Skip to Content

Action Point Allowance

23 replies [Last post]
SVan
Offline
Joined: 10/02/2008

I'm really excited to start our new forum off. I hope that this introduction will help us to discuss this mechanic and give us all some great ideas to implement into our own games.

The reason that I have chosen to moderate this mechanic is because I have probably used it more than anything else to this point. My reason for using it so much is because I believe that it is easily adaptable and can be changed to fit a game's other mechanics.

Action Points Allowance is basically used to limit the amount of actions players may take each turn. There are a few ways I have seen (and used) this mechanic. The first and most basic way is giving each player an amount of action points per turn, which never changes, and each action costs 1 point each. Mage Knight, Heroclix, and Mechwarrior miniature game systems as well as a slew of other games use this. A slight variation of this is used by Tikal, where the points per turn for each player are the same, but the actions have different costs. Something I have not seen in other games, but sure they could be there, is having actions cost 1 point each, but each player's action points may flucturate each turn. I used this in Nova. There are probably many other ways that this can be used as well.

While I was thinking about how to approach this, I thought it would be best if I asked a few questions when I open this up to the forum.

1. Do you like Action Point Allowance Systems in games you play? In games you design?

2. What is it that you like (or dislike) about Action Point Systems?

3. What has been your favorite Action Point System?

4. Are Action Point Systems too common? Not common enough?

5. What other mechanics do Action Point Systems mix well with? What mechanics do not mix well with Action Point Systems.

Please do not feel that you have to answer all (or any) of these questions. Please feel free to ask an additional questions to the forum.

I hope to hear what the forum thinks about this. "May the discussion begin!"

-Steve

Brykovian
Brykovian's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Action Point Allowance

As a designer, I absolutely love action point systems -- in fact, it might be my quickest knee-jerk mechanic to call up when trying to work out a new design. (Lately, however, I've found myself stripping-down action points to something simpler in a few of my in-process designs.)

I think my fondness for these systems is because they can do a number of things at once:

  • Gives the user more freedom to choose their moves
  • Can lead to nice, agonizing decisions when you have enough APs to do, say, 3 things, but really "need" to do 4 or 5 things
  • Simulates, to a degree, business-type approaches involving "cash flow" or "budgets" ... how much do you have available to spend this time around? In fact, if the player is allowed to carry-over unused APs between turns, it adds another decision/strategy for the player
  • Naturally leads to a resources system ... resources can determine APs available
Probably my own most glaring example of using APs is in "Castle Danger" (link), where the number of Wizard pieces the player has on the board determines how many moves that player has to make in the turn. Moving any piece takes up 1 move, but firing the cannon (only way to attack your opponent) will use up moves based upon the distance fired. This is one of the 2 major decision areas in the game ... which type of piece do I add to the board (players can add 1 piece to the board each turn)? Do I have enough Wizards to do everything I need to do next turn?

To be honest, I haven't played a lot of different "real" games (as in games not self-produced by me in my basement ;-p ) ... and can't really think of one that I've played that uses them. But, I'm sure I won't shy away from a game that uses it.

-Bryk

[/]
jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
Action Point Allowance

Steve, thanks for getting the ball rolling with a great starting essay!

What you describe as "everything costs 1 but the number you have each turn can change" has been done in the game Hansa, by Michael Schacht. In that game, various actions are allowed and each costs one Taler, but you won't always have the same number of Talers each turn. I like this kind of a system because I think it makes each turn feel like you're being presented with a different set of options (in addition to the changing game state, of course).

The biggest potential problem with Action Point systems, I am pretty sure, is that of "analysis paralysis" -- that there are so many different options that confront a player that he could get bogged down considering all the permutations. I think there are several ways of getting around this:

-- Restrict the number of actions the player can take. This can be especially nice because it can force the player to "want to do more than he can", which Action Point systems naturally lend themselves to anyway. In fact, I feel that you want to give the players as few actions as possible while still allowing them to accomplish something substantive on their turns.

-- Restrict the number of a certain type of action. If a player has 10 points to spend, but can only take each type of action once, that restricts the number of choices he has. Maybe a player can only take one action per province (Hansa), alternatively.

