Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Plan, The Plan,The Plan

I finished the lengthy (for a modern-day attention-span and a time-thief in an office workplace) Encyclopedia of Chicago entry on the Plan of Chicago.  It's a great story.  I've been synthesizing ideas for The Plan (the game), not all of which can play nicely together.  Right meow I'm looking at the Player Tableau and thinking about how to lay it out so that it tracks Success, Co-Operation, and Corruption (my current three statistics) across the three Phases, and over the course of the game itself.  There may be some redundancy, but I gotta get a first draft up; hopefully that'll motivate me to build the card file for the three Phase decks, which is really all I need to do to at least have a prototype.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More Plans for The Plan

Another little rapid-fire scribbling of idea pings for The Plan.
I've been thinking that a possible gameplay mechanic for the Proposals and their voting would be to a two-part phase:
Phase 1: Put your proposal tokens on one or more slots on a d8.  You've got eight slots, each corresponding to a different result for the roll of a d8 - You're basically betting on specific results or sets thereof.  Perhaps you spread your proposal tokens on a whole bunch of faces - you'll have less payoff, but you're more likely to be one of the winners.  Each face can have multiple players' tokens on them (perhaps even an element that rewards co-op [Perhaps it rewards people you have co-operated with the least! Discourage long-term alliances.  It's all about public image]) so that the faces all represent different proposals.
Phase 2: The die is rolled.  Players take turns playing cards to alter the result - +1 through +3, Surprise Budget for a second result to be added (either player's choice or a second die rolled), Mafia cards to draw more cards, etc.  The proposal can also be killed this way.  Perhaps it's Condottiere-style play until you pass, or perhaps it's Poker-style.  Maybe the number of times around the circle hurts the overall result: Impetus to get stuff done.
Is this a mechanic for all three Stages/Arcs of the game, or one specific one? Hmmm...
Another thing: Why do we use cubes to track things in Euro games, when we could be using dice? Any time you move a cube on a track, you could just be moving a die, which can relay an additional dimension of information (even, say, the number of cubes that the die represents).  Hmm.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sid Sackson's Book, With My Half-Blood Prints All Over It

In my quest to process Todd Sanders' design thread over at BGG, I've come across repeated references of his to Sid Sackson's A Gamut Of Games.  Intrigued, and with a bit of Amazon money to spend, I picked up a copy.  I've been going through it page by page, processing the game design elements, the strategies, the different philosophies of play, and the bits of colour and history peppered throughout.  The book is fairly quick going, though I've been underlining, scribbling in the margins, making comments, jotting down ideas, and in general doing all the elements of note-taking that I have always smilingly, steadfastly refused to do when required by a class.
I'd recommend the book in turn to anyone getting into game design.  The current edition has author's notes at the front explaining the publication history, and the chronology of the book and its contributors.  And, as Sanders mentioned somewhere, Sackson is in many ways if not a founder, at least a keenly invested god-parent of Print and Play.  The book is about games as ideas and sets of rules, each being easy to assemble or sketch and begin playing immediately.  No 2-page component lists, no standees.  Very core-mechanic stuff here.  I like it.
Makes me wonder how a similar modern compilation would fare.  I'd love to put together a beautiful little book of some of the games that BGG has produced, or some of the 1000-Year Game Design contenders, or around any theme, really.  A good representation of some of the games being made today's GD and PnP hobbyists.

Friday, May 3, 2013

More on The Plan

So I've been thinking about my earlier seed of a thought for The Plan, and reading this fascinating document, and remembering some of my favourite moments of (of all things) Parks and Rec.  Some factors I would like to include in the game: Favors from Organized Crime that equate to basic, quiet bonuses, but count as a Mark Against in your record; A separate track for each player balancing public approval and personal funds to keep you in perpetual election or re-election; A cool design challenge might be to use chess pieces on my board; the projects you work on that reach completion have a lasting influence on the City; A tableau you build of "your track record" that is useful for tracking your victories/achievements (and therefore makes a good point tracker), but also acts as a resume for certain jobs - ergo, you are rewarded phase-to-phase not only for your victory points, but how you earned them; the possibility of multiple players being in the same division for a phase, and being forced to work together for that phase; a "Head of Division" marker for each phase, whether or not multiple players are in the same division; a mechanism for making a move half-way through your phase, with corresponding Marks Against going into your tableau; Press Investigations that you can launch into your opponent's pasts (going back a number of phases = strength of investigation) or that can be triggered against all players...
Hmmm.  Yes.  Game Design is cool, a game takes way less individual writing (though much, much more proofing and editing) than regular fiction.  Popcorning ideas is fun without the depressing sensation that your awesome idea will be too difficult to execute.  Also, I get to indulge my ADD love of learning.  Off to read more about the Chicago Plan.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cards as Dice That Don't Forget, and Game Idea: The Plan

Mahalo.  So I've been thinking about one of the longer-standing (and longer-winded) issues between "Euro" and "Ameritrash" games - that of (perceived) Skill vs. Luck.  The argument runs that the less luck has to do with the game, the more it reflects skill.  Chess vs. Snakes and Ladders.
A thought I had to mitigate the perceived influence of Luck: Replace dice with discreet stacks of cards, to which cards do not return upon being drawn.
Now, I'll bet this concept has been suggested before.  But as I'm new to all this, I'm puzzling a lot of things out myself.  I feel that it's worth musing upon.
So let's compare a die to a stack: We'll have d6 (die) and d6 (stack).
A d6 (die), when rolled, always has a 1-in-6 chance of rolling each of its results.
Now, a d6 (stack), when drawn from, removes that result from future draws.  You can count your cards (easier with a d6 than with higher denominations) and plan accordingly, especially if you can manipulate your stack - say, a mechanic where you can burn a draw to re-stock your stack, when you know that only bad draws remain.  There's luck, but you control the odds, to an extent.
It's a thought.

Also, a game idea I had: The Plan.  Inspired by reading the Design Diary for Canterbury, which in turn drew a lot of inspiration from Caylus, I thought that there'd be room for a cool Civic Planning game based around the iconic era of Chicago's Development, The Plan of Chicago.  In particular what inspired me was Andrew Parks talking about how players had to share the City's gold, as opposed to amassing it themselves.
Some ideas for The Plan: Money is a valuable resource, but not one that directly adds to the player's score or ability.  As a department head or civic planner, you're not really in it to get personally rich - that's a sucker's game - you're cultivating Influence, and getting money for your department's and your project's budgets is just your means of getting there.
I think that the game should have a few phases - Board, Department, Commission.  Set time markers dividing up the game in accordance with scale; you start out small, eventually take over one of the extant Departments, and finally wield your full political power as a member of a Commission.
It'll involve auctions, blocking your opponents, and if a scenario where if everyone blocks one another, you miss a deadline and everyone suffers.  Should encourage some co-op.  Via voting?
Hm.  More on this later.