Recommend
 
 Thumb up
 Hide
24 Posts

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Board Game Design » Design Theory

Subject: Realism/depth vs gameplay simplicity (Eg. ammo) rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
ace base
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I have been designing a game of mine as a hobby over the years but it still has been a work in progress that hasn't fully clicked. Without going into the game (unless people are curious) what's the general consensus on realism and/or 'depth vs simplicity?

To give an example, in zombie games or survival games, clearly you guns are not limitless ammo. BUT...to count/track ammo is a hassle that bogs a game down. Running low on ammo could be a great theme/tension but 'eh how much ammo did I have?" sucks.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Lennert
United States
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The extremes are both bad: too much detail and the game becomes unplayable, too little and the game becomes trivial.

You need to include some details that are important to the game and enhance the experience while dropping other details that aren't important.

How much detail to include depends on your audience.

Which details to include depends on the kind of game you're making.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Peter Strait
United States
Sacramento
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
Unless realism is an express purpose, you probably want to create feel, mood, atmosphere - you want just enough for verisimilitude (it feels like its theme), not enough for simulacrum (it simulates its theme).

What's a bare minimum that still makes a person feel like they have to be careful about running low on ammo? One RPG (Gamma World) had a rule that any ammo-using thing could be used once per scene for "free", or could be used as many times as you wanted and would be "out of ammo" after that scene (and finding ammo that would end that condition was hard). And, it kinda worked at making it feel like a character was either carefully managing their ammo, or was going "all in" on a fight.

Note that this is heavily contingent on what mood or feel you want to set. If you want something that feels arcade-y, you can be a lot more rules-light than something you want to feel gritty or realistic. More than that, it'll color which systems have more or less detail.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Geoffrey Burrell
United States
Cedar Rapids
Iowa
flag msg tools
Games that work well with unlimited ammo are games like Necromunda but it is OOP. It has a good mix of realism but also enough depth and simplicity. Is that the type of something you were looking forward to doing?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Cruickshank
United Kingdom
Epsom
Surrey
flag msg tools
mb
dragon0085 wrote:
I have been designing a game of mine as a hobby over the years but it still has been a work in progress that hasn't fully clicked. Without going into the game (unless people are curious) what's the general consensus on realism and/or 'depth vs simplicity?

To give an example, in zombie games or survival games, clearly you guns are not limitless ammo. BUT...to count/track ammo is a hassle that bogs a game down. Running low on ammo could be a great theme/tension but 'eh how much ammo did I have?" sucks.


Sorry I don't have much to add other than... Damn its like you read my mind, I'm in the exact same situation. I actually googled this exact thread title (more or less) to see what others have written on this on other Forums over the years.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
ace base
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
For my game its a future scifi survival game, so it makes sense that weapons could be 'limitless' in a way with ammo, but I am trying to come up with a way where it feels like still being outgunned, running out of supplies etc.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bob Zurunkel
United States
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
I suppose a sci-fi weapon could never be out of ammo, if you want. I think it would better if there was some limitation on the weapon, though. For example, if used too much it may overheat and have to cool down before it can be used again (or even explode if it overheats). It probably would be easier to keep track of that than of ammo, and would be unpredictable, in that there wouldn't be a definite moment when it would overheat.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
ace base
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Westie wrote:
I suppose a sci-fi weapon could never be out of ammo, if you want. I think it would better if there was some limitation on the weapon, though. For example, if used too much it may overheat and have to cool down before it can be used again (or even explode if it overheats). It probably would be easier to keep track of that than of ammo, and would be unpredictable, in that there wouldn't be a definite moment when it would overheat.


Well, again, I don't NEED the ammo thing, so much as trying to capture tension of a besieging alien force. Imagine 'Aliens' the movie. I don't think I will use ammo. But trying to decide if meditkits, repair kits etc are one use eg

A. (One use) Nothing to micro manage, gives feeling of 'running out' of stuff. Negative: having to go find more

b. (Item lasts all game) No need to find more, less to keep track of in terms of finding/discarding. Negative: doesn't feel as 'dire' so much as 'got medikit, check'.

