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Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Stranger Rolled In

After playing Betrayal at the House on the Hill last night I started to think about other genres that could be adapted to the build-the-board-as-you-play mechanic. The western genre is rich with possibilities for this sort of game.

Let's call the game A Stranger Rolled In. The general object of the game: as one of 2-8 Strangers, each with different backgrounds, motivations and skills, roll into a small frontier town and complete one of half a dozen or so missions: collect a bounty, free a prisoner, win a gunfight, find a spouse, recover your horse, find a sidekick, win a convert, claim your inheritance to a gold and/or silver mine, establish a saloon, start a homestead, build a school. Further goals can be cribbed from watching westerns.

Players take on one of, say, eight western archetypes: the Lone Gunslinger, the Grizzled Sheriff, the Naive Deputy, the Plucky Homesteader, the Frontier Teacher, the Kid, the Preacher, the Soldier (Union or Confederate), with additional archetypes to be rolled out in the inevitable expansion sets. Player goals would broadly match these archetypes; the Lone Gunslinger, for example, would obviously be able to choose a gunfight or bounty hunting mission, but possibly also find a spouse or claim your inheritance. The Preacher would want to win converts, but he or she could also want to find a sidekick or free a prisoner. And so on.

Each character would have certain skills:

Shootin'. For gunfights and shootouts.
Fightin'. For the inevitable saloon brawl.
Yammerin.' For diplomacy and wheeling and dealing.
Ridin.' For driving horses or stagecoaches.
Sneakin'. For stealth.

And they'd also have attributes:

Stones. For courage under fire.
Smarts. For book learnin' and general cunning.
Stamina. For health, i.e. your character's hit points.
Presence. Your character's personal charisma and attractiveness.

The town would be composed of, say, fifty tiles, and might include:

Road into Town
Town Square
Railway Station
General Store
Post Office
Dentist Office
Farm Houses
Miner's Shack
Town Hall
Water Tower
Dry Goods Store
Boot Hill

The various tiles would be populated by townspeople, represented by a stack of cards called Townsfolk. This deck would consist of 100 cards, each representing a resident of the town. Players will have to interact with Townsfolk to meet their game goals.

Many tiles will contain supplies, which can be purchased, bartered for, or stolen, depending on the player. These supplies will help the characters meet their goals. They might be better guns, faster horses, books, fancy clothes, etc.

Certain circumstances will trigger events, which are gathered in the Plot deck of cards. When two player characters wind up in the same room, for example, a Plot card would be drawn. A sample card might read "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us," which would trigger a conflict - perhaps a gunfight or a duel of insults. Plots could also be triggered by revealing certain tiles.

I haven't considered all of the game elements with enough rigour to actually design it, of course - figuring out the victory conditions in particular requires more thought. And I can't decide if only one player should be able to win, making it necessary and part of the game to sabotage other players, or if it should be possible to have more than one winner, as sometimes happens in the western films this game attempts to simulate (much like "Last Night on Earth" simulates zombie movies).

Anyway, I'll keep thinking about it. Maybe I'll launch a Kickstarter.

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