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Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (Major Mechanisms) rss

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Michael Carpenter
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When I think about main stream board games from the past I think of games that featured the roll and move mechanism. What one mechanism do you think will be the face of this generation of modern board games? Worker Placement, Area Control, Resource Management... I know today's games combine a lot of quality mechanisms but what one mechanism do you think will be considered the most significant development in modern games fifty years from now?


Personally, I think my answer would be Worker Placement.


When I look back at this generation of games I think I will think of the worker placement games first because the mechanism seems to be a nice core for a game that is easy to compliment with secondary mechanisms that will get left in the shadows of the worker placement mechanism.



If you enjoy my reviews or posts please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple
 
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John Breckenridge
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Victory Points, and by extension, Score Tracks.
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Andrew Johnson
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The games may have evolved through stages.
Roll and move.
Action points?
Resource management?
Worker placement?
 
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Isaac Shalev
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I agree that VPs were a huge innovation in gaming.

I also think that eventually we'll look back and see many mechanisms as part of the drafting family. Card drafting, worker placement, role selection, and probably a few others are all versions of drafting, and I think that has been incredibly important to games in the last 20 years.
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Walt
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Many older light games use roll and move. Many used Risk-like roll-to-decide combat, from Risk to wargames. Many card games used "draw then play".

I think the most common factors in modern games are:

• The reduction of luck, including cards being favored over dice;

• Increased "agency", such as when dice are used, it's not roll to decide, it's roll then decide how to use the dice; and

• The "timed" game, where the game ends after some mechanically enforced period instead of tedious player-elimination.

• Along with the timed game, designers are thinking about how to make games play faster: it's usual to play card(s) then draw to refill your hand, reducing down time; many games have very limited actions you can take per turn, to limit decision time and turn time.

Those factors aside, the most common thing is novel mechanics. Often they aren't fundamentally novel, but they're at least superficially novel. The common thing is the lack of overused mechanics. We had an auction period, a tile-laying period, an action point period, a worker placement period....
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Michael Carpenter
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I think everyone has a pretty good point on this. As I think about it Action Point allowance seems to be the mechanism that replaced roll and move so it may actually be the "correct" answer but we are either extremely accustomed to it now or it has evolved too much to be the figurehead. The mechanism is often used but you seldom hear people say Action Point allowance games, whereas many people say Worker Placement games, Card Drafting games, etc.


VP was another very smart opinion.


Maybe the combination, action point allowance to gain VP's is what will be remembered like "roll" and "move".
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Walt
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I don't see any fundamental distinction between VPs and score or most-money. Bridge used scores since the 1920s, as do Yahtzee, Backgammon, and innumerable card games, Cribbage, Rummy, Canasta.... Innumerable games also call their VPs money, such as Acquire (and a great number of games were played for money, like Poker). That they don't count one VP by one VP, neither do the modern Lost Cities, Keltis, or Tichu.

Action points were definitely a thing. I think of Tikal as a game with a definite action point mechanic. By definite, I mean you had a relatively large pool of APs and you could do several things per turn; games that allow you to do two or three of a set number of actions are closely related, but simpler to play with fewer options. APs seem to me to be somewhat linked to the earlier movement points of wargames and some board games, so much to go into clear terrain, so much for a mountain.

Another important mechanism in modern games is resource management, collecting various things to get something, Catan being an early example. Bazaar is much earlier, but much more abstracted; these somewhat relate to set collection in poker or rummy. Still, lots of modern games don't use resources, like Carcassonne (which I think originated the meeple, though they aren't called meeples) or Ticket to Ride.

I don't think one mechanism is in all or even a lot of modern games. I think that's a good thing. We get a lot of variety.
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Kyle
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The timed game is certainly one I appreciate, I really enjoy set rounds.

As above worker placement is just action drafting. Drafting had had its influence, for better (see wp) or worse (see card draft), but it is everywhere.

Player agency is the other real important one. These games generally don't play themselves. But really this goes back to the 70s even 60s. Avalon hill and the like.
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Michael Carpenter
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Tall_Walt wrote:
I don't see any fundamental distinction between VPs and score or most-money. Bridge used scores since the 1920s, as do Yahtzee, Backgammon, and innumerable card games, Cribbage, Rummy, Canasta.... Innumerable games also call their VPs money, such as Acquire (and a great number of games were played for money, like Poker). That they don't count one VP by one VP, neither do the modern Lost Cities, Keltis, or Tichu.

Action points were definitely a thing. I think of Tikal as a game with a definite action point mechanic. By definite, I mean you had a relatively large pool of APs and you could do several things per turn; games that allow you to do two or three of a set number of actions are closely related, but simpler to play with fewer options. APs seem to me to be somewhat linked to the earlier movement points of wargames and some board games, so much to go into clear terrain, so much for a mountain.

