Saturday, May 2, 2015

How to play Soldiers! Aliens! Carnage! (a card-based mini-skirmisher) Part 1

Still working on that title and it would be more accurate to call this a Third-Person-Shooter (I had FPSs in mind when I thought about it, but anyway ...). So, as I've written in my last post, I had to built this up from scratch after I had lost my notes. It is also most and for all an exercise in writing a game and exploring mechanics, so please keep this in mind (for now a random dungeon generator, among other things). This is part one because I wanted to keep the portions of information small. Part 1 mostly explains the set-up in detailed examples and will only give hints about the game play (which will be in part 2).

The set-up

A full poker deck (with jokers) will do the trick. You'll also need some dice, a pencil, a piece of paper and a counter of sorts for the soldier. The map will develop randomly. Here is the first important part of my last post to have it all in one place that illustrates how:
"You need a big table for this. Clubs and hearts will be corridors, diamonds are rooms (with some cards giving cover, too), spades are enemies. Pictures are doors with different difficulties, black aces are shops, red aces are healing stations. Jokers are the Big Bads. 
Now you'll make two piles. One has the corridors, all red doors and the enemy cards 2, 3 and 4. The rest is the second pile. Each pile is now shuffled, but the Joker needs to be the last card of that second pile."

I've played this now a few times and this holds. In the worst of cases you'll have some corridors left, but that's fine since no important cards are lost. The second important part of yesterdays teaser is this: 
The game starts now with the corridors until a door is drawn or there is a shift of colors. It'll expand now into a room (either behind a door or after the first card with a different color). How those cards are put on the table follows a simple pattern: 
 8     9     10
7     6     5
2     3     4
The first card gives the direction of the corridor, of if it's a 3 it will go up, if it's a 4 it'll go left and so on. After 10 it goes down. If a direction is for some reason not possible (end of the table is a reason, too) take the next available position clockwise for red cards and counter clockwise for black cards. Just follow the numbers and go where it's possible.

Rooms always start in the same direction as the corridor indicated, but let each card give directions for the next. The first room card needs to be a spade or an ace. If it's a door instead, put it in the direction of the corridor and move the next card in one direction (as color indicates, see example below). If the first card is an ace, put the next card after the ace in the same direction the ace got.

Built rooms and corridors until closed doors stop the development. You will end up with something like this:
Example 1 (open in new tab to see in detail)
So you see, corridors and shot doors are turned over. Drawn enemy cards are put aside, the counters for those enemies are put on the last card put for a room or corridor (but not a door). In this case it was the ace of hearts and one just in a corridor.

Detailed example

The set-up for this scenario started in the upper right corner and went two cards to left, opening in a room. That room started with a shop, so the next card needed to be in the same direction. A 2 of spades, which means the next card after that will go right, but since that's not possible, it will appear on the next position clockwise from that, so it'll go down. The card after the 2 was a door (now shot to pieces), which ends the development of the map until the door is opened into a new corridor.

It's always like that, corridor until shift of color or door, after that it's a room until a door is drawn (unless the first card was a door, see above) and it's a corridor after that, repeat ...

in this case the door was shot down and opened into a corridor downwards (because of the 2 of spades) of two cards. In this case a change of color indicated that the corridor ended in a room without a door in between, but the first room card had been a door. That was (as the picture shows) put in the direction of the corridor (the queen). The next card after that was, again, a door, so it was put into the next position clockwise (must have been a red card that ended the corridor). That's where the jack landed.

The third card had finally been a room card. Still going clockwise, the 3 of spades had no other place to go than where it landed.

This room now is another good example how the cards go. The next card after the 3 needed to go up, there is room, so that's where the 4 of spades went. But the direction of the needs to be to the left and that's just not possible because of the corridor/shot door in that direction. Up isn't an alternative, because the is already a room, so going clockwise, going to the right is the only option.

That's a ten, the room develops down to a 7, which would have gone up, but goes right instead to the ace. The ace now keeps the direction given from the seven, so the king (a door) ends up on the right and finishes the room.

Further exploration would mean opening doors.

Teaser for the game play

The picture gives already some of it away. The area a character can access is laid out first. Monsters that are drawn are put aside and dice showing the value of the monster cards are used as counters and put on the last card of the segment (room or corridor) that spawned them.

A character has 20 health, 20 armor and 20 rounds ammunition. He has 5 actions per round. 1 action moves him from card to card during exploration (as soon as everything is explored, a character may move from room to room or door in one round). Shooting one shot is also one point, shooting a salve is 3 points.

Doors have difficulty levels (jacks are level 1, queens are level 2 and kings are level 3). The level is the amount of ammunition needed to shoot it open (but there will be keys, too). Searching a room is another action and costs 1 point per room card.

Shooting enemies and searching rooms will give a character credits, stronger enemies also drop health armor or ammunition. Health stations recharge a character's armor and health. Recharging a full round will give 5 health and 5 armor back.

Enemies re-spawn cyclic every six rounds, so time and resource management is important.

Combat will be in the second part, as will be enemy movement, weapons and tactics. I just need to test this with two players to see if it works as supposed. I can say as much, you roll a d20 every time you shoot at something. The number rolled is the damage you deal, but if it doesn't kill the monster, you get the health it has left as damage instead. Jokers will be the only ones that attack themselves, close combat is quite deadly right now (and subject to change). But that's enough teasing for now ...

This is also a random dungeon generator!

If someone needs a fast way to generate a dungeon, this could be it. Just key the monster cards to a random encounter chart and you should be good to go. You might even use more cards for bigger dungeons or more monsters (start with adding more room cards, as you'll most likely have more than enough corridor cards as it is). So that's something, I guess.

But I'm still sorry that this needs to be in two parts. As if I'm not having enough on my plate as it is. Anyway, another post about this game and maybe a pdf with the rules and a character sheet to seal the deal doesn't sound too much. So stay tuned for more before too long.

This game still needs a better name, though.

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