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Subject: Evolvin gameboard, nuisance or fun strategic element? rss

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Timo Kilpiäinen
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Hey to all

I've been wondering lately about evolving gameboards. I have, for some reason love for games that involve some sort of change in the gameboard during gameplay. Most of my own designs also represent this.

I don't mean exact tile laying, but more like... Elasund and Downfall of Pompeii, where tiles are taken away and the board is constantly (well more or less) changing due to player actions etc.

Is the evermoving, everchanging board with loose tiles and constant curse of short fingernails a nuisance to you? Does it take away from strategic planning? Or is it a random element you love, something that gives you just that one extra chance to see if you get the new and needed elements to unleash your plans?

I ask this mainly because I've been alphatesting few of my own plans (one populous-type god-game and one sandbox -type amusement park building). And then suddenly a realisation hit me. What if I am wrong, what if people really do hate the constant change. Do gamers really want randomness at any scale? Does evolving gameboard mean automatical aggressive tactics etc?

What's your opinion on changing gameboard, how do YOU see it?
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Kai Scheuer
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Randomness belongs where it fits the theme:

Random parts breaking off Atlantis, crawling through dungeons the NetHack way, discovering a new random segment each step - those are fine.

A randomly evolving map in e.g. a racing game would be a big no-no however ..

So as long as you can justify having random elements, go for them! There will always be people liking them as well as people disliking them.
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Matthew Evans
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I don't know, a racing game with big explosions and the debris left on the track would be interesting. I always like a randomness in the set up of a board. The modular set up of a game like Twilight Imperium or Catan adds new dimensions to a game even if you have played it quite a number of times.
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Steven Metzger
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I've attempted to make some tile-placement games, where discovery of land is followed by colonization...but more mechanically, you make the board AS you play on it. This comes from my desire to make a Catan-Carcassonne mashup, but it always ends up getting too complicated.

Each attempt has been back-burnered, but I have some nifty images that have come from it:





I love the idea and concept of creating the world, then colonizing (I have a key mechanic that I'm not sharing here, but it's not critical). I just haven't gotten a very good combination going quite yet.
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Kai Scheuer
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Sorry for going OT, but @Steven:

In case you need a theme: We've got the year 2010 .. That's 1000 years after the discovery and colonization of Vinland by Thorfinn_Karlsefni - I'd really love love love to see a game revolving around that theme!

Btw: I'm thinking of stuff like this too: Exploring + colonizing .. however I'm still stuck with mechanics and the single tiles ..
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Russ Williams
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You're mixing 2 concepts (evolving gameboard and randomness). There are plenty of games with evolving gameboards that have no randomness (e.g. ZÈRTZ (shrinking board), Trax (growing board), ) or low randomness mostly under player control (e.g. Taluva, Trias).

I have nothing inherently against randomly changing boards, but it needs to be congruent with the rest of the game. Personally I prefer the board evolution, like other components of the game, to have low or no randomness.
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Steven Metzger
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schattentanz wrote:
Sorry for going OT, but @Steven:

In case you need a theme: We've got the year 2010 .. That's 1000 years after the discovery and colonization of Vinland by [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorfinn_Karlsefni]Thorfinn_Karlsefni[/ur] - I'd really love love love to see a game revolving around that theme!

Btw: I'm thinking of stuff like this too: Exploring + colonizing .. however I'm still stuck with mechanics and the single tiles ..
Was this the first known landing of Europeans in North America?
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Timo Kilpiäinen
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My God -game has a system where there is a modular gameboard that is set randomly. After the inital placement, the players can with their God-like powers create new forests, fields and crops, push out springs for their followers and extend their shoreline deeper into the ocean. All this costs faithpoints that the god in return collects at the end of turns or from other miracles that they play.

On the other hand, the Gods, as we all know are not exactly forgiving and placid of creatures. So if you want to smite some infidels of opposing players, then hurricanes, forest fires, tsunamis and volcano's rising from the ground are your cup of tea. These tiles are also placed on the gameboard that thus evolves and lives.

So the gameboard changes due to actions of the players, more than from random events. But due to the nature of miracles players perform and their overall strategies the changes can be quite small, or very drastic. (I tried how much of the island-gameboard could be made inhabitable and managed about 80%. It took quite a while to win the game after that)

The game can be won in multitude of ways, creating a mighty monument with the blood and sweat of your followers (also represented in tiles), killing all infidels and thus becoming the only God (done by actions and yes, tiles), or simply becoming overpowering and becoming High-God of the Pantheon of Gods (points-victory).

Each God also has their specialities, water god, war-god etc.

But the basic idea is the evolvement and creation and destruction of the continent/island that poor little buggers known as meeples live, worshipping their always-mindchanging always-interfering Gods.

That's the basic idea, mechanics are set and I've alphatested it few times, hoping to get it ready for some game design contests later this year.

I'll write a little about the other changing tile -idea of amusement park little later.
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Timo Kilpiäinen
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russ wrote:
You're mixing 2 concepts (evolving gameboard and randomness). There are plenty of games with evolving gameboards that have no randomness (e.g. ZÈRTZ (shrinking board), Trax (growing board), ) or low randomness mostly under player control (e.g. Taluva, Trias).


Yup, I should have done better job in separating the two. However most of my designs install one or the other. My insanity -game (quite controversial idea, yes I know to play with mentally unstable characters) has a very random tile placement due to the nature of the game being very erratic otherwise too, when as my amusement park- and God-games both have little or no random on their tile set placing and board changing.

So random or not, the gameboard still evolves and lives.
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Tomi Rantala
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Timppis wrote:
Hey to all

I've been wondering lately about evolving gameboards. I have, for some reason love for games that involve some sort of change in the gameboard during gameplay. Most of my own designs also represent this.

