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New dynamic: species (predation) offense/defense, also used to resolve invasive attacks.

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[NOTE: specific rules proposal posted in 3rd reply below... this is just my first groping towards the idea]

I've never played, and just looked over the rules, so this idea may have serious problems. However, looking at real ecosystems, there is a lot of predator/prey coadaption which is not captured by the current dynamics. Essentially, size and terrain are all that there is in the current rules.

There could be a finite list of generalized prey defense strategies. Things like:
camouflage/hide, tastes bad, armor, run, fly, burrow, numerous, fight
(These would cover plants, too.)

Any predator (including herbivores) would have a strength of 1 or 2 against given strategies.

The important point is that your network would be stronger if your predator/prey links are *balanced*. For instance, say that you have a snowshoe hare (camouflage, run) and a grey wolf (anti-run 2). The hare has 2 points of defense and the wolf has 2 points of attack against those defenses; that's balanced, so the link is strong.

You could still play cards if the attack/defense is off. But there would be event cards (or even card-less actions?) which could attack that link: overfeeding (removes prey) and starvation (removes predator). (If it's cards, the cards would be widely applicable and thus common.)

Certain strategies would have special rules. The "numerous" would just be a generalized +1 to all defense and attack, except on a defender for purposes of starving the attacker. Having a predator in play would cancel out the "numerous" attack for a prey species (thus possibly protecting the prey from a "starvation" event). All predators would have an automatic "fight" defense, when considered as prey.

Clearly, this increases the information on a card, so you'd have to redesign. I think that move/spread could be another number in the upper right - move in black-on-white and spread in white-on-black (or white-on-grey if a pollinator is required). That would free up some space. If the offense/defense is a limited set, there could be icons for each one. Since attack is meaningless without the corresponding defense, the attack values could be icons without text; the defense values would be icons and text.

I know that it's pretty late to be suggesting basic re-design like this, but I thought I'd put it out there.

....

Totally separate: there should be saber-toothed tigers, able to feed ONLY on animals larger than themselves. (Of course, there could be several different species of saber-tooths). It would be a high-point card but very fragile.

And why isn't the ruby-throat a pollinator?



Last edited by homunq on Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:08 pm; edited 3 times in total

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2 Supporting dynamic: repeatable events on Sun Aug 01, 2010 4:26 pm

To support the predator/prey coadaption which I suggested in the previous post, you'd want the overfeeding/starvation type events to be a widely accessible form of attack. But you don't want to load down your deck with a bunch of boring, similar cards, nor to load down the available action rules with a lot of special possibilities that must be memorized. So, what if event cards went face-up in a general discard pile? Certain event cards would be playable by any player as long as they were within N cards of the top of the pile; others would be unplayable from the discard pile. Some decks would rely on reusing the same events; other decks would defend against that by using a lot of non-reusable events to "bury" the other players' reusable ones.

Also, to clarify the coadaption idea: two cards would be "compatible" even if the predator/prey strength were way out of whack. The problem would be that this link would be very vulnerable to attack by the other player. Kids would initially focus on having the strongest possible "attack" and "defense", but eventually realize that it's a better strategy to go for balance.



Last edited by homunq on Sun Aug 01, 2010 9:41 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : separated point to other message)

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3 Invasives on Sun Aug 01, 2010 9:40 pm

Invasive species attacks could also depend on coadaption. An invasive species could not supplant a species with equal or better attack OR defense coadaption.

In fact, with this rule, maybe you could make ALL species potentially invasive against species of the same food-chain number. If a different species is better-adapted to the neighboring habitats, food, and predators, it can supplant an existing species. The "numerous" ability, which would be a general boost to attack and defense, would function as invasive potential, but of course would reduce point value.

This would naturally bring in several useful ecosystem dynamics. Having a predator you're adapted against would help protect you against invasives. Also, you could have more explicit symbiosis: for instance, acacia ants would give extra anti-predator power against acacias.

The issue is, how to make this dynamic work without excessively-complicated computation. When you're calculating whether a species can invade at a certain place, you want to take into account all the neighbors, but you don't want it to take 5 minutes just to add and subtract all the bonuses. So, to simplify:

1. Just calculate the coadaption against one neighbor, of defenders choice. However, every additional neighbor which "interacts" in any way - predator or prey - gives you a flat bonus against invasives.
2. When considering potential invasives, only the predator/prey adaptions count. Climate, terrain, and size are not considered. (Possibly yes for size... not sure.)

