This week’s game gives us a break from the “board” part of board games. Gloom has a pretty interesting mechanic going for it, being a Transparent Card Game. The game of Gloom has players choose from four families to take control of and send to their doom. Cards are distinguished by what part of the card itself is opaque. Character cards have colored portraits, death cards overlap the portraits, story modifiers cover the right side of the card, self worth (points) modifiers are on the left, and reaction cards are completely transparent outside of the description box. Players earn points by lowering the self worth of a character, but points only count when a character is dead, unless otherwise noted by a story card, and characters can only be killed if they have negative self worth. Story cards are special modifiers that act as bonus objectives for everyone playing. Once a player has killed all of their family members you tally up all of the dead characters “self worth”s and relevant modifiers, lowest score wins.
Right off the bat, I think it’s an interesting premise, I just wish more was done to reinforce it. It’s hard to feel gloom or anything really for the characters when I have no reason to care for them at all. There is no mechanical difference between family members or even families period, which I find disappointing. The characters are just place holders to stack modifiers on and have no impact on the game. I think an interesting tweak would be to have certain families already have certain story modifiers on their cards. Within the family you could even have different member have different perks to reflect their different portraits. This would add an extra layer of strategy, timing exactly when a member has used up their usefulness, or maybe encouraging you to kill another player’s character for them. That way we actually have a reason to care about the family members, and feel gloom once they are lost.
One more way to reinforce story with mechanics would be to have the story modifiers in the game be tier to certain types of bonus effect. Investigation story modifiers could offer the ability to see the next card in the deck, or a card in another players hand. Romance could allow simultaneous plays on two characters in the same family. Horror could have larger than normal self worth modifiers. Madness could steal modifiers. There’s just a lot of possibilities there and room for growth that I feel hasn’t been tapped into.
Another week, another game, and this week’s game is title called Smallworld by Days of Wonder. A game that I personally see a lot of potential in, but ultimately was left unsatisfied after playing.
The premise of the game is simple enough. You are a race of aliens with a particular set of skills of varying effectiveness. At the start of play, 5 race cards (from a total of 14) are drawn randomly, matched with 5 skill traits also randomly picked (20 total), and finally arranged vertically to be chosen from by the players. Choosing a race is free, but skipping over a race will cost a token, and players must start at the top of the list of races. Players that pick up races that have been skipped over, also recieve the token that was used to skip over said race.
I have a few issues with this set up, personally. With 280 possible combinations of races and skills, it is unlikely that anyone who isn’t a seasoned veteran of the game will be able to recognize useful combos. What they will immediately recognize is that the first row is free. Considering that the objective of the game is to have the most tokens at the end, I feel many will ignore the skip mechanic. In our playthrough, I was the only one to use it, just to see what would happen. Doing so ended up putting myself at a major disadvantage when it came to the financial aspect of the game. This mechanic I feel suffers most from the sheer number of races and skills in the game. It’s ridiculous to think that 280 different combinations can be balanced, and with each race and skill have its own rule to add on to the already lengthy ruleset makes for an overwhelming first play. Limiting the races to about seven, the skills to approximately 10-12, and the max number of players to 4 would be my first move.
The player count is another issue I have with the game. Smallworld describes itself as being playable by 2-5 people. The problem is the fact that there is a separate board for each instance of player count. Having four different but static boards seems like a clunky way of handling world generation in a game of conquest. After playing Catan’s modular board last week, this just seems like a missed opportunity to add some level of replayability for this title.
On day 1 of Intro to Game Design, the class as divided into four separate groups. Each these groups was given one of four games, and this week my group was given Settlers of Catan. Groups were tasked with taking an objective look at the mechanics of the game.
In my group of four, I was the only person with prior experience with the game, although it was minimal. My initial thought while we were going through the rules of the game was that the system was complex to the point of not being friendly to new players. However as gameplay progressed the group as a whole seemed to get more comfortable with the rules and strategies began to emerge.
One thing that pleased me about the game was the amount of variability that is involved with the game. I’ve recently been getting more interested in the rogue-like indie game scene, and with that a fondness for maps that change with each playthrough. The way the game plays has players rolling 2d6 to see which tiles on the board (pictured above) will produce resources that turn.