-- Make action selection simultaneous This doesn't remove Analysis Paralysis, but it does prevent it from becoming serial.

Other solutions are certainly possible. The other problem that one could face is making sure that all of the allowable actions are meaningful and interesting. And of course, the actions should be balanced in cost. Action Point systems like that of Tikal, as you mentioned, are great because they give you some flexibility as a designer to balance things with having to rely on the "crutch" of Auctions.

However, I feel that Action Point systems may be a sort of "crutch" unto themselves, in the sense that they're very easy to use, relatively easy to balance, AND give players a variety of kinds of actions to take, which can be great in developing thematic flavor. My fear is that they may be "too" easy to use, and designers may rely on an Action Point system when something more interesting and original could be developed. I also feel that they lack the elegance of a "restricted" system like that of, say, Carcassonne -- draw and place a tile, place a guy. Beautiful!

That's not to say they don't have their place; one of my games (Disciples) has something that would probably be categorized as an Action point system, and others have various actions available. But what I strive for is to shake up the choices that players have each turn, so that the decisions don't become stale, or a "best choice" emerge.

Just some impressions from my somewhat limited exposure to these kinds of systems. Looking forward to further discussion on the subject!

-Jeff

phpbbadmin
Offline
Joined: 04/23/2013
Interesting Variation

Scott Starkey (BGDF user Yekrats) used an interesting variation on the Action Point System in his game The Motherlode of Sticky Gulch. Basically you have 4 actions to choose from and 3 action points to spend each turn. The first time you time you perform an action it costs 1 AP, if you perform that same action again on the same turn, it costs 2 AP. So to simplify, you are able to perform 3 of the different actions once in a turn or any one action twice. It is a very elegant implementation IMHO because it affords the players a little bit more flexibility when making their decision of how to spend their APs.

-Darke

GamesOnTheBrain
GamesOnTheBrain's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/24/2008
Actions Points as Resources?

This is a very timely discussion for me, since I've recently been developing a couple of ideas that utilize action points.

One of my ideas in brief...

Food = Action Points

Food (or Action Points) is a resource that must be produced.

Food is spent like action points, with most actions only costing 1 point and a few of them costing 2 points or more. Thus, the more Food you produce, the more you can do, with a limit of spending 3 or 4 per turn.

Other than Hansa (listed above), is anyone familiar with any other games that make use of a Developed Resource = Action Points mechanic?

Brykovian
Brykovian's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Re: Actions Points as Resources?

GamesOnTheBrain wrote:
Other than Hansa (listed above), is anyone familiar with any other games that make use of a Developed Resource = Action Points mechanic?

My first reactive list of games that makes use of this is just about every Real Time "Strategy" computer game. I wonder if the after-the-fact board games that are being inspired by them -- such as WarCraft -- will (or do) make use this type of produce/spend system.

One potential problem with this sort of thing might be a "rich getting richer" situation, where the leading players are able to produce more APs and are therefore able to build or armies or take more actions that will simply insure or extend their lead. For empire building games, this can sometimes be kept in check because larger empires require more resources/actions simply to maintain their size.

-Bryk

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
Action Point Allowance

Sorry to be a bit "heavy-handed" here, but since this is our first session, I'm going to "overmoderate" a bit, and I'll back off in the future.

I just want to point out that the "Topics in Game Design" forum, in which this thread resides, is NOT the place for discussing game creation or for asking help with mechanics.

Now, I think your post is actually ok because it closes with a request for information -- "does a system like this exist elsewhere?" That's fine. However, what I don't want to see happening is when we discuss a mechanic, someone who is working on a mechanic in that genre chimes in and asks for help in implementing it. These discussions are meant to understand the mechanic itself -- how does it work, what is it useful for, what problems is it prone to? You can use your games as references (although using published or GDW games would be better), but springboarding into asking for help is not really the intent of the forum; linking to a different thread might be ok, though.

Not picking on your personally, just using this as an opportunity to reiterate the policies of the forum. Again, I think your post was fine; I just don't want people to go one step further, and say "Hey, I'm working on an Actoin Point System, and it's not working; can you guys help me out?"

