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Subject: Good mechanic for programming hidden actions? rss

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Roman F
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Hi all, I just discovered this forum today and did a search but couldn't find a clear solve to this situation:

I'm looking for a mechanic for a racing game that allows each player to pre-program up to 5 actions, then reveal those actions one at a time, without being able to change the remaining actions. There are 5 different actions you can do but there's no limit to how many times you can do them, i.e. you can do the same action 5 times if you want to.

- I could give everyone a deck of 25 cards, with 5 of each action, and have them put the cards face down, but that seems like a lot of excess, a lot of unnecessary cards. Maybe instead of cards, just use small chips or something, so that a pile of 25 doesn't seem so excessive? One of the actions, you wouldn't want to do more than twice in any turn so I could get away with 22 but still, that's a lot for only 3-5 actions.

- I thought of giving each player 5, 6-sided dice, with each side of the die showing an action, so you can just select what you want, but how do you hide these and reveal them one at a time?

- Writing your actions down like Diplomacy doesn't really fit a racing game.

- Any other mechanics I could employ for this?

Thanks for any help.
 
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Jim Cote
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5 action cards
2 "repeat previous action" cards
2 "repeat 2 actions ago" cards
1 "repeat 3 actions ago" card
1 "repeat 4 actions ago" card

That might be enough, as long as it's clear that repeating the previous action might be copying the effects of the previous repeat card, not the action that it copied.
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Barry Harvey
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Chits would be the easiest and cheapest.

For something more exotic how about rotating dials with a slide that allows them to be revealed in order.
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Freelance Police
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For dice, you could have a "shield" which you gradually move to the right (or whatever). The shield could have a summary of instructions on the player side. Main problem with chits is that, if you lose or damage any of them, there goes the whole set!
 
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TTDG
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Is there a particular reason that the actions would be revealed 1 at a time? In other words, since they are already set in stone, why not reveal all at once? How does the theme drive the preprogrammed mechanic?

As a racing game, it is not clear what kinds of actions you intend to include. You might want to check out other racing games in your genre.

RoboRally is a chaotic racing game with programmed movement. I recommend you check out how it is played. Yes it uses lots of cards, but it works well.

If you used dice, you could make a little shield to hide them. But dice can get bumped. OTOH, some people go crazy over custom dice. If your shield /| clips into a tray with cutouts for the dice, then that could strongly reduce the bump chance.

Don't forget, cards and chits can be double sided, potentially reducing the number of them needed for the game, but adding the requirement of some kind of shield.
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Holger Doessing
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Roman Farraday wrote:
I'm looking for a mechanic for a racing game that allows each player to pre-program up to 5 actions, then reveal those actions one at a time, without being able to change the remaining actions. There are 5 different actions you can do but there's no limit to how many times you can do them, i.e. you can do the same action 5 times if you want to.

- I could give everyone a deck of 25 cards, with 5 of each action, and have them put the cards face down, but that seems like a lot of excess, a lot of unnecessary cards.

I know you said that players can do any action as many times as they want, but have you considered the effects on gameplay if players can only do each action once per turn? It might add a bit of challenge to the players' decisions (while also reducing the number of cards needed).

Personally, I quite like the stack-cards-to-program mechanism - it is simple and works really well - so I suggest you perhaps look at other racing games that do something slightly similar:

RoboRally - this has already been pointed out. RoboRally uses a tonne of cards, but it also employs a sand timer, which really adds to the racing feel. (Steam Park uses a similar concept, except it does away with the timer and simply rewards those that are fast in programming their turn and penalizes the slowest player; again, this adds tension and feels quite 'racing-like'.)

Ausgebremst, based on the better known Ave Caesar, provides each player with a deck of movement cards and has them draw three cards and move accordingly. The 'advanced' version of Ausgebremst allows players to choose between three different versions of the deck, each with slightly different card composition. It also lets players sort their decks into different stacks (and create e.g. 'slow', 'faster' and 'supersonic speed' stacks) from which they'll draw their hand during play.

