10MTF: Multiplayer Solitaire vs. Cooperative Play - 8/26/16

posted Aug 26, 2016, 6:00 PM by Andrew Smith   [ updated Aug 26, 2016, 6:00 PM ]

For many people, a big part of the appeal of gaming is the interaction between players. Out of all of the types of games, cooperative games have one of the highest potentials for this, yet there are many games out there that fall flat delivering this experience.

10 Minute Task Force is a game where the players are supposed to be on a team, acting together, rather than just random folks that just happened to meet up and run into trouble. This background story makes it absolutely essential for 10MTF to have player interaction.

So how do you promote actual cooperative play, versus just multiplayer solitaire?
The nature of the game pay in 10MTF does certainly lend itself to multiplayer solitaire. Each player is hyper-focused on their own dice. They also have a personal timer to manage, and a meeple to move. One of my biggest fears when designing this game was that at the end of the 10 minutes, the game would end, and players wouldn't feel like they had just worked together with the others to complete their mission.

The takeaway concept is that no single player should be able to win the game by themselves.

Here are the top 3 ways I've implemented this concept:

1. Help! My timer ran out!

When a player's personal timer runs out, it requires another player to reset it. This is pretty much guaranteed to happen a few times in each game, so it behooves the players to stick close together, and to communicate with the other players that their timer is getting low so players can anticipate the need to change course to go help them out.

2. I can't open this door!

The dice for each character are different. No single character has the ability to perform every action in the game. Right now, there are 4 unique actions in the game (Hack, Pick, Con, Bash) that correspond to a particular character (Hacker, Thief, Face, Muscle, respectively). Each character has access to only 3 of the 4 actions, with 2 sides of their dice containing their "expertise."

The dice for each character are as follows:
 Hacker HackHack Pick Con 
 ThiefPick  PickCon Bash 
 FaceCon Con  BashHack 
 Muscle Bash BashHack  Pick

Since performing a particular action requires all of your dice to be showing the corresponding symbol, each role has an advantage when attempting their expertise action since that symbol appears twice on each of their dice.

Also, each character has a weakness. Notice that the Hacker's dice do not contain the Bash symbol. This means that the Hacker simply cannot perform the Bash action. So if the security guards show up, that player better hope the Muscle is around to help out. Also note that with any combination of two characters, each action is available to at least one player.

3. "Your mission, should you decide to accept it..."

The plan as of right now is that each successive play of 10MTF presents the players with a new mission, that is more difficult than the previous, and continues a story arc. Players are presented with some intel about the rooms they will be moving through and any unique things they might run into. So before the timer even starts, players are presented with the opportunity to discuss, plan and interact.

As the testing and design continues, I am continuing to look for ways to add more interaction and tension.


10MTF: Alpha Gamers in Cooperative Games - 8/11/16

posted Aug 10, 2016, 10:01 PM by Andrew Smith   [ updated Aug 11, 2016, 5:31 AM ]

Sometimes when you sit down with a group to play a game, there is an individual who is louder, has strong opinions, and generally likes to think of themselves as being in charge. While confidence and social chutzpah aren't bad traits, a lot of people who have played a cooperative game with a so-called "alpha gamer" tend to avoid doing so again.

Others have no issues with the idea of being led through their turn by someone, deriving the same, if not more, joy from the social experience than if they had made all of their own decisions free of help or advice. Personally, I know when I'm new to a co-op game, I'm all about asking people what I should do. I don't want to be the guy that makes us lose, do I?

As a designer I have to take the conservative approach and attempt to eliminate any chance of an alpha gamer. When designing 10 Minute Task Force, I wanted to make sure that it was very difficult for someone to "quarterback" (QB) the game, so I asked myself:

How can I avoid a single player simply directing the others?

Luckily, 10MTF is so incredibly frantic, that it is very difficult to worry about if what others are doing is the optimal decision. Having to not only roll dice, but flip tiles, move meeples, and manage their own personal timer makes for quite the busy player. As with other real-time games, this greatly diminishes the QB problem.

If you feel like that's the easy answer to the issue, you're right. Here are some other concepts I considered to mitigate QB opportunities:

  1. A single action from a player should not have a drastic effect on the end game. The "quarterback" will sometimes claim to know the optimal move, or decision to make. Rather than a person's turn being truly their own, it becomes a matter of "do I listen to their advice, and lose autonomy, or go against what they said and probably upset them?" If the consequence of each action is minimal, then it is much easier for a person to "do their own thing."

