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Subject: How to make games start differently? rss

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Bastiaan Reinink
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TL;DR: In Los Buenos, the game I'm designing, the first few turns tend to be extremely similar. How do I fix this?

Full question (I hope this is enough detail without bogging people down. If not, let me know and I'll edit): My game is a twist on a worker placement game. Players win by having the most karma points at the end of the game, which they get by constructing buildings, cleaning up destroyed buildings and by being "helpful" to other players. This can be by placing workers on construction sites of other players (helping to finish those).

When cleaning up destroyed buildings, players find salvage (wood and money), which goes into a shared storage area. Then a player can take a "distribute" action, in which they can take as many of the resources as they want and then other players get to take any left-over resources (players can only take what they can use, no stockpiling).

There are three "distribute" actions: Distribute plans (new buildings that players can work on), distribute wood and distribute money.

In the first round these actions almost always get taken by player 1, 2 and 3 respectively, meaning that each start of the game is the same. I'd like to do something about this, because a dynamic start is more fun!

I had in fact solved this problem, but that took out a lot of fun from the game (if you're interested, there's a blog post about that here: http://makethemplay.com/index.php/2018/01/02/balanced-to-dea... )

Some options I'd considered (outside of what is described in the blog post):
-No spaces to build anything in the first round: This just shifts the problem in that all players need to do "cleanup" in their first round; still the same first round every time
-No resources (wood & money) available on the general storage area the first round: The first player would take the "distribute plans" action and then all the other players would be forced to do "cleanup" (as they wouldn't have the resources to actually start construction on the plans).

I'd very much like to tap into the shared experience: Do you have any suggestions that would help me solve this?

Thanks!


EDIT: Rules (dropbox) can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/3kbdfz4jwo6xg0l/Los%20Buenos%20-%2...
Full P&P files (also dropbox) can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/a7wgtu24fkkztoz/AABDDavx2oblG9-A5...
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Pelle Nilsson
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Why not just set up the game like it looks after the first 1-3 turns instead then and have players begin from there?
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Jean-François Collumeau
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Having an alternate type of starting turn, in which all players cooperate to place/share a limited set of resources and plans, might help setting up the game while involving the players ?

Adding specific (perhaps random) constraints to the available resources/plans and placements might also be interesting.

Hope it helps !
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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Many games start players with some random cards (or other resources) so that their initial priorities will be different in different games.
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Adrian Pillai
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How about starting from a scenario? Say it is still clean up phase, but say there are natural or man made disasters that need to be cleared before rebuilding the city. An oil spill scenario or an earthquake. A fire or a landslide.

The difference could be each scenario hits different properties, dealing big damage to one, taking more turns to clean but giving more karma too, vs a less damaged area making clean up faster and less karma but allowing that player to get ahead with the rest of the game. Turn the start of the game into a race, and maybe the rest of the game will have players feeling like they need to catch up. Players can help each other clean, but it's a decision of helping vs steaming ahead on their own... is doing a good thing the right thing?

Just top of my head. I would love to discuss this more if you think it might work, I think you have a very interesting sounding game and would like to see it in action if possible.

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Bastiaan Reinink
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pelni wrote:
Why not just set up the game like it looks after the first 1-3 turns instead then and have players begin from there?


That's one direction I've been thinking in. It doesn't make as much thematic sense, but I guess fun has to trump theme...?

One issue is that after the first 3 rounds there is different "distribution" between the players: Player 1 usually has the best "building plan", but few resources, while player 3 actually has quite a few resource, but a less-awesome plan. Having that difference in distribution is actually quite nice to have, but it would be somewhat hard to recreate in a "setup".

One option would be to "score" the plans, distribute them randomly and based on how good they are you get fewer resources? Sounds a bit kludgy...

Any good further suggestions on this?

 
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Bastiaan Reinink
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elfboy wrote:
How about starting from a scenario? Say it is still clean up phase, but say there are natural or man made disasters that need to be cleared before rebuilding the city. An oil spill scenario or an earthquake. A fire or a landslide.

The difference could be each scenario hits different properties, dealing big damage to one, taking more turns to clean but giving more karma too, vs a less damaged area making clean up faster and less karma but allowing that player to get ahead with the rest of the game. Turn the start of the game into a race, and maybe the rest of the game will have players feeling like they need to catch up. Players can help each other clean, but it's a decision of helping vs steaming ahead on their own... is doing a good thing the right thing?

Just top of my head. I would love to discuss this more if you think it might work, I think you have a very interesting sounding game and would like to see it in action if possible.



The premise of the game now is that an earthquake destroyed the village. It needs to be cleaned up and then rebuilt.

Having different "scenario's" could be interesting, though I'm not sure how to have that translate into different starting positions...

After an oil spill you only need to clean up the oil but then the building is usable again? While in an earthquake you'd actually have to do a complete rebuild?

One of the core elements is already: Do stuff that's good for myself, or do stuff that's good for others (and get karma), so I'd definitely want to keep that in.

I'll edit my original post to include a link to the full rules...
 