K2 is a mountain climbing game that uses a movement system similar to Ausgebremst's. However, the cards have different values, depending on whether the climber is going up or down the mountain. This adds another twist to the player's decisions: "Should I use this card now to climb up or should I perhaps save it for a tight spot during the descend?" By using cards that take on different functions under differing circumstances you may be able to reduce the deck size.
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Stefan
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My first thought was dice with a little rectangular 'tube' that fit the dice kind of snugly. The tube is open an one end, and on one long side. Secretly pick your dice movements in logical left-right order, and place the tube-lid thing over your line. Slide the lid over one dice at a time to reveal your action.
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Eric Miller
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Roman Farraday wrote:

Thanks for any help.


+1 for the chits. Small, stackable. Double-sided if required. Cheap.

What are the actions? Why 5? What kind of race?

If you go with double-sided, you allow for a reactionary option by flipping the chit.

And what happens after the 5 are revealed? Does the race "pause" while everyone picks 5 more actions?
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T. Dauphin
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Have to support the card stack. I don't see 25 as too many.
But ekted's idea of a "repeat" card could reduce your count if you really need to.

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Billy Lumiukko
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I'm surprised nobody mentioned Lords of Xidit yet!
It sounds like exactly what you need: every round you can choose 6 actions that will then be resolved in the order you choose. They are selected using a set of small dials that come on one board. Each dial has the same symbols and you could choose 6 times the same.

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Greece
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+1 Lords of Xidit, +1 RoboRally.

Another idea would be a small player board with 5 spaces depicting the 5 different actions. Players secretly put five numbered (1-5) tokens/chips on the spaces whose actions they want to perform in order, then reveal them. Front side of the player board could be a liftable screen, much like Dungeon Petz.
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Roman F
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Great responses! Thanks so much. Can someone explain what exactly a “chit” is, or provide a link or visual or something? I have an idea but need to see something specific.

Checked out Robo Rally, which has a mechanic similar to the Star Wars X-Wing game. Not quite what I’m looking for but I’ll keep it in mind, maybe I’ll end up changing the game to utilize this mechanic.

Lords of Xidit is kind of exactly what I had in mind, but that looks expensive to manufacture. What I’m developing is a pretty quick and simple game and I want to keep it as such. As a result, I might have to keep the action selection mechanic to cards, suboptimal though they may be, just to keep the price point low. The dice/slider idea is another interesting one that I think might actually be cheaper than the LOX dials, or might not be, depending upon how easy/cheap it is to produce custom dice.

Really appreciate the “repeat previous action” suggestion by Jim Cote – very clever way around the problem of too many excess cards. I might use that one.

As much as I appreciate the queries, I'd rather not share too many details about the game. It’s pretty simple and probably easy to copy so I won’t get into too much about what the actions are, or why you can repeat them. In essence though, you can either race for max speed, or attack the other guy, and every now and then you need to stop for gas. If you’re going for speed, you might just Race 5 times. If you’re going for damage, you might just Attack 5 times. There are some other wrinkles, obviously, or it would be a dull game but it could play out the way I just described. Between the revealing of each action, there are decisions that need to be made, so even if the actions are pre-programmed, they can’t all be revealed at once e.g. if you know the other guy is attacking, you’ll do things differently. First set up your actions, then for each action: Make decisions, reveal, resolve, repeat for the next action.
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Jeremy Lennert
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ekted wrote:
5 action cards
2 "repeat previous action" cards
2 "repeat 2 actions ago" cards
1 "repeat 3 actions ago" card
1 "repeat 4 actions ago" card

That might be enough, as long as it's clear that repeating the previous action might be copying the effects of the previous repeat card, not the action that it copied.



So you're imagining I do something like:

Action A
Repeat previous
Action B
Repeat 2 actions ago

And that final card would be interpreted as: Copy the card from 2 rounds back, which was a "repeat previous card", so you copy the card from 1 round back, which is Action B, and therefore you're doing action B?

That sounds pretty crazy to me. For one, I think a lot of players would find that very confusing. For another, it makes it possible to construct infinite loops that cannot be resolved, e.g.

Action A
Repeat previous
Repeat 2 actions ago
Repeat 2 actions ago

The first 3 cards all resolve to action A, but then the fourth card copies a "repeat previous", which in turn copies a "repeat 2 actions ago", which copies the original "repeat previous" again, and so on in an infinite loop.

