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The Problem Solvers of Troup #33

Played a brief game against myself this evening using the prototype deck contents in the Google Docs spreadsheet here. The game played super fast (~10-15min), but I had to make a few on the fly rules changes to keep things moving:

  1. You need a hand of cards (should've been obvious, but I didn't write it down before). I ran with a 3 card hand, and that wasn't bad. I'll need to test sizes.
  2. If you flip and seed a location, you need to be able to tackle the events underneath on the same turn. Again, this should have been obvious, but I didn't think through the poaching problem until the cards were on the table.
  3. You need to be able to ask for assistance - the 'good deed' mechanic was limited by the fact that you have to choose to do it on your turn. It only came in handy against the 'Wait' problems (problems that stopped you for the turn, or potentially 2 in some cases). I want to see if I can find a mechanic that rewards the helper without seeming too much like a self interested negotiation (it is supposed to be a 'good deed', afterall.

A few other observations:

  1. Speaking of Wait problems, I thought they were the strongest problems I faced - when the game moves that quickly, a brickwall like 'lose a turn' seems more impactful. Especially as the deck waned. It could get irritating if there were too many.
  2. End condition - In the end, one player stopped one of the three big problems (the 'Local Folklore' problem, currently called 'Mothman encounter') before the deck ran out. The deck was down to five or so cards by the time the third big problem came out, which made it very unlikely that all the problems would be solved by the end of the game. It might be better if they showed up earlier in the game; they'd start growing sooner, but it may be possible to clean 'em out.
  3. I was relieved when I took on an encounter and just got badges and not problems. Not much of an observation, but it was interesting to feel the relief over an event in a game I created. :)

Okay. I think the brainstorming helped a bit. I'm reasonably happy with the basic flow of the cards, at least on paper. Next task is to make a prototype and see if it makes sense in practice.

The game consists of two decks, a location deck and a main deck. Players may pull from the location deck to increase the number of locations available for solving problems from. The main deck contains problems, people, events, and the ‘big problems’ that are the true ‘points’ to win the game with.

On their turn, a player can:

  • flip a new location:

    • draw the top location card from the deck and play it face up. The seed value describes the number of cards that can be placed beneath it.

  • solve problems

    • a player can attempt to solve problems at a location until they complete all at a location or are stopped.

      • there are a few varieties of problems:

        • discard a card (usually of a particular badge type)

        • give a card to another player

        • wait a turn (a player is effectively ‘stopped’)

        • seed more tasks under the location

    • locations also have badge values - and they tend to be better than the average main deck badge value. Clearing out a location allows you to take the location card.

  • do a ‘good deed’

    • help a stopped player complete a task to draw a card from the main deck and add it to your badges.

    • blessing or a curse, some badges are better than others, events are played immediately and the player does not get to draw another card.

The goal of the actions is to accrue badges that can be used to solve the big problems.

The ‘big problems’ are shuffled into the middle of the deck (cut the deck in half, shuffling the bp into one of the halves, then cut the remaining half and sandwich the one with bps between them). When they are drawn, they are played immediately, like a location (and seeded as well). They become an active problem at that point. Every turn they rotate 90 degrees. When they reach their initial orientation, they reseed with an additional (though smaller) number of cards. These cards will need to be completed before the big problem can be defeated.

The game is over when the deck is exhausted, or when one player has resolved enough big problems to be declared the winner.

While the intent is that the game is competitive, it shouldn't be cut throat. There is a definite chance of everyone losing if everyone attempts to go it alone (not doing 'good deeds')

I've just started a Google Docs spreadsheet for my card list. It is still super rough, but it is available here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AnxroD1_a7fDdHlCMmdGVEloSGtMYUR1XzVyQzhHTlE&usp=sharing

Brainstorming Stuff... I just now finished all the videos for lesson two, and I wanted to go back and do some brainstorming. I think the game I'm imagining is too complex and incompletely formed as is, so I'm going to take a step back and return to some of the thematic and mechanical elements I'd like to include.

Helping People (Set collection/recipe building)

A game about scouts is a game about doing good deeds and learning new skills. These accomplishments are typically rewarded with merit badges. This leads to a set collection/recipe mechanic to 'earn' a badge. For example, for the Astronomy Badge, perhaps you need to acquire a telescope, spend one turn at the planetarium or a hill outside town + one or more Astronomy related 'good deeds' to complete.

For this mechanic, the player would discard the cards that represent the resource (+ spend a turn at the location) to gain the Astronomy badge. This badge would represent one of the requirements to turn back the aliens.

