visiting Calgary last week. We spent a few days crashing with Lyndsay Peters and had lots of fun playing Lords of Waterdeep, No Thanks, Small World, and Ticket to Ride. In various measures, all of these games share a mixture of long-term secret goals and buy-pass mechanics. Somehow, Lyndsay and I merged those together into a weird hybrid card game.
We first built from the primary buy-pass mechanic in No Thanks. You drop a chip onto a card if you want to buy-pass it. If you accept the card, your score is the number on that card minus how many chips built up on that card from previous turns. Your goal is to have the lowest score. Thus, you face a simple choice with lots of permutations to consider. It's a great, elegant game, so of course we just had to mess with it.
We began by splitting up those chips into three categories: Weapons, Spells, Equipment. So, when you spend "spells" to buy-pass a card, what does that mean? Perhaps the card is a monster, who does damage, and spending that resource reduces the damage done to whoever finally takes that monster? If that monster is particularly weak against spells, perhaps any spells spent would reduce its damage by even more?
Perhaps the player can take all the resources spent on that monster. Thus, we have a vector to share key resources to other players. Does that imply this is a co-operative game? Do you *want* the next player gets a spell in his supply? Why? Perhaps he has a long-term quest that requires he possess a certain combination of resources?
And so on... We kept designing along this route, figuring out different types of encounters, different victory conditions and ultimately it all melded into a coherent theme.
Players are apprentices to master adventurers. This is their final test. They must accomplish their mentor's requests before time runs out. In doing so, they compete and co-operate in equal measure. We called it "Dungeon Quest Jr." or something like that. Actually we first called it "Monster Hole," but that wasn't very marketable. :P
This theme reminded us a lot of James Stowe's Sidekick Quests webcomic. We asked if he'd be cool with sharing that IP with us. He agreed, so that's how we're proceeding. For now, you can see the raw bleeding guts of a game on Google Docs!
Original rules document
Original card spreadsheet
We're all super-busy folks, so we're not promising anything soon. It'll be nice to develop a traditional fantasy adventure game some time in the future though.