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a tile-laying resource mechanic

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Fos
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Joined: 12/31/1969

El Cid is on the back burner for a few days as we're unable to playtest either prototype right now. Meanwhile, I've been working on a new game: Really Big Robots. Briefly, unless you want to read through the linked game journal, players must continually rebuild a city as it goes through sporadic destruction. The city building mechanic is primarily a tile-based affair with two types of tiles: resource tiles and special tiles. Special tiles are activated by players if they have the necessary resources. However, my question deals with the resource tiles.

Players draw from a deck of tiles into their hand which they can then lay onto the board. Resources can only be collected from a specific area each turn (basically, a single set of seven tiles: a center tile and the 6 surrounding tiles). There is no player "ownership" of tiles, though strategies will make some clusters far more important than others to individual players. There are three types of resources: blue, green, and red.

Option 1: My initial thought was to have three varieties of each color, blue +1, blue +2, blue +3, etc., giving 1, 2, or 3 resources of that type respectively. +3 tiles would be rarer, than +2, and so on.

Option 2: I'm toying with the idea of removing such modifiers all together, and leaving just three varieties resource tiles. Instead of a +something modifier, a tile would give the number of resources equal to the number of colors that tile touches. So, for example, if you wanted to utilize a blue tile that touches a red and blue tile (which can be outside of that 7 hex limit I mentioned earlier), the blue tile would be worth 2 blue resources.

Three of the victory paths primarily require the use of one resource color. However, this makes the other two resource tiles a player can have in his hand relatively useless... unless they need these tiles to build high-level clusters of resources. The way I figure it, the advantages of Option 2 are encouraging more "resource sharing" between players (or rather, leeching off another player's laid tiles) and also making resource clusters more vulnerable to attack (destroying one tile might cause a slight chain reaction that reduces the values of many tiles). Destruction is only partially random, by the way. The downside is that it requires a lot more on the fly math... though I'm not very concerned with this. The game isn't meant to be very light, and I'm hoping the second option increases strategy without inducing analysis paralysis, and I hope it doesn't inadvertently destroy all strategy in the tile-laying.

Does anyone have any experience with a resource mechanic that works similarly? Any games I should check out to see examples? What were the advantages and disadvantages? If you haven't, do any initial thoughts spring to mind? Is it all very, very confusing?

Thank ye for your time.

Fos
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Joined: 12/31/1969
a tile-laying resource mechanic

To circumvent any questions (because I really doubt my ability to explain this), lemme throw up an example of Option 2.

The player is currently on tile 8, which means he can access the resources in tile 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, and 12, or every tile within the thick black line.

Tile 11 is a special tile, and therefore gives a player no resources and does not count as a color type when calculating other tiles.
Tile 4: worth 3 blue resources (touching a red, blue, and green tile)
Tile 5: worth 2 blue
Tile 7: worth 1 red
Tile 8: worth 2 blue
Tile 9: worth 2 blue
Tile 12: worth 3 blue

So, for the current turn the player has access to 12 blue resources and 1 red resource.

If the special tile (tile 11) required blue resources to activate, the player would be in a very good position indeed... though if a player wanted to maximize a single color (with a special tile), he can get up to 18. But that's an optimal situation and assumes the special tile only needs one color to activate it.

Hope that helps.

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
a tile-laying resource mechanic

I don't think I've heard of a mechanic like this; the only games I can think of that are at all similar are Attika, in which both resource spaces and adjacent buildings can modify the cost of building, and La Citta, in which your adjacency to resources affects the property of your cities. But in an explicit resource gathering context, I've not seen it in the way you describe.

It definitely sounds like it could be very interesting, but my feeling is that to have any tension, there must be some reason why you also want clusters of a given color as well. Otherwise, placement may end up being haphazard and opportunistic, whereas having to strike a balance between wanting big clusters, but also wanting adjacency to many colors, could be a nice source of tension. Hard to say without knowing more about the game.

My knee jerk reaction is that I'm not a big fan of the seven hex effect, particularly because in the scheme you're outlining, that gives a very large area to consider when mentally computing your payout, and it will almost certainly lead to analysis paralysis as people try to figure how best to place tiles and move their pieces. I think that just looking at the tiles surrounding your piece is sufficient; it will lead to a "tighter" economy, but that shouldn't be hard to accomodate; if anything, games with tight resources are usually more interesting for the restriction.

Good luck!

-Jeff

Fos
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Joined: 12/31/1969
a tile-laying resource mechanic

jwarrend wrote:
I think that just looking at the tiles surrounding your piece is sufficient; it will lead to a "tighter" economy, but that shouldn't be hard to accomodate; if anything, games with tight resources are usually more interesting for the restriction.

I think you're right. This will make clusters much more fragile if they're idependent from other players, but also makes it easier to leech your cluster off of another player's existing set up. It will certainly reduce required resource distribution.

