Might-be-Flynn’s comments

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This is a discussion a-person-who-might-be-Flynn and I have had today. I’ve edited lots of parts together, so many parts contradict each other, or are irrelevant, or contradict the original outline. Read through and think hard. A new suggestion for the rules, incorporating these thoughts and some new ideas I have had (though mainly building on Might-be-Flynn’s ideas) will perhaps follow.

Might-be-Flynn:

Okay, mister! I’ve read it through. I’m going to be mostly negative here because I’m a firm believer in identifying the things that DON’T work and fixing them rather than just saying “Yay! That bit there, that’s great!” A person who is surrounded by Yes Men never learns anything worth knowing, as I’ve been known to say before.

The question I had in mind while reading your outline was “Would I want to play THIS GAME as detailed here and extrapolated into a working product?”
My answer was “Probably not.”
Which is fairly unuseful.
So the next question was “Why not?” “Why?” questions are always useful. (Unless someone answers with “Because!” or similar.)(They’re idiots.)

1. I wasn’t sure about the co-operative aspect of the game. What stops a person from being a Scientist and basically saying “Screw you, guys!” and working all by himself? He can get from beginning to end without anyone else’s help, so would a Selfish Scientist Strategy emerge that would, basically, be a game-breaker? Yes, there’s the bit you added about someone being punished for making the game go too long, and I guess someone playing an SSS could be accused of this (“You could go back and help player X but you’re not! You’re just prolonging the game!”) but I have an issue with that ‘rule’ in the first place. And would it really be an incentive NOT to play the SSS? In a situation where there’s an SSS sitting at his/her end condition and there’s a player or two elsewhere who are unable to join up and help get each other through a Time Hole in order to progress and get THIER end conditions, the ‘stranded’ players could be clocking up so many Changes History points that, by mutual consent, they just throw in the towel because there’s zero possiblity of winning (which is another issue with the scoring system… addressed below). I know I would. I see an SSS who’s got, say, a Changes History score of 6, and I’m at 5 but I’m stranded. If the SSS has successfully travelled all of the eras and is at the final destination (whatever that might be), his score will never change or he’ll be in a good position to make sure it never changes because he’s a one-man team who can deal with any emergent crises. Meanwhile, my CH score can only increase as I traverse the remaining eras and, presumably, fail a few here and there (or play supremely optimally for the rest of the game, which should be a rare thing or else, again, the game is broken by being too easy). At that point, seeing that I only need two more CH points to put me in a no-longer-able-to-win position, I might just decide “Okay, let’s call it a draw” if I’m feeling amicable. Or, as some people might do, rage-quit and walk out (after flipping the board, for added demonstration of their frustration).

2. I can understand the idea that someone who holds up the game to make it longer is penalized, but adding in meta-game stuff (like “You’re the loser of every game from this point onwards, Great Fat Loser!”) is a little iffy, especially if you’re playing in a group that plays a lot of games together. Why would that Great Fat Loser ever want to play a game in that group from that point onwards if he/she knows it’s automatic failure? It’s fun to read and fantasize about in a limited way, but wouldn’t be fun to actually experience. Plus, something so powerfully ostracizing and demoralizing as that should not be thrown around lightly. Who would decide if someone should get the title? Would there be a formal measurement/set of criteria to determine this title? Relying on people’s judgements and opinions might mean that a whole heap of unfairness gets involved (favouritism, unwilling to assign an obvious GFL title to one’s girlfriend, vindictiveness, etc), and with something as poweful as “You lose every game from now”… no, that’s not going to be fun. That person would leave the group and never play a game there again, and if it’s assigned unfairly or because of some personal reason totally unrelated to their gameplaying then it’s even worse. No, what happens in-game remains in-game. As soon as the game ends, whatever behaviour (treachery, alliances, backstabbing, titles bestowed, and so on) ought to be packed away with the rest of the game’s components.

3. I’m not sure what sort of skills are being exercised here. Yes, I totally understand that some people STILL like to play roll-and-move games where they throw some dice, move the dice-determined number of spaces, obey what the new space tells them, and that’s it. That’s the default for most people’s ideas of what “boardgame” means. (Blame Monopoly for this.) A good hobby-grade boardgame should switch on various mental abilities and rely on those abilities being performed optimally in order to win. Even dungeon-crawlers where it’s basically move, kill a monster, pick up its treasure will involve some kind of risk management and shuffling of inventory (equipment limits are there for a reason!) in order for a character to emerge victorious. The essence of Euro games is about planning out a strategy that relies on using your limited options (whether that be turns to take, actions to perform, or available resources) to acquire the most points. And so on. I’m not seeing (at the moment, probably because it’s only an outline, I admit) what skillset is required to do well at your game idea. Which leads on to…

