Game Makeover: Nines – Round 5

Design Workbench

The Key to Incorporating the Action Cards

As mentioned in previous rounds and in “What Needs Work,” the 7, 8, and 9 point cards are generally not used and not wanted. The 10 point cards had a similar problem until I doubled the number of them in the deck. Certainly it would not be advisable to double the count of all the unwanted cards, but I have been saving the 7, 8, and 9 cards for this next change.

Since there are 3 different types of Action Cards and 3 values of unwanted Clock Cards, I have applied the actions to the point cards. (I have been heading this direction from early in the design process, but didn’t want to give life to an idea that I would later have to kill). I have called the ability to use the action on a Clock Card a Key (picture a clock winding key). Since the lower point cards are more likely to be kept in a collection, they might best be used for the higher value actions. However, the difference between keeping a 7 or a 9 seems to be negligible – the decision is based more on the perceived availability of the cards than the avoidance of a penalty. So I have applied the “higher value actions” to the higher point cards, which seems to be more intuitive to the casual player. The perceived value of a particular action is subjective and some players would not value some of the actions at all (e.g., a Take That action is undesirable to some). So here, higher value = greater blast radius (impact):

  • 7 = Iron (black) Key = “Help Me” Collection Action Cards
    • Originally, I called these Brass Keys which seemed more thematic for collectible clocks, but the color is too close to gold, so I quickly changed to iron.
  • 8 = Silver Key = “Help Me” Drawing Action Cards
  • 9 = Gold Key = “Hinder You” Take That Action Cards

Graphically, these cards continue to have the clock, but also have a picture of the appropriate key. They can be used as either a Clock Card or to activate/acquire an Action Card, though the likelihood of them being used as a Clock Card is even less than before.

Locking-in Progress

Until this point I have had a rule that a Take That Action cannot be done on a Clock Card that is in a completed collection – the shelf was described as “locked.” It was convenient to have locking happen automatically for a while, but now it is time to consider how a player can lock a shelf. If the player has the option to take a turn to lock a shelf a few positive things happen that are described in the Working It Out section below.

Micro-iterations: Making these changes at the same time might be moving two balls at once, but I see them as integral and did short iterations (a few hands) on each. The decision to take an Action Card is based mostly on the current state of the collection.



These were the changes for this prototype:

  • I pulled the Action Cards back out of the deck and pasted a picture of a lock (of the appropriate material: Iron, Silver, and Gold) on the back.
    • I hope this is a good idea because pasting on the back of the card essentially commits to pulling these cards out of the deck.
  • I wrote the name of the appropriate key on the faces of all the 7, 8, and 9 point cards.


Separating the Action Cards from the deck cut the deck size back down and eliminated the confusion about what to do with them. I like the decision on what to do with a Key Card and have used them for the Lock to protect a row with a completed set or a low total. Their use to buy and Action Card is still uncertain because there are 3 or 4 possible Action Cards in the draw pile for each type of key. I thought about laying out the different types, but this made a mess in the center of the table. The table starts to look a little overwhelming for a casual gamer. Eventually, I decided to provide the option to use an Action Card immediately or to save it for later. This seems like a solid change; making the randomness of the Action Card drawn less bothersome and providing another option, but at the cost of a turn. The new rules are below.

Having to buy the locks is a nice addition. Leaders are quick to spend a turn to protect what they have accumulated.

  • How many Action Cards are “burned” in the initial market?
    • This problem has been eliminated.
  • If a Key Card is drawn from the draw pile is it likely to be used to acquire an Action Card?
    • Except in the case when an equivalent Key Card was placed in the collection during the initial draft, this is exclusively how the card will be used.
  • If an unused Key Card is in the discard pile is it preferred over drawing an unknown card from the draw pile?
    • This often seems like a press your luck strategy (since the exact Action is not known until after the Action Card is drawn).
    • This may be done to acquire a Lock to protect valuable rows.
    • Providing the Action Card Space to accumulate Action Cards makes them even a little more enticing.
  • If a Key Card is drawn from the discard pile is it likely to be used to acquire an Action Card?
    • Except in the case when an equivalent Key Card was placed in the collection during the initial draft, this is exclusively the reason to draw it.

Though, there are a few more ideas worth investigating, the current rules and configuration need more playtesting to collect statistics and to accumulate player comments before changing more.

New Rules

  • When a Key Card is used to buy an Action Card, the Action Card can be:
    • Used immediately for its Action.
    • Used as a Lock to protect a row in the grid.
    • Placed in the Action Space for later use. A card in the Action Space may be played on any turn instead of taking a normal turn. The options for use are the same as when drawn.
  • When a Lock is played to protect a row, it is played Lock side up to the Lock Space – the space immediately to the left of the row.

Working It Out

So have I made any progress with these changes?

  • Unmitigated Randomness
    • Allowing players to put an Action Card in the Action Space for later use mitigates the randomness of the card drawn. It can likely be helpful later.
  • Few Decisions
    • Having the option to keep an Action Card for later use, though at the cost of another turn, makes the decision a little harder to turn down.
    • Having the option to lock a shelf – protect it from changes – provides players another decision that makes the game more interesting. The decision to lock/not lock might be based on the other player types at the table which adds to the metagame.
  • Bland
    • Hopefully, the game is getting a little more interesting.
  • Multiplayer Solitaire
    • With the ability to lock a shelf, but requiring a turn to do it encourages other players to interfere with progress more quickly.
  • Game Length
    • The game length has not changed significantly as a result of these changes. The setup is a little longer to setup the Action Card draw piles.
  • Wasted Cards (Chaff)
    • Although there are several Clock Cards that are still not interesting as Clock Cards, they have value for their actions.
  • Frustration
    • Having the option to lock a shelf allows players to lock in progress and protect themselves from other meddlesome players.