Highest level single color is now 9:

My feeling is that tile laying will be opportunistic even if I use this system, which is good, IMO, because players must balance tactical opportunistic actions against other players with their own strategic goals. If anything, I think the opportunity has increased, and has made targeting another player's cluster far more attractive. It will also increase the importance of tile destruction. If a player has a perfect cluster (for their purposes), a rampaging Giant Evil Robot could destroy it quite thoroughly. However, if a player couldn't get the layout he needed, destroyed tiles would give him a "do-over" . . . if he can keep the Giant Evil Robot from destroying the special tile his cluster is built around in the first place. . .

Destruction isn't entirely random, can be anticipated to a certain degree, and can be controlled once it occurs (after all, if you aren't controlling the damage you really aren't doing that great of a job defending the city...).

Thanks for your comments, Jeff. In another game-like situation, I'm excited that you haven't seen a resource gathering system like this before, and yet it worries me that I can't find a published, professional game to play and take lessons from.

jwarrend
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a tile-laying resource mechanic

Quote:

Highest level single color is now 9:

Even this is still more complicated than what I was saying, I think. I don't even want to do the math on a 7 tile group. I want to look at a central tile, see how many colors it touches, and then boom, that's how many resources it produces. So in your example, the tile at the center would be worth 3.

However, I was working on the assumption that pieces were movable, but if they're static, a la buildings, then maybe a more complex counting scheme would be tolerable, as long as it didn't change much from turn to turn.

Fos wrote:

Thanks for your comments, Jeff. In another game-like situation, I'm excited that you haven't seen a resource gathering system like this before, and yet it worries me that I can't find a published, professional game to play and take lessons from.

Well, certainly don't take my remarks as evidence of anything more than that I couldn't think of anything comparable. There are definitely folks on this group who have seen a lot more than I have, so hopefully they'll chime in if they've seen it before.

But, I think there's a good chance you've come up with something original. Don't sit on it too long! As I, and FastLearner, and others can attest, we've seen some of our clever, original ideas come out in published games by people who had the same idea independently. So, your resource hex idea is a good one, and probably will come out in print, either because you published it or because someone else came up with it on their own. It's eerie how similar independently derived ideas can be!

Anyway, good luck with the project,

Jeff

Scurra
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a tile-laying resource mechanic

Fos wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
I think that just looking at the tiles surrounding your piece is sufficient; it will lead to a "tighter" economy, but that shouldn't be hard to accomodate; if anything, games with tight resources are usually more interesting for the restriction.

I think you're right. This will make clusters much more fragile if they're idependent from other players, but also makes it easier to leech your cluster off of another player's existing set up. It will certainly reduce required resource distribution.

I'd second this. A game where you have to count up values is a non-starter, even if the math is actually pretty simple, because mistakes are too easy to make.

Here's a silly idea: allow players to claim resources only once from a specific hex (mark it in some way?) until it is destroyed and can be replaced. So in your second example, the hex could produce 3 blue, 2 green, 1 red or the "special" but would then be exhausted. It would still contribute towards the blue total for adjacent tiles but it couldn't be chosen itself.
(I realise this is nothing like what you want, but it sounded fun to me :))

Fos wrote:

Thanks for your comments, Jeff. In another game-like situation, I'm excited that you haven't seen a resource gathering system like this before, and yet it worries me that I can't find a published, professional game to play and take lessons from.

I sometimes wonder about that: is the reason no games have been published with that mechanic because it doesn't work, or because it's actually a reasonably original idea? I usually discover that the first reason is the case, but just sometimes... ;)

Fos
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a tile-laying resource mechanic

jwarrend wrote:
However, I was working on the assumption that pieces were movable, but if they're static, a la buildings, then maybe a more complex counting scheme would be tolerable, as long as it didn't change much from turn to turn.

Player pieces are movable, however, resources are used to activate special tiles and therefore any potential clusters you need to add up will be centered around these tiles. In addition, it should be fairly easy to recognize what are good clusters of 7 and which ones are bad. You should be able to eyeball out most of the bad positions. Also, I doubt players will go up to a full 7-hex cluster often, as other players could sweep in and activate the special tiles themselves. So larger formations have bigger payoffs, but also bigger risks.

There's a degree of pattern recognition in the game... once players do the math, they should be able to portion sections off as "high blue," or "low red," or "a good red/green mix." But then again, maybe not. I think later tonight or possibly tomorrow I'm going to throw together a few hexes and playtest this mechanic. Once I'm sure I'm not overloading a player with addition, I can start to refine the other areas.

Scurra, I'm pretty set on doing it that way already. If resources aren't used in activation, and the special tile doesn't become inactive for a certain amount of time, there really isn't much incentive to activate a special tile first. So yes, there will be markers indicating used resources, but I'm debating whether to leave them used for a set number of turns, or have them essentially be destroyed tiles that can't be rebuilt (representing continuous use...) Both would have different strategies...

