3

I'm working on designing a money management board game that features different event cards where players must make choices. The trouble I'm having is that I can't figure out how to reveal the effect of a player's choice without having the player know about the effect beforehand. For example, say you have a scenario like this:

Your phone bill is due today. You can choose to:
A) Pay the minimum ($30)
B) Pay the full amount ($100)

If the player picks choice B, then their credit will improve (+1 Credit) because they have paid the bill in full.

How do I reveal the effect of the player's choice until after they have made their decision? If I wrote it as B) Pay the full amount (+1Credit) then everyone would pick Choice B because it is so obvious.

Btw, this is a serious game so players should be able to learn something from it.

  • 2
    Given how people manage money in real life, that decision may not be as obvious as you think. – eyeballfrog Mar 7 at 6:32
  • Gloomhaven, Trivial Pursuit, and probably numerous other games place the results on the opposite side of the card. – ikegami Mar 7 at 11:29
  • Gloomhaven and puzzles in books place the result on another page. – ikegami Mar 7 at 11:31
  • Puzzles in some publications place the result upside down – ikegami Mar 7 at 11:32
4

You could borrow from the "Crossroads" idea used in Dead of Winter and Gen7 - in those games there's a deck of Crossroads cards, and on your turn the player to your left draws one of them, and if its condition triggers they read it out and let you know what the choices are.

So you could have it that cards are drawn by the next player in turn order, and there's a part they read out, followed by a part that triggers only when the choice is made. Note that there's a risk that the players will learn what the effects are unless you either have too many cards to memorise or near-duplicate cards with slightly different effects.

Alternatively, you can just let the player make their decision based on the full text of the card, but make it so that the decisions aren't obvious choices. For example, make money a scarce resource so that while it would be nice to pay $100 to get +1 Credit it might put you at risk of not being able to afford something else; or make it so that paying the full amount gives 0, 1 or 2 Credit based on some other factor so it isn't a uniformly good bonus.

3

You can use the backside of the card

Gloomhaven does this, where the setup and query are on one side with the resolution on the other. I thought Arkham Horror did as well, but it didn't, it let you have everything up front and make your decision that way. I swear I've seen it somewhere else, though. Sentinels of the Multiverse sorta does this with the OblivAeon scions.

The back side is then secret from all players (which for Gloomhaven is important, as it is fully coop). This also allows for multiple variants of the same setup. The game also has you draw from the bottom of the deck (and as the draw is so rare, my group keeps the city and travel decks in the box) so the fact that there's visible information on both sides it's completely hidden. (Alternatively, draw from the top, where the facing side is the setup, which doesn't give away a whole lot, depending on what the deck is used for and how often is pulled from).

For example in Gloomhaven you run across a rat-thing peddler offering you "a delicious meal, best you've ever had."

One version of the card, if you eat, you get blessed.

The other? Cursed.

2

There are many techniques you can use to have someone not know the effect. Using the back of the card (such as in Eldrich Horror), having another player read the card (such as Dead of Winter), or having a separate rulebook with lookups (such as Betrayal at House on Hill).

The biggest challenge you have if you do this is replay-ability. Once a player knows some or all of the "hidden" effects, that player will have a massive advantage. There are really only three ways to fix this:

  1. Skip the hidden information. Have the game create meaningful choices through tradeoffs rather than through people not knowing the outcome. For example, money gives players short term advantages by letting them do more, so a player may do something disadvantageous credit-wise to do something else.

  2. Use randomization. There needs to be a random bad effect if a player chooses the bad option and/or a random good effect if they choose the good option. This is much easier to implement, as you can then have a player draw some number of cards (usually 1) from a particular deck or roll a die to see what happens. This removes some of the advantage from veteran players (they can still gain advantage by knowing the distribution of cards in the good/bad effect decks, but they won't know which card will happen next). Eldritch Horror did this with double-sided cards by having several copies of each card with identical fronts but different consequences on the card backs. Also, this is potentially better psychological enforcement of whatever concept you're trying to teach with the game (look into Intermittent Reinforcement vs Continuous Reinforcement).

  3. Create a lot of content. This is the angle taken by Trivial Pursuit and Betrayal at House on Hill. By creating tons of different content, it's hard for a player to know what they will encounter. This is really challenging for you as the game designer.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.