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Subject: Persistent Board Games? rss

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Ian Richard
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I've had an idea ratting around my skull for a while now, but I haven't the slightest idea how to make it work. Now, that my other projects are dying down I'd like to start researching this one.

Specifically, I want to create a cooperative game that gets more difficult after each play. Allow the players to face stronger monsters and higher level challenges as they improve their own skills.

Is there anything that even resembles carrying data over from game to game?

The only one that I can think of is Risk Legacy and it's not enough for me to put this whole idea
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Carl Nyberg
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Heroquest?
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Dungeons & Dragons (4th Edition)
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Jeremy Lennert
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There's (at least) two basic approaches to this:


1) Treat every play session as a separate game; just provide a way to increase the difficulty as players get better. Lots of cooperative games have difficulty sliders, but if you want it to feel more like a continuing story, you can construct different scenarios with different story, rules, etc. that "just happen" to be along an escalating difficulty curve.

Downsides:
May not provide much feeling of continuity, since what happens in one play session won't affect the next (you can try to have branching storylines where you go to a different scenario depending on the outcome of the last one, but that increases the number of scenarios required very very quickly).

Getting the relative difficulty of the scenarios the way you want can be very challenging if there are any significant differences in gameplay. Playtest very thoroughly.


2) Treat an entire continuity as a single game, played across multiple sessions. When you reach some convenient stopping point, you somehow record the game state and pick up next week wherever you left off.

Downsides:
Most games assume, for simplicity, that no one joins or leaves the game after it's started; if you try to maintain that assumption in a game that lasts for weeks or months of calendar time, it puts a lot of pressure on players, and there's a significant risk the game will fall apart due to out-of-game reasons.

Player groups who do well in one session tend to have an advantage going into the next one, and vice versa, which means compounding advantages/disadvantages can render the game trivial or unwinnable.

Recording the entire game state, and restoring it for the next play session, can be a lot of work. Also, players may not feel satisfied at the end of a game session if they didn't reach a "real" ending; players may burn themselves out playing many "sessions" if it never feels like a real stopping point.

Personally, I've got no problem playing a 2-hour game that I might end up losing, but the idea of playing a 40-hour game and then losing in hour 39 strikes me as profoundly unappealing. But that's just me! Others may disagree.




Many games in category #2 simply abandon game balance altogether, either by making things so easy that the players essentially can't lose or by requiring a referee to rebalance things on the fly. Descent is noteworthy for having a campaign that doesn't do either of these things (or at least, it claims not to do either of these things--I can't personally attest to its balance).
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Andrew Rowse
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Risk Legacy
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John "Omega" Williams
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HeroQuest
Warhammer Quest
Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game
Mice and Mystics
Dragon Storm
RuinsWorld
Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)
Cardmaster: Adventure Design Deck
Dragon Strike

many many others
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Omega2064 wrote:


perhaps .... the category Adventure
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Sturv Tafvherd
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actually, now that I think of it, games that take more than 3 hours and thus tend to be multiple sessions might as well fall in this thread...

18xx
Advanced Squad Leader
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Ray Dillinger
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Hmmm.

You could do this with KBWC or similar; have the game be a series of challenges which players take turns choosing and overcoming. And when you run out, have the players come up with new challenges for each other. Just to keep them from getting too ridiculous, keep a challenge up until it's defeated, so you can't win without overcoming something that eliminated someone else.

At the end of the game, if you have a new challenge, you keep it. Then, if you think you have too many, you throw away one of the others, chosen at random.

Longer-term strategy happens if challenges come with 'specials' (or some arbitrary cumulative total towards specials) that make you more able to overcome later challenges.

And, I think I just described some house rules you could use with Munchkin, didn't I? Munchkin adds the screw-with-your-neighbor capability of buffing the monsters etc.

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Ian Richard
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Thanks guys. I've actually almost all of the adventure games and while some of them do have persistence... most are manually balanced, severely limited by scenarios and monsters, or completely random. The one's I've played doesn't quite hit what's in my head (Which likely does not exist)

It's actually a good idea to try looking at 4X games or other other very long games. Theoretically, I could break such a game into smaller chunks and change one small part of the universe each turn. That may give me some ideas.

