Flippin' Friday

Board

I've been working in my spare time in the evenings on building Flipped. This is a game I'm actively working and designing. It's real and will happen. Unlike much I discuss on this blog. I'd put a smiley face emoticon there, but it pains me to do so.

I'm excited about this game. It's good to do something completely different. It makes me a better designer and forces my brain to do things in new ways.

I created Flipped based on the name, which just popped into my head. It's about flipping homes, or more broadly (and optimistically), urban renewal. Your team (and others like you) have been hired by the city to revitalize the neighborhoods to stir a new age of growth and prosperity.

Homes will be represented on the board with 1 inch square punchboard tokens. One side, a decrepit home, the other a rebuilt, beautiful place to live. My hope is that as the game progresses, the board is transformed from a dire state to something lovely.

Starting point... Starting point...
...ending point. ...ending point.

My goal for the game is that it supports 2-5 players in 60 minutes or less. 45 minutes is my sweet spot, so I'm really pushing for that. I think the game will be more complex than Ticket to Ride, but not by to much. The game will be turn-based. I'm not using a round based structure in the hopes of reducing complexity and rules, streamlining the experience, and focusing on brisk pacing.

Players will take one action on their turn from a pool of three: Buy one of the 4 homes available for sale, improve a home, or flip/sell a home. I think I'll need a fourth "release valve" interaction, but for now, this is it.

Homes are represented by a deck of simple cards which are shuffled at the start of the game. Four will be drawn and are available for purchase. As a home is purchased, a new card is drawn and placed on the board. Cards are simple and contain the following information:

  • Neighborhood. This is currently A, B, C, or D, but in a final version I envision a symbol with a color, like Beach District or Inner City. 
  • Number. This is to indicate the space number. So, A3 is the third house in A neighborhood. Fictionally, this is the address.
  • Cost. This is the cost to acquire/fix the house sufficiently to sell. See below.
  • Improvement possibilities. Just an empty circle (which is the shape of the improvement tokens).

Early on I was troubled by the amount of math in the game. Players had to manage outflow of cash, inflow of cash, and various multipliers. It made me sick to my stomach and I came to a compromise that I think will work well, at least initially. Every player will have a crew of 3 cubes. Buying a home will cost 1-3 cubes, which are returned at the start of your next turn (1 per job site). The abstraction is that this is your team and there is minimum work required for every home you purchase. Some homes require more work. The fiction is that you are "paying" them and by using them, you expend a resource. But this way, you don't need to manage money going both ways.

The other benefit is that I'm still throttling players. If you don't have sufficient cubes, you cannot obtain more homes. I'm trying to figure out how players can obtain more cubes to increase their crew. My current thinking is that players remove 1 cube per home/work site at the start of their turn, so a home that costs 3 will take 3 turns to return all cubes. I'm also thinking that a player can buy multiple homes on their turn as long as they belong to the same neighborhood.

Some cards will have a symbol that causes the card on the end of the buy row to leave the market permanently. This will have a negative impact on the neighborhood value. This exists to push the game along and remind players "Hey, if you want something, you might want to get it now!"

As homes are improved (or left decrepit), the neighborhood's value will change. This is conveyed with a simple graphic. A marker will move up and down this track. Small circles are just progress, but big circles are a threshold with an actual price change. I don't know fully how this will work yet, but essentially, players will be driving up the value with small purchases in order to make their big investments bigger payouts.

SmallBoard

Another idea I'm experimenting with is that neighborhoods can impact the value of others. The idea of a synergistic city appeals to me and I want to try to do this simply. For example, the low value neighborhood, if left to rot, will hinder the nicer neighborhoods near it. Go deep on a single neighborhood at your peril -- you are not an island!

As a way to incorporate variance and the unexpected, there will be municipal events (better name pending). These are the four 2 inch square spaces on the board. There are 4 cards in the deck -- an A, B, C, and D. You then pull the top tile from the municipal stack and place it on that letter's space. These will be things like a new school, which is good! Or an increase in crime, which is bad! Or a new metro, which helps with hiring contractors and such. The idea is to simply vary the rules of the game as it progresses. These should never hose someone. They will never be "every player loses 3 cards." I want to make that clear. The goal is that they provide new opportunities and force players to be reactive and think on their toes.

