My last few weeks have been a frenzy of prototyping. Upgrading components (Sol Rising), re-balancing and improving the design (Sol Rising, Flipped), and experimenting with new ideas (not ready to talk about yet). It has been a lot of fun and I'm ready to test again. Before that, however, I'd like to write about how I've improved Flipped, both to share with folks and hopefully impart some of the wisdom I've gained as a result.
Flipped is intended to be a simple, very accessible light-euro fueled primarily by a worker placement mechanic. It plays 2-5 players in under an hour, typically 45 minutes. I had a few months where I couldn't work on it, which let me think deeply on the game and really examine what needed to improve.
Let's cover the basics, first.
To simplify the typical resource complexity of some of these games, I baked it all into the workers. Your workers are essentially your actions and your resources. Instead of the typical "Place 1 worker, get X output," which you then spend, in Flipped it is Place N workers, gain asset or take action." Very similar, just a light twist.
The game features an area majority mechanic where, if you build out a certain neighborhood in a certain way, you will score points at the end of the game. For example, a client who wants a rich luxury neighborhood will give you points if there is no infrastructure (i.e. power plant) in the neighborhood. It'll be up to you to make that happen.
Both of these mechanics have been done before. Thankfully, I have what I think is a simple and fun unique hook. The theme of the game is that you're rebuilding a city that's down on its luck. The demands and needs of the city are dynamic. After all, every game would be the same otherwise. This dynamic demand curve influences many things in the game, most notably, points. If you manipulate the needs of Business clients to drive up the Infrastructure demand, you can then build for those clients to score big points.
This was all mostly working, but I had some issues.
Previously, the demand model was very fiddly, mostly from a player updating standpoint. Players had to constantly place chits onto the board and it took time and was just annoying. It felt, to me, like counting out money in Monopoly. I realized that I could simplify this by just tracking the demand with a much smaller chart. Players could then simply pull tokens out of a bag based on the demand number. Easy!
I also realized the game had far more little complexities than it needed. Some of these included:
- 2 slightly different methods to obtain Client cards.
- Lots of symbols on the board that could be distilled and eliminated.
- A few Client requirements that didn't make sense and slowed the game.
- A few end game scoring mechanics that always drew confusion from players.
- Too much info on clients.
- Too many minor details in setup that didn't need to be there.
The effect of these tiny complexities was somewhat akin to the death by a thousand cuts. Furthermore, all of them took away from my hook. If my dynamic demand model is the cool feature in my game, then it needs to be THE feature in the game. It needs to power everything, so I set about doing so.
As a result, I baked in quite a few simple changes:
- One method to gain clients, which is a bit of a push your luck. You choose how many options you want up front.
- When you build, you don't get pre-defined points based on the Client. You get points based on the demand curve. If you satisfy higher demands, you tend to make more points.
- The beginning of the game is more randomly setup. It'll be equal and fair, but also faster to get going.
- Client cards have been simplified.
This all shaved about 3 pages out of the rules, simplified the game, and focused everything towards the hook. This is a lesson we should all take to heart every time we make a game. What is your unique hook? What is your theme? What is the best part of your game? Focus all of your efforts towards that and distill and cull the rest. If your game is about battle, simplify the mechanic about giving your soldiers food. If your game is about building the castle? Decrease the time players spend building an army.
Focus focus focus.
I sought input and entertained a few ideas from others. Paul Imboden of Split Second Games suggested I add a few more properties and remove a number of them at random every game. This means you don't know what'll come up for sale. I really liked that idea and incorporated it.
I talked to peers Danny Devine and Phil Kilcrease about adding in new bonuses, like gaining free specialized workers, gaining extra clients, or adding in a more detailed infrastructure layer. They all listened and chimed in, but ultimately these things just complicated the game in a bad way.
Focus focus focus.
You can read the rules for Flipped here. Comments are allowed in the document, or you can email me.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a city to build.