July 27, 2009

Game Design Challenge

I found a very interesting blog named Game Design Challenges through an article by Tesh. The blog is manned by Brenda Brathwaite Whose blog is here and Ian Schreiber whose blog is there. The blog is meant as a course on game design, be it tabletop, card, or video games and is very interesting. The book which is par for the course and the course itself do pose some challenges for aspiring game designers.

So here's my take on the first challenge: building a "race to the end" game.

Without further delay, let me give you:


After some earthquake unearthes interesting stones on the slope of a volcano, a score of Geologists decide to get a closer look and make a friendly wager on the stones each will find. But... doesn't this earthquake hint at an awakening of the volcano in the near future?

Core Mechanic:
-> Race to the end
-> Resource gathering/management


The field is divided in 3 "tiers" on top of each other. Yous tart from the bottom, and the closer you get to the summit, the more chances you have of unearthing quality stones.

There is the "easy" way, which snakes from bottom to top, and the "hard and fast" ways (2 and 4 cases long) which a direct.

Material needed to play:
-> 1-4 players. Yep, you can play alone ! Even here, soloists are welcome ! So... 4 pawns.
-> Pieces to be put on the board. Each has a "Lava" side and a side with either dirt, a rift, or a number (1, 2, or 4)
-> Green "Mining" cards containing simple rocks (0 points), Pyrite (1) and a flawed sapphyr (3)
-> Orange "Mining" cards containing one simple rock (0), some pyrite (1), some gold (2), and some strange fossils (3)
-> Red "Mining" cards containing some unique rocky formations (4), diverse precious stone (5) and a Dead Sea Scroll (15)
-> 8 "Equipment" cards (rope, ice pick, 10 feet pole...)

The board pieces are shuffled, then randomly placed on the board with the "Lava" side up. Once they are all on the board, turn them on the other side.
All the "Mining" cards are shuffled, and the three corresponding stacks are built.
Equipment cards are shuffled, for every player missing, draw out 2 cards and get them out of the game. Then, the first player pickes one, so does the second, etc until no more cards remain.
Place all the pawns at the bottom of the slope.


First part: the Ascension
Each turn, a character gets alloted 4 Action Points. Using these, a character can (Action costs are indicated in the relevant sections):
-> Climb
-> Mine
-> Cheer
-> Hinder
A character does not have to use all its AP in one turn. It is possible to start spending APs on an action during one turn, and finish on the next, but you have to finish your action, and only get the result once the points are spent.

Climbing the easy way costs 1 AP per square
The "Hard and Fast" slopes cost 2 APs for each square you advance, unless the character has the ice pick, which reduce the cost to 3 APs per 2 squares
On a rift, a character needs 3 APs to advance, unless with the 10 feet pole, which reduces the cost to 2 APs.
Characters are free to go up or down the slope.

On squares with a number, spending that AP amount enables you to draw 1 card (on the "1" and "2" squares) or 2 cards (on the "4" squares) in the corresponding stack (green for the first tier, orange for the middle, red for the high tier)
There is no limit to the amount of stones a character can carry.
The mining pick enables you to draw an additional card for 1 AP. You must then choose and discard one of the additional cards.

A character can cheer another. When being cheered, a character must select one of its stone and give it the to the cheerer. The cheerer loses as many APs as the value of the stone (potentially making him lose turns if he loses more than 4 APs), while the cheeree gains as many APs (usable immediately, with no upper limit).
If equipped with the rope, the cheerer only loses 2 APs for every 3 he should have lost. The cheree still gains as many.
If equipped with the bright suit, the cheree gains an additional AP.

If a character lands on another character's square, he can hinder him by spending 1 AP, making the other lose 2 APs.
If equipped with the sieve, alternatively, he can draw a random stone from the character for 2 APs, instead of hindering him.

As stones are collected, the total value of the stones must be tracked: as soon as the number gets bigger than 20, the eruption begins !

Second part: the Descent
From now on, the eruption has started, and lave begins to run down the slope. At each turn's start, lava advances ((Total accumulated points)-20) squares (flip each piece to show its "Lava" side). Lava comes down every slope at the same time (but at the same rate). If Lava reaches a character, he's immediately immolated (unless he has the Lava Suit, which saves him for one turn), as well as his equipment and mined stones. They still count for the lava's speed.

The character's still have 4 APs and the same action.
But now, the "Hard & Fast" slopes can be climbed down at the rate of 2 squares per AP. However, these slopes are so steep that the character loses 1 random stone for each AP spent. Unless he has big pockets, which saves the first stone that should be lost.

The game ends when no more characters are on the board. The winner is the geologist with the biggest amount of points. In the case of a tie, the one with the least amount of stones wins.


  1. Still digesting this one, but it looks interesting. What impetus is there to explore higher up, though? It seems to me that you might just get players slumming around in the lower areas in hopes of gleaning a few more stones before they get vaporized. If the more valuable stones were up higher, that might prompt movement... but that isn't something you can assure with randomized stones.

    Maybe it's not really an issue, but it's one question that came to mind, since it might mean you have half of your board that gets consistently ignored. Maybe 20 points is too low and a higher point total could prompt more exploration? That's probably something that testing could show you.

  2. Please, be my guest, digest !

    Mmmh, I may not have been clear in the rules, but the higher you go, the better the rewards (green on the bottom, orange on the middle, red on the top). The higher the risk of having the volcano blow up, too, of course.

    I still haven't decided how many cards there are for each tier. Something like 15 each I think. I want it possible to unleash the volcano's wrath even at the second tier (it's necessary, as the tiles are randomly placed), but the best way to score is at the top.

    I think it leads to more meaningful choices that way.

    Haven't been able to test it yet, but it should happen in the next 2 weeks. I'll post an update then.

    Till then, do not hesitate to tell me the results of your digestion !

  3. Yeah, I probably just read that too fast. Brain freeze?

  4. Argh... game may be good, but rules explanation makes it look like a PITA

  5. Honestly, I've seen worse :D !
    Still, this game didn't even reach the prototype stage. Yet.
    I'll tell you :). One day.