Option A seems thematically better, but then its like is it fun making sure you have a couple of medikits before heading out?

A problem with this is, there are already a lot of cards in the game, and I will need even more if the items are disposable.

Maybe, all just brain storming.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
marc lecours
Canada
ottawa
ontario
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Realism is important for immersion.

Simple rules, small number of components, not too much time manipulating things are all very important.

Put your complexity on the map and in the cards and tiles. People tolerate and enjoy those types of complexity. But keep the rules simple simple simple.

For the bullets I would use cards. You discard a card when you use bullets. You are worried about too many cards. You can have double purpose cards. When you pick up a card, there might be two ways to put the card in your hand. With the top upwards it is one object. With the bottom upwards it is another object (printed upside down on the card). In other words if you find food and clothing then you have to choose whether to put the card in your hand as food (right side up) or as clothing (upside down).

You could have a card that represents a gun with 6 bullets that is placed on the table. Each of the four sides of the gun has a number (0,2,4 or 6). By rotating the card you use up bullets. The side of the card (and its number) facing away from the player represents the number of bullets remaining. Notice how bullets go down two at a time. Who ever tries to kill a monster with a single shot? Always a minimum of 2 shots at a time. If you find more bullets, then rotate the gun to have the 6 facing away from the player.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Oblivion Doll
New Zealand
flag msg tools
Avatar
If the game is a run-down gritty sci-fi setting or a post-apocalyptic future, you could use bullets as currency - then you'd have more incentive for players to hunt for ammo, reasons *NOT* to throw ammo away too freely in fights, and another layer to that part of the resource management puzzle.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
marc lecours
Canada
ottawa
ontario
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
obliviondoll wrote:
If the game is a run-down gritty sci-fi setting or a post-apocalyptic future, you could use bullets as currency - then you'd have more incentive for players to hunt for ammo, reasons *NOT* to throw ammo away too freely in fights, and another layer to that part of the resource management puzzle.


Very interesting. I like it.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
ace base
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
rubberchicken wrote:
Realism is important for immersion.



Put your complexity on the map and in the cards and tiles. People tolerate and enjoy those types of complexity. But keep the rules simple simple simple.


Can you explain this one some more?

I like your idea of dual-use cards though.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
marc lecours
Canada
ottawa
ontario
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
dragon0085 wrote:
rubberchicken wrote:
Realism is important for immersion.



Put your complexity on the map and in the cards and tiles. People tolerate and enjoy those types of complexity. But keep the rules simple simple simple.


Can you explain this one some more?

I like your idea of dual-use cards though.


Most players don't like reading rule books (I am an exception. I rather enjoy reading rulebooks). Players like even less sitting for more than 15 minutes while one person explains the rules. Therefore a good objective for a designer is to design short rule books. (I play a lot of war games therefore I am used to 40 page of rules to read BUT I would never sit around for more than an hour to learn the rules of such a game.)

On the other hand players don't mind when the rules are on the cards or handled by the board (map). This gives the players something to do while waiting for their turn during the game.

EX: Game "A" has a rule that says movement in a forest costs 2 movement points. Game "B" has smaller forest spaces, so that it effectively doubles the time to travel on the map between two points. Game "B" has shortened the rules by one or two sentences. It does not seem much. But it adds up.

EX: Whenever you have an exception to the rules, try to include it in the cards instead of the rulebook.

1. Game "A" you can't have two hand held weapons. You can't have two heavy objects. You can't have two pairs of boots. Only the elves can use elven weapons. only the mages can use magic spells etc.

2. Game "B" has a rule that says: Each card has one or more letters in the top right corner. You cannot have the same letter on more than one card in your hand of cards. Boot cards will have the letter B. Elven objects will have the letter E but so will each non elven character (each player will have their character card in their hand of cards.)Each magic spell has the letter M (as well as each non mage character card).

Game "B" has managed to put the whole complexity of the game on the cards. The rule is super easy to explain and remember.

Put your exceptions on the board or cards or tiles.

