Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Robbers' Roost: Reassessing and Balancing Cards

Robber's Roost BANG expansion

I have been play testing Robbers' Roost with some friends, which have made me want to reconsider the use of some cards, and also made me want to expel certain cards from an expansion. I had a huge wave of creative energy, but not it is time to settle down and balance some of the ideas. The problem wasn't mostly with the orange cards (although I have some slight modifications to add to them), but the excessive amount of blue and green cards I have added to the game. I have not even posted many of the blue cards I added, and I don't believe I have shown any of the brown cards. Anyway, I have generally concluded that my expansion adds too many cards to the game, which required adding tons of original game cards (BANG!, Missed, Cat Balou, Beer, Panic, Indians!, Jail, etc.) to balance the probabilities. While I am sure that I will still have to do that to some extent, as did the Dodge City expansion, I want to curtail how many have to be added. More problematically, Robbers' Roost seemed to allow players to have too many cards in play in front of them, creating Sheriff Fortresses. I am thinking of instituting a blue/green card limit: max 4 blue (Jail, Dynamite, and Calamity cards excluded), and max 3 green cards.

Perhaps I might even do a "basic" edition, and then an "extended" edition that will have to a different amount of cards. So far as I have been assessing the cards, I have grouped them in three groups: the good, the bad, and the questionable. I have also made some modifications to cards in these groups. Let me break down these cards now. I won't be showing the art for them this time for pure efficiency's sake, but I do have art for each of them. Where cards have already been explained on the Robbers' Roost page (or some other post), I will not add the card descriptions unless I am making a change to them.

The Good:

Orange Cards.

Quick Draw. Originally the card claimed that "Immediately after a player uses a card, you may play Quick Draw. Unless that player discards a BANG! he must take the card just played back into his hand. He cannot play this card until his next turn." I generally like this card, but feel that encourages a little too much cheating. A player could claim that was not the card he had suspended by Quick Draw for instance. Now, people can always find ways to cheat, but it is good to create a way of player that does not encourage it. Thus, I have changed the card so that if the player does not discard a BANG!, "he must place the card face up in front of him, in a horizontal position. He cannot play this card until his next turn." Now, everyone can see the card that was suspended by Quick Draw, so that he cannot cheat so easily.

Rope. For thematic reasons, I decided to change the name of this card. I don't like the idea of "roping away" ammo from people (had to imagine), and Lasso is also a card in one of the official expansions. The new name will either be "Disarm" or "Frisk." Let me know if you have any opinions on that matter. I still like what the card's effect, however.

Confiscate. Thinking of renaming to "Commandeer." Not sure.

Rob. Good; no changes.

Bandage. Good; no changes.

Push. Push originally read, "When a player at distance 1 is about to take a hit, you may play this card to push them out of harm’s way (the equivalent of a Missed! for that player)." I like this card in a thematic sense, but it has some gameplay problems. As we play tested with this card, it was found that you couldn't reach your team mates that often due to the 1 distance reach, and so this card didn't end up being that useful. While it is thematically problematic, I think Push will now reach to distance 2. And scope/binoculars will extend it, just as it extends the reach of a Punch (which was already thematically silly, so I guess I am just following suit!).

Toss. As with Push, this card will now reach to distance 2.

Taunt. Good; no changes.

Ambush. Good; no changes.

Track Down. Good; no changes.

Hit Me. Good; no changes.

Old Nag. Good; no changes.

Gaping Wound. This card read, "When a player takes a direct hit (Indians! do not count) use this card to make them “draw!” On royals, they lose another life." During a play test, an Outlaw used this card when he was shot on himself, "drew!", and killed himself (thus negating the 3 card bonus for offing him). I didn't intend for this card to function this way, but I don't know whether this should change. It was sort of cool. What do you think?

Dive. As with Push and Toss, this card will now reach to distance 2.

Join Arms. Good; no changes.

Back Up. This card read, "When another player plays a Missed! to avoid taking a shot fired by a different player, you may play this card to fire a BANG! at the player who played the Missed! as long as you are in range." I like the idea, but I am adjusting it so that it applies more often. The new condition is "when another player plays or uses any card or ability to avoid taking a hit." Thus, it will apply also to playing a BANG! to Indians!, successful (and even unsuccessful?) barrel "draws!"

Lastly, amongst the orange cards, I have thought of adding one other offensive card (I fear there are too many defensive ones) called at the moment, "Mug." This card does the following, "When another player is attacked, you may play Mug to discard 1 card at random from their hand before that player can respond to the attack." By the time I am done balancing the orange cards, I plan on adding 32 of them in the deck total.

Brown Cards.

Tomahawk. Bang a player at distance 2.

Cannon. Bang all players within a line of fire. This is the brown card version of Artillery.

Transcontinental. Draw 2 cards, all other players draw 1. This is the brown card version of Pay Day.

Evade. Missed! and also BANG! back your attacker. Thinking of renaming this to "Q & A."

Blue Cards.

Cowboy Boots. All you Missed! count as Dodge.

Bulldog. Weapon with distance 2. Discard 2 BANG! to Gatling.

Robert Wheeler. Weapon with distance 1. You may play 2 BANG!, but they must be shot at the same target.

Hammock. Good; no changes.

Lucky Dice. Good; no changes.

