Game Design: Mechanics VI

By 12/12/2017 December 15th, 2017 Game Design

Now listening to: a garbled Coldplay playback from a call to a corporate airline keeping my wife “on “hold”

And if that isn’t Sweet & Low culture, I don’t know what is. Fuck corporations, fuck low fidelity, fuck Coldplay. There’s no reason a crib reservation on a plane should take six hours.

Jenga is a great toy. Easy enough to set up, easy enough to tear down. A dexterity-focused strategy game deep enough to warrant the emergence of an alternate mode of play to the tried and true formula of dice in RPGs. In case you don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, I’m talking about Dread. Designed by Epidiah Ravachol, Dread is an RPG system that uses a Jenga tower as a means of action resolution. Each challenge requires a player to pull one or more blocks from the tower.

If the tower falls, your character dies.

Considering the length of your average roleplaying session and the frequency with which a Jenga tower falls, Dread is usually best suited for the high body count horror genre. Not only that, the tension of a properly run horror campaign is a perfect match to the nerves generated by a Jenga pull, so there’s an amazing synergy going on there. Dread also requires only a couple of questions to flesh out a character so, as far as accessibility goes, that’s a whole lot better than dice and a spreadsheet chalk full of numbers.

Blah blah blah, it’s important to show visible progress, so Carcassonne is great!

As far as Dread goes, however, visible progress can be seen as the tower begins to quake. Again this is a perfect match with a core concept of the horror genre and the system’s namesake. The ominous sense of doom that seems to build-up towards a terrible conclusion.

I’ve been thinking about Carcassonne. Yeah, it’s fun, but I’ve always wondered about restricting tile placement a bit more. Nobody really seems to be investing anything into implementing jigsaw mechanics into games.

I mean, there’s a space between only one right answer and too many. In that sense, a jigsaw Carcassonne could allow for some deeper placement dynamics. Maybe start with separate mosaics and connect kingdoms between players only when road tiles link them.

There’s advantages and disadvantages to isolationism and cooperation.

Agricola gets visible progress exactly right. You start with a small two-room hovel and, if you play the game right, you can see your farm bloom and become productive right before your eyes. The wooden pieces just enhance the flavor of its visible progress aspect.

#54 Accessibility

#55 Visible Progress

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