David F
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Board games are taking a lot of inspiration from video games, with the designers often citing specific video games as inspiration: zombies, space battles/4X, 'street fighting', civilization, pirates etc. These themes are way saturated.

What I really want to see in board games, but haven't, is a game that does 2v2 team-play well in a conflict-oriented setting.

Note:

- Tichu and other partnership card games don't count, of course.

- Tacking on 0-1 lame 'team-play' rules (often involving a 'card exchange' rule) to Axis & Allies, Nexus Ops, Dungeons & Dragons: Conquest of Nerath Board Game, Ingenious, Lost Cities, Risk, Summoner Wars: Master Set, BattleLore: Epic BattleLore, War of the Ring (First Edition) etc etc do not count! These are really just 1v1 games with doubled and outsourced responsibilities that just double downtime!

- A very glaring problem with the above-mentioned games is that they were designed for multiplayer warfare with the players keeping each other in check. But once you shrink it down to 1v1, it becomes a 2-player game, where one side runs away with the early lead without anything designed to rein him in. Or they could be 1v1 games that merely add downtime when you double the number of players, double the size of the map and add a token 'card-exchange' rule, just so you can add more player support on the game box and sell more copies as a result. When it's really the 1v1 experience, except double-sized and pointless.

- Wars of the Roses: Lancaster vs. York held some interest in 2v2 for me initially, but I got turned off by the sole winner + everything feels weighted down

- König von Siam is one of the better ones, because teammates hold different # of stocks in each faction. Still, I'd like something more satisfying and epic in scale.

- StarCraft: The Board Game is probably the best 2v2 implementation so far, with the Order Stack mechanism facilitating some clever team-play. The Order Stack is only a small portion of the game at large, however. The chance for asymmetric victory conditions for each player, even for members of the same team, also creates interesting situations.

What I really want to see is a game completely focused on and designed around 2v2 team-play, with innovative things that interweave throughout the game (sort of like how Chaos in the Old World interweaves player asymmetry throughout the game, unlike most games that just give each side a bunch of 'thematic faction rules', period).

================================

Let me give examples from the game that made me cherish 2v2 gameplay in video games so much: Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.

1. You have to find a path to your ally first. This can probably be modeled by exploration.

2. You can share resources with your ally, but every 'tribute' you give incurs a hefty 15-20% tax. There are technologies you can research to lower this tax, or even faction-specific advantages (see #3). The point is: the two members of the team specialize in 2 of the 4 resources, which is Economics 101.

3. Faction asymmetry: Each faction has a 'team advantage' racial tech that it confers on the 2-faction team, e.g. free tributes, infantry move 10% faster, knights attack 10% faster. This is modeled by Ally Advantages in Dune/Rex: Final Days of an Empire. This creates replayability as you mix and match different 'team advantages' for different games.

4. Something really cool: you can set up trade routes between you and your ally, with actual trade caravans going back and forth. These generate gold every time a successful delivery is made. But these also often pass through dangerous territory, and you need to constantly defend them from neutral forces and enemies (this is a major reason you need to find your teammate and scout + secure the route, by the way). This is currently modeled in Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) and Eclipse, but in a more abstract, diplomatic sense, not in a militaristic sense (defending your trade routes from mercenaries and (opponents).

5. #5 and #6 are the major things that make it work. There is heavy unit asymmetry in the game (infantry-archer-cavalry etc), all on a rock-paper-scissors model (or to be more exact, a rock-paper-scissors-...-lizard-Spock model). So once again, you specialize in the units you tech to and produce, and try to engage in combined attacks. I, as the English, produce Longbowmen while my ally, the Byzantines, trains Halberdiers to blunt the charge of our Frankish adversary. My teammate, the Norse, builds Keeps to defend both our cities (he had to safely move a few workers from his city on the opposite corner of the map to mine first), but I provide the garrison, since my Longbowmen are far superior archers to his Arbalests. My teammate, the Chinese, takes over all the ship-building, including defending my shores, since English ships leak. And when it's time to lay down the hammer of the Scots, he transports my English Longbowmen across the river to our opponents... oops, have I given away that I'm one of those cheap players who always picks the broken English?

