Note: All images show prototype artwork and are not representative of the final game.
In my last Designer Diary for Tasty Humans, I talked about how I approached scoring based on the arrangement of tiles in each of the monster’s stomachs. While I was really pleased with how the Leader Tiles provided a lot of variety in the tactical decisions while trying to maximize your score, my initial testing indicated that it was not a perfect solution on its own. The main problem I encountered was that it was too easy to have sections of the board that were “unconstrained,” that is, they had no implications on scoring regardless of what tile was placed there. While I realized that it was inevitable that some squares wouldn’t impact scoring due to how the Leader Tiles were arranged, I wanted to make sure that the player always felt like they had goals they could work towards. I never wanted players to encounter a turn that had no meaning, simply because the squares they needed to fill didn’t match up with any Leader Tiles. My solution was to give each monster board a unique “personal craving,” which would be a scoring condition that applied to the whole board.
As described above, the unique scoring conditions for each monster board were introduced to provide a universal scoring constraint to help cover squares in the grid that weren’t affected by any Leader Tiles. While I found that it achieved that goal, it also added more interest to the squares that were affected by Leader Tiles. The layered objectives lead to tradeoffs when a single square can score in multiple different ways. For example, consider the following board.
The Griffin’s personal craving rewards the player for creating patterns (either horizontally or vertically) that alternate between two different tile types. If you look at the space above the top helmet tile, you may notice that it could score in two different ways: it would score 2 points from the Leader Tile if a Hand tile is placed there, but it would score 3 points if an Armor tile is placed, completing another pattern for the Griffin ability. It may seem obvious that 3 points is better than 2 points, and so an Armor tile makes the most sense. But depending on the situation, it may not be that straightforward.
For example, maybe the shapes available to you make it easier to work towards your other goals if you place a Hand tile in that position. In Tasty Humans, you never simply play a single tile; it is always part of a larger shape that is being dropped into the stomach. So if a player is considering two different shapes, one that would place an Armor tile in that space, and one that would place a Hand tile, they will also need to consider the tradeoff of the other pieces that come along with it.
Another option is to play a Hand tile in that space, but then try to have the Helmet and Hand tile be the start of a new pattern for the Griffin ability. For example, if the player has access to a shape that drops a Hand tile and Helmet tile in that column, then they are only one additional Hand tile away from completing a new pattern, and it would be a pattern that also scores 2 points for the Hand tile being aligned with the Leader tile.
Once you merge the monster’s personal craving with a unique combination of Leader Tiles that are acquired over the course of the game, you end up with an interesting combination of scoring opportunities that will be different every time you play.
Improved Variable Setup
I am a sucker for games that have variable setup; that is, elements that are randomized at the beginning of the game. I love when each time I play, it feels like I am given a brand new puzzle to solve. The addition of personal cravings for each monster board further improves the variable setup, giving each player a unique starting point at the beginning of the game. Each player was already receiving a random starting Leader Tile, but now that Leader Tile is paired with the monster board that the player selected, multiplying the number of starting combinations that are possible.
That starting combination is enough to push the player in a direction that perhaps they haven’t headed before, and the Leader Tiles they select after that only further ensure that it is a unique experience. This post highlights the four “basic” monster boards, but there is an interesting design space to explore other more advanced abilities. I currently have six other more exotic boards that I have been developing, and it has been really fun to play with them so far. Hopefully at some point, I will be ready to share them in a designer diary and talk about some of the challenges that I encountered in the design process.
Up to this point, my first three designer diaries have focused exclusively on the player boards: how players drop pieces into their monster’s stomach, how they acquire Leader Tiles that define their unique scoring conditions, and how each monster has a personal craving that provides an additional scoring goal. But how do the monsters actually pick which adventurers they will eat? That’s what I plan to talk about next time!