I'm a big fan of designing around set collection mechanisms, but the trickiest of that design is starting with a balanced set of variables. You can use an existing familiar set like a deck of cards, or a PAIRS deck, or even a Mirror Deck. The problem is that if your initial baseline is too ordered and symmetrical, you'll get kind of boring endgame scoring.
For example, if apples, oranges, and pears are in equal quantity in a bag of chits, then any endgame scoring condition that favors one of those fruits doesn't feel unique to that fruit. If each fruit has some other attributes, like freshness, or sweetness, or rarity, then you start getting a little bit more grit in the gears. Now you've given players more factors to consider as they collect their fruits.
Speaking of factors, I've always been a fan of the number 60 because it can be subdivided into 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6.
|1 × 60|
|2 × 30|
|3 × 20|
|4 × 15|
|5 × 12|
|6 × 10|
I like to use this basic structure to create a deck of 60 cards, each with a mix of independently variable attributes that mix in a roughly ordered fashion. You can see an example of how I did that in Belle of the Ball's Guest cards, where the three sets of Interest icons are based on three different factors of 60. I also further subdivided the decks into different noble titles and color schemes.
Tsundoku: Buying more books than you can read
Let's try this with a whole new deck as an example. Let's say I want to design a game based on the concept of Tsundoku, the Japanese word for buying more books than you can possibly read. In this game, players collect bundles of books and try to read as many as possible. How can we use factors of 60 to divide up the deck and, taking one step further, how can that suggest some game mechanisms?
First I'd look at the theme of the game and see how it would suggest we theme each factor. In general, I like the tension this theme adds to a normal set collection game. Under normal circumstances, a set collection game rewards the players for aimlessly gobbling up every resource they can get. With this theme, I'd like players to be rewarded for reading the books they've acquired.
Author (4x 15)
Let's say I only have four authors in this deck, each appearing 15 times. That feels frequent enough that players might try to collect big sets of a single author's bibliography. I'll call these authors alliterative A, B, C, and D names so players can recognize them at a glance.
Note that I'm also ending their names with unique phonemes to maximize the ease of recognition. I'm not entirely happy with these names as they stand since Baker and Charity share an R sound. Also Baker and Dayton sound too similar to my ear. But anyway, I don't want to let this slow me down.
Genre (5x 12)
The next highest factor gives us five different options, each appearing 12 times, or vice versa. I feel like Genre is the next logical attribute I could have players consider as they play the game. Granted, Genre is a very loose and oft-debated concept, so I have two choices. I could give this deck 12 different genres each appearing 5 times or 5 genres each appearing 12 times. Here's where my personal laziness steps in: I intend to represent each genre with an icon and I don't want to design 12 different icons. So 5 genres it is!
|Mystery|These icons are pulled from The Noun Project. Who knows, maybe I can make an expansion with more genres later, but that's a future problem. For now I can easily see a secondary set collection mechanism designed around collecting the same genre of books into a library, regardless of the author.
Price (6x 10)
The next highest factor is 6, reduces the number of variables by 10. Again, I can decide to have ten variables repeating six times or vice versa. Since my prior two variables have each been factors 4 and 5, it seems intuitive to use factor 6 next. So far my variables have been verbal (author names) and visual (icons for the genre). I haven't used a numerical variable yet, so let's try that. Under normal circumstances, we might use basic ranks like a deck of cards, but I still want this to reflect the game's theme. What about prices? Scrounging around thrift shops for cheap books is half the fun, isn't it? So let's say these numbers are how much each book costs.
|Author (4x15)||Prices (6x10)|
I'm using 0 through 5 so that doing any basic arithmetic in the game is as simple as possible. Introducing some "free" books at the $0 range makes very tempting acquisitions and competition between players. What game mechanisms does this suggest? Perhaps players are trying to spend the least money on their final collection? Should this be like High Society, where the player who spends the most money is eliminated at the end of the game? It's one idea! Maybe something more gentle, like a bonus for the lowest total price for unread books. That way players can strategize about which books it would be most valuable to read.
Trilogies (20x 3)
At this point I think I have enough baseline variables for a basic set collection game, but I still need to fill out the rest of the theme! These books need titles, don't they? Here's where factors of 60 can still be useful, even if it's not directly involved with the mechanisms. Even if there is no mechanical effect, I'd like the books to come in neat packages when they are the same genre and author. Since dividing by 20 gives us 3, I can see a bunch of trilogies in this deck. The books within a trilogy would begin with the same word and I can begin them with a different letter of the alphabet.
