A very happy 2015 to everyone! I have been meaning to get back to this blogging business for some time (as the original cause for stopping, my PhD thesis, is almost done!), and a timely tweet from the ever-inventive Behrooz Shahriari spurred me on to actually start again. I have to say that keeping up with the one idea per day was quite difficult (and a lot of posts were madly written right before midnight), so I’m going to try a bit of a different approach this year.

Essentially, I will try to keep regularly posting an idea every day, but I won’t worry too much about catching up if I miss a day. Hopefully this way I get to enjoy blogging but without the terrible feeling as I get home that I still need to write today’s post! That being said, I think that pressure was key in keeping me going, so lets see how I go without it! Another impetus is an upcoming game design blog that some member of Cambridge Playtest are working on, that I will be a part of.

In any case, on to today’s idea! As always, I am enamoured with the microgame concept, and have certainly tried to design my fair share of them (including many previous days’ ideas). One issue I have with the concept is the relative lack of strategic games in this space – many designs rely on hidden information heavily, or bluffing. What I wanted to do was to try and make a small game (within one deck of cards, and nothing else) that had more strategy, and different routes to victory.

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Day 79: A Strategic Microgame

The heart of the game is a recurring draft with the same 24 cards, that is played over 5 rounds. These cards let you explore different strategies in the game, and also work to mark which resources you have gained access to in the current round, for scoring purposes.

The 24 cards are divided into 6 distinct types, each of which has 4 copies (one of each colour: red, blue, green and yellow). The remaining cards in the game are building cards, which have two main functions. The first is that they have a number of bonuses corresponding to some or all of the colours on the middle of the card. The second is that each edge of the card (again, colour-coded) can be added to your original building to improve it by sliding the card below one edge of the card. Crucially, you can choose which side of the card to use for the upgrade, with there being many different combinations of powers on the edges of the buildings.

The types of people are (these names are placeholders for now, not really sure of a theme!):

  • Noble: Gives you one ‘Prestige’. At the end of each round, you score VP based on how many Prestige you have collected in the round, from Nobles and from elsewhere. 1/2/3/4/5+ Prestige = 1/3/6/10/15 VP.
  • Builder: You gain the building card corresponding to the colour of the Builder, and get to add it to your tableau at the end of the round. Each round, one Building of each colour is visible, and available in the middle of the table. When adding a building to your tableau, you choose which edge’s power to gain. However, some edges require multiple builders to gain (offering better powers), and require you to either draft multiple Builders or gain Builder’s hammers elsewhere in the round.
  • Merchant: Gain all the benefits corresponding to that colour on the Building cards (in their middle) visible this round.
  • Alchemist: Activate all powers of a certain colour in your tableau. Your starting building has a power for each colour, and you can add additional ones from acquired Buildings.
  • Guildmaster: Gain 1 VP for each character of the same colour (including this) that you drafted this round.
  • Jester: Copy the action of a character of the same colour you have already drafted, or will draft this round.

Each round each player drafts 5 characters, and then gains points according to various parts of their tableau (such as drafted Nobles and Guildmasters). Then new buildings are revealed for those that were claimed, and the characters are shuffled again for a new round. The game ends once one colour of buildings runs out (there are 5 of each colour, so something like 5-7 rounds).

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I recognise that a lot of the actions are not exactly novel, but I wonder how much you can pack into a relatively small package, with simple mechanics and a short play time. I think something like Machi Koro has really set the bar for games like this, and I hope that this game could punch well above its weight!