Further Ramblings on Dung, Dragons, and Collectivist Simultaneous Action Drafting

Dung and Dragons Vector Background
Dung & Dragons is one of those long, slow marinating ideas that occasionally needs to be stirred before being put back on a low heat. Right. To catch up newcomers: The game tentatively titled Dung & Dragons concerns a hippie collectivist farm that raises and cares for dragons, who in turn poop gold that keeps the farm self-sustaining.

The whole idea came from an episode of Firefly where the crew was bartering various chores as currency. This struck me as a very cool idea for a game, trying to get the jobs you like while also maximizing the effect of those jobs by negotiating with the other players. Love it.

I've gone through a few different models for how to design a game around this idea, but this week's exploration of trick-taking games has me thinking about a new way of doing things. Let's run through the basics.

ActionCards


Above are the nine basic action cards. There should be one of each per player in the action deck. Shuffle and deal a hand of nine to each player. Each player takes turns choosing one card from her hand and playing it face down in front of her. Then all players reveal their choices.

Each player gets to do the action noted on his or her card, in numerical order from lowest to highest. Actions may also get a bonus if the sum of numbers on all chosen cards is greater (+), equal to (=) or less than (-) the Pivot. The pivot is a big number in the center of the table, which varies depending on the number of players.

TippingPointTiles


At the end of the turn, discard chosen cards and pass the remaining cards to the left. The round ends when seven cards have been discarded from each hand. (This represents a week's worth of labor on the farm.) In the new round, shuffle and deal the action cards all over again. The game lasts four game weeks.


BUILD/UPGRADE/HATCH/RAISE

Most of the actions are simple resource acquisition, but Build and Upgrade refer to creating and improving structures. Each level of improvement has a cost, noted below that level. The costs vary depending on whether the sum was +, =, or - in that turn. Hatch and Raise are similar, but they refer to dragons.

DragonsandBuildings


I imagine there would be plenty of Dragons and Buildings available. They'd add the variety and replayability to the game.

Anyhoo, that's where my head is at right now.

12 comments:

  1. This is very slick, Daniel. I've been reading the blog for a while, and this is the coolest idea I've seen so far. I'm curious to see what direction it takes.

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  2. Thanks, Jamey! I must admit, I'm usually more likely to design a simple casual game than anything as rich as Viticulture, so this will be an interesting design challenge. I appreciate the support!

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  3. I think I have a growing appreciation for lighter games, and the rate at which you think of new mechanics is extremely impressive. But in general I look for games that take at least 30 minutes to play. I had just played a game of Dominion when I read this (first time I've played it in a while), and the flow of this game reminded me of the very smooth flow of deck building or Race for the Galaxy. I'll stay tuned for more about this one!

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  4. Have you played Citadels or Mission: Red Planet? Bruno Faidutti uses a clever numbered action-selection mechanic mixed with hidden roles that change every round. It's very, very fun.

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  5. I have played Citadels and really enjoy it, particularly with smaller numbers of players when each player gets more than one role (I've found it can feel a little slow with 5+ players, but it's still solid). I like how you've essentially merged worker placement here with the simplicity of secretly choosing a card and revealing it simultaneously. Have you played Kingsburg? I've only read reviews about it (haven't played it), and it's quite different than this, but there are a few elements of role selection there that you might find interesting.

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  6. I have only seen the reviews for Kingsburg as well, but the dice mechanics are just lovely there. Alien Frontier is also good for dice placement funtimes. Heck, Can't Stop is great fun, too. I hope other games continue exploring that space.

    I had loose idea for a dice placement game in the vein of Kingsburg, in which several the actions traversed two or more spaces, making them more common. This also makes the overall number of choices a little less daunting for a newcomer.

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  7. I agree--both are great examples of offering a plethora of options but distilling them into decision-sized bites each turn, with the fun of a little randomness (that's been on my mind a lot with the game I'm currently working on). I think the idea of having a few repeat actions in a Kingsburg-like game could definitely work.

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  8. I like the variety of the actions and how they're put together. I worry about it being a random hand though- it seems like you're going for more of a strategy game with this one, and my gut says that it injects more luck than you want. (I think some luck is important, but this seems pretty spiky.)

    I wonder if you could combine this with another action selection mechanism- you call out Citadels in the comments, which is where my mind goes to this. Maybe each round, you shuffle up the actions, and take N+1 of those cards, where N is the number of players. Then the first player drafts one secretly, before passing it to the next player, and so on. Once a hand is drafted, they're all revealed, and you run your pivot as normal. Starting player rotates each round. So not every action is in the round, but you have enough to work with to try and guess what other people are playing on a round.

    That might not be the right answer, but I think I'd want a little less randomness (and thus, more ability to guess what my opponents are playing.)

    Then of course, there's always everyone has the full hand, and you play them out but can't reuse them until the end of the week- that's a mechanic I'm fond of as well :)

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  9. Yes, I was actually trying to not step on your toes too much, which is why I used that shuffle-and-draft mechanic instead of a straight set hand at the beginning of each week. If you're cool with it, I favor that solution, too.

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  10. I didn't invent it for sure, so step away! I tend to think that blatant stealing from other games is just fine in playtest, because likely, it'll evolve into its own thing as the game dictates later.

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  11. Ha! This is the exact advice I give to other designers.

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  12. You know what I just noticed? In a 2-player game, the 5 action will never hit exactly on the mark. Hm. Gotta think about that.

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Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.