What do you think? Is it too late to be adding major card-redesign-requiring rules like this?

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Sounds pretty cool, but you're right in that it does seem fairly complicated. As well, since we're still working through the base rules, it's probably not the best idea to introduce that much new info at this stage. I am however wondering if similar concepts can be covered with a new a game mechanic that uses current species cards with the addition of a new set of event type cards (i.e. rule specific event cards).

This way (and maybe this is a general model to be applied to any new set of rules that rely on a significant addition of information), the project has the base species cards which can be used as is, but there are opportunities (such as your idea) to introduce new games simply by thinking of appropriate event cards.

Anyway, does this make sense? And do you think that might be possible?

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5 trying to simplify and clarify on Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:20 pm

I think that it wouldn't work without redesigning the cards somewhat. The point is that co-adapted predator-prey links are safer against both invasives and certain events; but without further information on the cards, you can't determine what's co-adapted to what.

OK, I'm going to try to strip this down to the bare essentials, the simplest possible computation. In order to do that, I'm moving the whole concept of size; it's no longer part of initial compatibility/playability of a card, as climate and terrain are, but rather a part of predator/prey coadaption, and thus important only for invasive attacks and starvation/overpredation events.

First off, there's an issue of terminology. In order to discuss this, you need to draw a distinction between predation attack/defense, and invasion attack/defense. Perhaps by judicious use of a thesaurus, you could find 4 distinct terms, but I'm just going to use the modifiers.

The upper left corner would have foodchain level, as currently. But size would be replaced by movement - have some color or icon code for spread, conditional spread (explained in text), move, or flight. You'd have a third number next to these two, which would be a "breeding speed/growth" value from 0-4 (4 used just for plants, 3 mostly plants and the most rapacious animals). Then, to the left of these three values, you'd have 0-3 "predation defense" icons inscribed in shields, from the set:
small, midsized, big, yucky, armor, fast, flies, burrows, hides, fights, flowers
Duplicated (extra-strong) defenses are possible. So are x-ed out defenses (special vulnerabilities, they count as "overmatched" in the presence of the corresponding attack). Anything from mouse to rabbit size is midsized. Bugs have 1 "small", bacteria have 2. Deer have 1 "big", oxen to elephants have 2. Moles would have 2 "burrows" defenses, rabbits and potatoes 1, and foxes 0 (they only sleep there, it's not their main defense from mountain lions). Thorns would be armor. Flowers is a special "defense" which only counts to help protect pollinators/fructivores against invasives.

Then, under the picture, you'd have any number of "attack" icons, the same as the defense icons without the shields.

When initially playing a card, predation attack/defense would not matter. You could play a spider eating an elephant or an orca eating a giant clam, whatever. Compatibility would be solely a matter of food-chain level, habitat, and climate.

Later addition: So, the predation attack/defense icons would ONLY matter in resolving event cards. There would be 3 basic kinds of event cards which use those icons: invasive attacks, overpredation events, and predator failure/starvation events.

When resolving an "invasive" attack event, the base stat is the breeding speed/growth number. Invasive defender wins ties; if the invasive attacker is superior by one you flip a coin. The invasive defender gets +1 for each predator or prey beyond the first, and -1 for each parasite. The invasive defender can also choose a single predator or prey to "help defend". If the "defense helper" is a prey, then both invasive attacker and invasive defender get +1 for each matched predatory defense of the prey, and +2 for each overmatched defense. If the "defense helper" a predator, both invasive attacker and invasive defender get +2 for each unmatched predatory defense they have except "flowers", +1 for each equally-matched predatory defense, and 0 for each overmatched predatory defense.

The "starvation" event would be reusable by either player as long as it were on top of the discard pile. It would remove a predator if it breeds faster than the prey. The prey breeding (that is, the amount of "catchable" prey) would get -2 for each unmatched predator defense of the prey.

The "overpredation" event would also be reusable. It would remove a prey if its predator breeds as fast or faster. The prey's breeding would get +1 for each unmatched predator defense it has, and -1 for each overmatched defense it has.

There could also be special "invasion" event cards, which give one-time bonuses to an invasion. That would be fun: invasive pandas! No, all invasive attacks would be event cards.
....
Some results of these rules:

- A stable ecosystem would have slower-breeding predators and faster-breeding prey. Duh. (Later edit: actually, this is a very important learning goal; it is really part of the ABCs of ecosystems. I believe this is one of the major advantages of my proposal; kids do not need to be taught that bigger animals eat smaller animals, but they do need to be taught this.) Thus slow-breeding plants and fast-breeding predators would be high-point cards.

