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Monday, July 23, 2012

partnership card game highs and lows

I printed out a prototype for the partnership card game I've been working on. I've been calling it "Builder" for lack of a good name. I used nandeck with a data import to generate the cards, so they are functional but text-only.

The game works, which makes me want to continue working on it. I'm not sure it's fun yet. I think part of that has to do with limited decisions. However, sitting down and playing all 4 hands shed some light on some obvious problems. The out-dated, rough draft of the rules can be found here.

First, the game was moving too slowly at the beginning. This was easily fixed by given each player two workers to start instead of one. This also alleviated the pain of not gaining a worker cards in the first couple of hands.

Second, the prices and the card values did not match up. The prices were too low for the values of the cards. I couldn't lower the card values, which were currently 1, 2, or 3. Solution? I doubled the prices, and increased the card values by 1 (2, 3, 4). I think this allowed the values to match the prices better, and it decreased the factor between the maximum and minimum card values. Better!

I fear adding too much complexity without justification, but I think the game is too simple right now. I'm going to add "Advisers" to the game to see if it adds some extra decision-making without making things significantly more complex. The Advisers will be portrayed on the Worker cards, so now the Worker cards have three purposes: 1) play for resources, 2) player to gain a Worker, or 3) discard a Worker to place this Adviser in your tableau. A player can have up to two Advisers in their tableau at a time. Each Adviser gives the player an extra ability. Here are some ideas:
  • Architect - Allows players to use one worker like a foreman
  • Recruiter (idea #1) - May play a worker card when anyone calls produce to add a worker to a production building before producing
  • Recruiter (idea #2) - On your turn, may discard any card to add a worker
  • Production Manager - Without moving any workers, may produce from one building before taking your normal turn
  • Efficiency Manager (idea #1) - When opening a new project, after every other player has made their contribution, may contribute to any open project
  • Efficiency Manager (idea #2) - When another player opens a project, may contribute to another open project or directly to the Castle if you are unable to contribute to the newly opened project
  • Ambassador - After opening a new project, may compel one player to contribute a card of a specific type
  • Resource Manager - Maximum hand size is increased by one. This does not affect the capacity of a warehouse.
  • Merchant - May use the Market any number of times after producing
Right now I'm planning on 12 worker cards, so that leaves room for 2 copies of 6 Advisers. Hopefully I can come up with 6 that are reasonably -- but not necessarily perfectly -- balanced.

There are two things I need to work on still. At this point, I think there is still a distinct advantage to simply drawing the best cards. I think I can make some changes to affect this. Namely, I want to change the rules so that when someone opens a project, other players only score if they contribute to that project. I'm not sure if that's the way to go. I should probably play a few games to completion before making that call.

Lastly, I'm not too thrilled with the theme. You are a builder. In medieval times. Helping build a kingdom and castle. I think it's been done. However, the game mechanics do fit with the theme, and I haven't been able to think of anything else. So I'm sticking with it for now.