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Subject: Cooldown times vs. Ability costs. rss

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Jon Glade
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How do you all feel for this ratio as a gamer and/or as a designer? This is something I have been play testing for my own game. and I find that for my own mind, it is nice to have a big ability with large cool downs in order to get players to use the lesser skills more often.
Just curious!
-thank you
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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Tactically, cooldowns are nice because they encourage you to use all your abilities instead of just using one of them over and over--but they also encourage using each ability as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the best possible use (the sooner you use it, the sooner you'll get it back). That can force players into a "skill rotation" where they always use abilities in the same order regardless of circumstances, unless you offer pretty big incentives to hold them back until a better time.


Also, cooldowns are often logistically painful in board games. E.g. in a typical "naive" implementation, you might put counters on the ability to show how many rounds it is disabled, but then you need to remove one counter from every ability every round; that can get laborious if you have a lot of abilities, and if you forget or otherwise mess up the count it's hard to correct.

There are some alternative implementations that consolidate this; for instance, you could have a time track that simply counts up by 1 every round, and place a used ability on this track in the space corresponding to when you'll get it back, then you just pick it up when the round counter catches up to it. You still need to update something every round (the round counter), but at least it's only one thing for all abilities. Of course, it requires somewhat more specialized tracking components.


Rather than a "cooldown" that disables an ability for a specific duration, board games will often disable an ability until a specific event occurs.

For instance, rather than disabling the ability "for 3 rounds", you could disable it "until sunrise". Whenever sunrise rolls around, you get all your abilities back at once, no matter when you used them. This means you don't need to track the individual abilities separately, and it also means you eliminate the incentive to use your best ability as fast as possible (to try to get it back sooner), because you'll only get it once per day no matter what. ("Sunrise" could be tracked in lots of different ways, of course.)

Or perhaps recharging your abilities is, itself, an ability. My game Darkest Night has a mechanic where lots of your abilities become "exhausted" after use and can't be used again until you "refresh" them, and the usual way to refresh them is to spend a turn resting--which refreshes all of your abilities at once (and sometimes has other benefits, too). You could use just your best ability and then refresh it over and over, but that means you'll spend half your turns resting. If you use 3 different abilities before resting, then you can't use your best ability as often, but you also don't need to rest as much. So the decision of when to rest becomes a tactical decision in itself.

Lots of games put abilities in a deck of cards, and then you can get all the deck-management tropes: manipulating the order of cards in your deck or how many you get to draw, changing when you reshuffle, limiting the number of cards "in hand" at a time, etc.

Of course, any of those means that all "cooldowns" are the same length--you can't balance an ability by giving it a shorter or longer recovery time, like you can with traditional cooldowns. (Though you could give multiple "copies" of an ability that you want to be usable more often.)



You could also use variable cooldowns, but measure them in terms of game events instead of time. Maybe when you use an ability, you put X cooldown tokens on the ability, and also remove 1 cooldown token from every other ability. So instead of "wait 3 rounds", it's "use 3 other abilities before you use this again". You're still fiddling with a separate pile of counters on every ability, but at least you remove them as a result of an active step (which is at least arguably easier to remember than an automatic upkeep step, since you'll already be thinking about your abilities and their cooldowns when it's time to update them). Then abilities can vary not only in how long they take to recharge, but also in how quickly they recharge your other abilities.
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Sam Cook
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I feel like for most games, there is not enough granularity of turns to really mimic a cool-down timer very well. Like if a game only has 10 rounds, it's way easier to just say that you can do something once every round or once a game.

The best game I've seen to use timers was Time 'n' Space, which is completely real time and uses actual sand timers as workers. You use them to build buildings, send ships places, and manufacture goods. It felt exactly like an RTS video game to me.
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