Secret Action Selection in an Anarcho-Utopian Dragon Ranch [Dung & Dragons]

Claude Jones, The Amoeba Farm
Because there are some obvious copyright problems with the title "Dung & Dragons," I've been calling the game "Dragon Ranch Co-Op" as a bit of a joke. It's a co-op game about a co-op ranch. Get it?... Okay, maybe it's only funny to me.

Completely by accident, this name abbreviates to DRCO, just one letter shy of "DRACO." My mind wandered across various options until "Anarchist" popped up. I thought that was funny, too. What if the theme wasn't just a simple co-op ranch, but an anarcho-utopian commune as well? How that might affect the mechanics of the game?

As you know from previous posts, the central mechanic of Dragon Ranch is everyone choosing actions, then the number of matching choices affecting the potency of those actions. For example, sometimes more people on a task is good, like shoveling poop from the stables. Sometimes it's not, like feeding the dragons too much and causing them to get sick. Everyone decides on their own, but tries to coordinate with each other, in true communal co-op fashion.

But let's say this fictional commune put those duties to a blind vote. What if you didn't know who chose which action? How does that affect the culture of the co-op? Here's a quick mechanic, inspired by The Resistance:

Secret Action Selection
Each player has a set of action cards.
Each card represents different tasks around the ranch.
Each turn, each player secretly hands a card to the leader of the round.
Unchosen cards are set aside. *
The leader shuffles the chosen actions and reveals them.
Each action is resolved in order, their potency affected by number of matching actions.
The leader shuffles all action cards and deals a complete set back to each player. *

With co-op gameplay and group victory conditions, I wonder what emergent behavior this would create. How much discussion would there be between rounds? Would committees form naturally? Would the co-op disintegrate from infighting? Very interesting!


 DENNIS:  I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week. But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting. By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more--
  ARTHUR:  Be quiet!  I order you to be quiet!
Re: The unchosen actions: Take this even one step further. Say you begin the game with six different action cards. The game lasts seven turns. In each turn, you do not turn in your unchosen cards. Furthermore, the chosen action cards do not get reshuffled and dealt out back to each player.

Assume each player has two or three special secret victory point goals. (Kind of like the Belles in Belle of the Ball.) These conditions could be designed so that they are tied to a particular action. To get the optimum result, you need a certain number of people to do the same action. You only get one chance to contribute to that matching set, so coordinating, coercion, and timing are key.

In a two-player game, each player gets three individual sets of cards. In a three-player game, each player gets two sets. In a four-, five-, or six-player game, each player gets one set.

This also allows for some deduction as the game goes on. Once you see a certain action come up a certain number of times, you know it's not going to come up again. Now remember, there are six action cards, but seven rounds. By that last round, everyone is out of actions! What to do?

Shuffle the action cards again. Deal a full set of action cards back to each player. In this last round, the group has one last chance to coordinate and coerce each other into their plan. Man, I really need to develop this further.


  1. That sounds like the kind of thing that would lend itself to having one or more players in a "mole" role - their goal being to undermine the rest of the group and prevent them from meeting whatever conditions there are for collective victory. The Battlestar Galactica board game uses a similar mechanic, with Cylon players able to (secretly) contribute cards that lower the group's total effort.

  2. Check out the updated I just added to this post. It adds a little bit of deduction that you might find interesting.


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