Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Session Report

Some good Thief sessions last week. We played twice, on Tuesday and again on Thursday. Tuesday's game was a bit nuts, probably because there were too many players and a few too many beers. We played for about 2 hours and then the game sort of fell apart.

The game on Thursday was much better. Four players, smooth moves, and we wrapped up after two hours exactly. I'm trying to pare down the length to less than 90 minutes, but I know how to do that - next time it'll work well.

There was at least one memorable play that game: someone created a Star Trek communicator card a couple weeks ago and used it to teleport to the other side of the Crushy Room. This time, however, we realized that the communicator doesn't teleport you unless you have a starship up in orbit, of course, so it couldn't be used to teleport you. However! The player who drew the communicator used it as it was meant to be used: to communicate. Presented with a locked door, she used it to phone-a-friend, a locksmith, to open the door. Presto!

Meanwhile, I created a transport module from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to get under the Impossibly High Wall. It was cool.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thief Rules Feb 23

Draw a filter card and place it face up in front of you. Put a piece of loot on the card.
Draw 3 security cards and place them side by side face down next to the filter card.
Draw 5 cards from the draw deck.

Determine who goes first.
Player chooses which building to break into.
Building manager looks through face down security cards, chooses which security to play, and turns it face up.
Player plays items to defeat security.
Other players determine success.
If successful, player can look at another security card of the manager's choice. If they want, they can discard a card and face the next security.
The last security card cannot be looked at ahead of time.

The player who defeats the last security card takes the loot and places it in front of them. They also take a blank card.
The manager of the defeated building draws a new filter card and puts it face up on the table with a piece of Loot. They draw four new security cards. If this building is defeated, repeat the same process, drawing five cards instead.

At the end of their turn players discard as many cards as they like and redraw up to five.
When the draw deck is empty, shuffle the discard pile to form a new draw deck.
The player who gets three pieces of loot first wins.

GOALS: Reduce playtime to 90 mins or less.

PROPOSED: To decrease downtime between turns, players can face only one security per turn.
To limit the power of multi-use items, building managers choose which of players' revealed items to discard.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Email newsletter

Hi folks,
If you're interested in keeping up to date with the developments of Thief, including how to get a free homemade copy of the game, sign up for my online newsletter. I'm sending out emails about once every two weeks. Send a message to organicgames at gmail dot com and I'll sign you up.

Friday, February 17, 2012

To map or not to map?

Over the past week or two I've been waffling over whether to include the map and its associated function in the game of Thief. It's not a good feeling, acknowledging that I might have to remove an element of the game that I've been working on and refining for the past eight months or so.

After some strong feedback from some players that the map was adding nothing but complexity, I took it out and whipped up some very simple rules to show off the main mechanic, which is strong, strong enough to carry the game. And it did. We tried it a few times and the game played smoothly, there was lots of interaction, and no one felt confused or slowed by any map mechanics.

However, the map created a visual centre, a focus point for the players to look at. It formed the context of Thief, a frame upon which to build the imaginary world of the game. Without it, play felt abstract and even possibly irrelevant. Without a visible goal to provide motivation, play was simply a social interaction using cards.

The conclusion I came to is that I pared it back too much. I'm going to bring back a visual centre, in the form of building tiles that will, when put together, represent a city. The map will not add any new mechanics, it will simply track some information on the progress of the players and which buildings are whose responsibility. It's a good compromise, and though I haven't seen it in action yet, I'm confident it will play well.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thief session report #1

First a brief description of the Thief. It's a card game, you are trying to break into as many buildings as possible to steal the loot at the bottom. In your hand you have a selection of item cards representing tools you might need during a break in: torches, lockpicks, dynamite, disguise kit, a fridge on wheels, and all kinds of other things. You also have a bunch of security cards representing obstacles that your opponents will face when they break into your building: things like an electrified floor, motion detector, a crushy room, bear traps, and so on. These cards are kept hidden. 

In addition, you also start with two blank cards which you can use at any time to create a new item and put it into your hand.

You draw a building card and play it face up in front of you: this restricts the kind of items that can be used while breaking into your building. No loud noises, no fires, that kind of thing. 

