A relic hunt by Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Simultaneity in the temple

We had a reasonably successful test of the ideas discussed in the previous post at Spielbany this weekend.  One player pulled a Forrestal and was killed by traps just outside the temple entrance while the other players jockeyed for position all through the temple.  In the end, both had a single "life point" left, but the one player crossed the finish line one space ahead of the other, and three spaces ahead of the Nazis.  The basic structure of the game worked pretty well.  The temple phase had too many cards and thus took way too long, and the external phase had some issues with challenges ratcheting up in difficulty too quickly, but the basic engine seems to be successful.  It's a bit weird to play without clues and check marks and solution lookups, but I think the game still seems to preserve the core idea even without those systems, surprisingly.

One funny thing is how this version recycled some of the version 7 ideas but gave them a little twist.  For example, as you can see in the image, there are cubes placed in cities as you do stuff there (ignore the colors, they don't mean anything), but instead of setting the challenge difficulty, the number of cubes set the number of bad (red) dice you roll when facing a challenge.  And, I didn't have time to get encounter cards made up so we used a die-roll and lookup table to tell what challenge you would face (lower right), and actually, it worked perfectly well.  

The rolling dice for information, and pressing your luck to try to get more clues, seemed to be really quite successful.   Things may need to be tweaked a bit but there are enough rolls that there's some scope for lucky and unlucky things to happen, yet there's some suspense with almost every roll.  It was a bit too frequent that continuing to roll would have no obvious down-side, so we need to worry about that a bit, but the basic idea seems fun. 

There were a few issues, of course, and the biggest seems to be controlling the traversal of the temple.  As mentioned, it's essentially a single row of cards, and you pass through one card at a time.  Except, you can be "aggressive", at some risk, and try to pass two cards at a time.  This resulted in players being spread out, which has a few problems.

- Trailing players get to know 'for free' what cards await them.  This loses the suspense of the reveal, and also decreases the importance of the information system (although being prepared with the right equipment is still important).

- The rules governing the order in which players attempt to move "simultaneously" were extremely fiddly; I was annoyed by them and I wasn't even playing!

- It wasn't clear what happened to you if you failed to pass a card, or if you passed the card but triggered a trap and then failed to pass that, and so on.  

I think that to preserve the row-of-cards temple, the rule must be that all players explore simultaneously -- we all progress to the next room together, every step of the way.  How, then, to choose a winner?  I think that there would need to be a track that monitors our relative position.  

The resolution of the cards would also change.  Currently, each card tells how many successes you need to roll in a single roll of the dice; you roll your dice, and succeed and advance, or fail and stay put.  This would change to "keep rolling until you succeed."  Then, whoever succeeded with the fewest rolls would move to the front of the line.  This rewards knowledge and preparation, since having the right equipment will make you more likely to succeed.

It doesn't exactly allow you to open up a big lead.  However, cubes are a resource, so players who are poorly prepared will have to burn cubes to get die rolls (whereas you, with the right equipment, will get dice to roll for free), and/or will need more rolls to succeed, exposing them to more risk of taking damage.  So hopefully it will balance out.

There would also be an effect whereby you can try to step over the player(s) that are ahead of you by taking a more risky action, reflected simply by rolling a die that may trigger a trap or noise that alerts the Nazis.  So you can actively jockey for position, or you can hope that you have better knowledge and equipment than the other players and that they'll stumble, letting you shoot past them.  This should become more tense later in the temple.

One nice thing is that this can also integrate the Nazis straightforwardly as an NPC.  Each card has a number of successes that are needed; that number can be "par", and the Nazis always make par.  So on the rope bridge, maybe the number is 2, so the Nazis will take two 'rolls' to cross.  If you can cross on one roll, you move ahead of them.  If you take two, you maintain your position relative to them.  If you take three, and you were ahead of them, you fall behind.  And so on.

I think this keeps everyone in the game until the end, but with the limited black cube supply there will still be elimination, but the game ends quickly enough after players are eliminated that this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

The key to making it work seems to be getting things very tightly balanced:  you have to have just the right number of cubes that losing even one is painful, and information has to be valuable enough that having the right equipment is crucial to suppressing your risk of losing those precious time cubes.

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