I'm trying to make consistent progress on Witch Trial. I've made a few decisions since my last post.
If you're just now joining us, I'm doing this for National Game Design Month. My first post (brainstorm) is here. My second post is here.
Decision the First
The game will come with a deck of ten cards called the Townspeople deck. This will be an assortment of men and women, interesting characters like the constable, the merchant, the fisherman, the baker, and more.
What will be interesting is that each one will have a certain quirk that creates a gameplay element. It'll need to be simple enough, as there will be many, but imagine something like the benefit on a card in Dominion, but you must "control" the person to use it. OR, it'll affect the cards you play.
At the start of the game, you'll randomly deal cards from the Townspeople deck to determine the jurors (currently I'm thinking there will be six jurors) and the Judge (one). The last three will comprise the witnesses, who may or may not be called to the stand to testify.
My goal is that, like Dominion, each game is different. Like Dominion, you cannot use the same strategy every time. And finally, like Dominion, you can learn new combos and experiment.
I'm worried that this will be very difficult to balance. I'm also worried that so much information will be difficult to parse for new players. But, if I follow the standards set by Dominion and Eminent Domain (not hard, right?) it can be done.
Decision the Second, Son of Decision the First
I've decided the Witch will not affect gameplay. She'll always be the same, misunderstood character. She'll be a comically tragic figure who is ultimately always innocent (weren't they all?). I don't think I can have a varying jury/judge/witnesses each game AND a different Witch. It's too much and something has to give.
So, the witch will never actually be a witch. But, if the prosecution plays their cards right, she'll sure as Salem be guilty!
The two lawyers (i.e. players) won't be unique, either. Players will essentially create characters and strategies based on their personal play style and the conditions on the board (Jury, Judge, Witnesses).
Decision the Third, estranged spouse of Decision the Second
The game will be broken into three phases: Opening Arguments, the Procession of Evidence, and Closing Arguments. I really enjoy phases for a few reasons.
Firstly, they help focus a player's decisions, while keeping a certain richness. What do you need to do in order to best maximize your efforts in the current phase AND help you win the overall game? You may have a great initial phase, but you could peter out.
Secondly, I think the broad possibilities of many deckbuilding games can be overwhelming for some. I don't mind simplifying this genre if new players try it out.
Thirdly, it gives a distinct ending to the game. This has been a sticking point for me since my very first unsuccessful game. I like it when there's a clear ending that everyone understands and can work against.
Finally, I really enjoyed the phases in 7 Wonders. I have no clue how I'm going to do it quite yet for Witch Trial but I think that it's a good element to borrow and evolve.
Decision the Fourth, this joke isn't funny
Players earn points by using their cards (i.e. legal maneuvers, evidence) to manipulate the various entities. This will also, in some cases, be how you earn cards. So, play a set of cards to manipulate the judge and acquire a powerful card from him. Use a set of cards to influence several members of the jury, then cash them in to rake in several points.
The game will be point based. Player with the most points at the end wins the case. The poor, poor witch.
Finally, there will be a card or a concept known as "Objection!" I don't know how it will work, but by god it will be in the game.