In my previous article I talked about designing a game around a theme, this time I will talk about the designing a game around mechanics.
Quadrovex is a game I designed based on mechanics.
I have always enjoyed abstract games that focus on skill and strategic thinking. Games such as Go, Othello and Dominoes fall into this category. They are all abstract games with no theme.
When I first started designing Quadrovex I only knew the basics of the game I wanted to create. I wanted a game that could be played quickly, used square tiles and be math based.
I sat down and sketched out some ideas for the tiles. I didn’t want to make a square dominoes game, I wanted something different. Going back to my long background in gaming I thought about a numbering system and settled on the bell curve. I was going to use tiles with numbers on the outside and a point value in the middle.
I was going to set the game up as an abstract math game where when you place a stone the outer numbers (or sides) that touch, have to add up to the point value of the stone you are playing.
As for the number of tiles in each set… I knew I wanted to make them out of stone and it just so happens that most stone tiles can be purchased by the square foot. By using two inch square stone tiles I was able to purchase a square foot of stone that contained 36 pieces in it.
Since the bell curve of two six-sided dice is two through twelve, with 36 possible combinations, I was halfway to getting the game designed.
I now had the middle numbers on each tile based on a bell curve but what about the outer numbers?
To keep the game mathematically balanced I had to do some thinking. Thirty-six tiles with four numbers on each tile tells me I need 144 numbers on the outer tile edges. Because I’m using the bell curve of two six sided dice I needed the outer numbers to range from one to six. So, 144 divided by 6 tells me each number should appear 24 times over the entire set.
To keep things fair I had to distribute the numbers in such a way as to not create any “dead” sides on a tile. i.e. I could not have a tile worth ten points with a two on one of it’s outer edges. I also had to be sure no outer number was better than another so in the end, each number appears 24 times and is needed exactly 24 times!
To be honest, there was a lot of play-testing to get the tiles to be balanced. Tiles such as the two and twelve were obvious in how they would be numbered but, as you moved close towards the middle of the bell curve you had more tiles and more numbers to work with. This ended up making the tiles near the center of the bell curve far more tactical use in game play.
Another aspect of scoring is the idea that if you can (legally) play a tile that touches more then one other tile then you multiply the point value by the number of sides that touch.
In game play this is referred to as doubling, tripling or quadding a tile. I will tell you right now that doubling of tiles is very common, tripling happens once or twice in a game and I have never seen someone score a quad!
When designing the number layouts I also made sure that certain combinations that would appear on the table would be useful to multiple tiles. For example, If you have an open spot with two of the same number facing into the open spot five stones will fit there. If you can add a third number facing in only one stone will fit in that spot, same goes for four numbers facing in.
Now, before you get happy about having the twelve in your hand (has sixes on all four sides) know that all of the other players will know that they do not have it and will not be interested in leaving a good spot open for you to place it. This is where strategy and sacrifice come into play. It may be better to drop a tile that creates two very desirable number combinations in the hopes that the other players will want to score their points and leave your spot clear for you. This strategy varies depending on the number of players in the game.
Another common tactic is to complain loudly about the lack of “good tiles” in your hand while you secretly arrange for high-scoring doubles by dropping your low point tiles as single pointers.
So, what about a theme?
Well, I thought about marketing it as a “game of dwarven stones” but the company that licensed the game from me was not interested in a them.
Yeah, it sort of goes against the title of the article but… This game was designed based on mechanics first.
As for actual game play, it is very simple:
Each player has a hand of four tiles and they draw a new one after they play one as long as there are tiles to draw.
To see who goes first, players “bid” their lowest value tile and the person who bids the lowest tile gets to pick who goes first. This can be important as in some games the last player gets to play one less tile. At the same time, going first means your first tile played will only score single points.
When you begin the game you take one tile and place it face down to act as a wild tile. This prevents gridlock early in the game. Because of the numeric distribution of the outer numbers on the tiles there is virtually no chance that you will draw a tile you can not play.
There are some optional rules you can pick from when dealing with the rare occurrence of a tile not being playable. There are also optional winning conditions that differ from the standard highest point total wins.