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Subject: Design concepts: explore, collect, build rss

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David Kline
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Hello all,
I'm somewhat new to the forums, and have enjoyed immensely the collective knowledge and resources represented here.

I've been designing games since elementary school- I always tend to become infatuated with an idea and, not seeing any immediate options to satisfy that idea, endeavor to do it myself. This year in particular I've been gifted the time and resources to design something on a more serious level.

My recent infatuation is with the "minecraft phenomena." Persson hit on a genius but simple element combination of exploring, collecting, and building, all in a limitless sandbox world(I consider the survival aspect a creative limiter which is optional).

I find these elements are what I enjoy most in games, both board and otherwise, and am designing my own game around them.

I've found other games that seem to incorporate these themes, however they do so in more complex ways than is my taste. I like games that are more elegant and simple but can lead to more complex eventualities, such as settlers (perhaps less complex, but certainly elegant) or risk or chess. As compared to other games that begin with a fairly complex game state (tech trees, units with varying values, variable powers/tasks, etc.).

To describe my game simply, you are an explorer, among others, designated to find and tame new land for your kingdom. You journey out exploring new lands (adding hex tiles), using and cultivating what you find (collecting resources, building) in an effort to be the first to build a successful settlement, proving the lands you found are the most fruitful and earning the kingdoms favor.

The goal of the game is to have as few rules as necessary with as much game to use and explore as possible to achieve the goal (but designed in a way where this doesn't make the goal "easy".). There is also a high level of player interaction that limits the game from being a game of solitaire you try and solve faster than your opponents.

That being said,

1) What board games have you played that you feel use one or more of these game elements well, and what was it that made that element fun or enjoyable in the context of the game?

2) Do you feel there's a board/card game out there that captures all three elements well in the way I described?

3) Finally, is this, at least conceptually, a game you think you would enjoy?
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Michael Berg
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An olderish board game that combines these element is Tikal. In it, you play as a team of explorers that are venturing out into the jungle (placing tiles), building camps and then collecting treasure and excavating ruins. Collecting treasure rewards VP through set collection, while excavating the ruins involves both developing the ruins to make them more valuable, and then uses area majority to determine who gets the VP.

The gameplay is well designed, the only qualm I have is that it uses an action point system. If it was "you can do two of these things on your turn" instead of "you have six points to spend, and the actions cost this many points" it would be just about perfect.

Tikal does not have you collect resources to build things, however it is a pretty elegant game with pretty interesting emergent depth.

Conceptually, this is definitely a genre I enjoy. I find it difficult to come up with a way to cover all of the bases and do so without a lot of cards and rules - especially crafting and exploring. I'll be interested to see what you come up with.
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Boss Beau Blasterfire
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CasualSax wrote:
The gameplay is well designed, the only qualm I have is that it uses an action point system. If it was "you can do two of these things on your turn" instead of "you have six points to spend, and the actions cost this many points" it would be just about perfect.


So you would prefer it if all the actions cost the same to perform?
 
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Michael Berg
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bbblasterfire wrote:
CasualSax wrote:
The gameplay is well designed, the only qualm I have is that it uses an action point system. If it was "you can do two of these things on your turn" instead of "you have six points to spend, and the actions cost this many points" it would be just about perfect.


So you would prefer it if all the actions cost the same to perform?


Yes, assuming the game retained its balance. Tikal is a particularly tricky nut in this case, as a large part of the game is about how expensive it is to move between certain tiles. That said, if it could be pulled off... The best example I can think of it working well is in Pandemic's action selection.

EDIT ADD: This is almost pointless to say, but I remember reading a session report of 504 where they played a ruleset iteration that was similar to the OP's concept.
 
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T. Dauphin
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Wow, you sound like a long lost twin!
The only thing about my own likes that's different is that I am also quite happy with complex games.

spaff_ wrote:


1) What board games have you played that you feel use one or more of these game elements well, and what was it that made that element fun or enjoyable in the context of the game?

2) Do you feel there's a board/card game out there that captures all three elements well in the way I described?

3) Finally, is this, at least conceptually, a game you think you would enjoy?


3. Absolutely. Top o' the list.
1. New World, using the hidden tile option. The discovery element and the gradual build up over time are most appealing. The very simple terrain types were a negative for me so I started to design my own, and then saw Fjords and realized its tiles looked exactly like mine--at least in shape. (Been wondering how their spies got into my house. ninja)
Source of the Nile has a great discovery mechanic, but it's all about discovery and not settling.

Go for it!

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Erik R.
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I feel that the Minecraft phenomenon is inspired much more so by creativity and collection impulse than by any sort of game mechanic. In a physical space, isn't this pretty much what Lego is for?
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David Kline
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Thanks for the responses! Tikal, New World and Fjords are games I definitely need to look at.

karkador wrote:
I feel that the Minecraft phenomenon is inspired much more so by creativity and collection impulse than by any sort of game mechanic. In a physical space, isn't this pretty much what Lego is for?


