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Tech trees in board games

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sedjtroll
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A Technology tree is a system of 'upgrades' which build upon each other. By way of example, Antike has a small tech tree in the Know How tracks - you can get an upgrade in 1 of the 4 tracks, and then ou can get another upgrade in that track... but you can't skip straight to the second one. This is pretty minor, as all of the second tier upgrades are just better versions of the first tier ones.

Caylus also has this kind of tech tree in the Favor Tracks. Each time you get a favor you can advance on of the tracks, and the more you advance it, the better the reward. However, in this case it's still 'more of the same.' There's another Tech tree in Caylus - the buildings. The first tier is the Brown buildings, which you can build from the start of the game. In order to build Gray buildings, a particular brown building (Mason) must be built. Also, in prder to build Residences, a different brown building (Lawyer) must be built. Then, as a third tier, there are Prestige buildings, which requires both tier 2 upgrades to have been built (Mason -> Architect, as well as Lawyer -> Residence). One of the favor tracks allows you to short cuircuit the tech trees and allows access to a tier without necessarily following 'proper channels' (the required buildings). This tech tree is sort of cglobal, once the Lawyer is built, any player can use it to build Residences.

Has anyone used a Technology Tree in a board game? How did it work out? I am considering a Tech tree for terra Prime (detailed in another thread). In this case, the upgrades will be personal... if you upgrade 1 aspect of the tree, it does not give opponents access to the second tier there - just you. The upgrades are still more or less 'more of the same' - that is to say better versions of the previous upgrade.

I'd like to see/consider a more involved tech tree, where the actions available after an upgrade are different but related to the prior actions. I don't think this would work for anything I have in design at the moment, but maybe a decent game could be built around this concept. Maybe also once progressing one one branch of the tree, another one becomes unavailable....

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

- Seth

jwieringo
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Tech trees in board games

Afternoon Seth.

Im new to the bgdf and thought I would say hello to everyone before I reply.

Quote:
Has anyone used a Technology Tree in a board game? How did it work out? I am considering a Tech tree for terra Prime (detailed in another thread). In this case, the upgrades will be personal... if you upgrade 1 aspect of the tree, it does not give opponents access to the second tier there - just you. The upgrades are still more or less 'more of the same' - that is to say better versions of the previous upgrade.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

- Seth

Besides Caylus, Twilight Imperium by Fantasy Flight Games also uses a tech tree. It is more advanced than Caylus' but, Twilight Imperium is also a much larger game. Personally I would think it would work quite well with Terra Prime. I have read over your description of it and I thought it sounded like a excellent game. My favorite mechanic had to be the fluctuation of the needed resources on earth. Im sure you incorperated that to give a larger incentive to collect resources, no?

Tech trees are also a common aspect in computer games. Recently I have played StarCraft and WarCraft, both by Blizzard Entertainment. Like most strategy games they include a tech tree. For instance, by building a command center you unlock the supply depot and the barracks. Each building acts as a stepping stone and as you get to the end of the tree you have a chance to build stronger warriors out of the newly acquired buildings. Although it is a computer game and certain tasks are easier to accomplish with programming, I think if you kept it simple enough it would make a good game even better.

Hope that gave you some insight.

onew0rd
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Tech trees in board games

This is a good way to introduce the whole so many options so little actions aspect people seem to like so much in games. If you give someone like 3 different trees to advance in with like 4-5 levels each, a really dynamic situation could arise.

It also makes for variable gameplay as you could try something different next time.

The pitfalls are that invariably, there will be a certain path players will find most effective and efficient and the game will become a mechanical excercise. You'd need to make some random game states or conditions which either change each time the game is played or throughout the game and you'd probably want to make some sort of forced/random progress so as to prevent the superpath from being readily followed.

Nevertheless, this is a very rich idea for a central mechanic for a game as it is relatively novel and really rich with potential.

sedjtroll
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Tech trees in board games

jwieringo wrote:
Im new to the bgdf and thought I would say hello to everyone before I reply.

Welcome!

