Recommend
1 
 Thumb up
 Hide
11 Posts

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Board Game Design » Board Game Design

Subject: To Time, or Not to Time... rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Lucas Castro
Canada
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

I am well into the development of a game called Nih'ki : The Crystal Core War (3rd year of development... woohoo!), and have a design decision to make: whether I should add sand-timers to my game. I would love to hear the thoughts of the community here, but first, I'll give you some context.

Nih'ki is a tactical wargame, in roughly the same category as Battle Lore. Players have a force that consists of 1-2 Heroes, and a number of Troopers and possibly Vehicles as well (I capitalised those names because they are unit types in the game). The game is played in 6 rounds, and each round has the following phases:

1. Orders (all orders for this round are played, see below)
2. Fleeing (fleeing units are moved)
3. Execution (orders are actually played out, with each player doing 1 action at a time)

During that first phase, all players simultaneously place their Command Cards face down in from of them. There are 12 of these cards, which have the following actions associated with them:

4x Move Action
2x Shoot Action
2x Attack Action
2x Deploy Action
2x Discipline Action

In a small size game, the player can play 4 of these per round (i.e., he/she has 4 actions per round); or 5 in a medium game; and 6 in a large game. Either way, they have a limited number of actions, and a number of choices to make.

Now, during the third phase (Execution), players cannot change the cards they played during the first phase, nor can they change their order, so they must choose carefully in the first place. However, these actions are not tied to a specific unit, so once your turn comes up, you can use that action on whichever unit would most benefit from it.

Anyhow, we now arrive at my problem. Much like Chess, my combat mechanic has no luck factor. Zero. And I find that this works beautifully for this game specifically, because combat resolution is almost instantaneous (the defending player can choose to use up some Armour to reduce damage, but that is the only unknown). The game becomes more about how/when/where and with whom to attack, rather than waiting to see how much damage is actually caused.

But those of you who like dice will be quick to point out one very positive result of using them for combat resolution: they reduce analysis paralysis. This system does not (quite the opposite, really). Before I get into my main beef with this use of luck, let me see if we can agree on something. In this sort of situation, the more relevant luck is, the less likely analysis paralysis is to creep in, agreed? However, the more luck there is, the less control there is (because luck can be a more significant deciding factor in the game than your actions). In other words:

- Luck is inversely proportional to AP (analysis paralysis).
- Luck is inversely proportional to control.

This is my beef with dice. If you use a less random system such as rolling 2D6 (which favour a roll of 7), you have less luck, and therefore get more AP anyway. If you want to reduce AP further, you will have to take away more and more control from the player. And that's something I would rather not do.

So what I'm proposing instead, is to add the following mechanic. At any point during phase 1 of each round, a player can choose to flip over the sand timer (which would probably be 1 or 2 minutes). As soon as a player points out that time has run out, no more Command Cards can be played or moved around. If you only played 3 of them, then you only get 3 actions. Harsh? A little. Realistic? Yes, because a general won't always have time to think out his/her actions so thoroughly.

Is this idea any better than adding dice to the combat resolution? I believe so, because it is a limitation, but it is still entirely in the control of the players. A skillful player will quickly learn to devise a quick strategy, put down some cards, and focus on rearranging them rather than keeping all 12 cards in hand. That way, if time runs out you have SOMETHING to do, even if it is not the ideal course of action.

What do you guys think? Do you think that adding a timer is too heavy-handed? Do you have any other suggestions of how I could reduce AP?

Cheers!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Mucchiello
United States
Edison
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
Am I correct that you say each play lays out 4 (or so) commands in a hidden specific order. Then in player order, player 1 executes all 4 commands then player 2 does? That's the biggest source of AP if it is so. Have players issue their commands back and forth. When it's player 2's turn, he has to reevaluate the entire situation because 4 things have changed.

Or I misunderstood. Please enlighten me further.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Canada
Abby
BC West Coast
flag msg tools
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Realistic, yes!

Keep in mind though it's going to create a whole lot of tension at the table by adding a "sport" element to the game. I would have to try it first to see if it doesn't hurt the fun of playing a game. All the many sessions of popular minies games I've watched at various stores were laid back affairs, with no time crunch held over the players' heads. I'm not sure they would have liked a sand timer.

I think this will be a very easy thing to test with your playtesters.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rick Weckermann
Canada
Powell River
British Coumbia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
Do you think that adding a timer is too heavy-handed?


Absolutely not, your cost for game will needlessly increase. Those that game and have AP issues will probably already have a set of timers. Personally we do not use them, i prefer the shots, innuendos and reactions of others during game play when some one takes to long, though this often makes them take even longer. We award a player AP weiner of the night,
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Lucas Castro
Canada
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
nastycleavage wrote:
We award a player AP weiner of the night


That's great!