Antistone wrote:
There's (at least) two basic approaches to this:


1) Treat every play session as a separate game; just provide a way to increase the difficulty as players get better. Lots of cooperative games have difficulty sliders, but if you want it to feel more like a continuing story, you can construct different scenarios with different story, rules, etc. that "just happen" to be along an escalating difficulty curve...

2) Treat an entire continuity as a single game, played across multiple sessions. When you reach some convenient stopping point, you somehow record the game state and pick up next week wherever you left off.


The intent is actually to combine the two approaches. The idea is that the game world will "Evolve" as you continue to play. Random new monsters will arrive, old monsters will get stronger, more threatening ruins will open etc.

Each new game will build off of the specifics of your previous games. If you find that goblin hordes were your main threat in the first.... they will be a common foe for all your adventures.

The IDEA is that the game state will branch off so my late game dungeons will be different than your dungeons. I even believe that I have a functional way to import a character from my world... regardless of experience level... and still have a balanced game inside your dungeons.

There will probably be some "World State" variables that deem total victory or defeat. For example: If you are able to gather enough resources to build castle walls... your village will be safe from the monsters and you win. But if too many villagers die the game will end.

---

Honestly, I have little idea as to what exactly I'm looking for. It may even be a fools dream to create what I see in my head. But a little research can't hurt.

Thanks for all the help guys.
 
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Georg W
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Sounds similar to (Your Name Here) and the Argonauts
(from last year's BGG solitaire PnP contest).

For example, only if you defeat "Ketos" in one game session, you'll suffer "Poseidon's Wrath" in subsequent ones.
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Vic DiGital
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I've been noodling around with the idea of persistent gaming for a couple of months (since first seeing a review of Risk Legacy), and there's two ways it seems you can approach it. One, where the opening game state is what changes or evolves. Or two, where your characters evolve.

Creating an open-ended board game where the characters evolve and power up from game to game seems like a monumental task and one that would be nearly impossible to balance, especially in something like a fantasy/quest-based game. You'd have to account for an endlessly escalating power-level which means having to create enemies and quests that account for higher power levels, or create a mechanism for easily leveling up the enemies and encounters. Unless the game world is a closed environment, such as a particular dungeon, or a gladitorial arena or something you (the designer) can permanently control, it feels like the game would get out of control after the third or fourth session. Risk Legacy handles it by being a closed-ended story, so all levels of escalation (mostly) are accounted for.

One approach I've been exploring, but haven't had time to test yet, is something more like how Smallworld handles the evolution of the playing pieces. The races/armies in Smallworld go through natural ascension, max power, and decline phases, and the game has a built-in mechanism for you to bring in the next race to overlap and eventually replace your original race. All the while, you, the player, continue to reap the rewards of all the various races you've controlled.

I think something like this could be implemented in a more character-based board game. The player controls more of a party than one character, and over the course of many gaming sessions, that party will evolve with characters dying, retiring, being kidnapped, turned to evil, etc while new characters are recruited or rescued from a dungeon or whatever.

Rather than have your characters be able to endlessly power up to god-like levels, there's a soft cap on them where they only reach a maximum power level before their age or mileage starts to diminish their abilities. But you, the player, would still reap the rewards of the accomplishments they've attained and can pass those on to other members of the party or guild. Castles can be purchased, magical items, men-at-arms, exotic creatures, etc. This type of power would be able to constantly increase over the course of many games, but it keeps the individual playing pieces somewhat on the same level, so you can play the game with new people but still use the persistent world.

For a situation like that, where someone plays the game for the first time within this world, they would start from scratch, but you could use the long-standing player's characters as enemies for the new players. Those characters could conceivably get killed, but the player's party or guild would live on with it's same wealth or prestige and just add a new person the next time they play. By the same token, if a player's characters are used in this fashion (without the original player being involved), any rewards or fame or glory that his characters receive will be applied to his overall persistent fortune. So a player could come back after having missed a few games and see that his characters have actually generated stuff for him. Or they might have been severely defeated, in which case he'll now have to build back up.


Smallworld is a big influence on my current thinking about this, as well as two video games. "Spore," for the mechanic of using someone else's characters (without them being present) to incorporate into your game. And "State of Decay" for it being more about maintaining your party or group and keeping them alive (recruiting new members, replacing ones that get killed, etc) rather than mowing down zombies and racking up points.

