Designer Blog – Into the Black – Mitigating Luck

Designer Blog – Into the Black

Mitigating Luck and Randomness

In designing Into the Black, the initial concept was to have a whole whack of random exploration with every game being different as a result of hidden tile placement. This is cool, right? Well .. yes and no. The problem with this is that, as it currently stands, there is absolutely zero control (except for the setup where it’s in the “bottom half” of the deck) over when the Bridge tile can or will be discovered! It all runs on luck of the draw!

In all internal play test games so far the Bridge has been revealed around Turns 12-18, which leads to the 20 turn limit seeming plausible, however it is still almost completely random.

To wit, we are currently exploring ways to mitigate the random luck element of revealing tiles as you explore the star ship. Realizing not everyone loves the idea of Luck being the deciding factor in a game, what methods would you incorporate to mitigate that?

Some options we’ve come up with;

1) Certain characters may search the deck and rearrange the top X number of tiles Z number of times per game (only works if someone draws that character to play so this is limited)
2) Loot items that may allow the same as option 1 (only works if those items are found or drawn in the initial setup – more likely than #1)
3) Reveal additional tiles at turn Y, face up (The clock is ticking, the alarms are blaring and its becoming more and more obvious where the bridge is located by the panicked noise coming from the crew?)

We’ve also had a Doom Track mechanism suggested, such as those used in Arkham Horror, Forbidden Island, Dead of Winter, etc. This is where certain actions or events (both player driven and luck of the draw driven)  increase a counter by 1 (or more) each time any of the actions are taken. When you reach X, you lose. This adds great suspense and suspicion in a game with potential traitors when someone bumps up the tracker .. are they a Traitor or did they have no other choice? This is definitely being considered instead of a set turn limit.

Does anyone have any other options, or thoughts on these? Thanks! Your opinion is appreciated!

James J Campbell is the Lead Game Designer at I Will Never Grow Up Gaming and is the creator of several projects such as
TechMage Sci-Fantasy RPG, Into the Black and Conflict & Chaos: Vietnam 1965.