- a fast-breeding predator could "overpredate" and kill your opponents' cards. But it would also be vulnerable to "starvation". Similarly, fast-breeding animals would be effective "invasive" attackers, but might then die from overpredation or starvation.

- Species which currently have the "invasive" characteristic would either have a high breeding number or they'd have, in the text, a bonus to breeding for the purposes of invasion.

- A card with many predators and/or prey on the board would be essentially immune from invasion.

- Anything that could eat bacteria could eat bugs. Oh well. (I don't think that the game should even strive for perfect realism. It's impossible anyway, and unreal combinations are part of the fun.)

- Predator-prey combinations which aren't co-adapted are likely to be vulnerable to at least one of starvation or overpredation. Thus, while you could play an orca feeding on a giant clam, your opponent would have an easy way to attack that link, removing one or both.

- These rules now allow prey vulnerabilities (I edited them). "Cats come to Australia and eat all the kangaroo mice" (special vulnerability against "fast" attack) or "invasive snakes in polynesia eat all the birds' eggs" (special vulnerability against "hides" attack) would be an interesting dynamic to have in the game.
....

I think that the mechanics of this proposal are manageable. It actually makes initial "compatibility" checking easier, because size becomes a matter for events and invasive attacks, not for initial playability/compatibility. Invasive attack/defense is the most complicated, but even there, it's a single stat each for attacker/defender, and the stat is calculable by looking at the number of neighbors and the actual content of only two cards.

It is also just... fun. It gives the game more of a battle mechanic, but in an eco-consistent way: rabbits don't kill kangaroo mice in paw-to-paw combat, but they can drive them out all the same. I can easily imagine some kind of Pokemon crossover rules with this dynamic - although your average Pokemon would quickly overpredate all its food sources and then die.

Any questions? (I'm sure I haven't been quite clear enough about all the details, but I hope you get the idea.)



Last edited by homunq on Sat Aug 14, 2010 4:18 pm; edited 6 times in total (Reason for editing : invasion = event)

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6 Draft icons on Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:04 pm

See http://www.openclipart.org/detail/77611 for some draft SVGs for some of the possible animal defense icons.

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7 Feedback, please on Sat Aug 07, 2010 8:35 pm

I understand that davehwng is not online for another week or so. Other people reading this, can you please give feedback. Simple one-liners - "nice", or "I don't understand", or "needs work", or "seems too complicated", or "too late to make such a big change", or even "meh" - would help me understand if this idea is interesting to people.

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I like the idea, it sounds like its a critter vs critter kinda game (correct me if I'm wrong) but based upon the current gamplay and setup thats being worked out I don't think this would work.

I think it would do better as its own game/setup, which has been a goal with the cards: to make them playable with differnt game setups and rules.


Totally separate: there should be saber-toothed tigers, able to feed ONLY on animals larger than themselves. (Of course, there could be several different species of saber-tooths). It would be a high-point card but very fragile.

I'm all for adding extinct species both prehistoric and modern but I think there was an agreement to put this aside until a later date. A 'Parody' type card was added (the wookie) and I think there was strong support of adding more. If a Wookie from Star Wars can be added to an educational enviromental game then I dont see why creatures from crytozoology wouldn't be either (has led to discoveries of new species).


(Of course, there could be several different species of saber-tooths).

The Genus Smilodon typically known as 'Saber-toothed Cats' has three species: Smilodon gracilis, Smilodon populator, and Smilodon fatalis (the one your probely thinking of).

Simlodon Fatalis is considerd to have two possible subspecies: Smilodon falifornicus and Smilodon floridanus (sorry for having to be a know-it-all '^^)

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I like the idea, it sounds like its a critter vs critter kinda game (correct me if I'm wrong) but based upon the current gamplay and setup thats being worked out I don't think this would work.

You're wrong. This idea does not change the current basic gameplay. It would still be a game of building your ecosystem, which is essentially a food web mapped onto a grid, and destroying the other players', and scoring points at the end based on what cards were in play. The differences I'm proposing are to simplify the initial compatibility check (remove size), but have invasives and two events key off of "coadaption" and "breeding speed", which would be calculated using new data on the cards. (thus, "invasive" would no longer be a unitary characteristic, but rather a matter of having a breeding speed which is higher than 5 minus your trophic level, and/or having a lot of predation strengths)

So maybe I haven't explained it well enough; sorry. Would examples of play help?

