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Subject: Fake Board Games as Video Games rss

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Eric Pietrocupo
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After analysing various ways to implement a board game as a video game, I realised that it is much easier to design a board game like video game that break some board game rules than making a strict board game. It might be a bit weird to say, so I'll start with an example:

There is a video game called "advance wars" which is a video strategy game that was reimplemented as a free PnP board game called "Skirmish wars". Some elements like counting fuel and ammo had to be cutt off from the video game to make the game playable as a board game. HP has been recorded by giving units 2 states (full or half HP). It would be possible to still play the game the original way, but it would require bookeeping all the infortation on a sheet of paper with a pen making the game very hard to play.

What I have realised is that 80% of the work of board game design is to actually shrink down concept and ideas and cut down the fat out of them to make it work as a board game. I have the impression that when I design board games, most of my time is spent on figuring how I am going to fit an elephant in a shoe box rather than thinking about the name of the elephant or the color and shape of the shoe box.

It seems that most board game restrictions are due to logistic reasons:

- Information of components is fixed
- There is a restriction of space to display information and place components
- There is a limit to how many components you can place in a game.
- There is a limit to the amount of calculations a player can do.
- The game is limited by time.
- etc.

But it could be possible to remove most of these restrictions in a video strtegy game. But video strategy games still have their flaws:

- There is too much information
- There are hiden information to the player
- You don't know how the information is used and impact the game.
- The play time of 1 game can be very long (50+ hours).

Still, I like how board games abstract certain concepts into simple mechanics to solve problems. But the problem is that it slow down the development time because you need to find/design the right mechanic. So I thought that if I could make Video Strategy Games, I would give them a strong board game feeling while still breaking some board game logistic rules. Now the problem is where do you draw the line.

I have a plan of restrictions that has been set according to the idea that I could use a board game engine as video game where some rules could be bent. Here are a few suggestions:

- Physical reproduction of mechanics: The mechanics of the game must be physically reproducable. For example, you cannot ask a player to roll 9 faced die.
- Space limitation: There must be a restriction of space. IOf Each each city on the board requires a side board to keep track of buildings, then it will require way too much space if each players has a dozen of cities. It will be very annoyong to search for the city side board on the table when there is 50 of them.
- Component space limitation: there cannot be more information than what could natually fit on the piece. For example, you cannot have units with 50 combat stats if only 5 number could fit on a 3/4 inch tile.
- Unlimited components: Thre is no limit to the number of components a game can have, as long as it does not occupy so much space that it becomes umplayable.
- Variables: Variable values are fine. Electronic games makes it possible to change the values on a component when the game progress ( for example, change the HP of a unit on a token when it gets damaged).
- Meaningful information and combat resolution: It must be clear to the player how the mechanics are resolved. So a player must know that he must roll 1D10 + 9 and have a total greater than 12 to hit. This make sure that the mechanics can be reproduced on tabletop.
- No hidden Values or calculations: There should be any mechanics that runs in the background invisible to the player.
- All information must have a container: All information must have a component to be placed on it. For example, if you want random event, place them on cards. If you want to record a player's VP, place them as a variable somewhere on his board.
- Play Time: It must be possible to play the game with real players in a decent amount of time(1-5 hours) even when not playing with real players.

I don't know if all the above make sense, but that could give me the extra flexibility I need to make my games achievable in a reasonable amount of time while keeping the look and feel like a board game. It's like keeping the pro and avoiding the cons of both worlds.

Mirror Threads

http://www.bgdf.com/node/7416

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Nate K
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I've been pondering along similar lines the last few days, although not specifically about strategy games. I want to write a solitaire gamebook with a timing element--the player only has X seconds to complete a task his- or herself, otherwise bad things happen. This would replace instances where one would normally have to roll dice or use some other randomizer with actual player skill.

Unfortunately, there is no way to enforce timing in a print-and-play game. And I don't like the idea of requiring players to have access to a stopwatch just to play the game.

So I'm considering adding in sound bites and music clips to the document. The player starts the sound file, and must complete the task before it ends. It's adding in a digital component to an otherwise analogue game, melding the traditionally segregated fields of video games and board games.
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Maxim Steshenko
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kurthl33t wrote:
It's adding in a digital component to an otherwise analogue game, melding the traditionally segregated fields of video games and board games.

Space Alert and Escape: The Curse of the Temple have this digital element and still are excellent board games.
From my experience with Ranger it's so annoying to read a text sometimes, especially over and over again because of several games in a row.

larienna wrote:
What I have realised is that 80% of the work of board game design is to actually shrink down concept and ideas and cut down the fat out of them to make it work as a board game.

Captain, is that you? Every game is a mathematical model of a reality. It's just a question of complexity. whistle
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Joshua Lougheed
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Interesting article. Thanks.

Some of my struggles with the game I'm currently working on made me think more about the differences between board games and video games. Basically, I wanted to have two different tile sizes but have players randomly draw one or the other. I thought up all kinds of convoluted ways of disguising the tile size from the player before giving up. Now I'm working to balance the advantages and disadvantages of each size so that drawing a tile is a meaningful (and fun) choice. If this had been a video game, I could have very easily implemented the random draw, but I think the game would have suffered, which I guess gets back to what you are saying about too much hidden information.

