I wanted to share some new revisions to Espionage [Prototype C] that developed after testing with a completely new game design group last week. I've tested this about fifteen times with different groups so far. The game is much faster and might fix one of the less fun elements of Liar's Dice. Read on!
Each player should have a "Safehouse" card, with a day side and a night side. (In playtests, we just used magic cards.) All Safehouses begin each round at the day side.
In the center of the play area, there should be nine "Report" cards, each with one attribute a spy may have. (So, a card with NYC, a card with HACKER, and so on.)
Your goal is to put all of your contacts into your Safehouse. In doing so, you get less information the closer you are to winning, so there is a nice elegant catch-up mechanic baked right into the goal. There is no longer a point-based victory condition, it's just a race to shed your hand.
In a 6 or 5 player game, each player begins with 3 cards.
In a 4 player game, each player begins with 4 cards.
In a 3 player game, each player begins with 5 cards.
Your goal is to get that many cards into your Safehouse first.
When you make a bid, take the corresponding card from the center of the play area. Thereafter, players must bid on the remaining attributes. Players may not bid on an attribute already chosen by another player.
When you make a bid, you *must* raise. You cannot go lower and you cannot make the same bid.
After you make a bid, flip your Safehouse card over to the night side and choose the next player to take their turn. You may not choose a player who has already had a turn this day/night.
If you win a Challenge (that's what we're calling it around here lately), then you take all the cards from players hands, choose one to put in your Safehouse, shuffle the remainder, and place them in the bottom of the deck. Then you're the dealer for the next round, dealing from the top of the deck. You then choose who will be the first player next turn, but it cannot be you.
If you win a Confirm (or "Spot," as it has been called in previous prototypes), then you put *two* cards in the Safehouse.
For each card you have in your Safehouse, your hand limit is reduced by one. Thus, the closer you get to victory, the less information you have available. THIS is probably my favorite part of the revised rules.
Optional Variable Player Powers:
Each Safehouse Card may list a special ability only that player possesses. A few ideas tossed out so far, but still need to be tested.
- The Collaborator: If someone else confirms your report, the loser can put one card in their Safehouse regardless of the outcome.
- The Eye in the Sky: Before the round begins, you may look at another player's hand.
- The Accuser: You may choose a player to take the next turn even if they've already had a turn this day or night.
- The Broker: You may bid on an attribute another player already bid this round.
- The Fence: You are dealt two more cards than the other players, then you must discard two cards to the bottom of the deck.
- The Recruiter: You get one additional Contact, but your victory condition remains the same as all other players.
- The Thief: If you win a Challenge, you may take a contact from the loser's Safehouse instead.
- The Spymaster: Your victory condition is one less.
- The Judge: After each challenge, you may secretly choose one card to remove from the game entirely.
All of these changes really ramp up the tension and make it very distinct from standard Liar's Dice. Because you choose which cards go into your Safehouse, you change the probabilities in ways the other players don't know.
This also resolves the problem that Liar's Dice has, in which a player who is closest to being eliminated is also the most information-poor. Now it's totally reversed, so being closest to victory makes you very information-weak.
This also speeds up the game significantly, since you're not waiting around to see who will be left standing. The first person out wins, and that's it. No potential ties either.
And as an added bonus for my own interests, this removes any thematic element of "elimination," which always just felt like a fig leaf to cover an otherwise standard violent combat theme. Now your interest is in keeping your contacts safe, not necessarily eliminating everyone else's. That makes me feel much better.
Alrighty, I hope you get a chance to test out these revisions before our call, because I really do think they make the game so much better.