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Subject: How to improve replayability in a game--a brief list rss

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Lewis Pulsipher
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How to improve replayability in a game

Most of this amounts to "vary the experience", which of course is much of what provides replayabilty--varied experience.


Variable rather than set starting positions (players choose their starting positions)[drawback:lengthens the game]

More than two players (each player provides variability of himself)[drawback:lengthens the game]

Asymmetric game (starting position is not the same for all players)[drawback: makes it much harder to balance the game (give each player an equal chance of winning)]

Use of event cards (especially in symmetric games or games without other chance factors)[drawback--can be seen to increase chance]

Multiple ways to win/multiple winning strategies[drawback: makes it much harder to balance the game]

Scenarios (which amount to differences in positions or victory conditions (or both)). Used primarily in historical games. [drawback: more time-consuming to design]

Optional rules. Again seems most common in historical games. Alternative ways to play the game. At some point, many rule choices in a game design are largely arbitrary, that is, one choice leads to just as interesting a game as the other choice, but the designer must choose one. The other can become an optional rule. [drawback: virtually none, if the optional was tried sufficiently in playtesting]

Lew Pulsipher
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Hammock Backpacker
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Lots of BGG input on my geeklist from a few months ago:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist.php3?action=view&listi...


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Mario Lanza
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Intertwine additional mechanics to create depth

One of the best ways I can think of to increase replayability is to add layers of depth to a game. That is a game with 2 different facets won't be quite so deep as a game with 5 different facets esp. if the various facets intertwine with each other to create a greater depth of experience.

Because intertwined mechanics are usually coupled with randomizers (drawing civilzation tiles from a bag, flipping 6 plantations at the end of the Settler phase, the order that the Amun-Re provinces come up for bid, event cards, ad nauseum...) a varied (and somewhat "fresh") experience is created. When each playing of the game seems largely different from the next (as when new and unexpected things occur), success has been achieved.

This all stems back to depth that results from intertwining mechanics is a meaningful way.

Settlers and Tikal both suprized me with new and interesting situations for quite some time. So much so that I still play both even after more than 40 plays a piece.
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marc lecours
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Go is a classic game that is extremely replayable. I have played about 2000 to 3000 games in my life. But some players play many many more games. No two games are alike. Yet there is no external variability (all initial positions are the same(empty board), there is no chance(except for drawing for black/white), there are no event cards, it is only a two player game. Basically it breaks all the rules for variability. Only the moves chosen by the players change the game.

If a game is good, interesting, deep there is no need to externally create variability. If each go game was virtually identical then there would be a problem.

What is the key? The game needs to be at least a little chaotic. In other words: small changes in moves make the game diverge into very different directions. In go an initial move on a 3,3 point leads to a very very different game than an initial move on the 3,4 point or the 4,4 point. This makes it difficult to read moves far ahead and to evaluate accurately whether a move is good or not. Chaos creates a sort of variability that feels natural. Because there is no chance involved, players can study the game and feel that they are improving.

Puerto Rico is possibly even more chaotic than go. It is also very replayable. No two games alike. A small change in the order of picking roles changes everything.

What I am saying is that some amount of chaos really helps making a game replayable.
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Stephen Schaefer
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I think the key is to maximize choice. A lot of the concepts surrounding good replay value seem to revolve around this.

Two bad examples:
- Life. If ever a game was on rails, it's Life. Your only choice of any significance is whether or not you go to college. It has the replay value of a wet mop.
- War. A card game so beholden to chance that games can last for an hour and often longer, assuming the player does not quit in the meantime. You don't choose anything, you just flip the card and fate plays the game for you.

By comparison, even a simple game like checkers gives the player many different options as the game progresses, due to the number of pieces at his disposal. Chess works even better because you have a half-dozen different "classes" of pieces which you coordinate in various ways to control the board, the pieces, and the time (in moves spent developing your pieces). Games like Go or Chinese Checkers benefit not only from a large number of pieces but also a large playing space with many squares/hexes/spaces to develop your strategy. All of these are examples of games that have, quite literally, centuries of replay value because they give the player a few basic rules and a lot of choices.

Since modern games have to find their own niche, it's not always so simple as to find a simple schema that doesn't even require a theme (although games like Tetris and Bejeweled still crop up from time to time). So what other ways are there to give the player more choices? Settlers features several. Multiple ways to accumulate a combined pool of points, means you can focus on building, or on accumulating cards, or on shrewd resource trading, or any combination of a number of factors to accomplish the same task (compare Life, which has (essentially) one road and one destination and one form of currency). I've noticed many of Mayfair's titles come back to this feature of pooled points. Resource management and economy also present new options to a player. RPGs thrive on character classes, and the various bonuses and shortcomings of each, allowing the player to customize his character's development or even his good/evil alignment.

In short, there (obviously) needs to be a stucture to give the player a sense of direction and accomplishment in the end, but this is greatly enhanced when the player feels like he is assuming control over the outcome of the game, and that it could be different depending on the choices he makes. That means getting out of the way and allowing as many different options as your game structure can accomodate.

Building variability into a game can add replay value by altering the possible outcome, but that benefit is hindered by the fact that it still results in a set (although increased) number of possible outcomes. Building chaos into a game can often mean increasing chance, so the benefit of an uncertain outcome is hindered by the feeling that the player is being taken for a ride, or "gypped" despite his skill. Whereas a game can have static starting positions, a symmetric board, zero chance, and still be very playable for a long time if variation is given over to the player when possible (even something as simple as "drafting" starting territories in a game of Risk).
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Hidden information increases replayability also (block games, blind bidding, deduction, hidden money etc). Downside: a perceived increase in chaos, and the introduction of a memory element.
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Ken H.
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Variety equals replayability. One way to get that is to make different abilities for each player, especially when there are more abilities than you can fit in one game. Cosmic Encounter is the best example. Others include Magic Realm, Talisman, Blood Bowl, Robo-Rally (sort of), Lost Worlds, Magic the Gathering, and role-playing games in general.
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