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Subject: Random Events - or Player Controlled Events rss

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Christian Marcussen
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Hi.

I have wanted to make this post for quite a while, but I never got around to it. Well here goes:

Note: This is not posted in "Game Design" since i'm interested in gamer views on the subject - not design in general. I will however use examples in game design.

When I puzzle with game design I find that there are two seemingly conflicting trains of thought within me. One is to make a game where player interaction is high, and each player can control events which they realistically cannot (such as “playing” an earthquake card on another players land, or playing a “poor weather” card before a battle etc – you get the point).

Another part of me likes such events to be random and not controlled by any player. All players can do is react and adapt. This lessens player interaction but can also (perhaps?) feels more real.

Let me give you an example: I’m toying around with an idea for a complex game of global politics (will likely never be made since it’s too niche). Each player controls a major power in the world, and many minor powers can be influenced etc. Now – what I find interesting is if these minors can do stuff like invade another minor, start an arms race, or be hit by calamities like earthquakes, tsunamis etc. This brings me back to the point of this post – should such events be controlled by players, or should they happen randomly? I can see how players might be able to get a minor to attack another minor etc, but control earthquakes? I just like the idea that for instance a civil
war can break out somewhere, and a player can come to the rescue.

I’m not looking for specific help with the above, but rather asking for your thoughts on the issue as a whole.

I hope it makes kind of sense
 
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James Davis
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well personally i like it to be more realistic. like natural disasters i like to be random. but i would to control things like invasions, civil wars etc etc.

the reason being is the fact you cant create an earthquake but you can persaude a country to invade another country, or start a civil war in a country.

btw i like the sound of this game. if you would like a play tester or someone to help with ideas please pm.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Anything that leads to more interesting decisions as a player is good by me.
 
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Patrik T
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I really lika your idea for a game! I've been thinking of making (or at least wanting to play) a game in that category! Some kind of power struggle at a high level where politics is an important factor (or maybe even THE factor).

Regarding your question I totally agree with James! Some elements should be random and some better be player controlled. Some events may even be both. The minor country may have a (random) agenda of their own and, at the same time, players may try to make minors to act in different ways.

Speaking in general terms I have no problem with random elements in games. Even more I actually prefer random elements in games as long as it isn't the only factor. I furthermore think that the randomness must have a somewhat "logical" explanation. I mean that the randomness should control factors like weather, combat, "AI-controlled" opponents and such. Factors that you can not have a 100% control over.
 
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Kevin Gehrig
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As a game, I don't mind random events if they force me to rethink a position or tweak the mechanics of the game. I'm not big on random events that could significantly alter the entire game.

Example, opponents plays a card to start an insurgency where I have to counter by using some of my military or political resources to reduce the effects of that card would be ok.

A random event 'civil war' comes up through a dice roll and it causes me to lose 50% of my stuff would be unacceptable.

Although, if you are using a deck of cards and drawing out of that pile, that is really a random event too as you are hoping to draw certain cards.

 
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Mike Pranno
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Quote:
Example, opponents plays a card to start an insurgency where I have to counter by using some of my military or political resources to reduce the effects of that card would be ok.

A random event 'civil war' comes up through a dice roll and it causes me to lose 50% of my stuff would be unacceptable.

How about we flip that around a bit? The first is now random, and the second is the result of an opponent play. How do you feel about that?
 
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Enon Sci
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Ironically I was just thinking about posting about this very topic. In the last few days of reading various commentaries on BGG I've noticed a consensus slant towards bashing games with random elements. At first I it seemed sensible, but after a moment of reflection it seemed symptomatic of rigidity in their world view (we must admit that many gamers are anal, pedantic people ).

In my music compositional studies I was introduced to a notion called "chance principles" (otherwise known as "aleatoric" principles). These date back to at least John Cage's inclusion of the I Ching into his compositional structure - allowing chance to dictate where the composer's dominant will would have otherwise strangled the music. Brian Eno further popularized this with his Oblique Strategies card based compositional game, which google can elaborate on better than I.

Anyhow, from this I learned to let go of my ego's desire for control and lapse into a more eastern outlook towards existence. Life, some could rightfully say, is built upon far more chance elements than control anyhow.

With all of that said, I find games with chance principles or randomness to be very fun. Then again, I never really play games to win. Rather, I play games solely for the experience of playing them in the moment. I play video games to win, but board games - being generally social vehicles - have always felt different. The pulse of my enjoyment comes through the humor written on encounter cards or the interactions (positive or negative) brought by the conflict in the game. Winning seems antithetical to the notion of board games as you rarely get more than an ego boost out of it. Video games, to paint an unneeded contrast, at least give you some kind of story conclusion or ending cinematic to strive for.



ps: how do you make links on this site? The traditional bbcode is TEXT . That doesn't seem to work here.

Oh, and John Cage was a circa 1940s-70s NY based experimentalist and classical composer, for those that didn't know.
 
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Jeffery Qualey
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Randomness in weather is best when controlled by the game. However, each player may have strengths/weaknesses that can be harnessed best in certain times.

For example, a random eathquake event may make civil unrest more likely which in turn can be used to the benefit of a minor power with specific attributes like propoganda.
 
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Christian Marcussen
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Pepsi4Me2 wrote:
Randomness in weather is best when controlled by the game. However, each player may have strengths/weaknesses that can be harnessed best in certain times.


Indeed. But you could have an approach where players control non-weather effects. For instance in a merchants game you could play a card to destroy another cargo (it rots, is infested with rats or whatever). If such a card can bbe played while your on the other side of the world its not very realistic - yet it does give more interaction.