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John "Omega" Williams
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Stormtower wrote:


Not all adventure board games are campaign driven. Quite a few are one-shots or have no actual advencement or equipment from one to the next.
 
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This Guy
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As others mentioned, I think the open ended approach is doomed for this without having a person whose job is maintaining balance. You can't play test everything that way. And simply having everything scale by math could make everything feel like widgets, and not a fun game.

I think going with something scripted would be best. Maybe the replay value wouldn't be there, but if you were able to make a great story with mechanics to support, have it all click together, and do it at an affordable price point, you'd create a great setup for genuine expansions with some dedicated customers for life.
 
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Ian Richard
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firpo wrote:
Sounds similar to (Your Name Here) and the Argonauts
(from last year's BGG solitaire PnP contest).

For example, only if you defeat "Ketos" in one game session, you'll suffer "Poseidon's Wrath" in subsequent ones.


That is awesome actually. That gives me a new avenue of potential solutions.

My only major concern with the marking the enemy cards is that it's a permanent modifier to the card. This could be a problem for retail games where people expect to start from scratch.

But I have a few potential solutions on that front.

---

As for the open-ended concerns, I can't really argue, and if the prototypes continue to fail I'll probably shelf the project again for a while. Maybe one day I'll have some fresh new ideas to make it work.

If not... I'll cannibalize some of these idea's for other projects. No loss if this one doesn't pan out.
 
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John "Omega" Williams
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Character stat pads. Mark and discard as needed. HeroQuest and even Clue supply these as have other games. Then there are sliding markers, dials, etc. Lots of ways to track progress without marking up the cards.

On the other hand you could make marking up the cards a part of the gameplay like Risk Legacy did.
 
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Mike L.
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As for balancing gameplay in an open-ended setting, there is always the approach of controlling the evolution of characters very closely. One way is to have it such that if a character becomes strong in one aspect, they are weaker in another that way there are always difficult encounters for your group.

The reset button as heroes age is also a really good idea. It could also be reconfigured to be similar to dragon ball Z, where every time you beat the main bad guy a new more powerful one appears and you essentially start back from 0, except you keep your items and things get harder.

You are taking on a very ambitious game, so good luck.
 
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Anton U
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Not addressing any issues with balance, for recording progress of the players I think it'd be interesting to look at deck builders and similar card driven games. Say each character had their own collection of cards which could record anything from abilities to items or estate acquired during their adventures.

This would only carry over data about the players but a similar system could probably be used to record game events and general progress as well.

One downside would be needing a hell of a lot of cards.
 
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Steve Evans
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I don't know what you're thinking mechanics wise, but what about different decks of cards that can be used depending on the outcome of a game?
Maybe a game could have outcomes A, B, C and D and depending on how many you complete you can add those decks to yours for the next game. Maybe deck C was if you rescued the Princess, then you could have skills only available to her. Maybe deck D is for people who lost one or more characters in the previous game and this gives them setbacks.

The big problem I can see with this (obviously assuming that you're going a card rout) is just how many cards you'll need. Just a thought.
 
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Ian Richard
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Jester Wales wrote:
I don't know what you're thinking mechanics wise, but what about different decks of cards that can be used depending on the outcome of a game?


I was actually toying with something along those lines. While the player's had their data sheet to keep track of their stats... but using cards to determine the threats from the world.

You'd start with a basic set of "Enemy" cards which is filled with generic, low level foes. As you win games you would randomly add more powerful cards to the threat deck.

The further you go, the more powerful the threat deck becomes... and two separate campaigns would different high-level monsters inside the deck.

But I am a little concerned about the number of card's I'd need to make the system work.

---

The other idea I've been toying with is having a "Character Sheet" for the world. You would cross-reference either die rolls or card draws to this sheet to determine the exact threats you face.

I know this sounds clunky... but I can't think of a better way to word it. The planned method should be extremely fast and easy to work with... I'm just worried it will end up feeling mechanical.

We'll see.
 
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Ancestral Hamster
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McTeddy wrote:
Jester Wales wrote:
I don't know what you're thinking mechanics wise, but what about different decks of cards that can be used depending on the outcome of a game?


I was actually toying with something along those lines. While the player's had their data sheet to keep track of their stats... but using cards to determine the threats from the world.

You'd start with a basic set of "Enemy" cards which is filled with generic, low level foes. As you win games you would randomly add more powerful cards to the threat deck.