4. If there is a skill set that’s being exercised here (and I’m missing it in my read-through) then okay… I missed it. What I haven’t missed, however, is the lack of different responses a player has to his situation. Now, that MIGHT be the essence of the game that you’re hoping to capture. However, I hope not. A good game will present a set of options that a player can take on his/her turn: “Do I do THIS or do I do THAT or… hmm… I guess I might also be able to do THAT OTHER THING…? What’s best, I wonder!” And each different option chosen will have different consequences, thus making it possible to develop different (winning) strategies. Some strategies won’t work, or will work only if the other players don’t pick that one or they don’t play a successful counter-strategy. Not much of this usually goes on in my head when playing, for instance, Agricola: All Creatures Big & Small, but it’s definitely the way the game works. If you haven’t played it, it’s a briliant example of the kind of gameplay that encapsulates the whole “Euro game” thing. Basically, you have a starting farm, you have 8 turns, and are allowed to take 3 actions per turn. Meaning, you have 24 actions per game. And in order to win, you obviously mustn’t waste actions, because your opponent also has 24 actions. And the actions are not open to you for the rest of the turn if your opponent takes it. If your opponent picks, say, “Build a stall” then you can’t choose “Build a stall” until the next turn. This means that your options are now a little less open, so you’re almost forced along a different route. It’s amazing sometimes that a small ‘blocking someone from doing action X’ in the first turn can totally change someone’s strategy and allow them or make them do something else, making the endgame scoring so different from a previous game where you tried to do the same thing with the only difference being, say, you picked up a horse instead of building a stall.
Anyway, yeah… as far as I’m seeing in your outline (and I might be wrong here, so ignore or correct as is appropriate according to my reading), a situation will develop where a player MUST do a particular thing or suffer some change to that era’s history (and, in game terms, pushes them nearer to getting game-losing penalties; CH points, yes?). From what I read, it seems that those forced responses are things like “The player must get to hex Y within a certain number of turns.” Is this correct? If so, then there’s not much room for trying out different strategies to satisfy those conditions. It’s”Move your player token to hex Y or increase your penalties. NO MORE DISCUSSION.” How about, instead, to make it more strategic/thinky, allowing a player different ways of satsifying the enforced response? Instead of simply moving their token to a designated hex, how about they can expend some resource-type they’ve picked up along the way (not sure what this might be specifically, but that can be worked out after the mechanism is in place)? And by giving up that resource-type, they will have consequences further down the road… so there are decisions to be made that will alter how you do in the game, along the lines of “Well, I COULD spend turns moving to hex Y, which means I’m delaying my progress through this era, or I COULD give up these resources, but that means I can’t build an X later on because I might not have enough resources… what to do, what to do…” It’s these decisions that make each game unique to each player and add interest (in some games I play, I deliberately adopt a different strategy for a single game, just to see how that particular approach works. Or even IF it works. In the games I like to play the most, this is entirely possible because it’s rarely just one response to one demand but a menu of responses to that demand that I must choose from). Not sure if that makes sense. If you’ve played any kind of Euro game from the past 15 years, you’ll know what I mean, though.
As it stands, however, your outline is basically saying “Do this random card-draw-based thing in the way you’re told, or else suffer.” Which is fair enough if you’re into that sort of thing where luck and dice-rolling decide the game (for instance, in your outline, if someone is right beside hex Y when that card is drawn, it was pure luck, not any sort of skill, that they won’t suffer bad consequences). Whereas if there are several ways of fulfilling the enforced random action, then their overall success depends a little on luck but if luck is not with them, then some cunning planning—requiring the skill of thinkyness—will influence their success. And depending on which method of fulfilling the enforced action they chose, that will have a knock-on effect for what they can/cannot do or how they respond later because they’ve used up time/turns/actions/resources/whatever.

5. Tied in to #4, I definitely think some kind of “currency” is required. Not necessarily money but something that allows a player to accumulate, manage, and use it. This could be as simple as collecting the currency in order to buy extra abilities. Or it could also be used for that “decisions, decisions” thing: keep the currency and save up for an extra power, or expend it to fulfil the random card-draw event… consequences and decisions either way. Or make it a multi-currency system, such as more complex games like Le Havre. There, you have basic goods like wood, cattle, clay, fish, but once a particular building is out and usable, say the Smokehouse, your fish can be turned into smoked fish (at a price for using or constructing the building, of course), which are more valuable/useful than raw fish. And when the Slaughterhouse building is available, your cattle can become meat (for feeding your workers) and hides (which later can be turned into even more valuable leather, which can be sold for money). And so on. Maybe not as complicated as Le Havre’s system but even one extra type of currency will provide combinations to provide a secondary currency type which is more valuable in certain situations.
And by “currency”, one could be the money of the time (more difficult if you’re moving through time, of course!) and another could be some in-game thing that makes sense… even something abstract such as “Thinky Points” which represent your character’s ingenuity to improvise or come up with something useful. For example.
Currency is always a good thing to have in a game system, as it opens up so many more options to add interest to a game.

6. I suspect the scoring system might need more attention. I can envision a situation where someone has acquired—picking a number totally at random—5 CH points, and the other two players (in a three-player game) creep up to 6 each but they’re behind in terms of which era they’re currently at. That 5CH person is now almost certain to win if he/she is near enough to the end that he/she doesn’t accumulate many more CH points. Unless, of course, CH points can go down as well as up. In that case, that might be one solution to this unfairness. Another possibility is that some kind of mechanism where they can still accumulate CH points might work, but then it tips things the other way and starts punishing players who are efficient/skilled enough to complete their eras and are, basically, waiting around for the useless players to catch up. What this would mean is that, if you have player A who is super-efficient and player B who is super-useless, player A will experience his requisite chances to accumulate CH points by simply going through the eras, completing some tasks, failing others, and then sitting at the end and STILL needing to stop his CH points from increasing. Meanwhile, player B goes through his eras, has the same basic requisite number of opportunities to gain or prevent CH points as he moves through his eras, and then ends the game when he reaches the end (I assume the game ends when EVERYONE has reached their end condition). What this means in game terms is that player B has had X chances to increase/prevent CH points (where X is based on the basic requisite number of actions to progress through all the eras), and player A has had X+Y chances (where Y is the number of extra actions he had to spend waiting around for player B to finish). In this situation, there would be an unspoken incentive to play only as well as the worst player. Is this what you want? Shouldn’t best play be rewarded?

