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Subject: Combat Game: First Turn rss

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Jochen Eisenhuth
Germany
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Hey Geeks,

I'm working on a tactical arena combat game (MOBA-inspired)and I'm not sure how to approach the first turn.
Until now, first turn was designed to get your fighters into position (the game is action card driven and the chosen action cards determine movemetn and combat statistics) so it's basically just movement as attacks are very rare to happen in the first turn due to range/los restrictions.

Now I collected some feedback with some people criticizing that the first turn was kind of lame and they wanted to delve right in the action on turn 1 (part of the problem could be that I normally use turn 1 to explain the game so it takes longer than it maybe should - 1st turn takes about 1-2 minutes without explanation, depending on experience with the game - full game length is 60-90 minutes)). Now I'm toying around with the idea of spawning units right into the combat zone (where they would arive after the first turn by normal movement) and would like to have your thoughts about that.

Would you consider a 1st turn with movement only problematic ? The thing is that there are a lot of combat games out there where there is almost no fighting on the first turn.

Another point would be, that by spawning the units right in combat players will have less information about the action options the opponents started with and the game is a lot about anticipating enemy actions so this is probably rather a bad thing. Additionally there are different hero types which are strong against other hero types and the decision which hero faces which hero might be less organic if they are spawned right in front of each other.

What do you think?
 
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Vincent Leduc
Canada
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If i understood correctly, the first player could attack the second player in the first round leaving the second player with less hp for his first turn...

I believe that this would give a solid edge to the first player.

Instead, I would consider placing the starting zone of players far enough so they can't attack eachother on the first turn, so they can build a positionning strategy.

Also, you could build a mid-game scenario to let your testers dive right in the action!

Sorry for my bad english...Hope it Helps!

 
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Jochen Eisenhuth
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I have alternating activations (and the exact time of activation is determined by the chosen action card where weaker actions are rather early and strong actions late) so this is maybe not such a big problem. Still I lose some positioning by skipping the first turn, as you suggested.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
United States
North Carolina
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Hmmm. Sounds like you need "better" playtesters. Maybe find people who have played moba type games. I'd rather have the first turn -- and maybe more than one turn -- be all about doing "set up", maneuvering, and essentially be pre-engagement related. As you said, a lot of games do that.

Heck, even chess and checkers will spend the 1st turn just getting into the midfield. And there are books dedicated to the subject of chess openings.

Edit...
I do agree with Vincent, however, on his suggestion: get some mid-game scenarios to allow those playtesters a peek at that.

Long ago, when I first played D&D (1986 red box), the player handbook dropped you into a combat encounter right away. It was a simple and small fight, but it got that "itch" out of the way. After that, the next few turns were about skill checks and branching into other rooms. Even now, when I get a chance to play a paper & pencil RPG, I throw the new party into a "kobold raid" encounter. It's an interesting group dynamics exercise: you get to see how your players interact.
 
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Allan
Singapore
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You don't have to directly go into combat. I think you can interpret what they are saying as the first turn doesn't have enough action.

can you solve that without going directly into combat?
 
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Ken Savage
Austria
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Chordcommander wrote:
Additionally there are different hero types which are strong against other hero types and the decision which hero faces which hero might be less organic if they are spawned right in front of each other.

Is there any defensive or non-direct attack abilities in your game? Do some fighters work better by not attacking head on? Do some fighters get bonuses to move to areas outside the starting area (ie, higher ground/cover)? As you mention above, are some fighters weaker vs specific others - so would these want to avoid their nemesis?
If yes to any of these (or similar ideas), then I think that it would considerably take away from the strategy aspect of a MOBA if you could attack on the first turn. After all, if you can attack on turn 1 - then what value does movement have in the game?

If the first player can attack on his first turn - then the game can become completely about alpha strike. Can he cripple another player, before that player gets a chance to do anything? So you'd immediately define a dominant strategy, and relegate the idea of any defensive skills you need to activate. As stated by Pincey, this makes being the first player too attractive.

