Adam Stapley
United States
Lyman
Wyoming
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Hello all,

I love cooperative games, and have been working on one for quite some time. It's going well, but I can't help feel that something is missing. I love the combat I have designed, and think it plays well, but right now it seems like everything is about the combat. It's not a matter of IF you should fight, but WHO you should fight.

While playing RPGs and MMORPGs, I always tend to latch on to something other than the combat, whether that be a minigame or a crafting system, I above all enjoy the idea that I can do something productive without "just" fighting.

Are there any good examples of cooperative games that allow room for this idea that there are ways around things that aren't fighting? My current struggle is that anything I try simply seems slapped on and undermines the rest of the game.

Currently, the game is a combat based race against the clock (think Mage Knight in this regard, you are moving through a board, killing things to get better so you can eventually kill the thing that you're trying to kill). However, I would like to add a third category that players have to balance, other than combat and time.

An example of this might be something like "you have to defeat the enemy, but you also need to make sure the town isn't burned." Where you have to both advance forward on the map while defending a location. The unfortunate part of this, again, is that this all falls back to combat.

Can you guys think of any good examples of a game that balances the idea of combat with non-combat actions to forward win conditions? Mage Knight does this in a way with its influence actions. Do you guys think I'm over thinking this, and no one is tired of combat-combat-combat if the combat is engaging and fun?
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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AtStapley wrote:
My current struggle is that anything I try simply seems slapped on and undermines the rest of the game.

I feel that the main tricky bit in combining combat with other game elements is that it's very easy for the combat to become more complex and detailed than the other parts.

If you want two game systems to have similar weight, they should have similar levels of detail.

(If you think your game is already complicated enough overall, this might involve removing some detail from your current system to create more room for the new one.)


Thematically, you might try:
- Politics
- Exploration
- Research
- Construction
- Facing your Demons/Personal Enlightenment
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Jan
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AtStapley wrote:

An example of this might be something like "you have to defeat the enemy, but you also need to make sure the town isn't burned." Where you have to both advance forward on the map while defending a location.


This sounds pretty much like Legends of Andor
It's cooperative, has (simple) combat but at the same time combat is to be avoided most of the time.
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Tor Iver Wilhelmsen
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AtStapley wrote:
An example of this might be something like "you have to defeat the enemy, but you also need to make sure the town isn't burned."

That's Tiny Epic Defenders for you.
 
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Laura Creighton
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These games aren't coops, but I bring them up anyway to illustrate a point.

Imperial

Only fight if it makes you money. Of course, I think that Imperial is pretty much a one trick pony -- once you figure out it is about making money, not winning battles, you have pretty much got all the interesting thoughts that you will ever have out of the game. It looks a whole lot more complicated than it really is. Combat doesn't dominate because it's too simple a game for combat to be all that important.

Here I Stand

This is the other extreme.
This game has pretty much everything in it, the entire political religious struggle, and combat doesn't dominate because the other things are so very, very important. Great, really, really, really, great but takes 3-6 hours to play. You get all the combat in, and everything else, too.

....
So your game may be combat-focused because the other things are not well enough developed compared to your combat system. Either develop the other things more (and end up with a longer game) or simplify the combat (and make it less significant to victory). Imperial can do this because you don't play a nation, with 'your' armies and navies. You just own stock in many nations, and some of them you may control, but you aren't the nation.

I think I may have just received a coop that is combat-and-something-else focused. Alas my game board arrived damaged, really damaged, so until VPG sends me a replacement, I will just be reading rules. The game is Nemo's War (second edition), and yes, sinking the enemy ships is a very most important part of the game. But you first decide when you start to play what Nemo's motive in the game will be -- Explore, Science, Anti-Imperialism, and War!

The game (appears to) give you lots of opportunity for non-war accomplishments, but how much they matter to you depends on what motive you select. But head on over to its own forums or the 1PG to discuss this more with people who have actually played the thing. It may be that by having you pick a motive, you can have people focus on war-and-one-other-thing-which-may-be-more-war and get a game that plays in a more reasonable time.

Whether you get a real coop, though, I cannot say. The real fans of the game, who convinced me that I missed out on a real gem when I went 'wargame, good, science fiction, not for me' are playing it solo.
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"What do you mean, I can't pay in Meeples?"
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Maybe some kind of stealth mechanic?

'Attack everything that moves for sweet EXP and loot' is a common problem for neophyte RPG groups - and the best way to curb this kind of behaviour is to toss in challenges that are hindered by the 'fireball first and interrogate the ashes later' mindset.

Having to weigh risk vs. reward can help give a game meaningful choices.
 
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Cracky McCracken
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Pericles: The Peloponnesian Wars

Takes co-op to whole new level. It's a 2v2 game, but ultimately there is only one winner. Well worth checking out.
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Adam Stapley
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Antistone wrote:
AtStapley wrote:
My current struggle is that anything I try simply seems slapped on and undermines the rest of the game.

I feel that the main tricky bit in combining combat with other game elements is that it's very easy for the combat to become more complex and detailed than the other parts.