Thanks,
Jeff

GamesOnTheBrain
GamesOnTheBrain's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/24/2008
Action Point Allowance

jwarrend wrote:
I just want to point out that the "Topics in Game Design" forum, in which this thread resides, is NOT the place for discussing game creation or for asking help with mechanics.

I understand, Jeff. I am not seeking help with my game.

To clarify, my purpose for asking is to:

1) See if it has been done.
2) If it has been done, did it work? What are the pros and cons? Did it have a "rich get richer" effect like Brykovian mentioned?

Anonymous
Action Point Allowance

Action points, in many games, are used to balance between too coarse and too fine a granularity. You don't want players being able to move all the way across the board, kill the opponent, and move all the way back, before the opponent gets to do something. So you break it down into finer time slices. If you go too far, you get Star Fleet Battles, where everything happens simultaneously...in excruciatingly fine detail. Action points creates a very nice happy medium.

The other thing action points does is to assign "weight" to all possible actions. Something that is more advantageous costs more points to execute. And if action points can be saved from turn to turn, then costly actions need to be saved for, but only by doing much less for a while.

Anonymous
Action Point Allowance

Back in the day I was in love with AP systems. I'm thinking back to the old FASA Star Trek RPG, as well as the GDW Azhanti High Lightening system. For a while a number of computer games grabbed onto the concept (X-Com, etc.) and I'd say the high point (for me) was Genestealer.

With the discovery of "German Games" I've mellowed on the idea. While they're great for allowing individual units to express themselves from a menu of options, I think that APs end up being and embarrasment of riches. It's great for tactics, but lousy for strategy. You end up playing to the strengths of the system from turn to turn, rather than building up toward a strong strategic swoop over a series ofactions.

I'm not saying that I won't figure out a way to use them though.

GamesOnTheBrain
GamesOnTheBrain's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/24/2008
Action Point Allowance

Some things to ponder...

Many traditional boardgames allow a player to do one thing per turn. Is this an "action point system" with 1 action point?

How are action points different from simply having a few turns in a row?

One of the problems mentioned with AP is Analysis Paralysis. Does it really take a person longer to play one turn with 3 action points than it would for the same person to play 3 seperate turns with one action each turn?

FastLearner
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Action Point Allowance

GamesOnTheBrain wrote:
Many traditional boardgames allow a player to do one thing per turn. Is this an "action point system" with 1 action point?

Not meaningfully. See below.

Quote:
How are action points different from simply having a few turns in a row?

They allow each player to do multiple things uninterrupted by others' play.

Quote:
One of the problems mentioned with AP is Analysis Paralysis. Does it really take a person longer to play one turn with 3 action points than it would for the same person to play 3 seperate turns with one action each turn?

Generally, yes. The primary reason is that the user has an uninterrupted matrix of decisions to make. When other players will be acting between your individual actions you have a very limited horizon of moves you can make, with only the ability to guess what the other players will do between your actions.

-- Matthew

GeminiWeb
Offline
Joined: 07/31/2008
Action Points

I think I'm a little unclear about 'action points' vs 'fixed number of actions'.

I agree that Tikal clearly uses action points. I've only played it once but it seemed to work fairly well. It is nice having multiple action points for different actions ...

I think a key point is to make it easy to keep track of how many action points you have used. For example, having a low number of points does this, or actions (such as moving) which can consume a reasonable number of points while moving and are relatively easy to keep track of verbally (e.g. okay thats 2 ponts for that ... then I move this ... 3 ... 4 ... 5 ... etc.). If it gets more complicated than that, you need a track to keep track of points and you need to assess whether it would be better having fewer points and more turns (as suggested above).

Magic Realm had something that might be classified as action points ... it was something like (if my memory serves me correctly) 4 actions per day normally, but 2 actions in caves or mountains ... certain items or certain characters having bonus actions, sometimes of only a certain type (like elf and the elven cloak granting an extra hide phase). This was handled with all players writing their days actions ahead of time and then revealing (hnoting that some actions may become irrelevant).

