Saturday, November 28, 2015

Board Game Review: Scoville

A few months ago, a friend introduced me to a very fun board game called Scoville. The point of the game is to grow, crossbreed, and harvest peppers, which are then combined in recipes. I really enjoyed it, so let's take a look at it now, shall we?

We start, as always, with the numbers:

Strategy: 4
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Ideal
Average Length of Game Play: 1 hour

The game board in Scoville represents a plot of farming land. There are a few other spaces around the board that are important for turn order, special victory point prizes for being the first to plant certain peppers, and other things, but the farming plot is the most important. It's made up of several squares, each of which has a pepper-shaped cut-out in it. The game starts with a couple of the least spicy peppers in the two central squares, and each player has a few of these peppers in his inventory.



Players bid on turn order each round; this can be crucial, because the harvesting phase goes in reverse order. Sometimes, you want to plant first, and thus will want to bid higher on the turn order; other times, you want to harvest first, which means you want to place a lower bid.

The planting phase involves players placing peppers from their personal pile in the empty squares on the farm plot. The harvesting phase involves moving your farmer meeple along the spaces between the peppers in the farm. Movement is limited; you can't turn around and you can't move through a space occupied by another player. But when you walk between two peppers, you pick up a new pepper. The colour of the pepper you pick up is determined by the colour of the peppers between which you walk. Normally, walking between two peppers of the same colour gives you another pepper of that colour. Walking between two different primary colours gives you a secondary colour (for example, walking between a blue pepper and a yellow pepper gives you a green pepper). Mixing secondary colours starts getting you more advanced peppers, like the brown, black, or white peppers. And if you can mix black and white peppers, you can get the hottest pepper of them all: the clear colourless pepper.

Once you start accruing peppers, you can use them to make recipes. Sitting alongside the board are several recipe cards. They range from simple, not-at-all-spicy recipes like 'Born to Be Mild,' which requires a yellow pepper and a purple pepper, to melt-your-face-off recipes like 'Phant-om-nom-nom,' which uses three colourless peppers and two brown peppers. The spicier the recipe, the more victory points you get for it.

There are a few other steps, like buying crates that give you bonus peppers, but the only other really important aspect of this game (at least in terms of reviewing the game) is the fact that each player has a small screen behind which he keeps all his peppers, scored recipes, awards, and other items. Thus, you never know how many points the other players have. In fact, these screens caused me to be very surprised when I won the game I played; although I had managed to score some high-point value recipes at the end of the game, I was worried that they wouldn't be enough to exceed the point values scored by the many lower-point recipes that the other players had been accumulating throughout the entire game. But because I couldn't see what recipes they had, I simply didn't know how far ahead of them I really was.

I really enjoyed this game. I may have to pick up a copy for myself some day. But I will leave you with that for now. Until next week,

Game on!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

An Overview of Shifters

It has been a very crazy couple of weeks. I haven't posted according to the schedule in some time. But at least I've got the beta playtest draught of Shifters ready to go. So this week, I thought I'd give you a quick overview of how the game works.

Characters have five primary attributes:

  • Strength: An overall measure of physical sturdiness, covering body mass, lifting and carrying capacity, health, endurance, damage capability, etc.
  • Agility: A rating of flexibility and co-ordination, which includes the basis for most physical skills and proficiency in weapon use and combat.
  • Reason: A description of general mental capacity, including logical thinking and rational cognition. It doesn't cover knowledge, though.
  • Psyche: This is the attribute that covers what you know (rather than the ability to use what you know in a logical manner). Also governs social ability.
  • Essence: This is the supernatural ability. It covers willpower, but also ability to use magic, psionics, and most superpowers, as well as resistance to these.
Each is rated from 2 to 10. The ratings are then subtracted from 12, to give you that attribute's target number (thus, if you had a Reason of 7, your Reason Target Number is 5). You purchase levels in attributes using Character Creation Points (CCPs), with each level in an attribute costing 5 CCPs. Normally, you start the game with 150 CCPs, but the GM may alter this depending on what sort of game he's running.