I guess in many games it's not really a problem. But in this specific one in my head both approaches have their merits. I like the realism of some rogue state testing misiles as a show of force to destabilize a region - however I can see this as a player initiated thing as well. I guess maybe making both things possible could work. But it surely is two different design philosophies.

 
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Kevin Gehrig
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mcpranno wrote:
Quote:
Example, opponents plays a card to start an insurgency where I have to counter by using some of my military or political resources to reduce the effects of that card would be ok.

A random event 'civil war' comes up through a dice roll and it causes me to lose 50% of my stuff would be unacceptable.

How about we flip that around a bit? The first is now random, and the second is the result of an opponent play. How do you feel about that?


In my sample, I'd be ok with making minor effects random but, not making major effects playable either unless there was some type of build up to be able to play such a card. (e.g opponent has played Insurgency Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 and hasn't tried to counter any of those and then the hammer comes out)

But, overall, that comes down to how you have balanced your game out as to make sure that no random event or any 1 card dramatically alters the game during the course of the game.
 
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Matthew M
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If both approaches are valid you should base the decision on the target audience. That may or may not be the same as (or may be a subset of) the people responding to this thread.

-MMM
 
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Christian Marcussen
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Octavian wrote:
If both approaches are valid you should base the decision on the target audience. That may or may not be the same as (or may be a subset of) the people responding to this thread.

-MMM


Yeah - but with such a niche subject matter, cutting your target audience in half is bad

I'm hoping to find some middleground.

But what about the issue in itself... Do people prefere players in complete control, or in a more adapting/reacting role?

 
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James Davis
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i like both to tell you the truth. it is good to have control, but somethings are just out of your control so you must adapt your strategy. especially in a game like the one you intend to make. You dont have full control the minor nations so things must be random. otherwise you would just have a few big nations rather than having a couple of big nations then heaps of minors.

i think the approach of finding the middle ground is the best approach. im really interested in your concept and will be quite keen to play it!
 
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michael humphreys
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I think I prefer reacting/adapting.

That level of randomness is exciting for me. Of course, that being said, I do indeed wish to have a tremendous amount of influence over events in the game. I used "influence" instead of "control" on purpose.

For instance Christian, with your major/minor powers - through the course of the game, I would like some random events to occur (through the draw of a card, etc.) which then I am capable of modifying/influencing/directing in some way (based upon my abilities, and particlularly, my "play" up until that point).

Maybe through (purposeful) actions I have already taken in the game prior to the random event/action, I am now capable of adjusting the current Random event along a particular path (making it more beneficial to me, less harmful to me, more harmful to others, etc)

Greater interacton among players can ensue if the "event" can be modified (in a tit for tat kind of way) by multiple players. And/or those that have directed themselves in a particular way (through prior play) have more of an "influence" upon that event.

I am trying to work this very thing out myself as well (and may ask for help also) in a game I am developing about the current Iraq war/insurgency/counterinsurgency.

I used to have the notion that maybe having complete control is ideal, but I am now very convinced, for me (and for most people I have ever played with), that that is not the case.

Good luck with your design, don't let it's niche nature prevent you from working on it. You are making a "Pirate" "Eurogame" which is fairly niche itself if you ask me. I am sure you can modify the design concept of this Global Politics game to be at least as broad as that.

Not to narrow Merchants & Marauders down to a simple Pirate game, b/c I know that it is not simply that (and looks wonderful by the way). But, in our labeling world, that is the niche it would probably be placed in.
 
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Christian Marcussen
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Hi...

Yeah Michael - Your example of how it could be handled, is the way I had in mind. I have some pretty neat ideas I think

So you reckon MM is a Eurogame? I think there is a bit too much die rolling, combat, and luck in what cards are drawn to classify it as a euro game. Buuuuut... Others may disagree
 
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michael humphreys
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You know, you're right. Most Eurogamers are not too fond of dice.
But, I couldn't put MM in a wargame category either. It seems to fit in whatever category that Struggle of Empires is in (except probably not as much fighting). Maybe it is one of those few WarEuros! (if that's what we are calling them)

(Of course you, being the designer, would certainly have the best feel for it "place" in boardgames)
 
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castiglione
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I believe "random events" should be random...however, their effect should be thus that they won't "destroy" a player unless he has unwisely put himself in a position where they could destroy him or he has suffered incredibly bad luck (first he gets hit with an earthquake, then a parasitic infestation destroys half his potato crop, then a meteor levels his capital city, then the entire government gets decapitated when they all die of food poisoning at an inaugural ball, etc.).

Allowing players control over events which they should not (logically) be able to control, just leaves me cold.

However, a game in which players can routinely be destroyed by random events, also leaves me cold.
 
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Christian Marcussen
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stowcreek wrote:
You know, you're right. Most Eurogamers are not too fond of dice.
But, I couldn't put MM in a wargame category either. It seems to fit in whatever category that Struggle of Empires is in (except probably not as much fighting). Maybe it is one of those few WarEuros! (if that's what we are calling them)

(Of course you, being the designer, would certainly have the best feel for it "place" in boardgames)


I guess I would put it in the same category as some RPG like games such as Descent & Runeboard. You have a character, and you trade, kill, and build up in order to win

I never actually thought of it that way myself, but Mika, a guy who helped have a look at the rules defined it as such. I think thats pretty accurate - with the exception that you can play the game as a pacifist (until some bastard pirate attacks you for your gold) arrrh

But your right, it's definately not a wargame.
 
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Christian Marcussen
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castiglione wrote:

Allowing players control over events which they should not (logically) be able to control, just leaves me cold.

However, a game in which players can routinely be destroyed by random events, also leaves me cold.


Indeed. I feel the same way.
 
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