Wrapping Up King of Danger

posted in: King of Danger | 2

The King of Danger Card from "King of Danger, v7"After the Michigan Protospiel this past July, I wrote about my planned changes to King of Danger. Well, you can pretty much ignore all of those things … because I tried them and didn’t like what it turned out to be. Plus, it became obvious that I was starting to overlap too much with Danger at the Walls (now on the back-burner), which had the same background theme, but different game design goals.

So, I reset once again, reviewed what I liked and didn’t from the previous 5 versions, focused on my original goals and the notable advice I’ve gotten from other designers and players, and set out to make version 7.0 the game I really want it to be … and I think I’ve done it. 🙂 Here’s how it looks …

Throughout the whole process, the goal for the game has been about building castles, with trick-taking as the means by which castles would be built up or reduced, and scoring would all be based around the size of a player’s castle at the end of a hand. That’s been in it the whole way along, and I didn’t see any reason to change that.

What was missing was a consistent feeling of being “in” each trick … either having a chance to take it, or at least take a risk and maybe win it, or to play the spoiler by pushing another player into a bad play, etc. My buddy Chevee Dodd refers to this as “providing the opportunity to be coy” in trick-taking games. The significant gaps in this were spotlighted during the Protospiel playtests. At one point, David Sheppard sighed and said “I really have nothing at all in my hand that can help me … or even mess with anyone else. And this is the third hand in a row like this.” Thanks to the format of the event and the willingness of the testers, I was able to do some fast tweak-and-test changes on-the-fly in order to learn how different things might impact that.  But the ideas I came away from that event with were really overly complicated and, once mixed together in the game, resulted in a really bland flavor. So, back to scratch again.

Sample cards from King of Danger, v7The big “aha” came when I had the thought to clearly divide cards between those that gave value to the tricks (walls to build your castle, or cannons to reduce others’ castles) from those that allowed you to win tricks (wizards and kings). Once that was established, the new vision of the game really fell into place. After that, it’s mainly been finding the best way to organize hands and tricks, how to slowly introduce value into each trick as a way to build tension, and how to best divvy out damage by the cannons.

So, now the game works as follows:

  • The deck is made up of 36 cards — 10 Wall-related, 10 Cannon-related, 10 Wizards, and 6 Kings (each with a unique rule of when it is powerful).
  • The Walls & Cannons are separated, shuffled, and 12 of them are setup into 3 hidden 4-card tricks. The left-over Walls/Cannons are then shuffled back in with the Wizards & Kings and dealt out to the players.
  • During a trick, the 4 hidden cards are revealed 1-at-time, each lap around the table.
  • On a player’s turn, you either play 1 card from your hand (add a Wall/Cannon to the middle or play a Wizard/King as your strength to take the trick) or declare that you are done playing cards for the remainder of the trick.
  • After all players are done playing on a trick, the player who played the most strength wins it and gets to use the Walls & Cannons to increase their castle or decrease others’.
  • After the third trick is completed, scores are totaled based on each player’s castle size and number of tricks taken.

It now feels like the type of game I was originally hoping it would be. Tense and surprising at times … with some “yeah — I figured you would do that” thrown in . I’m in the process of writing up the official rules doc and should have the print-and-play available in the next few days. Once that’s ready, I’ll make it available in the TGC shop again.

2 Responses

  1. Carl Klutzke

    So each trick includes a four-card dummy hand, guaranteed to be composed only of walls and cannons? And one card from that hand is played (before? after?) the players all have the opportunity to play a card?

  2. MattWorden

    Right. The first card of the 4-card dummy hand is played first, then each player gets a turn. After each time around the table, another card is revealed. All 4 cards are part of the trick, even if it is decided before they are all shown.

    The first and second time around the table almost feels like poker now, where playing a minor card from your hand would be doing the minimum bid to stay in on the hand until you know if it’s worth it to put some strength down to try to win it.

    Also, some of the cards in the dummy hand can be wall/cannon removers, which negate a wall or cannon card that is showing. And the left-over wall/cannon/remover cards are distributed during the deal to the players … so, it’s possible to beef-up or reduce the wall/cannon count on a trick if it will help you (or be less helpful to the other guy).

    There’s a lot more ability to be shifty around which tricks you try to take, and around adjusting the value of a trick, even if you aren’t able to take it.

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