Sunday, April 26, 2015

The threat of death

I did more Camp Nightmare testing this weekend, notably with Dancing Man.  Unfortunately I couldn't really test the thing I most wanted to figure out, which is how it feels to play the game with a bunch of tokens instead of counters on a scoring track.  My printed out tokens are just paper at the moment and that makes them difficult to pick up, difficult to sort, and generally quite annoying.  Proper cardboard ones would be much better but making those isn't cheap or immediately available so it will take some doing.  I suspect I will end up having to pillage Puerto Rico, Sentinels of the Multiverse, and some other game to really get a feel for it.

One thing Dancing Man pointed out though was that unless you are playing very badly you don't ever feel like you are going to lose.  Getting a terrible score is certainly possible and that is fear enough for me, but the threat of simply running out of Fun and the game ending isn't realistic for anyone but the newest of new players.  He was thinking that it might be a lot more tense and enjoyable if the game was a lot easier to fail, and if the players were on the edge of dying all the time.

That is a cool idea but after a bunch of consideration I don't think it is realistic to implement.  If a good player is on the edge of annihilation regularly then weak players will just die constantly.  The game has 50 turns in it and I would expect excellent players doing very well to generate 4.5 units / turn of stuff, while weak players would make more like 2 units / turn.    That difference of 2.5 units / turn of stuff is immense, as it adds up to 125 units over the game and being close to elimination is probably 25 units away from death at any given time.  Basically if the good players *can* lose, the bad players are pretty much guaranteed to lose without even getting through half the deck.  I think the only realistic option is to keep the game as is, where you look at your final score to figure out how well you did in the game.  Weaker players are going to see things like "Mildly Unpleasant" or "Fine but Forgettable" and the best players will get results like "Grand Adventure" or "Camping Perfection."

I did get an interesting idea though that cuts down slightly on complexity and also lowers the amount of tokens needed / shortens the length of the scoring track.  Currently when the players swap from Day to Night or Night to Day they spend 2 Food and gain 1 Fun.  Fun is the scoring mechanism and is valuable, so this is a good trade.  As long as the players have a ton of Food swapping Night and Day rapidly is a fine way to generate Fun.  However, if I remove the Fun gain from swapping Night/Day then the total Fun in the game drops dramatically, probably by around 10.  It also makes swapping Night/Day just plain awful so players are far more likely to push for longer Nights and Days.  Right now they do that anyway though so I am not sure it will actually result in different strategy except in the circumstance where players swap Night/Day rapidly in endgame to burn Food for Fun.

Doing this would shift the game away from stockpiling enormous quantities of Food towards drawing cards to try to find Gear that makes Fun.  People would be desperately hunting for Fireworks, Roasting Sticks, Mulled Wine, and other cards that directly generate Fun.  Food would still be plenty valuable because you need it for when you have to swap Day/Night, when bears come to eat your Food, or when you get the Munchies but the tactic of just cooking all the things to make a bajillion Food wouldn't be that great.  For new players making lots of Food would still be fine as it would make sure that at least you don't starve to death, but figuring out how much Food is enough would be an interesting puzzle for the advanced player.

It is an intriguing option.  I probably shouldn't be considering altering fundamental mechanics this much this far along in the process, but at least I don't have any cash invested yet!

1 comment:

  1. What if you removed the fun gain from day / night flip in an "expert camper" version?

    This would still allow people who are new to the game a chance to learn the basics, and would add replay value to those who know the basics, by forcing them to hunt gear.