On your turn, you pick the building you want to break into, making a decision based on the items you have and the restriction on the building, and then the owner of the building chooses a security card that you'll have to face. You must play your items, singly or in combination, and come up with a plan to get past the security. You then describe your plan to the other players, and they determine whether it succeeds or fails. Usually it will be obvious whether it works or not, but sometimes players will come up with an elaborate plan and certain factors will have to be discussed: the conductivity of rope, or the likelihood that arrows can pierce a fridge, and so on. This is a lot of fun.

Defeat all the security and get the loot; first player to three loots wins.

This past week saw a lot of changes to the game - a rebirth of sorts. I had been developing the game with a map and a cop, what I refer to as a spatial element, which ideally adds a new depth of strategy and timing to the game: can I get to the loot before the cop reaches my building and arrests me, can I afford to use my dynamite and raise the alarm level of my building or should I play it safe and be quiet, etc. This never really flowed smoothly: the cop was too powerful or not powerful enough, one player's turn took 30 seconds to move a few spaces on the map while another player's turn took 15 minutes, and so on. I got some strong feedback saying that these elements distracted from the core mechanic, which was strong enough to stand on its own.

The game is now a straight-forward item vs. security game, with as few distractions as possible. (It's also a lot cheaper to manufacture.) I played it three times this week, with different but slightly overlapping players, and it worked really well. A few problems were identified and possible solutions were implemented. Playing it three nights in a row was very helpful, as potential solutions to recently discovered problems could be tried pretty much immediately.

Before I go into some of the backend stuff, let me describe some of the fun situations that arose during play. The best break in was Paul's defeat of the Room full of Snakes. He had a riot shield, rags, a five-pound sledge and an oxygen tank. He used the rags to tie the oxygen tank to the riot shield, put the shield on the floor and got on it, then used the sledge to knock of the top of the tank to propel himself across the room, smooshing the snakes in the way. It was dangerous, but too much fun to deny and everyone agreed it worked no problem. During the next game, I had a tough time getting across the Pit full of Spikes. My plan was to throw my pieces of raw meat onto the spikes and then freeze the meat using my ice gun, thereby creating a lilypad like path across the spikes. Also I was wearing a bear costume for some reason. Nobody bought it and I failed. I was surprised by a result from the third game: Harrison faced a state of the art alarm system, and created a card saying Space Lasers. I figured that would work no problem, but the others determined that Space Lasers were too imprecise to target just the control panel and not the entire building. I was outnumbered and had to agree.

Over the course of the three game, a few problems were identified:

- Initially we tried a one-security-card-per-turn rule, which made the pace of the game really good, but we determined that there is a disadvantage to defeating the second last security card in a building, since subsequent players could then potentially defeat the last one and grab the loot. Then we tried with a face-as-many-security-cards-per-turn-as-you-want-until-you-fail rule, which was okay in terms of strategy, but really increased turn length and down-time. For the next game I'll try something in the middle: you can face 2 or 3 cards in a round, and you get that ability either from a card drawn randomly, or some other mechanic.

- What happens if you have the last building left and it's your turn? You can't break into your own building, obviously. That situation didn't come up, but it will, and so to combat that next time I'll try this: when your building is looted, simply draw a new security hand. To complement that rule, I'll reduce the number of security cards in each building, meaning more loot will be taken overall, which is a good thing.

- Peter observed that he wanted more turnover in the items. He felt he was stuck with some not-so-useful items and wanted to replace them with new cards. I'm not sure what to do here but I have a few ideas. One is to discard all items you use 
an redraw up to five every turn, which would increase item turnover greatly, but that interferes with the Getting Arrested rule, which says that when you fail a break in, you must discard all items you used. So that one still needs some work.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions about the game, and if you have any ideas about how to address these problems I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Weekly Playtesting Session

I'm going to start a weekly playtesting session, every Thursday at 7:30 at my house. If you're in the Halifax area and are interested in the game I'm working on, or are looking for a fun new board and card game to try, drop me a line and join in. You can reach me at: organicgames at gmail dot com.

I'll also be posting some session recaps here, so you can follow along with the development of the game.

You can also take a look at the Facebook event here.