Daily Archives: November 15, 2020

Dinosaur Deck Deconstructor

Been thinking about a game that is cooperative, reading-light and kid-approachable.

Okay, so here are some things about games with little kids. Hands are hard to manage. They have hands of a particular size, literally, and that means being able to fan cards can be challenging.

Here’s the idea.

The game is built around a single central deck. This is probably loaded and slugged.

Each turn, you flip some cards off the top of the deck. This represents the natural movement of the dinosaurs in the game. They appear, they move around, they interact with each other. Mixed in with this are cards that represent problems, or dinosaurs separated from their groups, or with groups that are too large. The idea is that the dinosaurs have natural relationships to one another, and you want to make sure the populations are stable for long-term growth before you leave – which means things like ensuring herding animals are close to one another, and hunting animals aren’t sharing too much space.

I’m seeing it as a little bit Tetris-y. The cards as laid out interact with one another – some dinosaurs scare other dinosaurs in their row, some make space for others, some add cards to the space, some problems limit the cards in a space. And they slid up, tetris style, to get a horizontal and veritcale space.

What each player does then, on their turn is either take on one of the problem cards, that now imposes some limit or restriction on them until they solve it, or they pick up a tool or use some ability that lets them manipulate the dinosaur cards. So you may be able to guide some gentle dinosaurs with just your basic abilities like food and water, but you may need like safety equipment to guide a big ole T-rex.

There’s one ‘big’ problem that has multiple cards to it – you need to be able to handle that big problem, and that means that you need players to develop and build up solutions to problems over time. That might be the ‘final’ problem of the game, the thing that you need to beat to win, or the timer that runs the game out. The timer could be a season – when enough cards have been cycled through, you change the season and after a full year you’re out of time.

There’s a challenge when you make cooperative games, because you need to make sure that it’s not possible for one player to make a decision for everyone. You need each player to have information that’s exclusive to them, without it being too difficult a load of information. You need there to be unreliable parts too, so play patterns vary.

And that’s where the problem kicks in.

The easiest way to do this is hidden information. Players getting to make choices based on knowing things other players don’t. And the problem is there, hiding information is harder for little kids.

As far as size goes? Not sure. This game could be a great big indulgent 120 card game, but it could also be a much more modest 54-73 kinda game, like Dark Signs or Burning Daylight.

I’ll think about it.