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  Mechanic #125 - Dungeon Control Panel
Posted: 06/22/11

Allows one player to control the dungeon through the use of a card-based control panel.

  Dungeon Control Panel



Fig 125.1 - LEGO Heroica board game.


This idea begins with LEGO's new boardgame series, Heroica. Pictures of the series started showing up some time around the last Toy Faire, and I was smitten. It's LEGO. It's a game. It's a fantasy dungeon crawler. I would stare longingly at the pictures and wonder how it played.

The Heroica line is out and available (I have all four sets), and the end result is a very simplistic game that is just dripping with theme. It's simple enough that my six year old AND my three year old enjoy playing it. It's fun, but outside of the amazing production values, it's not particularly deep or complicated. You know me. I like complicated.



Fig 125.2 - The microfigs are pretty sweet though.


So, I started thinking of a way to make Heroica more interesting by combining some of the idea I came up with while writing my Blind Mapmaker articles. The basic premise is that as you create the game board, you are likewise building a sort of control panel by which you can control it.

  Control Panel



Fig 125.3 - Game board.


The game board is made up of a bunch of individual rooms connected by corridors. Doors that are unlocked by finding a key can be placed in corridors to impede progress. Keys are generic and open any door. They are found on the map. Though there are generic rooms, many of the rooms are unique and themed, such a the two castle walls, the two studies, the jail, the atrium, the drawbridge, and the throne room.



Fig 125.4 - Control panel for Castle zone.


Each themed room or set of rooms has a card associated with it. The details on these cards will be described in a minute, but right now, the thing to understand is that they are placed in a particular order, top to bottom, in a single column. So the first card is the drawbridge and the last card is the throne room. Some cards indicate multiple rooms, such as two studies being on one card. I'll talk more about this in a second as well.



Fig 125.5 - Control panel for all zones.


Heroica allows you to connect multiple themed sets together to build one giant game board. In situations like these, each region has its own column of cards. So a full control panel for multiple zones would look something like Fig 125.5. Just like the cards for each region are in order, top to bottom, the regions themselves are in order from left to right. So you'd start in the town and end up in the castle.

  Building the Game Board



Fig 125.6 - Build each area as you add cards to the column.


Building the region is really pretty simple, and it works on a similar premise as using stacks to build a game world. Basically, take your cards - you'll probably only have a handful - remove the first and last card. Shuffle the rest. Place the first card down, and with it, place the first physical room on to the game board.

For the rest of the cards, draw one a place it at the bottom of the column. You can build this room, or set of rooms, off any of the existing rooms on the game board. In the above example, the card drawn shows the bridges and a times two. Take two bridge board pieces and connect them to any of the existing locations on the board (in this case, only the drawbridge's interior is available).

There are cards that represent generic "extra" rooms. These are just padding and don't have any specific rules. Their cards will just list the number of game board pieces for you to add. Then discard the card back into the box. Since these cards have no special rules, there is no reason to keep them in the control panel. They are just padding.



Fig 125.7 - Locking doors using the control panel.


Some rooms are considered "locked". In that case, place down a locked door on the corridor leading to your new room. Then place the key in any of the rooms indicated by the card ABOVE the locked one on the control panel. Cards which place multiple rooms will never be automatically locked.



Fig 125.8 - Generic keys require a little more care.


This key solution primarily works if there are unique keys, such as a red key which unlocks a red door. When dealing with generic keys, you can end up with an unwinnable game board as played unlock the wrong door first and can not get through a final door to the end. This may be a desirable outcome if played can pick locks or if you just want to punish them for their own stupidity, but if you want to make an idiot proof generic key solution, just put the key in the first locked room above the current one. While this won't ensure that all areas are accessible, it does mean that if you unlock a room, you'll get a key, meaning only the last locked door will ever leave you without a key.

  Anatomy of a Card

The cards themselves have basically three purposes. Income, Rules, and Shopping.

Each card brings in coins each turn. A throne room may gain two coins every turn, while the study brings in only one gold coin for both studies. Some rooms don't gain any income at all. Some gain income only when certain conditions are met, like there being 7 bats on the board or the player is currently in a room owned by that card. At the start of each dungeon upkeep turn (which may be every five hero turns or something), grab the number of coins you've earned and place them on the cards that earned them.

Each card has specific rules that may change the game in various ways. Usually, these are of the "every turn a player is in this room" or "when the player enters this room" type situations, such as a chance to spawn a new enemy or poisonous gas hurting the player. These should be simple rules and it should be obvious when they are triggered by a player's action. Some cards have rules that are activated during the dungeon upkeep turn. Just activate them one at a time, top to bottom.

Finally, each room will have a menu of things that can be bought with the coins earned from upkeep. In general, these are enemies that you can spawn. Better enemies cost more money to spawn. Some items, like treasure, cost negative coins. You can earned a little extra money by placing down goodies for the player. In addition to spawning items, you can buy upgrades, like room additions, or changing an enemy into a more powerful enemy.

Buying is accomplished by taking the prerequisite number of coins off the card you are buying from. If you want to borrow money, you can take coins from a different room. It costs two coins for every coin when you trade money within the same zone, or four coins to every coin if you take it from a different zone.

So, you can upgrade the Goblin General in the Throne Room to a Goblin King for five coins. The Throne Room has only three coins at the moment, so you pay for the last two coins by taking a total of four coins from another room in the castle, or another eight coins from other zones.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.