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Subject: Player Selected Turn Order in Cooperative games rss

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Richard Saunders
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Sometime ago, I wrote a blog post called “Fastball Special” (https://coopgestalt.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/fastball-specia...)
about Player Selected Turn Order in cooperative games. The idea is simple: why can’t players select the order they get to act in a cooperative game? It’s another place players can work together to get optimal results. I have been buying lots of cooperative board games over the last year. It’s been almost 2 years since I wrote the “Fastball Special” entry! And I have only found 3 (well … 2 and half …) games with Player Selected Turn Order! And none of them are well known games! Here’s the ones I know of.

The Daedalus Sentence


I kickstarted this game quite some time ago and gave a review here
https://coopgestalt.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/daedalus-senten...
This is the first game out “in the wild” I found where players could actively choose the order to use their action points. Every player gets 4 action points, but you can use them (among the players) anyway you want! You could even intersperse your actions among the actions of other players. It was very cool! But, in my plays of the game, we didn’t seem to take advantage of this. Or rather, we didn’t seem to NEED to take advantage of this. So, it was cool, but it wasn’t clear it was necessary to win.

Sharknado: The Board Game


Yes, you read that right. There was a Sharknado: the board game. But … this was a Kickstarter that didn’t fund. So, I count it as “half” a game. According to the web site, they still plan to release this! But I haven’t seen anything about it. Anyway, here’s why it caught my eye at the time:

No specific turn order – The game plays in two phases: the Player phase and the Sharknado phase. During the Player phase, you and your team can take actions in whatever order works best for your strategy.


How cool! But … I never saw how well it worked. Because, at the time of this writing, it still hasn’t come out.

CO-OP: the co-op game

Yeah, the game I made. It one of the central mechanisms of the game: players go in any order they can in the Player’s Turn phase.

For example:

Players decide they really need goods in the Warehouse. If CP goes before Henry, CP can give Henry the card he needs! CP Junior goes first and gives Henry Hall a Distributor card. Then, Henry Hall plays the Distributor, using his special power to get one more good to the Warehouse.

Sometimes, you don’t need this extra flexibility, but sometimes you do! Take a look at this review from kh-km.com for further look and discussion of this.

Player Selected Turn Order Necessary?

I feel like Player Selected Turn Order is a “natural mechanic” for cooperative games. For example, I house rule Sentinels of the Multiverse and allow Player Selected Turn Order when I play. It makes it more “fun” (at least to me) as I have more choices.

But there are reasons not to like it:

1. It can make complicated games “more complicated” as you add yet “another choice” /”set of choices” to a myriad of choices a player already has.
2. It’s harder to notate. In most cooperative games, players go clockwise, following the first player marker. As soon as you make the players select, it gets harder to notate. “Who’s played this turn? Did I play? Did you play? Wait, how can I tell?” During my play testing of CO-OP, I went through a lot of different ways to notate it until I arrived at something that seemed to work well enough.
3. Players aren’t used to it. If there are only three (well, 2.5) games with this mechanic, players really aren’t used to it. So, it may tend to confuse people more.

Are there other cooperative games I have missed (heck, I’ll even take semi-cooperative) with this mechanic?

Is this even the right name for the mechanic? Maybe I am just searching for the wrong thing to find games with this mechanic!
 
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B C Z
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Doesn't Mansions of Madness meet your requirements?

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Amanda Zimmer
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First few that come to mind: Magic Maze, Kitchen Rush, Flatline?

They do not have strict player turns; the games have a timer and each player takes actions whenever it seems to make sense within the time limit.
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Richard Saunders
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Thank you! I'll check out Mansions of Madness.

The timed games are interesting: (Fuse and Magic Maze), I hadn't thought of those, but I think that makes sense too. Thank you!
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'Bernard Wingrave'
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See also
https://www.reddit.com/r/tabletopgamedesign/comments/6qnvbd/...
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Jeremy Lennert
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I had player-selected turn order in Darkest Night (published 2012; prototyped 2007).

I got the idea from Descent: Journeys in the Dark (2005).
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James Arias
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Dark World had random turn order and Galaxy Defenders lets players collectively pick the first player (then clockwise after that), vs. Forbidden Island is IIRC static turn order.

I think full player-controlled selection of turn order lets you game the system (pardon the pun) in yet another way. E.g. if in a dungeon crawler, it may be a matter of life or respawn if your healer gets to act first or fourth. Vs. not being able to control the order forces thinking more turns ahead when planning your actions.