  2. The path to victory should not be incredibly obscured or difficult to derive. This makes it into almost a complex puzzle that inevitably leads to one player "solving" it before everyone else and then having to bite their tongue so as not to spoil the fun of figuring it out for the others.

  3. Players having access to different information, that they can share only in a limited fashion (see: Hanabi or Bomb Squad).

  4. Players can have a hidden agenda, like in Dead of Winter, making the game more semi-cooperative.

  5. Introducing random elements that change the state of the game with no chance to react or prevent it. This could be a card drawn from a deck that makes characters move to other squares, or discard a particular number of cards from their hand, or any other multitude of effects. The Big Book of Madness does this when each new monster is released from the Grimoire. These sort of random effects tend to spoil even the best plans.

Next up is multiplayer solitaire vs actual cooperative play.


10MTF: First Round of Playtests - 6/5/16

posted Jun 5, 2016, 2:16 PM by Andrew Smith   [ updated Aug 10, 2016, 9:51 PM ]

10 Minute Task Force has seen public playtests at:
  • SwampCon 2016 in Gainesville, FL (Feb 13-14)
  • Prototype Con 2016 in Kissimmee, FL (Feb 19-21)
  • My local board game Meetup in Tampa, FL
The first iteration of 10MTF was very well-received. I got a lot of positive feedback, and some excellent suggestions from several designers and testers. Today I'll be covering in detail the top 3 things that came out of these sessions.

1. Player Reference Cards - This was one of the biggest suggestions that came out of all three of these test sessions. There's a lot going on all at once for every players and having to stop everyone's progress to ask a question about gameplay (versus quickly discussing strategy) can be the difference between winning and losing. I figure the following things should be shown:
  • How to flip over a new room tile
  • How to move into an already-placed room
  • What to do with your timer after completing an action
  • The character's Expertise based on their role
  • One time-use ability (considering calling this their Special Skill. I'll be testing various versions of these next round.)
Here's a prototype version of what I'll be using for the next round of testing:


2. Moving through rooms - A suggestion given at Prototype Con was making it a bit easier to move from room to room. A lot of time in each game was spent rolling dice just to get a bunch of Sneak symbols to move into a room. This tended to get somewhat boring especially near the end of the game, as players have completed a mission and are just on their way out of the building.

The first attempt at this solution was to change the existing, "All other players must complete Sneak Actions to move between rooms once they are revealed" to something a bit more manageable; "To move between rooms once they have been revealed, all players must roll all of their dice to any combination of Sneak and the symbol matching their Expertise."

For example, the Hacker could roll any combination of Sneak and Hack symbols to move into unsecured rooms that have already been revealed. 
This change was implemented immediately, with excellent results. It greatly sped up the movement of players, making it much less cumbersome to move around the map.

3. Patrolled Rooms - "
Some rooms will have Guards patrolling them. These are indicated on the Mission Card under the Intel section. Upon flipping the named map tile, place a Guard meeple on the room tile for each Guard present in the room. The Guards must be dealt with before any players may exit out of that room."

When playing at SwampCon a lot of players missed placing the Guard meeples on the room tile when it was revealed. It became very apparent that simply having the information on the Mission card wasn't going to cut it as players are much too focused on their dice and timers.

I headed over to The Game Crafter to pick the brains of the various designers that frequent the chat. The overwhelmingly popular suggestion that came from there was to have cards/tiles mixed in with the room deck with, quantity and difficulty determined by the mission that is being played. So rather than the players having to remember to place Guard meeples on certain rooms, they would be flipping over tiles that say something to the effect of, "Look out! There are 3 Security Guards in the next room!" Players would then flip over the next room tile, and place the indicated number of Guard meeples eliminating any chance of them forgetting.

I didn't have a chance to implement this change before testing at Prototype Con, but the same suggestion of putting "events" within the deck was made.

Next time
In my next post I will explore the idea of "Alpha Gamers."