|Author (4x15)||Genre (5x12)||Title (20x3)||Prices (6x10)|
|Aura Ashley||Fantasy||Unicorn Court||$4|
|Aura Ashley||Fantasy||Unicorn Queen||$3|
|Aura Ashley||Fantasy||Unicorn Tower||$2|
|Baker Baddox||Fantasy||Vale of the Beast||$3|
|Baker Baddox||Fantasy||Vale of the East||$2|
|Baker Baddox||Fantasy||Vale of the Feast||$1|
|Charity Cope||Fantasy||Wizard's Cavern||$1|
|Charity Cope||Fantasy||Wizard's Dreams||$0|
|Charity Cope||Fantasy||Wizard's Exile||$5|
|Dayten Dott||Fantasy||Xander Bold and the Ancient Sword||$5|
|Dayten Dott||Fantasy||Xander Bold and the Cursed Forest||$4|
|Dayten Dott||Fantasy||Xander Bold and the Iron Temple||$3|
|Aura Ashley||Horror||Eldritch Echo||$0|
|Aura Ashley||Horror||Eldritch Menace||$5|
|Aura Ashley||Horror||Eldritch Phantom||$4|
|Baker Baddox||Horror||Fear of Darkness||$4|
|Baker Baddox||Horror||Fear of Heights||$3|
|Baker Baddox||Horror||Fear of Insects||$2|
|Charity Cope||Horror||Ghosts in Arizona||$2|
|Charity Cope||Horror||Ghosts in Baltimore||$1|
|Charity Cope||Horror||Ghosts in California||$0|
|Dayten Dott||Horror||Haunted Families||$0|
|Dayten Dott||Horror||Haunted Houses||$5|
|Dayten Dott||Horror||Haunted Villages||$4|
|Aura Ashley||Mystery||Into the Abyss||$1|
|Aura Ashley||Mystery||Into the Light||$0|
|Aura Ashley||Mystery||Into the Shadows||$5|
|Baker Baddox||Mystery||Jinx and the Defendant||$5|
|Baker Baddox||Mystery||Jinx and the Jury||$4|
|Baker Baddox||Mystery||Jinx and the Plaintiff||$3|
|Charity Cope||Mystery||Kent by Gaslight||$3|
|Charity Cope||Mystery||Kent by Moonlight||$2|
|Charity Cope||Mystery||Kent by Twilight||$1|
|Dayten Dott||Mystery||Lethal Betrayal||$1|
|Dayten Dott||Mystery||Lethal Intent||$0|
|Dayten Dott||Mystery||Lethal Obsession||$5|
|Aura Ashley||Romance||Married to the Duchy||$2|
|Aura Ashley||Romance||Married to the Kingdom||$1|
|Aura Ashley||Romance||Married to the Manor||$0|
|Baker Baddox||Romance||New York Heart||$0|
|Baker Baddox||Romance||New York Kiss||$5|
|Baker Baddox||Romance||New York Love||$4|
|Charity Cope||Romance||Only Me||$4|
|Charity Cope||Romance||Only Us||$3|
|Charity Cope||Romance||Only You||$2|
|Dayten Dott||Romance||Promise of Autumn||$3|
|Dayten Dott||Romance||Promise of Summer||$2|
|Dayten Dott||Romance||Promise of Winter||$1|
|Aura Ashley||Sci-Fi||Quantum Captain||$3|
|Aura Ashley||Sci-Fi||Quantum Drive||$2|
|Aura Ashley||Sci-Fi||Quantum Empire||$1|
|Baker Baddox||Sci-Fi||Robot Rebellion||$1|
|Baker Baddox||Sci-Fi||Robot Renegades||$0|
|Baker Baddox||Sci-Fi||Robot Revolution||$5|
|Charity Cope||Sci-Fi||Space at Peace||$0|
|Charity Cope||Sci-Fi||Space at Rest||$5|
|Charity Cope||Sci-Fi||Space at War||$4|
|Dayten Dott||Sci-Fi||Tau Ceti Armada||$4|
|Dayten Dott||Sci-Fi||Tau Ceti Colony||$3|
|Dayten Dott||Sci-Fi||Tau Ceti Ruins||$2|
Since I already used A through D for the author names, I began with E and continued to X. I'm leaning heavily into stereotypical tropes with these titles. The advantage of making a game with this theme is that I don't actually have to write the books, just give them clear, straight-down-the-middle titles.
Though I only intended to use factor 20 to ease the process of titling these books, it does still suggest some game mechanisms! Perhaps players are rewarded for making complete trilogies, which causes them to value some books more than others by the same author or in the same genre. I do kind of worry about having two verbal variables to track (Author names and Titles). Hopefully avoiding any overlapping alliteration would be helpful there.
I could finally take this process one step further, dividing the deck in half with 2x 30. However, 30 variables seems like too much to track. On the other hand, 2 variables each appearing 30 times might be more feasible, but I've run out of natural thematic reasons for that variable. Perhaps First or Second Printing? That seems a little too close to my other numerical variable, price.
I'll leave the deck in this state. I've got a nice mix of four different variables, which should be enough to make some interesting set collection goals:
- Author: Score 1 point for the first book you've read by an author. Score 2 points for the second book by the same author. 3 points for the third book by that author. And so on, up to 15 points for the 15th book by the same author.
- Genre: Score each set of different genres you've read. The bigger the set, the more points it's worth. 1 Genre read: 0 | 2 Genres read: 1 | 3 Genres read: 3 | 4 Genres read: 6 | 5 Genres read: 10
- Trilogy: Score 10 points for each complete trilogy you've read. (Each book in a trilogy begins with the same word in its title.)
- Price: The player with the lowest total price of unread books earns 20 points.
The player with the most points earns a pizza party!
Thanks for letting me indulge in this very long post about a very esoteric topic. I hope you find it useful!
2 variables: hardcover paperback!ReplyDelete
Really enjoyed the game math in this post. Glad you're back blogging.
That's a great idea!Delete
If I play myself and win do I get to give myself a pizza party?!ReplyDelete
Maybe some day. I'm really bad at promising some lofty project and never following through, so I can't make any promises. :DReplyDelete