7. One thing that I like (but I acknowledge that some players don’t appreciate this) is having a not-so-obvious-who’s-won-until-the-end system. This can prevent that “Oh, bollocks, I’m never going to win!” despair that someone might feel halfway through the game, and thus make them feel less likely to want to continue.
Hidden bonuses can be achieved in several ways:
a. Scores are kept hidden. This is the easiest to implement. Instead of public scoring, everyone just keeps their own private score. It’s open to cheating and to other people taking careful note of when people accumulate points (so it’s no longer strictly private), but if everyone’s honest, it works the easiest. This is my least-preferred method.
b. Public scoring but with hidden bonus points. Games like Principato, Troyes, and many others will have cards distributed randomly at the start of the game, and on them will be a unique set of conditions that, at the end of the game, will grant the owner of the card extra points to be added to their score. So, for instance, in Principato, there’s a “Catapults!” bonus card. If you have this, then every extra catapult you’ve built in your principality, you get an extra victory point. It adds some intrigue in some games, as if you’ve worked out what your opponent is aiming for in terms of hidden bonuses, you might be able to make a move that thwarts that person’s plans and, thus, deny them a heap of endgame bonus points. This requires cards or some sort of random distribution method, plus a means of reminding a player of what those conditions are (which is why cards are usually used… shuffle cards, hand them out face down; they explain the conditions, and a player only has to peek at the card midgame to be reminded of what counts for bonuses).
c. Public scoring and public bonuses. This is my favourite because it allows some quick thinking in risk-management and assessing the costs-losses of an action. When I play Carcassonne with all my expansions, this is a big feature of the game because there are a heap of endgame bonuses. Basically, it works just like method b but the ownership of that extra bonus can swap around the table many times during the game. Whoever possesses it when the game ends gets the bonus points it endows. To acquire the ownership of that bonus, you need to perform certain conditions and then make sure someone else doesn’t steal it back off you. So, in Carc, for example, owning the King tile will give you an extra point for every complete city at the end of the game. This can amount to about 16-21 points. To get ownership of the King tile, you have to build the largest city on the board. You might get it for completing an 8-tile city but someone else could build a 9-tile city and you lose the tile (and, so, don’t get the points at the end of the game… assuming you don’t then go on to build a yet larger city and reclaim the King tile). It adds a bit of cost-loss calculation, as the cost of acquiring that tile needs to be assessed against what sort of bonus it’s going to be worth at the end of the game. You might give your opponent X points during the game as a cost of acquiring the tile but gain Y points at the end of the game for the bonus the tile endows. If X > Y, it’s not a good move. If Y > X, it’s a good move. Decisions-with-consequences aplenty!
d. There are others, but those three are the main ones and easiest to implement.
You could use a combination of things… endgame bonuses and ingame reductions of CH points. Or more of one but a sprinkling of the other.
Whatever it is, you need something to stop that Obvious Winner Syndrome from happening, especially too early in the game. If someone is completely useless/unlucky and accumulates a stackload of CH points in the first half of the game, they have no incentive to continue playing because they can see there’s no way of getting out of that losing position. Player elimination, whether it’s enforced by the game system or voluntary by a player giving up hope and walking away from the game, is never a good thing. Never. EVER. What’s needed is some way for a player who’s behind to still see a way to victory, even if it means a bit of extra work, extra planning, extra careful choice of actions. Give someone a hopeless situation, and it’s not going to be fun for them and they’re not going to stick around. Or, even worse, they will stick around but will moan or complain and mess up the atmosphere of the game for everyone else.

8. I think there might be other issues about balancing of individual powers (always a problem in assymetrical games where people can have characters/etc with different starting abilities), but they would only emerge once the basic system is in place and playtesting starts. What might look like a fairly mundane power might, during playtesting, turn out to be an always-wins power if a player does a certain thing. These emergent properties only appear when the game is played. And played. And played. And played again. Each time, trying out lots of different ways to test that there are no broken features that allow insta-wins or always-wins powers. I like to read game designers’ blogs/online diaries, and the one thing that comes out of all of them is that playtesting to find out these kinds of things (and to address them) takes up a seriously huge amount of time, often more than any other part of the design process. Anyone who doesn’t invest in that large amount of time will produce a game that will probably have an exploit that people will find, and once found and announced on the internet, makes the game a pointless exercise because everyone knows how to play it or what character to pick in order to win every time. And that’s not enjoyable for anyone as it then no longer becomes a challenge of any kind.

So yes. An embryo of an idea but I think there are lots of things to address about the core mechanisms. Once they’re established then the rest can follow.

Possibly-Flynn:

A more positive email this time!

Ideas you might want to idea-ize:

1. How about each player chooses what role they want to play as in your Rules-as-Written (so far), but they MUST only play one of the available types only once per game? If you have the same number of roles as there are eras, then this means you MUST play each character-type once, and once only, per game. So, you can play a Merchant in Roman times but never a merchant in any later eras. This would bypass the SSS that I mentioned in my previous email. Yes, everyone might want to be the Scientist because it allows you to speed ahead without other people dragging you down, but that can only happen in one era (you choose which era, which opens up another place for “decisions, decisions” to enter and offer consequences).

2. Some kind of timer-track might work to add some extra elements (and bypass some of the problems I’ve mentioned). I was thinking of a timer for the overall game, and when the timer reaches its endpoint then the game ends there and then. This adds two elements that are nice:
a. There is a set amount of turns, so you can plan when, where, how, what, etc, and hope that you can execute that plan in the time/actions you’ve got left. If not, if things happen to thwart you, then it’s a switch to tactical thinking and making of contingency plans, but still with that “Ah, I only have this limited number of actions left, what to do! What to do!”. It also gets past the Interminable Game Of Monopoly Syndrome, where a game has no predetermined ending so it can go on and on and on and on until someone has met the winning conditions. With a timer-track ticking down, everyone knows that the game will end after a particular person has taken their last action.
b. It can help to bypass the Obvious Winner Syndrome because everyone, useless and skilled, is under the same time pressure. Be in a winning position by This Point. What it means is that you don’t have to worry about what happens in a semi-cooperative game (such as you’re proposing) when someone has met their winning condition and is, basically, just hanging around waiting for everyone else to catch up. In that time, what do they do? Do they sit there and not experience any more challenges? That’s boring. Do they have to keep on attending to challenges? If so, they’re being punished for playing well. With a fixed time, everyone meets the endgame condition at the same time. No unfairness.

