Today I wanted to report on the progress of The Grand Illusion. Normally I do that on Thursdays and I was planning on posting a game review today but I’m excited about the game so I figured I’d write about it.
I’ve begun prototyping! I have created a deck of skill cards. These cards represent the 9 types of magic in the game. The types of magic are in two separate tiers: basic and advanced. There are 6 basic types and 3 advanced types. Here is a picture showing the skill cards (thanks to The Game Crafter for blank cards – They have blank poker cards on sale right now for 1 cent each!).
Those are hand-drawn icons, people!
The next step for the prototype is to create a deck of Trick cards. These are cards that represent magic tricks. During the game you’ll need to collect the skill cards shown above and then turn them in to complete the magic tricks.
Once you perform a magic trick you will earn the rewards and audience shown on the card.
So let’s discuss audience… Audience is actually a currency in the game. It is necessary to build an audience during the game or you will not meet the requirements on your Grand Illusion card. So each time you perform a trick, if successful, you will gain audience. In the game you will collect skill cards, spend them to perform tricks, gain audience and increase your skills to be able to perform better tricks.
There will definitely be some engine building in the game. The goal of this design is to be an entry-level game with an easy rule set that is quick to teach and play. The main mechanics are set collection and engine building.
Engine building in games refers to the idea of obtaining some ability or benefit that let’s you do things a little better, then getting another one that builds on the previous ability or benefit.
In The Grand Illusion the engine is represented by the skills each magician will gain. Will you become a master of vanishing acts? Perhaps you’ll be the best at restoration magic? Ultimately you’ll have to get proficient at at least two basic types of magic and one advanced magic.
The question I’m currently struggling with is how exactly to create the engine building element. I have two options I’m considering:
In the game Splendor players turn in poker chips to grab a card from the table. Once they grab that card it usually acts as a poker chip. So for future card grabs they need one less poker chip. This would work perfectly for The Grand Illusion but I don’t want to copycat an existing game.
2) Tech Tree
A tech tree is something where you must complete “Level 1” stuff before you can work on “Level 2.” So in The Grand Illusion I could have a tech tree (pyramid) of trick cards on the table. When a player would perform a trick they would place a token of their player color on the trick to show they’ve completed it. This would also direct their play as there would be advantages and disadvantages for breadth versus depth.
I think that once I create the Trick deck I’ll try out both of these options. The Splendor-like version may work better, but I’m more drawn to the Tech Tree version since it is more original.
My goal is to prototype the skills deck this weekend and aim for the first playtest next week! Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the different engine building options.
First things first: Today is July 14th… Gen Con starts August 14th. That means we are 1 month away from Gen Con! Woo Hoo!
Now let’s get to the bi-weekly Boards & Barley that I have enjoyed. As usual we’ll start with the Barley.
Next Door Hammerhead IPA
As one of my goals for the year I am “adventuring” out of my beer comfort zones and into more varieties of beer. IPAs are one of those varieties that I previously would never have chosen. But I am now embracing them.
In the past I have typically stayed away from hoppy beers. But this beer was actually very drinkable and enjoyable. The hop level wasn’t too strong and it seemed to provide just the right about of character. If you are ever in the Madison area I recommend stopping by Next Door Brewing!
- Oskar Blues Old Chub Nitro Scotch Ale
- New Belgium Fat Tire
- Summit Summer Ale
- Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
- Potosi Cave Ale
- Next Door Egon’s Revenge (Gose)
- Next Door Rockets Red Ale
- Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
- Leinenkugel’s Red
- Leinenkugel’s Original
BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Sushi Go
I played this at Next Door Brewing and I really enjoyed it. It is quick, has beautiful and simple artwork, and the gameplay is elegant.
Sushi Go has a card drafting mechanic similar to the game 7 Wonders. Ultimately, Sushi Go is like 7 Wonders Lite. Take a card, pass the rest, then play the card. The cards present different scoring opportunities. Some have you build a set to score. Some score straight away. Some score at the end of the game. The design is so smooth and simple that it is easy to see why people enjoy this game.
With Gen Con one month away it’s really crunch time in terms of the designs I want to show. Brooklyn Bridge is really at the forefront and will be where I place the most effort over the next few weeks. It’s at the point where some of the cards need some tweaking, but ultimately it just needs to be played more.
I would also like to see if I can prototype The Grand Illusion and get in some preliminary playtests, even if it means the first time it gets played is at Gen Con.
Today is the second in a series about designing a new game called The Grand Illusion. Via Twitter I asked for examples of different types of Victorian-era magic and illusions. Here are a list of some of them:
- Cutting off heads / Cutting someone in half
- Disappearing persons
- Sword swallowing
- “Anything with doves”
Of course there are others like sleight of hand, card tricks, collapsing cages, awesome tricks with electricity, etc. What I am looking for are core genres of tricks that can be used as the currency (symbols) in the game. So with that in mind I think there are several such genres that could be used. For now I’ll go with these:
- Sleight of Hand
- Cutting (of people)
- Grand Illusions
That gives 6 “currencies” in the game that can be used for set collection.
The real question we need to be asking is, “How exactly do you play this game?”
As I mentioned last week the idea is that you are a street performing magician looking to gain a reputation, earn some dough, and eventually find yourself on a stage performing a grand illusion for the masses.
This will be mostly a card based game unless the direction of the game changes. For now I have created preliminary icons for the 5 main magic genres listed above (excluding the Grand Illusions).
Players will begin the game with a hand of cards. They will also have their “Grand Illusion” card, which is private. There will also be a few magic tricks to perform that are laid out on the table. In each round the magicians will perform a random draft.
Here’s how that will work. Each player will decide which card they want in the pool of available cards. So each player will take one of their cards and put it face down in the middle. Once all players have chosen a card, then one random card from the deck will be added. Then the player with the smallest reputation will pick up the pile, look at the cards, and play one face up in front of them. All other players will follow in order of smallest reputation.
Once all players have placed one of the cards face up, each will have the opportunity to perform a magic trick. To perform a trick you must have a set of cards that appropriately matches one of the face up magic trick cards. So a trick might require 2 “Escape” skills and 1 “Levitate” skill. If you have played these cards in front of you then you can complete the trick. Turn in the three cards you used and take the completed magic trick card and place it in front of you.
These completed magic trick cards will have an icon or icons on them that allow you to perform better magic. Some will have icons that are not available in the standard pool of cards that are dealt to players. So players must complete magic tricks to gain the skills they need to complete their Grand Illusion.
Once a player completes their Grand Illusion, the end of the game is triggered. All players will have an equal number of turns to attempt to complete their Grand Illusion. If only one player completes their Grand Illusion, they are the winner. If several people complete their Grand Illusion, then a tie breaker goes to the player with the most completed magic tricks.
So now that the framework is set for how to play, the next step is for me to mock up some cards and solidify the actual gameplay. Here’s where you all can join me in the design. I want you to provide names for magic tricks. I’ll use these as the names on the prototype cards. If they are really good names then I’ll use them as one of the Grand Illusions.
Also, I would love your feedback on the basic gameplay here. As I was writing this article I realized that this game has a feel very similar to Splendor or The Builders. There is definitely some engine building with simple card mechanics. I’m not too worried about that since I think the drafting mechanic makes it different enough. But I really want your suggestions!