10MTF: 1st Draft Rules - 5/16/16

posted May 16, 2016, 7:37 PM by Andrew Smith   [ updated Aug 10, 2016, 8:55 PM ]

Where did this idea come from?
The two biggest inspirations for the theme so far have been the TV show Leverage and the Ocean's movies. I also got a very specific game mechanic idea from the hilariously goofy Hudson Hawk.

In every heist film, the idea of timing is always crucial. In Hudson Hawk, Bruce Willis plays an aging thief, who just got out of prison. He and his partner-in-crime use a brilliant technique to keep their actions coordinated when they are doing a "job." They both sing the same song, ensuring that they stay in sync.

So I wanted to not only stick to the idea of working within a tight window of time to accomplish the entire mission, but to also somehow stress the importance of personal timing. I decided to give each player their own unique timer that they have to manage throughout the game.

Here are the first draft rules for 10 Minute Task Force.

Each player must navigate their way through the building while avoiding detection,accomplish their part of the mission and make a speedy exit before time runs out!

4 timers of varied duration (currently 30s, 60s, 90s, 120s)
1 ten minute timer
Dice (d6, Each player has 1+[seconds on timer/30] dice)
Map tiles
Player meeples (colors to match timers)
Guard meeples
Character cards (double-sided, different ability printed on each side)
Mission cards

Choose a character. Select a timer and dice set. Stand your timer up making sure all the sand is in the bottom section. Each character has two one-time-use abilities to choose from, one printed on each side of your character card. Choose which ability you would like your character to have for this game and place your character card in front of you with the appropriate side face up.

Shuffle the Mission cards and select one at random (alternatively, you may choose the Mission you would like to play). Place the Mission card next to the stack of map tiles, face up in view of all of the players. Return the remaining Mission cards to the game box.

Go through the Map tiles and set aside the room(s) indicated on the Mission Card, the Lobby, the Security Station and the Mainframe. These are considered Reserved for purposes of setup.

Place the Lobby map tile face up, with each player’s meeple on top of it, in the middle of the play area. Shuffle the non-reserved map tiles and place one connected to the Lobby and an additional tile connected to the first.

Draw 4 non-reserved map tiles and shuffle them together with the room tile(s) indicated on the Mission Card.

Shuffle the Security Station and the Mainframe together with the remaining map tiles. Place this stack of tiles on top of the other 4 tiles and place the entire stack face down, within easy reach of all players.

Flip over your timers to begin!

Playing the game
Players roll dice to take different Actions. In order to be successful in the Action, the player must have all of their dice showing the desired symbol. After rolling all of your dice, any dice that aren’t showing the desired symbol may be picked up immediately and rerolled until they show the desired symbol (with the exception of the Security symbol, see below).

You can only roll your dice if your timer hasn’t run out. If you are out of time, you must rely on your fellow players to help get you back in action.

There are six different symbols on your dice:

This is used to hack systems or to electronically unlock doors.

Pick: This is used to unlock doors and open containers.

Sneak: This is used to move between existing rooms, reveal new rooms, or to reset another player’s timer that has run out.

Bash: This is used to take out security guards or to open containers.

Con: This is used to get past security guards without violence or to extract information from a target.

Security: You must carefully time your movement to avoid being seen on camera. You can’t reroll these until they are the only dice that you have that aren’t showing your desired symbol. Movement To reveal an adjacent room, you must indicate through which doorway you are attempting to move and complete a Sneak Action. Draw the top room tile from the deck and place the yellow door connected to the doorway you indicated. The player who revealed the room must immediately move into the room (provided it isn’t a Secured Room, see below). All other players must complete Sneak Actions to move between rooms once they are revealed.
Moving copy.png
You may only move from room to room if they both have doorways aligned with one another. That is to say, if one room tile has a door, but the other room has a wall connected to it, you may not use that doorway. The doorways can be both blue, or a combination of yellow and blue.
Moving4 copy.png
Secured Rooms
If a room is revealed and it has a symbol on the doorway, it is considered a Secured Room. The indicated Action must be taken before entry into the room is allowed. For those rooms that have multiple symbols on the doorway, ALL indicated Actions must be completed before entrance is allowed. These actions may be performed by any combination of players that are available to move through the doorway.

Moving2 copy.png
After you complete any Action, you must do one of two things:
  1. Keep your timer running. If you elect to do this, set aside one die. You get to roll one less die for any additional Actions you take. This is cumulative, though you may never set aside your last die.
  2. Flip your timer. If you set aside any dice, you must reconstitute your dice pool and resume rolling your original amount of dice.