3. A within-era timer-track might work, but that complicates things because, as I read it, different eras can be running concurrently. That’s more tricky, but it might add in some small-scale tactical time elements. Not sure about that, though, and prefer it less than the overall game timer-track idea.

4. Your Changing History example is complicated! All that text on a card is going to make people go “Bleh, this is too much!” especially if there a lot of them in play. With many combinations in play it could mean the mechanics of the game overwhelm any feeling of being immersed in the characters and gameworld. You’ll have a long pause if there are several Changing History cards in play and someone will have to look through and work out just what effect is the final outcome of lots of things happening. It’s an interesting idea but my experience of playing games is that anything with lots of fiddlyness like this will hated almost universally. Arkham Horror, for example, is huge and scary to many people because it has a ton of things to keep in mind for every action you take. I can cope with it, but when I’ve played it it’s usually me who has to keep reminding people what they can do, what they can’t do, and so on, because of the cards that are in play. And, to be honest, that game is nowhere near as complicated as I imagine a couple of your Changing History cards in play would be! That definitely needs streamlining, but I can’t think of how to do it just yet (apart from scrapping the idea and having something else in its place).

5. As well as requiring someone else beside you to activate a Time Hole, how about also adding some mechanism where you need to CREATE a Time Hole (induce it to appear, build a machine to make it appear, or whatever)? The means to do this would be something your collectable resources could do, which gives an incentive to actually explore/interact with the era you’re in. Otherwise, I can envision the game being, basically, “Okay, there’s the Time Hole, I’m going to make a direct line for it, get to the next era” and that’s it. Oh, and with maybe a diversion or two to fulfil your character’s obligations. But essentially it’s a race for wherever the Time Hole is just to get through them and, thus, through all the eras. If you have to get stuff in order to make your escape route appear, then that gives you a reason to stay and explore the era. So, it could be money, or ingenuity, or raw materials, followed by a visit to the requisite place that will make the Time Hole appear. Or random encounters throughout the city might give you chance to make one appear… assuming you have the resources with you at that time. For example, in a medieval era you might meet some alchemist guy from a random encounter who, if given the right amount of money and/or scrap metal, can conjure up a Time Hole for you. Can’t pay him then it’s too bad, but you’re still able to go to the fixed locations and give (probably more) resources to get your Time Hole.

Probably more ideas as I think more about things…

Me:

Thnk you for your many great suggestions! I am just about to go to work, so I’ll have to look it through more thoroughly this afternoon, but I think one thing that *may* alleviate the SSS is that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to be a scientist in all eras. You must change persona every time you time travel, and if you don’t have a scientist persona card for the next era, you would have to walk around in the present era, risking getting more impact points, until you got one. I don’t know if that’s a ood trade-off or not, and it would be very dependent, I guess, on both the numbers of players, the numbers of equipment cards, and the numbers of persona cards of each class, so you’d have to calculate some sort of likelihood for getting a scientist card for the next era during your next turn as compared to the likelihood of getting more impact points.

I don’t like the idea that you’d only be able to play each persona class once, as that makes it impossible to time travel more than five times. I could go with “You cannot be the same persona two eras in a row”, or something similar, however.

I-can’t-believe-it-is-not-Flynn:

Hmm… I’ll have to look over the part that prevents too much time-travelling if you’re only allowed one persona per game. That didn’t strike me as obvious. Without thinking any deeper about it, it still doesn’t strike me as “Yeah, that would be stupid, Stupid” Perhaps I missed or am forgetting something in your original write-up.
However, if it does make time-travelling somewhat limited, couldn’t that be some kind of extra victory-point generator? That is, if you managed to get through to the end by using only one persona per era (which you’ve said is a more tricky achievement, and in this hypothetical situation is NOT an enforced rule) then that surely deserves some kind of reward for a well-played game, yes?
But definitely, if the Scientist proves to be powerful, it needs to be limited in some way. Which exact way is the best will depend on other things, obviously. My “one persona per game” idea was based on not seeing how that would limit time-travelling, as I’ve said. There may be some other way that makes more sense (thematically—arbitrary rules are a bit rubbish if they’re obviously arbitrary just to keep things balanced; if they fit in with the theme smoothly then they’re much easier to accept. And to remember) and easier to implement.

Yet more thoughts as I typed the above! This might need further refinement, but IF the Scientist is a very powerful character (he might not be—this is what extensive playtesting will discover), and IF you limit personas to one per game, then how about making it possible that a player can build/buy something that grants them the scientist’s powerful ability, no matter what persona they have? This, of course, would require a huge cost, but might be worthwhile if it gives them what is, effectively, a bit of a superpower. Kind of like… um… how about they can build a mechnical/robot assistant who acts as that Second Person to fulfil the requirement of two people for a Time Hole operation? Again, it would mean making a monster-sized sacrifice in order to get it (otherwise, it would be something everyone would do near the start, we’re once again at the original SSS problem), so it’s up to each player to decide if the sacrifice is worth it. That sacrifice would have to implement some consequences big enough to balance the extra ability they’ve now acquired.

What you need is a set of rules, even just basic ones outlining initial start-up, turn sequence, what actions you can and cannot perform (and when), and end/victory conditions.

