Hi everyone! Ever since I printed the prototype copy of Daggers High, I’ve been very reluctant to make game design changes. After all, isn’t the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” That being said, I have had a lot of time to think about changes to make the game faster, better, and more fun. And if I want to make these changes, now would be a great time to make them so that they can be sufficiently playtested by others.
Graffs’ old ability: Take 1 random card from opponent, then return 1.
Graffs’ new ability: Draw 1 Event Card, return 1 to bottom.
I was initially mixed about this change because some of the most fun moments in Daggers High have been the Graff wars between 2 players. The original Graff did 3 things very well that I address:
1. Using Graff rewards strategy
However, this strategy was easy to figure out and optimize. This strategy was to use Graffs’ ability on the second to last round to force an opponent to play a crappy card: this way, they would not be able to Graff it back to you. There were 2 significant flaws with this strategy from a game design standpoint: 1. To get the most mileage out of Graff, turn order was very important to keep track of. The last player to play a card had the largest advantage. 2. You would not have to use Graff more than one time per year.
That’s why so many games have ended with multiple players having large amounts of cubes on the Graff teacher: some people can’t even use Graff well due to the nature of turn order! Also, to use Graff effectively, you only really had to use it once, as long as it was a well-timed use.
2. Allowed for meaningful player interaction
I personally love almost all forms of player interaction, but I know that a lot of people don’t. That being said, I think Graff was leaning towards the kind of player interaction that most people generally dislike: in some cases it caused other players to not be able to do anything on their turn (such as Graffing a 0 action point card, like Swap Stats, on the last turn of the game). That’s basically “skip a turn,” and while it is difficult to pull off (in fact, some devious players would draft a terrible card if they knew that their placement in the turn order would allow them to do this to another player), it can be incredibly frustrating. Many people would just not want to deal with that.
3. It created excitement between players
My biggest concern was that the original Graff was too fun to give up. I’ve watched people use Graff to gamble until they got the card that they wanted. The players around the table would all simultaneously tense up, waiting to see whether the thief would get away with their desired loot. The targeted player would fan their cards out, as if to say, “bring it on!”. The thief would then pluck a card out from their hand, and then either yelp in frustration or craftily tuck that card away, with no one knowing what was stolen other than the two parties involved.
That being said, this excitement only lasts for so long. After the first couple times, it becomes a luck fest, and people quickly realize it is generally not worth it to use Graff for this reason. This leads to the hoarding that was described in point 2.
The new Graff seems similar but is an entirely different effect. It allows players to change their event cards for event cards in the deck. So far, it is the only way in the game to do this, which means that after the drafting phase, not all event cards have to be played. This is really important because it changes a lot of the drafting strategy: maybe you want to have a certain card NOT be played, like Stud Gov Election or Cap on Extracurriculars, so you draft it to tuck it away at the bottom of the deck. It also gives players a way to handle bad hands without giving somebody else a bad hand. If Graff is used too many times, it is feasible in a game with many players that you could see the same card come up again. But because cards are returned to the bottom of the deck, you won’t ever “run out” or not be able to use Graff.
What to do about swapping cards?
I think there were enough merits to Graff to justify implementing his effect elsewhere in the game. That’s why I’m tentatively planning to replace one of the Bullying influence cards with an Old Graff-like ability. Because of the way the strategy behind old Graff works, it could easily be a one-time effect and still be a relevant influence card.
I think that this would be the best of both worlds, as you get to still have the initial excitement of using Graff without having to dedicate an entire teacher slot towards it.
This does bring up a puzzling problem of what to do about the solo variant. My proposal is the following: Graff allows you to draw the top 2 cards and put each of them on the top or bottom of the deck in any order. That being said, this doesn’t fit on the board since there isn’t enough space. I’m not sure what to do about this, but I guess I’ll bury it in the rules somewhere, which is kind of suboptimal. I’m also considering a redesign of the solo mode to have every player start with 4 cards in their hand instead of drawing them one by one off of the top of the deck. My only worry with this is that the game becomes too puzzly- you would basically have complete information to make decisions with (other than maybe the order of the club deck, etc.).
Do you like the new Graff, or prefer the older version? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!