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Subject: Bringing an RTS to Table Top rss

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Xar Sol
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Good morning. It's been awhile since I've posted on here. Little update, I'm still working on my game "Avatar: Wars Across the Rifts" along with another 2-player card game. However, in regards to the second game, I wanted to ask about your thoughts and opinions on a question that's been looming in my mind:

In the field of board games, what constitutes as a real time strategy game?

I'm wondering about this concept specifically because of this Kickstarter game https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/924348132/purge-sins-of....

I did not back the game at the time, but I did follow it and was able to attain a copy for myself after it's release. However, after reading reviews, playing the game myself, and conversing with other players, I came to realize this game was incredibly unbalanced and unnecessarily complicated. I believe this game did well in trying to establish RTS mechanics on a tabletop field. However, the lack of balance and numerous value checks undermine the overall beauty of the game. And so, I began to think," How could I bring an RTS I will not deny that this game did it's best to bring the RTS-genre to the tabletop, but it had way too many unchecked values and brought along a lot of unfun interactions for players.

And so, I started thinking of a game that provided RTS mechanics within a board game structure. Over some brainstorming and rough drafts, here are some things I came to realize:

* The idea of having a true RTS as a board game is impossible. One of the features an RTS has is the ability to allow skillful players to outplay their opponents by being faster and more efficient at commands(watch the fastest hands player Starcraft.. wtf). While this creates an interesting dynamic between players, for the new and unfamiliar, those players are quickly shut out and down, thus making the game unfun. The only balance I came with this is placing players in phases while giving them the option to force or stall a phase.

* Balance. Starting with a basic structured game with rising power values in each unit, whenever special abilities were added, the game became quickly unbalanced. Though I haven't tested this alot, it seems that a majority of the grunt work will be focused on developing and managing this.

* Resource management. Outside of speed, resource management is key to running a successful campaign against your enemy. How does one do this in a board game when players are unable to send out units to search for resources? I came up with the idea of using Action Points and Duration as a mean to manage time. From there, I provide a base point in which players could play at and a max point to which players could attain. I find the concept and mechanic reasonable but I've still yet to test it out.

Anyways, thanks for taking the time to read this. I look forward to seeing your feedback.
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Adam Stapley
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I think that attempting to bring an RTS as is to Tabletop is just a null point. As you've said, there's too much about an RTS that makes it be about efficient commands and above all speed. However, there are certain points of RTS games that I would love to see on the table top. The trade off that always comes with investing in economy or offense, as well as scouting to know exactly when it's time to start building up a defense. I think that if you could make these two aspects-- scouting and the double edged sword of economy vs power, and combine it with a simple but effective combat mechanic, you could make a game that scratches that RTS itch for a table top gamer.
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Adam Stapley
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Also, as a thought, I've just come up with what I think is a pretty good idea in terms of scouting. What if it was a dexterity portion. As you build, you can build barriers for scouting (much like you would in a game of Starcraft). On your turn (i'm assuming simultaneous turns) you could invest a turn, representing time, into scouting. For each point in scouting, you'll gain one flick of a token. You can flick as many times as you have points invested, but, depending on what you send scouting, if you run your scout onto the opponent's card representing him having vision of the area, your token has to stop for a turn, where it could be destroyed by the opponent. Not sure if that all made sense, but the idea would be that as your opponent builds up more vision of his or her base, it's harder to scout, but might still have a hole in a less direct route. Cards could be placed face down each time vision is built, so that the opponent wouldn't know where vision was and where it wasn't. This would require quite a few "blank" cards, but these could be used for many purposes. If you're interested in the "many" purposes are want further explanation or anything, send me a gm!
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Brook Gentlestream
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I like the idea of using duration (time) as a resource mechanic, and can see many uses for it.

---

The closest to a "RTS on table top" game I've seen/played is the card game The Ares Project, which has each player build a base behind a protective screen. The turns go by very quick to represent the real-time aspects. Each turn you draw a card, and play a card.

A card can be placed face-down as a resource. Let's say you want to make a building. You first draw a card and place it face down in an empty area. Now, let's say a few turns go by (they go by quick!) and you have enough resources in the empty space to produce a light tank factory card in your hand.

Most cards are buildings and can be used to produce one of two different unit types based on how its oriented. Let's you you want to produce Light Tanks, so you play the card face-up with the Light Tank card showing toward you, making sure you have enough power icons and resources face-down already to pay for the card. Now, you can commit additional resources each turn to the Light Tank Factory by placing additional cards on it face-down in subsequent turns.

Eventually someone plays an Attack! card. They are trying to take "the frontier" - an empty space in between everyone's base. You can either let them have it or go out to defend the frontier! Let's say you don't do anything. Nobody defends, so the attacker simply claims the frontier card.

The frontier card is the only thing that can be attacked UNLESS you already control it, in which case you can attack any player's base. Once he owns the frontier, your base is vulnerable to an attack. Let's say he attacks you next.

At this point, you have an attacker and a defender. Both places remove the "shield" (a phsyical barrier placed between the players) and can now see what the other player has been doing. You will discard the resources underneath your factory, showing the opponent that it has been built. Next, you will discard all the extra resource cards that were placed on the factory and trade them in for "Armor tokens" which are placed on the building to represent your supply of Light Tanks. The factory card and any attachments show the stats and abilities of these units.

Once all resources are traded in, the attacker puts forth each of his building cards (with counters) in a line. Each card plus all tokens count as a "unit" or "formation" or whatever term they use. You take any buildings + tokens you want to defend with and place them in front of the attacker's cards. Together, you two have made the battle lines. When its your combat turn, you can attack a card directly in front of you using your attack value, or a card further down the line at an increasing penalty. As damage is dealt, tokens get removed, and if all the tokens are removed the building is removed from the battle line and returned to the owner's base.