If you want two game systems to have similar weight, they should have similar levels of detail.

(If you think your game is already complicated enough overall, this might involve removing some detail from your current system to create more room for the new one.)


Thematically, you might try:
- Politics
- Exploration
- Research
- Construction
- Facing your Demons/Personal Enlightenment


The "personal enlightenment" is the aspect I have been focusing on, and it seems to have been so far slapped on in a form of "score." The game is based on the set of a school, so killing the big baddie is most important, but if you can keep up on your classes as well, even better!

Perhaps some sort of reward to combat for keeping up with studies, and a punishment for not keeping up studies, might be what I'm looking for?
 
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B-Rom
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AtStapley wrote:
While playing RPGs and MMORPGs, I always tend to latch on to something other than the combat,


Any sabbatical I've ever taken from combat in MMO's typically devolved into standing around the town center and looking at boobs. Not sure if that is something you can build upon or not.
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Adam Stapley
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Busen memo, mate. Very sustainable design plan.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Kentwood
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Exploration.
Collection.
Escourt.
Rescue.
Scouting.

In Cardmaster there are quests such as collect some skulls laying around. Another is collect some rat tails. Another was to delve down to a certain level and find something. And so on.

In Mice and Mystics for example there is an early mission where you must make it to an NPC and free them. Or play a game with some NPCs. Chace a thief, etc.
 
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Billy Lumiukko
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As Antistone said, the level of detail is the important factor to look at and it depends very much on what you are aiming for.

If you look at Pandemic, it is a game only about fighting some cubes (diseases) trying to conquer the world. The whole game is about fighting them and you don't even improve or get stronger but does it feel like a combat game? No because the combat is just spending an action to remove one or more enemy. Instead the game shines through its mechanics and decisions that you have to make and the risks you take, not knowing what cards you are going to draw.

I think it's not a problem to make a game about fighting together (I'm actually toying with such a design myself) but what is important is the way you do it. Are there interesting decisions points or is it pretty linear? Is it always the same or do you always have a different puzzle in front of you?
 
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patrick mullen
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In Arkham Horror LCG, you have to juggle managing your resources, hunting for clues, fighting, and running away. I don't feel that any of those aspects really overpowers the other, although you generally will win by finding enough clues. The design choice they made, was to make most of the actions use the same mechanism, (and quite a simple one at that), which helps keep the weight between them balanced. Sometimes there will be enemies that you can talk to instead of fighting as well, which once again uses the same mechanism, though it relies on a different character stat.

On the other hand, you don't have to have the non-combat elements be the same weight as combat. If the goal of the game is to defeat something in combat, it is not surprising to have most of the game be about fighting other things. In fact it might be a bit strange to spend a bunch of time picking tulips and cooking bread and then all of a sudden at the end have to fight something. If you do put in other systems, make sure they tie into the overall theme and combat mechanics somehow. Maybe you have a set collection bit of crafting, where you can sometimes find loot if you use your actions/time to search, and you have to find 3 of the same thing before you get that item. Maybe there can be a trader where you can trade to help complete the set.

It's simple and easy to understand but adds something else to do that feels a bit different from the combat. And the items you get after going through that process will hopefully be an edge you might need in or leading up to the final battle.

What about a memory game where you have to reunite separated npcs? When you find an npc you flip them back over and leave a token there. When you find another npc, you can flip one of the spots where you left a token. If those npcs are connected, you get to reunite them and they give you some kind of bonus. Maybe the dark fortress has 3 obstacles you must pass to get inside: you have to cross a moat, find the secret entrance inside, and then sneak past the guardian. Each set of npcs you reconnect will give you points towards one of these 3 objectives. If you don't get enough points for the moat, you have to swim across, losing a piece of armor. If you can't find the secret entrance, you have to do one more fight. If you can't sneak by the guardian, he gets added to the final battle.
 
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Seems like a thematic issue. simply re theme combat, break it down to its base mechanics and call it something different. Most fighting in RPGs is just a skill check anyway, with an additional modifier for whatever weapon you have etc.

Realistically, the hero isn't going to hang around selling rugs if a dragon is threatening the land. That's one of the downfalls of modern video games giving you sidequests - you have all the time in the world to initiate the final batttle. Well if you really did then, then everyone would lock up the dragonborne, because HES the real problem. He's the one who initiates the final battle when he goes to the location marked on the map. But I digress.

Runebound juggles your conundrum well by making fetch quest, social (if you can call it that) and combat encounters labeled differently, but combat is by far the most rewarding.

Violence in boardgames is another conversation all together that I'm sure has its own thread, but at the end of the day, I think it's possible we've been conditioned to find combat the natural and most effective means of overcoming obstacles in a game situation because there are no real world consequences.
 
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The Joker
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Lessons learnt from Andor or "Island of D":
if you want it to be something else than combat,
the winning condition has to be something else than combat OR in additon to.

You have to do/find/craft XYZ AND beat the big guy.
You have to do/find/craft XYZ and beating the bad guys is just a way of NOT-LOOSING.
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