A relic hunt by Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Achieving symmetry across the two phases

With respect to the concern I expressed in the last post that the turn mechanic will be different inside and outside the temple, of course one option could be to change the turn mechanic outside the temple so that it's more congruent with the mechanic inside the temple -- basically, to have you draw chips from a cup at turn's end. This wouldn't actually change the turn mechanic very much outside the temple: take actions, draw chips, done, which is not that different from take actions, done. However, I do think it will force a decision as to the role of the enemy operatives vis a vis the enemy cubes. Under the scheme as articulated in the last few posts, the enemy cubes represent the growing menace of the enemy outside the temple, and the operatives are a shadowy presence that lurks behind that menace for most of the game, until the temple phase, when the menace is unmasked and the operatives become its face. And I think that's compatible with the spirit of the movies. But under a different scheme, the cubes would disappear from the design, and the operatives would become the sum total of the enemy's presence in the game, chasing the players around the board and then around the temple, and acting as a constant threat that the players must deal with. And I think that's also compatible with the spirit of the movies! The trade-off is this; on the one hand, the latter approach could have more symmetry between the two phases of the game. For example, "noise" in the temple generates red chips and red chips, when drawn, move enemy operatives inside the temple. If some analogue of noise chips move operative pawns around on the board outside the temple, the whole thing may be easier to learn for the player. But on the other hand, the former approach will be easier to design and balance. An in-between approach, where there are enemy cubes AND operatives moving around, would probably feel cluttered. Which way to jump? In a game that's supposed to be richly themed, I think it's most important to get the feel right, and we've always found that the board filling up with enemy cubes over time has always given the feeling of a growing threat. And I like the way the enemy operative cards could amplify this: you know you're going to face these guys in the temple, but the enemy on the board are the more immediate problem to be dealt with.

So, that may be the best starting point: enemy cubes on the board outside the temple, enemy operative pawns on the "board" only after the action moves into the lost temple.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A framework for the temple phase

I think I have a framework that pulls the ideas of the last post together coherently, without bogging the temple phase down in complexity or rules compliance.

Preliminaries, which aren't crucial to the idea:  
  • Say the temple is composed of cards, each representing a room 
  • Say they're laid out in a 5x5 grid, and 8 of the rooms have testable features.  
  • The room cards are all face-down, except the entrance, but the back-printing on the rooms containing testable features is different, so you at least know which rooms contain features.

Now on to the actual idea:

At the start of your turn, you are given a cup, containing 5 white chips and 2 (?) black chips.  You declare how many actions you are going to take this turn, and remove as many white chips as the number of actions you plan to take.

Then you take your actions, which can include (i) move to a different room (card), (ii) test a feature, (iii) fight an enemy operative, (iv) steal something from another player.

When you move into a room, one or more icons may appear in the room, and you must add a chip to the cup for each icon in the room, as follows:

  • "Noise" ==> red
  •  "Trap" ==> blue
  •  "Operative" ==> black (special)
  •  "Powerup" ==> white (special)
  •  "Phobia" ==> special

The three specials:

A room containing an operative icon means that if that particular operative card is active, you add the matching enemy operative pawn to that room.  If you move through a space containing an operative pawn, add a black chip to the cup.

If you have a powerup card with an icon that matches the icon in a room (eg a map or an amulet, etc), you get to add a white chip to the cup.

If the phobia in the room matches your character's phobia (eg snakes), you take a "-2" tile, and are -2 against any encounter you may face at turn's end.

After you have taken all of your actions, you end your turn by pulling chips from the cup and resolving each chip that you draw.  (I think) the number of chips pulled is given by the number of enemy operatives in rooms that contain either a feature or a player. 

  • White = no effect.
  • Blue = Trap!, draw a temple encounter card and resolve
  • Black = Enemy!, decrease enemy progress track by 1
  • Red = Noise!, move any enemy pawns in adjacent rooms into the room you occupy, BUT enemy operatives don't move if they are in a room with a feature.

If 2 or more enemy operatives are in a room with a feature, they test the feature.  If it tests favorably (eg it's the well of souls, or the grail room, etc), the enemy track is decreased by 10 (?).

 Some advantages of this system:
  • It lets all of the symbols be handled in the same way mechanically during temple exploration:  simply add a chip to the cup
  • It keeps the action in the turn quick; just move and test features, and then settle up the "consequences" later
  • (subtle) Because players will tend to move to rooms with features, having "noise" resolve after player movement will tend to draw enemy operatives towards rooms with features as well.
  • Enemy operatives have a simple AI and a spatial impact on the game, but their primary role is still related to the progress track.

  • It's thematically a bit weird that you don't face trap(s) until turn's end, instead of immediately as you pass them.  Maybe thematically it's that the trip wire and the actual trap aren't in the same place.
  • It has limited continuity with the outside-the-temple turn mechanic.  It does have good conceptual continuity, but there will definitely be the sense that a different set of rules govern the turns inside the temple compared to outside of it.
  • As I've currently laid it out, it only works if the "enemy operative" system is perfectly balanced.  If it's too easy to enter the temple with few operative cards in the row, or to explore most of the temple before you start tripping over operatives, then you won't be drawing many chips from the cup, and so you'll always feel safe maxing out your actions every turn.  (Maybe to balance this there are also "temple guardians", which spawn and move without needing a matching operative card in the card row)
Concerns aside, I think this completes the conceptual work of introducing some of these new concepts (enemy operatives, new encounter system, powerup cards, etc) and integrating them with the old concepts (check marks, challenges, enemy cubes, enemy progress, etc) in a coherent and compact way.  I hope to have a go at solo testing some of these ideas and will report back!