Rage-design: A Less Shitty Version of Impulse


#61

The two-player game of this is extremely unforgiving of mistakes, owing largely to the Dead Impulse.

I’ve done 4 self-playtests, and each time, it’s ended through a Dead Impulse consciously enacted on my turn. In every case, I made a choice to not add to the Impulse in the prior turn, and that enabled the opposition to take actions to get slightly ahead and then end the game.

In the game I just played, Pink opted to use one Tech and one Impulse action to draw cards and Mine a bunch of gems. No adding to the Impulse, so it got a face-down card. We were tied in points.

What I didn’t account for is that Blue had a fleet adjacent to a Refine card, had a Mineral card, and had a Command left in the Impulse. That’s all it took - Blue was able to also not add to the Impulse, Refine that Mineral for enough points to get ahead, and then end the game.

It’s maaaaaaaaaybe more abrupt than I want, but I need to see how it shakes out in games above 2. In principle, I’m OK with the game boiling down to “whoever fucks up first is the loser.” Pink made an unquestionably poor decision by leaving Blue in a position to end the game in the lead, so maybe Pink should have lost. It severely punishes the player who fails to read all of the information and makes sub-optimal choices.

EDIT: Did 4 rounds of a 4-player self playtest, and the 4-player game DEFINITELY has more longevity. Lots more going on, and the Impulse tends to vary a lot in composition.


#62

Hey so I figured out how to make a game in Tabletop Simulator. It’s not that hard, just a bit manual and time-consuming.

Anyhow, play my shit.

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1516732775


#63

On another note, I am convinced that the Dead Impulse plays out too aggressively. This is most evident in the two-player game, but does come out in counts up to 4 so far.

So I have a few thoughts at the moment:

-Don’t start adding face-down cards until some game marker has passed - either after the first time it’s trimmed, or the first time the deck is reshuffled. This gives the game some time to get established before the end approaches.

-One of the actions is “Use a Tech or Impulse action,” and really, I think it should just be “Use a Tech.” That clearly separates the utility of the impulse.

-My current end condition for the Dead Impulse is “current high score, or current player if tied.” I could change that to most cards in hand, OR “rejoice in your shared victory,” meaning nobody wins.

-Most of the above-mentioned problems are happening in the two-player game, which has the greatest amount of exploitable map per player (9 cards per player). Another thought is to cut that down and see if it alters the two-player game enough to not be problematic.


#64

Never used the tabletop simulator, does it have AI? Or do we need to setup a live session?


#65

Live session only.

TTS is literally what it says on the tin - it simulates the physical infrastructure of a tabletop and game components, but not most the mechanics of using them.

There are some basic functions. You designate certain zones to hide pieces, you can designate certain areas as a hand (and control whether or not a hand is public knowledge), you can shuffle cards and search a deck, and you can roll dice.

Otherwise, it’s a physics sandbox. You pick up and move pieces around. You have to play the game more or less like you would around a physical table.


#66

Alright, so after some more playtests, I think I have a vision for how the Dead Impulse should ultimately work. I’ll want a few larger playtest groups to confirm, but I’m pretty sure it’ll shake out the same way.

  1. Change the “Use Tech or Impulse” option to “Use Tech.” That means your choices are use a Tech, add one to and take one from the Impulse, or draw a card

  2. The Dead Impulse starts after the deck has been reshuffled once.

  3. After that reshuffle, add a facedown card to the Impulse every turn until the game ends

  4. If players are tied when the Impulse dies, they rejoice in their shared victory

The problem I kept encountering is that the Dead Impulse was forcing the game into an end state without giving anything a chance to develop. In particular, giving players two actions and the ability to end the game was just giving one player too much sway over the game.

So, instead of expanding and developing into a mature state, the game is a scramble that failed to evoke a 4X feel.

I’ll be looking to test the current rules compared with this modified version above to figure out what provides the right feel.


#67

After playing the two-player game a bunch, I’ve found two modifications that make it work:

  • a smaller board (3-2-3-2-3, start on opposite sides with a one-card buffer between you and the center)
  • an Impulse length of 3 instead of 2 (because otherwise it lacks variety, and the Dead Impulse becomes silly)

I’ve been playing it with the proposed ruleset in the post above, and it’s a pretty solid game. This makes me more confident in that ruleset generally.

So looming now are two thoughts, which I will explore after tests of the current two hypothetical rulesets:

  • Alternate utilities for the Research and Build actions, since both of those have an upper limit of utility (12 ships at most, 2 advanced Techs at a time)

  • Combat is reeeeeeeeeeeeeeealy one-dimensional and plagued by RNG. Contemplating ways to change the reinforcement rules to make it more contentious


#68

Been a while.