Me:

What I was thinking about when I wrote that up yesterday — echoing some of your ideas — is that as written, it is a pretty dull game. You basically walk around aimlessly until you get a persona card for the next era (regardless of which one it is!) and then race to the time hole, go through, and then do the same ting over again. I was thinking about your idea of some sort of currency as well, but couldn’t really imagine what good it would do. Coul this be a solution:

To get gold (or some equivalent), you only need to do whatever the persona you are in would normally do. For instance, the Officer would have to make a visit to an undeveloped area, spend one turn to keep the peace there, and then return to some specific area in the town to get his reward (a set amount of gold). You don’t *have* to do this, and it may slow you down, but it is the only way to get gold. You need gold for the following:
1. Buy equipment cards. I imagine there would be a random, but open, selection of equipment cards visible at all times, but obviously some equipment cards can only be bought in certain eras. Either all equipment cards are visible at the start (implying a limited amount of equipment cards with very tangible bonuses), or there is a small shuffled stack, and only, say, eight cards are visible at the time (similar to Ticket to Ride or Power Grid, implying that the cards only give slight benefits, or are often one-use cards).
2. Use special abilities for your persona. For instance, a Merchant can “teleport” using te company chariot or whatever only if he’s paying for it. Possibly this would mean some special abilitie would have to be remade.
3. Go through time holes???? Maybe you need some sort of equipment to go through it (either equipment cards, or just a certain amount of gold or something that is needed to get the time hole to open?) This might necessaitate switching the Scientist’s special ability, However, I still think it is a good principle that there is a need for two people to operate a time hole. Perhaps anyone can do it on their own if they have twice the normal amount of gold (implying that they hire an NPC to help them, which will instantly give them a History Impact point, as they cannot guarentee that the NPC will keep silent about what he’ seen?)

If so, then equipment cards would be ut of the general draw pile. Perhaps the general draw pile should include Persona cards, Event cards and some sort of personal event cards, either quest cards obliging you to do something before you can continue, or Encounter cards which give you an immediate effect of some sort (e.g. gain 2 gold), or both.

This would both take away some random elements (while adding others), and give players something to actually do while they are waiting to be transported to the next era. You als don’t want to be the last one left in an era, as that means you will have to get twice as much gold to operate the time hole on your own, and also get an instant History Impact point. However, this has a serious balance issue as the person left behind in the first era will probably be very liely to be the one to be left behind in the next era as well…

If-you-are-Flynn-then-I-am-King-Charles-III:

The gold/currency thing, I think, is a good idea and will inject the chance to add extra “What to do?” elements.
Buying equipment? I agree. That’s the prime thing for money! So, that also kind of assumes at least one of the currencies (or the only one) is actual money. I’m sure bartering is great and all, but would be out of place in 19th-century Europe, modern era, and probably a lot of the other times you’ve listed. So, a definite currency is money. Agreed? If so, then everything discussed from this point can take it for granted that players will be able to accumulate and spend money.
The equipment issue…
I’ve played many games where, to buy new equipment, you choose from a limited amount of the total possible items. With all items on sale (even all items only relevant for your era), there’s too much sense of it being like walking into a shopping mall with every conceivable shop available for you to choose from. Whereas a limited selection that is on offer for that particular purchase adds a little element of randomness… you’re going to be able to buy something good but it might not be exactly what you were hoping was in the shop. If I had to choose then that would be my choice: Pick from a limited selection (three, four, whatever) for each purchase.
As for era-specific equipment, I think whichever way you do it, it will mean having era-specific items that, on being revealed, will not be up for purchase. Whether that means shuffling all item cards into one deck and drawing (and discarding) until you’ve got the required number of era-specific items or choosing that required number from separate piles (sorted according to era), there’s no way around the fact that there will be a whole heap of equipment cards. I think having an open market of permanently on-display equipment might limit things. What it could mean is that, due to an unlucky shuffle, you could be faced with 6 (or however many) items that are not for your current era. Within the gameworld, this would mean that the shops are not selling anything. That seems unrealistic. Or even with a market of, say, 10 items on display, if there’s only one or two for your era (and due to probability, this is most likely with a market of 10) then that’s like the shops having only one or two items for sale. Does this seem realistic? It just seems restrictive and cumbersome, making the buying process a pointless thing for, especially, earlier eras.
Making the market temporary for each purchase might improve this, meaning that you’re not permanently stuck until someone else makes a purchase (assuming anyone is able to).
Drawing a temporary market for each purchase from era-specific piles (or drawing and discarding until you have only era-specific items) is probably the best one as it keeps the markets fresh and makes sure you’re only presented with items specific to your era. Downside is that you burn through the cards pretty quickly and, if you only have a handful of cards for that era, you will get to see the same ones time after time, thus reducing the attractiveness of visiting a shop-place in the hope of getting a grand piece of equipment.
Either way, it means a lot of equipment cards, or else a very unrealistic shopping experience (and players would be just “Meh” about spending their money).

As for the idea of currency, I think some other, non-money, currency would be useful, too. Again, the details don’t matter yet, but I’m thinking that there would be some kind of exchange thing that means one is not equivalent to the other, whether in pure monetary terms or in how and where each can be used.
As an example, and covering your “Activating/Using Time Holes” point… how about it costs a whole bucketload of money to operate a Time Hole but as a separate option, you can exchange some money (a lower amount) for some other currency/resource, and use that to operate the Time Hole. So, it might take 30 coins to operate a Time Hole or, if you can exchange 15 coins for some other resource, it will only cost you those resources. Of course, there’s a cost for actually getting those cheaper resources, which will be paid in terms of taking extra risk, spending more time, being delayed, doing something else. So, again, a player is faced with a menu of options for achieving a particular goal, and the heart of the game lies in deciding which is best for your situation and then being able to carry out that plan.
To counter that, and to reductio ad absurdum slightly, if it took only coins to operate a Time Hole then a player would just go to his special ability place, activate his money-making power enough times to generate the required amount of coins, and then go to the Time Hole. Job done. But very boring and repetitive. But if there were a few paths to getting the Time Hole to work then the exercise becomes one of working out which path/plan will make you achieve your objective in the quickest or cheapest or most efficient method, given that you will enter the era with a variable amount of stuff each time. To continue the previous example, you would be faced with a decision of “Do I spend 30 coins (which might be better used on a shiny new penny-farthing for the 19th century era) now or do I spend a little more time/actions, and effort to acquire the necessary resources that will, in monetary terms, cost me only 15 coins?” And, adding another layer of decision-making, if you acquire those resources for 15 coins, then you might be faced with a temptation of spending THOSE resources on something else that might further gain you a nice shiny bonus item/points/whatever, but of course at the cost of being a little further away from activating your Time Hole.
What this all means is that, underlyingly, the system of decision-making and planning is based on assessing how you value each type of collectable currency you have. Whether it be coins, resources, equipment items, and so on, each one will have a utility cost that you will, subconsciously, be assessing and weighing up against the others available to you. Whichever one you decide is preferable or more valuable to you in terms of utility (for achieving your winning condition/s) that’s the one you set your strategy to. And with a number of different ways of doing that (and not just “This is the only way the Time Hole can be activated”), you end up with everyone not just simply making a mad rush for the same thing but different, divergent approaches to the game emerging from each different player. And, as multiple plays of the game accumulate, players themselves making different assessments (“My last game was terrible, I think I concentrated too much on buying Girl Scout Cookies to power my Time Holes… I’ll concentrate more on Bejewelled Octopus Eggs this next game and see if that’s any better…”) and finding yet more depths and enjoyment in the game. I know for definite that the games I enjoy the most are those where, after finishing, maybe sometimes days after finishing, I think to myself “I wonder what would have happened if I’d done X instead of Y…” and then be eager to play it again just to see if this is a successful strategy.