6. I mentioned joint assaults, didn't I? These are sweet. My cannon galleys bombard the coast while my teammate's fire ships keep them safe. My teammate attacks from the north while I attack from the south, so our opponent is forked (he has to keep scrolling north and south). But wait, his teammate just counter-attacked my city from a route he just paved by scorching through a small forest to try and relieve some pressure! And he sent another garrison in to help his teammate, cutting his way through some stragglers before entering the gates (which only open for members of the same team), and taking positions inside the castles and towers. My personal favorite: my Mongol Cavalry Archers lead the way, harrassing his forward mining camps and killing his workers in hit-and-run tactics. Then when he finally retaliates, my speedy Cavalry Archers gallop back to the rendez-vous point, loosing arrows the whole way, then part for my teammate's slow, following Janissaries and Bombard Cannons to fire a deadly volley at his charging units.

================================

I've noticed that board games do tend to follow in the footsteps of video games sometimes. Pandemic's revitalization of the co-op genre is similar to the co-op revolution in modern games sparked by Gears of War. A spate of speed games like Galaxy Trucker, Wok Star is akin to the carpal-tunnel-inducing-click-a-thons from Blizzard. Magestorm, Mage Knight Board Game and others in the tradition of turn-based strategy games like Heroes of Might and Magic V and Age of Wonders. And of course, improved graphics all around Um... I had a few more examples that aren't coming to me at this moment.

So, yeah, I throw down the gauntlet! Any game out there that effectively models 2v2 conflict, or anything that you're working on, or hopefully you're inspired to design one right now?

P.S. I am not a game designer. I do not have the patience to playtest and tweak. But I do like to categorize and analyze games, and from a game-design 'theoretical' standpoint, point out gray spaces in design areas which are lacking or even unexplored (instead of the umpteenth incremental improvement of the civ or zombie game). You can read more about it (and some of the gray spaces we already identified) here.
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Nate K
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Sounds like one big-ass game. Four players, a map (preferably with variable-layout), an economic engine, military conflict, coordination between player pairs.... Quite the challenge.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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kurthl33t wrote:
Sounds like one big-ass game. Four players, a map (preferably with variable-layout), an economic engine, military conflict, coordination between player pairs.... Quite the challenge.


Trick-taking card games are really good 2v2 games.

And yes, I realize that's a weird response coming from a boardgamer.

Older people may know Bridge ... but the game I enjoyed in college was called "Five Hundred". I think a more popular game nowadays is Spades.

I wonder if there's a way to "theme"-atize those trick-taking games into a war game.
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Tony Chen
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2v2 Roborally capture the flag?
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Why not this one then? Ploy; or up to 6 with t`other: Feudal whistle
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I have an unpublished 2v2 medieval empire building/conflict/combat game. Actually started working on it almost 15 years ago. I always preferred the 2v2 model because that basically eliminated "ganging up" on other players -- and prevented deal making and leader bashing. And it has VERY little downtime because teams take their actions simultaneously. Maybe when I get some additional time, I can get this to KickStarter.
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David F
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kurthl33t wrote:
Sounds like one big-ass game. Four players, a map (preferably with variable-layout), an economic engine, military conflict, coordination between player pairs.... Quite the challenge.


I like big-ass games, especially if they are worth it. Currently I'm seeing some big-ass retreads of civ/4X that stubbornly persist with free-for-all.

I just threw in a few ideas on why video game 2v2 is so much better than board game 2v2. Not all have to be adapted.

Stormtower wrote:
Trick-taking card games are really good 2v2 games.

And yes, I realize that's a weird response coming from a boardgamer.

Older people may know Bridge ... but the game I enjoyed in college was called "Five Hundred". I think a more popular game nowadays is Spades.

I wonder if there's a way to "theme"-atize those trick-taking games into a war game.


I said Tichu and partnership card games don't count

That said. I'd like to see it thematized. König von Siam is a tiny bit reminiscent of a trick-taking game (a hand of action cards, ducking and letting your partner win), and I wonder if Kraków 1325 AD is similar.
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David F
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
2v2 Roborally capture the flag?


Haven't tried CTF. Is there too much space? Be better if the game was designed for it and you can collect power-ups etc.

You've had lower standards on 2v2though
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Sounds like the kickstarter game Warparty fits the profile.
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I share your frustrations and surprisingly the 2v2 mode in Flash Duel 2nd Ed. Is the most satisfying I've found. Not ideal, but the character combinations offer a lot of strategy and the game already has a lot of tactical play that is enhanced by dashing blocks.
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thumbsup Just for mentioning Age of Kings, the best computer game ever!!!
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Kurt Keckley
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I gave this a crack once upon a time. I went so far as to make a prototype and write a well organized rulebook. One started with a town center, a horseman and a few villagers. There were markets and technologies. Sound familiar?

