Design Diary Monday: Stuck In a Rut

Well, we’ve caught up with the present with my current game’s design process, but I suppose that may not necessarily be a good thing. There’s several numeric problems with the design right now that can be eventually fixed, and several fundamental design issues that might prompt another design change or just outright abandonment of the project.

I wrote down the rules last week, in case anyone is looking for a reference:

Here is how the game is breaking down at the moment:

  1. It is optimal for each player to attack the target that appears on his or her turn instead of someone else’s target. By default, if you secure your own target of opportunity on your turn and you’re not being attacked, you’re guaranteed to score those points; however, if you attack another player and fail, you lose all the cards you spend to attack and you get no treasure. Even if you win, you’ve only denied another player one turn’s worth of points and as it turns out, in a game where the current point totals are blind, people tend to only track their own points and not worry so much about the points other people are getting, even if it means they’d lose in the long run.
  2. The problem is compounded when the loss from failure don’t justify the cost of attacking players. Since there’s no limit on the number of cards used to form ships and crews, players just kept dumping entire hands in order to secure his or her own target. Your hand increases by 1 each turn, without an upper limit, but whenever you lose, you lose everything and the hand size resets. Players become even more risk averse as the game goes on for that reason.
  3. The rock-paper-scissors mechanics don’t work if a preference for a certain attack can’t be established. There’s an even number of pirate, sailor, and broadside cards in the game. You are severely disadvantaged without one of the three types of units, so you’d tend to see hands with all three unit types in every hand. In the end, knowing part of what the hand contains is useless, since all card types are probably present anyway. Throwing out random cards can score you as many victories as defeats, just like a normal game of rock paper scissors. The meta game is suppose to offset the risk-reward of the individual elements, but so far none of the designs worked toward that goal.
And now, back to the drawing board. I’ve been drawing blanks about this game’s design lately, but hopefully I’d come up with something to talk about next week.

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