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Subject: A dungeon crawler without a map. rss

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Simon Cole
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Hey guys, I know there at least a couple games out there like "one deck dungeon" that is considered a dungeon crawler but without a map.

What I'm wondering is, can there be a dungeon crawler without a map, where a party's positioning matters? And not just "who's in front" either, but allowing for ideas such as "flank" or "out of range".

For example, you get in a rumble with the goblin guards at the mouth of the cave. I don't want to setup a "board" just for that, but I also don't want it to just be binary locations, my side / their side.

Could a dungeon crawler like Descent ever be done without the need to spend time setting up tiles or placing minis to denote location?

If there are examples out there, please let me know.

Thanks!
 
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Brent Mair
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I've been considering this same thing. There would need to be engagement (or not). Some characters would want to engage and others would want to stay back and fire/cast. Some would want to attack enemies engaged with others. I haven't practically looked at how it would work, but it should.
 
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Cody
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I dont know of any like that, but it sounds easy enough to impliment.

Play an area card that sets the dimensions. Then play/move monster/hero cards around it as dictated.
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Jon Joy
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The best example of this I know of is Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game. Marching order determines who gets attacked as you move to new rooms and who is able to attack which blips based on range.
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Jeremy Lennert
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Depends what you mean by "map." Any mechanism that tracks the locations of characters could be considered a "map" regardless of the details--in which case, by definition, you can't track locations without a map. But there are certainly varying levels of complexity and granularity that you could use, some of which might be very fast to set up.


Some games create an "implied" grid based on the positions of the pieces; e.g. Tile Chess or Hive. Every piece has to be touching another piece in a connected network so that their relative positions are clearly defined; this may create some counter-intuitive restrictions, but you don't need a separate component to be the board.

If you simplify that to one dimension, you get a system of "ranks" where you basically track how close each piece is to "the front line". So your side's melee units start all grouped together right in front of the other side's melee units; medium-range units are behind the front line, and long-range units are behind that. Units can move forward or backward one rank at a time (possibly with some restrictions about moving past enemies), but if any rank is ever completely empty, it automatically "contracts" and disappears. If a unit moves beyond the current bounds of the battle, it creates a new "rank."

If you don't like the idea of empty ranks contracting, you could have a very simple "board" that's basically just a number line, and group your pieces into vertical rows to show where they are along that line.


At one point, I was designing a battle system with very minimal positioning that basically just tracked whether any two characters were "close" or not--i.e. at any time, any two characters are either "close" or "far", and those are the only two ranges. Initially, no one is "close", so just set up all the characters around the table so you can see them all. If one character decides they want to approach another, then move those two characters so they're touching; if one of them runs away, separate them again. "Closeness" is transitive (if B approaches A, and C approaches B, then A and C are also close to each other), so all you care about is whether two characters are currently in the same "group".

I figured this would work well for representing "boss fights" (one big guy fighting several little guys at once) or for a confused melee where people are moving around rapidly. It doesn't cope as well with the concept of formations (like having a front line to screen your ranged attackers), although you can still have the concept of "pinning down" a specific opponent by getting close to them before they can get close to one of your allies. (I figured there would be penalties for approaching or retreating from a melee opponent, like a contested check or an attack or opportunity; "front line" types could have interrupt abilities like "when an enemy tries to get close to your ally, if you are not already close to anyone, you may force them to get close to you instead". "Flanking" could just mean there are more of your side than the enemy side in your current "group.")
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Eugene Koriakin
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Assault on Doomrock comes to mind. Haven't played it, but, judging by the videos and reviews, your party spends some time wondering around locations collecting resources, and then there is a big climactic fight with monsters. Monsters and heroes are represented by tokens, and it seems to me that positioning does matter a lot there.

Warhammer Quest: the Adventure Card Game might also interest you (this one I own and love). Locations are represented by a deck of cards, through which you gradually move, and each location has its own peculiarities. Monsters (also represented by cards) can be engaged with one of the heroes or "in the shadows" (in the center of the table), but some neat things give a real sense of a tactical battle here: some heroes are melee-only and have to engage monsters, some are ranged; each monster has his own set of properties that dictates their AI, so they will jump around the table, from one position to the other; as for the heroes, their abilities have cooldowns, and the first player token moves clockwise every turn, which also can be seen as shifts in their positioning and adds another layer of decision-making.

