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Subject: DILEMMA: Tabletop strategy game: INCHES vs HEXES. rss

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Hey guys, we make this game:
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1017298/wip-a-e-g-i-s-combin...

We've run into a fundamental design issue that I think deserves its own thread.

The game is 5 characters vs. another person's 5 characters, represented by game pieces/figurines. It's essentially an entry-level warhammer or battletech. The game system is made to be really simple and accessible to a lot of people compared to those games.

On one hand
the game was designed to work on any surface in inches; you move your guy around in 1 inch increments and attacks are measured in 1 inch increments. There are attacks in the game that hit everything in a line, or push/pull guys around, and those things work really simply when there's no grid involved. The obvious issue with grid-less game-play is that whenever someone sees a ruler and they aren't a traditional tabletop player, they're immediately scared off. The lack of a grid/play mat also increases set up time by 2 or 3-fold.

On the other hand, 85% of the game translates over to hexes with no problem. Having a concrete game board to use makes set-up quicker and easier, which caters to our younger and more casual target audience. Some of our fundamental mechanics become really awkward on hexes, however. Anything that involves pushing far away guys farther away, pulling guys in, and damaging enemies in a line falls apart on hexes. This only accounts for very few mechanics, but they're really hard design space to throw away. the other main issue is that packaging in or demanding a play mat to be able to play this is potentially an issue in terms of portability and/or price?

We've been beta testing the game using both formats. Hardcore tabletop players love the inch-based game, and casual people at cons and etc love the hexes. The plan is to have the final game playable in either format, so tabletop players can play the game as they want while beginners and casual people can play the game on hexes.

Do we ditch one format? Do we alter the game rules so that it works on both? This is nerve-wracking.
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Jake Staines
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ZephyrW wrote:

The game system is made to be really simple and accessible to a lot of people compared to those games.


There's your answer: don't use free movement, use a grid of some kind.

Seriously: the grid has so many benefits that play to the simple-and-accessible goal that freeform movement isn't worth considering. If you're having trouble fitting mechanics into a grid, then those mechanics are likely going to cause boardgamers - as opposed to miniature wargamers - problems.

Boardgamers like things to be heavily codified and for there to only be one possible interpretation of a rule. They like to know in advance more or less what their actions are going to do, and they hate things like kneeling down to figure-eye-view to check line of sight or vague definitions that leave them arguing for half an hour as to whether a piece is or isn't in cover. Look at some of the threads bitching about the rules for Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster if you want an example - that's what happens when a mini gamer writes boardgame rules with a mini-gaming mindset and mini-gaming assumptions.

ZephyrW wrote:

Some of our fundamental mechanics become really awkward on hexes, however. Anything that involves pushing far away guys farther away, pulling guys in, and damaging enemies in a line falls apart on hexes.


Hexes do lines really well, they're just only possible in six axes. You can do twelve at a push, and if you still need a bit more flexibility to match your freeform opportunity space, you could always just make the thickness of the line a bit wider. If you want to push people towards or away, there'll only be a choice of two hexes that may be "away from" or "towards" the target, simply allow one player or the other to choose which one the subject gets moved to.

(Of course, it's possible to codify rules which produce a reliable and repeatable straight line between any two hexes, it's just that those rules tend to be so fiddly to work out that they're fine in computer games and not so practical on the table, so I wouldn't recommend trying.)

ZephyrW wrote:

the other main issue is that packaging in or demanding a play mat to be able to play this is potentially an issue in terms of portability and/or price?


How large a hex grid are we talking about, here?

Look at Krosmaster: Arena - that manages a lot of game in a pretty small grid compared to most games of WH40k I've seen. But it does so by restricting ranges of attacks and movement to the point that a 40k player (at least from the era I played 40k, back in the early nineties) would sneer that it's "not realistic".

If you codify your game to work in a hex grid, you'll probably find that the changes you make to your game will make it seem more... 'artificial' and contrived in some ways, but the codification will also allow players to plan and see the scope of their actions much more easily. My belief is that this is a fundamental difference between the desires of boardgamers and the desires of mini gamers... and the General Casual-Gaming Public tends to fall closer to the boardgamer than the mini gamer in this regard, in my experience.



My advice: bite the bullet, re-map your mechanics to work with hexes, throw away or reengineer anything which doesn't sit right on a grid, and just accept that the real hardcore of mini gamers will sneer at your game for being "too simple" and "a toy game for children and little girls" and whatever. Those guys are jerks anyway, and nobody wants to play with them because they don't wash properly.
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Andreas Krüger
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Hexes are about as intimidating as rulers. Pick whatever works better for our game. You may still want toconsider ditching the more complex attacks ;-).
 
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Jake Staines
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Thamos von Nostria wrote:
Hexes are about as intimidating as rulers.


I think it depends on how they're presented, really. Hexes that look like they're accompanied by little 15mm card counters with silhouettes of tanks on are intimidating, but I think that's largely because you get about a million of them on the map and because wargames are intimidating; make a smaller map with a smaller number of hexes, spend some effort on graphic design to make it look less like something ConSimWorld would like, and people will be less intimidated.
 
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Kent Reuber
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Is facing important? (For example, can you only fire towards the direction you're facing?) If so, having hexes might make things easier by regulating firing arcs.
 
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Russ Williams
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I really dislike the inherent ambiguity in games with continuous space. Grids are much nicer and avoid dilemmas about "Is that more than 3 inches away or less than 3 inches away? Oh crap, I accidentally nudged it a millimeter while trying to measure it more carefully." I would have zero interest in paying money for a game with continuous space. But I might not be your target audience.

