Is there a "sweet spot" or "magic number" of spaces for an area-based boardgame (or any other kind, for that matter) where pieces occupy areas?
Chess and checkers have 64 spaces and (respectively) 32 and 24 pieces. My Law & Chaos (TM, prototype) has 61 areas, with a varying number of pieces on the board (tending to grow larger over time). Tic-Tac-Oh (prototype) has three boards of 16 squares each (48 areas). Go, on the other hand, has far more "spaces" (the intersections of areas on a 19 by 19 grid).
Intuitively, you might expect that fewer areas means the game is simpler to deal with, though the game may still have a great deal of depth.
How about "classic" area-based wargames? Risk has 42 areas. Britannia has 37. Vinci has 45 (by quick count). Diplomacy has (by quick count) about 65 areas for 34 pieces. History of the World and Axis and Allies have many more areas (and original A&A had a lot more, IIRC).
Perhaps there's a relationship between number of pieces on the board and number of areas, but I don't have the data to compare. In chess there's one piece for each two areas. The average for Britannia depends on the era, but is roughly 55 pieces for the 37 areas. The ratio in Vinci is something over one piece per area. In Risk it's a lot higher, at times. Diplomacy's ratio is much like that of chess, about two areas per piece.
I'm not sure where this rumination has arrived at, but there it is.
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I think a lot is going to depend on number of players, board size, area mechanic (control, can multiple players occupy/use, etc).
I've got a prototype myself that I decided on a scale for the pieces and just built within that size, shape, and number of areas. I had a maximum number of players in mind when I put it together, and now that I've played with *less* than that amount, I'm seeing that there definitely needs to be some way to scale it back as necessary. Or I can just let players play it as is, which reduces conflict.
I'd look at games that use the same mechanic and see how they handle things, and adjust as need be.
I think the factors are:
- average number of pieces on the board (all players)
- amount of movement the game allows
- number of empty spaces the game design "wants" and can tolerate
i think this is a very interesting idea !
I have thought about this with war games.
There is the question of stacking. Can you have more than one piece in a space.
In a WWII eastern front game you need a minimum number of spaces if you want to represent envelopping movements. For example in the game of Europe Engulfed Russia has too few spaces for envelloping movements to feel like the ones in WWII.
In go with its 361 spaces and 361 pieces there is no movement and each piece will be played once so a lot of spaces on the board is acceptable.
There are some games with a lot of spaces that never get used.
A quick count of some of my games:
1. Civilization about 120 (without the western expansion)
2. A struggle of Empires 11 (which is an amazingly low number for a war game)
3. 7 ages has somewhere between 320 and 340 (which is pretty high for a non hex game)
Another thing you might want to look into is how many decisions (moves) are there to make in a game.
1. In chess there are usually about 50 to 80 per player.
2. In go there are usually about 120 to 140 per player.
3. In Diplomacy there are about 8 to 11 per year of the game per player. SO in an 8 year game there are about 64 to 88 decisions to make.
4. In tic tac toe there are about 4.5 decicions to make per player assuming a tied game.
5. I haven't calculated for Puerto Rico but it would be interesting to find out. You choose a role, you choose a tile, you choose where to place your new "workers", you choose which building to build.