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Subject: Random Countdown Timer rss

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Noah Gadea
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I've been making a game that has a countdown timer element. In play testing I've run into a few players who are fully willing to exploit a timer by "taking their sweet time" on their turn when they appear to be poised to win. Even if other players are pressuring them to complete their turn, this potential winning player will intentionally take extra time when deciding whether or not to roll, which direction they wish to go, and so on; and since these are somewhat legitimate things to take some time to consider, it's a little difficult to control.

I'm racking my brain trying to figure out how the timer could be/do the following:

a) semi-hidden so that players can look at it and only get a general idea for how much time is left

b) count down from a random time between two defined lower and upper limits (i.e. 45 mins and 75 minutes) -- this way "1 hour" can't be alternatively be tracked on someone's watch or a nearby clock

c) pause-able, in case someone needs to use the restroom or something.


I found ONE functional example of what I'm talking about. It's an app called "Times Up!". Found it on Google Play but it's pretty ugly and pretty ghetto and I need something that can be put in a box.

Any ideas or alternatives would be really appreciated.
 
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Adam Stapley
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What if you somehow got 4 different normal timers (like a kitchen timer) and had a stack of cards, All between 12 and 20 minutes. Each player draws one card, sets a timer to that value, and doesn't let anyone else know how much time they had on their timer. The first player starts his timer, and when it goes off the next player starts his, and so on. Each player can only view their own timer. So that's the semi hidden part. You'd know "I have 2 full timers and one that's been going for a while"

The countdown would always be between 46 and 80 minutes.

Each timer would be pause-able, you'd just ask whoever had the current timer to pause it.

I realize it's a little rough, but it's a good starting place I suppose.
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T. Dauphin
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AtStapley wrote:
What if you somehow got 4 different normal timers (like a kitchen timer) and had a stack of cards, All between 12 and 20 minutes. Each player draws one card, sets a timer to that value, and doesn't let anyone else know how much time they had on their timer. The first player starts his timer, and when it goes off the next player starts his, and so on. Each player can only view their own timer. So that's the semi hidden part. You'd know "I have 2 full timers and one that's been going for a while"

The countdown would always be between 46 and 80 minutes.

Each timer would be pause-able, you'd just ask whoever had the current timer to pause it.

I realize it's a little rough, but it's a good starting place I suppose.


Neat idea! But you would have to randomize the order of the clocks, otherwise the last person with a clock would be the only one knowing how much time was left at that point. Or would it be OK then to show everyone how much time is left?

Theoretically, it seems to me that what you're looking for is a bar that slides down to zero.
A certain amount of it could be revealed from the bottom up, depending on how much you want to show.
I don't know where/whether such a thing exists, but it's an easy thing to program if you can find a device and a programmer to help you out.
 
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Brook Gentlestream
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I think the easiest way is to have a fixed, standard timer track and when the timer reaches 0, start rolling dice each round to see if the game ends. This way, all you know is that in 10 turns, the game could end "soon".

You could do the same with a regular egg timer. You could have a cloth bag. Every 3 minutes or so, it can ding, meaning you put a timer token into it. When you are out of timer tokens, you put the last "The Game Ends" token in. Thereafter, every time the timer rings, a player pulls a token out of the bag. If its a game end token, then the game ends.

Players can look in the bag whenever they want as a means of approximating how much time is left.
 
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Benj Davis
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Brius wrote:
I've been making a game that has a countdown timer element. In play testing I've run into a few players who are fully


Did you lose some of this sentence? I'm curious what the players fully are...
 
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Noah Gadea
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Thanks for the suggestions.

I'm thinking that maybe... at the beginning of the game, players could roll dice to advance a "Game End" token a number so spaces along a sort of countdown card.

Then when certain events occur... such as a player being eliminated, or certain cards being draw, rolls would be made to advance the Game End token along the countdown card. This way stalling within a particular turn would not have an effect on the countdown of the whole game (also players could more freely take breaks).

Does anyone see an issue with this idea? Is there any component or element I would have to include or control in order for this to be a simple yet successful countdown mechanism?

Thanks again for the previous feedback. Please post more
 
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John "Omega" Williams
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How are the players exploiting the timer really?

Are they using up time other players need? Or are they just stalling to ruin the game for the other players? If they are playing to ruin the game then you seriously need to get rid of these people. Its not the game thats a problem its these particular player/s. And if they cant mess with the game one way then they will potentially find another.
 
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James Hutchings
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Maybe you could have random events where the current player suffers some penalty. The events could happen, on average, a certain number of times per minute, not per turn.