Quote:
I have read over your description of it and I thought it sounded like a excellent game. My favorite mechanic had to be the fluctuation of the needed resources on earth. Im sure you incorperated that to give a larger incentive to collect resources, no?
Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I like that mechanic as well, and I think it fits perfectly here. It's a lot like the Power Grid resource track (ok, maybe exactly like the power grid resource track). And yes, it's there not only to encourage resource collection, but also to drive decisions about which resources to collect.

Quote:
Tech trees are also a common aspect in computer games. Recently I have played StarCraft and WarCraft, both by Blizzard Entertainment.
I am familiar with these. I've played a little Starcraft, and I've seen Warcraft. I've not seen the Warcraft boardgame, but it wouldn't suprise me if they incorporated tech trees in some way there.

Nexus Ops reminds me a bit of those real time strategy computer games because of the way you have to have guys on the mines to get money to do other stuff.

Quote:
Hope that gave you some insight.
Thanks for the reply! I hope you like the site and stick around. If you likes the Terra prime thread, I'd be interested to hear any comments you have on it (in that thread of course, not here).

Thanks again,
Seth

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Tech trees in board games

onew0rd wrote:
invariably, there will be a certain path players will find most effective and efficient and the game will become a mechanical excercise. You'd need to make some random game states or conditions which either change each time the game is played or throughout the game and you'd probably want to make some sort of forced/random progress so as to prevent the superpath from being readily followed.

This can be accomplished by having different upgrades require different kinds of payment -- for faster engines you pay with Dilithium, for greater cargo capacity you pay with Cavorite, etc. Then the path a player follows will depend in part on which resources he can most readily obtain; also he may be faced with trade-off decisions concerning whether to spend resources for a score or for an upgrade.

Also, as onewOrd implied, different game situations should arise to make upgrades more or less valuable. In Twilight Imperium III, I might want an upgrade that lets me fly through an Asteroid Belt if an important goal was on the other side; but I might prefer a defensive armament upgrade if I have a threatening neighbor. TI3 accomplishes these varying situations with a randomized board and with "private objectives" given randomly to each player during setup.

I think Terra Prime is already in a good position to use a tech tree successfully. You've made specific upgrades available only in specific locations, which (like my pay-with-different-resources suggestion) will vary the expense and difficulty for a particular player trying to obtain a particular upgrade. And your random board layout should have the same effect as in TI3, of making different upgrades more or less desirable each time the game is played, and (also important!) for each different player in a single game.

FastLearner
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Tech trees in board games

The entire game Industria is pretty much just a giant tech tree, cleverly done.

sedjtroll
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Tech trees in board games

FastLearner wrote:
The entire game Industria is pretty much just a giant tech tree, cleverly done.

Sounds pretty much like Princes of Florence, as far as the auction is concerned.

FastLearner
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Tech trees in board games

The auction system is quite different from PoF. The auctioneer receives the money bid, can continue to auction items as long as people keep buying them (so there's a very difficult decision about what to auction in what order) or can just take an item and end the auctioning, and auctions only go once around.

It's a giant tech tree in that at the top of the board are the most basic industrial production options (cut wood, quarry stone, that kind of thing), with everything below requiring stuff from above to build them. They're connected based on technology types, when you buy the ones that produce stuff, people pay you for the raw materials instead of the bank. There's a second tech tree on the right side of the board based more on technological developments than production and building stuff.

Hambone
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Tech trees in board games

I am working on a 4 player game with a building tree with some interesting nuances. I am not sure exactly how it helps you, but it may give you some ideas.

There are basically 4 building lines with 4 buildings in each line. You must build the first in a line to be able to build the second, and so on. As you move further up the line, the buildings naturally cost more and have a better benefit (in my case it's income). Each player works on their own "tree" independantly, with some interaction.

It is possible to take over an opponents building on the board, effectively hijacking their progress on their tree and advancing yours. Example: Bob has building A1, A2, and A3, while you have none in the A line. If you take over Bob's A2 building, you can now build an A3. Bob can now build an A2 or and A4. If you took his A3, he could not build an A4, while you now are able to.