The second game is out of print and only has two expansions, each with one additional hero. But I would say that the gameplay is interesting and situations are varied enough to ensure quite a lot of replayability. If you can get your hands on the game, of course...=\

Also, you should check out Whack & Slaughter - a free little tactical miniatures game where you can use any miniature you own and have anything serve as terrain. Doesn't need a lot of tablespace or terrain (it's fantasy-based, so most of the combat is done up close), uses whatever units you want for measurements (you can play this on a square grid, on a hex grid, on the table with rulers...) and provides the ability to play with your miniatures without having to set up the game they're from.
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Simon Cole
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Thanks for the discussion!

Assault on Doomrock and Warhammer are not quite what I was thinking. But their mechanics are definitely creative.

Spacehulk is much closer to what I want. I didn't investigate it fully, but is there anything other than a linear marching order within a single space?

And Cody, do you mind giving a simple example? I've wondering about denoting a map using a single card, but didn't know how players could keep track of where they are relative to it.

And Jeremy, you're right. What I really want to do is "track location". Thanks. But with that, I'd like the qualities of that location to have as many "features" of an actual square or hex map as possible. Or said another way, I want the qualities of having a map without actually having a map. Qualities such as:

difficult terrain
impassible
high ground
environmental hazard
etc

Along with the ability to account for things such as:

Marching order
Flanking
Range
LoS
A split party (like one end of the hall vs the other. not different places entirely)
etc

It's a tall order. That's why I'm wondering if it's even possible. I'm sure there is compromise, but what balance of the above can I implement and still be faster and easier to setup/breakdown than tiles or drawing a map?

Plus, the more abstract it is, the more ability to build your own there would be. Hopefully equaling "replay ability".
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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adkot wrote:
And Jeremy, you're right. What I really want to do is "track location". Thanks. But with that, I'd like the qualities of that location to have as many "features" of an actual square or hex map as possible. Or said another way, I want the qualities of having a map without actually having a map. Qualities such as:

difficult terrain
impassible
high ground
environmental hazard
etc


Then you don't just want to track locations; you want a detailed, structured environment that exists in its own right separately from the characters. If that's what you want, I doubt you're going to find a satisfying compromise, but you could consider:

- Have one or two "environment cards" in play that provide a global effect for all combatants, such as "rocky terrain: -1 movement speed" or "dense forest: -2 accuracy at range 2, and no LOS at range 3 or higher".

- Use one of the examples already listed above, and track the location of each terrain feature in exactly the same way that system tracks a character. (For instance, put out a "pool of shimmering water" card, and then characters can choose to approach it and get "close" to it or walk away to get "far" from it.)

But if you insist on having a well-defined grid with a large number of terrain modifiers in specific spaces, then you've pretty much already got a traditional map, no matter what else you do or don't do.

While it is occasionally possible to reframe a mechanic in a way that gives exactly the same results with less bookkeeping, it's rare, and generally means the mechanic was poorly framed in the first place. A traditional mechanic used by thousands of games over the span of decades is not likely to have any large inefficiencies in its representation, so if you want a more efficient representation, you will probably have to choose some details to eliminate.



On a tangential note...you mentioned this is a dungeon crawl. Is it cooperative, with all players on the same team? If so, I strongly recommend against using a combat grid with complicated terrain, because it is essentially impossible to write an algorithm for the enemies that will navigate that terrain in a reasonable way. Board game AIs need to be extremely fast and simple, and cannot solve complicated tactical problems. Instead, you want the AI to have an extremely boring job, and asymmetric mechanics that give the players complex tactical problems for how to respond.

Though if you have a player controlling the dungeon (like in Descent), then you can disregard that.
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patrick mullen
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Antistone wrote:
adkot wrote:
And Jeremy, you're right. What I really want to do is "track location". Thanks. But with that, I'd like the qualities of that location to have as many "features" of an actual square or hex map as possible. Or said another way, I want the qualities of having a map without actually having a map. Qualities such as:

difficult terrain
impassible
high ground
environmental hazard
etc


Then you don't just want to track locations; you want a detailed, structured environment that exists in its own right separately from the characters. If that's what you want, I doubt you're going to find a satisfying compromise, but you could consider:

- Have one or two "environment cards" in play that provide a global effect for all combatants, such as "rocky terrain: -1 movement speed" or "dense forest: -2 accuracy at range 2, and no LOS at range 3 or higher".