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Corsaire
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You could draft into position by giving people the choice of the natural turn 1-3 material position. Call them roles and put them on cards.

Choose a role card:
Survivalist - start with x food
Visionary - start with a plan
Etc.
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Harv Veerman
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(Stolen from In the Year of the Dragon)

If I understand correctly, there are three "resources" in the game: money - wood - plan

First player gets to pick two resources in a 2:1 ratio like 2 wood and 1 money.

Second player cannot pick the exact same combination, meaning 1 wood and 2 money is different.

And so on and so forth.

I find it difficult to tell however if certain combnations are more powerful from the start, but that would be up to you.


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Derek H
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BastiaanSquared wrote:
The premise of the game now is that an earthquake destroyed the village. It needs to be cleaned up and then rebuilt.

Having different "scenario's" could be interesting, though I'm not sure how to have that translate into different starting positions...

Well, the rubble from the village could be randomly assigned to different locations each game. Players could start with different abilities or equipment and at different starting places. That should already add variability to the start.

There could also be a "scenario" where some buildings start half-built already (perhaps the government recruited someone else?) and players have to decide whether to complete those (quicker but less karma) or start from scratch (longer but more karma).

Also sounds like you need some randomness as to when the game ends; this should add some spice to decisions...
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Bastiaan Reinink
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Corsaire wrote:
You could draft into position by giving people the choice of the natural turn 1-3 material position. Call them roles and put them on cards.

Choose a role card:
Survivalist - start with x food
Visionary - start with a plan
Etc.


I like this idea! It would require quite a rework of the game unfortunately. Currently there are 4 "resources": Workers, money, wood, building plans. Players start with workers, need to gather the others.

However, wood and money have to be used directly once obtained, so without a building plan, you can't use wood or money (this is to prevent stockpiling: Money / wood found in salvaging destroyed buildings goes to a general stock. If players could stockpile it themselves it would beat the purpose of having that general stock). Though having players start with one or two resources that they can stockpile (but not future resources) until they use it might work...

Thanks for the idea!
 
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Bastiaan Reinink
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gamesbook wrote:
Well, the rubble from the village could be randomly assigned to different locations each game. Players could start with different abilities or equipment and at different starting places. That should already add variability to the start.


I'm afraid that wouldn't do much for the starting turns though. In the very first few turns players tend not to interact with the rubble yet and those are the turns I'm concerned about.

gamesbook wrote:
Also sounds like you need some randomness as to when the game ends; this should add some spice to decisions...


That's a good point actually. I had a form of randomness in the game but then it tended to sometimes last a turn longer than strictly required for the fun... Something worth bringing back again though? Thanks!
 
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Derek H
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BastiaanSquared wrote:
gamesbook wrote:
Well, the rubble from the village could be randomly assigned to different locations each game. Players could start with different abilities or equipment and at different starting places. That should already add variability to the start.

I'm afraid that wouldn't do much for the starting turns though. In the very first few turns players tend not to interact with the rubble yet and those are the turns I'm concerned about.

If you explain in more detail why they don't, then maybe we can make suggestions?
 
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Taylor
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You could give players two actions on their first turn. Everyone would take the obvious distribute action and then whatever else. This might not change what people are going to do but will at least speed up the setup.
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Greg Chapman
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Would rotating a new first player each round help?
 
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Carel Teijgeler
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GoodChap wrote:
Would rotating a new first player each round help?

Should that not be a default?
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patrick mullen
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If there is an action that is always the obvious first action, see if you can balance things by making other actions seem as valuable, or making the action everyone does less valuable. But, of course you want this value to apply at the beginning and not necessarily unbalance the rest of the game.

I haven't played the game, but I'm not at all convinced that the opening is scripted in a very bad way. You may be overthinking it a bit. You say that most new players don't even notice. While you are choosing to distribute plans, you are still making a choice on which plan. And then choosing wood or money, and how much to take, is still a choice. Sure, everyone is going to choose a similar first action, but there is some nuance in how they are applying it. Calling them starting areas also leads me to believe that those SHOULD be your starting actions. You can increase the action execution choices by providing more starting plans and/or more starting resources. Maybe even a random amount of starting resources.

But, maybe distribution just isn't that interesting in the early game. Another idea would be to distribute plans and starting resources to players as part of setup, with the distribute action cards empty. That will force players to make decisions among the remaining actions. You can refill the construction plans stock during cleanup. The distribute resources being empty also encourages players to get to actually collecting those resources from the environment (which at first glance seems like the meat of the game)

(Sidenote: I kind of like the idea of the construction plans shuffling through each round even if no one takes the action, or having filling it up be a separate action so if there is nothing people want players have some control over it)

Edit: Oh I see the starting resources are really small. With wood you just take your 1 and let every one else take 1 to get some early karma. With money you just get the money and everyone else is pretty much shut out (unless you want to skip getting any and get the karma). You might test starting with a few different amounts to see how that changes people's decision making. Num players minus 1? Num players plus 1? It also might be fun to see if you can get more leverage by adding some karma scaling based on the amount of gold other players take. Can they not take gold to deny you points? (That feels a bit fun - but wrong)
 
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