All of the above are ok, "it depends on the game" I suppose.
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Patrik Severinsson
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Not a true co-op, it's a 1vsMany game. The "Many" get to choose turn order.
Level 7 [Omega Protocol]

Wouldn't simultaneous player turns also sort of qualify for this? You could at least in theory play out each player's turn in selected order. In most cases that would probably not be for the best.
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Quote:
2. It’s harder to notate. In most cooperative games, players go clockwise, following the first player marker. As soon as you make the players select, it gets harder to notate.

Depending on the game it could be really easy to move seats without moving a bunch of pieces and cards.

Or you say they pick a starting player and a direction to go in, but they still have to go in clockwise or counterclockwise order around the table.
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Jason J
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I think the big reason why most games do not have player selected turn order is because it increases the challenge of the game. Some games would become far, far easier if every turn players could choose to act in the order most optimal for them.

Additionally, having an established turn order makes it easier for some players to remember when they should act and also reduces the amount of analysis paralysis possible. Some games already have many choices to make, one of the last things needed is another element for player's to waste time potentially arguing about thereby increasing the game length.

Finally, sometimes theme makes it so that a predetermined turn order makes more sense. For example, I am working on a cooperative/semi-cooperative design where the character's movement speed determines when they move during that turn. Having a movement 2 character move before a movement 7 character wouldn't seem to thematically make sense.
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Richard Saunders
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My friend CC emailed me a real nice response to the original post: He gave me permission to share his response here.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Rich -

I had a comment all typed up on your post about player turn order, but then WordPress login stymied me! I really should give up and deal with social media for this stuff.

Anyway, the gist of what I wrote is that I totally agree that in a cooperative game, it increases the sense of cooperativeness if you can choose turn order. It struck me, though, that this only works for cooperative game designs where the players all do their thing, and when they're done, the game's enemy AI gets to do its thing. While common, that's not always the case, so it's not always an option for a particular cooperative game design.

"No Soldier Left Behind" has player-decided turn order. In fact, since soldiers can take multiple actions, it's even more granular than that - soldier A can take an action, then soldier B can take two, then soldier A can take two more, and then soldier B can follow up with the last one.

But I was only able to do that because the particulars of the mechanics really allowed for it. Varying the turn order made sense thematically – it makes sense that soldiers would coordinate and do things in order as a team. And it worked mechanically – the actions are small, atomic, self-contained processes, easily tracked by flipping over cards when they're done, so there's no danger of "losing your place", and it doesn't really add any tedious bookkeeping. So the game kind of lends itself to that design choice.

In a game like Big Book of Madness, where it's balanced to have one enemy turn *between* each player turn, it becomes harder to allow that sort of agency. You could do something like let the players choose who is next, and a player can't go again until all players have had a turn - kind of like how Legacy of Dragonholt worked - but the more players who have gone, the fewer options you have for choosing who goes next, so it affects the mechanics. In practice, I suspect it would end up being that you're not really making a decision of what player order you should choose; you'd just end up choosing which player is best to respond to the current crisis, out of the ones who haven't acted yet, which is less strategic, especially if the choice is usually obvious. And part of the puzzle-response nature of BBoM is that, okay, next turn, he can do XYZ, and the turn after that, I'll be able to do ABC. The fixed player order drives some of the challenge.

Allowing players to choose player order also wouldn't work when players have different roles that need to cycle in a predictable fashion, such as in a game like Hanabi.

There are also games where everyone acts at the same time, so that there is not even a concept of player order. Real-time games like Escape the Curse of the Temple would be an example of that, but it would also apply for cooperative games where everyone is resolving things at the same time, like Mysterium.

Another wrinkle is the class of cooperative games where there is a set player order, but which the players have agency to modify. Mice and Mystics kind of allows you to do that; it has an initiative track, but some player actions allow you to shift players up and down the initiative track. So you have some control over it, but not a lot.

Legends of Andor does a similar thing. It's got a set player order, but players can take a "wait" action to skip their turn and let the next player do something. This essentially allows the players to choose the order they act in. In this case, though, there's a cost - the player who waits loses an action point, which means he or she can do less that day than they otherwise would if the turn order was more favorable. So players would be wise to be deliberate about when they deviate from the turn order, but it is an option open to them if they're in a situation where a different turn order would pay dividends. The initiative track in D&D/Pathfinder is an example of this, too; you can slow yourself down to go later in the round and let someone else act before you, but if you do it too much, you will eventually allow the enemy to take a turn before you. (Interestingly, the Sentinels of the Multiverse RPG upends this and lets players choose their initiative order.)