- Use one of the examples already listed above, and track the location of each terrain feature in exactly the same way that system tracks a character. (For instance, put out a "pool of shimmering water" card, and then characters can choose to approach it and get "close" to it or walk away to get "far" from it.)

But if you insist on having a well-defined grid with a large number of terrain modifiers in specific spaces, then you've pretty much already got a traditional map, no matter what else you do or don't do.

While it is occasionally possible to reframe a mechanic in a way that gives exactly the same results with less bookkeeping, it's rare, and generally means the mechanic was poorly framed in the first place. A traditional mechanic used by thousands of games over the span of decades is not likely to have any large inefficiencies in its representation, so if you want a more efficient representation, you will probably have to choose some details to eliminate.



On a tangential note...you mentioned this is a dungeon crawl. Is it cooperative, with all players on the same team? If so, I strongly recommend against using a combat grid with complicated terrain, because it is essentially impossible to write an algorithm for the enemies that will navigate that terrain in a reasonable way. Board game AIs need to be extremely fast and simple, and cannot solve complicated tactical problems. Instead, you want the AI to have an extremely boring job, and asymmetric mechanics that give the players complex tactical problems for how to respond.

Though if you have a player controlling the dungeon (like in Descent), then you can disregard that.


Eh, it's not easy but you can co-opt the players to make the ai perform reasonable moves as seen in the descent app or the fan-made imperial ai deck for imperial assault. Also, gloomhaven has a pretty capable enemy ai with some activation decks and a set of movement mechanics that seem odd at first glance but create challenging enough situations. But yeah, not easy.

OP, here is the thing about abstraction. Abstraction makes sense, up until the point where the abstraction is equal to or more unwieldy than the simulation. It's possible that what you are looking for can be done, but most dungeon-crawl-like systems that don't have maps really brush away a lot of the things you would find in a game with a map; and this is because of what they can gain from doing so. If your main purpose for not having a map is because it takes to long to set up the map; you might be coming at this problem from the wrong angle.

That said, sometimes the wrong angle is the right one to discover something new. So feel free to keep exploring it and report your results!

Start simple, and then take each concept you want to represent, and see if you can build it in. Here's an example: First step, OK, every character is in the same place and anyone can attack anyone. Next, you want marching orders: maybe each party is in a row, and anyone can attack anyone at the same position as they are in the row, or have a combat modifier to attack someone in a different position. If a character has no corresponding spot, then they have the modifier no matter who they attack. Range, so maybe a character can be close or at range - two rows for each party instead of just one. The front row can attack the front row as normal, but when attacking a back row character, the character in the back row can make a free attack first. Flanking - you have multiple parties and so does the enemy. A party can be engaged with one other party, or engaged to none. Disengaged parties can choose to engage with another disengaged party. You can split and join your party if you so choose. Leave one group disengaged for a few turns and then, engage them for a bonus. Line of sight - environment cards for crates/pillars/tables what have you. It covers one of your party slots or an opponents party slots. You can move it left and right to represent the party moving around it.

It's starting to get a little out of control already, but that was just a brainstorm. You get the idea.
 
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Cap'n Ginger
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Frankly, it sounds like an RPG.
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Jeremy Lennert
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saluk wrote:
Eh, it's not easy but you can co-opt the players to make the ai perform reasonable moves as seen in the descent app or the fan-made imperial ai deck for imperial assault. Also, gloomhaven has a pretty capable enemy ai with some activation decks and a set of movement mechanics that seem odd at first glance but create challenging enough situations. But yeah, not easy.

I haven't played the specific products you list, but:

1) Asking the players to make good decisions for the opposition is not an AI, it's asking the players to play both sides. This is somewhat doable--e.g. there are people who play Chess against themselves--but it's not very popular. I don't know of any commercially-successful games that make significant use of this idea in their primary play mode.

2) Obviously, one could hypothetically get better behavior with an app running the AI, but if your game requires an app to run the opposition, I think it is highly questionable whether we are talking about a 'board game' anymore. Especially since the app will only have situational awareness if you input a significant amount of game state information into it, at which point you are pretty close to being able to ditch the board entirely and play 100% inside the app.

3) All of the tactical-grid-movement board game AIs that I have actually played with have been pretty bad.