I think it makes much more sense for a "repeat" card that copies another repeat to perform whatever action the original repeat originally copied, so that my original example resolves to A-A-B-A, rather than A-A-B-B.



I think you can also further cut down on the number of cards, and possibly make it a little easier to use, by including only:

5 actions
1 "repeat slot #1" (may never be played earlier than slot #2)
1 "repeat slot #2" (may never be played earlier than slot #3)
1 "repeat slot #3" (etc.)
1 "repeat slot #4"

If you want to do the same action 5 times, you play that action and then all the repeat cards in order (so slot #5 copies slot #4, which copies slot #3, etc. back to #1).

You can still do any sequence of actions, because every time you use up a card, you create a new slot that can be copied to produce the same effect. For example, if you want to repeat slot #1, but you already used up your "repeat slot #1" card, then you can repeat whichever slot the "repeat slot #1" card is in (and if you've already used up that repeat card, you can copy it, and so on).

That gets each player down to 9 cards.

Of course, it's still possible to play an illegal arrangement (e.g. you could play the "repeat slot #3" card in slot #3). All of them are obviously illegal (you may never play a repeat card until after the slot it repeats), but you'd need some sort of rule for what happens if a player does it anyway (possibly something along the lines of "you do nothing for that action" or "you continue in a straight line" or "you crash").
 
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Eric Miller
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Roman Farraday wrote:
Great responses! Thanks so much. Can someone explain what exactly a “chit” is, or provide a link or visual or something? I have an idea but need to see something specific.


Generally (I'm sure someone else has or can point to a more concrete definition) a "chit" is just a small cardboard piece. Usually around 1/2" square. You can shuffle them like you might dominoes, or put them in a cup and shake them. See here for an idea: [WiP] Chitpull football

But they only have two sides. And there's not enough room to use the sides like you could on a card.
 
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Robin Armstrong
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This is a little off the subject, but I felt I should post anyway. Also, I'm not a big fan of programmed move games, so take all this with that in mind.

If I'm reading your bare description of your game correctly, players are trying to attack moving targets up to five moves in advance? That does not sound like fun to me; that sounds like an exercise in futility. Unless everyone moves on a fixed track, there's almost no way to know where anyone will be five moves from now. Even attacking at the first move relies a lot on the target not moving or moving in an expected direction. All this is the biggest reason I'm not a fan of programmed move games.

To make this relate, if you don't need to program moves five in advance, then having a game mechanic for just one programmed move is much easier.
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Kelly Bass
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In Himalaya (reimplemented by Lords of Xidit), players preprogram their 6 actions using 6 disks:

One side of each disk features 4 actions. The other side has 1 action.
The direction the disk is facing determines which action is selected. Players set their disks in a row, then reveal them one at a time by moving their player screen.
 

These 4 actions would be, Trade, Move on dirt path, Move on ice path, Rest.
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T. Dauphin
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Antistone wrote:
ekted wrote:
5 action cards
2 "repeat previous action" cards
2 "repeat 2 actions ago" cards
1 "repeat 3 actions ago" card
1 "repeat 4 actions ago" card

That might be enough, as long as it's clear that repeating the previous action might be copying the effects of the previous repeat card, not the action that it copied.



So you're imagining I do something like:

Action A
Repeat previous
Action B
Repeat 2 actions ago

And that final card would be interpreted as: Copy the card from 2 rounds back, which was a "repeat previous card", so you copy the card from 1 round back, which is Action B, and therefore you're doing action B?

That sounds pretty crazy to me. For one, I think a lot of players would find that very confusing. For another, it makes it possible to construct infinite loops that cannot be resolved, e.g.

Action A
Repeat previous
Repeat 2 actions ago
Repeat 2 actions ago

The first 3 cards all resolve to action A, but then the fourth card copies a "repeat previous", which in turn copies a "repeat 2 actions ago", which copies the original "repeat previous" again, and so on in an infinite loop.

I think it makes much more sense for a "repeat" card that copies another repeat to perform whatever action the original repeat originally copied, so that my original example resolves to A-A-B-A, rather than A-A-B-B.