And these are the basic mechanics. There's a lot more to it, because there are tons of cards and each card has two different unit types and each unit type has a type and four attack values (VS infantry, VS armor, VS air, VS structure) plus often a special ability.

The tactics involve how to allocate your resources, which of the three (or in some cases four) ways to use each card, when to launch attacks, to keep track (as best you can) of what your opponent has left after each battle, to produce the right type of units to use against an opponent's units, to construct the battle line with just the right positioning, and to activate your opponents in an order that makes them most effective or interferes with your opponent's battle line plans.

The real heart of the game though is how each of the four factions plays out, and how they all play by very different rules and playstyles. For example, one race doesn't produce units in the method above but instead produces eggs which get evolved overtime through a lifecycle that is managed, whereas another player has a fixed collection of drones that can be re-allocated each turn to produce power, gather resources, provide limited defense. One faction doesn't even produce units but simply creates one HUGE mecha that is also its base, and just produces upgrades in various component slots.

It's a game I highly recommend, especially if your willing to give it a few tries and develop some skill at it. It's also the closest thing I've ever seen to an "RTS on the tabletop" and you can see a lot of Starcraft's influence in the game design.
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Nate K
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lordrahvin wrote:

I like the idea of using duration (time) as a resource mechanic, and can see many uses for it.

---

The closest to a "RTS on table top" game I've seen/played is the card game The Ares Project, which has each player build a base behind a protective screen. The turns go by very quick to represent the real-time aspects. Each turn you draw a card, and play a card.

A card can be placed face-down as a resource. Let's say you want to make a building. You first draw a card and place it face down in an empty area. Now, let's say a few turns go by (they go by quick!) and you have enough resources in the empty space to produce a light tank factory card in your hand.

Most cards are buildings and can be used to produce one of two different unit types based on how its oriented. Let's you you want to produce Light Tanks, so you play the card face-up with the Light Tank card showing toward you, making sure you have enough power icons and resources face-down already to pay for the card. Now, you can commit additional resources each turn to the Light Tank Factory by placing additional cards on it face-down in subsequent turns.

Eventually someone plays an Attack! card. They are trying to take "the frontier" - an empty space in between everyone's base. You can either let them have it or go out to defend the frontier! Let's say you don't do anything. Nobody defends, so the attacker simply claims the frontier card.

The frontier card is the only thing that can be attacked UNLESS you already control it, in which case you can attack any player's base. Once he owns the frontier, your base is vulnerable to an attack. Let's say he attacks you next.

At this point, you have an attacker and a defender. Both places remove the "shield" (a phsyical barrier placed between the players) and can now see what the other player has been doing. You will discard the resources underneath your factory, showing the opponent that it has been built. Next, you will discard all the extra resource cards that were placed on the factory and trade them in for "Armor tokens" which are placed on the building to represent your supply of Light Tanks. The factory card and any attachments show the stats and abilities of these units.

Once all resources are traded in, the attacker puts forth each of his building cards (with counters) in a line. Each card plus all tokens count as a "unit" or "formation" or whatever term they use. You take any buildings + tokens you want to defend with and place them in front of the attacker's cards. Together, you two have made the battle lines. When its your combat turn, you can attack a card directly in front of you using your attack value, or a card further down the line at an increasing penalty. As damage is dealt, tokens get removed, and if all the tokens are removed the building is removed from the battle line and returned to the owner's base.

And these are the basic mechanics. There's a lot more to it, because there are tons of cards and each card has two different unit types and each unit type has a type and four attack values (VS infantry, VS armor, VS air, VS structure) plus often a special ability.

The tactics involve how to allocate your resources, which of the three (or in some cases four) ways to use each card, when to launch attacks, to keep track (as best you can) of what your opponent has left after each battle, to produce the right type of units to use against an opponent's units, to construct the battle line with just the right positioning, and to activate your opponents in an order that makes them most effective or interferes with your opponent's battle line plans.

The real heart of the game though is how each of the four factions plays out, and how they all play by very different rules and playstyles. For example, one race doesn't produce units in the method above but instead produces eggs which get evolved overtime through a lifecycle that is managed, whereas another player has a fixed collection of drones that can be re-allocated each turn to produce power, gather resources, provide limited defense. One faction doesn't even produce units but simply creates one HUGE mecha that is also its base, and just produces upgrades in various component slots.

It's a game I highly recommend, especially if your willing to give it a few tries and develop some skill at it. It's also the closest thing I've ever seen to an "RTS on the tabletop" and you can see a lot of Starcraft's influence in the game design.


I think this is a good approach. The true fun of RTS games, for most people, is not the clicks-per-minute race to accomplish more in the same small amount of time. It's about resource utilization and economic warfare. You may have lost all your units in that assault on the enemy base, but you took a huge bite out of their resource-production, which will put you ahead while they struggle to rebuild. Your opponent may have grabbed several resource nodes early, but they're not going for air superiority, which means that they're not going to be able to stop your forces once you are ready to strike. And so forth.

When translating real-time strategy games to the tabletop, I think you need to ditch the idea of real time. Instead, focus on the interesting interplay of resource production, building, and combat. Do you rush to pump out a lot of units and overwhelm the opponent before they can establish a foothold? Do you turtle up and tech up until you can crush your opponent with a superior force? Do you try to quickly grab resource nodes before your opponent can get to them so that you can establish a quick economic edge (at the expense of leaving your defenses thin)? How much air defense will you need? Can you take advantage of the terrain to lay traps or defend choke points? These are the sorts of interesting strategic decisions that RTS players love.
 
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