Saturday, April 28, 2007

There's a game design in every gamer. Not necessarily a good game design, you understand ...

Regular readers of my personal blog (yes, all three of you ...) will be familiar with the ongoing saga of the mystery smell in my house over the past couple of weeks.

A late night conversation on BSW led to the suggestion that there could be a game there.

We'd start with the gameboard. A simple grid, with a plan of (where else?) my living room. Mark in the fireplace, the window and walls - the furniture is added later.

Now, this is a game where one player takes the role of the mysterious odour, and the rest of the players are the householders, trying to track down and eliminate the stench.

The smelly player (Let's call them Pong) draws a set of cards from the deck of Locations where the stink could be hiding. They have four things to hide: The stink itself, and up to three Red Herrings. (Yes, one of them might be a Herring. Another, as we discovered, might be an old carton of strawberry milk, lovingly hidden by a resident 4 year old). Pong chooses where to hide the items, pairing Location with Stink card.

Locations include
- furniture (toy box, under/in sofa, behind TV, etc)
- wall cavities
- under floor near outer wall
- in the chimney

Now Pong sets up the board. First, the coloured cubes (representing toys) are scattered randomly across the board. In my prototype, I think I will use camels. The best way to imitate a house with children is simply to up-end the box and tip them out, then spread them round a little.

Next, the furniture is placed. I can't decide whether Pong should do this alone or whether the householders should have a turn here. There's a sofa, a coffee table, a TV, an armchair or two ... these were going to be cardboard cutouts, but in retrospect I think they should be raised somehow, so the toys can fit underneath. It seems more realistic, somehow.

Finally, Pong spreads the smell. Smell tiles can be anywhere within, umm, 4 spaces of a Red Herring or 8 spaces of the Stink.

The play of the game alternates between the householders and Pong. So in a 4-player game, Pong has 3 turns in each round.

Householders have a number of actions (action cards?) available to them.

They can:
- Clear space by Tidying Toys (this allows them to search a wider area)
- Move Furniture
- Search an area (2x2 grid?) for a smelly item
- Battle the smell with essential oils and incense
- Spread the cover-up smell
- Open the window to air the room (note that this may give a wind bonus to Pong in spreading the smell)
- Call the Chimney Sweep to check the chimney
- Call the pest remover guy to check a particular area
- Apply odour-retarding gel to a suspected problem area (this only has a 50% chance of working though)

On Pong's turn, the smell is spread.

The householders win when they eliminate the main smell (minor victory) or ALL the smells (major victory).

Pong wins when more than a percentage of the room is covered in smell tiles.

I have it all planned. We release the game, watch it do well. The next year, we produce the deluxe scratch-n-sniff edition for release at Essen (thanks William Attia for this suggestion - clearly a man who understands marketing. When he releases Caylus: The Ratcatchers next year, remember you read it here first).

And the name? I tried Possum Panic, Rats' Revenge, Mouse in the Wall - even Odours: An Odyssey. But the one I like best describes the players' role to a tee: Stink Detectives.




Dr. Matt J. Carlson said...

A poor chipmunk/mouse/or something got trapped in the wall in our downstairs bathroom when I was young...

I thought I could hear scratching in there somewhere...

Then the scratching stopped...

Then the bathroom stank for a few weeks...

And then it cleared up.

(Wonder what happened, huh?)

Maxc said...

seems fun!! :-)