Saturday, September 24, 2011

Problems with Dog Eared Superhero and a new mechanic to address them.

There is a problem with Dog Eared Superhero. On any turn, is very likely that the card you create won't be accepted into the game. In a four person game, 75% of the time, your cards will be ignored and discarded. This really hurts the players engagement level, for if, over the whole game, their moves don't have much of an effect, why bother staying interested? If players have to force themselves to maintain interest in the game, the game is bad. It is the game's responsibility to get the players interested and maintain that interest, not the other way around.

So I have a possible solution. If instead of one card being chosen every round, one card was removed every round, I think players would be much more engaged. In a four person game with four cards being created every round and only one being discarded, players would then be striving toward being one of the three remaining cards, a much more achievable goal than being the only one of four cards to be selected, as it is now. It's an inversion of the voting mechanic. The incentive is for the player to not be the worst instead of be the best.

So if four cards are created and one is voted off, the three remaining might be completely at odds with each other, so we can't allow all of them into the game at once. There still has to be a selection mechanic, a choosing mechanic. This is the idea I want to try out for a new Location developing game, similar to Dog Eared Superhero:

  • Players are developing a location: ie a building or city or even empire.
  • There are different sub-areas within that location that players can contribute to: Physical Description, Major Events, Major Characters, etc.
  • Every turn players write a card and put in contention for a specific sub-area. All players create cards at the same time.
  • Players go around and vote for the card they want to see removed. Any card that gets 2 votes is removed from the game. Cards with 1 vote are not removed, but they can't be included in the game.
  • Cards without any votes can enter the game and are placed in the sub-area they were designed for, but they must be paid for. The cost to bring a card in-contention into the game is equal to the number of cards already in that sub-area. The player must discard that number of cards from their in-contention pile, which would be the cards with one vote on them.

I think this mechanic would increase player engagement. It brings the focus to the in-contention pile. Players want to build up this pile so they can pay to enter new cards in the game. The cards included in the game that describe the location accrete more slowly and across the several narrative paths of the sub-areas, rather than the one narrative path of Dog Eared Superhero. I'm curious to see how that would affect the narrative development of each game.

The rules for Dog Eared Superhero can be found here.

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