Monday, October 12, 2009

Equilibrium - Risk, Reward and Cost

So just vetting out some more design thoughts for Equilibrium.

I'm working on adding some more cards to the game.  I sketched out some over the weekend, but didn't spend too long on the game theory of them.  I thought I'd spend some time today to logic out the exact cards.  Of course, playtesting will always show I screwed up something.

So, what needs balanced:

Risk - Just how likely are you to get the reward?
Reward - Just how big is the reward?
Cost - How much does each card cost?  (Need to count the card itself and the card you trash.)

So let's start with some of the base ones that have already been balanced:

4 VP if 5+ Yellow - Cost 2

So really, this card costs 4.  (2 discarded, 1 trashed and itself)  It has a small reward, but it's not very risky since it's easy to maintain 5+ Yellow in your deck.  And the cost is what I would like to be "average".

7 VP if 9+ Yellow - Cost 2

So, from the first card we've increased the risk and the reward but kept the cost constant.  That seems nice and fair to me.

11 VP if 5+ of 3 Colors - Cost 3

Hrmph.  Well this one can be trickier.  So the risk is definitely elevated.  And by all means the reward is boosted.  But then so is the cost.  Really though, the cost only went from 4 to 5, not a huge increase.  I think it's okay enough since the risk isn't that high.

8 VP if 7+ of 2 Colors - Cost 3

And here's the toughy.  The reward isn't really that hot.  And the risk is reasonable.  But the cost is up.  And yet playtesting and modeling has shown this one to be about balanced.  Why?  Mainly because it compliments having two colors scoring their "6 for Most" and "7 for 9+" cards, which is the bomb.

So what about the new fangled ones?

12 VP for First Pair - Cost 2

Well, 12 VP is a lot, but not really when spread over 2 cards.  The risk is about right.  You may never draw a second or your opponent may beat you to the pair.  The cost is 8 cards for 12 VP.  I think it's all around fair. Heck if I really know.  I need to be careful about putting in too many cards that don't depend on what you have left if your deck though.  I was a little uncertain of this card at first, but the first play with it still seemed pretty solid.

5+3 VP For Guess - Cost 1

Yea, this one is hella-risky.  It's not easy to figure out how many of each color you have left yourself, let alone your opponent.  And realistically, you're just going to get the 5 VP.  And the cost is very small.  BUT it's just a fun card.  So I want people to use it.  That's why I think I'll keep the cost suppressed.  And it's still pretty darn risky.  I don't think I need to change it.

3 VP for First - Cost 2

I just don't think this one belongs.  There is NO risk.  None.  You can't not score for this when you play it.  So why would it be a decision?  I suppose just because I make it horribly inefficient.  3 VP for 4 cards.  Still doesn't seem inefficient enough.  The "4 VP for 5+" still has some risk and it only nets you 1 more VP.  Of course, it's not *much* more risk.  Hrmph, it's a toughy.  I think people will think this is a no-brainer to play.  I'm pretty convinced it's not that awesome.  Probably a bad idea overall.  Probably needs to be tossed.

+3 VP if Next Score - Cost 1?

This was going to be an "Attachment" card.  It automatically attaches to the next score card you play.  It then takes on the riskiness of that card.  Should the cost/reward be the same as the 4VP/4Card base score cards?  I'm thinking so, thus the 3VP for 3 Cards.  Of course, that whole "VP for First" card looks really good with this one :(  Still, I rather like it.

Unplayable "Double Card"

I also had the idea of a card that can't be played, but is worth double if left in your deck for scoring.  I'm worried everyone would just forget it though, so I need to do something fancy with it's coloring to make it stand out.  But really, would it be that cool?  I mean, it would let you play a little longer.  But it would make deciding to pay with the non-collected doublers really obvious.  So it actually wouldn't add any decisions and would make scoring trickier.  Gah, suppose it really needs to be cut too.

Permanents vs Single Use

Originally each color had a perfect balance of Permanents vs Single Use cards.  I think I'm tossing that out the window.  In particular, I think the "attack" cards work better as single use so your opponents don't have to keep remembering to suffer each turn.  I also like the yellow bonus cards to always stick around.  In fact I rather like the "attachment" idea up above.

