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Thursday, February 23, 2012

hobos: the be-picked-up-and-delivered theme

In the midst of resenting the amount of stuff we have in our house, I must have had a romantic vision of getting rid of everything and becoming a hobo. Given how unrealistic (and honestly, not all that romantic) the idea was, I had to do the next best thing: design a game!

Be warned: what follows is a brainstorm. Ideas within may contradict each other, or might not make any sense!

The heart of the game revolves around jumping on trains to hitch a ride to various towns to find jobs. Jobs provide money and/or food, change your reputation (positively or negatively) with the town and/or the hobo community, and change your happiness. Victory conditions are based around money, happiness, and reputation.

Food is required periodically, or else you'll lose some happiness.

Happiness is factored into your final score.

Money is required to buy food and train tickets. It also factors into your final score.

Train tickets allow you to legitimately travel on commuter trains. Otherwise, you have to jump a freight train.

Reputation allows you to get better jobs or receive charity. It also factors into your final score.

The board is a hex map that contains several towns. The towns are connected by railroads. If it's not too complex, some of the railroads may be commuter trains while others are freight trains. If it's too fiddly, we can pretend they are one in the same.

The trains move between towns autonomously. The train tracks would be segmented into spaces, and each space would be 2 (or 3) hexes in length. Each turn, every train moves one space. Hobos can board trains when the train is at the train station (otherwise the train is moving too fast!).

In a town you can take one of the jobs currently available there. Jobs may have a reputation requirement before you can take them. You can take charity in town, which provides money or food but hurts your reputation. You can use money to buy food in town.

Turns correspond to trains moving one space. Jobs may take multiple turns to complete. Hobos may move by foot one hex space each turn.

That is the basic framework I have in mind, but I already see a glaring problem: moving one space per turn, or waiting for a train to get to the next town, or waiting for a job to complete could be boring. Perhaps in practice it would move fast enough that it wouldn't be a problem.

The map might be the biggest challenge. Routes would have to be designed so that there are multiple ways to get around. Going by foot should be inefficient, but viable if a train isn't immediately available.

I can see this becoming more interesting as a design problem than as an actual game!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dragon Sneak

Deep within the caverns of mountains, a dragon holds a treasure trove of unimaginable wealth. Even greater than the wealth is the dragon's desire to protect it. Yet, the dragon must sleep, and when he does, you'll seize the opportunity sneak in and relieve him of his gold.
I recently had an idea for a game similar to Incan Gold. I don't quite remember, but I believe the idea crossed my mind after reading the Belfort comic.


Instead of cards, the game uses 10 custom dice: 2 treasure dice, 5 black dragon dice, and 3 red dragon dice:
  • One treasure die has the values 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 on its sides
  • One treasure die has the values 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11
  • The black dragon dice have one side with a dragon eye, and 5 blank sides
  • The red dragon dice have two sides with a dragon eye, and 4 blank sides
There are three types of action tokens: "Take Gold", "Stay Still", and "Run!" There are enough for each player to have one of each.


Start with one black dragon die and the two treasure dice as your active dice. Set the other dice to the side.

Give each player three action tokens, one each of the "Take Gold", "Stay Still", and "Run!" tokens.


The game is played in a series of rounds. In each round, the following is performed in order:
  1. Roll Dice
  2. Choose Actions
  3. Distribute Gold
  4. Add/Remove Dice
Roll Dice

Any player (you can rotate for giggles) rolls all of the active dice. The sum of the two treasure dice indicate how much treasure is added to the amount of treasure found. Before the first round, the amount of treasure found is 0, so the first roll determines the initial amount of treasure found.

If two dragon eyes are revealed, the round ends immediately.

Choose Actions

Each player secretly chooses one of their actions by placing the chosen action token in one hand. The other two action tokens should be hidden in the other hand. Once all players have chosen an action, they simultaneously reveal which actions they have chosen.

The three actions are:
  • Take Gold - All players that choose "Take Gold" will divide the found treasure equally among themselves (see below). If no player chooses "Take Gold", all of the found treasure is available for the next round.
  • Stay Still - A player that chooses "Stay Still" gains nothing. If all players choose "Stay Still", one dragon dice will be removed (see below).
  • Run! - A player that chooses "Run!" does not gain any treasure. The player returns safely to the village with all of the treasure in his bag. The player does not participate in the remainder of the rounds.
If only one player is remaining in the round, that player cannot choose "Stay Still" as an action.

Distribute Gold

All players that choose "Take Gold" will divide the found treasure equally among themselves. If all of the treasure cannot be divided equally, the remaining treasure will be included in the found treasure for the next round. Players place the treasure that the gain in their bag.

Add/Remove Dice

If all players selected "Stay Still", and there is more than one dragon die among the active dice, one dragon die will be removed from the active dice. If there is a red dragon die, remove it. Otherwise, remove a black dragon die.

Otherwise, if at least one player did not choose "Stay Still", one die will be added to the active dice. If no dragon eyes were rolled, add a black dragon die. If one dragon eye was rolled, add a red dragon die.

Round End

When all the players have chosen Run!, or when two or more dragon eyes are rolled in a single roll, the round ends. If any player was still active when two or more dragon eyes were rolled, they lose of the gold they had accumulated in their bag.

Play would continue in this fashion until some larger end-game condition is met. This could be a fixed number of rounds, a particular amount of gold for one player, or until a certain amount of total gold is exhausted from a common supply.

There are enough differences between Incan Gold and this design that I believe that it could stand on its own two feet. That said, I'm not sure if the "Stay Still" action would really work out or not. In my head, trailing players may work together to build their wealth while a player in the lead sits out. However, it may be more of a losing proposition to take "Stay Still" if the only way you benefit from it is if everyone does it. If players never can trust each other, no one will take it.

If that is the case, the rules could be changed to protect players that choose "Stay Still". If two dragon eyes are rolled, players that had chosen "Stay Still" in the previous round could be safe from that roll.

Hopefully playtesting would reveal the right way to go with this.

The problem is that this game requires at least 3 players, and would probably be best with 4 or more (up to 6? 8?). I'm not sure I could gather a group like that regularly enough to test it out!