The further you go, the more powerful the threat deck becomes... and two separate campaigns would different high-level monsters inside the deck.

But I am a little concerned about the number of card's I'd need to make the system work.

---

The other idea I've been toying with is having a "Character Sheet" for the world. You would cross-reference either die rolls or card draws to this sheet to determine the exact threats you face. I'm just worried it will end up feeling mechanical.

We'll see.
To further elaborate on Mr. Evan's card idea, Middle Earth Quest uses a card system both for the heroes, and Sauron's minions. The basics are the same for each, but more detailed for the heroes. In the heroes' case, this also accounts for character growth. The cards have various powers for combat, and movement, but also represent wounds. Every time a hero moves, that character must discard a card or cards with the correct terrain symbols. Similarly when a character is in a fight, they must play a card per round of combat. If a character has no cards in hand and Life Pool (the draw deck for that character), the character is "dead" (Minions are dead, but being generic will return again elsewhere, heroes miraculously find themselves at full health at the nearest Haven, but they lose the rest of their turn). Part of hero tactics is knowing when to rest (thus reshuffling your discards and Life Pool) and minimizing the benefit to Sauron.

How a hero's deck tracks character growth is by adding cards. Thus not only does a hero get a new card with a power they did not have before, but that effectively gives them another "wound". However, while this system allows for persistence, MEQ is a game that is played to completion and so that minimizes the cards needed for the system to work. Each hero (there are five in the game) has an individual deck which is unique to them and there is a generic hero deck from which all heroes draw new cards when they advance. Should you use a similar method for an ongoing campaign, the amount of cards could become prohibitive. Also, the hero deck would have to be correspondingly bigger. In MEQ, at best 16 new cards will be drawn for advances, of which only 8 will be used. (Maximum of four heroes in play, each can quest twice to advance, if successful they draw two cards, keep one). I've not counted the advance deck, but guess it's about 40 cards. For longer campaigns, you'd have to increase the number of advances available, lest one player end up with all the "best" cards in their personal deck.

On the world side, you could use an Encounter deck system like that of The Lord of the Rings LCG. Basically, an adventure consists of one or more Quest cards which provide the set up instructions and special conditions, and the rest are the actual encounter deck (enemies, locations, treacheries [events that hurt the players]). Some of the better quests have used this system to scale the game for more players. The quest card will say something like "Add one copy of X + 1 more per player to the encounter deck" so a solo player would face two copies of this formidable card at worst, but if you play a full game with four players, the group may see all five of those cards in play. For a persistent game you could use this system to scale both for number of players and for character growth. Scaling would be as described above, but growth could be represented by adding new cards, i.e. add 1 copy of each Act II card to the Encounter Deck per player, and when the players get to Act III, similar instructions et cetera . One could also remove the easier cards from the Encounter Deck as the game progresses, so by Act III, the players would no longer encounter easy kills but have to face foes worthy of their steel. (In the Foundations of Stone AP, the designers split the encounter deck into small subsections. The early part had easier encounters, but later you removed those cards with a certain icon and then shuffled in the cards you set aside in the initial set up which are far more dangerous. ) Again, the number of cards needed will go up the longer the game is expected to continue.

Encounter tables like those used for some RPGs might be better for a dynamic world. A mechanistic feel might be a necessary evil to gain more flexibility and to save on production costs. Still once can limit the number of times the most world-changing events occur: just say on the encounter chart that only one "Perfect Storm" event occurs per campaign and to reroll it if one generates it a second time.

As for the idea of running a guild or other organization instead of having characters that have unlimited growth, I like that a lot. It would be like running the East India Company or the Knights Templars instead of the Fellowship of the Ring, but as previously noted it would make game balance easier. For example, let's say the game was about the struggle for the European powers to control India. You could break the campaign into several time periods with appropriate encounter decks to reflect the historical, economic, political, and technological changes. Some older encounter cards could be retained (like Monsoon cards since that is a yearly event), but not anything period-specific of course. The rival companies run by the players would carry over most of their advances from the previous game (there should be some attrition, people retire, ships wear out or are lost to storms etc), and now have to respond to the changed environment.

Anyway, you have an interesting idea and I hope you can bring it to fruition. Best wishes on your endeavor.
 
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