I must admit that I’m not entirely sure that the following idea hasn’t already been done…it is one of those things in the back of my head that I can’t remember where it came from, or whether I just made it up!
Day 3: The Spirit World
Essentially the crux of the idea is a mechanic: the game is a tile game, where all the tiles are laid out at the beginning of the game. They represent the real world in some way (different landscape features, or buildings). Players have agents that move around the board, and can take certain actions on certain tiles. So far, not particularly novel.
But the difference is every tile is double-sided, and as the game goes on, players can take actions that flip the tile that they are on. The other side of the tile represents the ‘spirit world’ a place that exists parallel to the real world, and that can have different features. As such, sometimes when you flip the tile the function might stay the same, or it might alter slightly, or even become very different! Players wouldn’t know what exactly is on the back of the tile before they flip it, giving some sense of surprise, but you could know the set of possibilities for the back of a particular tile so it isn’t completely random. Of course, one of the tile’s actions could be to look at the other side of a particular tile.
There are some fun things you could do with this – there could be portals that link tiles in the spirit world that are in fact very far away in the real world; or tiles that change the function of adjacent tiles (perhaps making them more difficult or expensive to use for other players).
Importantly though, the game always heads inexorably towards the point where the entire world has shifted to the spirit world – once a tile is flipped it cannot be flipped back. So the game has a natural arc, as certain features in the real world remain while slowly being surrounded by these new features. It also adds variability from game to game, as the order in which the tiles flip will be different each time, leading to a different set of actions and features available at different points in the game.
So, has this idea been done before? Of course, you could also think of different themes, such as the sewers and underworld-style realm below a bustling city, or a night/day kind of contrast. I also haven’t really thought of the actual functions of the tiles, but hopefully they could be quite straightforward to encourage a lighter style of game. I would be interested if this mechanic sparks a different sort of game in someone else’s mind.