Design Me: Worker Placement
I’m starting a new feature on Boards & Barley called “Design Me.” These features will allow me to let my brain spew words onto this site in an effort to come up with a random game design. The idea here is to “exercise” my game design brain and “flex” my game design muscles. Consider it like practice. Athletes go and work out, lift weights, and other things like that. So as a game designer I think we should do the same thing. Bear in mind that this is an exercise and exercises are not nearly as elegant as actually seeing an athlete perform.
Normally Friday’s are review days here on Boards & Barley, but reviews aren’t very fun to write. So I’m switching to this design feature. Now there will be two review Fridays per month and two Design Me Fridays per month. I tweeted a request for a unique theme on which to apply a worker placement theme. The first person to reply wittingly mentioned castles, farming or railroads. Then they mentioned Smurfs. Then someone else mentioned smurfs. Who knew there was so much love out there for the little blue guys. However, the idea I found most interesting came from Tasty Minstrel and I’ll be going with this:
The Rolling Wort Boil
First of all, I really enjoy the idea of dice drafting and using dice as workers. It works really well in both Alien Frontiers and The Castles of Burgundy, the latter being one of my favorite games. Granted, they don’t necessarily use dice drafting, but the general concept is there.
So let’s start designing this game…
Brewing beer involves a few different things. You need to gather the right ingredients, gather the right equipment, have a facility, and possess skill in brewing. So let’s break each of those down into different parts of the game.
Here’s the grand concept, a thesis statement of sorts, for the game:
In The Rolling Wort Boil players must utilize the best dice for gathering ingredients and equipment, upgrading your facility, and perfecting the art of craft brewing.
Dice will be used for each of those things. There will be two types of dice. One type will be used to gather the right stuff. The other type will represent people and their skills. Let’s explore the former type first.
The Gathering Dice
I would design the game to be played where each round had a gathering phase and a brewing phase. In the gathering phase each player would roll a number of gathering dice. These dice would have different symbols on them. Those symbols could be grain, water, hops, or yeast.
Each player would roll their gathering dice. Then they would choose one die and pass the rest. They would then choose from the dice that were passed to them. This drafting would continue until all dice were chosen.
These gathering dice then form your team that you can use to go claim ingredients and equipment. What you’re trying to do while drafting is create combinations of dice that you can use. Players could, for example, collect three hops, which would allow them to harvest hops. If someone only gathered two hops, they’d still be allowed to place those on the worker placement spots on the board, but they would go second and get worse hops.
So the way it would work is similar to Alien Frontiers. You need certain combinations of dice to be able to harvest certain things. For hops it could be that you need at least three hops. For Yeast you might need three different symbols, one of which is yeast. Once everyone has drafted, then people could start claiming the worker placement spots with their combinations of dice. As dice are allocated to the board, the players would immediately harvest whatever their dice allow.
So through the dice drafting you are trying to create the best set of dice that will allow you to maximize your combinations, and thus harvest the best/most ingredients. I imagine the gathering of equipment would work the same way.
The Employee Dice
Here’s where things can get a little more interesting. Now we’ve got resources and equipment. We’re homebrewing in our garage. But we have a basic homebrewer with little skill. The employee dice will serve a few different functions. These include increasing skill, increasing quanity, and increasing efficiency. The trick here is that a pool of employee dice are provided by the game based on the locations where people placed their gathering dice.
So the depth of the strategy is not simply in gathering and using resources, but gathering resources so that you can get the employee die into the game that you strongly desire. Turn order would also matter in this case.
Let’s imagine you used three hops dice in the field that provided a “skill” employee die face. If that’s what you really wanted you would have to make sure you go first during the brewing portion of the game so that you can choose the skill die. Perhaps you knew you would not go first when choosing the employee dice. Then maybe you would have put your three hops dice into the fields on the spot that provided a “quantity” employee die. So there’s control over what your gathering, and the resulting employees.
These dice would then be drafted and utilized after the harvest.
How to Play
Each round of The Rolling Wort Boil (tentative name), would include the following phases:
- Dice drafting of gathering dice.
- Placement of gathering dice combos onto the board.
- Harvesting/gathering of ingredients/equipment based on placement.
- Pooling of employee dice from those placements.
- Drafting of employee dice in turn order.
- Usage of employee dice to brew and upgrade your facility.
How to Win
To win The Rolling Wort Boil, players must brew high quality or high quantities of beer. This requires them to maximize their ability to gather as many ingredients as possible, while also increasing their employee’s skills and upgrading their equipment. Each batch of beer they produce would be worth points based on the ingredients used, the skill of the brewer, and the level of the facility. I imagine the game would take 30-45 minutes, have a light-ish feel, and be best played with a Hefeweizen of IPA.
So there’s our first “Design Me” Friday. Any thoughts about the game design? What would you do differently? And most importantly, does the game sound like it’s any fun. Thanks again to Tasty Minstrel for the idea. I’m looking forward to the next Design Me in two weeks.