The playtest games just seemed to go on too long much like a good game of AoK. The game just didn't quite work.

Here is a very early set.
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Are you interested in games where there are "roles" ?

What I mean is, let us say the game is a war game of some sort. But, despite the fact that it is 2v2, the actual map and theme is One Empire vs. One Empire. In each team, there is something like a Government player and a Military player. They try to co-operate, perhaps some cards/items would inevitably create friction, etc.

In the PC Game Starcraft: Brood War, there is a game mode called "Team Melee" and a niche set of custom game maps called "Macro-Micro" that allow teams of 2v2 to play together. Basically, one player does all the mining, building, researching, the other does all the control of fighting units and use of special unit abilities.

EDIT: A few more concepts to give the idea more:

-In a jet fighter, tank, or other vehicle simulation, you have a Pilot and a Gunner, or some combination of roles as team.

-In some kind of mythical setting, you could have the actual "deity" or "god" and their "chosen champion on the mortal realm to do their bidding" as team.

Some games go way beyond teams of 2 with this. Imagine a Sci Fi setting where each player is one of the main officers for a ship like Helm, Weapons, Security, Engineering, and Captain.
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David F
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Tank7, those are interesting ideas! I'm interested only if the macro/micro roles cannot be amply controlled by 1 player. I find it uninspiring when roles are merely split up, when they could just as easily be handled by 1 player.

On the topic of StarCraft and Age of Empires (video game), I'm hoping to try The Ares Project, since it's inspired from RTS games.

One exploration idea I drew inspiration from there is to have each player control their side of the map on separate player boards, then have screens set up. As you explore your opponent's side of the map (fog of war), your opponent retreats his screen back a row of hexes. Eventually, you'll get to your opponent's base, and the screen can probably go off-board. If your scouting unit dies, the screen can come forward again (fog of war).

Does take a lot of honesty with what you do while your base is covered, but I think The Ares Project requires that anyway. And honesty is required of every block wargame out there.
 
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Quote:
Tank7, those are interesting ideas! I'm interested only if the macro/micro roles cannot be amply controlled by 1 player. I find it uninspiring when roles are merely split up, when they could just as easily be handled by 1 player.


Yeah unfortunately this is the case in all the examples I can think of.

The main value that can come of such things in a board game is that you do not want to just speak your plans out loud, but you also want to co-ordinate. It can be very testing of your patience tolerance when your ally makes a move that you consider poor, or at least not optimal.

Simulation:
It's mostly a question of simulation. No single person, even a dictator, truly runs every aspect of their country, and no single person operates all the controls of a starship simultanously. There is no question that in a turn based game 1 player can analayze and do everything. It's just an interesting thing to explore in a game, the "reality" that when you get more than one person as part of an something, imperfections in co-ordination occur.

Some team games and/or house rules allow short discussions in another physical room which allows for hardcore planning and more or less negates the simulation issue.

EDIT: One other (probably minor) advantage is that in most designs the game will always end for all players at the same time, as one team wins and the other loses, so you don't get individual players eliminated and sitting out. Though if a game is good enough and it is some kind of king of the hill elimination system, players ought to be interested enough to watch and learn.
 
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Worth taking a look at Strike of the Eagle.

Doesn't do everything on your wish list, but it's very good at the bits it does do.
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David F
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Tank7 wrote:
Yeah unfortunately this is the case in all the examples I can think of.

The main value that can come of such things in a board game is that you do not want to just speak your plans out loud, but you also want to co-ordinate. It can be very testing of your patience tolerance when your ally makes a move that you consider poor, or at least not optimal.

Simulation:
It's mostly a question of simulation. No single person, even a dictator, truly runs every aspect of their country, and no single person operates all the controls of a starship simultanously. There is no question that in a turn based game 1 player can analayze and do everything. It's just an interesting thing to explore in a game, the "reality" that when you get more than one person as part of an something, imperfections in co-ordination occur.

Some team games and/or house rules allow short discussions in another physical room which allows for hardcore planning and more or less negates the simulation issue.

EDIT: One other (probably minor) advantage is that in most designs the game will always end for all players at the same time, as one team wins and the other loses, so you don't get individual players eliminated and sitting out. Though if a game is good enough and it is some kind of king of the hill elimination system, players ought to be interested enough to watch and learn.