I've distilled home improvements into 4 simple items, each represented simply by a colored token at the moment. The categories are: Landscaping, Painting, Electrical, and Layout. These are ranked in order of complexity/cost. The general idea is that you can hire contractors (a limited and shared resource) to do this work, which will increase the value of the homes. Furthermore, players will have hidden clients that have certain requirements.

The action a player will take is to hire the contractor for a job and pay the cost. The contractor is now not available. When finished, the player places the token on the circle space on the house card. If sold, the house will bring in more than a house without the upgrade.

The game ends when the deck of homes runs out. The winner will be the player who contributed to the city the most and made the most money. Some combination of those, I think.

The game at a high level is this: You get one action per turn and must decide what you want the most. Players will be competing to buy homes, acquire new clients (also in the home row), increase the value of neighborhoods in which they are invested, hire limited contractors, and take advantage of the municipal events.

My hope is to refine the choices  and content such that there is great tension (not stressful). I want this contractor so I can sell this home...but man I don't want Bob next to me to get 3 more houses in this neighborhood next turn. Gah!

I don't really know what the game's hook is yet, which is bad, but it's my first euro and I really just need to make it right now. Mechanically, the game involves:

  • Area Influence: Modify the value of homes in a neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods.
  • Resource Management: I have limited workers, money, and there are opportunity costs for taking one action versus another.
  • Hidden Goals: We have clients that are unique and private to us.

The game is less becoming an economics game, but frankly, I didn't want to make Power Grid.

Thematically the game has been very well received. Seconds after saying the name and saying "You're improving homes," people go "Oh yeah! Cool." People get it and connect to it. Presentation wise, I'm thinking the board might resemble a blueprint and over the course of the game, a beautiful and colorful city comes to live. It can go from drab and decrepit to colorful and nice.

I'm rambling.

What do you think?

Comments

I think I know few urban studies and sociology students at my library who would love to playtest a prototype.

Stay tuned! Hopefully at some point I'll have a PNP.

So... no dexterity element then?

No. Never part of it. Not sure if you're joking or not, so clarifying fully.

I agree -- those are great opportunities. There's a lot of neat, real stuff I can pack in here. I must admit that I mostly want this to be a positive, optimistic game. I don't want to depress my players or potentially introduce the economic/racial/demographic issues that some of this topics can bring about. It can be distracting from the fact that, well, I just want you to have a good time.

It's a careful balance between marketability and fun. It'll be something at the forefront of my thoughts as I develop it. Thanks for your comment!

This game could be an opportunity to communicate a variety of concepts, more obviously, the risks / rewards of home improvement as a lucrative investment strategy.

Perhaps a less obvious and more interesting path would be to build in subtle elements that demonstrate the effects of gentrification. I.e., as one neighborhood is improved, former residents are pushed out by rising costs into the worst neighborhood, onto the street, or even into a life of crime that threatens the most affluent neighborhoods.

That's a great theme and plays into player creativity, which I love. I'd love to know more about it!

Sounds really cool; I'm building a game based on building your dream home from the inside out on a shoestring budget, so I definitely would like to see your idea come to fruition too :D

The neighborhood is one of the 4 sections of the board. There's A, B, C, and D neighborhoods. So, if a card is drawn, it'll say A5, which is one of the 1 inch squares on the board. It's really simple.

Right now I hope to do spatial relationships, though I'm not quite sure how. I may test it without and figure out how to add them there. It's very much something I want to do.

Sounds fun - lots of great ideas here. One thing I couldn't figure out is how a neighborhood is represented. Do the cards correspond to a square on the board or are the cards arranged on the table according to address?

I'd also be interested to hear if there are going to be any spatial relationships at a house level or if prices, events, effects only take place at the neighborhood level.