I’m up to Beta 3 after some more playtesting and brainstorming. Biggest changes from previous versions:

  1. Reining in “From the Deck” actions - I originally made these give you their full potential, and that is too powerful. They’re back to the original game’s model - draw X cards, keep the ones that fit the criteria.

  2. I’ve rejiggered combat math to allow reinforcing to be somewhat more flexible. Currently, there’s this weird tradeoff between having useful expanded abilities, or having abilities that can be used in combat. In principle that’s an interesting choice, but it’s another decision in a game with a pile of options, so no. It’s also more in keeping with Chudyk to make the better actions flatly better. So now, instead of needing to match color and size exactly, you can fulfill size requirements for reinforcements with multiple cards. Makes the process slightly clunkier, but less pure RNG.

  3. As an alternative to Faction Bonuses, I created unique Faction Techs. They’re basically weak versions of a named action, but they give everyone a better pool of available actions to start the game.

Going forward, I’m thinking about enforcing some incrementalism in the game - maybe you need to build Advanced Techs progressively (i.e. you start with a 1, then replace with a 2, then replace with a 3), and maybe a way to redevelop sectors.

Still thinking about alternate options for Build and Research too.

But those are far off. Right now, I’m still trying to really nail down the core action before I hang more ornaments on this tree.


#69

So anyway, since I’ve un-rejiggered “From the Deck” actions, I have to rejigger some of the action cards, which I had previously jiggered to work with my rejiggering of “From the Deck.” Most of these are low-hanging fruit changes, though I’ma probably keep the size 3 Draw power because it adds an awesome element to the game.

Since I’m looking at rejiggering actions anyway, I think I’m going to take the opportunity to screw around with a couple of ideas I’ve had in my head.

A consequence of limiting the number of actions you can take from the Impulse is that it doesn’t always play a huge role in the game. I’m thinking of changing the size 3 Plan, Research, Mine, and Execute cards to all be “from the Impulse.” “Steal shit from the Impulse and make it yours” feels very in line with the top of the heap in terms of action powers and game influence.

Some of the top tier cards already have crazy-go-nuts effects anyway (Draw, Sabotage, and Build), so this would just keep that trend.

I’m also thinking about mucking with the multi-option cards - the ones that are like “from the hand, deck, or Plan” or something like that - to just provide one target. That would give different tiers of action significantly different functions rather than just having higher tiers overwrite lower ones, and that feels better to me.

That will require lots of testing, so for right now, I’m just fixing the low-hanging-fruit clearly broken actions that need to be fixed to work with the newest “From the Deck,” and then I will poke more carefully at other ways to render actions.


#70

Y’know, while Tabletop Simulator has a good bit of a learning curve, it does let you do some good stuff.

It’s actually starting to look like a real game!

I also copied the entire rulebook into the Notebook function, so all of the rules are accessible from within the game.


#71

So, I finally had a 4-player in-person test game this weekend. @jabrams007, @Apreche, and @Rym were the suckers.

It basically showed me that the design behaves entirely opposite of what I intended in higher player count games. Downtime between turns becomes painful, and the decision tree is very very complex. Too much to think about to make meaningful decisions.

2-player is fun because it’s more focused and there’s less that can happen overall, but once you add additional actors it becomes messy.

I got a ton of good feedback out of this playtest. The gist:

-too much downtime between turns
-decision tree is too complicated
-far too many options for resolving many actions
-success is heavily dependent on drawn cards
-strategies are obscure

These discussions also helped me identify what I think is a likely root cause of the difficulty - I am still staying close to Chudyk’s original design, which I have already said I think is weak. As @jabrams007 said above, there is a point at which you are designing a new game, and I think I’ve resisted that.

So, no more.

Following more philosophical advice from both @Apreche and @jabrams007, I am going to rebuild this game from the ground up, starting for the core interactions I want to see happen. It will still probably be Chudyk-like, but not like Impulse in any real way. Except maybe the map, and maybe something akin to the actual track of actions.

I’m going to spend some time writing, drawing, and brainstorming, and you’ll be hearing from me again when I have a new vision.


#72

I think you’ve got some good bones to build around. I’m looking forward to my next playtest!


#73

What do you want your game to do?

I want a game that forces high-stakes political decisions, in order to drive emergent complexity.

I want a game that involves players trying to create an edge both in the political meta and in the mechanical specifics.

I want a game that creates an organic player experience, one that emerges beyond any one player’s specific direct intent.

What do you want it to do that other games don’t?

The primary action driver will be an overtly political choice whose consequences depend on the assent or dissent of the rest of the players.