A team is only as strong as its weakest link. At the same time, I feel it is the job of the team to work to strengthen links before severing them. This weekend put that notion to the test as infighting in the group came to a boil. A team member was resistive when it came to mending the gap and getting to work on a crucial sprint planning meeting. Before casting blame on another, I try, keyword try, to look at myself first. That said, I also expect the same of my team mates and when that is proven week after week to be the case, something has to give.
Playtests have been improving overall, the game is actually starting to shape up. I hope this momentum can last.
I’ve started work on the npc characters. The team just wants headshots for these characters and to be honest, I think the headshots work better than the full body drawings of the playable class list. It could just be a fluke, but I like this style
It seems as though I am now the de facto head of art now. It is nice having a defined role on the team
I wasn’t particularly certain about my goal this week as far as tasks went. It’s no so much that I have nothing to do, I’m just not fully certain where my contributions are supposed to fit in. Last week I came up with a couple buffs to be used for the card aspect of our game, and now those are being reworked into the format of my team member Dawn’s design. I personally preferred her layout to mine and encouraged her to adopt what she finds interesting from my work into her own. After bouncing ideas, I’m actually pretty impressed with the work she’s turned out so far.
Since she is working on buffs now, and I’m more of a consultant on the topic versus active developer, I decided to work on detailing a pvp resolution mechanic for our game, as it was one of the only two cards left. Fair enough, after our group’s discussion at the end of class last week, I felt inspired to work on this topic anyway. I started off with my usual research (procrastination) habit of browsing rpg subreddits, I came across an article (linked here) about the Rule of Three Clues and how it could be used to tie narrative to mechanic. Seeing as our game is about investigation, I got the idea that maybe we could use the event cards in our game as ways to show progress for players. I came up with the idea of map specific events that would have points about them that could be used to either prove or disprove paranormal activity, with certain events having more points that lead one way versus the other.
After reviewing stand ups today, I had seen that two other group members who had been tasked with the general pve win/loss mechanic for our game had already included pvp resolutions in their posts. This is where the issue I’ve been having of where my work fits in stems from. Not to let the week be a total wash, I looked inward to what my job for our game is, more specifically, what I’m going to school for in the first place. Art. With that in mind, I looked on pluralsight for videos related to character design then whipped up a quick rough of what I felt the “Skeptic” class in our game might look like (pictured above). I figured a retired cop, Han Solo-esque look would be appropriate and now here I am. Below are the two initial sketches I did in order to get a feel for the pose and energy I felt the character should portray.
My first assignment for the game our group is developing is to create 8 unique buffs, as a way of incorporating a card system into our product. I wanted the buffs to be more than just a random boon to a random trait. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that kind of a buff, some of the buffs I created are just that, but I also wanted to see what I could do outside of stat enhancers. So I started out by brainstorming what things I find useful if I was exploring a haunted house. Not worrying about how it would work mechanically, I went more for thinking about generic items you might find laying about in the real world or a explorer’s kit.
From there I whittled the list down to the eight things that I felt were the most distinctive of the bunch. I wanted the buffs to be things that, regardless of which class you decided to play as, would be beneficial in at least some way. I also liked the idea that certain classes should have a special affinity towards certain buffs, just like a pen means a different thing to an artist versus a writer. This is where I tried to differentiate between a buff that simply adds a stat boost from a buff that gives the player their own unique mechanic.
Anyone can pick up a knife and feel braver for being armed, but the demonologist, with their knowledge of the occult, might call upon some ancient ritual to grant them safe passage into the unknown. Some special buffs demonstrate a specific classes familiarity with the item, being able to use its benefits to gain either a faster or better result.
The team has spoken and it looks like the board game that we will be building for class this semester is going to be a multiplayer paranormal investigation game. Although I wasn’t physically in class to pitch my own idea for a game, I’m fine with the result. I’m actually a little excited to be honest. One of my favorite purchases of recent years has been the tabletop game Betrayal at House on the Hill (pictured above) for the exploration and variety of gameplay scenarios that it creates. The idea of working on something similar with a group of my peers seems really interesting, so to help everyone get an idea of the mindset I’m coming into this project with, I’ll be bringing my copy of this game to show around. Who knows, if time allows, we might even play a session of it. All that said, I’m still in quite a bit of considerable pain, so I’m going to keep this blog post short and end here.