There are a few nice cases of using information asymmetry and communication handicaps to split roles in a meaningful way for cooperative games like Space Alert, Wok Star and Hanabi. This is also the case for all partnership card games (information asymmetry + no talking!). So I'm holding out hope for splitting roles in a meaningful 2v2 war. StarCraft: The Board Game already took a little step in that direction.

Reminds me of how Corey Konieczcka + Christian Petersen took a little shot at deckbuilding as part of larger game with StarCraft: The Board Game and Middle-Earth Quest way before Dominion came out, then Mage Knight Board Game came along and blew it up. 2v2 war is waiting for its very own Mage Knight!




Thanks for the recommendation, BlackSpy. Does this game actually do something meaningful when going from 2er to 4er besides just adding responsibilities? Or is it just a ploy to put '2-4 players' on the game box instead of '2 players'?
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Pablo Schulman
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Iwouldsuggest goblins, inc to bereleasedi. Essen 12. I don't if it qualifies as conflict-oriented since it's a 1-on-1 kind of fight, but presumably is optimal with 4 players (2 teams of 2).

It's kind of a puzzle + fight to death lol
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selwyth wrote:
Tank7, those are interesting ideas! I'm interested only if the macro/micro roles cannot be amply controlled by 1 player. I find it uninspiring when roles are merely split up, when they could just as easily be handled by 1 player.

Jumping into this old subject due to the link from the Game Format thing.

I think the bolded part is the main problem here. When you do this with an RTS computer game, you get this automatically because of the time constraints. Usually you don't have that in a boardgame. If the Age of Kings game had been turn based, you could have had one player controlling both empires on the same side - what makes it work the way you describe is that you need two players two manage the same side because one can't play fast enough. Other than that, I see no way to make this work the way you want to.

So what I would do is to make a moderately-to-heavy wargame of some kind where you have two people per side and put time limits on turns that are strict enough that they won't have much time to discuss their plans. Sort of like a team-vs-team Space Alert with a different theme, I guess.

I can see it working a couple of different ways. One is where you would "program" your empire similarly to what you do in RoboRally or Space Alert - putting down cards or the like for your different actions. (If you're running an empire, maybe you have a number of cards with different numbers of resource or action points on them and have to divide them between diplomacy, production, military campaigns and so on.) Some information will be reavealed right when the timer starts or during the timed period of the turn that force you to react to them - maybe you don't get to see some of the enemy side's moves until then.

The other way would be to make it even more like a real-time game, maybe by putting timers on individual moves. I put a timer on my production space, and when that runs out I get to move the unit I produced to the staging area and put a timer on it there, and when that runs out I can put it in the battlefield with a third timer on it, and when that runs out they get to attack and destroy an enemy unit there. (The main problem with this would be to manage the timers if there's a rules issue. You'd either have to make them digital with a "master controller" of some kind or otherwise be able to pause them and then start them up again fairly accurately. Or you could have a referee and asking rules questions would just be one of the ways you could spend your time.
 
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How about 1775: Rebellion and its 2v3 sister-game 1812: The Invasion of Canada?

These are fixed-team wargames, although they lack some of the features described. The militaries offer different capabilities, but you don't get to choose their focus as these are pre-determined.
 
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Not sure if this would fit what you have in mind, but there's a game I designed with the following elements:

- 2v2 team play
- war theme
- each player controls their own military units on the board
- economic engines in the form of deck-building
- your ally has access to different units and cards than you do
- if you and your ally can launch a coordinated attack on a single opponent, that's very powerful, because you have two turns' worth of moves to attack with and he only has one to respond with (unless his ally can come to the rescue)

The game is For the Crown, using the variant pack All the King's Men. It's a hybrid of deck-building and Chess.

I realize that Chess is probably not what you had in mind when you said "war-themed", but it is. In any case, this is what your post made me think of.

Admittedly, it was originally designed as a 1v1 and the 2v2 mode is a variant. Nonetheless, I think it's a very good variant, for some of the same reasons as you've been talking about: it keeps the good parts of the 1v1, but your partner has different resources than you do and coordinated action is extremely important in both offense and defense. Also, each player has hidden information in the form of their hand--I normally allow allies to share information, but if you prefer teamplay where you can't share everything, that would be easy to do, too.
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