It also depends on whether your goal is to make the game conform as much as possible to your personal vision for it (which apparently involves continuous space), or to make its rules more accessible and unambiguous and (I believe) appealing to more gamers. Both seem legitimate goals. But trying to make it do both ways at the same time seems like a clumsy compromise.
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kentreuber wrote:
Is facing important? (For example, can you only fire towards the direction you're facing?) If so, having hexes might make things easier by regulating firing arcs.


The game has no facing rules, height/high ground rules, "you're standing on this type of terrain" rules or partial cover rules that other mini games have.

Also the board we're balancing around right now is 36in x 36in
 
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Jake Staines
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ZephyrW wrote:

Also the board we're balancing around right now is 36in x 36in


Is there a particular reason it needs to be so large, or could you - say - halve all the ranges/move distances/etc. and the game would still work the same way?

I ask because that is a seriously big board for a board game, but fairly average for a minis game. I think the absolute biggest boards I own (not counting weird modular stuff like Space Hulk) are about 36" long, but nowhere near that wide.
 
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Benj Davis
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If it's got no facing rules, then both. Free space measuring rules, but you also produce hexed maps for convenience. It works out the same, so why not?
 
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Bichatse wrote:
ZephyrW wrote:

Also the board we're balancing around right now is 36in x 36in


Is there a particular reason it needs to be so large, or could you - say - halve all the ranges/move distances/etc. and the game would still work the same way?

I ask because that is a seriously big board for a board game, but fairly average for a minis game. I think the absolute biggest boards I own (not counting weird modular stuff like Space Hulk) are about 36" long, but nowhere near that wide.


3ft x 3ft is about the size of your average table, and the game started as a tabletop minis-style game. the game can be played on smaller surfaces down to around 16-18inches. Any rectangular space, really, but the "optimum" is being tested as 3'x3'.
What are the standards for square, 1-inch hex mats, do you know?
 
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Jake Staines
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The only square 1"-hex map I have is a vinyl sheet I got years ago for playing Heavy Gear before that went gridless... and that's 4' square. But that definitely wouldn't fit on my dining table!

I would recommend smaller for one reason alone: from what I recall from your game thread, you have cards for each of the units with their stats and abilities on. If your board is 36" wide, that's already wider than my previous dining table, and exactly as wide as my current (moderate to large) one. (Here is my table with both Waterdeep and Talisman set up simultaneously, demonstrating that it is not in fact small.) Very few people are going to have space between the edge of that board and the edge of the table, which means the cards and stuff are going to have to go off to one side, which - from experience - makes it more awkward to play the game.
 
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Ricky Dang
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I think for standard square, it's a 18x18 quadfold or 12x12 modular board (Super Dungeon Explore).
 
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Chris Robbins
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Using a ruler has the benefit of recreating some semblance of "realistic" movement wherever your units/characters are.

But it can become a nightmare of differing opinions as to where measurements start and end, turning, and handling a "do-over" if testing a move looks like a bad idea. It can work with friendly miniatures gaming, but ...

Just a few random 2¢.
 
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Jiří Petruželka
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bltzlfsk wrote:
Using a ruler has the benefit of recreating some semblance of "realistic" movement wherever your units/characters are.

But it can become a nightmare of differing opinions as to where measurements start and end, turning, and handling a "do-over" if testing a move looks like a bad idea. It can work with friendly miniatures gaming, but ...

This is partially handled in MERCS. They measure movement using a card that has half-circle gaps that fits unit's base + they use their snap-to-cover mechanic, where after moving you can fix unit's position by placing it anywhere in base diameter radius (if there's a cover). Does not solve everything, it's still a free space, but shows one can handle some of the issues.
 
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NoxArt wrote:
bltzlfsk wrote:
Using a ruler has the benefit of recreating some semblance of "realistic" movement wherever your units/characters are.

But it can become a nightmare of differing opinions as to where measurements start and end, turning, and handling a "do-over" if testing a move looks like a bad idea. It can work with friendly miniatures gaming, but ...

This is partially handled in MERCS. They measure movement using a card that has half-circle gaps that fits unit's base + they use their snap-to-cover mechanic, where after moving you can fix unit's position by placing it anywhere in base diameter radius (if there's a cover). Does not solve everything, it's still a free space, but shows one can handle some of the issues.


We actually were going to do something like that; having the backs of our cards be 4" rulers.

Slightly off topic, but we've also been doing research into production for months and months now and I'm only closer to understanding how a game like MERCs is even made. How much does that game to produce per unit with all those pewter assets, cards, etc? Are those cards diecut? Hm. Is there a thread full of wizards to ask about this sort of thing?
 
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Seth Iniguez
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I think hexes are easier to work with, and will make the game more accessible.

Could the design issues for some of the advanced weapons be resolved by using a straight edge on a hex map? Pushing and pulling must be to hexes on those lines, and if on a hex spine, either the target or firer could chose between the two hexes. Just lay out a straight line for the penetrating attacks, and hit any hexes that it crosses. Could the advanced weapons be optional/advanced rules if they get more complicated without hexes?

If you support both systems, I'd recommend hexless play being no more then a page of optional rules or something.

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Dave Winfield
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On the cards/tokens state whether the fighter is right or left hand dominant. That determines which row of hexes they highlight if its on the hex spine.
 
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