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Author Topic: [La famiglia] Creating mechanics in place of blind spots  (Read 1898 times)
Adam Kleizer

Posts: 12

« on: May 29, 2006, 06:24:19 AM »

Hello everybody!

Please look at the previous topic for a link to the game and some changes introduced to the latest version.

About playtests
First of all, let me apologize to everybody for not writing Playtest reports. Let me just say that playtests were cool: we started with no ideas about what to narrate and at the end of the session we had a nice story, participated in good conflicts and overall I think everything went well. Of course we found things that should be changed, and in some cases we've even introduced modifications during playtest.

Blind spots
What I didn't see at first without playtest was that sentences like "the players agree" or "the players bid" actually raised questions like "how do they agree?" or "bid in which order?". We had to make then conversations about these things - which is actually a way for a system to work, but I didn't like it that way. I considered these as "blind spots" of the system, in need of mechanics to make the game more gamelike. Battle - maybe I should rename it to Conflict like Oscar Evans suggested, but it's just lovely how someone says "Battle" if he wants to get into a conflict -, so Battle had obviously the most of these blind spots.

Style of the Battle
Now this was handled first in a really easy way: whoever wasn't in the Battle voted about the style; if everyone was in the Battle, everyone voted. This worked, but I didn't like how everybody had an urge to explain why he had chosen that style. I didn't like that it wasn't anything like a game either. So I came up with an easy solution, where I drew two lines onto a paper, dividing it into three parts, then I wrote the name of a style into each part. Whoever wasn't participating in the Battle received two tokens he could place onto any part of the paper. Participants of the Battle could drop a number of Authority Points from the profit and get these as tokens to get into this minigame. The style with the most tokens was the style of the Battle, if there was a tie between the styles the narrator could decide between the winning styles.

This was something we used at the second playtest session, and I think everyone liked it. My only problem with this is that I'm still thinking about this game as a product I'd want to publish, and I'm not sure if including something like this paper wouldn't hurt production costs. Do POD companies offer any option to include a separate paper in your book and use a plastic wrapping, or should I leave drawing up the sheet to the customer? (An "Easily done!", "Just leave it to the customer!" or "That's too expensive!" would be enough, I don't need pricelists as the game isn't in that phase yet.)

Anyway, I don't want to drop that concept because of production methods.

Order of bidding
So if we have a Battle, how should we decide in which order to bid? This is a major concern because if someone looses a bid, he looses the style point component of his first bid. If someone can only bid after everybody else and doesn't win the conflict, he lost the most style points after the winner. I wanted to handle this problem with the use of mechanics and pretty quickly (during playtest session two) I came up with a solution that I think adds a new strategical side to the game. Whenever a new narrator gets narration (that's every 20 minutes), everybody draws 5 cards. That hand of cards is used to determine the order of bidding. At the beginning of a Battle, everybody decides if he wants to participate in the Battle. If yes, he puts a card from the hand face down on the table. Before bidding everybody reveals his card. The value of the cards gives the order in which bidding takes place. If there are identical values, the players with the identical values draw cards from the deck (not from their hand) until they have a winner (higher wins again, where Ace equals 1 and Joker is above King).
If you put a card into the Battle you loose at least as much style points as many players participated in the Battle, even if you don't bid. I'll explain why this is so in the next part (Agreement about profit).

If you're short of a style point, you would obviously try to get your highest card into the Battle, so you don't loose so much style points. If you have plenty of a style point however, you wouldn't care that much about whether you loose 2 or 5 of it, so you'd play your Ace.

I think the hand of cards was a good idea but we'll need to playtest this.

Agreement about profit
The Authority Point part of the profit is the one that concerned us. How do you decide if a Battle is two or three points worth? There were some situations where we decided with the help of previous Battles, analysing whether this one is as important as that one. That worked, but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, you know like when you're not sure if you made a good deal. So I thought this has to be changed in a way that ensures you always know others can't exploit the fuzziness of this part of the game. First I had no idea how to do this, but after I introduced the hand of cards it was an easy step.
I came up with a solution that ties the number of participants to the profit. So 3 players in the Battle means 3 Authority points for the winner.
In that example however everybody looses at least 3 style points even if they don't bid after revealing the card (as I already mentioned in Order of bidding). I hope this will make everybody think twice before stepping into a Battle just to raise the profit. Does it make sense?

So these were the blind spots I've spotted and the mechanics meant to cover them. If you've discovered a blind spot in the game or have any feedback on the introduced mechanics, please go ahead!
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