I think there could be a decent game in there, if it’s worked out right. Or, as you said, a rather dull one with players just wandering around waiting to be moved to the next era. The important thing to stop it being the latter is to throw in things that make sure it doesn’t become just a one-path-to-victory sort of experience, because that becomes tedious incredibly quickly. Add in some player interaction, and the combinations for making each game very varied grow rapidly. For example, I might have developed a great winning strategy based on Bejewelled Octopus Eggs. It wins EVERY TIME I play it. But only if everyone else complies. If an opponent (deliberately or randomly) manages to get an Anti-Cephalopod Tax onto the law books then my BOE strategy suddenly becomes very expensive to use, and I may have to alter it or abandon it. Or I could develop some approach that would make the issuing of such a tax impossible for that player to do, as long as I do something else first. But that Something Else could cost me precious currency to establish it, thus making the purchase of my first Bejewelled Octopus Egg only possible at a later date than would be optimal, making it less effective. And so on. Therein lies some of the goodness of a well-designed game with multiple approaches.

Me:

Could a separate currency be based on some sort of “intelligence”? Operating a time hole requires “gold” (stand-infor some sort of resource necessary) and/or “intelligence” (meaning, you need to think hard on how to use it, because it changes in off-games ways every time it is used). A persona generates intelligence automatically by doing nothing, but you can spend a whole turn “thinking hard” ad you will get a boost in “intelligence”. The time hole could be opened by X gold, Y intelligence, or some combination of W gold and Z intelligence (where W+Z > X and Y separately, but W < X and Z < Y). So to be able to open time holes, you can either amass gold, think a lot, or try to do both. As well, of course, as getting someone to help you (or get even more gold…)

Maybe equipment cards are more general, and can be applied to any era, but cannot be taken with you through the time hole? After all, it is not *you* that is being transported through time, you are being somehow implanted into some person who is living at the time. So a "Weapon card" would, perhaps, represent different weapons in different eras, and have slightly different effects (horse and cart are perhaps not as fast in the Roman era as in the Congress era, and a spear is not as efficient as a blunderbuss…) So all cards are usable in all eras, but cannot be transported from era to another by the same person (though I like the idea of being able to send objects forward in time by stashing them as artefacts).

Maybe gold can also be stashed as artefacts, meaning that if you have amassed more gold than you need in one era, you can send it forward and use it in the next? You wouldn't be abe to carry it fr the same reason as with equipment above, but ou would be able to hide it under a rock and then go back and look for it. Possibly the gold will ahve increased slightly in value, or decreased slighty in value?

Oh-who-could-it-be?:

I like the idea of not being able to take anything material with you, including gold. So, finding a good hidey-hole for your acquired stuff would be another reason for loitering around your current era. That might bring in some element of other people being able to sneak in and steal your stash. Not sure about that, but perhaps worth thinking about. Something like, if you can make the Time Hole appear in the next era near enough to where you left your goods, then you will be able to pick it up within the same turn. However, if you’re a bit rubbish (say you don’t spend enough money or “intelligence”) you can’t be guaranteed to have the new Time Hole appear exactly where you want it, thus making it possible that you end up in your next era a little distance away from your stash, allowing another player who’s in that era to come along and take it. I’m not sure if this would mess up the unfortunate player, losing all his stuff, but then… if you’re not allowed by default to bring stuff through the Time Hole, perhaps this won’t be horrible as it could have been. It would just, instead, be a bit of an inconvenience (and punishment for not spending enough currency!).

Me:

I’m actually starting to think you might be on to something with your rules to essentially limit the number of times you can time travel. I envisioned that it should be possible to travel back and forth as much as you want. but I never really thought about why you would want to travel back in time again. Maybe to stop someone from winning when you are already in the modern era, and the best way to get more points (or potentially lose impact points) is to go back, or as a last desperate measure to reset your era impact (which goes to zero every time you time travel). Maybe allowing players to travel back and forth as they wish makes the game potentially never-ending? If one player can go back in time to prevent another from winning, what’s to stop every player from doing that?