And lastly, I really wanted to bump the deck size up to 60 cards to see if I could get another couple turns out of the game.  I'll have to think hard on what cards to duplicate.  Hrmph.

Polishing off designs is hard work.  Dang Mondays.


  1. A couple of things to note:

    5+3 VP For Guess - Cost 1
    Compare this to 4vp for 5+ Yellow. For less cost and no risk you get more points. That sounds bad to me.

    Most of the cards you've added are more iterations of risk vs reward - more risk/ more reward, attach more points to the next risk/reward scoring opportunity, etc. SHOULD all the scoring cards be Risk vs Reward in nature? Should additional cards really amplify that? Does that not just reinforce the element of luck-of-the-draw (where "draw" here refers to the burnt card each turn)..?

    I do kinda like the idea of making Red have more 1-shots and yellow have more permanents or something - not that it's necessarily better, but I agree that they don't need to be the same. In fact, it might be interesting to monkey with the number of each colored card in the deck - such that discarding a Blue card to pay for Yellow might be a bigger deal since Blue might be rarer than Red and Yellow... and therefore blue scoring cards would give more points for the same number of cards left (or fewer cards required for the same points...)

    Have you put any (more) thought into a type of card that everyone scores? Presumably it would be one of the "high risk/high reward" types.

  2. 5+3 VP for Guess

    Yes, it costs less. Mainly I did this because it is a fun card and I wanted to encourage people to use it. It is far from no-risk though. Heck, if you play it early, then you've got very little chance of guessing what your opponent has left. So, it does break the "efficiency curve" but it does it to encourage more fun.

    As far as evaluating them all in the risk vs reward spectrum, it's a lot of my profession coming through. I'm an actuary and we color pretty much everything in risk. To me, the whole "3 VP if Played First" is just a boring card. There's no danger of not scoring it. The only danger is that you could have been more efficient with another score card. So to me, yes they should be all about risk vs reward.

    Now, does this amplify the luck-of-the-draw? Hrm, well, it does add more luck. Risk and luck are locked hand in hand. A riskier plan needs more luck to payoff. So far, I don't think I've crossed the "Go Fish" line. I still feel in control of my final score.

    And yes, I am definitely thinking to give the colors a bit more personality. I'm leery of shorting one color over another though. It's hard enough to keep an appoximate running count of what you've trashed. If you now make each color start from a unique count, it would add a new level of headache. It also would be hard for a newbie to quickly pick up on what suits are long and what suits are short. Still, if you changed the theme to "Kings Queens and Jacks" or something you could pull it off. Or maybe more like "Presidents, Judges, Congressmen".

    And I have put plenty of thought into the communal score card. And I've come up with not much. So much of it comes back to the "Bob quits on second turn and scores all public" conundrum. I've not given up though. Maybe they just need to be more Rewarding for the Risk of everyone scoring them. Since if everyone scored them your reward is actually Zero. This would mean you'd need the reward to be very large so actually succeeding in cutting someone out would give you a big reward. But if it's big enough then the other score cards might mean very little. Gah, I will think on it some more.

    On the other hand, I got rid of the last card stopping me from trying the Honeymoon bridge style Trashing. I think that will add a large amount of player interaction. I think you may term it a little "gamey", but I think it will at least help.

  3. The communal score cards are only zero if EVERYBODY scores them - so as long as at least 1 player doesn't then you (and maybe player 3) make out ahead of that player. So the reward shouldn't be HUGE, I think, but it could be reasonable... maybe more efficient than a personal score card because yeah - it's harder to score it without other players also scoring it.

  4. So, what would be a fair communal score card then?

    Say, "7 VP if 7+ Red"?

    But if only one of my 3 opponents fails to score that one, then I've gained 7 VP on 1/3 of my opponents, so about 2.3 VP on average.

    "4 VP if 5+ Red" is going to net me 4 VP, and at not a lot of Risk.

    Hrm. I'll go ahead and try the 7 VP for 7+ in each color as a communal score card. Maybe it will work out.


Behave. Your mamma could read this.