Stuff in development for Koi Pond - Prototype B

Koi pond

UPDATE: Koi Pond: A Coy Card Game is now available on DriveThruCards!

I've had Koi Pond in private beta testing for the past few weeks experimenting with various ideas to deepen the gameplay without losing the core elegance. I called this Prototype B.

One thing that's definitely going into the game are hybrid koi. These are koi which can be either of two different colors, split right down the middle: White and yellow, yellow and red, white and blue, red and blue, yellow and blue, and red and white. When you place a hybrid in your pond, you decide which color it will be immediately. When you place a hybrid in your house, you decide at the end of the round which color it will be. When you discard a hybrid into your river, you do not decide its color. In that case, it's the player who has a turtle predating your river who decides which color that hybrid will be, usually a color that turtle can score points from. (Note: hybrids always come in quantities of 1 koi, so they're a bit balanced in that way.)

In tests, the game plays well with two, three or four players. I would need to add more cards or shorten the rounds for a five- or six-player game, but that's not such a bad thing for an expansion.

Presently the game plays three times for a complete session, mainly to balance out any lucky streaks and randomness that may occur in a single game. I've gotten some wise counsel from W. Eric Martin that in such games, it never really feels like multiple rounds are necessary if they're all just identical games without anything building up between them.

I'm thinking about methods of earning points in the long-term that might transcend the individual round of gameplay. The trick, again, is not losing the core elegance of the game. I don't mind adding new cards though. So here are some options:
  • Race for Ornaments: I remember how Phil Walker-Harding's Sushi Go! tackled this problem. That's another game played multiple times, with almost identical gameplay with one exception: Pudding. You keep pudding even after the round is over and the player with the most pudding at the end of the game earns 6 points. The player with the fewest pudding loses 6. I could use the same mechanic with "Ornaments" in your pond. Bamboo, rocks, lilypads, that sort of thing. They score no points in the short-term, but lead to a positive/negative bonus score at the end of the game for the player with the most/fewest ornaments.
  • Race for Visitors: You would play visitors into your pond just like the ornaments. It's basically a parallel race to the ornaments, wherein having the most most visitors earns you bonus points and fewest visitors earns you negative points.
  • Race for Ribbons: Imagine that there are ribbons available matching each suit of koi, so a blue ribbon, a yellow ribbon, a white ribbon and a blue ribbon. When you're the player with the most koi of a suit in your pond, you earn the corresponding ribbon. For example, if you have more blue koi in your pond than any other player, you earn the blue ribbon. (In a tie, no one wins the ribbon.) The first ribbon of a suit scores 1pt, the second scores 2pts, the third scores 3 pts. Each full set of all four color ribbons earns 9pts. This creates a gentle counter-pressure to the short-term balanced scoring mechanic.

In addition, I've been experimenting with some ideas that may not make it to the base game, but which could find their way into some kind of expansion or variant.

  • Villagers: These are basically the same as predators, but which predate from your house rather than your pond. Thus, they're much more secretive than predators.
  • Guard Dog: This blocks one predator of your choice from preying upon your house, river or pond, depending on where the guard dog is played. (Think of it like a protective measure, but still balanced because the dog can't be in two places at once.)
  • Fisherman: When you play the fisherman, play it into your pond. Then, swap it for an opponent's koi from their river. (This is a way to get the Lost Cities-style of digging into someone's discard pile. It also keeps you looking at the whole play area.)

So that's all in the lab at the moment. Nothing too final yet. Just keeping you in the loop!


  1. A thought regarding Race for Visitors. I'm not totally up to date on Koi Pond, so this may be totally irrelevant. I was thinking along the lines of requiring two matched cards to play a visitor, when played draw a stone to keep and then discard the visitors so as to not accelerate deck depletion. Perhaps play three visitors for two stones, etc.

  2. Huh, yeah, I'm not sure if you're up to date on Koi Pond. It's never featured stones in the mechanics or the theme. Still, thanks for the thought! Prerequisites for play can get tricky in a casual game, so I tend to shy from them.

  3. I've now played prototype A a few times, and I so far, I like it. If you're going to extend it over several rounds, I think it would be cool if things you did in the first round had an effect on later rounds, for example if your house in the first round became your pool for the next. Here's an example (with quite a few changes) of how that could work:

    Add 3 "judging" cards to the deck. When a judging card is drawn, it must be placed in the river. When the second judging card is played to the river, this triggers scoring.

    After scoring, all player's pools, the remainder of the deck, the two revealed judging cards, and a new color set of koi card are shuffled into a new deck. Players houses become their new pools, and the river is removed from the game.

    The pool in limited to 6 (or perhaps 5) cards. When a player has a full pool, they must choose an existing card in their pool to cover when they play a new card to the pool. Covered cards score no points for anyone.

    After the second judging card is drawn, repeat scoring and play a third round with a 6th color of koi.

    A few additional comments: From the prototype A set, it seems that there is only one river, I assumed that the turtle card scored for all koi discarded--yours and your opponents-- making them extra-powerful. I would also consider weakening all of the predators, for example, by having them score one point for each koi card as opposed to each koi fish of the matching color.

    I havent tested them, but I am leery of villagers and ornaments. Villagers, I think, would make the pond and the house too similar. I like how in the first prototype there's some tension because there's so many things you want to place in the pond. In contrast, I think adding ornaments might make for too many cards that are only useful if played to the pond.

    I would also consider making all one koi cards bi-colored, because right now they are kinda underpowered.

  4. I'd definitely like to see your input in Prototype B because there are some significant updates.

  5. I was projecting. I like stones as a victory tally. I don't use them in everything that I design, but they do see occasional implementation.


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