The Brave Pug Design

Hey there everyone,

Today I figured I’d write a post about something I’ve been working on pretty heavily over the past week – changes to the Brave Pug. So let’s get to it!

So I’ve had the Brave Pug set for a little while, but I was never quite happy with it. The Brave Pug originally was able to grab disasters and turn them into points, make players immune to disasters, could just passively completely ignore disasters, and a number of other things. Eventually I settled on the following ability:

“Place this treat sideways in front of any player. Discard all disasters in front of them and they cannot be targeted by disasters next round. If a disaster was removed from an opponent: Place that disaster sideways in front of you and play the top two cards of the deck. That disaster lasts one more round. Otherwise: Play the top card of the deck.”

So let’s start with the issues I had with it.
-The ability was too complex for the game. The mindshare and rules involved in it took too long to understand what to do and even then people worried about misapplication of rules. Heavily inhibited flow.
-Players almost always felt better about eliminating the disasters from themselves and gaining immunity over saving an opponent and protecting them, even though statistically, it was the better move.
-The ability was pointless when the opponent was winning – you had no desire to remove a disaster from someone that was winning.
-In the same vein, the ability was obnoxious for opponents when the Brave Pug was winning. Disasters allow for smart plays and comebacks, and the Brave Pug eliminates that response.
-Two player games made the ability pretty boring – there was not a lot of decisions to be made regarding the ability.

All of this is to say there were definite issues with it. While it was close to hitting the theme, concept, and style I wanted for her, she just didn’t fit the gameplay. For the Brave Pug, I wanted something that caused her to protect opponents from disasters. This is a difficult thing to sell because not only does it inhibit the player, it also helps an opponent. This meant the ability has to be quite powerful to make up for this small power shift. On top of this, the Brave Pug also has to deal with varying amounts of disasters being on the board in a 2 player versus 4 player game. There are just so many more disasters on the board in a 4 player game and dealing with that was important.

Starting with that “savior” concept, I settled on simply moving all disasters to the Brave Pug. This is a simple mechanic and doesn’t take much out of the player to deal with. After this, I began to brainstorm possible rewards for collecting these disasters. Should they just be collected to the side and earn points? Should the Brave Pug become immune to disasters for removing the disaster? Should they get to earn points or play disasters? The idea I finally settled on was as follows:

“Move all active disasters to the Brave Pug, then earns one point per disaster currently on the Brave Pug in any area that can earn points. Disasters currently attached to the Brave Pug can no longer earn points, and are discarded at the end of the round. If all three areas cannot gain points, the Brave Pug earns 12 divided by the number of players points in total.”

What I really loved about this ability was that it meant the Brave Pug earned more points for removing more disasters. I absolutely fell in love with the “shooting the moon” concept in games like Hearts or Spades, which seemed to fit so well with this guy. On top of this, even with the different number of disasters out on the board, the Brave Pug could still earn points scaling with difficulty – fewer players mean fewer disasters which means more difficulty obtaining three in one go.

Even with these pieces I really liked though, I still had a nagging feeling. Do players still want to play disasters? Especially playing them on the Brave Pug? The point gain rule is awkward and not nearly as elegant as I would hope. I struggled thinking about this over another couple days until I finally realized something I had been missing. In every iteration, opponents never had a response to the Brave Pug making a move. With that in mind I began to devise something I believed could be amazing, while still applying the disaster collection/saving method and the shooting the moon concept. The new/current version is as follows:

“Move all disasters to the Brave Pug. All disasters on him last until the end of next round. Count the disasters and apply an effect:
1: Basics and tricks earn 2x points next round.
2: Basics and tricks earn 3x points next round.
3+: Discard all disasters and earn one point in each area.
Disasters you have played cannot earn points. Earned disaster points are not amplified by the multiplier.”

The things I truly love:
-Opponents can play a disaster and still respond to anything the Brave Pug does with it.
-The ability is much more simple than previous versions.
-Still has the “shooting the moon” concept, which I think it perfect for someone like the Brave Pug – they should be the one playing a game that dangerous.
-In the danger vein, the Brave Pug is reducing the size of point windows (by this I mean limiting where it can gain points). This means opponents have an incentive to play disasters on the Brave Pug as they have an increased chance to block the Brave Pug. With one disaster on the Brave Pug, they can earn 2 points and an opponent (with a disaster) has a 50/50 chance of stopping it. If the opponent does, they instead earn one point. This moment is absolutely filled with tension and can be extremely exciting.
-Beyond this, if the Brave Pug knows a disaster is coming in, they could choose to instead use a treat. They won’t gain any points and will instead wait until the next round, but now they’ve outplayed the opponent who likely doesn’t have a third disaster. This is even higher stakes when looking at 2 disasters going to 3, as successfully calling an opponent blocking your point gains swings from 1 point for the opponent to a 1 point gain in each are for you. I love this level of depth in the decisions to make.
-Because the disasters last until the end of the next round, this allows the Brave Pug to more easily load up on disasters, even in 2 player games.
-The reward fairly accurately matches point flow. By this I mean a player on average should be gaining about one point per round, and so earning double and triple points is perfectly in line with one disaster being played per round. The Brave Pug gains an advantage when more than one disaster is played in a round, which is great and allows for good play, particularly when she has some control over playing a disaster herself.

The issues:
-While simpler, there’s still a lot of extraneous stuff floating around. Will want to work on eliminating those things.
-The point gain is nuts. A 2x or 3x multiplier could result in crazy benefits if the Brave Pug can play more than one card on the round they have the multiplier activated. If an opponent doesn’t have a response, they could be heavily in the hole if the Brave Pug can pull it off. My suspicion is this is about right, but will need numerous playtests to ensure this is the case.

Wow, this post ended up being a lot longer than anticipated, but I think it has a lot of explanations into my design process and really going into detail on the Brave Pug. To read a bit more about the Brave Pug, check out my Brave Pug design doc. That’s all for today! Hope everyone enjoyed the info. In the comments, feel free to tell me about a time you’ve run into a design issue and sought to make it better, or tell me a little bit about what you think of the newest ability!

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