However, I also don’t want to limit it too much. It should be possible (maybe it is easier to get gold in one era tha in another, due to cards?), but there should be some penalty. Maybe every time travel you make gives you a historical impact point, simply for travelling? This would have several qualities (good or bad):

– A player who is getting close to filling his era impact can only avoid doing so by travelling in time. He/she will still get one HI, but will avoid getting two. This may prevent people from just going around drawing cards until they get the persona card they want for the next era, because they might get the extra HI before they get the desired Persona card.
– All players will have a small base set (five) of HI points at the end of the game.
– It sort of enforces an informal time limit to the game, through the HI. If you are lucky with what cards you get, you can stay longer in a particular era, but you may not be as lucky the next time. If era impacts are frequent enough (every second card or so), this would give a natural incentive to either stay longer and e.g. amass gold or intelligence (and risk getting extra HI) or ignore gold and intelligence and travel to the next era as soon as possible. My guess is that this could be a good balance, making players stay in an era until they are almost at the limit of their era impact, and then stash watever they can, and try to travel forward.
– But it will severely limit the amount of backwards-travelling, which would (as per above) be a potential game-ruining rule. Is it worth going back and getting more gold (which may be translated into victory points in some way?) and prevent someone else from winning if you get two extra HI (one for going back and one for going forward) for doing it? If gold can be traded for victory points in some way, then you’d need to get a lot of gold to make it worth getting those two HI, plus potentially more HI as ou’d be colecting era impact as well….

The-curve-is-approaching-an-asymptote-at-X-=-Flynn:

I think there is already (in embryo, admittedly) something that’s already been mentioned that will limit time travel back and forth. That is… it costs money/resources/something to operate or create a Time Hole. No one can generate infinite amounts of the required currency, so the action of using a Time Hole will depend entirely on how much currency you have and are willing to spend. There’s the limiting factor but it isn’t a strict “You can only do this 10 times!!!” arbitrary rule. It’s a natural effect of having a cost to use the feature combined with the cost being a finite currency. And people just get it… almost everything in life costs something if you want to use it (even just “time” if the thing is monetarily free) so that’s something people just know automatically and it feels natural, not an imposing rule of arbitrariness.

Can you give me a basic outline of how a player’s turn would be, based on what you’re currently thinking? I mean, from the moment it’s their turn to the moment they pass control to the next player. What can they do, what MUST they do, and so on. It’s just that reading your last reply, I’m seeing stuff that is not mentioned (or only implied indirectly) in your initial outline, so it’s effectively “Oh! I didn’t realize that!” to me when I see it. Obviously, there’ll be holes and lots of handwaving, but the general overall structure would be useful. Plus a description of what the winning/end conditions are (I’m fully acknowledging that these could change at any minute).

About the limit on going through Time Holes… I would imagine that the use of a Time Hole in each era is a Big Event, something that, on arriving in a new and unexplored era, is a bit of a distance away, and one which is your sole aim of exploring and interacting with the era. The game is, on one level, all about acquiring enough currency to initiate/find/create a Time Hole and then pay sufficient currency to use it in order to push on to the next era. If this isn’t one of the driving forces of the game, then what is? Remember, just as in any kind of narrative, a game should have protagonists (the players and their avatars within the gameworld) and something that takes on the role of an obstacle or threat that they must overcome in order to be victorious. If the struggle/pressure to get a Time Hole open and used to get to the next era is NOT one of those urgent-must-do things that the players are working towards in a series of short term quests then what is the threat that will push them forward?
Yes, the accumulation of as few History Impact points as possible is the large-scale aim of the game, but they are penalties for NOT doing the things they must do. I’m seeing that one of those things they MUST do is get a Time Hole up and working so that that particular era is not one they are trapped inside.
Is this completely different from what you imagined? If so, then I’m not seeing the short-term threat that adds impetus to getting stuff done or pushed forward.

Me:

Okay, outline:

1. Draw card(s) – Must draw cards
– I am not sure how many different piles of cards there should be, so it may be that each players draws more than one card per turn. In the outline on TW, they would draw an event card and a persona/equipment card, but I don’t think that’s a good way to do it any longer. I think events, encounters and persona cards could be mixed up in a stack that each player must draw from at the beginning of their turn, whereas equipment should be bought.
– The card is put in the player’s hand, unless otehrwise told on the card.

2. Movement(s) – May move
– I think players should have a set number of movements they can take per turn (day?). This could of course be modified by persona abilities, equipment or cards, but there should be a basic number of moves between hexagons per turn.

3. Take action – May take action
– Actions include “keeping the peace”, buying equipment, making a stash, digging up a gidden stash, thinking hard (or whatever you do to get Intelligence points, if we go for that model), collect money from some place and so on.
– Rewards for these actions are obtained immediately, and can be used immediately, if there are more actions available.
– I think there should be a limited number of actions per turn (2?), as there is a limited amount of tiem in a day.

4. Play cards – may play cards
– I think cards from the hand should be possible to play whenever, so this step will occasionally overlap with the previous two. It shouldn’t be a requirement to play cards.

5. Open time hole – may open time hole
– I think this should be the last thing that happens in a round, and perhaps it should take an action point (or more) to do it. I just want to restrict the player from doing anything after they have travelled through time. It shouldn’t be possible, I think, to make a stash, travel throgh time, and then retrieve the stash immediately. Or, alternatively, travel through time, move one step because you are lucky in where the time hole ended up, and then travel forward once more immediately. You’d need time to adjust to being in a new persona bfore you can do anything else. So regardless of when during your turn you do it, time travel will eat up all your remaining actioan points (if any).

I think that is a basic outline at least.

Hmmm, I’m not sure. I am still thinking that the time hole is always there, they just need to get to it and perhaps perform som task to be able to use it (and preferrably be two to use it except under special circumstances so that no one is ever left beind but there is at least most of the time some sort of forced co-operation). I guess I believe it should be possible, in theory, to go back in time as well as forward, but I can’t really see any reason for why anyone would do that, other than to sabotage for another player.

If all players are in the modern or FdS eras, and one is definitely going to win the game, going back would let those who are in the modern era go to FdS and try to accumulate more victory points (and no, apart from HI, I still don’t know what victory points should be…. but see below). There should be penalties for this (such as one HI per time travel).

I think it all depends on what the victory points actually are. One idea would be to have gold = VP. All the gold you stash and can retrieve would be VPs, but this cannot be the only kind of VP, or the last person to arrive in the modern era wouldn’t have any time to retrieve any victory points at all (though this could be solved, perhaps, but NOT stashing in the FdS era, but instead testamenting the money to yourslf in some way, so that all players will ahve sufficient time to get their victory point money before the end of the game).

