Earlier in the week I mentioned the 2 games Carcassonne and Delve and their similarities…
I also mentioned that they changed a mechanic that in theory would result, in theory, in a harder game.
If you need to
In Carcassonne you get 8 meeples that once you deploy you can only get back when you complete specific locations; in delve, you only have 5 pieces. You’d think that actually making it harder.
Even so, the designers actually can get away with it… this is why I think they get away with it.
This is a long answer…
I’m going to focus on scoring first, in Carcassonne only one player scores; it’s all or nothing meaning a common strategy is to try to lock down meeples by making it impossible to close them down. This can be a bit of a cruel strategy (although good) and requires some breathing room.
In Delve there are two key rule changes that affect scoring; firstly while you can still only place on the tile they placed, the players can place tiles in a way that increases the size of the room then place a “character” in the same room as another character; yours or an opponent. This may sound contradictory except for the second part; that scoring is split (unevenly yes but still split) between anyone with a character in the closed room.
This means that you can perform opportunistic actions; closing off a large room with a single character giving you a cut of the treasure in he room; this results in a character only being on the table for that turn. Still a douchebag move as it denies the opponent half the income BUT, unlike the Carcassonne prevention tactic, it pushes the game forward as by closing the room as it gives all the characters in the room back to the players.
Another reason that you require fewer pieces as out of the 4 room types (corridor, blue, yellow and void) only the corridors must link up, the other rooms can use their outer edge to close up another room compared to the area edge to area edge limitations of the original Carcassonne.
The result is it’s easier to get pieces down on the table the way you want it, making it faster to get characters back.
Thirdly, there is an incentive use both of these elements to your advantage.
There are multiple ways of doing this but I’ll give a few examples.
The first is solo vs. multiple teams in a closed room. If your characters are alone in the room, the opponent draws an encounter card which is more random. The results if you fail can vary from gaining nothing to losing a character piece.
While multiple teams means sharing the spoils, the risk of losing everything in the room or even losing the character gives an incentive to actually share a room so that you negate the risk. The result is a shared will to close off a room. Even in a 4 player game where the 4th player gains nothing in the room, the 3 people working together would make it easier to close these rooms up.
Another is the counter, in order to definitely survive the encounters you need to put more of your own pieces in the same room. As you’ve committed a large number of resources to succeeding in this room, you want it to pay off. If you let one opponent in the same room as you, you lose half that income immediately even if they only do the douchebag tactic to get a bonus reward, as such you want the ability to close off things off quickly so you can get the full reward and get your characters back.
Now I’ve given three examples without even considering the “XP tokens” that are effectively rule breakers.
The key thing is that the mechanics drive multiple styles of play but at the same time, there must be an incentive to use them and looking at Delve this provided from both directions. It is this combination that creates a cycle of getting characters out and pulling them back to your pool quicker than Carcassonne, meaning you need less.
Does this make Delve a better game than Carcassonne… I’ve played both and with the right players both games are excellent… what I see in Delve is an approach to avoid table flipping with it not being all or nothing on the scoring.