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Design Experiment, Guillotine without a line, 10.22.13

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All righty! Everyone form an orderly mob for today’s design experiment: Guillotine without a line of nobles.

Guillotine is a card game by Wizards of the Coast that puts players into the role of competing executioners during the French Revolution trying to get the most notoriety by beheading the most noteworthy people. 12 nobles are lined up each round, and each turn you get to play one action card and then take the noble at the front of the line and add it to your score pile.

Most commonly, action cards will let you rearrange the order of the line to some degree before taking the noble at the front. With planning, you can take exactly the nobles you want while leaving the low & negative point nobles to your hapless opponents. (Of course, said opponents are trying to do the same thing…)

The line of nobles is central to Guillotine. But what if it weren’t there? Here’s a couple possible solutions that might have also worked.

Grid of nobles

Perhaps the nobles for a given round are put into a 3×4 grid. This doesn’t really remove the line, though; it just makes three smaller ones if you could take from the front of any line.

UNLESS! The action card you played also stated a specific column or row you had to take from the front of at the end of your turn. It could create some interesting choices as you could end up affecting lots of rows & columns with a single play.

The downside of such a solution is that any sense of forward planning would disappear. With a line, you know which nobles are likely to be taken next based on the way they’re arranged. If each action card had a different set of rows or columns for a player to take from, it makes a fairly random game even MORE random (not to mention fiddly). It would work, but not necessarily be satisfying. This could be mitigated by each card only allowing to take from the front of a specific column, but then you just have three lines instead of one.

Hand of nobles

Perhaps nobles are cards in hand alongside action cards, where you draw and play one each turn. The action cards would be fundamentally different; there isn’t a line to affect any more. They would instead focus solely on hand and score pile manipulation.

The play feels like it would get stale pretty quick unless other changes were also made to the game. You’d simply play the highest-point noble you had at any given time and try to pawn off the negative-point nobles on other players. Whereas the first alternate was too random, this one is too scripted. And they BOTH lack good player interaction that the original design has.

One possible additional change could be what my cohort calls Knizia scoring (after designer Reiner Knizia for using it in Samurai, Ingenious, and others). In a game with set collection-based scoring, your best set does not count toward your score. Instead either your second highest set (or other sets if there’s just three or four) or your lowest set are your final score. If such a mechanic were mixed with action cards that specifically focused on set size manipulation, that could be fun  while still maintaining the theme.

That’s all for the possible solutions I lined up for ya. How would you tackle this change?


Written by krinklechip

October 22, 2013 at 5:27 am

Deck building, 11.22.11

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Io, fellow designers.  Lets shuffle up some possibilities with deck building.

-Here ya go!:  Have your players build each other’s decks.  However, building your opponent’s deck should be more than just throwing trash together so you can stomp them.  That’d be too easy.  Add a couple of twists:

  • Cards in play generate resources for your opponents, with better resource generation tied to stronger cards.  You may want 5 gold on your turn, but it’ll cost ya giving your opponent a good card.
  • Cards with sub-par effects generate lots of resource.  Give your opponent starting resources, or better late-game cards?  Mmmm…. cognitive suffering.

-Working together:  Players build a communal deck to play from.  This could be used in a co-op game, with players pitching in for the greater good while weeding out chaff for other players.  Or, you could have it be competitive.  However, to avoid the free rider problem, cards could be drawn face-up onto the table as the set of resources and actions available for everyone at once.

-Tertiary Deck building:  Deck building doesn’t necessarily have to be the main mechanic, either.  Take Starcraft, for example.  Players build a combat deck and draw from it each combat.  You may have an Ultralisk bearing down on me, but do you have the card to utilize it properly?  Perhaps players are building a resource deck in a game with multiple ingredients.  Or, a riff on worker placement:  I build a deck of how many and what kind of workers I get to place each round, with the cards drawn representing contracts with the workers.

Now that I’ve built the article, lets see what I draw.  …Nothing but Victory Points?!  BLAST!

Keep on designing, yo!


