I’m often a mechanics-first designer, so sometimes I find it helpful to get out of my normal zone, and think of a game theme first. This way, hopefully I can explore an unusual theme, and the mechanics can be tailored to fit. Today’s idea is a case in point – so it might read more like a stream of consciousness as I think of elements that could be included in the game on the fly!

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Day 8: Mouse Circus

Each player is the ringleader of their own mouse circus, and they will be aiming to train their mice so as to put on the best show for the children at the upcoming summer fair. Cheese is certainly going to be an important economy in the game, as you will use it to train your mice, and to encourage them to perform particularly daring feats at the show.

The game would be played in two main halves – in the first half you are training your mice, and the second you are putting on the show. You start with 3 regular mice, with no particular talents, represented by cards in front of you. In each round of the training phase, you will take each of your mice to perform an action, perhaps to train in a particular skill, such as mouse trapeze or mouse juggling, or to rest (so they are happier and require less cheese to perform) or to send them on a convert mission to steal cheese from other players.

As the mice gain skills (represented by cards placed next to the particular mouse card) they will be able to perhaps gain master training in a particular skill, which is only available to one mouse.

At the end of this phase, players will decide what show they want to put on. There will be three acts, and in each act one of their mice will perform. Players secretly choose the three acts (say, juggling followed by acrobatics followed by feats of strength), placing them face down in a row. Then, the first card for each player is revealed, and they choose which mouse is going to perform that act. They can play additional trick cards from their hand (paying a cost in cheese) to encourage their mouse to perform a particularly fancy trick for that act. Points are awarded based on the relative performance of the mice. This process is repeated for the next two acts, with the remaining two mice performing once each. Most points at the end of the game is the winner!

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This is a skeleton of the idea, and while there are a lot of holes to be filled in, I already can imagine the theme being very fun and whimsical. Being able to give some character to each of your mice through the art on their cards and by the skills they achieve (I can already imagine a ‘Master Cheese Thief’ skill) would really enhance this feeling. Would you do something different with this theme?