Don't spend all your CCPs on attributes, though; you need to save some for skills. Each skill is rated as Simple, Average, or Hard. Regardless of skill rating, each can be bought at Novice level for 2 CCPs, at Advanced level for 4 CCPs, or at Expert level for 6 CCPs. If you don't put any CCPs in a skill, you are considered Untrained. When rolling with a skill, the level of the skill modifies the Target Number of the attribute being used, as follows:

Untrained Novice Advanced Expert
Simple Skills Target Number +1 Target Number +0 Target Number -1 Target Number -2
Average Skills Target Number +2 Target Number +1 Target Number +0 Target Number -1
Hard Skills No Roll Possible Target Number +2 Target Number +1 Target Number +0

To make any roll, you will roll 3d. The type of dice depends on the difficulty of the roll as set by the GM. Very Easy rolls use d12s, Easy rolls use D10s, Average rolls use d8s, Difficult rolls use d6s, and Very Difficult rolls use d4s. If no dice equal or exceed the effective Target Number, the roll is a Failure. If one die equals or exceeds, the roll is a Partial Success. If 2 dice equal or exceed, it's a Complete Success. If all 3 dice equal or exceed, it's an Epic success.

However, one of the three dice must be easily distinguishable from the others; this is the Botch Die. Is no dice equal or exceed the effective Target Number, and the Botch Die shows a 1 (both of these must be true; if the Botch Die shows a 1 but one or both of the other dice equals or exceeds the Target Number, this does not count), then you have achieved an Epic Failure.

Combat is different in Shifters than in most other games. Initiative uses a circular track; each action has a Tick Rating, which describes how long that action takes. After taking an action, you move your marker along the track a number of spaces equal to the Tick Rating of that action. Thus, there are no rounds; characters may not get an equal number of turns.

An attacker makes a roll, but if the attacker's target is able to defend (dodge or block), the target can take either an initiative penalty to his next action, or a penalty to his next Target Number. This can be up to three, depending on how many levels he has in the appropriate skill. This defense modifies the attacker's skill roll. If successful, the lethality rating of the attack becomes the Target Number for the victim's damage roll (-1 to Lethality Rating if the attack was a Partial Success; +1 to Lethality Rating if it was an Epic Success). If the Damage roll is an Epic Failure, he immediately dies. If it is a Failure, he will die unless he receives medical attention quickly. If a Partial Success, he may fall unconscious. In either of these cases, he takes a Serious Injury, which increases all subsequent rolls' Target Numbers by 1. If the damage roll is a Complete Success, he takes only a Flesh Wound. Every two Flesh Wounds modify subsequent target rolls by 1. An Epic Success means no significant damage is accrued.

There are no hit points. This system more closely mimics the way injuries happen in real life.

That's a very basic overview. I took the initiative system from Exalted, the damage system from Blue Planet, and other bits and pieces from various other games, and merged them with my own idea for using the type of dice to reflect the difficulty level of a roll, and thus I call the system used in Shifters the Merge Engine.

But please, download the pdf, try it out, and let me know what you think. Until next week,

Game on!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Shifters Ready for Playtesting

I have mentioned here before that I am working on creating a new roleplaying game. It is finally ready for playtesting.

I have created a pdf of the beta-version rules set. I illustrated it myself, because I couldn't find anyone else to do it. Which means that the illustrations are crappy beyond belief. Some of them are photoshopped photographs, others are tracings of photographs done with pencil (some of which are finished in ink, others not). A couple of them are, in essence, completely brazenly stolen. I justify this theft with the fact that this is only a beta playtest version; if playtest goes well and results in a workable product, I will probably try to put this game on Kickstarter. If successful, one of the things I plan to include in the budget is paying for a professional illustrator (or possibly more than one). Every illustration I made will be discarded, the layout will be finalised and made more pleasant, and real actual honest-to-goodness illustrations will be included.

So, with that said, I would like to make available to you, my faithful readers, the pdf of the playtest edition of Shifters.

As you read this, and as you and your friends play it, please take notes so that you can offer me feedback: do the rules work? Does the chargen system work? Do point costs for traits need to be adjusted? Does the setting work? Does it make sense? Do the options made available to players make it more or less accessible? Are there grammatical or spelling errors? Are there inconsistencies in the rules?

Please download it, try it, let me know how it goes. I greatly appreciate your help.

Until next week,

Game on!