Try on this silly idea. When a player activates a special tile, he takes that tile off of the board and lays it by him (makes adding up VPs at the end easier than keeping notes). The resources become used for one turn, but after a one turn downtime, he could throw another special tile into the hole and activate that as well. Or another player would have an opportunity to fill the hole with just another resource.

Something to think about... :)

sedjtroll
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a tile-laying resource mechanic

Fos wrote:
Try on this silly idea. When a player activates a special tile, he takes that tile off of the board and lays it by him (makes adding up VPs at the end easier than keeping notes). The resources become used for one turn, but after a one turn downtime, he could throw another special tile into the hole and activate that as well. Or another player would have an opportunity to fill the hole with just another resource.

That's funny, I was about to suggest exactly that, but you beat me to it! No tracking which resources have been used, simply remove the activated tile from the board.

Also, if you need more than 1, 2, or 3 resources at a time, you could get up to 6 per turn by simply looking getting resources from each tile you are adjacent to (7 if you count the tile you're on). So in your last example, you'd get 1 Red, 2 Green, and 3 Blue resources. If I recall correctly you have those resources to use for the turn, they don't store up or anything. So you want to position yourself such that you get the resourecs you'll want/need next turn. Or maybe you move/place first, then get the resources (but what do you do with theresources??) so you can actually get off the ground.

By the way I like your 'impending doom' mechanic, where once the Evil Robot comes up, everyone sees it coming. In this game do you HAVE to place a tile each turn (I assume yes, or the game could theoretically not end).

- Seth

Fos
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a tile-laying resource mechanic

sedjtroll wrote:
In this game do you HAVE to place a tile each turn (I assume yes, or the game could theoretically not end).

Right in one.

Players have a standard hand of 4 tiles (though one special tile in the Construction victory path will give you access to 5 tiles a hand). Each turn a player lays a tile and then can choose to move up to three tiles, lay another tile, or activate a special tile (the numbers here need to be playtested... that might be too little movement). After a player lays tiles, he then draws up to his maximum hand... unless he's drawn the Giant Evil Robot tile, in which case he plays his turns normally but cannot draw more tiles until the Evil Robot is placed. This forces the Evil Robot onto the board eventually, but can give players time to prepare. The player who has drawn the Evil Robot also gets to place him on the board.

More on the tiles: any tile that has been destroyed and then rebuilt over it will be thrown back into the bag (easier than shuffling so many tiles and having stacks). This allows special tiles that didn't have time to be activated to be drawn again.

The advantages of picking up activated special tiles:
The tiles can't be drawn again by another player
Easier to count end game VPs
Opens fully played areas to more strategic decisions
And, since many of these tiles modify mechanics, picking up special tiles makes it easier for players to keep track of what entities and aspects have been changed.

Fos
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Joined: 12/31/1969
a tile-laying resource mechanic

Hmm... I had a bit of a brainstorm and I'm thinking of changing the core mechanics a bit.

A player can only lay a special tile if he has the necessary resources, and when he does, the special tile is considered activated. Three sets of markers (or scratch paper) would be needed to keep track of how many tiles of each victory path you laid. Also, players would need to be given the choice to discard a special tile into the tile bag everyone draws from instead of laying a tile. This allows you to hold on to another player's wanted special tile, but it also means you're taking up space in your own hand. A bit of additional light strategy.

However, it means special tiles will remain on the table, activated, until they are destroyed. If a special tile is destroyed, any bonuses that tile gives a player are gone, and the tile itself is layed aside and not put back into the drawing bag. A layed special tile will not reduce output or suddenly become unactivated if surrounding tiles are destroyed. This would simply be too much to track, as resources are not calculated by what's around the special tile but what's around the player's Robot at the time of activation.

This should create a more tangable, geographic idea of strategic interest for players on the board, and gives players more incentive to coax (or hit) the Giant Evil Robot into another player's special tiles to destroy them permenantly. This will also make tiles that produce defensive measures on other tiles (for instance, defense turrets that slow a Giant Evil Robot down for a turn or two) strategically important.

I don't believe this change will damage the feel of city building I want (e.g., a city with no difinitive player-owned borders, but a more abstract idea of ownership based on strategic importance).

I also came up with an analogy for the gameplay. Picture a Sid Meier's civilization building game. Players must choose optimum placement to build cities based on a number of resource factors (energy, food, minerals, geography, etc.). In Really Big Robots, players have a powerful ability to choose how those resources are distributed throughout the city, as well as placing cities (in my case, special tiles).

Oh, and I'm rather certain I'll be removing any calculation for surrounding variety of tiles. I'm still concerned this will make resource tiles of a color different than the path you're shooting for essentially useless, but perhaps the strategy will be in how to best place these tiles that aren't essential for you but are essential for your opponents in places they cannot use them.

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