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Subject: Player interaction and how to get more of it rss

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Ian Walton
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Story so far - new game under development in which players buy ingredients and complete recipes for points, competing to be the best restaurant in the city. Now looking for ways to increase player interaction.

One of the ways in which we've done this is with the sabotage mechanic. This is one of the main competitive dynamics of the game and allows you to try and directly set other players back – played at the right time and in the right way it could be the difference between winning and losing (most test games so far have been quite close in points terms).

But it’s obviously important to strike a balance – if it’s too powerful it can ruin the game, and you don’t want a situation where you can play perfectly for an hour and then be completely derailed by one move from someone else. Equally, if it’s too weak then no one will use it and it’s pointless. Ideally you want it to be a leveller - enough to deal a strong player a setback in order to make the game more competitive, but not so strong that any player can instantly put any other play out of the game. You also want it to come at a cost to the attacking player, so that it’s not done idly and needs to be a careful and conscious choice.

How it works is that you take three of your currently-stocked ingredients (which you can buy specifically for the purpose of sabotage if you want) and pay them ‘against’ an opponent. They compare the ingredients against the recipes they currently hold – if an ingredient can’t be used, and that recipe is lost. If it can be used, it is put in the recipe and is a small, free bonus, to the attacked player. In practice, based on over 100 tests of this mechanism, two of the player’s three recipes will be ruined on average – occasionally it’s none, sometimes all three.

You can only play sabotage once or twice in a game – it’s your only action for that turn, and it costs you a recruit (who you get to carry out the sabotage for you as chef) and it costs you the ingredients that you use. You also run the risk of inadvertently helping your opponents if you don’t think about how you’re playing it.

I’ve looked at how sabotage-type mechanisms work in other games to try and get the balance right:
- In Carcassonne, starting a city near someone else in the hope of merging the two cities later;
- In Unstable Unicorns, almost the whole game is sabotage (and personally, I find it too disruptive and stressful as you never seem to get any momentum)
- In Ticket To Ride, there’s small-scale disruption in getting to a route before someone else, and forcing them to use a Station (mild effect)
- Monopoly Deal has the Deal Breaker, often the turning point in any game, but can be cancelled by the Just Say No card;
- And of course many other games don’t have this, and still have plenty of interaction between players in other ways.

What other examples are there, either of disruptive game mechanics or of other ways to increase player interaction? And how do you get the balance right?

More on this and the game itself in my blog.

Ian
 
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Pepijn van Loon
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Without knowing how the game works exactly, the most obvious way to add disruptive player interaction would be to have a limited amount of ingredients each round, so it's possible to buy ingredients that another player needs.
Or global recipe goals. The first player to complete a recipe goal gets some kind of bonus, so players can try to complete a goal right before someone else does. (similar to Century Spice Road for instance)

Another way to increase player interaction is through semi-cooperative means. Players might want to trade ingredients with other players, or complete a particularly difficult recipe together and share the glory in a temporary alliance.
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"What do you mean, I can't pay in Meeples?"
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Include powers or cards that activate based on your opponent's actions.

i.e. "If another player buys X, you may play this card for Y."

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Ken Bush
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Have them all working in the same Kitchen, with limited resources. 1 oven, 1 microwave, 2 sinks, etc. so that using equipment at different times (planning) becomes important. Or from 1 set of ingredients everyone must choose what to make and compete for the ingredients. Sabotage in a kitchen just doesn’t seem very thematic to me, plus a very negative (King making) interaction versus competing for scare resources.
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Ian Walton
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Oloring wrote:
Without knowing how the game works exactly, the most obvious way to add disruptive player interaction would be to have a limited amount of ingredients each round, so it's possible to buy ingredients that another player needs.
Or global recipe goals. The first player to complete a recipe goal gets some kind of bonus, so players can try to complete a goal right before someone else does. (similar to Century Spice Road for instance)

Another way to increase player interaction is through semi-cooperative means. Players might want to trade ingredients with other players, or complete a particularly difficult recipe together and share the glory in a temporary alliance.


At the moment, ingredients are limited overall (not by round) - you can sell ones back to the market that you don't want, but once they've been used in a recipe, they're gone (obviously). There are also common recipes - ie recipes that are available to all but the first one to complete gets the points. These are in addition to the ones that you draw which are unique to you. But it might be that I need to add more of an incentive to those common recipes. Thanks for your thoughts!
 
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Ian Walton
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Fire_Forever wrote:
Include powers or cards that activate based on your opponent's actions.

i.e. "If another player buys X, you may play this card for Y."


Thanks, I had not thought of this - at least not for action cards. You are able to sell ingredients to other players when you have a resource that gives you unlimited access to an ingredient (ie if you have acquired a vineyard, you can then sell wine and grapes to others, which gives you an element of power later in the game when the market has run out of grapes and wine.

I'll have a think about consequential action cards, that could well add something to the dynamics. Thanks again,

Ian
 
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Ian Walton
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klbush wrote:
Have them all working in the same Kitchen, with limited resources. 1 oven, 1 microwave, 2 sinks, etc. so that using equipment at different times (planning) becomes important. Or from 1 set of ingredients everyone must choose what to make and compete for the ingredients. Sabotage in a kitchen just doesn’t seem very thematic to me, plus a very negative (King making) interaction versus competing for scare resources.


