Category Archives: Design Exercise

Converting Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine to Tabletop

I have played a number of new (for me) games this summer, both board/card and computer, but more heavily leaning towards the latter.

 

The shortlist (that I remember) goes like this:

Transistor by SuperGiant Games

Dominion by Donald Vaccarino

Fallout 3: New Vegas by Obsidian Entertainment

Monaco: What’s Yours is is Mine by  Pocketwatch Games

Braid by Jonathon Blow

Rogue Legacy by Cellar Door Games

So, it’s a bit of an eclectic mix, both across genres and spanning 5 years for release dates.  Actually though, while I really enjoyed all the games on the list (full disclosure: I haven’t finished any yet), I sat down to write this post about Monaco.

 

Monaco really made an impression on me. This isn’t to say it is a “better” game then those on the list , or even to make a comparitive statement, other than it stuck in my mind for whatever reason.

 

One possible cause could be the fact that I played Monaco coop, and I experienced the other games, except Dominon, single player.  Lately, I have been interested in cooperative gameplay and thinking about approaches that could be taken to make coop board games.

 

Another could be that Monaco feels innovative to me. While most of the other games had a more direct analog in my past experiences, a lot of the features in Monaco felt fresh to me in their context.  I will say, though, that I was reminded of NES Gauntlet (in a good way, I loved playing that game with my brother)

 

So, I wanted to think through the elements of the game, both as an exercise and to see what steps would be considered if a designer wanted to port it to a board game.

 

My experience is primarily playing the game coop, so that is the gameplay I will consider.

 

One way to break down the gameplay is into phases, in which each phase possibly involves its own set of inputs and gameplay (or even no gameplay).

Game Phases:

 

Setup:

The experience for the player begins with the setup:

  • Select a stage/map
  • Select a character
  • Additional modifiers can be applied

 

Gameplay

  • Player makes choices that impact future play experience

 

Begin game:

  • Scenario for the chosen stage is introduced
  • Player encounters stage layout for the first time

Gameplay

  • Progress narrative with input

 

Core Gameplay

  • Player assesses situation
  • Completes objectives e.g.:
    • Reach point X
    • Retrieve Treasure or Person Y

Gameplay

  • Input
    • Input JS/arrow keys
      • movement
      • context sensitive actions (e.g. push against door to unlock)
    • Input 1
      • movement becomes stealthed
    • Input 2
      • perform action of held item (e.g. shoot gun)
    • X factor – Unique input of input modifier for chosen character
  • Objectives
    • Main Objective:
      • Reach point X, Retrieve treasure or Person Y
    • Sub objectives:
      • Gather gold/money
      • Complete main objective in a good time.

To refresh my memory I played through a stage or two single-player, and I was interested to find that the gameplay experience was actually quite different, despite the fact that I don’t beleive the stage was adjusted in any way.  My conclusion, which I was rather struck by, is that some of the really cool moments and feel of Monaco are relient on interplay between multiple characters abilities, or just little actions which could pull another player back from harm (I’m sure many reviewers pointed that out that Monaco is best played multiplayer, so I’m not pointing out anything groundbreaking, but I was surprised at what a difference it makes).

 

With the above in mind, here is a rough first pass at how Monaco’s mechanics could be brought to the table top:

Setup:

  • The player chooses a scenario (represented by a board, objectives, and arrangement of coins and guards/enemies to stealth players)
    • For ease of use, the placement of coins/treasure and guards/enemies can be wrapped into the board for that scenario via indicators on board spaces for where those should be placed  (e.g. yellow mark for treasure, blue for guards).
    • I think it would be interesting to include the game’s locked stages via a mechanic similar to Risk Legacy in which scenarios are ‘locked’ by putting the boards in envelopes that the player is advised not to open until they complete a specific preceding scenario.  I love the idea that this could give the player the sense of discovery and narrative (shared with a group of friends in this case) that is often present in computer games but not board games.
  • Players choose their ‘player character’
    • This would be like choosing your playing piece for Monopoly or Clue but  would have extra significance as it would have direct effects on play.
      • The character chosen (e.g. lockpick) would have specific abilities
        • This could be represented via probabilities through different valued dice for determining success of things like picking locks
        • Another option which could be used with the above would be character specific action card decks, from which players draw.  (e.g. Only the lockpick draws cards from the lockpick deck and so on)
      • these characters could be represented through character cards or pieces and  made into unlockables similar to how the ‘locked’ scenarios are described above

Begin Game:

  • Players read the scenario’s narrative if desired (likely only the first time or with new players)

 

Core Gameplay:

  • Player characters take their turn in order (can be determined arbitrarily or dice roll)
  • Player’s turn
    • Player can move
      • Could be set value based on chosen character + modifier
      • Could be determined via dice
        • I’ve found that dice for movement is so familiar as to be intuitive and having a number to look at for that turn can be easier than remembering an arbitrary value
        • different valued dice (1d4, 1d6, 1d8) could be associated with character classes.
      • Items can be picked up by passing through them on movement.  However, in keeping with the computer game, action items would end the player’s movement and consume their action
    • Player can do 1 of the following (these all consume the player’s 1 ‘action’ per turn):
      • Use action item
      • Player can play action card
      • Player can take ‘character action’ (associated with dice roll theoretically to determine success)

End of game:

 

  • End of game happens if the player achieves the objective or all players are ‘caught’ /dead.

 

I realize there are some large and important pieces missing here.  The thing I think is especially incomplete is the function of the guards.

 

Should the guards be controlled by another player (asynchronous game)?

Should the guards be controlled by the ‘game’? (automation) (guards moved at the end of turn determined by dice rolls)

I am sure there are some other things I’ve missed, but I will think about it some more and try touch on that in another post or edit this one!