I also want to couple that with engine-building (crafting a system that creates emergent complexity), such that the experience is players attempting to build the most effective mousetrap while trying to manage the consequences of necessarily political decisions.

Can you out-clever your fellow players on both the mechanical level and the meta level simultaneously?

How will you achieve this?

I’m using the 4X model of gaming to represent piecemeal construction of a system whose complexity emerges through the confluence of all players’ intents. This allows for diverse engagement, hopefully leading to organic experiences every time.

I’m using Chudyk-like gaming because it’s cool as fuck, and I am attracted to the concept of “box value” - getting the most complexity out of the fewest pieces. The game itself is a reflection of the concept of building the most efficient mousetrap.

I’m using cards because they’re easy to produce and modify.

I’m using the Impulse components because I already have them, and because fuck you Chudyk I’m still mad at you.


#74

Rethinking and Adding Some Concepts

Downtime

This one is easy. Too much downtime in a complex game sucks. So, I’m implementing the very typical Chudyk thing: play in rounds, there’s a leader who decides what you do, then everyone else decides to follow or prep for next time.

Development

I mean it’s a 4X game, so stuff should build. One thing that I couldn’t get past with Chudyk’s design is that you really didn’t have to build towards anything - it was more like, if you happened into the right circumstances, you could just deploy a thing. No drama, no sense of Pride and Accomplishment.

So, a bunch of stuff can be Developed kinda like Melding in Innovation. You can change out a card for a larger size if it’s the same color, or a smaller size if it’s a different color.

The Impulse

I had always likened the Impulse to a Galactic Senate - it’s the area where collected intent emerges, and from which all players derive utility. But in both the base game and my redesign, it kinda played second fiddle to the larger machine, which always seemed blah to me.

So, since I want a directly political game, and I want the politics to be a major driver, I might as well go ahead and actually make the Impulse a directly political Senate-like thing.

I’m thinking face-up cards that the Leader selects as what you do this turn. Nobody has to play anything from the hand, you just go with it or not. If nobody else goes along with it, the Leader does their thing and then we shut that one down - flip it over, and we don’t get to do that one again (unless it gets re-developed later on). Shut down the whole government, and everything falls apart and the game ends.

And to make that even more central, the Impulse is gonna be the only way that actions happen. Everything else changes actions up, but the Impulse actually creates the spark that lets you do things at all.

Techs, Sectors, the Plan

Since I don’t want other ways to make actions, I’m thinking about changing the other parts of the game to affect how actions play out, but not actually create actions themselves.

Techs give powers that change the way actions work.

The Plan should allow your actions to have breadth, by giving you the ability to swap actions along color lines.

Sectors won’t generate actions on their own. Instead, they’ll be like Helpers or Clients - when you occupy a Sector, and its action is lead by the Leader, you can get extra actions for each Sector of that action you occupy. That should give people incentive to hold territory, because that effectively becomes your governmental machine.

Fully Standard Actions

Both the base game and the redesign have a pile of effectively unique actions to track, so instead, I’m reducing it down to the 10 named actions. Each action is the same, size will affect how much of it happens.

So, like, Build will now be “Build X ships at home” where “X” is the size of the Build action. That’s it. Nothing else. All things follow from this. No action will give you a choice of “do this or do that;” it’s “do this for this much.”

Execute didn’t jive with my idea, so I’m thinking about making that effectively a wild card - its power is “do any other power,” and each player in a round gets to put their own spin on it.


There are more bits and pieces that emanate from these ideas, but the gist is basically this:

  • The political machine is the only way to actually make your empire do anything.
  • Pieces of your empire have to be developed progressively.
  • Action selection necessarily means your opponents get to do things too.
  • Components of your empire affect how actions play out, but do not create impetus.
  • Actions are the same and only vary by the amount on the card, further reducing decision fatigue.

Working on writing up a rules sketch to coalesce my current ideas, but this is where I’m heading.


#75

I like these proposed changes a lot.

I’m very interested and curious about the change to the Impulse and how that will be the only way to have actions. I’m a bit unclear how that would work exactly, so if you have time, I’d love it if you could go into more detail or even provide some examples.

I also really like the idea of your plan giving you multiple choices or even altering the action you’re performing during the Impulse. Almost like your individual senators in the Galactic Senate are influencing/changing things.


#76

Think of it like Leading in Glory to Rome, except instead of playing cards from your hand, you pick an action in the Impulse.

It’s not entirely accurate for me to say “the only way to get actions.” Rather, picking an action from the Impulse is the only way to drive the game state forward. You will never ever get victory points without it.

