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Balancing Values

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Anonymous

A problem I have been come up to a lot lately is trying to balance out different values in my games. By values I mean prices, combat values, everything.

I understand that the values cannot be perfected before playtesting, but I am wondering, how do some of you, before playtesting (while actually designing the game), balance/try to balance different values?

Anonymous
Balancing Values

I try to extrapolate some math into it. I'll sit down and think about the effect something will have on the game, how easy I want to make it to be used vs. that potential effect, and factor the cost accordingly, for example. Other things to consider too are the spread of costs. If you are finding too many things are hovering in the higher costs, you may want to reduce the effect or perhaps add a consequence to using that effect.

Hope this makes sense/helps.

Dralius
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Joined: 07/26/2008
Balancing Values

I guess it depends on what you are trying to balance. For example in a 2 to 4 player game using 100 cards and having a hand size of 5 you are going to a minimum of 10 to 20 percent of the deck in play at any given time. Now how often do you want card X to come out. If there is only one card X in the deck then you still have a real good chance that it will be out in the starting hands.
All analysis aside set down by yourself and play through a game making the best effort to play as if you don’t know what each player is doing. This way you’ll find little flaws that you can fix before going to real players. One thing I sometimes do is assign players types like the reserved player who will only go for a sure thing or the novice player who will make plays that are almost random. I think this helps me decide what each player will do on their turn.

IngredientX
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Re: Balancing Values

DragonKid wrote:
A problem I have been come up to a lot lately is trying to balance out different values in my games. By values I mean prices, combat values, everything.

I understand that the values cannot be perfected before playtesting, but I am wondering, how do some of you, before playtesting (while actually designing the game), balance/try to balance different values?

I'm not much of a math whiz, so once I get a ruleset that seems to stand on its own, I make cheap components for the game and solo playtest.

Solo playtesting can be real tricky if you have a game with lots of player-hidden or bluffing elements, and it's impossible for a real-time game. But if you can do it, I find it makes the first "real" playtest go much more smoothly.

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Balancing Values

Great question. One suggestion I had from one of my playtesters is that it's not always a bad thing, in the early stages, to have a game that is deliberately unbalanced. It can be very hard sometimes to separate effects of minor imbalances from effects of sloppy play. But, if you make little attempt to balance things, it should be more clear how you'll need to tweak the game to get it to be more fair. Of course, this requires very patient playtesters, but you could solo playtest as well.

Another thing I would suggest is that you not just think about cost, but about timetables and practical utility. For example, in one game I designed, there was a building that you could purchase for $10, which by the game's standards was expensive. Now, the building's function was powerful enough that the cost was a fair price, however, because it was expensive, people couldn't afford the building till late in the game, but the building's function was more suited to the early game. The point is, you don't want to just think in terms of setting a fair price, but also making sure that the cost of the ability/building/upgrade can be afforded at the point in the game where the ability is most useful. If not, scaling back the ability (and also the cost) might help. The best example of this, of course, is Puerto Rico, where the "big buildings" are well suited to the mid-to-endgame, which is also the time when players have enough cash flow to afford them.

Good luck with your project!

-Jeff

GeminiWeb
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Joined: 07/31/2008
Balancing Values

Hi,

I also tend to go down the maths path (why waste a degree in statistics?).

More specifically and by way of example, for the game I'm putting up in GDW next week, I considered the different ways to get victory points and how many actions, on average, were required to achieve those victory points. This lead to a sort of 'actions required per VP' figure. I then made sure that things you might buy in the early game had a worse ratio than those who might buy in the middle or late game ... (adjusted accordingly for any addition game effects that certain things also had).

This was then tweeked through playtesting. In particular, look for whetehr everyone is trying to go down the same path, or no-one thinks it is worthwhile going down another path.

I'll also support what jwarrend said - things also had to be tempered by game effects and when the game effects were useful. In the same game, I used to have building a university as a mid-game option, but its benefits were of a lesser value by then ... so it can now be built much earlier.

Anonymous
Balancing Values

I tend to use maths when trying to balance mechanics for games. However I will still use the solo playtest as well.

A few other maths techniques (besides statistics) that I use are Feedback Diagrams, Game theory and Payoff matrices.

All three of these are useful in balancing the numbers, working out the effects of a particular mechanic and eliminating dominant strategy (always win if followed) and run-away-leader syndrome.

Zzzzz
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Balancing Values

As others I tend to do the math thing,

One thing I can suggest(I tend to do this along with/prior to the math thing), would be to open up a new excel spreadsheet and plug in your values. Just as a simple list.

You will be amazed at how just listing the values can help to identify holes or inconsistencies in your ranges/values.

Anonymous
Solo Testing Auction Games?

This information on balancing values is great. However, I was wondering if any of you have any experience (trying to) solo test an auction game that has some secondary mechanics that need testing attached to the auction. It seems as though doing solo auctions isn't exactly a trivial thing to do, especially when it is the core part, but not the only significant part, of your game.

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