Another interaction is that the benefit (income) from each building varies based on how many opponents have built the same building. If you have the only ice cream shop in town, you sell more. If everyone owns one, the sales are barely enough to stay in business. Going back to the previous example, if you and Bob both own ice cream shops, you can take over his shop (and you must raze it or your previous one) and now have the only shop in town again.

The third interaction is that every time anyone builds a building in the A line, they place one of their colored cards in the A pile. They can pay double the development cost to not leave a card in the pile. Whenever the A pile reaches 7 cards, whomever has the most of their color in the stack loses all of their buildings in the A line (it actually fits into the theme when it is played). Their cards are returned to them and the remaining cards stay for the pile to reach 7 again. This dynamic means you can build to intentionally push the card total to 7, hoping you kept accurate count and are not the majority holder. Now the income of your A buildings go up. Or you can advance your A line knowing full well that you are in the majority, hoping your opponents cannot push the card count to 7 before you reap the rewards of you sole A4 building (extremely high income).

It promotes strategies of both diversity and specialization,a measured pace and sprints.

I am late for an appointment so I have to finish quick. Hope it helped a little.

sedjtroll
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Tech trees in board games

Hambone: your ideas are very intrigueing! In particular the sneaking in on other people's tech trees... And I kinda like your 'impending doom' idea as well.

I'd be interested to know what your theme is that ties those mechanics together.

As for Terra Prime, I played another game today (yay!), and the tech tree works great - however I costed the upgrades too high. Actually my friend rattled off what he thought the costs should be, and I thought they sounded OK relative to each other after some tweaking, but I didn't look at the costs relative to the rest of the game :/ No problem though, I'll just reduced the cost for next time :)

Hambone
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Tech trees in board games

My game is a Prohibition era gangster game. The building lines are what I am refering to as "vice related". Gambling: You can start with a bookie, work your way up to a card room, off-track betting, and finally a casino. Another building line would be Alcohol: speak-easy, night club, distillery, and finally a distribution network.

I was trying to create a mechanism for whomever advances the fastest gets a penalty. I wanted some incentive for measured or diversified growth. There are usually plenty of benefits to being the person out in front. What about a tech tree where the costs are greater for the first person to reach a specific ability, but they had some "patent" period of exclusivity?

How do I find your Terra Prime thread? I look forward to reading it.

jwieringo
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Tech trees in board games

Hambone wrote:
How do I find your Terra Prime thread? I look forward to reading it.

The link to Terra Prime

Hambone wrote:
My game is a Prohibition era gangster game. The building lines are what I am refering to as "vice related". Gambling: You can start with a bookie, work your way up to a card room, off-track betting, and finally a casino. Another building line would be Alcohol: speak-easy, night club, distillery, and finally a distribution network.

Brilliant! How is game working out thus far?

Keep us updated Hambone

sedjtroll
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Tech trees in board games

Hambone wrote:
My game is a Prohibition era gangster game. The building lines are what I am refering to as "vice related". Gambling: You can start with a bookie, work your way up to a card room, off-track betting, and finally a casino. Another building line would be Alcohol: speak-easy, night club, distillery, and finally a distribution network.

Sounds pretty cool... have you played Bootleggers? I have not, but it sounds like a similar theme. I think I like the sound of yours better, actually...

Quote:
I was trying to create a mechanism for whomever advances the fastest gets a penalty.
That sounds dangerous... you don't want people to NOT develop. It all depends on the pros and cons of upgrading I guess.

Quote:
What about a tech tree where the costs are greater for the first person to reach a specific ability, but they had some "patent" period of exclusivity?

One of the new Essen games is called Antike, and it has something like this. There are 4 tracks with 2 levels each. The first to advance to each level has to pay more gold to do so, but they get a Victory Point for 'unlocking' that technology. Other players can then follow suit for a discounted rate (they can copy the technology), but they don't get the VP. I really like that mechanic, personally.

Quote:
How do I find your Terra Prime thread? I look forward to reading it.
jwieringo linked to it above, so I won't do so again. Please do read it and comment in that thread. I'm looking for all the feedback I can get.

- Seth

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