Five Year Plan: A Collectivist Deck Building Game – Co-opetitive Design Conundrums

A while back I had an idea for a deck building game that’s co-opetitive in nature.  The initial idea was a shared deck for all players, with a “communist” theme of shared resources, and goals for a five year plan.  The goals would be based upon players roles as commissars (Commie-Tsars ;)) and each player would be required to produce a certain amoung of a given type of good.  If all succeeded, then the game would continue til the end.

The cooperative aspect would be based on that need for everyone to succeed.  If anyone failed, then the game was over.  I’m not sure if I like that aspect.  I definitely don’t want a player-elimination scheme..  Perhaps a player would lose points/reward for not succeeding.

Anyways, the rewards would be for players who went above and beyond their production.  There would be tiers of success so if you were able to go beyond the minimum, you would get greater glory/recognition.  The Commissar of the Five Year Award (a la Worker of the Year).

I have a lot of concepts mulling around based upon a 4 fold division of labor (Agriculture, Industrial, Military, Intellectual/Arts).  I also have a vision of leveling up “workers” from one to another kind based upon an educational process/schooling (by paying “intellectual” cards to “teach” them).

There are stacks like the kind you can purchase cards from, like in other deck builders.   You can obtain some of these stacks of cards by conquering them by paying military cost to acquire it and bring it into your commie empire.  Each stack would represent a region of the country won over by your revolution.

Another way to obtain certain stacks would be investing (via intellectual resources) in a Tech Tree which would unlock more stacks of higher level tech.

But all these things can be done via a competitive type game.  There’s no sharing of resources much in what I just mentioned, and my biggest concern is contemplating just what it means to have shared resources in a game like this.

There are two ways I can currently see to implement this:

  1.  A shared deck.  The issue here is that if everyone shares a single deck, all players choices become diluted in the larger scheme, and it makes it harder to really build what you want.
  2. A shared hand.  I like this concept in theory.  The idea here is that you have 2-5 players.  During a round, each player has a personal hand of cards, and they place a number of cards (depending on number of players) face up in front of them, and reinforces the by adding cards as necessary to make a 5-card hand.

Basically:

5 Players = 1 card per player played face up.

4 Players = 1 card per player played face up.  Draw 1 card off the top of the communal deck.

3 Players = 1 card per player played face up.  Draw 2 cards off the top of the communal deck

2 Players = 2 cards per player played face up.  Draw 1 card off the top of the communal deck.

The shared hand scheme here utilizes the concept of a shared deck to reinforce a player’s hand.  I suppose it could be reinforced from a given players hand, based upon who the “current” player is.  That gives a slight advantage to the player whose turn it is (assuming <5 players, natch) and gives a feeling of control.

In terms of resources, one of the things I’m thinking of is a personal “deck” of resources separate from the collective.  Part of that is a player being able to requisition a card from their hand to their personal deck.  It is this personal deck that a player “scores” when it comes time to determine the year’s end success or failure.

The reason I like this aspect is that it allows for a way to manage the collective deck and not be at the whims of other players, while building ones personal resources to be used (I’m not sure, how, exactly this personal deck would be used, except, perhaps as a way to “buff” your hand by adding cards to choose from if you don’t like your current hand, perhaps.)  The interesting aspect comes in the competition for taking a resource as a personal  thing, while denying other players access to this.  The idea there then is that while it benefits you in one way, it might hurt you, by denying resources other players are needing in order to purchase cards from the stacks, perhaps.  That might be good to hinder your opponents because your goal is to exceed your quota while minimizing theirs.  But you don’t want to minimize their production too much, lest you all fail.  Further, if you minimize their production, you’re also minimizing your production, because at some point you might need a resource they are creating for their goal.  A “tragedy of the commons” sort of effect if everyone goes stealing cards for their personal stash.

So I have some ideas that I think might be interesting, but I feel like they are lacking… something.  I’m worried that this balance between personal/collective is going to be hard to pull off.
I plan on having some effect cards like “purge” to allow players to consciously trim the deck or something like “famine” that would be a more random deck trimming effect.

Perhaps instead of a collective deck, or even a collective hand, there is a collective pool that players can play their cards towards to succeed.  So basically it would all be individual decks like Dominion, but to succeed at the goals of your role, you have to give up/contribute some of these resources to the Central Committee in the center of the table.  The question there, of course, is how that would play out.  Are these resources unavailable?  Would they have a reduced effect (that is, say, they’re only 50% value of their stated value when used from the center vs personal pile)…  I dunno.

So this is my biggest vexation, right now.

