Muddle the Mixtures
The Potionmasters of the Alchemist's Guild are always hard at work, whether they are studying the uses of new and mysterious herbs and roots, or discovering the potent (and often extremely dangerous) effects of combining them. But within the organization, jealousy over new discoveries runs wild, and the death of the guildmaster - the grand Adeptus Alchemical - has the alchemists worried about the future of the Guild; more importantly, their futures. In the insane, friendless world of the Alchemist's Guild, the only way one can be certain of being elected Adeptus Alchemical is to be the only Potionmaster at the ceremony... and their explosive experiments are just the tools they need to dispatch their fellow alchemists and secure their future as guild master.
- Tabletop Game Design - I am a long time fan of tabletop games, especially collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, but this was my first major step in designing an actual tabletop game. For Muddle the Mixtures, ensuring that each player had an equal chance to win, and that each card was balanced, was key. Great care was taken in deciding on the number and rarity of cards in each deck.
- Prototyping - This project was the first of mine that featured more than two prototype phases, and the first that I saw through to completion. I learned a lot about the prototyping process through this project.
There are tabletop games that could be considered similar to Muddle the Mixtures, such as Gloom or the Card Crafting System (CCS) series of deck-building games produced by AEG. However, these differ in function and form – Muddle the Mixtures is designed first as a mid-core level game that does not rely heavily on storytelling elements or prior game knowledge/skill, and second as a player-versus-player card battle where one player’s actions directly affect another’s. It allows players who are familiar with the game to have a competitive edge; however, luck (in the form of dice rolls and card drawing) will have a larger role in game outcome. In addition to this, players are only awarded victory by defeating their opponents – and while those opponents may assist in that goal by harming themselves, interaction by battle is still a requirement, which the aforementioned games avoid in favor of storytelling and overarching strategy.
Muddle the Mixtures was created for the UAT course GAM375 Rapid Game Prototyping. Initially, the goal of the assignment was to create a simple item crafting mechanic for a digital or traditional game, and create a prototype for it - but once I had the idea, I expanded upon it much further and created the prototype seen in the video below using Tabletop Simulator as my medium.
This prototype mainly focused on proving that the concept worked well in a standard two-player environment with two main objectives; that it the mechanic itself was not to confusing/clunky, nor that it was too frustrating to deal with multiple cards (Tabletop Simulator only pushed this latter objective so far; a physical prototype would need to be built to confirm this). From here, prototyping went further, with balance changes to existing mechanics and the addition of new ones, adding more complexity to the game without sacrificing the fun elements and smooth gameplay. Additionally, card design evolved - physical prototypes are built with transparent Mixture cards, allowing players to stack cards on top of one another without sacrificing information clarity.
Gameplay of Muddle the Mixtures is relatively simple to pick up and play, designed as a mid-core game - the main mechanics of the game are designed to be easily grasped by younger children or anyone unfamiliar with tabletop games, but allow enough strategy and critical thinking that hardcore tabletop players are not bored with it.
The goal of Muddle the Mixtures is simple: defeat your enemy by reducing his life total to 0. Each player starts with 40 life (30 in a 4 player game), a hand of 5 mixtures, and 3 potions face up on the table in front of them. Players are limited to four actions on each of their turns; these include:
- Placing a mixture onto an unmuddled potion
- Placing a sabotage card onto an unmuddled enemy potion
- Muddling a potion, preparing it for use next turn
- Throwing (at an enemy) or drinking (using on yourself) a muddled potion
- Discarding two mixtures and drawing two new mixtures
With these actions in mind, players must plan their turns out carefully - since potions are placed on the table and all cards in hand are transparent, players can see what their opponent is planning at all points in the game, leading to an interesting dynamic.
"muddling the mixtures"
Potions in Muddle the Mixtures have large, clear dice symbols that indicate their result when using a potion or attempting to muddle it. Alchemical potions, as a rule of thumb, are highly dangerous - and as a result, throwing things in without a careful balance is likely to result in disaster. When attempting to muddle a potion, a die is rolled - if the result is on a colored base result, the resulting concoction backfires in its creator's face, often leading to negative consequences. Adding mixtures from the Mixture Deck will counteract these negative effects - so it is wise to add as many mixtures as possible to a potion before muddling it.
Mixture cards each have a unique effect that, like the base sections of a potion, are activated with the rolling of a certain number on a die - when a muddled potion is thrown at an enemy, or drank by its creator, roll a die - this result decides which mixture effect the potion will have.
Each player has a Potion Deck to themselves that they draw cards from, while the other two decks - the Mixture Deck and the Sabotage Deck - are shared between all players of the game.