Home > board game design, Euronimoes, Horsefeathers > gearing up for Protospiel

gearing up for Protospiel

I’ve been getting ready for Protospiel these last few weeks:  playtesting like crazy, tweaking rules, getting everything together, and making sure everything is — both literally and metaphorically — in the box.  If all goes according to plan, I’ll be taking 7 games:  Horsefeathers 2.0, Hacienda, The Super Awesome Dice Game (SADG), Strange Bedfellows, Euronimoes 2.0, Puppet Masters, and Venture Capital.  I don’t expect to play all these games, mind you, but I plan to have them there just in case.  I never know what I’ll be in the mood to play / playtest until the moment is upon me, and this way I’ll have options.

Some of these games may already be familiar to some of you, as both Horsefeathers and Euronimoes have been released as print-and-play games here on my blog.  I’ve continued to develop and refine these games over the past year, and I hope to have updates available in the not-too-distant future.  The changes to Euronimoes have been slight (tweaks to the scoring, no chip bonus for drawing from the bone pile), while the changes to Horsefeathers have been more extensive (using cards instead of dice, revamping the points structure, creating a board, and adding more texture).  Both games are significantly improved.

Puppet Masters and Venture Capital should also be familiar to some of my readers, as I’ve blogged about their development before.  (Venture Capital used to be called Empire, then Metropolis, then Urban Conquest, then Capital, then Central City, etc. — it’s the proverbial game in search of a name.)  Puppet Masters hasn’t changed much, though I’ve tidied up the theme a bit and changed the way the endgame is handled.  Venture Capital, on the other hand, represents a significant break from previous development — in open source software terms, the game has “forked.”

I now have two games:  Central City retains the action cards, general gameplay, and overall feel of earlier versions, while Venture Capital has evolved into more of a stock market / speculation game.  Both are still auction games at heart, but the two play very differently.  Venture Capital feels much closer to “done” at this point, however, so it’s the one I’m packing for Protospiel.  Central City will have to wait another year (or two).

What else is left?  SADG, Strange Bedfellows, and Hacienda.  These are all light-to-medium fillers, taking somewhere around 30 minutes to play.

SADG is a clever little dice allocation game where players try to complete various items in three different categories.  There are two twists:  first, it’s rarely possible to complete an item all by oneself, so players have to cooperate in order to make points.  Second, a player’s overall score is equal to the score in their lowest category.  The game is played over three rounds.

Strange Bedfellows is what I would describe as a “political auction game.”  It’s subtitle, “everybody knows that elections can be bought — how much do you want to spend?” sums it up pretty well.  There’s a primary phase (choosing which candidates will run in that election), a negotiation phase (where players try to get other players to support their favorite candidates), and an auction phase (where players pledge their support to one of the candidates in that election).  Oh, and did I mention that there’s plenty of room for backstabbing and betrayal?  Just because a player says he’s going to help you out in the upcoming election doesn’t mean he actually will.

Finally, Hacienda is a modular auction game where players buy properties and try to connect them together into large ranches.  Ranches only count for points at the end of the game, however, if they’re also connected to wells, so players must choose where to put their wells carefully.

= = = = =

Looking back over this list, I count four games with an auction:  Hacienda, Strange Bedfellows, Venture Capital, and Puppet Masters (in Puppet Masters, there’s an auction to determine turn order).  By any standard, that’s a pretty high percentage of auction games.

I’ll admit I’ve had a fascination with auction games lately.  I enjoy playing them because they require an accurate valuation of the game-state; I enjoy designing them because they’re what I like to call “self-leveling.”

By self-leveling, I mean that some things (start money, income, etc.) become less critical — it’s up to the players to determine the worth of various in-game elements and bid accordingly.  Bid too low, and your opponents gain an advantage; bid too high, and you run yourself out of money.

As a designer, this means you can worry less about the amount of money in the game and more about the game’s overall flow and feel.  And that, for me at least, is a Good Thing.  :-)

 

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