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Survive together but only one can win

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That is a cool idea. Just based on that description, I want to play that game. Would it be a computer game or a board game? I could see it executed well for both.

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I like the idea - it kind of reminds me of Mafia/Werewolf: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mafia_(party_game)

 

I would emphasize that there are activities that require multiple people, so players don't try to kill everybody else first and THEN survive. It would also be interesting if there were pairs of characters who are natural enemies/partners (until the end of course). You also need ways for people to act but hide their activities. For example, the Explorer might be outed by always being out exploring. If they don't travel long distances, they can't achieve their goal. Perhaps scripted events which separate people occasionally?

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I'm doing all my prototyping with cards and dice as its much easier and fun to play test.

 

Getting players to work together is key. They need to be working together and helping each other towards some goal while keeping their personal agenda a secret. 

 

One way I'm doing that is with a central stash of supplies.  When a player forages they draw cards supplies, gear, events, actions. Any supplies and gear they find they either keep for themselves or donate to the central stash where it can be used by everyone. Supplies are used to repair parts of the ships, buy gear, and consumed as part of events or every turn in the case. Every turn every character needs to consume 1 food from either the central stash or from their private stash.  Not eating results in the character becoming weakened and more likely to be injured as well as only being able to forage for half the number of cards as normal.

 

So in this way players are encouraged to share food but they'd be smart to keep at least 1 or 2 food cards to themselves.

 

Also at the start of the turn a shuttle event card is revealed these effect everyone and either challenges or opportunities.

 

For example:

 

Challenge – Hull Breach – Technical – Phase 0

The sound of screaming sirens and flashing red lights gets everyone running from their quarters.  Somehow during the night a puncture opened in the hall and oxygen levels are dropping rapidly.

Roll a d6 that is how many points are required or all characters suffer 1 wound.

1 point for each Mechanical Part Discarded

1 point for each player who spends the turn helping

2 points if the engineer has been revealed.

*The Engineer can reveal herself to resolve this challenge for free.

 

Opportunity – Ships Mascot – Biological – Phase 0

You found this little guy curled up in a damaged cargo hold isn’t he cute?  Let’s call him spike either that or dinner.

The survivors can choose to keep spike as pet if they do he consumes 1 food per turn or at the start of any turn can “convert” him into 4 pieces of meat.

At the start of turn roll a d6

1 – Spike bites a random player they gain 1 infection token.

2-3 – Spike goes hunting and returns with d3 food.

4-5 – Spike follows one of the foragers they get a free foraging card. The first injury encountered while foraging that turn kills spike instead.

6 – Nuzzles a random player restoring 1 point of sanity.

 

Foraging is going to be a central mechanic to the game in zone 1 you can forage for up to 10 cards per turn rolling a d10 if you roll less then the number of cards you drew then you suffer 1 wound. Higher zones are initially locked but have better stuff and more risk.

 

All characters have 4 wounds except the heiress who has 3 which is not known until she's revealed, and the assassin who has 5 but he can play dead if he suffers 4 wounds and have not yet been revealed.

 

I'm also trying to figure out a way for players to give cards to other players without them knowing.   At present I'm thinking there is a central deck of personal event cards where players can add cards to they have found foraging.  These cards would be good, bad, or neutral.  The parasite character wants to give infection cards to other players. The assassin and cultist want to plant cards that injure other players.  But at the same time I need to good cards that players can plant that help the other player. Like the assassin can plant a 1 shot pistol that player can reveal at any time to give them a gun during an attack. Or the explorer can give out map fragment cards that let zones be unlocked earlier.

 

But I'm just not sure. 

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Sounds like the Prisoner's Dilemma (game theory).

You have to consider this theory if you want to make it work.

I believe that defecting is a near dominant strategy except in the event a player has an incentive to not win.

If you give a player an incentive to not win (some payoff in the next round) then the game becomes more unpredictable (and perhaps more fun), yet more complicated.

Say that a player can play to prevent everyone else from winning (not trying to win himself). Then you have one of those guys like on the war games that kills everyone on his team just because he gets a kick out of it (not trying to win himself).

Etc. (there is a whole math to it)

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Giving people things without them knowing works better on a computer than in a card game. However here's a suggestion:

  1. Each player has a private deck of cards relevant to their character type, e.g. assassin has weapons and assassination attempts, parasite has infection, engineer has fixing, etc.
  2. Each turn, a player must give one card to another player face down (let's call it the event deck).
  3. Each turn that a player's event deck has more than x cards they must shuffle the event deck and draw one card from it.

Whether the drawn card should be public or not is up to you. Publicly would prevent cheating, e.g. not admitting death when drawing assassination or infection. Maybe cards have two types: public and private. If the back says public you must turn it over.

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Yeah, there is also, "Perfect information", "Partial information," and "Perfect competition."

Perfect information assumes everyone has all the information they need to play optimally.

Partial information is, well, partial information. Everyone doesn't have all of the info they need to play optimally.

Perfect competition assumes that all players play optimally.

The reason these things have to be considered is because some game theory genius will prance along, solve your game, and make the game no fun, because they will win every time, because they know that such theories can separate a bad game from an ingenious game.

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It reminds me of Survival, a [very fun] Warcraft 3 custom map:
http://www.hiveworkshop.com/forums/maps-564/survival-1-357-a-82367/

1884645.jpg

Each player picks or loads a character with a class at the start of the game, and each class has a specific set of skills.
Then everyone lands on the planet and you gather with your allies to fight a wave of monsters.
The objective is to survive past all the enemy waves and levels that your team goes through. You are not supposed to kill your teammates, you have to work together.
Every time that I played and nobody went with one of two particular classes we would lose: it's very hard to win if you don't have one engineer and one alchemist in the team for a continued supply of defense towers and replenishing potions, respectively.
There's skill building with experience, there's the crafting of items based on materials that you gather. The smarter players craft items and potions and share around, especially with the "tank" players that deal and take all the damage from the aliens - you have to control your greed and share your possessions if you want to stay alive.

There's a lot of depth to that custom map but it is still inviting to new players.

I'm not sure if that would be the same if it had character backstories and win conditions like you proposed.
A potential player would have to take their time to study each backstory and win conditions in order to reach victory if you have win conditions based on the interactions between the players themselves as opposed to the interactions between the team of players and the NPC enemies, and this may limit the amount of casual players enjoying the game.
There may be balancing problems related to some players being completely familiar with the backstories and win conditions of your game and taking advantage of the ignorance of new players. In a way, metagaming.

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I'm toying around with a similar game concept for a while now, but it doesn't really work out for me. If players want to win they don't care if they lose hard (all die) or if they lose soft (everyone survives, but one player wins). So in the end everyone tries as hard as possible to win and doesn't care about cooperating.

 

I don't know how to fix that because if I remove the individual goals of the players then it often boils down to one player telling everyone else what to do. :(

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