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I think this complicates the current gameplay and could be worked as a seperate game.

(thus, "invasive" would no longer be a unitary characteristic, but rather a matter of having a breeding speed which is higher than 5 minus your trophic level, and/or having a lot of predation strengths)

What makes an orginism 'invasive' in real life has alot to do with it's adaptability. An orginism that is able to inhabit a wide range of habitats and adjusts it diet acordingly will likely invade opposed to a more specialized animal that is unige to its area. Red Foxes and Brown Rats for example are extreamly adaptable.

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I think this complicates the current gameplay and could be worked as a seperate game.

I think it can't be, without redesigning the cards. So, if others agree with you, that's that.

But I'd argue that in a certain sense, it simplifies the current gameplay, because the basic rules are simpler (no size compatibility), and the extra rules go on event cards.

What makes an orginism 'invasive' in real life has alot to do with it's adaptability. An orginism that is able to inhabit a wide range of habitats and adjusts it diet acordingly will likely invade opposed to a more specialized animal that is unige to its area. Red Foxes and Brown Rats for example are extreamly adaptable.

Precisely. In my system, the proxy for this is having a number of different predation abilities, so that, whatever the prey, you get the advantages of coadaption.

The other piece of being invasive is just breeding/growing faster. Think kudzu, think of the wide variety of pigeons (because their "pigeon milk" allows them to have more offspring without needing as reliable a supply of food). The proxy for this in my system is a single "breeding speed" number, which typically goes down as you move up the trophic pyramid.

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Breeding I think is very minimal compared to being able to adapt to terrain, climate, and diet.

For example the Red Fox is adaptable, but take for instance the Fennec Fox(desert) and Artic Fox(tundra) who are better adapted to there pacific habitats. Who do you think would fair better if I:

Droped the Red Fox and Artic Fox off in a desert?

Droped the Red Fox and Fennec Fox off on the tundra?

Breeding quickly wont help the Feenec Fox out on the tundra.


Think kudzu, think of the wide variety of pigeons (because their "pigeon milk" allows them to have more offspring without needing as reliable a supply of food).

That depends on the species of pigeon. The Rock and Common pigeon are both invasive due to large numbers in addition to being resistant to many diseases and spreaders of over 40 differnt diseases, infecting other wildlife and humans.

The extinct Passenger Pigeon was a slow breeder that lived in enormouse migratory flocks of 2 billion birds(once said to cover the sky for three days) and some argue there may have been as many as 5 billion. At the time they had the largest numbers of any animal until human settlers arived and hunted them to extinction for there meat.

Humans by the way are considerd invasive (were adaptable but are considerably slow breeders, living long with many years invested in raising young)

Both the Rock and Common pigeon can adapt to the presence of humans living on buildings, under bridges, and they have a diverse diet (something a specialized bird like a woodpecker could not do).

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Breeding I think is very minimal compared to being able to adapt to terrain, climate, and diet.

It varies. I would say that, for instance, for Hydrilla verticillata (invasive aquarium plant) or Dreissena polymorpha (zebra mussel), a significant part of their invasive power is their fast breeding/growth.

For example the Red Fox is adaptable, but take for instance the Fennec Fox(desert) and Artic Fox(tundra) who are better adapted to there pacific habitats. Who do you think would fair better if I:

Droped the Red Fox and Artic Fox off in a desert?

Droped the Red Fox and Fennec Fox off on the tundra?

Breeding quickly wont help the Feenec Fox out on the tundra.

This example would be handled by terrain compatibility. The Arctic fox would not be compatible with desert terrain, nor the Fennec with tundra.

[That depends on the species of pigeon. The Rock and Common pigeon are both invasive due to large numbers in addition to being resistant to many diseases and spreaders of over 40 differnt diseases, infecting other wildlife and humans.]

Part of this would be covered by my proposal. They'd have a relatively fast breeding and a variety of predation strategies.

I don't have a proposal for how to deal with diseases and invasives. Perhaps on-board diseases/parasites could count as -1 to breeding unless there was a specific resistance; but how would you classify disease resistance, without making a disease-by-disease list? Rats and pigeons are just resistant to everything? What about humans? Yes, we have diseases, but as urban-adapted creatures we are some of the most disease resistant overall. I'm open to suggestions; but note that this is not really a criticism of my proposal, as there's currently no way to deal with this either.

