Design Diary #2 – World Unfairness

Hello everyone, Francesco Rugerfred Sedda here! Welcome back to our series of Design Diary entries about Cyberpunk 2077: Gangs of Night City. In our first entry (read it here), we talked about adapting the video game experience into a tabletop one, along with a general overview of some concepts from the game. This time around, we will go into the world of Cyberpunk 2077 and the harsh Night City where the action takes place.

One of the core principles of the Cyberpunk 2077 video game we wanted to reflect in our game is world unfairness. Power-hungry corporations, poverty, and corruption run rampant with a heartless government exacerbating the city’s problems. In Night City, meritocracy is replaced with hyper-capitalist corporations where one’s success is tied to another’s tremendous failure. This is as true in the upper echelons of society as it is in the squalid slums where criminal gangs rule the streets.

The board game builds on this principle. There are no tiebreakers in Night City. In firefights, only weapons, cyberware, and quickhacks matter. Only one may emerge victorious. This is even more obvious in a standoff involving multiple gangs. Even if one is clearly the strongest, depending on the situation, they may want to lose a firefight to not attract too much corporate attention or have the other gangs band against them.

The concept of unfairness extends to the Net, where NetWatch is always alert and waiting for you to make your next mistake. Few gangs are brave (or stupid) enough to venture into a corporate sever hoping to uncover some secret. Chances are, you’ll end up getting caught red-handed. Then, best-case scenario, your ‘runner gets fried. Worst-case scenario, you’ll witness corporate retaliation firsthand as they come down hard on your gang. But the deeper you dig, the more bountiful the rewards. How far are you willing to push your luck?

And finally, there are no ties in gang wars. Money and resources are worth nothing if your gang has no reputation to back it up. Street Cred means everything in this city and only the dominant gang survive. As such, the game has no endgame tiebreaker or victory by point-salad. The gang with the most Street Cred will be declared the winner. And if there’s a tie for Street Cred, well then, there are no winners. Tomorrow is another day and disputes are settled in Night City one way or another.

In addition, some game conditions may even cause all players to lose against Night City’s big corporations. Life’s unfair, after all, and the biggest fish is still potential prey for a big corpo’ shark.

We truly believe designing unfairness into the core mechanics of Cyberpunk 2077: Gangs of Night City best represents the world and allows players to experience Night City in all its brutality. Only the bravest players may even be able to survive and live to see another day in Night City.

And that’s what we have for you this time. Be sure to stay tuned for more Design Diary info as we get closer to Cyberpunk 2077: Gangs of Night City hitting your tabletops.

Footnotes: If you want to delve deeper in the topic of unfairness in game design, I personally suggest the brilliant GDC talk “King Me: A Defense of King-Making in Board Game Design” by the game designer Cole Wehrle (Root, Pax Pamir, John Company). If you want to explore more the territory of games that make clear points with heavy themes and mechanics, I suggest the talk “This Might Sting a Little” by Tobias Wrigstad.

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