Finally, here's another example of a popular tabletop cooperative game where you get to choose player turn order: Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Investigators get to choose what order they take their turns in, and it's pretty fundamental to success, too, since you'll often need to clear a challenge out of the way to make room for someone else to go into an area to do their thing. (I suspect the other FFG LCG's do this, too.)


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Richard Saunders
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Statalyzer wrote:
Quote:
2. It’s harder to notate. In most cooperative games, players go clockwise, following the first player marker. As soon as you make the players select, it gets harder to notate.

Depending on the game it could be really easy to move seats without moving a bunch of pieces and cards.

Or you say they pick a starting player and a direction to go in, but they still have to go in clockwise or counterclockwise order around the table.

In CO-OP, each player had a character-specific token. When the player was "home", the player knew they had NOT acted yet. When the token was on the board, the player knew he had acted. After all tokens were out, tall players have played (and the player phase was over). At that point, all players took their token back (to get ready for the next round).

It worked pretty well, although it did take some players a little getting used to (because it's not THAT common a mechanism).


BUT I like the idea of moving seats! For a sillier game (CO-OP is pretty silly), I could see that adding to the fun. I think some more serious gamers may blanche at that mechanism. I guess it depends on the game! (Didn't sometone say that eariler?) ;)

 
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Richard Saunders
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MrPerfect1 wrote:
I think the big reason why most games do not have player selected turn order is because it increases the challenge of the game. Some games would become far, far easier if every turn players could choose to act in the order most optimal for them.

Additionally, having an established turn order makes it easier for some players to remember when they should act and also reduces the amount of analysis paralysis possible. Some games already have many choices to make, one of the last things needed is another element for player's to waste time potentially arguing about thereby increasing the game length.

Finally, sometimes theme makes it so that a predetermined turn order makes more sense. For example, I am working on a cooperative/semi-cooperative design where the character's movement speed determines when they move during that turn. Having a movement 2 character move before a movement 7 character wouldn't seem to thematically make sense.

My friend Josh and I had a related conversation earlier this week (on a different topic related to cooperative game: open hand vs. closed hand). His point, which I mostly agree with, is that it depends on the playtesting!!

If the copious amounts of playtesting showed PSTO (Player Selected Turn Order) as a viable mechanism, go nuts! But if the playtesting showed analysis paralysis (your second point) or thematic disconnect (your third point), then PSTO may be a bad mechanism for that game.

I hate to be a relativist, but I think it depends on the game. As well as the intended audience for the game. But your point is well taken! :D


 
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Richard Saunders
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Antistone wrote:
I had player-selected turn order in Darkest Night (published 2012; prototyped 2007).

I got the idea from Descent: Journeys in the Dark (2005).

I should have known this: I have the first edition of Darkest Night (and most of the expansions)! Oh, that darn old age makes us forgetful.

Maybe I got the idea from you originally? :)
 
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Josh M
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saunders wrote:
Thank you! I'll check out Mansions of Madness.

The timed games are interesting: (Fuse and Magic Maze), I hadn't thought of those, but I think that makes sense too. Thank you!

Don't I mean Big Book of Madness blush
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David Headman
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I love the system in Spirit Island, where players select their actions simultaneously (and can discuss while doing so) and then resolution of those actions plays out in any order the players choose.

It adds one additional level of strategy to an already deep and fascinating game. If you enjoy co-ops you should definitely check it out!
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korhadris wrote:
saunders wrote:
Thank you! I'll check out Mansions of Madness.

The timed games are interesting: (Fuse and Magic Maze), I hadn't thought of those, but I think that makes sense too. Thank you!

Don't I mean Big Book of Madness blush

Mansions of Madness also has player selected turn order, or at least the first edition does. (I haven't played second edition.)In first, one player is the Keeper (DM essentially) and plays against everyone else...and the cooperative players can freely switch order each round before the Keeper acts again.

...and actually, Betrayal at the House on the Hill works in a similar way after the haunt is revealed. (Another all vs one game)
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Brendan Riley
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korhadris wrote:
saunders wrote:
Thank you! I'll check out Mansions of Madness.

The timed games are interesting: (Fuse and Magic Maze), I hadn't thought of those, but I think that makes sense too. Thank you!

Don't I mean Big Book of Madness blush

You shouldn't mean Big Book of Madness -- it has standard "around the table" player order. Mansions of Madness does, however, allow players to act in any order they see fit.

You should also look at Arkham Horror: The Card Game, which has PSTO.
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