A relic hunt by Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Encounter structure for v10

[Note:  I had already mostly drafted this before Steve's post on Friday...some of these ideas may have good overlap with that post, and some may conflict -- but I think it's worthwhile to have both posts preserved, for comparison purposes]

Assuming we are going to adopt a v8 scheme for challenges (at least for now), it's desirable to have a few things crystallize.  Here are some possibilities for v10.

In this approach, instead of rolling a die to determine the type of challenge you face, you flip an encounter card. To give a feeling of place-specificity, the encounter card that you face would be determined by the location you go to. In addition to the three main city categories (disregarding Strongholds for now), I think that each city each city type will have several "sub-locations", and each sub-location has associated encounter cards. The questions we need to answer are:

1. How much can a player control what sub-location he goes to?
2. How much knowledge does he have in advance of what reward he will receive for passing the encounter?
3. How much knowledge does he have in advance about the category/difficulty of the challenge he'll face?
4. What consequence(s) does he incur should he fail a challenge?

I'll engage these questions out of order. For question (3), the v7 approach to this has proven the test of time -- a player knows, going to a circle city, that he'll face either a Luck or Wits challenge, and so on for the other city types. The encounter cards should capture this dynamic, and remove the overhead of a die roll to determine the category of the challenge -- the distribution of the challenge categories on the encounter cards handles this organically.

For question (2), I would suggest that, per Steve's suggestion, the reward for passing a particular encounter should be known in advance, and all encounter cards for a given sub-location should pay that reward (and possibly something better as well for some "surprise" cards). I think this is important as a way to aid player planning and move progress along. It's one thing to go to a city, and face a swordsman that you're not adequately prepared to beat. It's another thing to beat that swordsman and find that he gives you a check mark in category X, instead of letting you remove an enemy cube. So I think it's good for the rewards to be fixed and uniform for a given sub-location, but the challenges to be uncertain but bounded.

For question (4), I increasingly favor the scheme mentioned in a previous post. The "vanilla" consequence of failing a challenge would be something minor like "end your turn". BUT, as "enemy operative" cards are revealed, each makes a particular encounter card outcome bad.

For example, for encounters that give a check mark, if Enemy Operative Z is activated, then these ALSO move the enemy progress track, e.g. So in the case of failing a challenge, Enemy Operative Y might, in addition to loss of your turn, ALSO force you to be relocated to a stronghold. (See that post for arguments about how this might help to make the game more dangerous and convey a more tangible sense of the enemy becoming more and more powerful as the game progresses).

Back to question 2: what are the rewards for passing a challenge? I think there should be 6, with one reward on each card:
  • Receive a check mark in solution element 1
  • Receive a check mark in solution element 2
  • Receive a check mark in solution element 3
  • Remove (capture) an enemy cube
  • Receive an "Ally" card (provides stats boosts)
  • Receive an "Item" card (provides a special power)

(For the last 2 items, my thought was that each region would have one card of each type face-up, and by passing an encounter in that region, you would be authorized to take the region's card.)

So, on to question 1, which becomes important in light of the answers to the other 3 questions -- if you want to receive this reward but not that reward, or if you want to face this challenge but not that challenge, you want to have some control over where you go. So how are the encounter cards structured into decks, and how do they convey a sense of place-specificity? I think there are two schemes that could work.

(i) Each city type could have 3 sub-location types, each of which pays one of these 6 rewards, for a total of 9 rewards (strongholds don't count in this since they are special). The sub-locations are appropriate to the type of city you're in; so a "circle" city, a "Major City", might have a Library, Museum, and Hotel; a "pentagon" city, a "Minor City", could have a Market, Castle, and Church. Maybe these are 3 separate decks for each city type, or maybe a single deck and you're given a choice of a couple of the top cards from that city type's deck when you face an encounter.

(ii) There are 6 location types, each with its own deck of encounter cards. Each city type has 3 associated with it: 2 that are shared with the two other (non-stronghold) city types, and one that is unique to that city type. So a Market might be present in both a triangle and pentagon city, but a Church will only be found in a pentagon city (eg).

The advantage of (ii) is that it's a more unified framework, the disadvantage is that there's no way to ensure the challenges you face in a city will be properly bounded, UNLESS we rigidly associated a particular challenge type with a particular sublocation. (Which could work, but loses some of the fun associated with the unpredictability of v7, in which you might go into a circle city loaded up on Luck but poor on Wits, just hoping you'll get a Luck challenge).

The advantage of (i) is that it can be more city-dependent, the disadvantage is that it creates more kinds of cards, but only 3 more compared to (ii). And if all of a city's encounter cards are kept in the same deck, then it might actually feel more compact (but then there will be some luck as to whether you can go to the sub-location you want to go to. To mitigate that, maybe there's a rule that you can draw down into the encounter deck until you get to a sub-location you're willing to face, but each card that you "skip" is +1 to the enemy progress, or you have to pay 1 AP to flip cards, etc?)

Finally, back to question 2 one final time: how does this integrate with "leads"? If we adopted Steve's idea, that most/all theme cards are available but must be pulled on to the board at a particular city type and sub-location, maybe it's simply that, instead of (or in addition to?) receiving the standard reward for passing an encounter, you can pull a theme card into that city, if its associated sub-location matches the sub-location you're in. I think I like this idea -- though it doesn't have the immersive quality of getting a card that says "You've received a telegram from Henry Jones that he's in Vienna", it does permit some planning, some competition between the players, but doesn't require as much bureaucracy as lead cards would. So it's worth thinking more about.

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