In the mirror thread, pelle talks about how a board game can actually display more information at one time than a video game (basically for costs reasons, since a huge screen with high resolution would be very expensive whereas high resolution printing isn't so expensive and a board game can take up a lot of space without adding too much to the production cost), though of course the video game can track many more, often hidden, variables.

The other difference, which you discuss, is that a video game can quickly and painlessly update the values of many variable. In a board game, nothing gets updated unless a player does it, so the act of updating has to be fun or at least satisfying for the player who does it (which is very limiting but probably any game designer could benefit from thinking about how to make game tasks fun).
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Ian Richard
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As someone who has made both video games and board games, I see a couple points missing that I feel are extremely important. I probably should point out before this wall of text that I am not against the idea in any way.


---
You can't underestimate the human component of a board game. It is easy to tell a player to "Draw 3 cards when you win a battle"... but programming this would require you to code the specific case. Admittedly,

This is a simple case... but imagine something like Magic the Gathering. There are dozens of special cases that would need to be manually implemented... hundreds of exceptions to the rules because of the wording written on the cards. A human is able to adapt to the text... computer can't.

What this means is that you'll need limit the rules in a computer... because you don't have forever. You'll need less variety in cards simply because each special effect will require special attention.

---

Also, face to face gaming leads to FAR more social interaction possibilities. You know that dick that hides a $500 while playing monopoly to keep the opponents off guard (That's me)... or watching a players face twitch as he tries to hide his amazing poker hand (Also me).

Social interactions are severely limited by an electronic format. I've read that 5% of communication comes from your words (AKA Text Chat) and 15% come from your voice (AKA Mic Chat). Even using a webcam you probably won't see someone tapping their foot to deal with the stress of a bluff.

This isn't to say computerized games are bad... but just that their interactions are very different.

---

Finally, have you ever played a game but realized that a certain rule breaks the game or felt it would simply be better with tweaks? For example: I find Space Hulk: Angel far too easy... so I draw extra genestealers and impose personal limitations.

I can't do that with a computer game. House rules don't exist in the computer game because computers can't adapt. Computers can only follow the rules EXACTLY as they were written.

---

As I said, I'm not against the idea. I often prototype a video game on tabletop before coding it... sometimes program a board/card game after play-testing it... and right now I'm even testing a theoretical tabletop wargame idea that I literally CAN'T realistically play test if I place the ambushes manually.

Video board games CAN be cool. I've played everything from Culdecept Saga to Dungeon Dice Monsters. I just feel it's important to see all the factors involved.
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Eric Pietrocupo
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I have roughly identified 5 restrictions that players needs to juggle with when designing board games, but implementing it as a video game could lift around 2.5 restrictions:

Component Values: In a board game, component values are fixed, but now they could become variables. There are variables in board games, it's just that they generally need a track or a dial to record it which increase the amount of required space to keep track of the information.

Quantity: Board games are limited in quantity of components, as video games there will be no limits unless the game design requires to have a limit. So you will never run out of tanks or planes.

Space: Board games must fit into a certain space. There is in theory no limit to the size of the table in a video game, but if your components spread up too wide, then it will me very annoying to play because you will have a lot of table space to scroll. So the space restriction still partially apply. It would also be able to do some cross referencing by displaying stuff on the screen that is not on the board. For example, hovering your cursor over a unit could display a card in the corner of the screen with it's stats. In that case, the size of the screen is your space limitation. So this restriction must be partially considered, but it will be less restrictive than for a board game.

Time: All time restrictions like total play time, downtime, analysis paralysis, etc remains. The only difference is that some mechanics could be resolved much faster with a computer which could speed up the process and could make the game take less time than a board game.

Mechanics: All the mechanics must be resolvable by a player to keep the feeling of a board game. So this restriction must remain in place. Again, as a video game, the resolution could be faster allowing to use certain mechanics that would have not been used in a regular
board game.

----------------------------------------------------------------
Quote:
You can't underestimate the human component of a board game. It is easy to tell a player to "Draw 3 cards when you win a battle"... but programming this would require you to code the specific case. Admittedly,


If you have cards with unique abilities then you will have to have a function to resolve it. It generally means using a table of functions. Some times cards have similar effects, so it could simply be different parameters to the same function. I remember that in MTG video game, each card was almost coded manually.

Quote:
Also, face to face gaming leads to FAR more social interaction possibilities.


100% true, this is why some type of games like negotiation games might not be suited as video game. They still managed to do something good in catan for the trading, but still too limited to do ATM trades.

Quote:
Finally, have you ever played a game but realized that a certain rule breaks the game or felt it would simply be better with tweaks?


Again, I completely agree. As somebody who changes a lot of games, variants are important. My suggestion is that the game should offer variant rules or should expose some of the variables that the player could change to their taste. Then with additional comments from the players, you could add more variants or expose more values.



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