Day 37 - Lens 74: The Lens of Obstacle
A goal with no obstacles is not worth pursuing. Use this lens to make sure your obstacles are ones that your players will want to overcome.
What is the relationship between the main character and the goal? Why does the character care about it?
Since it's a multiplayer game there are six 'main characters' they are functionally identical though. I think this question is not one that is addressed in any interesting way in the theme or fiction of the game. It's an abstract strategy game and the goal is to win... but in the fiction the goal is to tear down the city and rule the wasteland yourself. That's well and good but there is no specific reason for each tribe leader to want that.
What are the obstacles between the character and the goal?
There are two types of obstacle between the player and their goal. The first are a pair of resource pools that must be depleted by player action. The first of those consists of 180 'citizens' that each grant the player a 'warrior' resource used to hold bases and engage in conflicts with other players. The second consists of 18 'City Heads' that can each be claimed by players. For every three they claim they gain a victory point.
The second type of obstacle is the other players. Players can take a variety of actions for or against the player. Navigating the player obstacles is the most dynamic and interesting part of the game requiring both mechanical strategy and social interaction.
Is there an antagonist who is behind the obstacles? What is the relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist?
In the most conceptual sense the City and the hegemony it represents is behind the resource gathering obstacle. This is not personified in the game outside of the flavor text in the rules. It's possible that additional narrative background around 'The City' would make the act of seeking it's downfall more compelling to some players, to others it would be irrelevant and should be optional and avoidable if added. Perhaps something like a short story from the perspective of each tribe recalling the evils of the city and the tribes motivations?
Do the obstacles gradually increase in difficulty?
Depleting the resource pool obstacles do not increase in difficulty until there are fewer remaining than the number of players and that is usually a short lived edge case.
The difficulty of the player obstacles in of course dependant on the skill and tactics of the players. It increases as the players learn the game, both within a single game and over the course of multiple games.
Within an individual game the player sees the tactics of other players and can use that knowledge to adjust their play making the game more challenging over the course of a single game. This is reflected in the iterative prisoner's dilemma.
There are not however mechanical changes in the game that give it an explicit difficulty curve.
Some say, "The bigger the obstacle, the better the story." Are your obstacles big enough? Can they be bigger?
Because the game is essentially competitive the size of the obstacles, and hence the quality of the 'story' of any individual game is player dependant. I have seen players perform their role as obstacles theatrically and watched that make the game more exciting and engaging, I am not sure how to mechanically reinforce that behavior, though I would love to!
I frame the challenge of overthrowing the city as the act of ending Civilisation, that's about as big of a narrative stake as I can imagine in the game.
Great stories often involve the protagonist transforming in order to overcome the obstacle. How does your protagonist transform?
The players begin the game with no specific animosity against each other but the competition for resources brings them into conflict quickly. How they react to each other can be seen as a series of moral choices causing them to evolve as characters within the story of the game. In every game some take on the role of the traitor, the ally or the victim, the aggressor or the peacemaker.
In the end the winner is given a narrative message from the designer within the context of the game's fiction, it is intended to cause the player to assess and question the meaning of their actions within the game.