There may still be space for clever innovations in this area, but I am not optimistic. Tactical-grid-movement is a very old and well-studied mechanic that continues to be used in a lot of games mostly because it is NOT easy to make good moves.
 
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patrick mullen
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Antistone wrote:
saluk wrote:
Eh, it's not easy but you can co-opt the players to make the ai perform reasonable moves as seen in the descent app or the fan-made imperial ai deck for imperial assault. Also, gloomhaven has a pretty capable enemy ai with some activation decks and a set of movement mechanics that seem odd at first glance but create challenging enough situations. But yeah, not easy.

I haven't played the specific products you list, but:

1) Asking the players to make good decisions for the opposition is not an AI, it's asking the players to play both sides. This is somewhat doable--e.g. there are people who play Chess against themselves--but it's not very popular. I don't know of any commercially-successful games that make significant use of this idea in their primary play mode.

2) Obviously, one could hypothetically get better behavior with an app running the AI, but if your game requires an app to run the opposition, I think it is highly questionable whether we are talking about a 'board game' anymore. Especially since the app will only have situational awareness if you input a significant amount of game state information into it, at which point you are pretty close to being able to ditch the board entirely and play 100% inside the app.

3) All of the tactical-grid-movement board game AIs that I have actually played with have been pretty bad.

There may still be space for clever innovations in this area, but I am not optimistic. Tactical-grid-movement is a very old and well-studied mechanic that continues to be used in a lot of games mostly because it is NOT easy to make good moves.


Well, you haven't played the products mentioned, so...

The idea behind the gloomhaven ai, the descent app, and the fan-made imperial assault deck are all the same. They define the priorities of the opposing player, while letting the players continue to make the more difficult calculations. Then, you provide an asymmetric field such that the opposing player is still a challenge even though it's "brain" is very simple. In gloomhaven for instance, you may draw a card for a unit that says it makes a ranged or a close attack, and it will always try and get into the ideal range of the attack. The player simply moves it to the appropriate grid space if it can, or not, following an exception routine.

[note: the descent app provides some convenient bookeeping function, but in terms of the monster actions is not really doing anything drawing from a deck of cards couldn't do]

The AI in these cases surely is "bad" because it's not really ai. But it provides enough challenge for the rest of the game to function, and a game such as Gloomhaven to remain entertaining as a co-op game for 100s of hours. Maybe it's not good enough for you, but no game can please everybody. I wouldn't play chess against myself, but I'm having a lot of fun going through the Imperial Assault campaign.

Honestly I find it rather odd that you are saying "it can't be done" when the #4 game on bgg is built around such mechanics. Though I understand your position and wouldn't recommend it as a good starting point for most games
 
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Julian Wasson
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adkot wrote:
Thanks for the discussion!

Assault on Doomrock and Warhammer are not quite what I was thinking. But their mechanics are definitely creative.

Spacehulk is much closer to what I want. I didn't investigate it fully, but is there anything other than a linear marching order within a single space?

And Cody, do you mind giving a simple example? I've wondering about denoting a map using a single card, but didn't know how players could keep track of where they are relative to it.

And Jeremy, you're right. What I really want to do is "track location". Thanks. But with that, I'd like the qualities of that location to have as many "features" of an actual square or hex map as possible. Or said another way, I want the qualities of having a map without actually having a map. Qualities such as:

difficult terrain
impassible
high ground
environmental hazard
etc

Along with the ability to account for things such as:

Marching order
Flanking
Range
LoS
A split party (like one end of the hall vs the other. not different places entirely)
etc

It's a tall order. That's why I'm wondering if it's even possible. I'm sure there is compromise, but what balance of the above can I implement and still be faster and easier to setup/breakdown than tiles or drawing a map?

Plus, the more abstract it is, the more ability to build your own there would be. Hopefully equaling "replay ability".


So it sounds like the only reason you don't want to go with a map is setup time? You might be able to use larger modular tiles either to represent location more abstractly (effectively just taking a map and chunking down the resolution), or to represent larger pieces of the map at once.

Something like Mansions of Madness or Mice and Mystics trades off versatility in favor of ease of setup, and might be an acceptable tradeoff for what you're going for.

