After giving it some thought I've scrapped my initial custom missions based on the comics and wanted to move to something that might actually garner serious consideration for Brains' Notebook and not be game-breaking.
I asked Chris why Cry Wolf, Vault of Death and Brink of Disaster are still missing - Chris said it would upset the balance of missions. This got me thinking: what's the distribution of different mission difficulties, types, areas etc. etc?
Long story short, I've tabulated the 48-card replacement set from the new expansions and concluded Chris was indeed right - Land missions already outweigh any other type in the game, and Vault of Death and Cry Wolf, if not Brink of Disaster, would qualify and bring this count higher. Likewise, Vault of Death would make for the game's 8th European mission, with Europe leading on mission count as is. On the flipside, however, Cry Wolf would give the game only its third Australian mission and Brink of Disaster would bring the N American count into joint second with Africa.
Anyhow, with a view to either these or Brains' Notebook friendly missions getting into the game, I tried to get into the anatomy of a mission card to come up with some 'ground rules' for designing one (skip to the end if you want those) - and discovered some interesting patterns.
1) Difficulty distribution:
6 missions not requiring a roll
6 missions at 7
15 missions at 8
11 missions at 9
5 missions apiece at 10 and 11
Conclusions: 8 or 9 seems to be the most popular mission difficulty, with just over half of the missions in this bracket. This then drops off sharply to roughly an eighth for difficulties 7, 10, 11 and rolless.
2) Rescue Bonuses
There is just one mission in the game that has only a single bonus - Martian Invasion. A whopping 30 missions have two bonuses on offer and 11 offer three bonuses. Unsurprisingly, all 5 of the 11-difficulty missions offer 3 bonuses, but the other 6 missions are mixtures of 8,9 and 10 difficulty.
The general rule seems to be 2 bonuses except for the trickiest of missions or where theme calls for it. More bonuses for an easier mission did not necessarily mean those bonuses added up to less either.
Generally I found that for the 2-bonus missions, the overall bonus ranged from 3-6 and roughly scaled with the difficulty, covering, broadly speaking, half of it or just over. Interestingly, both Move - And You're Dead and Claws of the Phoenix clock in at just 8 points in difficulty but have a whopping potential bonus of 6 - an oversight or deliberate?
As per my earlier remarks, Land trumps it at 12 missions. Air, Sea and Space have 10 each while there are 6 colourless organisation missions. Efforts to create additional missions should probably focus on Sea, Air and Space first.
Asteroid Belt 2
Indian Ocean 2
N America 5
N Atlantic 2
N Pacific 2
S America 4
S Atlantic 1
S Pacific 0
The Moon 2
The Sun 1
Thunderbird 5 1
Tracy Island 1
This one makes the most interesting reading of all. Europe and Africa are enormously popular locations with N America in 3rd place and S America and Asia sharing 4th. No space location has more than 2 missions and some have just 1, notably The Sun, Venus and Mars.
Big standout is that there isn't a single one in the South Pacific (assuming you count Tracy Island as its own location as I have) now that Towering Ocean has been rejigged and relocated to the Indian Ocean. Fair play on that one, it was too easy to have TB3 and 4 sat at base at the game's start! The South Atlantic only has 1 mission itself, however and the two Northern oceans and the Indian Ocean only have 2 each.
Australia is a big standout, too, since up until recently Rockquake! was the only mission there, though Venomous is now a 2nd.
Last but not least, the rewards. The below is how many times a particular token is offered as a reward by a mission:
Also of note is the fact that ALL missions of difficulty 10 or 11 offer a reward and then a player choice as a second token. With the exception of Perils of Penelope, all other missions offering a double reward were difficulty 9 - the second reward was fixed in each case. For those offering one reward, ALL 8-difficulty missions were player choice. The 7s enforced the reward token as did most of the rolless missions. At present, each of the 6 rolless missions offers a different token (Security Hazard is player choice).
So, how do you go about creating a mission? Well:
1) Start with the type, bearing in mind that Land is oversubscribed - you're probably looking at a Sea, Space or Air mission for now;
2) Locate the mission - on Earth, give Europe and Africa a miss and instead give priority to the Southern Oceans and Australia - in Space, head for the Sun, Mars or Venus;
3) Select the difficulty, remembering that bands 7, 10 and 11 and rolless missions each make up roughly one-eighth of the pile apiece - the remaining half is exclusively 8s and 9s;
4) Consider bonuses carefully - you'll more than likely want 2 (unless it's an 11 or there's a thematic reason to have 3) and these need to add up, either way, to roughly half the mission's difficulty;
5) Consider rewards carefully - if the mission's a 10 or 11 then it's automatically 2 tokens with the second one player choice. If it's a 9, two rewards, but these must be fixed. 8 or below, one reward only, usually player choice.
6) Flesh out the details - title, artwork (giving the time of a suitable shot from an episode will do nicely), flavour text;
7) Remember the two movies don't fall within the compass of the rights!