Perhaps game mechanic was poor word choice on my part. What I mean is, Building (or creativity as you put it), taking simple things and combining them to make more complex things, is fun. Collecting things is fun. And, if you've ever played, exploration is a big part of Minecraft. Many people spend hours just walking around to find that cool mountain top, or island, or canyon, etc., they want to build on. That feeling of discovering new patterns, or landscapes, making the unknown known, is fun. It's those things that inspire me to build a board game with those concepts, because that seems most fun to me.

Most of the early games I made were actually using Lego. And BrikWars is very fun if you have a lot of hours to commit to something. Legos on its own certainly fills two of the three (build, collect). But the sense of exploration is missing along with a concrete end-goal.
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Gil Hova
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You're going to find true, open-ended, Minecraft-like sandboxing really difficult to implement in a board game. I'm not saying that you can't, but that if you do, it will barely feel like a traditional board game.

The closest "tabletop" experience there is to Minecraft is Lego. Minecraft's core engagement is creative building, although there are some game-like elements (day/night cycles, creepers) built in.

I've written about my personal taxonomy for recreational games before (shamelessly self-promoting link), but it seems to me that Minecraft is a World, where the appeal is building something creatively within the constraints of the game rules. Most board games are Contests, which instead measure your actions quantifiably to produce winners and losers.

Also, you mention "a high level of player interaction that limits the game from being a game of solitaire". If the appeal is building something creatively, and someone else is allowed to directly interfere with your creativity, you may be contradicting the game's core engagement. Minecraft gets away with this by establishing the risk (it's more dangerous to build at night than during the day), but you will need to be very careful to not invalidate the very experience you wish to cultivate.

It's very tricky to squeeze both Contests and Worlds together. I'm not saying you can't do it, but no one's ever done it before (although I'm sure folks have tried), and you're going to encounter some significant challenges. I'd suggest being 100% sure whether you want people to be creative or if you want to award wins and losses. If you want to implement both, it's more likely you'll get neither.

Good luck!
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Michael Berg
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There certainly is an aspect of Minecraft that is open creativity and not workable, but there is a lot of Minecraft that can influence a board game. Evan mentioned that the goal of the game is to create the first successful settlement, which puts us on solid competitive soil.
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David Kline
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I was unclear. I didn't mean to say I'm trying to emulate the minecraft experience in board game format, just that, conceptually, elements that are a part of minecraft are universally enjoyable, especially in that combination.

I agree that trying to recreate what Persson did in board game format is difficult if not improbable. What I'm doing is focusing my game around exploring, building, and collecting, but not like minecraft does those things. That was merely an example of a game where those elements are combined, but not something I'm trying to recreate on a 1:1 basis. There's many ways to go about adding an exploring mechanic into a game. I just happen to think it's worth adding, however its implemented.

IngredientX wrote:
the appeal is building something creatively within the constraints of the game rules. Most board games are Contests, which instead measure your actions quantifiably to produce winners and losers.


This is the same appeal I'm hoping to achieve: within the constraints of the game, in order to win the contest, it is necessary to explore, collect, and build. You must explore to expand your ability to collect and build; you must collect to have the material to build; you must build within a certain constraint to win. The creativity and fun in games comes from choosing- I happen to find choices based on exploring, collecting, and building are more fun than others: where to explore, what to collect, what to build, and when to do all those based on your limitations and the current game state.
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Michael Brettell
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spaff_ wrote:
This is the same appeal I'm hoping to achieve: within the constraints of the game, in order to win the contest, it is necessary to explore, collect, and build. You must explore to expand your ability to collect and build; you must collect to have the material to build; you must build within a certain constraint to win.


So Catan? There are tiles that players move onto, collect resources from, then exchange in different combinations for things.
 
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T. Dauphin
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Forgive me for anticipating the OP's thoughts on Catan and I'm not sure what contribution you thought it would make, but I would think that that's too simple a design for what he's talking about. I think it has the basic structure he's looking for but the creative aspect is quite limited. Rather than building a 'settlement', I would imagine players might build elements of a settlement according to his/her own whims, and create the whole over a period of time, thus allowing each player to personalize the construction of his/her community/castle/empire.
I think Gil has identified some relevant concerns that would need to be carefully managed, but I don't see them as insurmountable, either. If you think of the VG, Civilization, the conflict that does happen is rarely so all consuming that it destroys much of what you have built. Something on this scale would work.

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Michael Brettell
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tanik wrote:
I'm not sure what contribution you thought it would make


The OP asked for games suggestions that covered the themes specified. I thought Catan was such a game. No need to be snarky.