Are there other aspects of a map you're looking to get away from besides just setup overhead?
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I think this falls in line with a lot of the recent "big asks" in board gaming that I've noticed is somewhat in line with the recent solo trend. I've done some solo gaming in the past but eschewed it as I personnally enjoyed experiencing these co op games in a multiplayer fashion, but a large part of that world consists of 2 things:

The thirst for automated content: Having conditions and events such as enemy spawns (or in this case an enemy move) supplied for you replaces the need for another person, and the more content there is in this respect, arguably, the better the solo experience.

Simple mechanics: Having those conditions and events be easy enough for one brain to smoothly execute and get back to the player's side so that the solitaire does not get bogged down in "processing the board."

These two asks seem to always clash in my experience, and make solo play often unwieldy (for me). While I realize bringing in the solo subject is somewhat off topic, my main point is that there seems to be a trend of contradictory wants in the community as of late that don't really work in the physical realm of board gaming. (I understand brick walls are encouraging to designers who desire to innovate, and that's neccessary, so just something I noticed)

It's kind of like the Line of Sight contradiction. Two players who cannot see each other's board have no way of knowing if their characters can see each other without an objective third party or computer to tell them if Line of Sight is made. In that way, we are bound to the physical world.

Anyway, try Mistfall! Its fun and has a rudimentary Player zone, Close zone, Far zone combat system.
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Jeremy Lennert
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saluk wrote:
The AI in these cases surely is "bad" because it's not really ai. But it provides enough challenge for the rest of the game to function, and a game such as Gloomhaven to remain entertaining as a co-op game for 100s of hours.

Interesting choice of wording, since the designer specifically de-emphasized challenge as a driver of gameplay:

Cephalofair wrote:
...reducing the difficulty of scenarios to overcome them is not the incentive of playing the game. While I wouldn't call any given scenario easy (outside of the introductory one), I will say that the success rate, given fairly intelligent play, is very high. This isn't a typical cooperative game in that you won't have to play a mission over and over until you've gained enough knowledge and experience to do things perfectly right in order to win.

The first time you sit down to play a new scenario, you will probably complete it successfully. This is because the incentive of the game is on progression and discovery, which is a little outside the box, but it was a conscious design choice.

You're saying it's challenging enough for a game that was never meant to be challenging (or not very) and is trying to hold your interest via other means.

(For context, this was in response to my complaints that the rules are set up so that the highest-win-chance strategy will often be counter-intuitive and unthematic. He's saying that's OK because, unlike most games, Gloomhaven is not asking players to optimize their win chance in the first place.)



I haven't played Gloomhaven, but I have played several games that have "automated" AI on a battle grid, and it has consistently seemed to me that these games simplify their terrain to the point where the grid is essentially irrelevant to gameplay. Monsters just move forward and attack, and aren't ever provided any meaningful obstacles/cover for them to overcome/exploit (or the monsters completely ignore them, even if they're present).

If your AI behavior is only reasonable in cases where the map doesn't matter, I don't consider that solving the problem.
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I have also played several games with automated ai that have failed to deliver. But then I've played some others that I feel provide a sufficient experience that I expect out of a dungeon crawl.

The terrain in the Gloomhaven map matters, so that defeats your last point. "Enough challenge for the rest of the game to function" is not contradictory with Gloomhaven's designer's goal of scenarios that have a win rate of 100% with smart play. (A game where you are asked to play through 70 scenarios would be tedious with a 50% win rate or some such like you usually see in co-op design so I think I agree with his decision there) You are certainly correct that grid-based games which lack a human intelligence for opposition can be problematic, as do most design choices.

That said, it is not an option that is off the table. You seem to have a particular axe to grind when several systems available at least show there is interest in such a system, regardless of your own opinion on that design choice. A system that attempts to replicated tactical grid combat to the level the OP desires runs the risk of creating similar issues, while being more complicated than just using a grid would be. How to determine when a monster card should advance because out of range or hold back? When the marching order has an effect, how does the opponent determine the order of his units?

In any case, creating satisfying solo/coop mechanics is definitely a challenge, and it gets harder the more tactical and involved the mechanics are.
 
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Simon Cole
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Though I'm intending to create something for a board game, I realized earlier today it was heavily related to RPGs. So I posted a similar thread there.

Anyway, I pick on setup time because that's easy. When I play games like Zombicide (even though maps are similar to Mice and Mystics), there's a calculation for setup time. And playing on a map doesn't lend itself to a simple 30min skirmish. The story presented is usually fixed to that location and easily takes an hour or two to complete.

