A relic hunt by Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gameplay examples

I've posted a blitz of ideas in the last few days, but what will these actually look like in terms of the player experience? Let me try to provide a gameplay example of each of three possible arrangements to show what the game might feel like. I'll describe only what the player actually does, over the space of a couple of turns. In the interest of not expending a ton of effort on this excercise to make it accurate, I am completely making up the actual details of the cards off the top of my head.

Scenario 1: Rules Version 7 ("last known good")

I begin in Calcutta. Surveying the scoring mat, I see that "Franciscan manuscript" offers 2 yellow VP tiles and "Located Grail Room" offers 1 yellow VP tile; since sets of 3 VP tiles in the same color are worth 1 extra VP, I decide I will emphasize these two clue categories initially (as an added bonus, the MS provides a symbol for the Grail Room). Surveying the available theme cards, I notice that Marcus Brody and Elsa Schneider, both of which provide a symbol for the Manuscript, are located in the West (in London and Venice, respectively). I plan a visit there, but on my first turn head east, to Bangkok. 2 enemy cubes are there, and I roll the die -- I must face a "Wits" challenge. I discard a Satchel (+3 towards Wits) to dispatch the challenge, and capture an enemy cube. Then I "visit" the Col. Vogel card, receiving a check mark towards "Grail Room", and add 1 enemy cube to Bangkok.

On my next turn, I pay a plane card to travel 3 additional spaces to arrive in Venice, where 3 enemy are present, and the die roll indicates I must face another Wits challenge! Unfortunately, I'm tapped out of Satchels and can't pay the 3 AP, so I am captured and whisked off to Berlin, and my turn ends. On my next turn, I draw 2 cards (1 satchel) and go back to Venice, and this time face and pass the Wits challenge, receiving an enemy cube. I "visit" Elsa Schneider for one check mark on the "Manuscript" category (and add an enemy cube in Venice), then travel to London, facing a Luck challenge, which requires discarding a Fedora card. Then, I visit Marcus Brody, (adding an enemy cube), and receiving a 2nd check mark in the Manuscript category, (adding 2 enemy cubes to London). I look up a level 2 clue, which consists of a level 1 clue ("That which you seek is in a White city") and a level 2 clue ("That which you seek is in the Far East"). I know it's either Bangkok or Shanghai. On my next turn, a plane card is available to draw, and I take it, travel to Bangkok, face an Escape challenge of difficulty 2, and fail it, again being sent to a stronghold (Peking, this time).

On my next turn, I draw two cards, travel to Shanghai, face a Fight challenge of difficulty 2, remove an enemy cube. The next turn after that, I spend an action to dig for the Manuscript. I slide the Manuscript location solution card into the "Shanghai" frame -- but it's not there! I now know that it's in Bangkok. Unfortunately, so does my fellow player Jim, as he has also acquired a Level 2 clue in that category (*). He spends his turn high-tailing it to Bangkok, and successfully digs for the manuscript. He then uses his free action to draw a card. On my turn, I draw a card, then move to Bangkok, passing a Wits challenge and removing an enemy cube. I attempt to steal the Manuscript from Jim, playing a card with 3 fight symbols to his 2 cards with 1 each; I win the challenge, and the Manuscript is mine. I then play the free action that this entitles me to travel to nearby Calcutta, spending 1 AP card to complete the 2-space journey in one action, and deliver the manuscript to the museum there, receiving the two VP tiles for the Manuscript from the scoring mat.

On my next turn, I spend an action "visiting" the Manuscript for a check mark in the "Grail room" category, then looking up the clue for the Grail room, which tells me that the Grail room is found by pulling on the Lever in the temple. Armed with this knowledge, I set out to look for more information that would help me find the temple itself...
(*) One of the advantages of the composite clue structure we've created is that a player with no knowledge or limited knowledge doesn't automatically acquire full knowledge from watching another player dig and fail. A player who sees me dig and fail could infer that either I must have known the type of city the relic was in, or the region it was in, but he won't know which of those I actually knew, unless he has level 2 knowledge himself.

Scenario 2: New system

To start the game, I am dealt the identity of "Jack Cavanaugh", a mid-level FBI operative with an overactive trigger finger. I begin in Calcutta, and am dealt a "Lead" card from the "circle" deck, which informs me that I receive a strange telegram from a theme card from the "circle" deck (I flip one over, it's Elsa Schneider). The telegram says that I should meet Elsa in the Library in London.

I start my first turn by placing an enemy cube on each of my existing leads (of which I have one at this point), then drawing 2 cards (because I'm in a "pentagon" city), and spending an airplane card to fly immediately to London. Once there, I reveal the topmost card from the "Library" encounter deck -- it shows a view of a deserted basement in the library, and that I must face a "Wits" challenge (difficulty 3) to access a Lead symbol. I have a Wits stat of 1, and play a Satchel card (+2 Wits) to overcome the challenge and have access to the Lead symbol (an L with a circle around it, corresponding to a Library in a circle city, or major city). This authorizes me to reveal my Lead card, which features the same symbol, and to indicate that I have located Dr. Schneider. I place her theme card in the "London" box, and move the enemy cube on her card to London. I see that she has associations with Walter Donovan and Henry Jones Sr., and has knowledge on the subjects of "Inscriptions" and "The West". I ask for a clue about the True Grail; she has no knowledge on the subject but suggests seeing "Card 11", the Fransican Manuscript. (I advance the enemy progress track by 1, since there is 1 cube in London). I see that Donovan has an association with the Manuscript, and ask Elsa for a lead to Donovan's wherabouts -- I receive a Lead card for Donovan (also in a circle city), and pull the Donovan theme card from the deck and place it on the table, placing an enemy cube on it.
The lead card indicates that Donovan is in Bangkok.