Another important mechanism in modern games is resource management, collecting various things to get something, Catan being an early example. Bazaar is much earlier, but much more abstracted; these somewhat relate to set collection in poker or rummy. Still, lots of modern games don't use resources, like Carcassonne (which I think originated the meeple, though they aren't called meeples) or Ticket to Ride.

I don't think one mechanism is in all or even a lot of modern games. I think that's a good thing. We get a lot of variety.



I can see the connection you are making but I think there is a difference to mention. Many older games and some new games require you to have the most money and by definition it may seem to be the same as victory points but I think that when games began to make a distinction between money and victory points something evolved. It may not be that victory points were an innovation but the distinction definitely altered games because money still exists in many games but often times does not determine a winner. Something changed, I'm just not sure how exactly I'd explain the shift in dynamics.

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Lisa Johnson
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I've beeen gaming for more than 40 years, but I only recently joined the ranks of the modern board game fanatic. I'm seeing some of the differences between classic board games and modern games with a somewhat fresh perspective. I think one of the most striking contrasts is in the realm of depth or levels. No matter what the mechanic, there seems to be a sub goal that distracts from the final goal. Think of acquisition of treasure in Dominion... suddenly you look at the Provinces stack and realize that you should have finished deck building a few rounds earlier. Or resource games like Catan or Puerto Rico, where you are trying to build or acquire money but the final VPs are a bit elusive. I think these "levels" of game play go a long way in mitigating some of the grind of linear move and play games like monopoly.
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Stephen Miller
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ender7 wrote:
I agree that VPs were a huge innovation in gaming.


Back in my day, they were called points.

I'm serious here - VP aren't actually an innovation to modern games, calling them VP is a weird legacy of games that had multiple types of points all going on at once so you needed to clarify that 'this sort of point is the sort that counts towards victory rather than ones you can spend on improving your units, moving your character, or is added to your d20 roll to determine if you hit or not', but there have been games where victory is determined not by anything thematically present within the game, such as most cash or eliminating the opposing army, or a natural mechanical aspect of the game, such as going out first, since... Not only before modern gaming, but before Monopoly. There are a bunch of traditional card games that use the concept, some where most points wins, some where fewest points wins, etc.

Quote:
I also think that eventually we'll look back and see many mechanisms as part of the drafting family. Card drafting, worker placement, role selection, and probably a few others are all versions of drafting, and I think that has been incredibly important to games in the last 20 years.


Perhaps, though WP isn't always just a draft these days. You've got WP where the WP works as an auction, so you can go into an action an opponent has gone into, as long as you put more workers there than the opponent did (I think one of the Key games does that? The one with the hexes?). WP games where some workers (or actions) allow 'bumping' workers back to your opponent's hand, giving them more actions that round (or more actions before they take the withdraw worker action) (Euphoria was an early example of this), you've got blind WP where everyone declares where they're going to workers before hand, and then either does it programatically (Dungeon Lords) or picking where you're sending your worker first when you know what options your opponents have left for themselves to send their workers (I think Trickerion does this), and then you've got... However you'd describe what Tzolk'in is doing with it's Gear and Timing based WP stuff.

Core WP and Non-simultainious card draft certainly only vary by components, though, yes, and I think you may be right - Mechanisms that turn the fundamental part of a game, picking what you're going to do on your turn, into an interactive part of said game, rather than simply relying on what you're doing with those actions for the interactivity, be it via drafts, WP, role selection, or whatever.
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Michael Carpenter
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Definitely enjoying the discussion! Does anyone have an opinion as to what they will look back and remember as the feel of board games. When I look back at childhood board game experience there was never a player board (not to say there weren't games with player boards). I remember one main board, some money, and some pawns or figures. When o think about my current collection of games I think of a player board, typically a main board, lots of cubes or cards and maybe some meeples. That's a generalization but that's kind of what I'm looking for... what is a board game these days? Are there games that feel more nostalgic or like a board game than others? Do card games and dice games influence the seemingly diminished feel of a prototypical board game? I mentioned worker placement being something I will remember because worker placement games seem to offer the most relatable board game feel on a regular basis.
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Stephen Miller
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MariettaTennis wrote:
Definitely enjoying the discussion! Does anyone have an opinion as to what they will look back and remember as the feel of board games. When I look back at childhood board game experience there was never a player board (not to say there weren't games with player boards). I remember one main board, some money, and some pawns or figures. When o think about my current collection of games I think of a player board, typically a main board, lots of cubes or cards and maybe some meeples. That's a generalization but that's kind of what I'm looking for... what is a board game these days? Are there games that feel more nostalgic or like a board game than others? Do card games and dice games influence the seemingly diminished feel of a prototypical board game? I mentioned worker placement being something I will remember because worker placement games seem to offer the most relatable board game feel on a regular basis.