I'm wanting to be able to present a full TV-episode type feel where you might travel through several locations and engage in more than one brawl. If I had to have a complete map for every fight, that's just too much time. And to not have something that relays a sense of being in a specific location for a battle (like a temple courtyard with strange architecture and field features that matter), is too abstract.

And I surely don't want to just roll, add bonuses, and the higher wins. I want some of that strategic and tactical depth a map gives... without a map. (Let's see how many times I can say that)

I'm aware enough to know there's not a Holy Grail that combines everything I want from a grid based map with not needing to use a map at all. I want to get as close to that as possible though... while not making players head's explode with rules (particularly non-RPG players).

The idea of Environment cards and maybe a little something from FATE (which I learned about today) could work. I'll definitely need to look into Mistfall too.

Oh, and another major reason I want a Dungeon Crawl without a map is to keep it fresh with simple expansions. If I don't have to worry about tile pieces, but maybe just cards, it could be much easier to keep the game interesting... and not 20 lbs like Gloomhaven (which I'm not knocking).

I realize "keeping it fresh" is far more than just a new "map" all the time, but this is the issue I'm tackling right now. And I very much appreciate everyone's input into this.

RE: Enemy AI

My intention is be a one vs all, but I realize coop is quite popular (even with me). I've heard Gloomhaven AI is fairly decent. And the Descent AI controlled by the APP has been fun enough.

But after I figure out how to implement a "map" without using a map, I can work on how an AI might work.
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Hmm. So priorities are:

- Travel through multiple locations with multiple brawls
- Relay a sense of being in a specific location
- Lends itself to both strategic and tactical depth
- Easy/cheap to produce and expand
- TV episode type feel

I'm interpreting that last one to mean that you can get a good punchy arc with a variety of beats in a reasonable amount of time.

Just sptballing here, but drawing inspiration from games like Anima: Shadow of Omega, Pathfinder ACG, and LotR LCG, you might have different location cards with different effects that you can move between or design directed scenarios around.

If you want a little bit more tactical depth in fights, maybe each location has three slots that you can move between (and they can have different effects in each slot to play up the terrain. It keeps it simple and abstract but gives you lots of tools to differentiate locations. Flanking and LoS are hard, although you could easily have other positional effects. You could even do something like marching order by restricting targets further down a stack.

There are games that have a lot of strategic and tactical depth in combat without any sort of map positioning (Sentinels of the Multiverse and Aeon's End immediately spring to mind, but there are lots). It may be worth looking into them for inspiration as well.
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Sounds like you want a retheme of Up Front.
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Simon Cole
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Cosmonaut Zero wrote:
Hmm. So priorities are:
Just sptballing here, but drawing inspiration from games like Anima: Shadow of Omega, Pathfinder ACG, and LotR LCG, you might have different location cards with different effects that you can move between or design directed scenarios around.


In fact, the seed of my current idea came while playing the Pathfinder card game and finding it lacking (to my whole gaming group's taste). I criticize everything though, but this one got me thinking.

I'll also look into the other ones you suggested and see if I can figure anything out. But, to my newbie self, I'm surprised to see that quite a few games already have tried to tackle this issue. Guess that means I just need to get out more.

And Up Front seems really cool. In fact, playing terrain on your opponent goes along with the theme of our game too. Which, unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to discuss just yet. Suffice it to say, it's like the overlord in Descent changing things up on you.

"good punchy arc with a variety of beats in a reasonable amount of time" is exactly where I'm heading.

But unlike the Pathfinder game, fights (and challenges in general) need to be far more dynamic and engaging for my group as a whole.

And, in case you haven't noticed, I'm assuming what my group wants is what quite a few others would want. I guess I won't know till I actually have something to present.
 
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Julian Wasson
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adkot wrote:
Cosmonaut Zero wrote:
Hmm. So priorities are:
Just sptballing here, but drawing inspiration from games like Anima: Shadow of Omega, Pathfinder ACG, and LotR LCG, you might have different location cards with different effects that you can move between or design directed scenarios around.


In fact, the seed of my current idea came while playing the Pathfinder card game and finding it lacking (to my whole gaming group's taste). I criticize everything though, but this one got me thinking.

I'll also look into the other ones you suggested and see if I can figure anything out. But, to my newbie self, I'm surprised to see that quite a few games already have tried to tackle this issue. Guess that means I just need to get out more.

