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More event card fun

After we’d settled on a nice set of numbers to be using, we had another nice idea, which threw them out again.  We thought it would be nice if, when you drew a card, you could choose to take the top card of the discard pile instead.  This added another element of tactics to the game, and after playtesting it a couple of times, we found we really liked it.  There were a couple of issues to be worked out, but we fixed most of them with one fell swoop.  The main problem was this: We have event cards that have an effect, and then let you draw a card.   For example, one of our most basic event cards, “ZAP!”, injures one adventurer, and then you draw a card.  We had one playtester try to play “ZAP!”, injure an adventurer, and then pick “ZAP!” straight back up again.

Obviously this is ridiculously broken.  We fixed it easily by saying that event cards don’t hit the discard pile until they have completely resolved,  thus preventing that sort of abuse.  It did leave one door open though, and that was for chains of event cards that let you pick up cards.  This wasn’t much of a problem, as several of them also made you discard a card, which clogged up the discard pile and made it harder to pull off silly combos.  Those which didn’t, we fixed by changing the card.

Event cards had just become significantly more fun to play with, as there was a lot more opportunity to use them.  One in particular, “Salvage”, made at least 5 appearances in one game.

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Oh noes, numbers!

At this point in our development of Its a Trap!,  most of the building blocks were there, and now we could munch on delicious numbers.

The number of adventurers had a couple of early fluctuations; originally we started testing with 20, and at an early point where an influx of new cards joined the deck this nudged up to 25. Strangely, this never increased further;  even with new cards coming in, the event cards and the design of the new trap components managed to balance against the increased number of cards increasing the length of the game.

We also had a couple of big phases of rebalancing cards, as well as constant nudging when cards were noted to be disproportionately good (or bad!) in some combination. These generally consisted of us laying out vast grids of cards according to some axes that were particularly relevant; for example number of kills vs chance of killing at least one. Generally, most of the grids we produced have a broad band across the middle, with perhaps a couple of outliers. Although some cards may be better or worse than others, on average, the entire deck has a balance of cards, something to do everything.

This last point is important: after playing with our (relatively final) deck of cards, we kept winning. Notably, we kept winning with about 20 cards left in the deck. So we started taking 20 cards out before each game! However, his doesn’t matter to the game balance, as on average everything is balanced! Unfortunately, this didn’t quite give enough time to kill all the adventurers, so we reduced the number to 16.

Although this seems like a bit of a hack, it has a major side-effect that we really liked: there was no way of knowing which cards you’d get. You couldn’t rely on Dead End, or Rocks Fall as last minute saving graces against the waves of adventurers. If you happen to have a pet card, as one of our playtesters does with Loud Bell, you can’t necessarily grab that card and build your Ur-trap. Every game is different.

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Look at all those deadlines

Well apologies for that brief break in posting. Sometimes we actually get uni work done! But on with the development of It’s a Trap:

Playing for a while with event cards, it added a lot to the game; people could actually interact! But, it turned out, not as much as we thought. People mostly used event cards on themselves to protect a good trap, or to save the group as a whole, but there wasn’t much playing to beat other players.

So we got our evil on.

Event cards were made nastier. Salvage, previously taking a single component from a trap now made that trap misfire as well. Illusionary got a couple of nasty features added. Several had draw a card added. Coffee break made people actually miss turns instead of forcing them to pass.

Fun times.

In addition, we redesigned the Lame cards: a set of 6 cards that just added a misfire and draw a card. Instead of forcing them to be added to someone else’s trap as your entire turn, they could now be added at “instant” speed; any time that a trap wasn’t resolving. This played really nicely, so we expanded the mechanic to the ‘of’ cards, allowing them to be added to a trap as (potentially) required. With this change, the stranger ones became a good tool for both your own score or reducing other people’s, and the more normal ones became surprisingly more popular, as they could be used to block the more potent ones before they could be added.

Within a couple of games using these new rules, players were being a lot more cutthroat to maximse their score, and not a few games were lost by everyone as the scorned got their revenge (feel free to insert your own image of us maniacally laughing here).

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Hmm… We’re missing something…

23 February, 2010 Leave a comment

We liked our game.  We thought it worked well, and other people liked it too, and wanted to play it again.  Even so, we thought it was missing something.  Well, several somethings.  We’d had ideas for other types of cards, and decided to try them out.  There would be two new types of card.  One type would act as a normal trap component, but would deviate from the ADJECTIVE NOUN standard.  We call these the “of” cards, because their names all follow the pattern “of X”, such as “of DOOM!” or “of exploding!”  You could only have one of these on a trap, and at that point, that’s where we left it.  We didn’t think much more of it than that, though these cards later developed into something nicer.