 
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David Kline
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Catan is a good suggestion and does hit on a lot of what I enjoy in a game. The exploration aspect I find is missing (although, apparently, Klaus Teuber originally intended the island to be "explored" as part of the game when he was developing it for his family).
Also Tanik's anticipation of my thoughts is accurate:
tanik wrote:

Rather than building a 'settlement', I would imagine players might build elements of a settlement according to his/her own whims, and create the whole over a period of time, thus allowing each player to personalize the construction of his/her community/castle/empire.

It's also less of a pure empire building game. As it stands, you're a hired hand to an existing empire. The winner, if we're to talk thematically, is the first one to "expand the borders" and complete a settlement which is built over time, not in a single resource exchange like Catan. So the idea of armies or conquest or even tile control isn't a dominating feature.
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Caroline Berg
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There are a number of games that have the explore/collect or explore/build dichotomy, but not many that have all three.

The Mystic Wood has exploration (of the forest) and you need to collect objects/people for your quest, but you never have to build anything.

The 7th Continent has exploration, not sure how much collection or building... but it is based on choose-your-own-adventure games and is more an exploratory story.

Disaster Looms! has exploration of space, building of satellites or colonies on planets, and collecting patents. The patent system in the game is truly unique and one of the best tech-sharing designs I've yet to see in a game.

The thing is, I know a lot of computer games that have all three: explore/collect/build which aren't Minecraft (it isn't the first of its genre, only the most popular). I would imagine it would be harder in a board game to get all the possible combinations of raw materials and what you can build from them.

You also might want to check out Minecraft Card Game?, since that clearly has collection/building... don't know about the exploration aspect though.
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Erik R.
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Have you looked at Roads & Boats? It's got a similar structure of building recipe structures and items from resources you gather, and the "game" about it is that you gradually build out an economy.
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T. Dauphin
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brettellmd wrote:
tanik wrote:
I'm not sure what contribution you thought it would make


The OP asked for games suggestions that covered the themes specified. I thought Catan was such a game. No need to be snarky.



Wasn't trying to be snarky. I, personally, couldn't see how well it suited the OP's idea, and I wasn't sure which aspect you thought fit the best. It was more an invitation for you to expand on that than anything.

 
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T. Dauphin
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spaff_ wrote:
Catan is a good suggestion and does hit on a lot of what I enjoy in a game. The exploration aspect I find is missing (although, apparently, Klaus Teuber originally intended the island to be "explored" as part of the game when he was developing it for his family).


I prefer to play it this way if I can--especially with seafarers.

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David Kline
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I haven't tried Roads and Boats, but have looked at it with some interest for awhile- I haven't found a place to purchase it at a reasonable price, however.
 
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Billy Lumiukko
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That sounds quite an ambitious endeavour! But that definitely sounds like a great game.

spaff_ wrote:
1) What board games have you played that you feel use one or more of these game elements well, and what was it that made that element fun or enjoyable in the context of the game?

Kingdom Builder uses the building element only. The fun part is that you try to arrange your buildings in such a way to maximize points.
Terra Mystica is in some ways an advanced Kingdom Builder because it adds some complexity in the building and some resource collecting. The rules' complexity also is increased a bit.
Imperial Settlers includes both the collecting and building aspects. The fun parts being to use all your resources in an optimal way to build the best settlement.
Isle of Skye has somehow a bit of all of what you mention even though it might not be exactly what you envision. You explore by revealing tiles around your castle. The build aspect is brought by the fact that you actually choose which tiles to add and you try to add them in the most efficient way and you collect gold and victory points. The player interaction is done through the buying phase at the beginning of each round.

All 4 of those games are somewhat simple. The 3 first do not have a lot of player interaction though. Everybody is trying to take the best decision available to them and if sometimes it collides with another player, it's not so much that you can call it high level of interaction.

spaff_ wrote:
2) Do you feel there's a board/card game out there that captures all three elements well in the way I described?

I do not know, probably there is. But I'm sure that if you want to include the 4th aspect you mentioned: high level of player of interaction, it will be tough. I have the feeling if it is important for you, you should think about it from the very beginning: should it be through war (makes rules immediately more complicated), should it be through trading...?

spaff_ wrote:
3) Finally, is this, at least conceptually, a game you think you would enjoy?

Yes, even though I tend to enjoy games that are not too simplistic because they tend to have more depth.
 
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Tahsin Shamma
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As a side bit of research, I'd offer for you to explore Caverna. In terms of resource collecting, planning on building, and then using the resources gained from previous actions you took, Caverna hits the mark.

I can easily equate Minecraft actions (from the Survival game) to Caverna actions many times.
 
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