There's a conflict between excitement and strategy. Exciting moments can lead to outcomes with strategic choices to be made, and such strategic choices can lead to exciting moments (or even have moments of excitement within them when a good new option is discovered), but it's rare for the two to coexist at the same time. This is because we're dealing with a momentary experience (excitement) vs. an unbounded period of decision-making (strategy); one relies on tension and emotion (largely resulting from limited information or time) and the other relies on meaningful decisions with a breadth of options (largely resulting from lots of information and the appropriate amount of time to process it). These facts make Project Venture Capital a difficult proposition: exciting, tense adventure with a wide range of strategies and tactics to employ in pursuit of different end goals.
The best approach I can take when trying to make a complex game based on such an excitement-heavy theme, then, is to try to give Players a sandbox world implementation of the theme with enough realization as to lead them to want to play repeatedly to try different strategies. They should feel there are whole parts of the game they didn't really dig in to in their first playthrough which can maintain further interest in subsequent plays. That's a lofty goal, of course, and one not likely to be fully realized without a cumbersome system. But keeping that as a guiding ideal could help me ensure each set of mechanics within the finished design is as engaging and exciting as I can make it; the Actions and the Victory Conditions towards which they work should reflect this.
Kinds of Actions
With these considerations, and those from Diary #1, two types of Actions primarily come to the forefront: those performable by individual Characters, and those performable by any Character on a Player's team. The former can be tracked by the use of Action Cards and the latter by tokens on a Player's Faction Board.
Character Actions (up to 2 per Player's Turn)
Individual Characters will be able to perform many different Actions throughout the game, and these will be accomplished by spending Stat Points a Player generates for a Character on that Player's Turn. Stat Points are generated by playing Character Action Cards from a Player's hand. A Player can perform 2 Character Actions per Turn, and they can play as many cards from their hand as they wish to perform each Action with the highest amount of Stat Points a Character can generate. Some Actions will require a certain amount of points in 1 or more Stats to be generated in order to succeed at or perform the Action. Others will cause effects depending on how many points are generated in 1 or more Stats.
The 4 Stats that can have their points used to perform actions are Explore, Fight, Sneak, and Think. There's also the possibility of making a Player discard a card in order to perform a Character Action. This would encourage faster deck cycling, and would allow Player's less usefully positioned Characters to still be useful in some way, even if just to discard cards. On the flipside, this could also slow Turns down pretty sharply if a Player takes too long to way all the potential combinations of Character Actions and discards available to them every turn. Should experiment with how this affects pacing.
Faction Actions (up to 1 per Player's Turn)
Faction Actions are longer term Actions that cannot be performed as often as Character Actions. On a Player's Turn, they can have a Character of theirs perform 1 Faction Action, moving that Character's Faction Action Token from the "Ready" spot on the Faction Board to 1 one of the 4 spots for the Faction Actions:
- Analyze: Replace or re-arrange your Workbench's Research Tokens. (Research Tokens on your Workbench provide Stat Points towards various Research Bonuses that can be used whenever the appropriate costs can be paid.)
- Influence: Add one of your Faction's Influence Tokens to an Area one of your Characters occupies. /OR/ Remove another Faction's Influence Token from an Area one of your Characters occupies. (Influence Tokens are used to Hire Allies, Build Installation Tiles, gain control over other Factions' Installations, and complete various Missions/Plots.)
- Hire: Pay the appropriate amount of Money to gain a copy of your Faction's Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 Hench. /OR/ Discard a number of your Influence Tokens from the board equal to the Influence Cost on the back of the top-most card in your Faction's Ally Deck in order to gain that Ally card. (Each Faction has 3 Levels of generic Henches to recruit, and they can be used to add Stat Point bonuses to your Characters' Actions. Ally Cards are each unique, and they can both modify Character Actions or be used for more special unique abilities.)
- Build: Choose one of your Faction's Installation Tiles and pay its listed Money cost. Then remove Influence Tokens from the an Area equal to the Installation Tile's Influence Cost (1 to 4) and place the Installation tile face-up on that Area. /OR/ Self-destruct the Installation Tile your Faction currently controls in the Acting Character's current Area by removing it from the game. Return all of your Faction's remaining Influence Tokens in that Area to your Faction's Influence Token Pool. (Installations provide strong bonuses to the Faction that controls them.)
Once used, however, a Faction Action Token cannot be used again until it is returned to the "Ready" spot by making a Character Rest. (More on that another day).
The pulpy fiction like that on which The Venture Bros. riffs is full of constant adventure, shifting goals, masterful plans, and cunning ploys. The Victory Conditions for a design like this should be achievable both by successfully completing plots to advance your goals and impede your enemies and by generally expanding your business/empire in some way. That is, Players should be rewarded not just for completing missions, but also simply for making their Characters into successful "protagonist" or "antagonist" in the tradition of the show.
The most straight-forward incarnation of this is to have the simple "Most Victory Points Wins" end-game Victory Condition, and award Victory Points throughout the game for various dramatic achievements. For extra tension, instead of a visible Victory Track, each player receives one-sided Victory Point tokens, which can come in various denominations, to keep things secret 'til the end ala Small World.
A potential table of Victory Points awardable during the game could be something like:
|Complete Adventure Card||Variable (from 2 to 10)||Steal a Player's Item or Vehicle Card||4|
|Spend Research Points||1 x RPs Spent||Steal a Player's Money||1 per $20,000 Stolen|
|Hire a Hench||1 x Hench Level||Take a Player's Character Hostage OR Free a Hostage||4|
|Hire an Ally||2 x Influence Spent||Start your Turn with a Hostage||1 x # of Hostages|
|Build an Installation||2 x Influence Spent||Flee from Combat||1|
|Take control of another Player's Installation||1 x Influence Cost||Kill a Player's Character||8|
|Self-Destruct an Installation you control||-1 x Influence Cost||Gain "Prestige" Research Finding||2|
A Victory Point scheme of this nature might bog things down a little, but we'll see. It might not be too bad if printed as an easy-to-read chart on each Player's Faction Board. Maybe I'll tweak things as I watch the Season 6 premiere special tonight: