In the end I went back to a system whereby the traits that determine a couple’s compatibility are represented not by words but by a number of colour-coded gems. This just seemed to speed up the process of adding them up and working out who was compatible in-game. After one playtest where all heroes had 6 gems, I also brought this number down, so that they range between 3 and 6. Some of the 3-gem heroes are also offset by having an additional “perk” to aid the player who has them in play.
More on all of that later. Right now I intend to just lay-out the play order as it works in the current game, along with the role of “dates”, which are a form of item card.
The idea of “sending heroes on a date” has been missing from the game for some time. I initially introduced dates as a kind of item which would block that couple from being split-up until the next turn, but it soon became obvious that dates were a good way to “finalize” a couple; you’ve sent them on their date and your work here is done.
You play “dates” on appropriate couples to lock them in for the rest of the game, meaning another player can no longer split them up by playing a more compatible suitor. So it looks like the goal of the game will be to accumulate a set number of dates before your opponents. Dates are item cards and, as a result, they appear in the shop as indicated by the green cards below.
In the above image, both players have made 3 clients, but the player on the right has purchased a date item and sent one of her couples on a date. Ergo, she is currently winning (although she may also have lost some patronage or other benefits from having those heroes in play – that’s the tradeoff!)
sorry for the image quality; what’s happening here is that the couple have 4 compatibility (2 red + 2 brown; they both fighters and drinkers). We also get 1 patronage at the end of the turn from the character on the right’s yellow gem, and the character on the left works on a caravan, giving us a travel perk (-1 cost to buying dates in the shop). However, if we send them on a date, they are effectively out of play; we lose the travel perk and the 1 patronage.
Player restocks the Shop using the item deck so that 6 items are face-up.
Player restocks the Inn using the hero deck so that 3 heroes are face-up (ignore if 3 or more heroes are at the inn already).
Player draws 3 heroes from the hero deck and plays them to make new couples, either by matching them with compatible single heroes from the Inn, or by beating the compatibility score of a rival’s couple. If the new match breaks up an existing couple, the “dumped” partner goes to the bottom of the hero deck.
When playing a hero card, the player may affix item equipments (which give additional trait gems or some other benefit) or expend potions (to change the hero’s orientation) or use other items that say “when you play a hero” or “when you play a <hero of this class>”.
At any point during their turn, the player may affix equipments to heroes, or “dates” to partners. However, equipments cannot be removed, and pairs of heroes are effectively out of play once they go on a date.
Any in-hand hero cards the player cannot match go to the bottom of the hero deck.
After all heroes have been played or discarded, the player may buy items from the shop. The total “gold” they have to spend is the sum of their clients’ yellow gems – this is called “patronage”. The shop is not “re-stocked” until the next player’s turn.
The player may also equip items and dates after the shopping phase and before the next player’s turn.