The Case Study: Player Abilities for Testing

So far we’ve got one player ability for Over the Next Dune:

Pop a Tire: If this player token is adjacent to one or more searchers at the start of the Sneak Phase, choose one of those searchers to be affected by terrain during the next Search Phase. (Any time during the next Search Phase that searcher’s movement would cause it to enter one or more squares with terrain in them, the searcher must expend two squares of movement instead of one. If it does not have enough movement remaining to expend two squares of movement, it stops moving.)

We need at least four more to cover all five players. I’m going to run through the untested concepts to see if any of them are workable in light of the rules for player powers. Then we’ll come up with as many brand-new powers as needed.

To keep them firmly in mind, the rules for player powers are to include them when

1. the game benefits from a certain amount of something, but no more;
2. the unique ability provides very different game experiences; and/or
3. the unique ability creates new, interesting decisions.

A player power should not be used if

1. the power would undermine the game’s mechanics; and/or
2. the game is at a complexity limit.

Comparing the old concepts to these rules, it seems like some of them pass and some of them . . . aren’t good avenues to go down.

“Hey, Over Here!”–When a player token would be captured by a searcher, you may instead center that searcher over this player token. This player token, and any other player tokens covered by the searcher, are captured. Direct the searcher “down,” toward the starting line, just as if a player had been captured normally.

I still like this. It provides a decision (should I take one for the team?) that was previously only available when playing the “wall” strategy. A power that makes the game more interesting for the player using it always has some value.

Unfortunately, this ability has the potential to undermine the searcher-tricking mechanic. The “wall” was dangerous in part because it replaced maneuvering the searchers with constant rescues; a player could use this ability to do the same thing anywhere on the board. A gate is needed to prevent this ability from dominating the game:

“Hey, Over Here!”–Once per game, when a player token would be captured by a searcher, you may instead center that searcher over this player token. This player token, and any other player tokens covered by the searcher, are captured. Direct the searcher “down,” toward the starting line, just as if a player had been captured normally.

That isn’t a very interesting gate, I admit. However, I think this ability is very powerful and that a sharp limit is necessary.

Throw Something Shiny–Once per game, when this player token is adjacent to one or more searchers, choose one of those searchers and point it in a direction of your choosing.

Looking at the rules, I don’t think this makes the cut. First, OtND doesn’t need this sort of redirection. Second, being able to choose a searcher’s facing does not provide a substantially different game experience; the player is still fooling the searcher, he or she is just doing it in a different way. Finally, while the decision behind TSS is new it’s not very interesting–there will often be clear good and bad choices, and players will just pick a good one. This power needs to be replaced.

Coordinator–Once per game, when this player token tricks a searcher, the searcher does not capture player tokens it moves over. If the searcher is occupying any player tokens’ spaces when it stops moving, it captures those player tokens.

I don’t love this one either. Again, there’s no reason to include it. This ability is an easy out for difficult situations. OtND doesn’t need that in any amount. Nor is this a different game experience–the players will approach the game the same way, they’ll just have a “get out of jail free” card. Interesting decisions aren’t in the offing either, since players will be able to bail themselves out of otherwise-challenging problems. Off to the scrapheap with this one.

No One Left Behind–Once per game, when this player token is adjacent to another player token, you may choose to move the adjacent player token along with you for your first square of movement using the same rules as apply when tricking searchers.

Here we go. I’m a big fan of this power, because I think it’s most likely to create a different experience. The player with this ability sees a much different board, one with many more options. It’s fascinating to ask what can be done with it.

This power is so neat that I’m inclined to take the gate off of it so as to encourage its use. While the wording’s changing I’d also like to clear up how this power relates to the searcher-tricking rules. I don’t want this to become an easy out, so people who are in trouble should still be in trouble after this ability is used.

No One Left Behind–When this player token is adjacent to other player tokens, you may choose to move one or more of those tokens along with you for your first square of movement using the same rules as apply when tricking searchers. Those tokens will themselves trick searchers during this movement.

OK, that’s two out of four and a total of three powers ready for testing. Not bad, but now we need to come up with two more from scratch. How about:

Hitch a Ride–When an adjacent searcher moves during the Search Phase, this player token may move along with the searcher, always maintaining the same position relative to the searcher.

It’s common in OtND for one player to want to move backward, usually because that happens to be the safest place to trick a searcher toward. However, that player can end up unable to catch up before time runs out. This ability isn’t complex, but it creates decisions by making it possible to go backward late in the game. I suspect there are also other imaginative uses that I’m not seeing right away.

For the last ability, I’m thinking about this:

Caltrops–During each Sneak Phase you may turn one clear square adjacent to you (at any point during your movement) into terrain.

Terrain is generally bad for the players, so being able to create it forces a different approach to the game. This ability also teams up with Pop a Tire in a way that promotes team play, a general rule for OtND.

With that we have five player abilities for testing. Let me know if you see any issues right off the bat, or if you get a chance to try these out!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s