Design Diary Jul 12, 2013

It’s Design Diary Friday where we feature a work-in-progress game – either one of my own designs, or that of a guest blogger – and will give an overview of that game in its current state and some information on specific design challenges. Depending on the stage of development it may include print and play files for download. Future Design Diaries will provide updates on that game as it progresses through the design process.

Strip Miner

Strip Miner: Exploit the Galaxy (working title) is a fast-paced card game for 2-4 players. In Strip Miner your goal is to use your bots to discover and exploit resource rich planets as fast as possible to build fancy luxury items that temporarily satiate your all-consuming goal to keep up with the Jonesbots. The player with the most expensive luxuries at the end of the game wins.

Strip Miner is based on fragments of game designs that have been floating around my head for several years – though this post is the first it has been given coherent form. The game is played in a series of timed rounds. During a round players race to burn through their deck, using their resources to launch bots, which are sent to planets to mine further resources which can later be used to build luxuries.

At the beginning of the game each player is given a small deck of cards (~20) containing a few basic Bots and Resources. Two additional decks are placed in the center of the table: The Discovery deck contains Planet, Bot, and Luxury cards. The Exploit deck contains Resources and Hazards. At the start of the game a number of cards equal to the number of players are drawn from the Discovery deck and placed face-up in the middle of the table. This is the “Market” (bad name, need a more thematic one). If any Planet cards are revealed this way place a number of cards from the Exploit deck face down under each equal to the Planet’s resource value. Each player shuffles their deck and the game is ready to begin.

When all players are ready the round begins. Players immediately begin to flip cards off the top of their deck into a row in front of them as fast as possible. When players reveal enough cards to perform an action they may scoop up the appropriate cards and perform that action. Players continue flipping cards and performing actions until no time remains. At any point a player may flip the 10-second sand timer and announce the impending end of the round. When the timer is empty the round ends – each player may finish any action they are currently in the middle of and then must stop.

Most actions have a resource cost. Resources come in 6 different types (each represented by a color), and each resource card represents one or more resources of a particular color. Some resource types are rarer than others and player’s starting decks will typically only include resources of 2-3 colors (the rest must be acquired during the game). Players pay the cost of an action by gathering up resource cards they have flipped corresponding to the cost of that action. For example an action costing 2 green resources and 1 Blue resource requires a player to pick up two green Resource cards and one Blue resource card from those they have flipped over from their deck. The action you are performing determines what you do with the resource cards you have gathered up.

Players may perform the following actions by paying the resource cost printed on the corresponding card (NOTE: Players take actions as quickly as they can – there are no turns or sequence)
* Launch a Bot – Each bot card has a launch cost printed on it. To launch a bot you gather up the bot card and the corresponding resources and place them in the middle of the table on top of one of the Planet cards in the Market (to exploit) or near the Discovery deck (to search). More than one Bot can be launched at the same planet or at the Discovery deck – as additional bots are played make a stack being careful to preserve the order (so the first played Bot is on the bottom and the last played Bot is on top).
* Buy a Bot – Gather up resources equal to the cost of a bot in the Market and place them on that bot. The bot and resource cards remain in the Market until the end of the round, but no other player may buy that Bot so long as your resource cards remain there.
* Buy a Luxury – This works in the same way as buying a Bot, except using a Luxury card in the market instead. Luxuries are typically more expensive than bots.
* Use a Luxury – Some luxuries have a useable ability. A player may gather up the luxury and corresponding resources to use the ability on that luxury. Then the luxury and resources are placed in that player’s discard pile. Each luxury may only be used once each round.

When the round ends the cards in the Market are examined one by one. For a Luxury or Bot – if any player bought that card (placed the correct resource cards on it) they place it in their discard pile along with the resources they paid.

Planets are slightly more complex to resolve. Beginning with the Bot first played to that planet (and repeating for each bot played to that planet) the bot’s owner reveals a number of cards stacked under the planet equal to their Bot’s mining value (usually one, unless otherwise specified). If the revealed card is a Resource they place it in their discard pile. If the revealed card is a Hazard then follow the text written on the card (Hazards typically represent difficulties faced by the mining bots, such as hostile natives who don’t wish their planet to be exploited). If no cards remain beneath the planet it has been fully exploited and is removed from play. Any bots remaining at that planet are placed in their owner’s discard pile. If after all bots mine there are still cards remaining beneath the planet it remains in the Market for the following round.

For each of the Bots played by the Discovery deck (searching) the Bot’s owner reveals a card from the Discovery deck and places it in the Market. If the card is a Luxury or Bot he may immediately buy it (if possible) by paying it’s cost from the cards remaining face up in front of him (that he flipped up during the round). If the card is a Planet place a number of cards from the Exploit deck face-down beneath it equal to the Planet’s resource value, then the player may immediately mine it using the bot he searched with.

Finally, each player gathers up all cards in front of them, and in their discard pile and deck and shuffles them to form a new deck. Once all players are ready a new round begins. Play continues until the Discovery deck is empty – at which point there is one final round. At the end of the game players total up the value of all Luxuries in their deck and the player with the highest total is the winner!

Additional Notes

* Planets may have different environments – and certain bots are suited for certain environments and gain bonuses or penalties to mining depending on the environment of the planet they are played to.
* Some Luxury cards have a point value (for endgame scoring), some have an ability (that can be used during the game) and some have both.
* Some bots are specialized for mining and get bonuses when played first, last or to a specific planet type. Some bots are “soldiers” and attack other bots deployed to the same location (preventing them from mining or searching). Some bots mitigate the damage from hazards.

If I have the opportunity this week I will make a quick prototype of Strip Miner and play a few rounds to test it out. If so I’ll post an update to let everyone know how it goes. If you have any questions, or if I haven’t explained it clearly enough leave a comment and let me know. I appreciate your feedback! Lastly, be sure to take a look at Today in Board Games if you haven’t already.

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