Thanks Ken. This is partly what happens - in that although each player has their own kitchen, there is common access to a market and a limited total et of ingredients. So you do compete for the ingredients, but you do at least get the space to pursue your own recipes (or, as noted in my other reply, the common recipes that all can see).

I'd had a similar concern about the negativity of sabotage - it's kind of an act of desperation - but testing show far has sown that it doesn't completely destabilise the game. But I think you're right to an extent - I want tension and drama in the game but ideally not to have players routinely flipping the table!

As an aside, the game is partly inspired by George Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London", a book I've always loved (having had similar experiences myself working in vile hotel kitchens in Europe). One of Orwell's observations is about the Debrouillard (lit. 'one who manages/gets by', who would not go and spoil recipes in other people's kitchens, but would absolutely steal their ingredients if the situation demanded

Cheers,

Ian
 
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Adrian Pillai
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How about introducing powers as expert staff you can recruit. Some are temp staff (powerful 1 off powers) others are full time staff (perpetual bonuses). Full time staff stay in your kitchen until dismissed or taken, teMP staff stay until used or taken.

Other players may take / recruit away your staff on their turns, but must pay the cost +1 to you to do so. E.g. 3 +1 eggs for Ravi Ollie. You get ingredients, they get powers.
 
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Josh DuJordan
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I like the idea of outside influences in the game driving players to choose to interact.

Maybe not the best example, but Catan comes to mind, with the dice roll determining resources given. Add the knight/monopoly cards and robber in to potentially steal your precious resources, and players have this outside influence somewhat outside their control that gives them good reason to decide and trade or steal from others with their own cards.

Maybe in your case, there could be some sort of AI-controlled inspector that comes around to your up-and-coming restaurants and judges what you have so far between rounds or something. With all players knowing the inspector is coming, perhaps there is some incentive for players to sneak over to someone else's restaurant and throw a pinch of some nasty seasoning into their prized pot? Or make their establishment seem worse off in some way (atmosphere, service etc.). The inspector's grades may not have a large impact on the restaurant in the long-run, but may give that player one extra thing to work on getting rid of before the end of next round or else suffer more setbacks, while also trying to improve their recipes.
 
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Bastiaan Reinink
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A while back I wrote a blog post about different forms of player interaction. Perhaps there is something to help / inspire you in that?

http://makethemplay.com/index.php/2017/05/05/7-forms-of-play...
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Guest Starring...
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Walnut Games wrote:
What other examples are there, either of disruptive game mechanics or of other ways to increase player interaction?

Make the game full-contact.
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Gary Pope
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E Decker wrote:
Walnut Games wrote:
What other examples are there, either of disruptive game mechanics or of other ways to increase player interaction?

Make the game full-contact.


I'd buy it
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Ian Walton
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elfboy wrote:
How about introducing powers as expert staff you can recruit. Some are temp staff (powerful 1 off powers) others are full time staff (perpetual bonuses). Full time staff stay in your kitchen until dismissed or taken, teMP staff stay until used or taken.

Other players may take / recruit away your staff on their turns, but must pay the cost +1 to you to do so. E.g. 3 +1 eggs for Ravi Ollie. You get ingredients, they get powers.


Hi Adrian,

To an extent, we've already got this - you can recruit a variety of staff (when you complete 4 recipes, then again after 7) which give you bonuses - eg the Sous-Chef means no time requirement for future recipes, the Scullion will steal ingredients from the market for you, etc. Some are single-use, some have enduring benefits. But you've suggested two things I hadn't considered - transferring staff between players (as would happen in real restaurants, of course), and having a cost for them (at the moment you just earn them). That would in itself make for more interaction as players would have to come up with creative ways to trade if they didn't have enough money. Thanks - I'll give that a try and see how it works.

Ian
 
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Ian Walton
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Jadderknight wrote:
Maybe in your case, there could be some sort of AI-controlled inspector that comes around to your up-and-coming restaurants and judges what you have so far between rounds or something.


That's cool, and would have the advantage that it's not spite from another player, it's just fate inevitably dealing you a setback. I try and reduce the randomness in games as far as possible (as I personally prefer to feel in control of my destiny when I play - happy to get whupped if someone's completely outplayed me, but not if it's courtesy of a duff card or dice roll). I'll have a think about how that could work - cheers.

Ian
 
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Ian Walton
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BastiaanSquared wrote:
A while back I wrote a blog post about different forms of player interaction. Perhaps there is something to help / inspire you in that?

http://makethemplay.com/index.php/2017/05/05/7-forms-of-play...


Thanks Bastiaan, great blog - I think in this game we certainly have attack/sabotage and trading (I've been dithering a bit about trading but having taken into account the advice on this thread I'm keen to make it work now). Also to a lesser extent Taking resources, in that we have a set of common recipes that anyone can 'nab' if they're ready first, but you don't have to declare that in advance.

I wonder if there's an 8th variety of interaction - collaboration (otherwise known as ganging up). Most three-player games I've played end up with a bit of this and it can make for a great challenge if you're the victim/'gang-ee'. Not one for this game but certainly something I have in mind for another WIP.

Cheers,

Ian

 
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