After version 21's action system proved to be a bit too obtuse, I worked to refine it v22. Version 22 of Seventh Cross led us to try and improve the encounters by simplifying them–making things a bit less narrative-heavy.
Encounter Cards in this version relied on an illustration (not shown here) to convey the challenge the player faced. They provided several different actions which could be used to overcome the obstacle ahead. The penalties for failing a specific check were described at the bottom. This challenge would inflict 3 damage and cause the player to lose 1 Stamina if it were no succeeded.
Path Cards determined the difficulty of the encounter (when summed with the encounter's base difficulty) and provided a way to determine the rewards for victory. These path cards could also Explode (as shown here), which would force a player to draw and add another card to their challenge.
These developments appeared to be headed in the right direction, but the assortment of actions to choose and the drawing of the path cards still seemed like too many steps for a series of actions that players were going to have to do every single turn. Also, it was a little too calculated to decide which action to take and which difficulty to attempt it at–a decision made by your board setup rather than by your thematics or preferred style of play.
We also tried much simpler gear cards this time through. Gear Cards provided the players a way to approach the encounters, though not as directly as before. Instead of having several different uses, they interacted directly with the action options on the check (cutting out v21's "Encounter Tags"), and also could be used to provide raw stats in a pinch. After being used, these cards would be discarded until the players were able to rest and recover their stamina. Even without a card though, any action except 'Attack' could be activated directly from the player's Gear Grid.
How did it work out?
Version 22 was a step in the right direction, but it still required a lot of work to commit a player action under this system. Even in their simplified form, the skill cards were a lot of work to keep track of, and players didn't like operating a hand of cards AND a gear grid at the same time. I felt that it was going to need to be one or the other, and the Gear Grid was definitely what the players who tested the game were more interested in exploring.
The main disappointment of the encounters in this version is that they were simply a little uninteresting. The combination of encounters and movement didn't put the players into a situation where they needed to do anything differently based on the situation. There wasn't a real impetus to adapt or to strategize, only to get stronger. Furthermore, even though certain wings prioritized certain kinds of skills, this wasn't too clear, and didn't provide enough context for the players to make a decision about where they wanted to go on their turns.
The scenario paired with this version was again Tower of Ascension, and players enjoyed the structure of the scenario, which had them traveling around the castle, opening up checkpoints, and encountering a narrative-style story point about once every turn, then making narrative decisions at those plot points. I felt that this was about the correct pacing for story developments, and decided to structure future scenarios around this setup.
One of the main complaints in this version was the lack of boss presence throughout the tower. This led to a much larger thought–what if the encounters were more active threats to players. Rather than waiting for players to come to them, what if bosses prowled around as a constant threat, and had to be avoided or engaged?
For version 23, I introduce a new scenario and a new way to interact with the bosses! Look out for that update next week! :)