Patrolled Rooms
Some rooms will have Guards patrolling them. These are indicated on the Mission Card under the Intel section. Upon flipping the named map tile, place a Guard meeple on the room tile for each Guard present in the room. The Guards must be dealt with before any players may exit out of that room. To get past the guards, players have two choices:
  1. Make a successful Bash Action (rolling all of your dice to the Bash symbol) for each Guard present. For instance, if there are two Guards, two players must roll all of their dice to the Bash symbol, or one player may roll all of their dice to the Bash symbol twice. Once successful, remove the Guard meeples from play.
  2. Make a single Con Action (rolling all of your dice to the Con symbol). One Con Action will allow you to move past the Guards regardless of the number of Guards present in the room. If Guards are dealt with in this manner, they remain in place and must be dealt with by every player that moves into the room. If a Bash Action is taken on one or more of the Guards in a room, a Con Action to bypass the Guards may not be attempted.

There are two special rooms that grant players some advantages after the room Action has been completed:
Security Station - Once both a Bash and Hack Action have been completed in this room, Security symbols can be immediately rerolled, without the normal restrictions.
Mainframe - Once two Hack Actions have been completed in this room, Hack Actions are automatically successful and do not require rolling.

If your timer has run out preventing you from rolling, a player in the same room as you can reset your timer by rolling 3 Sneak symbols on their own dice. Once dice are finished being used for this purpose, the player rolling them must pick them all back up and begin rolling to accomplish a new Action. Resetting a fellow player’s timer in this way DOES count as a successful Action and you may flip your timer, or continue on rolling one less die.

Ending the Game
Each Mission Card will instruct you to gain access to certain rooms and perform a specified Action. Additionally, EVERY player must return to the Lobby before the 10 minute timer runs out.

If all player’s timers run out, or the 10 minute timer runs out before you complete your Mission and return to the Lobby, you failed and the game is lost. Your families will be well cared for.

In my next post I will talk about the feedback I have gotten from play tests so far, and talk about how I plan on addressing it. I also plan on talking a bit about the feedback I've gotten from some of my fellow designers on The Game Crafter.


Introduction - 5/12/16

posted May 12, 2016, 8:45 PM by Andrew Smith   [ updated Jun 5, 2016, 11:55 AM ]

I was very humbled by the amount of support that the Kickstarter for Honey Wars received. Leading up to this, Honey Wars won the 2015 Gamehole Con Design Award (The Rodney) for the "Take That" contest hosted on The Game Crafter (TGC) and judged by the folks over at All Us Geeks. This also secured me a spot in TGC's Hall of Fame!

One of the questions that TGC asked when conducting the interview for my Hall of Fame induction was,

"Did you create a design journal for your game? If so, did you publish it somewhere we can link to?"

When designing Honey Wars, documenting the process wasn't something I really thought to do, frankly because I wasn't sure that anyone would be terribly interested (and that might still be the case). No matter, I've decided to document the process of one of the upcoming titles for Gold Seal Games - 10 Minute Task Force.

What is 10 Minute Task Force?
I haven't worked out the polished "elevator pitch" quite yet, but the gist of the game is:

Players each take on one of the trope roles of a heist or spy film (Muscle, Face, Thief, Hacker). They've been hand-selected to go on a covert mission to break into the headquarters of an evil corporation. They have exactly 10 minutes to get in, accomplish their mission and get out.
  • 10MTF is Real-time: Each game will last no longer than 10 minutes.
  • 10MTF is Co-op: Players will cooperate to achieve a common goal. Each role will be better at one particular type of task, and some tasks can only be completed by certain players. Everyone wins by completing the mission within the allotted time, or everyone loses.
  • 10MTF is thematic and immersive:  There are run-ins with security guards. Players are frantically rolling dice and managing their own personal timers (to simulate the need for perfect timing on a mission). There is a soundtrack. And you know in all the films how the heroes have to watch for patterns and wait for the cameras to pan away before they make their move? The dice mechanics simulate that.
First prototype

So far, I've had official play tests at

I'll be posting the original rules along with the feedback I got from these events in my next post, and walk through how that feedback was translated into changes in the rules.

Until next time, 

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