There were two wargames:
Game "A" had two paragraphs to explain when and how you could use paratrooper. There are rules about not being able to do another paratroop attack for 6 months. It only occurs once or twice per game. No one can ever remember the details of the rule. We have to consult the rule book every time.

Game "B" has a card allowing an infantry unit to act as a paratrooper. Because you only have the card occasionally you don't need a rule to say that you can't do it again for 6 months. The instructions are on the card. The holder of the card gets to read the card while waiting for their turn. Much better than game "A".

I am not a professional designer but I like designing for fun. I comb through my game designs looking for exceptions and rules that only occur occasionally. These are prime candidates to be put on cards, boards and tiles.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
marc lecours
Canada
ottawa
ontario
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
dragon0085 wrote:
rubberchicken wrote:
Realism is important for immersion.



Put your complexity on the map and in the cards and tiles. People tolerate and enjoy those types of complexity. But keep the rules simple simple simple.


Can you explain this one some more?

I like your idea of dual-use cards though.


Avoid direct money. Use the cards as part of a barter economy. Each object card could have a money icon with a number in it. This is the card's value when buying other cards. The cost of an object could be the card's value plus two. Thus you lose a bit on each transaction.

For dual use of cards, you can even have a card with two effects. One for the early part of the game, one for the later half of the game. With some transition event in between.

Look at San Juan. Cards are resources, money and each are buildings that can be built.

Cards with double or triple purposes allow more bang for the 55 or 110 cards in your game.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
ace base
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Marc thanks for your comments, it gives me some things to think about.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
ace base
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
What are some good ways to have 'hidden traitor' elements in a game? I like Battlestar galatica's style of playing cards face down, but the game bogs down into a number counting contest which isnt fun
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gomeril Gnak
msg tools
Brooding over the same question a bit. The theory is clear. Bookkeeping is bad. Hard choices are good. So it depends on the scale. My work in progress is a SF miniatures wargame, about company sized. In that scale, counting ammo does not make sense but for two things: artillery barrages and missiles. My on-table artillery has unlimited ammo, which seems appropriate as the game will only go from 6 to 12 turns. But there is the tactical element of waiting for the enemy to run out of ammo. "Feeling lucky, punk?"
So I am considering an out-of-ammo token for panzerfaust-style weapons. There are already a lot of tokens on the table to mark the different states of units, so one more might be acceptable.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
marc lecours
Canada
ottawa
ontario
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
dragon0085 wrote:
What are some good ways to have 'hidden traitor' elements in a game? I like Battlestar galatica's style of playing cards face down, but the game bogs down into a number counting contest which isnt fun


Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game was an early game with traitor mechanism (Shadows over Camelotwas even earlier). The playing cards into a mission used in battlestar is very clunky. I doubt anyone would design a game with such a mechanism nowadays.

Much cleaner are the mechanics used in The Resistance , The Resistance: Avalon, Saboteur and Secret Hitler. Try those games out if ever you are playing with a group that owns one of those game. I really did not think that those systems worked until I tried them.

The key element in hidden traitor games is that each player must have a chance to make decisions that are not optimal. BUT players must be often forced to make bad decisions (even if they are good guys)from the point of view of the other players. In other words the active player (making the decision) must have information that the others don't have.

In Battlestar Galactica the key element are the 2 random cards added to each mission. This allows the cylons to add a bad card without being completely obvious. But the Battlestar system seems too complicated to me.

I like the system in Secret Hitler where there is a stack of tiles some good, some bad (but only 1/3 are good). In that game the president draws 3 tiles, discards 1, passes the tiles to the chancellor who discards 1, the last tile is the mission. The key element is that the president will occasionally draw 3 bad tiles, thus forcing the mission to fail no matter what.