The best example of a game that (I think) does something like this, is Mage Wars Arena. The first player cannot(reasonably) get into range to attack on turn 1. The second player can only attack turn 1 if the first player has moved forward sufficiently far, and would also need to use movement - so could not attack with both actions. From turn 2 onwards, either side can be in range (and attacking) if that is their strategy. But you will be guaranteed a first turn to prepare, if that's what you want.

I appreciate that I don't know too much about what you are aiming to do with the game. But if you are aiming to have a "middle game", then a 1st turn with no combat will give you more ability to put better strategy options into the game, imho.

I'd certainly agree with the guys above - give these playtesters visibility of midgame scenarios. Then see if they think it's worth the quiet first turn to setup for better later turns.
 
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Laura Creighton
Sweden
Göteborg
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I suspect they're a bit bored. They need a meaningful decision to make in round 1, sooner than you are giving it to them. It doesn't have to be a combat decision, though those work. Something like deciding 'my machete is out and ready to be used, my rifle is slung over my back and will take an extra action point to bring to bear' vs the reverse might be decision enough.
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Oblivion Doll
New Zealand
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Buff/long-range debuff abilities you can apply to your character or the opponent in the first turn could work. Another option would be to have some characters with longer-ranged abilities that can be effective on the first turn - but with limited effectiveness and/or an inability to be used once combat has been joined properly. You might also consider having some abilities which are triggered on one turn and come into effect later. Traps, or "charged" abilities that don't fire off immediately on the turn they're played.
 
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Xar Sol
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In my game, my players are able to attack first turn. However, i balance it out by giving the 2nd player available neutral resources, enough so that they may play their own counterattack or defend successfully.

In the "Universal Fighting System" CCG, players can Attack on the first turn, but not without some heavy risk and penalties. Without having resources available, a turn 1 Attack can result in a failed check, preventing that player from attacking and immediately ending their turn. If successful, the first player will get a successful attack before having to focus on resource building.

Instead of preventing combat or designing a "Turn 1 Peace" setup, why not have heavy penalties that would give would-be attackers a "high risk, high reward" mentality, at least for the first turn? This could be something like overcommiting resources or losing out exp chances compared to being patient and waiting to attack. That could allow you to keep the aggressive nature while preventing player one from being OP at the beginning.
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Jochen Eisenhuth
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Thanks for your responses.

I have to make some clarifications:

In my game it is definitly not always a benefit to attack first (but depending on the hero it can be) so this is not a problem. As stated before players alternate activating heroes and due to activation restrictions they cannot start with very strong attacks, so alpha strike is not problematic.

I have some heroes which can use abilities to get benefits for future turns but thats rather a minority and doesn't justify a first turn.

I've read Sandy Petersen's Golden Rules of game design, with one rule being:"get right into the action, like in a good movie" (no quote) and now I'm not sure if I should put that in my game too.

I don't think that that change will have a big impact on the whole game itself balance wise etc. as by placing spawnpoints right on the battle field players basically start where they would on turn 2 in the game as it is now. Of course I would need some system in which order players place the heroes (I even thought about the idea, that players place their heroes on the map during drafting - so I choose a tank hero and play him on the right objective and you can pick a counter to that tank and another hero while I can choose a counter to your heroes and place him/her there as well etc.that would be kind of a fog of war element there too).

Probably its rather a matter of taste, if you want to start right in the action or use one turn to get into position. And you are right, especially beginner players experienced that the first turn is boring, as they dont know anything about counters, matchups etc so they just move their heroes forward.











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Aaron Hein
United States
Spokane
Washington
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I would suggest considering giving players some non-combat action to pursue on turn 1/2 that would give players the ability to implement different starting strategies. Much like jungle buffs in current MOBAs, this could give them something to keep Turn 1 more "exciting"
 
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Quentin N.
France
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The only question is: is turn 1 strategically interesting?

If during turn one you can give shape to your position, plan your strategy, adapt, force the ennemy to your will: keep it.

If looks like "get to the starting line" in a race game... get rid of it.
 
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