The Monday Game: Musketeers

Another game this week, again using the Boardgamizer web app. I’ll get on to it in a moment, but I just wanted to make a quick note:

Fridays I’ll try and make sure I’m posting status updates for my various primary projects, as I think it will help keep me focused and keep you all informed and (hopefully) excited about what’s coming up next. Stay tuned for this Friday to see what all is in the pipeline!

Now, on to the game!

The Unused Parameters

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Already, this system has two small strikes against it: Roll and Move is good for adding randomness into a game, but can leave players feeling like they have no actual strategic control over a game, and Summoners/Duels is a heavily saturated genre. While there is the glimmer of potential for a Magic the Gathering-style racing game, where you’re sending minions in to grab 3 different things in subsequent rounds, I think I’ll give this a pass for now.

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Chit-Pulling is an interesting system I’d like to try sometime, and Trick-Taking is always fun and a good way to prevent runaway leaders. However, the theme and constraint make this a difficult one for me: namely, I don’t know enough about ballerinas and ballet to make a game with good discussion that doesn’t rely on overly broad generalizations and stereotypes, so I’ll give this one a pass as well.

The Winning Parameters

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This one is great. Cooperative play is a great way to avoid runaway winners, and the short timeframe means we can focus on quick and easy rules for people to learn. I’m actually going to shift the “Horse Betting” from being a Theme, to being a Mechanic: players play cards as a group to affect the various Musketeers, and are betting points on which one will be the most successful in some metric.

Next, the designing!

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Am I also going to use the theme to add as many images from this, the best Three Musketeer movie, as I can? Yes, yes I am.

Brainstorm: The Mechanics

So I want to start this by being a cooperative-competitive game. Everyone is in it together and has shared lose conditions, but at the same time there is only one clear winner at the end, and so you get a delicious injection of tension as you’re trying to hamper everyone, but not quite so badly that everyone collectively loses.

Since it was a fun mechanic from last game, let’s add a similar sort of draw-and-play mechanics as we had last week: Each player gets 3 cards, and uses them to bet on a Musketeer, grant a musketeer some sort of power (more on that in a moment), and grant the Cardinal Richelieu a power as well.

So each card will have 3 sections: a gold value up on the top for the betting value, musketeer powers in the middle, and Cardinal powers at the bottom. While I won’t detail an entire cardlist today, in general let’s have the rule that card with great gold values have great everything else as well (good musketeer powers and bad cardinal powers), so if you bet high on a Musketeer, that means you’re not making a Musketeer awesome with the same card, or making sure the Cardinal isn’t awesome.

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And who doesn’t want Tim Curry to be awesome?

So now that we’ve got the cards and their layout, let’s go into the phases. First will be betting: Each player plays a card facedown on one of the Musketeer spaces, and places some sort of colored marker to indicate that bet was theirs. You can bet on the same Musketeer as another player, but if you get to score the bet (more on that in a moment), then only the player with the highest bet gets to score it.

Next, everyone plays a card on a Musketeer, and a card on the Cardinal and his Guards. These will be one of three icons: horseshoes, swords, and muskets. A more powerful card has more of these icons, and each musketeer will need as many symbols as the Cardinal/Guards have in order to survive the round. Hence, good Musketeer cards have lots of symbols or a variety of them, while “good” Cardinal cards have very few symbols.

Lastly in the phase, reveal cards.  Everyone draws 3 more cards, and you repeat this twice more (for 3 total rounds of phases). Multiple bet cards you play stack, so playing a Bet of 2 and 2 over two phases will trump a single player’s single bet of 3. Now, at this point, we check the symbols against the Cardinal. If any Musketeer cannot beat them, they are marked as Injured. If a Musketeer that was already Injured, they instead Die and everyone loses. Otherwise, each player who had the highest bet on a Musketeer that did not get an Injury gets to score their bet. All other Bets and power cards are discarded.

Repeat this process twice more (we’ll call them Acts when we detail out the story a little later). At the end, whoever has the most points in bets at the end wins, but again remember that if a Musketeer dies, everyone loses.

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Rochefort likes it when everyone loses

Brainstorm: The Story

Basically? It’s The Three Musketeers. The three Acts (within which lie the three Rounds, and within which lie the Phases, like a eurogame nesting doll) can follow the general beats of the plot. A quick jump to Wikipedia shows they can generally be The Escape, The Plot, and The Return for the escape from the Cardinal, the discovery of his plot against the king, and their return to thwart the plot.

The card will be fairly flavorless, with no title/words/images apart from the coin and power icons, as well as a generic musketeer and cardinal icon. We can use a small board, with spaces for the three Musketeers (and Injury tokens) as well as the three plot points and a pawn to mark their location. Add a space for a deck and discard, and that should be about it!

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That look you give another player when they give the Cardinal a Musket after you loaded your favored Musketeer up with Swords

Brainstorm: The Elevator Pitch

A quick push-your-luck eurogame, Musketeers sets you and your friends as friends and allies of the famous three Musketeers. Help them evade and defeat the Cardinal at every turn and earn you gold and glory, but beware that other players may seek to set you back. Don’t get too greedy, though, as a wrong move could send all of your Musketeers to the chopping block!

Closing Thoughts:

I’m definitely interested in this idea, and I may end up taking it further, as Dumas’ Three Musketeers are (afaik) open use and this seems like a fun co-op and competitive game. Not to mention there’s an inbuilt and ready-to-use Rochefort expansion, that would add secret role cards and make it that the Rochefort player wins if everyone else loses. Or add in an optional rule letting one player be the Cardinal and mess around with players by looking at and/or shifting face-down cards around before they’re revealed (like swapping player bets, or swapping player power cards).

Either way, lots of material to use for this game. What are your thoughts on this week’s game, and how would you have designed it differently?

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3 thoughts on “The Monday Game: Musketeers

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