The 'good deeds' would be their own (randomly drawn, or tied to locations) tasks that have lesser requirements than the badge, but that may take a few turns to complete.

I like this idea, but I think it may de-emphasize the big problem (aliens, robots, etc.) too much. I also think building a game about kids helping people but making it competitive is a bit of a cognitive disconnect.

Buried Problem and Complications

The game consists of a deck of cards that include tasks, things, complications, etc. Shuffled into the deck is one card that represents the big problem. Once the problem shows up, things go downhill fast. For example, the Alien Invasion! card is shuffled into the second half of the deck. It has a complication value of 4. This means that when it is drawn, the next four cards get buried under it (no longer accessible). At the end of every turn rotate the big problem 90 degrees. When it reaches its original orientation, it eats another 4 cards. Game ends when the deck runs out.

I like the idea of an unreliable timer (when will the big problem come out?) and the idea that the scouts spend the first half (ish) of the game prepping (Be Prepared!) for the big problem to be exposed, but it is starting to sound like a kid friendly Arkham Horror.

Seeded Map with Partial Knowledge

(See Map construction + partial knowledge of seeded cards, below)

This was the first way I intended to have the game played out, but I think the concept is a little dated, it 'feels' (probably too strong since I haven't played it) like something in a 15 year old CCG. I like the partial knowledge, and the idea of the town as a character itself, but it doesn't feel right.

Older stuff

The Problem Solvers of Troup #33 is a competitive clue gathering and problem solving game with a map building component.

The players in the game take on the roles of a Wilderness Explorer/Boy Scout Troup/Group in a small town constantly beset by alien invasions, zombie infestations, giant robot attacks, etc. These different events correspond to 'merit badges' that the players are scrambling to be the first  to earn.

Goal:

Create an expandable, wacky, kid-friendly adventure game with high replayability and that does not require many players (2+).

Mechanics of the Game:

Map construction + partial knowledge of seeded cards

Based on the spaceline construction of the old Star Trek CCG published by Decipher. Players will take turns placing map pieces to fill up a 3x4 (or maybe 3x3, not sure) grid. After placing locations, players will take turns seeding the grid with people, problems, and things. This represents what the players know about the town - i.e. the last place someone was seen, new stuff the magic shop has gotten in stock, etc.

To make the partial knowledge more partial, it may be that the players can choose where to seed half the cards, and the rest are randomly placed. An alien invasion can cause things to be a little chaotic.

Hidden Agendas

As seen in Chrononauts by Looney Labs. Each player will have a unique plan to overcome the major problem (aliens, zombies, etc.) that they must attempt to put into action. Each plan will be different, but they should be relatively balanced. For example, one plan may be:

Scare off the aliens by staging a reverse War Of The Worlds

Requires:

Charlene McGruder, Cosmetologist AND Chip Warner, Local News Anchor

Video Camera AND Rubber Alien Costume

Implemented at:

Channel 6 Action News Studio

The player with this plan will need to make sure to seed those components and attempt to gather them before the other players can gather their requirements.

Actual Gameplay

After the map has been seeded, all players will start at the starting location (not sure - clubhouse, school, etc.). On each turn the player perform an action. (Maybe all of them or a number of actions?)

Move - Move to another location IF they aren't currently stuck by a problem.

Investigate - Look at the top seeded card under the location OR perhaps draw a card from the deck

Solve! - Meet the requirements for a particular problem or task to get an item or gain an ally.

Call for help - Request the assistance of one of the other problem solvers (trade cards/draw cards, other actions)

Turns alternate between players until one player has all their requirements, or a 'Doom Tracker' ala Arkham Horror fills up (forced game limit)

Fuzzy Bits

  • How do I encourage player interaction? Multiplayer solitaire isn't fun. I'm thinking that I should play off the 'Scout Troup' vibe - these are kids in a friendly race who like to solve problems, even if the one they help is one of their 'opponents'. Not sure how to gamify that yet.
  • I'm still unsure what would constitute a seeded problem. Originally, I was thinking that these would be things like fetch quests (find X item and return it to the location), escort (move at a slower pace, moving to a particular place), etc., but those all require that those particular items and/or locations are in play. i.e. What happens when Chip Warner wants to be escorted to the Channel 6 Action News Studio and the studio is not in the 3x3 grid of the city?
  • Wordy cards? I imagine that these cards will need a lot of text. What can I do to minimize it without removing the flavor of the game?

(Icon is currently the Boy Scouts of America 'Astronomy Merit Badge')

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