Mismatched Theme and Mechanics: Future Plans for Belle of the Ball

Hey, you remember Belle of the Ball, right? Well, to be honest, I was never entirely satisfied with how the game turned out, but I couldn't pin down what my problem was exactly. Over time... a long time... I figured out that there was just a mismatch between the theme and the mechanics.

In essence, the mechanics are an abstract tile-laying game, which is totally fine on its own. The problem is, I gotta think about the target audience here. Is someone attracted to the Jane Austen theme going to enjoy a slightly layered abstract strategy game? Would they prefer a lighter game that specifically uses cards as, well, cards?

Yeah... So, my distant future plans are to retheme this tile-laying game mechanic. That will leave the "Belle of the Ball" theme free for a light card game. Here's the basic outline I have marinating in my head for that new incarnation.

Players each have a hand of guest cards. The card shows what this guest is doing: Drinking, eating, flirting, dancing, etc. It also shows whether this guest will attract or repel other guests, based on certain conditions. Lastly, the card will show how much this card is worth in points.

On your turn, invite a guest to the party. You do this by laying a card in front of you. Over time, you'll have a row of guests. This is your clique. When you invite a new guest, that guest will immediately attract guests to your clique or repel guests from your clique.

When your guest attracts, choose a neighboring player. Take any affected guests in her clique and place them in your clique.

When your guest repels, choose a neighboring player. Take any affected guests in your clique and place them in her clique.

Note: This does not lead to chain reactions.

When you invite a guest, you can place it alone or place it on top of another to make it a couple. Some cards are more valuable when coupled with cards of a particular type. Couples behave as a single guest, with the attributes of the top card. Couples may not be split apart.

You may also invite a Belle. Belles are placed in the center of the table. They are never part of any player's clique. Belles change the rules in new ways. ("Everyone is attracted by ____." "You may invite two guests on your turn." "No one may invite ____.") There may only be one Belle in play at a time.

The round ends when one player has four couples in her clique. Add up the scores for your clique. Take note of any coupling bonuses. Whoever has the highest score wins the round. Reshuffle the guests for a new round. Do not reshuffle Belles who have already been in play. Best out of three rounds wins the game.

Suuuuper simple.

The basic mechaphor of inviting guests and cultivating cliques would still be in place. In addition, you're playing matchmaker at the party. You're inviting guests, hoping they attract other guests, maybe so you can pair off with guests in your clique. The themes are still in place, but in a much more approachable game mechanic.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.