I think you can also further cut down on the number of cards, and possibly make it a little easier to use, by including only:

5 actions
1 "repeat slot #1" (may never be played earlier than slot #2)
1 "repeat slot #2" (may never be played earlier than slot #3)
1 "repeat slot #3" (etc.)
1 "repeat slot #4"

If you want to do the same action 5 times, you play that action and then all the repeat cards in order (so slot #5 copies slot #4, which copies slot #3, etc. back to #1).

You can still do any sequence of actions, because every time you use up a card, you create a new slot that can be copied to produce the same effect. For example, if you want to repeat slot #1, but you already used up your "repeat slot #1" card, then you can repeat whichever slot the "repeat slot #1" card is in (and if you've already used up that repeat card, you can copy it, and so on).

That gets each player down to 9 cards.

Of course, it's still possible to play an illegal arrangement (e.g. you could play the "repeat slot #3" card in slot #3). All of them are obviously illegal (you may never play a repeat card until after the slot it repeats), but you'd need some sort of rule for what happens if a player does it anyway (possibly something along the lines of "you do nothing for that action" or "you continue in a straight line" or "you crash").


I agree repeating back further than the last step is too much to keep track of.
So to keep it simple, all that's needed is a "Repeat last action".
Even if that was a repeat it's not hard to remember or track that.
You will need 2 or 3 of each type instead of 1, but even that's a decent sized deck.

 
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John Breckenridge
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You could cover most cases with only thirteen cards: 2 of each action and three wildcards that say "repeat the action you've already done twice."

The only ambiguous case would be when someone plays: Action A, Action A, Action B, Action B, Repeat the one you did twice. It would let them do either A or B last. If that case is very likely to happen then a better solution is needed.
 
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Luc Noël
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chockle wrote:
In Himalaya (reimplemented by Lords of Xidit), players preprogram their 6 actions using 6 disks:

One side of each disk features 4 actions. The other side has 1 action.
The direction the disk is facing determines which action is selected. Players set their disks in a row, then reveal them one at a time by moving their player screen.
 

These 4 actions would be, Trade, Move on dirt path, Move on ice path, Rest.


Working off of Kelly's thoughts, you could do pentagon shaped chits. One side would have the five action represented in segments and the rotation of the chit would decide which action it used, the other side would have rotation independent art (so as not to give hints about the chosen action).



Actions could either be decided by a point on the pentagon or by the base, which ever is more intuitive.
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Billy Lumiukko
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Just came to mind the mechanic to choose actions in Might & Magic Heroes.
There you have 3 cards (can get a fourth later in the game) with each 2 actions on it and for each of them you can choose only 1 action.

You could have something similar where you have 5 cards with all possible actions on them and some way to select on each card what action will be played on each card.

Or even better: only 1 card with all options and 5 tokens with numbers 1 to 5 that you can place on the card wherever you want. The numbers indicate the order in which the actions are done and the position on the card tells which actions will be done.
 
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Weilong Seow
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jbrecken wrote:
You could cover most cases with only thirteen cards: 2 of each action and three wildcards that say "repeat the action you've already done twice."

The only ambiguous case would be when someone plays: Action A, Action A, Action B, Action B, Repeat the one you did twice. It would let them do either A or B last. If that case is very likely to happen then a better solution is needed.


Alternatively, you can cover all cases by having 2 of each card, 2 "repeat the previous action from this slot" cards, and 1 "repeat the action 2 slots earlier" card.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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chockle wrote:
In Himalaya (reimplemented by Lords of Xidit), players preprogram their 6 actions using 6 disks:

One side of each disk features 4 actions. The other side has 1 action.
The direction the disk is facing determines which action is selected. Players set their disks in a row, then reveal them one at a time by moving their player screen.
 

These 4 actions would be, Trade, Move on dirt path, Move on ice path, Rest.


That's what I would have done, except the back side would also allow for a choice of another 4 actions. (total of 8)
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Andreas Krüger
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I think 5 square cards or chits with 4 actions on each side would be the best. (So, you have 3 actions more than you need - you can either find a use or leave some blanks). Due to the double sided cards, you would of course need a screen.

Dials would also be really nice. I am not sure how much production cost they would add, the X-Wing dials for example are two pieces of cardboard held together by a plastic hub. They are not assembled. But of course, 5 per player is a lot.
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