I begin my next turn drawing 3 cards (because I'm in a "circle" city), and spend two of them to travel to Cairo, where Sallah has been revealed to be located. I visit the Marketplace, flipping a Market encounter card, where I must face the Arab swordsman, a Fight challenge of difficulty 4. Luckily, fighting is my character's specialty, and my Fight 3 stat, combined with a single Adventure card, easily ends the threat of the swordsman. More importantly, it authorizes me to meet with Sallah, and I interview him about his knowledge about the Temple Features. He reveals that he knows a Level 1 clue, which turns out to be "Do not activate the rope or the lever in the temple!" I note that one of Sallah's areas of knowledge is "The Near East", which is also one of the subjects that Walter Donovan knows about. I invite Sallah to join me on my quest, to help boost my Fight stat even higher. He agrees (really, he has no choice...), and I discard down to 4 cards (since having an Ally reduces my hand limit by 3).

On my next turn, I draw 2 cards (since Cairo is a pentagon city), and travel to Bangkok to look for Donovan. Once there, I go to the Nightclub, as instructed by the lead, where I face a "poisoned drink!" challenge, requiring Wits 3. Wits again, not my strong suit! I reluctantly fork over 3 adventure cards to pass the challenge, and reveal my Lead card to place the Donovan card in Bangkok on the board. I interview Donovan first about the Temple Features, and he reveals that he has a Level 2 clue! "The grail room is found by pushing on the obelisk". (This also confirms my suspicion that "The Near East" is a pertinent category for the grail room category, and suggests I should look for another theme card that shares this category, to see if I can get another clue on the Temple Features). Then I ask Donovan for a lead as to the whereabouts of the Franciscan Manuscript; I draw a triangle lead card, which instructs me to go to the Ruins in Nepal, just a short journey away.

However, before my next turn, an opportunity emerges; another player locates Henry Jones Sr. in nearby Shanghai, and discovers that he provides a Level 2 clue about the Temple Location; on my next turn I travel to Shanghai, where I visit the Marketplace and face an Escape challenge ("trapped in a narrow alleyway!"), paying a Whip card and taking advantage of my "Escape 2" stat and a +1 boost that Sallah provides. After passing the challenge, the Encounter card does NOT provide a "lead symbol", indicating that I am NOT authorized to visit Henry Jones Sr (I guess I couldn't find him); but it does let me choose between capturing some enemy cubes or moving some around on the board (I choose the former). On my next turn, rather than waste more time in Shanghai, I travel to Nepal, to the Ruins, where I face a Luck challenge ("cave-in!"), and pass it by paying two torch cards that I just picked up before leaving Shanghai. I reveal my lead card, and take the Manuscript Card. I can keep it to myself, or place it on the board and receive 2 VP; I choose the latter, and spend the remainder of my turn looking at the card for a clue about the True Grail; I learn that it its construction is "clay" (having played the game before, I know that this narrows it down to just two possible Grails).

On my next turn, I set out to try again to find Dr. Jones Sr...

Hopefully these excerpts provide a bit of a snapshot of how the game used to play, and how it could play in the new framework. I would characterize version 7 as a combination of a route planning game and a risk-assumption/press your luck game. You want to get the best clues you can, but you know in some cases you're going to be forced to take some 50-50 guesses. In the new version, with the leads, I think you'll spend much more time dancing to the tune that the leads you draw happen to play for you, so there may be a sense in which it has a stronger feeling of being an "experience" than a "game" -- but you're also trying to assemble for yourself not just "what is the solution?", but also "what cards are the ones I should visit to get me to the solution". You're rewarded if you pay attention to what the other players are doing, so there is less downtime, and your turn should feel much more organically themed -- the stuff you're doing feels more like the actual stuff Indy would be doing -- arriving in a city, facing an encounter, tracking down an important person, asking them for what they know about the solution, and inferring based on that who he should visit next. Obviously in the films the search process only has about 2 or 3 steps and the rest is all action; here I think there's space in a 2 hour game for a bit more depth to the information hunt, to let it unfold more gradually, and to hopefully give an experience that provides a steady level of interesting action throughout, with several exclamation points along the way.

Which version sounds better at evoking the theme? Which sounds like it would make for a more enjoyable game?

1 comment:

  1. While scenario 2 MIGHT lead to a more thematic experience, I actually had a lot of trouble following it...

    "This also confirms my suspicion that "The Near East" is a pertinent category for the grail room category, and suggests I should look for another theme card that shares this category, to see if I can get another clue on the Temple Features" - that is almost unintelligible!

    Admittedly, to the extent I'm familiar with the game, I'm familiar with Scenario 1... though I have not played or even really thought about this game in quite some time. I definitely think Scenario 1 would be much easier to play and to internalize.

    If I remember correctly, the 'purpose' of the Enemy cubes on the board was to (a) make a dynamic geography to spice up the route planning, and (b) to help differentiate the info that players get - because getting info adds cubes to the board in your location, making it more expensive for another player to follow you and get the same information. That was a dynamic I rather liked the thought of.

    One thing that may have been lacking is a sense that the players got 'more powerful' and therefore more able to take on larger groups of Enemy (visit cities with more cubes in them). Other than drawing cards, a player did not get 'stronger' in any way. I recall one idea that was tossed around in which there existed Pistol, Whip, Fedora, and Satchel tiles which a player could get, giving them a permanent +1 against the associated type of challenge. Perhaps that type of thing could help?

    I really like your recent idea about the Challenges being a card with nothing but a picture, and allowing the player to choose which stat to use - though mightn't they simply always choose their largest stat and hope that works? I like the thought of multiple different outcomes being possible - like maybe you slide the chart into the appropriate slot and it shows you a particular icon (different based on which stat you used, and maybe no icon if your stat wasn't high enough)...