Distracted. Calamity Card. Good; no changes.

Empty Purse. New calamity card. It states that "at a target player's next discard phase, they must discard down to 2 cards below their card limit (to a minimum of 1 card remaining in their hand). Discard Empty Purse afterwards."

Poison. Calamity Card. Good; no changes.

Drunken Haze. Calamity Card. Good; no changes.

Green Cards.

Pay Day. Good; no changes.

Charm. Good; no changes, except changed "play this card" to "use this card." Fits better for a green card.

On the House. Originally this card said, "Gain 2 life points. All other players gain 1." Essentially, this was a souped up Saloon, but I couldn't help but feel that it was too powerful. I have changed it to being a green card Saloon (All players gain 1 life point."

Face Off. Good; no changes.

The Flop. Good; no changes.

Artillery. Good; no changes.

The Questionable:

Orange Cards.

Stampede. There are enough defensive orange cards and I am not sure if this is that useful.

Standoff. While play testing, many players found this card initially confusing. It reads, "You may join a duel when it begins. You choose your position (second or third). Playing Standoff counts as your first BANG! In a standoff, 2 players must take hits. Only 1 Standoff can be played at a time." I need to word it better apparently. Standoff basically initiates a duel between three players. Since the Duel is originally initiated by one player playing "Duel" against another, and that player responding next, Standoff allows its player to join this Duel in the order he chooses. Thus, if Player A initiates a duel with Player B, Player C can choose to be second or third in line (respond before or after Player B). So instead of playing BANG!s that shoot at Player A by being at the end of the duel triangle, the Standoff player can shoot BANG!s at Player B. This can be beneficial in (1) changing who gets a card bonus from eliminating an outlaw, or (2) in a defensive measure you could shoot at one player in a duel, and after having him receive a hit, not playing a BANG! against the other player and taking a BANG! yourself. This will likely need a manual explanation with some diagrams, so the question is whether or not I should bother with Stand Off at all.

Brown Cards.

Wander. Change spots with any player who is directly to your left or right. While interesting, not sure if it should be added to the game.

Sweet Talk. Avoid any card played against your by another player.

Blue Cards.

Ammo Belt. Allowing players to hold more cards in their hand seemed to unbalance certain characters and aided greatly to create a Sheriff Fortress. Perhaps it could still be added, but I am skeptical.

With the many cards added to the game, I thought it important to add some new distance modifiers with a few twists. The problem is that they stack with the others, and so it might just be best to add another Hideout and Binoculars to prevent the stacking. Anyway, the 2 under question are:

Rattlesnake. The distance by which you are seen by a target player is increased by 1. Rattlesnake only affects the distance with this 1 player and cannot be adjusted to target another player until the originally selected player is eliminated.

Stake Out. The distance by which you see a target player is decreased by 1. Stake Out only affects the distance with this 1 player and cannot be adjusted to target another player until the originally selected player is eliminated.

The Bad:

Brown Cards.

Ricochet. If a player avoids your attack through a card or ability, you may play this card for another chance for the player to be hit by your attack.

Ghost Town. Reveal as many cards a players from the top of the discard pile. Each player draws one in a clockwise order, starting the player who played Ghost Town. You cannot pick up any card in this that you used earlier this turn. NOTE: While I do not like this card in Robber's Roost, I am thinking of adding it to Death Mesa, where only the ghosts participate, and add these cards to their buried goods.

Blue Cards.

Tree Stump. Discard a club from your hand to play a Missed! This card was problematic as it stacked with Barrels, and was much better than a Barrel IMO. It also helped create the Sheriff Fortress.

Some of these next cards I eliminated for being too close to character abilities or cards in High Noon, A Fistful of Cards, or Wild West Show.

James Dougall. Weapon with distance 1. 2 Missed! must be played to avoid BANG! fired from this gun. Too much like Slab's ability, and the gun seemed unnecessary. Robert Wheeler already added a shotgun.

Headhunter. Whenever you eliminate a player you draw 2 cards. While a bit like Herb Hunter's ability, the biggest problem was that it seemed to give obscene bonuses for offing an Outlaw (5 card bonus).

Colt Lightning. Weapon with distance 2-5. Interesting idea, but adding the card to the game seemed of limited value.

Handcuffed. Too much like scenario card.

Bound. Too much like scenario card.

Departed.. This card stated that "After dying, the target player will return to life starting with 3 health at his next turn. All cards in play in front of him or in his hand are discarded like usual when he dies. He will lose 1 health at the end of every one of his turns. There is no card bonus for killing him again." I made this card while I was trying to deal with BANG's IMO player elimination problem. However, since then I have made Death Mesa, which I think addresses this problem much better. If player elimination is a problem for you, then use Death Mesa. I think this card becomes unnecessary.

Green Cards.

Show Time. Discard a card from all other players. I think this card is just too strong. Brawl requires discarding another card to play it, and I am not sure if a 1 round wait is good enough.

Anyway, those are the main card adjustments and reassessments I have been making with Robber's Roost. This should give you a good idea of what will be in the expansion, and let you know that I have still been diligently working on it. I may also have to scrap down on character cards, but those are less problematic in my opinion. So I might just created a "recommended set" of characters that I have play tested hard, while the others will just be a "bonus set." If you have any questions or thoughts about the cards I brought up here, please post a comment.

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