Design Diary Monday: Revising Rock Paper Scissors Since 2012

Human creativity is weird. If you force yourself to think about new solutions to a problem sometimes all you can get are dumb fixes… but if you step away from the problem for days or even weeks, sometimes the solution would hit you on the head like an anvil out of nowhere. After so many previous failures, I’m not so ready to call this the design that solved all the problems, but at least I feel like it’s getting somewhere again.
In other news, I’ve learned that tags can do something other than serve the mysterious SEO gods. I’ve added a new tag to keep track of all the posted related to this particular game’s design progress:
To more or less reboot the design process, I’ve decided to take out treasure points, targets of opportunity, and all the other mumbo jumbo that’s related to scoring more points… I’ve reduced the game back down to its basics, a rock-paper-scissors game. I’ve also mentally sort through all the feedback I’ve gotten from previous play tests and incorporated a few suggestions:
  • Sometimes, randomness is not such a bad thing. While it reduces the deterministic aspect of the game, it creates situations with calculated risk that’d at least give a bad choice some chance to make a comeback.
  • Trying to resolve combat from a single card choice was probably a disastrous idea. Without a series of shifting parameters and each card choice giving the same probability to win or lose, the choice becomes completely random even if the decisions are weighted differently – as long as there’s exactly one hard counter to each possible choice, players are still forced to consider each choice evenly.
  • And building on the previous point, there really needs to be some way to predict player behavior in order for players to decide on an action instead of randomly picking one.
So I’ve added an additional mechanic to the basic “deal X damage” formula: modifiers that’d affect actions in the next turn. And with that, here’s the component dump of the latest pirates card game:

While still themed around pirates, the game is no longer about ship to ship combat with captain and crew – now we’re down to fighting over treasures on an individual level. A simplified list of rules is as follows:

  1. Each player begins combat with 5 cards.
  2. Each player plays a card each round.
  3. Higher priority cards are resolved first. If multiple players have cards of the same priority, the player with higher initiative takes precedence.
  4. As a player’s action is being resolved, grab the highest priority token that’s not yet taken.
  5. If a condition is applied to a card’s action, resolve them in the order they’re listed on the card.
  6. If a player takes damage and that player’s action card has not completely resolved, apply a stagger token to that player’s action.
  7. If a focus token is available, consume it whether the card has a focus condition bonus or not.
  8. A player who takes 3 points of damage or more is knocked out.
Balancing are a-coming, so I’ll discuss the cards and the justification for the rule changes in detail next week. In the mean time, here’s an example game of how the game works in its current form:
(Oops, I’ve forgotten to put down stagger tokens completely. Oh well, the player who takes damage is usually staggered…)

Bottom player plays strike and gains initiative. Strike can stagger gun Unloads and make them miss. Strike also deals light damage.

However, strikes can be parried. Parrying deals damage to the aggressor to inflict stagger (and it does resolve, since stagger for strikes resolve after the normal action).

You can unload guns on a player that’s standing around ready to parry for a 1 in 3 chance to deal 3 damage (in most circumstances, winning outright). Better yet, you can play focus to gain the focus buff. The buff makes the next gun attack 100% accurate.

However, since focus has lower priority, the bottom player gained initiative that round. In the next round, the players have the same priority, but since the bottom player maintains initiative, the bottom player brutally finishes the top player off by dealing 2 damage. Mmm, this is not exactly what I want to happen… Yup, changes are a-coming.

Next week: Justify your game.

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