In GtR, if nobody ever leads an action ever, you just Think until the deck is gone and somebody wins by tiebreaker, right? So at some point someone has to pick something, and doing so gives the other players a chance to act as well.

Here are the nuts and bolts of how it works:

  • At the start of the game, we deal a face-up card to each player. Closest to the start of the alphabet is the first Leader.

  • Those face-up cards go off to one side of the deck, and form the Impulse.

  • The Leader has two choices: Decree or Develop.

  • To Decree, you point at one of the face-up actions and say “I propose we…” The rest of the players, in clockwise order, either assent (“yea”) or dissent (“nay”). Those who assent get to do it too. Those who dissent instead draw one card and consolidate by either moving or building one Transport. We then resolve actions, starting with the Leader, and then the yeas clockwise. After we’re done, play passes to the left.

  • To Develop, the Leader picks a card in their hand that they can legally develop over any one of the face-up actions. They take the old action into their Plan, and put the new action in its place. Nothing else happens, play proceeds to the left.

  • If you occupy a Sector (i.e. have Transports on it) with the same action name as the one the Leader proposed, that Sector will perform its action on your turn whether you assent or not (exactly like Clients in GtR); if you assent, you get to do that action plus your Sectors, and if you dissent you draw, consolidate, and also get to do your Sector actions. The Leader must propose an action for this to happen; if they Develop, tough shit, no actions for you.

  • If you have cards in your Plan that match the color of the chosen action, you may treat any of your action allotment that turn as though it were anything in your Plan with those colors. So if someone proposes a red Sabotage, and you have a red Research and a red Mine in your Plan, any of your actions this turn could be Sabotage, Research, or Mine. You don’t get to do more actions with the Plan, but your actions gain versatility.

  • If the Leader proposes an action, and none of the other players take the proposed action (either all dissent, or they assent and use their Plan to do different things entirely), we shut it down. Flip it over, and that action is gone. For now, for the sake of symmetry, I’m saying you can Develop a facedown card (it counts as 0), but I have a feeling that in playtesting, I may discover it’s better to make it permanently gone.


#77

Here are some rules.

Still coming up with Techs. Gonna just put some functional stuff down to get something playtestable.

EDIT: Fixed the link, so everyone should be able to view it.


#78

Thematic idea:

If you want it to be a real senate situation, then actions with stronger political support should be more powerful. That is to say, the actions should scale based on the number of yeas.

I propose we take action X. If one person says yea, besides me, we take the action at the normal level. If everyone says yea, we all take the action at a very upgraded power level. If everyone says nay, the action is weak, or maybe I don’t even get to do it at all.

Other ideas that could be implemented separately or together or whatev.

  1. The player choosing the action that everyone votes on gets a slight bonus to that action. Maybe they always do it one level better than the other players. I stole this idea from Puerto Rico.

  2. One player is the “emperor” and chooses actions. They remain emperor and get to keep choosing as long as they keep getting enough yeas. If they get too many nays, a different player becomes emperor. I stole this idea from Goodcritters.

  3. Asymmetry, each of the races gets a +1 to a particular action. One race is better at building ships. One race is better at moving, one is +1 at fighting. This creates lots of meaningful asymmetry, is powerful, and is also very easy to understand.


#79

I totally thought about this actually. I might even split out the political interaction to a game with even simpler mechanics just to play with that. Mostly, here, I went with my gut, and with something that fit with card size progression (because that fits with progressive building).

But yeah, I’m all about that level of politics.

I thought about this, but the Leader does get a bonus - they go first, and since the game is a race to points, that could be a big bonus. I’m filing this away to see what playing says.

I also thought about this, and I may employ it. It’s a cool af idea.

This is already in the works! Homes start with a basic action, and I’m going to work in some kind of bonus.


#80

So anyway, I thought about this exact thing some more, and I think I have a vision for one way it could shake out. Feel free to steal this or riff on it or whatever.

You have the Emperor propose something in the Impulse.

We ask for yeas at once and count them.

Then we ask for nays.

Regardless of outcome, the yeas do the agreed-upon action, at strength equal to the number of yea votes. So if 3 people vote “yea” on Build, the Emperor and every “yea” Builds 3 ships.

The nays, regardless of outcome, pick one action from their Plan and do it at a strength equal to the number of nays. So if 2 people vote “nay,” they each get to pick an action from their Plan and do it at strength 2. If you have nothing in your Plan, you do the basic action.

If everybody votes “nay,” nobody does anything, we shut one down, play passes to the left.

From there, we could figure out succession (does the Emperor stay? Pass the mantle to a yea? If the nays have it, do we depose and nominate a successor?), but that’s almost secondary to coalition-building.