Hm.

For modern board games, I think this we're in the period where it stopped being enough to have a strong theme via flavour text or art, or strong mechanical play, with clever mechanisms leaving a satisfying intellectual experience, but for a game to break out now, I think it's more important than ever for it to have strong mechanisms tied to strong gameplay, while previously it was enough for a game to have a strong theme with weak mechanisms if it was marketed at a certain crowd, or strong mechanisms with weak theme at another, I don't think a game could hope to have much more than niche success these days without doing both, and I think the theme has to be through mechanisms now, rather than just via flavour text or art.

Obviously there are going to be exceptions (And Wargaming has been doing strong ties between theme and mechanics for forever), but I think we're in The Age Of The (Euro/Amerithrash) Hyrbid.

From my childhood? Hm. That's harder to say, since All Family Games Released Prior Were My Childhood and my neighbours had some dating back to the 30s...
 
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Walt
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darthain wrote:
Player agency is the other real important one. These games generally don't play themselves. But really this goes back to the 70s even 60s. Avalon hill and the like.

Yes-but, they weren't in more-or-less mainstream family games. Of course, they're more mainstream in Europe than North America. And AH and similar games reduced agency by heavy use of roll-to-decide; you could try to do things, but they might come to nothing at random.


MariettaTennis wrote:
I can see the connection you are making but I think there is a difference to mention. Many older games and some new games require you to have the most money and by definition it may seem to be the same as victory points but I think that when games began to make a distinction between money and victory points something evolved. It may not be that victory points were an innovation but the distinction definitely altered games because money still exists in many games but often times does not determine a winner. Something changed, I'm just not sure how exactly I'd explain the shift in dynamics.

Yes, many many games have an engine-building phase then a VP generating phase. Dominion and Saint Petersburg are good examples where the shift from money to VPs is especially distinct.


PhaedraWinterborn wrote:
I've beeen gaming for more than 40 years, but I only recently joined the ranks of the modern board game fanatic. I'm seeing some of the differences between classic board games and modern games with a somewhat fresh perspective. I think one of the most striking contrasts is in the realm of depth or levels. No matter what the mechanic, there seems to be a sub goal that distracts from the final goal. Think of acquisition of treasure in Dominion... suddenly you look at the Provinces stack and realize that you should have finished deck building a few rounds earlier. Or resource games like Catan or Puerto Rico, where you are trying to build or acquire money but the final VPs are a bit elusive. I think these "levels" of game play go a long way in mitigating some of the grind of linear move and play games like monopoly.

Well said, though somewhat Monopoly has property acquisition, build up of houses and hotels, and then seeing if you win; the chance of roll and move tends to overwhelm the game, though. Bridge has bidding then play, and backgammon has in-contact vs. pure race but those are quite different.


Gizensha wrote:
ender7 wrote:
I agree that VPs were a huge innovation in gaming.

Back in my day, they were called points.

I'm serious here - VP aren't actually an innovation to modern games, calling them VP is a weird legacy of games that had multiple types of points all going on at once so you needed to clarify that 'this sort of point is the sort that counts towards victory...

I agree, and perhaps in most games, they're just called points (Carcassonne, Stone Age, Saint Petersburg), while many games use other more thematic names for VPs.


MariettaTennis wrote:
Definitely enjoying the discussion! Does anyone have an opinion as to what they will look back and remember as the feel of board games. ...

Solid thick cardboard boards and tiles, wooden bits, cards not dice. (A lot of earlier games were quite poor in terms of the cardboard they used; some were de-laminating fresh out of the box.)
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Matt Brown
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Worker placement and deck/pool/bag building I think will be the ones to stand out the most.
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Michael Carpenter
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I agree that deck building will be something that will stand out but sometimes I find myself feeling disappointed that card games have such a heavy influence on the perception of the board game hobby. I'm not claiming it is wrong to include them and I do like plenty of card games. I just don't get the same feel from a card game as I do with board games. I would much rather have some substantial presence on the table with a solid board game than a have a card game spread out around the table. STRICTLY personal preference, not right and wrong.
 
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Stephen Miller
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And suddenly I'm tempted to give a second listen to that Ludology episode discussing card games being treated as lesser to board games in the hobby...

(Preferences are preferences, I get that. It's just the way you expressed yours brought that Ludology episode to mind)
 
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Michael Carpenter
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I definitely don't want to discredit how good card games are, there are some incredible card games. It just doesn't always feel like they're in the same category. That's a discussion in and of itself though. I love the ludology podcast though. Very well done!
 
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Look on my works ye mighty and despair
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Gizensha wrote:

I'm serious here - VP aren't actually an innovation to modern games,


Yeah, The Creature That Ate Sheboygan was using them back in 1979.

And I doubt it was an early adopter. At a guess, they probably first started to be seen in wargames.
 
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