Under the Hood – Vim & Vigour

How did we ever do without it? How were we so blind?

Vigour! I’ve got it and you want it!

What is it? Why do I want it so desperately?
It’s pretty complicated but let me try to explain.

  1. Take one of the old Fatigue cards.
  2. Reverse it’s mechanic completely.
  3. Reverse it again but slightly to the left this time.
  4. Rename it ‘Vigour’.
  5. Gaze down at your new Vigour card with pride.
  6. Write a blog post about it.

Vigour is effectively a ‘Wild Card’ and can be used instead of  of  reversing a card when performing a Strive action. We think it works pretty well.

What’s happening thematically when my character has Vigour?

Your character is filled with a surplus of energy so performing actions that would normally tire them just brings them back to their normal energy levels instead.

What’s happening mechanically when my character has Vigour?

Vigour acts as an incentive for the players to hold off using the Strive mechanic and instead playing their Stats as they come up.

Vigour has a negative feedback loop. Taking the place of stats in hand that could otherwise be used for actions that would move the player through their deck towards picking up the next one. Decreasing the amount of stats in hand also decreases the pool of potential actions making the player increasingly likely to have to use that Vigour in an action, thus depleting their store.

With each subsequent Vigour taken the negative feedback intensifies by further decreasing the stats in hand.

The Strive mechanic has a positive feedback loop. A player who Strives is more likely to have to Strive later because of blocked slots. Throw in some Wounds (which you are increasingly likely to take with each blocked slot) and your characters peril increases exponentially.

The negative/positive feedback loops in any game need careful balancing. You want to reward players that are doing well but avoid having them steamroll. Players that make mistakes need to be punished in some way but you can’t destroy any chance of them making a comeback otherwise they might as well concede the moment they feel the game is slipping away from them.

One of the worst offenders of this would be Catan where an early lead makes victory almost inevitable while a slow start makes for a tiresome slog.

How did you arrive at the conclusion that you needed another mechanic / card?

Quite often when I’m designing a game I’ll have a sudden moment of reflection where I realise half the mechanics have gone completely awry of their original intention.

Often though a domino like process, holes are created which require changes which create holes which require changes and so on and so forth until I’m left with this sprawling mess of energy points, dice, special abilities and varying size of cone.

As I’m designing it I never think “Those idiot players will never realise how broken this mechanic is if I cover it in cones.” I’m often just adding a new mechanic or adapting an existing one to fix a hole, bending them gradually further and further away from their original intention which I’ve ‘forgotten’ in my focus on plugging up the gaps.

Considerably often Joe or I will have a sudden moment of lucidity in the midst of designing 3 new card types and a companion app and we force ourselves to take stock and contemplate the real issue. We’ll brainstorm around the problem and attempt to nail down what we actually want from the mechanic and also to asses the parts that caused the original problem, checking they are all in order and functioning correctly.

This is how we worked out Fatigue doesn’t, but it’s also why Vigour now does!

Probably… We’ll find out over the next few playtests.

Filed under: Blog, StriveTagged with: , , ,

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