More work on Bloodwork!

Bam here’s a banner

The endless vacuum of conceptual frameworks presents a vast absence of vibes.

I thought I needed things to work in one way and I was wrong.

Specifically, I thought Bloodwork needed text boxes on cards. The purpose of a text box on a card is to give you a room for functional programmatic rules – the way that each individual card can create its own exceptional rules state. 

Starting from a top down position of design, text boxes, if you plan ahead for them, can be a savior of boring design. Individual cards that don’t differentiate themselves meaningfully in a play experience can be set up with a plain text box filling that adds a new rules dimension to it. And, rules text is also super useful for covering specific edge cases… 

And honestly ,clearing up rules information too. I have more than a few games where cards just tell you what they do on them. That’s fundamental to how Dark Signs works, which lets players play with a degree of threat and horror and the creeping dread of the atmosphere of the game.

I did some playtesting of Bloodwork.

I was not happy with the results.

What I did for this playtest was a handful of blank cards, which I then laid out on the table to just solo emulate the pyramid scheme faction. I thought they’d be the hardest and I wanted to test how they handle the die roll system where the numbers 1 and 6 don’t work at first.

  • The system doesn’t feel that bad. Early turns and rolls are spent placing pieces, so you really just want to roll things you’ve already rolled.
  • The single-action behaviour of cards means early turns are really more of a single action, until you start chaining them together
  • I want a ‘reroll’ option to appear on some locations so that during the dice draft, old vampires can manipulate the draft. They need to be on locations so they don’t require the dice to trigger in the first place.
  • Rolling a 1 or a 6 definitely leads to dead turns, so I think the base ability of the ‘bottom’ card should be to ‘eat’ a dice regardless of result, meaning your worst rolls are still something

But the limited action economy of cards, where every action has to be from a card, and you do them in sequence, creates a Dominion-style play engagement where you get to play one card out of your hand, and unless that card gives you another action, you’re out. Little bit of playtesting of the deck builder style, too:

  • More and more I find that blood tokens are a limited supply item that I don’t want. The idea of players managing caches of blood throughout turns seems cumbersome. 
  • I started to play it that the deck builder can just discard cards to turn them into blood; so if you have a limited action each turn, you get to fire that off, then discard remaining cards to get a currency to spend

Blood tokens that go on the common space then, in the market? Can I limit those…?

Turns out I can.

Here’s the thing: The blood tokens are used to mark cards in the marketplace that have had blood paid to them. When you buy a card you have to put blood on all the adjacent cards, so the central piece needs 4 blood to buy it. But, anyone who buys those cards then gets the blood on them, meaning that even cards that aren’t good for your purpose can get you a burst of blood on a turn you need it. 

If the market cards have a maximum though, a point where they go ‘I have enough blood’ and piss off, then players making purchases can drive away cards, and players can wind up pushing their luck. That means I only need a maximum of Cap Number x 9 tokens. If the cap size is 3, when a vampire leaves the marketplace:

  • A player will never be able to pay for the most expensive card by just picking it up; to take the central card, you need 4 blood
  • That means we get 27 as a total number of counters

But this is all just playtesting results out of trying to get these two different game forms to function. What I found once I did this play loop is that I don’t want to make text boxed cards here. That is, the engines are complex enough that I only want to make cards which do simple, reasonably interpreted things with one another.

I want the cards to be simple so that their interactions can be where the complexity comes. I don’t want a player to be overwhelmed by what their cards do, and how they can make them work when every turn is a puzzle of ‘where do I want my cards to go, and what are they going to do.’ 

Therefore, the player card has the majority of the information and then the next step is building the flavour of methods. We’re going back to Magic, Medicine and Crime for our factional divides.

Now cards have their simple template: Every card has two ‘basic’ slots that give you access to their action. The first slot is just the basic mode of the card. The second slot is what it can do if you play a matching card of the same methodology (because you’re better working together). This means getting to take extra actions in a turn can chain – and meaning that just fundamentally ‘do more in one turn’ cards are going to be powerful.

The three vibes I’m working with then are the ways that you can get access to blood in our modern society conveniently:

  • Crime. Crime type vampires are going to bias towards violence. They can go beat people up more readily than any other type of vampire. 
  • Medicine. Medical vampres have access to infrastructure that lets them get more resources, so they can acquire more blood or bonus blood, and thralls. Great for getting people to disappear! Kink scenarios are probably under here too because I like the idea of representing any kinksters as being responsible and ethical. Even if they’re vampires. 
  • Mystical! I mean magical bullshit is going to be an option right? Mystical characters are the ones who can do the most to draw you cards. 

This means any given organisation wants a mix of these at different levels. Mystical help you build up more faster, crime let you spend more resources faster in the point of the game when you’re doing raids on one another trying to win the game.