This would encourage players to take quick turns.
 
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Greg
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Small electronic alarms are pretty cheap, you could set one to some value at the start of a game, stick it in a box and stop the game when it goes off.

An egg timer approach would be to have a short timer and a bag of black and white beads. Whenever the timer runs out you draw a bead and flip the timer, when so many black beads have been drawn the game is over. That'd bell curve your random time (since as beads of one colour are removed the other becomes more likely) while still leading to a fair level of uncertainty about the overall time limit. You could also rule that when a bead is drawn the timer isn't flipped again until next turn so there's no advantage in an uberlong turn.

I agree that players who do this are out of line and I wouldn't put up with them in my group, but ultimtaely if the game can deal with this frustration it will improve the game for at least some of your intended audience (specifically that portion that's nonconfrountational and won't get rid of a disruptive player).
 
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Automator Threetousand
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Omega2064 wrote:
If they are playing to ruin the game then you seriously need to get rid of these people. Its not the game thats a problem its these particular player/s. And if they cant mess with the game one way then they will potentially find another.


From a playtesting viewpoint, though, having those type of people is valuable, as you know a problem with the game: the game leader can stall out the clock for a win. If the OP has found this with just a few playtesters, you better believe that in release, it would become a major complaint ("yeah, that game stinks - eventually it comes down to one player stalling").


The only ideas I can imagine working are the ones described above involving a timer plus tokens/beads of some sort. But any time you have even a "semi-visible" token, you run the risk of someone stalling; all you're doing is reducing the knowledge. If I'm the leader and stalling is a technique, I'll stall whether I know I have 30 seconds or if I only know that I have less than one minute.
 
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Greg
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automator3000 wrote:
The only ideas I can imagine working are the ones described above involving a timer plus tokens/beads of some sort. But any time you have even a "semi-visible" token, you run the risk of someone stalling; all you're doing is reducing the knowledge. If I'm the leader and stalling is a technique, I'll stall whether I know I have 30 seconds or if I only know that I have less than one minute.


That's why I recommend a "Have a timer that runs out frequently and make a thing happen each turn on which it runs out" approach. There's no point stalling for ages because the step towards being out of time can only happen once on your turn. It could even be formalised as "Draw a time out counter at the end of your turn if the timer has run out or if the current player wants to, reset the timer if a counter is drawn" so while stalling is still a viable strategy it has a specified effect which allows it to happen instantly rather than wasting everyone's time.
 
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Noah Gadea
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Omega2064 wrote:
How are the players exploiting the timer really?


As it is now, prior to any changes I have planned, the timer running out ends the game.

So a player in a winning position can take even a half a minute longer than normal on their turn and that would be to their advantage overall. Meanwhile, players not in winning position would scramble through their turns, trying to gain the winning position.

I can even make an argument for the winning-position players, in that someone with the advantage probably should take their time so as not to do something careless that costs them the game.
 
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Noah Gadea
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This feedback is super helpful! Thanks again! I'll be sure to repay the favor forward

Tell me what you guys think of this:

At the start of the game, each player rolls two dice. The sum of the rolls is marked on a countdown sheet (if 35 is rolled, the marker is placed on a space 35 spaces away from "The End")

During the game, when someone is killed, they roll a die, and the marker advances toward The End.

Also during the game, if particular cards are drawn, a die is also rolled and the marker advances, and these cards could also lead to someone dying. There would be 3 of such cards in the deck which could be shuffled back in when the deck is empty, and a maximum of 6 players possible in the game. Certain mechanisms already in the game would also allow players to roll 2 dice in this instance, and choose the 1 they would like to use.

When the marker falls within a particular range of The End (such as five spaces away, then the game would end in 5 rounds or after the drawing of ANY subsequent five cards, in addition to the particular ones.

The game would end when there is only one player alive (and they are able to fulfill winning requirements) or when the marker reaches The End.

Would this effectively eliminate the exploit in the original post?
 
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Moose Man
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Brius wrote:
At the start of the game, each player rolls two dice. The sum of the rolls is marked on a countdown sheet (if 35 is rolled, the marker is placed on a space 35 spaces away from "The End")

During the game, when someone is killed, they roll a die, and the marker advances toward The End.


This may be a silly concern.

But what if a low inital roll happens at the beginning of the game and then high rolls happen after the game starts? Your play time could be cut down pretty drastically.

My suggestion is that you have a preset place where the marker starts, and this could vary for however many players there are, and you roll for the countdown throughout the game like you describe.
 
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