I couldn’t resist spending some time working further on a game based around the concept of the maharajadhiraja, the ruler who doesn’t want to destroy other rulers but rather to preserve them so that they can acknowledge his or her greatness. The more I think about the idea, the more it seems like it leads in neat directions.
First, I still like what it does with player elimination. Everyone wants to secure their own power, but the leader has to stop short of fully removing rivals from the game. Complete safety is thus unachievable, which helps keep the game interesting as it goes along.
Second, I’ve started to be very interested in how the design might naturally control snowballing—the situation where players get more powerful as they advance toward victory, so that they enter a positive feedback loop where winning gives them power and the power causes them to win even faster. (The name comes from a snowball rolling downhill, picking up snow so that it speeds up and picks up even more snow.) Most games with the potential for snowballing rely on mechanical barriers that limit how much power the players can acquire at different points in the game. By contrast, this game could have players limiting their own snowballing, stopping their feedback loops in order to keep their opponents in the game. That’s unusual, and I feel that it would be fascinating in play.
My ideas so far have been minimalist, with some dice for each player as the only components. The intent was that simple mechanics would put focus on the key dynamic of getting some—but not too much—power at the opponents’ expense. Unfortunately, nothing’s worked yet; having few mechanics means there aren’t many levers to pull when something doesn’t play out as intended.
So, an interesting idea, but one that’s not quite there yet. I’ll have some free time this weekend to plug away at it a little more.