Paint the Town: Designing for Physical Resource Use & Current Status/Progress

So I started to finally work on creating goal cards for Paint the Town.  My initial vision was to give goals regarding the locations of graffiti.  However, that’s quite limited.  Even though there are a lot of possible combinations, I want to keep the goals as thematic as possible.  I went to a graffiti dictionary and found some terms that can be used with some of the locations and created a few (I think I have 11 goals at this point).  I don’t have the rewards for these goals (I do for a few such as “Good Cop, One Donut” which requires players to graffiti the police station & the donut shop, and the reward is a “donut token” which let’s them move the cop (by placing the donut token at a location) thus increasing difficulty of the location the cop is at… Think of it sort of like the Robber mechanic in Catan, but different effects).

So my next goal is to do things like… figure out what other aspects I can do.  One is “slash” and the other is “massacre”. Slash will let you cover a piece already played with a smaller piece, but at the cost of reputation.  Massacre is the opposite, you can paint over a smaller piece with a larger piece.  If you do so, you can obtain the “restoration truck” (the truck lets you remove graffiti – say of your opponents).  I’m not sure I’m going to use these exactly like that, but it’s a basic concept to play with.

I’m thinking dealing with color combinations is another possibility – either colors of the graffiti or colors of the locations (each location has a color representing a “danger” level, picture the terror threat color coding, only it’s for visibility.  A dark shadowy area is only a red, but a tall tower is blue, for example (using ROYGB as the hierarchy).

Another interesting concept I’m working with is finding the best solution towards keeping track of who placed the graffiti.  I believe I’ve posted previously about my debate on whether players should have unique tiles or a shared pool.  I’ve decided to go with a shared pool.  My solution to this was originally a marker of some sort for each graffiti placed indicating who placed it, but that can add up to a LOT of pieces (in theory 25 locations times 6 graffiti pieces per location (times 6 players)).  I mean that would be the ridiculous max.  of course you’d pare it down to actual useable likely placements.  But even then, that’s still a lot of cardboard wasted.  My idea was to then use something akin to Roll Through the Ages’ paper tablet.

Basically a sheet of paper where each player notates what they played and where (initial or colored marker/pencil or something).  Haven’t fully thought through how to do this, but mocked up the paper templates for it at least to test.  The one issue I have with it is overwriting .  Is the pad a collective thing that players pass around on their turns and mark when they play?  Does each player have their own sheet?  I picture the first scenario more likely.  The problem with that (or any, really) is how do you indicate an overwritten piece in that scenario?  I suppose you could note it as a marginal note or something.  Initially I wasn’t going to have any overwriting, but thematically it makes sense to use it, because it does happen IRL and it would allow players to “attack” each other in different ways.

But more than that, the other issue I had was how to keep track of progress on a piece.  If you have a large piece, it can take more than one turn to complete painting it. My initial vision was to have the tiles themselves have a back that had a grid with the number of spaces required to play.  Players would place the piece upside down and then each turn move across the piece, and upon hitting the end flipping the piece over displaying the graffiti tile face up as if it has been completed.  This is a potential solution but that requires extra printing and thus ink/resources for each tile which adds up.  So my next concept is doing it on the board itself.  Each location would have a turn track along with the grid required to place the piece.  Simply place the piece face up and then move along the turn track until it’s complete (there’s more to this than just taking turns – rolling the danger dice for being caught and moving back if so, and ultimately possibly going to jail if you can’t move back on the turn track any more).  This would only require painting the turn track once for each location 25, instead of 108 times on each piece (and the positioning on the reverse side of the piece that would require).  Thinking more, I think I could just forsake that and have players basically move along each segment on a piece (or perhaps a faint/light grid over the graffiti itself to indicate total moves, I dunno).

Either way it’s interesting to think about the issue in terms of efficiency of resource production and how to reduce costs and components required to make a game.  It’s not something I’ve thought much of before because it’s not something I’ve dealt with (being my only previous game was a card game and the biggest issue with that would be minimizing total number of cards).

I don’t think it’s a huge issue (say, printing an image with a grid vs printing an image without a grid in the locations is still printing an image and in theory wouldn’t matter, since you’re using ink either way) — but if I did a tile vs location thing, that would definitely increase cost & complexity compared to just on the board and it’s that little type of thing that can add up.  I think in some ways I like that idea better, because it places it on the piece and gives it more of … tactile sense?  Like this particular piece has this many moves…  In terms of “game feel” it feels more natural and invokes an embodiment in the world more so than just an external track you use to count.  The… I can’t think of the term here, but maybe thinking of it as a mental affordance in design where you FEEL as if your action on the board is analogical to the thing you’d be doing in real life (that is taking turns to paint and moving along the piece itself is analogous to moving along the piece as you paint it on a wall in real life).

If you had the time and money and polish that would definitely be a better game design choice, IMO.  But if you are trying to conserve and make the design simple, removing that complexity in production is important, even if it ultimately costs you a little feeling in game design.

It really shouldn’t be a problem, though.  Players can and should be able to imagine/figure out moving along an invisible track (or a faint grid/track outline over the graffiti).  I’d prefer not putting a grid over the graffiti so the art itself can be clearly seen.  Eh, whatever… It’s a nitpicky detail at that point, I think.