The second type would be the major change – event cards.  These wouldn’t add to a trap at all, but would instead do something completely other.  The first ones we came up with were “save yourself” cards, which would get you out of a tight spot if you needed it.  These were cards like “Zap!”, which let you automatically injure one adventurer.  Though useful, these weren’t all we were looking for.  We wanted a way to make the game more interactive between the players, and in our minds, that meant players being cruel to each other.  Thus came cards like “Illusionary”, which converted all of a traps kills into injuries for that round.

The idea was that event cards could be played at any time.  This lead to more than a few rules debates, when cards would be played in the middle of a trap firing, but we eventually sorted out a standard system for it.  The biggest card to cause this discussion let you switch the positions of any two traps.  That’s fine, you say.  Then you think more closely.  Say your opponent’s trap has just rolled a 6.  You’ve got a trap sitting elsewhere in the queue that gets lots of kills on a 6.  Can you switch the two traps after the number has been decided, but before the effect takes place?  We decided that yes, you could.  We did say, though, that you couldn’t play the card once you’d already started resolving the trap’s effect.  These cards were later deemed to be played at “interrupt” speed.

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Holy crap its actually a game

21 February, 2010 Leave a comment

So we’d thrown together a deck of 40 cards, grabbed a die, and took it to our roleplaying sessions with the intention of seeing if it worked when exposed to actual play. We had a few games, added a few cards, played some more games.

After a few sessions, people were actually asking if we’d brought Trap with us. This was a Good Sign™.

So we took an afternoon out of our hectic schedules of no lectures, to sit down and pull more cards together. Starting with about 40 unique cards (for a deck of 80 cards), we decided to hit our target deck size of 80ish, and split our current pile into two decks, so we could each playtest separately. Up until this point, we’d kinda just pulled numbers out of thin air, but as the balance was (slightly mysteriously) more or less spot on, we decided to actually MATHS’d the new cards. That afternoon was filled with a lot of laying out cards in a big grid by various properties; chance of taking out an adventure, number of kills, possibility of misfire, pretty much everything that existed became and axis at some point.

We also realised packaging a dice was a lot like effort, and that we could put the randomiser on the card. This meant we needed a multiple of 6 cards, which, with the deck size we wanted, meant about 84. That’s a lot of cards to generate in one sitting, so we decided it was probably worth it to make less (I seem to recall settling on 66 or so), so that the last few could tweak our numbers if we broke the balance (spoiler warning: we did). As we went through the deck adding numbers, we also standardised the naming scheme to that every card was of the form ADJECTIVE NOUN, such as Steel Portcullis (from Portcullis) or Deep Pit (from Pit Trap), such that overlaying cards produced meaningful if not sensible names (at this point Robust (née Huge) became Reseting Mechanism).

And with our brand new deck(s), we shuffled up, and played some more. Then we were late for the next lecture.

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Killing adventurers and you

16 February, 2010 1 comment

Each of the cards in our deck had a number of features. Primarily, they all had attempts at amusing names, aided by a huge list of types of traps we’d compiled, which would then combine in even more hilarious manners. They also had a set of 6 possible outcomes, ranging from killing adventurers, to the trap itself blowing up. That’s pretty much everything, as we started out.

So, armed with some slightly dodgy maths as to balanced numbers, we stacked up some dice to track the lives of some poor adventurers, and walked them into our gauntlet of Pit Traps with Sharks, Collapsing Rolling Boulders and Torrential Tar. At each step, a d6 determined the fate of the adventuring party, sometimes callously slaughtering them all, sometimes quickly advancing through all the traps to mash the dungeon’s (obligatory) self destruct button and kill us. It was a dangerous time for all involved, especially the trap cards that got fairly frequent modification.

At some point, we realised that our plan to keyword trap components that worked together wasn’t really necessary. So what if you have Explosive Sharks, or Huge Choking Dust? We adjusted our rules: now cards just had to make grammatical, if not physical, sense, opening the door to Deep Steel Portcullises, and Invisible Explosive Runes.

Not that this really fazed anyone.

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Prototyping

12 February, 2010 Leave a comment

Now that we had our idea, we had to test it out.  Unfortunately, we’re really quite lazy.  Thus, we didn’t actually get around to doing anything about it for another several weeks.  We kept discussing it, and coming up with new ideas and theories, but they were normally discussed on the walk home after a gaming session, and then we’d both run inside, and try and write down as much as we could remember.  I think we got most of it.  At first we used the society forums to record the info, but we soon set up a wave so that we could discuss it more easily.  We’d decided that you’d create traps by playing multiple trap cards together, and that the more you played, the more powerful the trap would be.  So if you played a “Pit Trap” card with a “Sharks” card and a “Lasers” card, you’d end up with a “Pit Trap with Sharks and Lasers”.  

And so, we grabbed some index cards, ripped them in two and started writing. Two copies of each card we could come up with to pad out the deck, and so that later when we had enough cards we’d each have a deck. Forty cards later, and much gnashing of teeth over names (already!), we had a deck; so we grabbed some ubiquitous d6 and started playing. And it worked! We were even kind-of shocked ourselves!

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