The Cool Ol' Ideas. a collection of cool, but forgotten(?) tabletop mechanics.
Every now and then I find myself on a vintage boardgame kick and research older boardgames. Occasionally, I'll find a cool mechanic that, despite them being quite clever, never really caught on. I like those "evolutionary dead ends." So, I am writing them down both to acknowledge those designs, as well as a repository of cool ideas that can be used in a future game.
Encounters made of multiple cards #
Many adventure games use event cards. In fact it is a central mechanic in games from Talisman to Eldrich Horror. However, most of them use a single card per encounter. In Legend of Heroes events are built from multiple cards. Each card generates a part of the story and prompts the player to pull a card from another deck (monster, threat, treasure, etc.). This adds to the randomness and discovery. The only similar thing I've seen was in Fortune and Glory, where players can choose to pull extra cards during an expedition, creating another leg of the journey.
Task difficulty based on player character #
I like this mechanic because it's kinda fkr. Instead of characters having numbered statistics, different tasks are easier or harder based on who the character is. I've seen it first in Legend of Heroes, but Dungeon! has similar mechanic where each class is better/worse at handling different tasks. Each obstacle has uses a table with difficulty numbers and it is matched to the character "class." Sure, the same thing can be done with keywords or modifiers, but this approach opens the door to task resolution based on narrative, instead of numbers.
Roll a die differently depending on the action #
I originally discovered it in BattleBall, a fantasy American football game where each character on the team uses a different die type (D6 to D20). When moving, you want to roll high (this is how many spaces you move), when tackling you want to roll low. This makes it super simple to differentiate units' abilities at a glance and minimizes bookkeeping. It also makes so much sense that the armored heavy-hitters would be much slower than the light-footed guys and vice versa.
Measure distance using a game component #
Pirates of the Spanish Main was a constructable naval wargame with simple rules. The ships came on plasticard that you punch out and put together. While the constructable aspect is cool, what really sold me on the game was its approach to measuring movement. After building your ship, it left behind a frame with name, stats and abilities...but most importantly you used the frame's edges (either the long or short - depending on its stats) to move the ship! It was a great way to keep the game accessible and portable. Wizkids didn't push the ideas in this game enough IMHO, but I would love to see games using different sized components in similar way.
See also: Cluedology