Written by krinklechip

November 22, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Press Your Luck, 9.18.08

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The Mechanic for today is Press Your Luck. Taking risk is a part of life; as is giving it as a gift to your 10 year old nephew. Pressing said risk too far can often lead to abysmal failure, which, so long as it happens in a board game, is hilarious. In our rational minds, we know that statistically, we will NOT roll those three 6s with four dice in one shot; but we do it anyway. Here’s a few ways it can be done…

-Dice Rolls. Players have ‘X’ die rolls of a set number of dice to create the most optimal combination. This is the standard for Press your Luck. Roll those bones and hope they go your way. There are still choices, though. Do you keep that set of 2s or re-roll the whole lot? In a steampunk machinery game, the dice could indicate how well the machine may function. Do you take the time and tinker your creation for more re-rolls, or do you slap something together and hope for the best in one or two rolls?

-Diminishing Return Draw. Players draw a starting hand of cards. If they do not like the hand, they may discard it and draw one fewer card. This may be done as many times as a player wishes. Another sub-mechanic made popular by Magic, Diminishing Return Draw allows players to weigh the strength of their hand for the current round and
redraw in an attempt to get something better. Of course, you could get something worse… In a factory game, your hand could be your output, worker movement and special actions. Should you keep that hand of ‘blah’ output and good worker movement? Or do you want to try to get that one action from your deck that will save your butt
guaranteed this round?

-Action Point Limit. Players must complete their actions within a set action point limit. Players may go over the limit, but risk increasing penalty if they do. Good for a game where just o-o-one more action will get you through the round. Granted, you may get the tar kicked out of you by the board if you go overboard with too many actions, but what are the chances of your one little action causing that? In a robbery game, the action allowance could be how much activity won’t attract a security guard. Do you press for more swag and risk getting caught? If it’s a cooperative robbery game, it may be necessary to go over for the good of the team to get a bigger cut… if you don’t get caught yourself.

There ya go. I’ve pressed my luck as much as I’m willing to for now. I pass.

Keep on designing, yo!


Written by krinklechip

August 18, 2009 at 2:18 am

Card Draw, 9.4.08

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I love to draw. Don’t you? …Cards, that is. Oh, sure; paper and pencil is all fine and good, but a hand full of cards is… potential. Today we will delve into that potential: Card draw. Many times, a standard hand size that is always maintained after play is acceptable, or even necessary (gin/rummy). You play a card, you draw a card. Nice and easy. That doesn’t always cut it, though…

-Actions Vs. Options. The players have the choice on their turn between taking actions on their turn or drawing cards that may give them an edge. For this kind of mechanic, the cards should be strong to create the tension, but not overpowered. Or instead of giving up all action for the turn to draw a card or two, give it an action point cost. Say you have a jungle exploration game, where you lay hexes as you move and build the board as you go. Instead of drawing blind and possibly getting stuck in quicksand, you could take a turn to consult your map to look at the top three tiles and add one to your hand instead of drawing blind. Or, make it a global exploration game. You can draw cards as an action, but you need to be in a city and it costs you X dollars. You just added travelling salesman and resource management to your action/hand management. WOO!

-Pay For It. Players may pay to draw cards, as much as they can afford. This can add an additional level to your resource management mechanic. Sure, you can spend your money on drawing more cards, but there is no guarantee that they will be what you need. In an investigation game, this could be buying drinks at the bar to draw rumor cards to put together a verdict on the case.

-Not Until You Clean Your Plate. Players may only draw once their hand is empty. This can create interesting tension, as not every card in the deck is especially good. Even angrier (and funnier) if there are outright bad cards in there, too. You may not want to play that card that takes away all your toys, but you can’t draw until you do… In a mafia game, cards could be events or special actions you can take. But god help you if you play that Government Informant card…

-Static Turn Draw. Each round has a set number of cards each player receives. A variant of the previous mechanic, this helps regulate how many ‘special’ things players can do. Or, if each turn requires a card play, an additional way to track round length. For a record label game, it could be how many new albums you have for the upcoming turn; for better or worse. Or, in a spy game, it could be how many gadgets you have for the current mission.

There you is. Some card draw. Just be sure to not draw too many…

Keep on designing, yo!


Written by krinklechip

August 18, 2009 at 1:25 am