Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Mathscades: Iteration Number Four

I had this prototype sitting around waiting to get played… and boy let me tell you am I ever glad that I played this solitaire instead of inflicting it on someone. I believe my incremental changes have pretty much killed the design at this point. But before I dig into that and try to figure out what to do about it… let’s look at what is going on with this beast right at the moment.

Now, it had seemed like a sane idea to break the board up in such a way as to eliminate the potentially confusion “optional” positions and the “+/-” signs. And it sure seemed like a good idea to reward people for making Mathscades by doubling and tripling the points they make on subsequent throws… but here is a quick session:

  1. Two mathscades get me up to target 5 in rapid order.
  2. A single throw gets me 6 for 10 points. (Picture here.)
  3. A single throw gets me 7 for 1 point. (Picture here.)
  4. A single throw gets me 8 for 5 points. (Picture here.)
  5. A single throw gets another 5 points and ends the game. (Picture here.) And note that even though there was a Mathscade here, no bonus points were scored because of it. Total score: 36

Note that I threw in cards for (_x_)/_ and _x_-_ during the course of play. And note that the cascade of rapid scoring came at the beginning instead of in the endgame. But really, this game is turning more and more into a brain burner. That quick playing game that I started with that three or four people could play together that I started with is gone. Before I attempt to tweak this thing even further, I’m going to review just how we got to this point.

  • Mathscades Mark I: We all played to 20 with 6d6 and let people put the expressions together however they pleased as long as they followed the order of operations. The mathscades really seemed to kick in during the teens, allowing someone to go out quickly at the end.
  • Mathscades Mark II: Pretty much the same game, but with some polyhedrals thrown in. In order to encourage player interaction and FOIL type operations, I let people trade dice around whenever they made that particular type of expression. No one used that rule and the polyhedrals seemed to dumb down the expressions that people could get away with.
  • Mathscades Mark III: This was my attempt at getting people to behave the way I wanted them to. I made the board so that people could just fill in the blanks. I think all of the optional spaces were flexible enough that I didn’t really slow the game down too much. (I did have the drop from 20 down to 10… so I had to reduce the game to compensate for my changes.)
  • Mathscades Mark IV: Eliminate the “optionals” and add in a multipler to points scored on a Mathscades. That multiplier really does encourage you to look for the Mathscades, but it seems to turn the game from a brain burner into a super duper brain burner.

No, I’m not going to regale you with yet another brain storming session on how I’m going to fix all of this… because I don’t know. I don’t even know what I want anymore. The pattern so far is that every change I add to this either ruins things or slows things down. I’ve lost the dynamism of my initial idea. (Or whatever it was.) My attempts to improve on that first game concept may have lead to a dead end.

Before I go any further with this… I need to decide whether to continue with what’s turning into a brain burning solitaire exercise… or do I want to pick up the tempo and make sure I don’t do anything to this that keeps three or four players from playing it together? That one choice will determine how I frame the half dozen game ideas I’ve been tinkering with here.

Note that it took about 45 minutes to play the game… and another 45 minutes to write this up. If I do that six more times… maybe I’ll end up somewhere. That is not impossible. I don’t have a lot of faith in this game at this point… but maybe I should trust the iterative process to actually get me somewhere the next few times. I had no idea how bad I was running aground up until now…!

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3 responses to “Mathscades: Iteration Number Four

  1. Jason Packer February 5, 2014 at 11:18 am

    I can’t speak for game design, but part of the implicit definition of it in programming is that if an iteration proves to be a net loss, you go back to the prior iteration and try again. Don’t assume you have to start from Build IV and try to “fix it” from there. If you need to step back even to Build I to try again, do.

    Also, have you considered including a timing element in the game? Make it a little more frenetic and fast paced, maybe?

    • jeffro February 5, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Simultaneous play (similar to the Scrabble variant called “Pick One” that I have previously described) will reward speed over analysis paralysis and possibly address some of the problems I’ve introduced. (That would introduce a timing element while eliminating players waiting on other peoples’ analysis paralysis to work itself out.) But only further experimentation can demonstrate whether that is the case. If not (and if nothing else will do the trick) then I may have to throw out (for instance) my entire point system because it creates too much “drag.” Even though it addressed problems with my initial ideas. This whole thread may not yield enough value to pay for itself.

  2. Pingback: The “Learning Game Design” Online Course from Lewis Pulsipher | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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