And Up Front seems really cool. In fact, playing terrain on your opponent goes along with the theme of our game too. Which, unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to discuss just yet. Suffice it to say, it's like the overlord in Descent changing things up on you.

"good punchy arc with a variety of beats in a reasonable amount of time" is exactly where I'm heading.

But unlike the Pathfinder game, fights (and challenges in general) need to be far more dynamic and engaging for my group as a whole.

And, in case you haven't noticed, I'm assuming what my group wants is what quite a few others would want. I guess I won't know till I actually have something to present.


Nice! I'm sure there are lots of others that I missed or haven't played. A common solution is modularly generating a board as you go (see The D&D co-op dungeon crawls or Betrayal at House on the Hill), but I'm really glad to see people playing with this middle level of abstraction! It sounds like what you're aiming for is something that I would really like.

I like PACG, but for every great idea it has, it's got a flaw as well. Adding more impactful variety and making it more dynamic, plus making combat less underwhelming? That's something I can really get behind!

In terms of that episodic arc, the LotR LCG is really worth looking into, more for the way they structure individual adventures than for the way they handle locations (which is even more abstract than PACG). They use a series of objective cards for each scenario, which gives you shifting objectives in a single session. You could probably do something really amazing with that sort of a structure, and it lends itself really well to a series of story beats that make sense as an arc.

Going with the idea of an overlord playing terrain cards, you could take a page from Sentinels of the Multiverse's book and have individual decks for each location type so you can get a feel for each location but also have room for surprise in what comes out. The overlord would have a hand they play from, or you could have the game handle it randomly if you want to have a full co-op mode, and maybe individual characters could have some access to it to represent them using the terrain to their own advantage.
 
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patrick mullen
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Yeah, Pathfinder is really just a push your luck game, not a dungeon crawl. I think that's why I've taken to Apocrypha Adventure Card Game. It's the same game, but it doesn't cause me to expect certain things that are missing.

The LCGs (LOTR, yes, Arkham Horror LCG even moreso) are definitely worth looking into. They favor expansion (it's the main business model) and through some simple interaction of the various location cards, obstacles, and encounters, do create that tactical feeling. No, the game mechanics don't directly model a grid-based game with cards, but they do create scenarios which provide a similar kind of tactical decision making.

You will probably be disappointed in how LOTR manages locations (the party is at only one location at a time, and it is completely orthoganal to what opponents you are facing). But Arkham does create a simple map structure with each card representing a location. Players are always choosing whether to stick together or split up, trying to figure out the best order to take on the enemies, and balancing between fighting and searching for the things they are supposed to find. The actual combat is extremely abstract though - it's not really a combat oriented game.

And then of course there are the more competitive lcg/ccgs that you can take inspiration from. Most involve summononings, which is a quick and dirty way to create complex tactical matchups. Which of my units should block, and which should attack? It's not out yet, but Ivion doesn't use summons and has a grid (of cards) instead.

If you want to do 1vsMany, that's cool. They can do well (Conan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past, Star Wars: Imperial Assault - of course licenses help!) and you will avoid many of the problems with ai on grids that me and Jeremy were debating There may be ways of simplifying set-up on the grid. For instance, use the storybook concept like in Near and Far. Each page IS the map tile for a scene. You just place the tokens where you see them, and things like walls are just from the image.

You are right about the matches themselves tending to be longer. Usually though, these games are designed with the intention of being long, so you might be able to speed it up if that is your goal.
 
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warhammer quest the adventure card game has positoning of sorts with heros engagement zones and the shadows.
 
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Simon Cole
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Well look at that. Ivion is in the direction of what I'm trying to do with the fighting. And Arkham Horror LCG is really close to the "mapping" idea I want. I was starting real small though with just a 2x2 layout of locations. But, I like how AH doesn't make it a "grid" so to speak. That's what I was struggling with.

No doubt I should expect my want for innovation to already be in the minds of others... or already produced somewhere, I just haven't heard of it.

And are you guys familiar with Slickdeals? If so, you are creating this burning sensation in my wallet that I don't appreciate.

Lots to chew on.

Thank you all for your time!
 
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adkot wrote:
It's a tall order. That's why I'm wondering if it's even possible.


Take a look at Up Front. It does in card format much of what you want to do.
 
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