Exploratory Design: Scavenging Bags

Hey kids, it’s making time! Gunna put down some notes about looking at a big complicated pile of numbers. First up, here is a link to the twitter moment where I started on the process of making this game, which links at the end of each to the next one. And now.

Sometimes you’ll hit a point in a design where things won’t work so well and you’ll be at a crossroads for how to proceed. What you want to do then is exploratory design, where you try out hypothetical designs and see if you like the differences. Today, we’re going to look at the way this game’s going to fork.

The problem I encountered comes from the game’s current place as a cooperative worker placement game, and the space that takes up and then that led to the possibility of the game not being a tight little print-on-demand card game and anyway.

First of all, let’s talk about the mechanism that brought us here.

When I decided I’d make this game about playing a character as part of a group rather than playing people competing with their own little bases, I decided that there needed to be some mechanism to keep your turns from being identical. After all, if ‘Zandra’ is good at repairing things, why would she do anything but stay inside repairing? Gotta mix it up, gotta make it so each player explores different things. The solution I hit on was a effort deck; players each have a tiny deck of cards (like, 4 cards), and there’s a fatigue card mixed in. Each turn, a player draws four cards, and then they can contribute that much effort. Every turn you gain fatigue, which means you need to do things to get the fatigue cards out of your deck to get back up to par, meaning you mix up your tasks. Makes sense, right? Then I hit from there, on another idea: What if there were status condition cards you could mix in and make it so that working out in the sun could harm you, forcing you to take down time?

Good idea, I like it.

Then I sat down and implemented it in my skeleton, and saw something like this:

Forty eight cards! The budget for this entire deck is a hundred and 18! That’s seventy cards left after this setup chunk!

So there’ll obviously have to be some fussing, but, this struck me this morning: Why not try it without a deck? If I move away from it being a deck of cards, what if I free up the space for the cards and see what else I can put in the box to make it ‘work’?

DriveThruCards, don’t read this.

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TheGameCrafter, hello.

So here’s the idea: What if the fatigue and effort aren’t marked by cards, but by tokens, tokens you retrieve from a bag? What if every player has their own little baggy, and there’s a pile of tokens for conditions you can add to the bag?

If we do this, we’re going to need to do a major restructure, so let’s have a look:

First things first, the game needs a box that can hold our cards. Nicely, though this also means we can put in mats, rather than be limited to a single card’s real estate. Second, we need tokens. Third, we need, for each player, bags, they can put their tokens in. And then, fourth, we need to work out how much space we have left over for cards.

These are all moving parts. For example, if I went with the smallest box I’ve experience with, the Small Pro Box, but I’m not sure the smallest bags can fit in this thing. Like, we might be pushing it. Well, still, let’s put the pieces in a recipe and-

Oh.

On the other hand, we could go to the Medium Pro box, one step up, and what does that get us for content? Let’s spitball some components: A Small pro box, Four bags, thirty tokens, 126 cards, a box, let’s say a mat. What does that look like in the Gamecrafter:

MSRP Each$26.99
Actual Price Each$26.99
Cost Each$21.88

Well, that’s … that’s actually pretty funny, really.

See the going price for my 120-card games on DTC is $25 USD. In face-to-face sales, that’s $30AUD, which is a bit of a discount from a strait conversion. That’s about where the game has to be priced, too. I mean, ideally the price would be $25 face-to-face and $25 online, but that’s super hard when you remember I have to ship games here – even in bulk! That $30 price tag soaks up the shipping costs.

But then holy heck, check this out, this could be a reasonable game at $27? For a game in a little box, comparable to say, The Resistance in size? That’s… really close to the price point I’d want to put it.

This is really surprising! I actually thought for a while this was going to show the fatigue/exhaustion system was too much space for the game and therefore, a dead end and I should move on. But boy howdy will you look at that?

This is why you do exploratory design. You know, to explore.

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