I did forget to mention, though, that I would probably make this an optional element. If players can agree on not using it, then by all means chuck it in the box. If they can't, then the timer is used.

@Joe: the execution of the actions is one at a time (as you suggested it should be), not all player 1's actions, then all player 2's actions, etc.

@Del: great point. The last thing I want to do is alienate my audience for the game. What do you think about it being optional, as mentioned above? I would think that if all players feel laid back about it, they'll agree to not use it. But do you see room for concern there?

Thanks folks, I appreciate the help!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Canada
Abby
BC West Coast
flag msg tools
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I think rules variants are great. I add a note though saying the variant steers away from the core design and might not have the same level of testing as the core design.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Mucchiello
United States
Edison
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
If you want to make having the timer optional, why not let the players opt to buy their own timers and not include them with the game? This saves costs. It saves ink in the rulebook. And gaming groups who have AP sufferers probably have already solved the AP issue locally and far better than you can with a rulebook.

Similarly, some people hate variants and hate timers and would reject your game on that basis alone.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Gregg
United States
Franklinville
NC
flag msg tools
designer
NightfallGame.com/FAQ
badge
boardgamegeek.com/thread/1234645
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
jmucchiello wrote:
If you want to make having the timer optional, why not let the players opt to buy their own timers and not include them with the game? This saves costs. It saves ink in the rulebook. And gaming groups who have AP sufferers probably have already solved the AP issue locally and far better than you can with a rulebook.

Similarly, some people hate variants and hate timers and would reject your game on that basis alone.


I agree. The only time I want to see a timer in a game of pure strategy such as chess or go is when I'm in a tournament and time needs to be limited. When I'm with my game group relaxing and having a good time, I do not want the game telling me to hurry up.

Including the rules for the variant would be fine, but making gamers spend what little money they have to buy a timer they likely will rarely use is a big turn off.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Lucas Castro
Canada
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Based on the feedback I've received here and on BGDF, I am probably not going to include timers in the game. There just doesn't seem to be a great enough need to warrant increasing cost and alienating some of my audience.

Thank you very much for all the feedback folks!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nathan Little
msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
Gnolithic Studio wrote:
But those of you who like dice will be quick to point out one very positive result of using them for combat resolution: they reduce analysis paralysis. This system does not (quite the opposite, really). Before I get into my main beef with this use of luck, let me see if we can agree on something. In this sort of situation, the more relevant luck is, the less likely analysis paralysis is to creep in, agreed? However, the more luck there is, the less control there is (because luck can be a more significant deciding factor in the game than your actions). In other words:


Actually, I wouldn't completely agree with that. I agree in that provided with information, a player will analyze, so completely (or near completely) random or unpredictable things won't get analyzed. what is the next card to be drawn in a 100 card deck, too random, people don't bother thinking about it. How will my opponent react in chess, all options are visible, most will try to calculate. What are the odds that this dice based throw is gonna work? people will generally try to estimate, and the AP involved will increase depending on how complex the math is and if that person is tactical enough to hedge their bets.

As far as dice is concerned, you may or may not cut down on AP, and more importantly, the downtime for the other player(s).

There's a myriad other concerns with luck- but your biggest concern, if wanna cut down on AP, will be the delay between decision and result. I like your 'card orders' idea, but that's where you're going to get your AP. If the player has to select all 4 and put them in order, that is a lot of computation, especially if the person is more competitive than they are bright. If the player picks 4 and then it's a "you do one I do one" back and forth where a card of the 4 selected is played you could ease some of that AP as players can have some reactive 'breather room.' You wouldn't sacrifice control; players could still make their '4 step Xanatos gambit' but wouldn't have to.

Evidence on luck and AP: Twilight Imperium. Has diced based combat, but is cursed with excruciating AP and downtime. The game demands that your strategy is planned out multiple turns (actions) in advance and have your opponents movements and use of abilities factored in. You do a step, then wait an hour as it crawls around back to you- and not even in a circle- the order is based off of which cards people have... it's got pretty much every flaw for creating downtime.

Sand timers Personally opposed. If you are trying to make an engaging tactical game where the awesomeness of battlefield flows a little into gamers' experience, sand timers will not aid this. I'd say if your finding the game is dragging due to AP or downtime, you'd be better off readdressing those parts of the game and find a way to smooth it out. Sand timers are for competitive games of efficiency.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J C Lawrence
United States
Campbell
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Gnolithic Studio wrote:
What do you guys think? Do you think that adding a timer is too heavy-handed? Do you have any other suggestions of how I could reduce AP?


You (appear to) have a design goal of sustained decision pressure on the players. If so, a timer is a fine way to create that pressure. The complaints above on players wanting relaxed games, low-pressure variants etc are missing the point. Your goal is for the players to be under a brinksmanship-driven decision pressure, and if the posters below don't want that, then your game is not for them. This is not a Bad Thing. Not all games are for all people.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.