I don't mean exact tile laying, but more like... Elasund and Downfall of Pompeii, where tiles are taken away and the board is constantly (well more or less) changing due to player actions etc.

Is the evermoving, everchanging board with loose tiles and constant curse of short fingernails a nuisance to you? Does it take away from strategic planning? Or is it a random element you love, something that gives you just that one extra chance to see if you get the new and needed elements to unleash your plans?

I ask this mainly because I've been alphatesting few of my own plans (one populous-type god-game and one sandbox -type amusement park building). And then suddenly a realisation hit me. What if I am wrong, what if people really do hate the constant change. Do gamers really want randomness at any scale? Does evolving gameboard mean automatical aggressive tactics etc?

What's your opinion on changing gameboard, how do YOU see it?


I think that a dynamic game board is an element that adds game a deeper concept than just being always the same. Sometimes it could be too confusing though I guess (like playing a chess with a gameboard that sometimes changes dramatically).

In my game Evolution Earth, I actually did use a very dynamic consept on it with moving continents as you can see with this image:

http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/iOpMiRyxJTq4rdc9rcHYOQ?...

and in this image:

http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/AgS0DUoGU4EhIHWSsNMHZg?...

THe moving continents is certainly a strategic element in this game since you can plan your species´ attack´s with keeping this thing in mind (e.g you play a continent card and move an australia next to africa and then next round migrate from there and attack with your species etc etc.)

So I would answer that dynamic game board is a good thing yet it can be a very complex thing sometimes. I guess it depends on how you plan it and what kind of a game you are designing.
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Mikko Mentula
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I like evolving gameboard mechanism; especially if it fits the theme well. Still it should not be too fiddly and done for the sake of it. Evolving gameboard, as its best, forces players to react more to changes on the board instead of sticking with the initial strategy throughout the game and it also adds more replay value if done well. In general one could say that the idea of a changing game board is good for the narrative of a game, as it adds variety to different stages and makes the game more dynamic.

I've actually got one game idea of my own with evolving game board idea. Basically it is a city building game that puts players building a city that is also growing on its own (in a semi-random way) with the nature of growth affecting the value of players' current and future options.

I would not say that evolving gameboard should necessarily mean constant changes. If the changes truly are really frequent the effect of individual changes should not be too big in order to maintain the importance of players actions against changes on the board. I kind of like the idea of lots of small changes that would lead to bigger changes after some level. This way players could better foresee the changes on the board and take them into account while building their strategy.

I don't think evolving board would lead to aggressive tactics. It might also do just the opposite and force players to restrain themselves from doing aggressive moves as drastic moves might backfire on them later as the board evolves. It depends on other game mechanics though.
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Kai Scheuer
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metzgerism wrote:
schattentanz wrote:
Sorry for going OT, but @Steven:

In case you need a theme: We've got the year 2010 .. That's 1000 years after the discovery and colonization of Vinland by Thorfinn_Karlsefni - I'd really love love love to see a game revolving around that theme!

Btw: I'm thinking of stuff like this too: Exploring + colonizing .. however I'm still stuck with mechanics and the single tiles ..
Was this the first known landing of Europeans in North America?


Yes: Among his crewmembers have been Freydís Eiríksdóttir - half sister of Leid Eriksson, who came along as well ..
And as we all know, it is Leif who is said to be the first one to set foot on North America.
 
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Andrew Eveninger
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Timppis wrote:
Does evolving gameboard mean automatical aggressive tactics etc?

No, why? As well it can be said that worker placement mean automatical aggressive tactics
I like idea of changing game situation, by board changing, by rules changing, by ingame world condition changing.
 
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Ethidium Bromide
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Timppis wrote:
What if I am wrong, what if people really do hate the constant change.


Constant change in decent dose is necessary. "What is certain is uncertainty." But this should be "predictable" change. You can´t change too much in one game or you just limit the strategy and IMO great part of fun.

nevertheless, subtle directed (player & opponents) or random (dice, cards, ect) changes in the board are welcomed. Especially, if the theme of the game is evolution of species or civs. This should be a spur to develop.


be careful in your design of "gods game" or players´ cities or settlements will finish each having a volcano and a constant thunderstorm.
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Justin Egan
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I too love games with evolving boards, but if they don't fit the game they suck.

Example: The Zombies!!!! Line has used them to great effectiveness. The random elements create a feeling of anxiety which is appropriate to the horror fiction genre. This is evolving board done right.

On the other hand we have Talisman. Talisman too has an evolving board but the random elements here are useless as the game contains no strategy. To make certain this will work, you'll need to make certain the evolving board enhances the game.

Don't worry about people finding it annoying. Gamers go through much more than hard to handle tiles. Have you ever seen a 40K player try to transport an army?
 
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Timo Kilpiäinen
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jegan22280 wrote:

Don't worry about people finding it annoying. Gamers go through much more than hard to handle tiles. Have you ever seen a 40K player try to transport an army?


As a former Imperial army player... Yes, yes I have

The balance in these games is a thing that I still have to work on. The most megalithical (I just invented a word) miracles and actions that change the board very drastically should be so rare that you should use them only in either dire need or when going for the final blow. However, they should be still so useful, that there is ever a point in actually invoking them.

I have few ideas concerning those things, but at the moment Im still trying to fit all of my God-like miracles on a piece of paper to see what make even the next cuts.
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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Timppis wrote:
Is the evermoving, everchanging board with loose tiles and constant curse of short fingernails a nuisance to you?


I don't understand the question. You will find people who fill a spectrum of answers to this kind of question. People like card games. People hate card games. People like Gobs of Dice games. People hate even a single die in a game. What are you trying to find out?
 
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