The extinct Passenger Pigeon was a slow breeder that lived in enormouse migratory flocks of 2 billion birds(once said to cover the sky for three days) and some argue there may have been as many as 5 billion. At the time they had the largest numbers of any animal until human settlers arived and hunted them to extinction for there meat.

This is getting pretty off-topic, but there's some question if they were "naturally" that common. There is no evidence of them making up much of the Native American diet, as one might expect for a bird that common, tasty, and easy-to-hunt. So one theory is that something about the initial European colonization - perhaps diseases attacking a natural predator, perhaps the decimation of Native American populations leading to a break in the long-established practices of anthropogenic wildfires - allowed the number of passenger pigeons to reach such extremes, just in time for them to then be hunted to extinction.

Humans by the way are considerd invasive (were adaptable but are considerably slow breeders, living long with many years invested in raising young)

Humans are the exception in a very, very large number of ways. I have some ideas for dealing with some of that, but they are out-of-scope for this proposal.

(My basic concept is to have several subspecies of humans - traditional farmers, urban dwellers, hunter-gatherers, agroindustrials, maybe even different native cultures such as cold/water-adapted Inuit or wildfire-starting Lakota - with different special effects in their card text. BTW, I also think that some special effects should be at the metagame, not the ecological, level - for instance, national birds such as the Quetzal, Peacock, or Bald Eagle could give +1 point for any other species in play which is native to their country - checkable on Wikipedia.)

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Keep this discussion going. My own feeling right now is that adding these extra details might make it too "busy" for the younger players.

Here, last week, I had a chance to playtest the current rules with a small group of 8 to 9 year olds, and right now, the basic rules work pretty good (may scale down to 24 cards though), as the game was pretty long-ish when young kids had to think through event card consequences.

I also played with a few 6 year olds, and essentially I think the basic rules were too mostly much for them. However, they quite enjoyed playing a simple "trumps" version of the game using the following as stats:

Scale
Food chain rank
#terrains
#climates
FLIGHT>MOVE>SPREAD
points

When there was a tie it was actually quite fun if the tie happened with the MOVE or #terrain values (multiple ties would occur so that it ended up having a "war" like mechanic to it). One of the kids suggested that in the event of a tie, the first kid to yell out the latin name wins!

Ooh ooh, and the best suggestion from the kids - why not make the "starter" cards an "avatar" type card. i.e. Can the kids make a card that represents themselves? As well, some of these kids sad it would be cool if with these "self" starter cards, you can pick a special property (i.e. like you're an expert in one particular thing which means any cards you have in with that detail, you can play it better).

There was also some other interesting idea about competing for the same table space by using dice.

Anyway, I'll repost this in a new thread.

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This example would be handled by terrain compatibility. The Arctic fox would not be compatible with desert terrain, nor the Fennec with tundra.

It demonstrates why a Red Fox would stand better, because it can handle variouse terrain and its diet is flexable enough for both habbitats. The other two are too specialized.

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16 Just simplify basic rules? on Sat Aug 14, 2010 3:50 pm

Keep this discussion going. My own feeling right now is that adding these extra details might make it too "busy" for the younger players.

OK, here's the new version of the proposal: redesign the cards with these elements, but the basic rules would only simplify (no "scale"). Invasion, like starvation or overpredation, would only be a matter of event cards. Event cards would have a "complexity" stat and/or a "theme" somewhere on them, and you could vary the game by restricting which complexities/themes of event cards were allowed.

This broadens the scope of the game instead of restricting it. And honestly, even a 6-year-old is attracted to cool icons on a card, even if they don't really understand what they're for.

I will try to post a draft card design using the icons I already mocked up.

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I like the idea but see it as:

1. a completely different ruleset. One way this could be done is using the same cards with different possible meanings for the numbers.

2. a ruleset expansion to be played in addition to the base rules. This could be one of several different types of expansions of which one or more could be added to the core ruleset as agreed by the players. This would be a nice option for more experienced players looking to take the game further after they have exhausted working through the variations of the basic rules.

Before reaching this point however, I do agree that the core ruleset needs to be bedded down.

Cheers,
-T.

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homunq wrote:See http://www.openclipart.org/detail/77611 for some draft SVGs for some of the possible animal defense icons.

Your icon for "fight" seems like "venom" for me due to showing a bee sting. I suggest you change it to something like tiger claw instead.

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