In the simplest form, perhaps VP = money at end of game – HI.

However, if this is the case, what is the need for “Intelligence” at all? Any alternative currency would have to be included in the final score.

I think at the present, the concept is a bit too vague to be able to do very much, so some hard thinking is already required…

If “Intelligence” is the only thing that is used to open/operate time holes, and money is the only victory point generator, then there may still be some sort of balance between the two. However, it is a skewed balance, as only a limited amount of Intelligence is needed, whereas you’d want as much gold as possible.

Of course, perhaps different classes get money in different ways. It would make sort of sense that philosophers, politicians and scientists would be able to turn intelligence into gold, whereas officers, artists and merchants would have to get gold in other ways (for instance: “keeping the peace”, doing art, and trading).

I don’t know, there’s too much louse things to think about at the same time for me to order my thoughts at the moment…

The-train-to-Flynn-is-cancelled-and-a-replacement-bus-service-will-leave-from-gate-five:

Thanks for the turn summary. It helps me think about implications and consequences.

As for the Time Hole thing… well, if you’re insistent that they are always there, then what is the thing that prevents a player from simply breezing through each era once the Time Hole is located? If there is no obstacle to overcome then it fails to deliver a challenge, and the ingame activities will become pointless or inane. Remember, there’s never an incentive to do anything past the bare minimum to win. So, if you can win by getting through Time Holes as quickly as possible, then that’s what people will naturally evolve their playing strategies to be. And, after a few games, it will offer no challenge to learn, explore, or get better to make things easier.
So, what is the obstacle/s the players must overcome on a short-term basis? If it’s not actually creating and operating the Time Holes, then……. ? If it were entirely my idea, that would be my main focus, unless I could think of something else that also provides a short-term incentive that makes someone sit for a moment and attempt to work out just how to do that thing, either most quickly, most efficiently, or with minimum penalties.
Going with permanently set-up Time Holes then how about the actual cost of using one is huge? That is, you start an era with a pitiful amount of currency but you must exploit the new era to find the necessary currency in order to use the Time Hole? That would mean the players must hang around for a while (since immediate use of the Time Hole is not possible) and also interact with the new era in some way (in order to gather currency and, optionally, turn it into the requisite resources that will activate the Time Hole). How about that set-up?
Or, if using the Time Hole incurs very little cost or penalty, then what else might make the players not just race immediately for the Time Hole and bypass the rest of the era? If you want a decent game that people will be eager to play more than once (getting someone to play once is easy; getting them to play it again is the goal) then there must be some short-term thing that they must accomplish to allow them progress to the next era. And it shouldn’t be something fairly simple or simplistic, either, but will because it’s the main activity (it is, after all, going to occur for every era they travel through) then it must be set at just the right level of challenge to make it an enjoyable challenge, one that they know they can do if they set about the task with the right approach and, on completing, feel like they’ve achieved something.
Or else it goes back to what you said originally: a dull game with players just wandering about each era waiting to be moved on to the next.

I don’t see why any secondary currency MUST be featured in the final scoring. It could be simply a means to an end. If I think about games like Agricola and Agricola: ACB&S, the basic building resources of wood, stone, and reed don’t feature in the normal scoring at all. (They can feature if you have one of the special buildings or improvements, but they’re not essential… they truly are bonus points in this case.) But they ARE essential for getting the points-generating things built. A means to an end, in other words. Actually, in many other games I can think of, this is similar… there are some resources that aren’t scored at the end but are essential not to be neglected during the game or else you won’t get the points-generating things.
Yes, all currency items could be counted, but it’s not essential, as exemplified in dozens of games I’ve played.

Since it’s your idea, I don’t feel like saying “You really should do this, it’s the only way that makes any sense!” but I think there are some key things that you’re missing or overlooking in the basics of this idea and I am tempted to give you a slap and say “Sort this bit out first! It’s essential! Everything else can then flow naturally from that established set of core features!”
But you’ve got a life with work and stuff that needs doing. I don’t. Oh, the burden of being a man of leisure!

Me:

Don’t have time for a long response, but I don’t see this as “my game”, more as a game based on an idea that I have and for which I will need lots of help and input, so anything goes! As long as the main idea and some core aspects remain, I have no particular fondness for any particular setup, nor do I feel like being in charge or anything (provided, of course, there are people who are willing to help; if it had been just me, and I hadn’t wanted to be in charge, that would lead to procrastination only!). So if you like, please think hard about anything and change what you want or slap me as much as you want, even if the work input evenutllay means the game will be known as “Th Great Flynnstra Time-Travelling Game (based on an idea by Leo)”

Core concepts: a number of different classes, a number of different eras, time travel, pseudo-co-operative or even entirely co-operative, penalties for changing history too much.

Phylogeny-recapitulates-Flynntogeny:

Okay, I understand.
I like the idea, which is why I’m still writing about it now after thinking and writing about it for the past 13 hours since first seeing it!
There’s a big deficit in good games tackling time-travel in any decent way. So few, in fact, that I would say there are NO good games that tackle time-travel in a decent way. There’s a hole, a niche, into which even a semi-decent game based around time-travelling would fit nicely and make it something more than yet another resource management/dungeon crawl/trading/medieval-themed building/whatever game.
So it’s worth pursuing.
And it gives me an outlet for my creativity. I discovered at the end of last year that if I don’t have at least one outlet going on in which I can be creative, I slowly die. That might sound like an exaggeration, but I assure you it isn’t. I won’t go into details but I was sinking slowly into a depression of incredible depths because I was unable to engage in creative stuff for three months. Ugh. Don’t ever want to go there again!
Anyway… yes, I’ll have a further think about things, keeping to the core concepts you’ve listed.

This is as far as we got. I will now summarize the ideas I think we should implement in another post, as well as some novel suggestions.

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