Art students in the renaissance would often be instructed to directly copy the work of classical masters. The idea was that by following their brush strokes, the student would examine their techniques beyond the surface detail. With that foundation, the student can go on to produce original work.
I thought I'd give that a shot here while tinkering with Monsoon Market. See my previous post on Monsoon Market from way back in January. To recap, players run sea ports along the independent Indian Ocean trade routes that extend from Africa to China for hundreds of years before European contact. It's an evocative theme with familiar elements in an unfamiliar setting. Just what I like.
It's always more difficult working from a blank slate, so just to get things started it can be useful to make variants for existing games. In this case, I needed a deck of cards that had variable quantities and thus variable set values. The Bohnanza deck was just the thing! So here's my amateurish first sketch based on the Antoine Bauza's 7 Wonders and Uwe Rosenberg's Bohnanza.
Get a deck of Bohnanza cards, fully shuffled.
Each player needs a special card unique to themselves, representing their ship. You can use a magic card, playing card, whatever you like, as long as it's unique.
Deal each player is 14 cards face-up.
Each player decides which seven to place in their own public tableau. This represents their goods they have for trade to visiting ships.
Each player places the remaining cards in his or her hand, along with his or her ship card.
The game is effectively a card-drafting game in the model of 7 Wonders, with a few twists. The game lasts three rounds, with seven simultaneous turns each.
First, each player passes his or her hand to the player on the left, including the ship card. As hands pass around the table, they're still technically "owned" by the originating player, as noted by the ship card.
Second, after receiving a hand, you may trade one card from your tableau for one card from the hand. It must always be a 1:1 trade. Keep your selection face-down until everyone has made his or her choice, then reveal simultaneously.
Then pass the hand to the left again. If you ever receive your own ship, you may trade with it as normal.
Continue this for seven turns. After which, the round is over. All players should reclaim their ships and any cards on them. Thus, each player has seven cards in their tableau and seven cards in hand. Merge these cards together as one group, then points may be scored as noted below.
You may score any matching set or sets of your bean cards for victory points as shown on the card. After scoring a set, the cards from that set into the deck.
Alternatively, you can convert cards into gold coins. Simply turn over the bean card so the gold coin is visible and set it in a separate supply. In subsequent rounds, you can trade a goods card from a ship for a gold coin, or vice versa, on a 1:1 basis. Simply keep the gold coin side facing you so it's clear that a gold coin is being used, not the goods on the other side of the card. (Note: Gold coins are worth 1pt for every four coins, which is better value than some beans, but less valuable than others, so trade carefully!)
Any goods that you have not scored or cashed in remain in your tableau.
After scoring or cashing in, draw new cards from the deck until you have a total of fourteen cards.
In the second round, you'll pass cards to your right. In the third round, you'll pass to the left again.
After three rounds, the game is over. Each player tallies their point totals so far. Each player gets 1 bonus point for every four gold coins in his or her supply. The player with the most points wins!
So where to from here? Obviously this needs some more tweaks to make it more than just a 7 Wonders/Bohnanza mashup. I'll need to retheme the cards, of course, and revise some basic mechanics to fit the naval trading theme.
I think giving each good a direct cash value would be useful, so you can upgrade your sea port and earn unique player abilities based on your particular tableau.
Making each ship unique would also be interesting, perhaps adjusting the exchange rates during trades? Perhaps even recruiting captains to join the ship! Lots to work with there.
I also think each port starting with some super-rare commodities would reflect the theme quite well. The Swahili coast was the network's major source of raw bulk goods. China provided finely crafted silks and other treasures. India was the centrally located hub for the whole route.