpose card: the top half is the hazard to succeed against, the bottom is the reward if you beat it. Although the two cards you choose from are still random (you could get two of the same card for instance) you still have the benefit of making an informed decision. You know that if you win, you’ll get this reward.

This makes the game much less “random”, opening the door to more skill. Now you can see the reward there’s a good amount of risk assessment you can do. You can contrast this with Munchkin. In Munchkin you flip a card to find your bad guy, and you attempt to fight it, completely unaware of how good the reward will be. Sure you can see how much treasures you could win, but you still might be risking your life for a pair of pantyhose you already own.

Having the event and the reward happen on the same card means you can tie them together thematically. Friday, unfortunately, doesn’t take advantage of this. Tying the reward to the card means you can make the reward more sensible: if you’re fighting a dragon maybe it makes sense to find dragon teeth and gold, but what would a direwolf be doing with those things?

Munchkin has no control over the rewards, other than saying the number. This makes it tricky to scale the rewards with the player progression in a game where that matters (not so much a thing in Munchkin). One of the upsides of this mechanic is that the reward can stay secret – something that doesn’t matter in a one player game like Friday, but is very important when you want to surprise your friends.

Problem: fitting lots of tiles in a box

Arcana Delve works by randomly producing a dungeon as you travel from room to room. The players start in one room, decide to go north and then take the tile from the top of the “level 1” deck. They place it on the board, joining up the doors with the northern door, and then they can see what’s waiting for them in the room. They continue like this until they’re run out of tiles. Players of Carcassone will be familiar with this style of map building.

This leads to a unique game every time. Specific tiles could have events baked into them: “there is a trap in this room!”, “there’s a mysterious well in this room”. So, having more tiles is a good thing. It increases randomness and the element of “I really need the next room to be the one with the healing potions in it!”

The problem I’ll come across here is that there are three levels of dungeon (that’s an arbitrary number, but it will definitely be above one). That means there will be three sets of tiles, each three or four millimetres high. You end up with quite a heft box.

One option is just to have a large amount of non-level specific tiles, but that doesn’t work with my current idea of having the difficulty specified on the tile itself. A tile that shows up on level 3 should be harder than on the first level.

The solution I’m going to try out first is ditching the idea of a stack of tiles, where you pick from the top. Instead, the tiles are in a bag, and you can select one blindly. You may have played Carcassonne like this. When selecting a card blindly, it means I can use both sides of the tile. A different room on both sides.

This means I can have a large number of room options, on far fewer tiles. It gives an added aspect to the game too; should you put down the side with more monsters and try for their treasure, or should you choose the other safer side? Your players around you will be egging you on to take the risk, but are you brave enough?

Designing the map tiles

I have made a little bit of progress tonight with Arcana Delve, wherein I designed how the randomly generated map would work.

Carcassonne style, players will take a room piece from the stack of available ones and place it on the board, to reveal the room they’re about to enter. That room may or may not have further exits.

There will be some number of types of mine level: first level through Xth level. Once the players have placed all of the levels’ rooms, they can no longer discover any more rooms.

You’ll note that on two of them there are some numbers. This is the mechanic I’m going to use to tell the party how many creatures were waiting for them in the room. Since this should scale with the number of players (the top row), there’s a different number of monster depending on the players (bottom row).

This might be a bad idea. Sure, I can fit in three players, but why not five? At that point I’ll run into problems just fitting the data on the card.

Another idea is to have just a room “toughness”, a single number on the tile. And then maybe the players add the party size to that number. Instead, the monsters’ difficulty changes could be on the actual monster card rather than the terrain.

Lots of ideas still to play with.

Consistent design of playing cards

I have been working on Arcana Delve today, making the basic premise as well as jumping into create the character class cards.

Prototypes for the Medic and Infantry classes.
Prototypes for the Medic and Infantry classes.

My hand writing isn’t uniform – changing size quite drastically – so I’m hoping that when these cards are typed up then it will look less busy. For the moment, I’ve gone with putting the rule text for each special ability (Tend wounds or Dual wield) straight on the card. That’s something I can change though – I could throw that into the rule book. The player will have to look up what the feature does, but after the first or second time using it then I’d expect them to memorise it.

Magic the Gathering prints a usable chunk of the rule text for each mechanic on the card, but only in the set it’s released. After that, you’re expected to know what the affect of Infect is. They remove it from the card because you end up with quite busy cards – like what mine look like above.

Daniel Solis’ video series mentions the importance of a consistent card face.

I’ve made sure that the components will all be in the same place. Class name is always large in the top left, the health points and toughness is in the top right, just below is some flavour, and at the bottom is the actions they can take. This should decrease the cognitive load needed to understand the card. That’s useful when you’ve cards like mine – full of text.

Sitting around a table, it’ll be important for everyone to see what class the person opposite them is playing. I’m not sure if the bold “Medic” is enough, or if I should add in an icon. The icon might be useful: later on I can use it as a legend, to avoid having to say “Medic”. Freeing up the space with a proper font, and maybe dropping the rules on the card would mean a logo would definitely fit.

The main reason I’ve missed off any style or drawings is because I just can’t do it. Previously, I get excited about an idea until it needs some artistic design, and then I get dissuaded. These days, I like to avoid drawing so that I don’t lose my excitement because I couldn’t draw anything close to a person. That’s the same reason I stopped trying to use InDesign actually – it’s just way too complicated which was slowing me down more than it was helping.

All the numbers on the card are completely made up at the moment. I’ve not gotten far enough to be able to play a game of this yet, and so I don’t know what numbers are sensible. I mostly put them in there – randomly – to stop indecision later on. It’s better to have something down than spend hours trying to work out the best number algorithmically, wasting your enthusiasm on it.

Next thing for me is terrain tiles.