Way back in the year 2014, Time Management started off as Human Resources, and was developed for the Dice Hate Me 54 Card Challenge. But the game was much different. Cards were a largely black and white affair, and were either patterns, abilities, or special ways to score. It was also fairly random and limited to 2 players. Both of these things needed to change. It took me several months to figure out two big changes that made the game really start to come together.
The first change was taming the randomness by making every card contain both something to score, and a way to manipulate other cards. That made every card useful, and made the decisions more challenging. Was it worth trying to score the card and giving up the power? Could you hold on to two scoring cards or did you need to use one to score the other? Time became an important factor, so you could complete projects before running out of cards in the deck.
The second change was adding a third color to give more flexibility for more players. With just two colors, there isn’t enough variability. One of the lessons I learned early with Human Resources is that the patterns need to include more than one color to ensure a mix of cards in the office. But rather than doing a full mix of three colors, I chose to limit the patterns to only two colors, and duplicating the patterns using the primary color (the color of the back of the card) with each secondary color. So you would have a Blue L with Yellow, and a Blue L with Red, and likewise for the reverse. That gives me 9 cards with every color sequence.
This is where the theme of the office started to solidify. I worry about double coding colors, and I knew I needed some icons. Instead of simply being different shades, the colors were departments: Design represented by a pencil and paper, Service represented by a phone, and Marketing, represented by a TV. I chose a blocky, slightly Mad Men aesthetic for the icons, which led me to redesigning the backs. The desks in each department took on different characters, as I rearranged them to match the shape of the icons.
But gameplay still needed to be balanced, and I probably carried it around with me for a year after this without actually sitting down to play. When I did finally sit down to start testing balance, I wasn’t even sure it would work with more than two players. But it did. And I discovered a few things. It became really hard to complete the larger patterns, even when they were worth a lot of points. The few simple 2 by 2 patterns could stay, and the 3 by 2 patterns were mostly fine, but the 3 by 3 patterns had to go, replaced by simpler patterns. And I also got rid of the Tetris effect of having mirror patterns be considered unique. While I thought that would be easier than having to mentally flip it, it turns out to be much more effort to distinguish between the two. It also means there’s a lot more potential overlap in patterns, which is a good thing for strategy.