Monthly Archives: October 2010

Some Thoughts about that Casino Game

You know, the one I’m working on that I’ll surely have to rename due to potential copyright issues. Usually I don’t care at all about such things, but there is a precedent (see James Earnest’s Totally Renamed Spy Game for a cautionary tale.)

I was fortunate enough to have a playtest with Ron and Emily at Gencon which happened to crack the design wide open and reveal the inner goodness. Or something. It was clear that the math, as it existed, was broken and wobbly, but the core of the game was solid and I was on to something.

I’ve been sitting on my insights for a while, letting it percolate. Here’s a few things I’ve realised:

The Dealer doesn’t have a chip limit. Chip scarcity is totally on the player side. They have (or don’t have) enough chips at their own.

Different scenes will have a fixed bet- based on what is being achieved, rather than the Dealer’s notion of ‘risk’- the Dealer has cooler things to worry about, there is now an objective measure of what a scene costs. Thus, Legwork scenes get to be cheap, and resolution scenes get to be more expensive- perhaps climbing in cost as the game goes on.

And here’s a little app I think is cool: each Casino has an Ante Highlight- a course of action that, if present, adds +1 to the required bet. For example, the Atlantic Star has a Ante Highlight of Gunplay, but the Big Chief highlights the non-casino attractions. These actions are considered ‘riskier’ within the narrative physics of the story, and get more attention. (Of course, big chip totals need to be highly encouraged to the players as more than just a resource in and of themselves somehow.- players should *want* to risk more chips if they have the option.)

Special Abilities:
In practice I think seven special abilities is a little tough to fill out. I think Ace in the Hole will be a generic special ability that everyone gets that does not need to be filled in, which leaves 6 “I get to do this when X”, which seems like it will be easier- Ace in the Hole is confusing to explain anyway unless you know everything else about how the resolution system works.

New Type of Scene, The Regroup Scene:
The con has gone sour, and everyone’s gotten back together to discuss how they’re going to get out of it. This can fundamentally change the nature of the con. Players can change any Special Abilities that haven’t been used thus far (making up for a choice that just doesn’t seem to be panning out), trade chips amongst each other, and perhaps even alter some of their mission objectives! However, the players get just one Regroup scene during the game. Don’t waste it.

The Resolution is totally solid. Really the only thing that needs looking at is the chip economy, and looking at that: how many chips the players start with, what they’re allowed to bid, and how often they can get new ones, and how, and what happens if they run out or end the game with lots of them.
Special abilities in play work smoothly. Succeed with Consequence needs the most attention to make sure it doesn’t allow players to simply mow through each important conflict. The abilities encourage players to play for position and can enforce character ‘roles.’

Putting it All on the Line:
This is where the chip economy is weakest- you get way too many chips from your relationships. Also, I have a conundrum here- right now with PIAOTL, if you win the conflict, there’s no real downside- you caught a lucky break. There’s two ways to go here, one is direct cost -> spend. With it as is, it certainly feels like you’re risking the thing, but if you win, there’s not really any danger. Perhaps when you Put It All on the Line, you get a consequence no matter what, but the severity depends on whether you win or lose.

Things to Do:
Write more Casino Playlists.
Thing about Chip economy.
Write a new playtest draft- with the economy as good as I can eyeball it.