The Secret Hitler system could be adapted to any traitor game. You would have a bag of green (go, success) and red (stop, failure) cubes. More red than green cubes. Whenever a player has a mission to do, they draw 2 cubes then they secretly put one back in the bag and reveal the other one. If 2/3 of the cubes in the bag are red then your chances of drawing two greens are 1/9 (mission succeeds even if by a bad guy), your chances of drawing two reds are 4/9 (mission fails even if by a good guy), your chances of drawing one of each 5/9 (success depends on whether you are good or bad). If a bad guy fails missions much more than 4 times in 9 they look suspicious.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
G J
United States
Crown Point
Indiana
flag msg tools
I think you should add as much detail as you want, its your love you make it what you want it to be.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dirk Rottgers
Germany
flag msg tools
On the original question:

I always viewed it like drawing a map. If you drew a map of a city, you would never include streets, elevation, housing details, sewers, electricity lines etc. at the same time. You would focus on the layer relevant to your map.

Likewise, in your game use only those flavor aspects that are relevant to your mechanics. Does village hierarchy matter for the resource gathering or trading in Catan? No! So the designer left it out and focussed on the mechanics of the game, i.e. fields, resources and infrastructure pieces.

Reiner Knizia seems to have figured this aspect out completely. In many of his games, the flavor is right in the mechanics. E.g. Knizia's games don't try to include pieces relevant for auctions like rounds of bidding or an auctioneer, but rather try to make players think like a typical bidder. Sometimes he dispenses with falvor altogether (Einfach Genial) or has fig-leave of it (Keltis). In my opinion the latter games are made somewhat sterile by this, but I like the principle of fusing mechanics and flavor.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Smith
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Realism vs simplicity is a very important question for games of all types, including video games. But which way you want to go very much depends on the type of game experience you personally enjoy the most! If you think of video games, and flying, on one side you have flight simulator games which try to be as realistic as possible. Some people love that; some find it boring or frustrating. Arcade flying games ditch realism (mostly) in favor of cool flips, big guns and explosions, and fantastical environments. Some people love that, but if they do it's for very different reasons than they'd like a flight sim. That is one spectrum to think of: simulation vs. "arcade" style.

The key question you must answer in order to pick which way to go is: What makes it FUN for you? Is it realism and difficulty that makes it fun? Or quick gratification and shenanigans? I'm working on a driving game, for instance, and I felt like there are lots of car games out there that were too tedious, so I wanted to capture the fun parts of the experience but in a simpler, streamlined way. In doing so, a lot of reality has to go out the window. That can bother me a bit unless I play it that way and it proves really fun. Fun covers over a multitude of unrealism!

One last thought: If there are some rules that you kind of love but add a lot of work, you could have those be the "advanced rules" for the game, so new players can stick to streamlined version, and then delve into deeper rules if and when they want.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Smith
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One quick metaphor for thinking about realism and user experience is this TED talk by Danielle Feinberg: https://www.ted.com/talks/danielle_feinberg_the_magic_ingred...

She makes animated movies at Disney/Pixar, and struggles with the same questions of how realistic to make things look when it's a cartoon. There's a lot of math and physics involved, but in the end it's about cute characters with a story to tell. To summarize, they aim for realism in general so that things look spectacular, but they "cheat" and ditch realism at times, too, when it leads to better storytelling or character development.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marcus Hultqvist
Sweden
flag msg tools
obliviondoll wrote:
If the game is a run-down gritty sci-fi setting or a post-apocalyptic future, you could use bullets as currency - then you'd have more incentive for players to hunt for ammo, reasons *NOT* to throw ammo away too freely in fights, and another layer to that part of the resource management puzzle.


One game that does this quite well is the RPG Mutant:Year Zero.

Players can scavage for ammo or recieve ammo by doing quests but it's quite rare.
It also works as the in-game currency along with food and water.
It will make you think twice about shooting that mutated sewer dog or risking it all and stab it in the face just so you can save 3 bullets and buy that nice gas mask by the horrifying cannibals you've befriended.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Kershaw
Ireland
Belfast
Northern Ireland
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
WARGAME!
badge
Lines of Battle: Quatre Bras 1815. Brunswick hussar.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
A couple of wargames deal with this by providing a handicap to an extreme result - e.g. you roll the best possible number of hits (10 on a D10 or whatever) and you go out of ammo. Ammo is regained by resting for a turn.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.