I like the idea of 'bonus actions' for certain things (e.g. characters, items, buildings), particularly when a player must make a decision on whether its worth investing in the extra (specialised) actions. It adds to the 'tough choices' ... just as long as there aren't too many choices and the accompanying analysis paralysis sets in ...

... that's enough for now ...

SVan
Offline
Joined: 10/02/2008
Action Point Allowance

There has been a lot of great points made in this discussion so far. I'd like to point out a few that have made me ponder.

jwarrend wrote:
The biggest potential problem with Action Point systems, I am pretty sure, is that of "analysis paralysis" -- that there are so many different options that confront a player that he could get bogged down considering all the permutations. I think there are several ways of getting around this:

-- Restrict the number of a certain type of action. If a player has 10 points to spend, but can only take each type of action once, that restricts the number of choices he has. Maybe a player can only take one action per province (Hansa), alternatively.

-- Make action selection simultaneous This doesn't remove Analysis Paralysis, but it does prevent it from becoming serial.

Yes, action points make longer turns. I agree with you that both of those ways will limit AP as much as possible, but the turns even with those implemented still can be much longer than some of us would like.

Quote:
However, I feel that Action Point systems may be a sort of "crutch" unto themselves, in the sense that they're very easy to use, relatively easy to balance, AND give players a variety of kinds of actions to take, which can be great in developing thematic flavor. My fear is that they may be "too" easy to use, and designers may rely on an Action Point system when something more interesting and original could be developed. I also feel that they lack the elegance of a "restricted" system like that of, say, Carcassonne -- draw and place a tile, place a guy. Beautiful!

I do agree with this point. Like auctions, action point systems are easy to balance and easy to implement. Sometimes too easy. However, I would rather see a good action point system, then something that is so unique it makes my head hurt. I think the point is great, however, that we need to see if there is a better, more interesting way to do the same thing, instead of resorting to the "old action point system"

darkehorse wrote:
Scott Starkey (BGDF user Yekrats) used an interesting variation on the Action Point System in his game The Motherlode of Sticky Gulch. Basically you have 4 actions to choose from and 3 action points to spend each turn. The first time you time you perform an action it costs 1 AP, if you perform that same action again on the same turn, it costs 2 AP. So to simplify, you are able to perform 3 of the different actions once in a turn or any one action twice. It is a very elegant implementation IMHO because it affords the players a little bit more flexibility when making their decision of how to spend their APs.

I noticed this when I was reading the rules on boardgamegeek and loved the idea but failed to mention it. Thank you for posting this! I think simple
ideas can mean a lot, especially something as simple as this.

GamesOnTheBrain wrote:
Food = Action Points

Food (or Action Points) is a resource that must be produced.

Food is spent like action points, with most actions only costing 1 point and a few of them costing 2 points or more. Thus, the more Food you produce, the more you can do, with a limit of spending 3 or 4 per turn.

Other than Hansa (listed above), is anyone familiar with any other games that make use of a Developed Resource = Action Points mechanic?

Brykovian wrote:
One potential problem with this sort of thing might be a "rich getting richer" situation, where the leading players are able to produce more APs and are therefore able to build or armies or take more actions that will simply insure or extend their lead. For empire building games, this can sometimes be kept in check because larger empires require more resources/actions simply to maintain their size.

GamesOnTheBrain wrote:
To clarify, my purpose for asking is to:

1) See if it has been done.
2) If it has been done, did it work? What are the pros and cons? Did it have a "rich get richer" effect like Brykovian mentioned?

I combined all of these because they are talking about the same thing. Bryk basically gave a great answer to this. The rich getting richer thing is a big effect of having action points being pulled from items that you hold. I have two examples, although one is a stretch.

First, from my game Nova, basically players are using their resources to give them more actions. The rich getting richer problem is somewhat solved by allowing the poorer to take the first action, but it's been a problem I've been trying to fix the whole time I've been designing it (part of the reason it's been put down to rest for a while.) I think the only pro is that it gives a player a ton of control over how he plays the game (which could be a con for some players as well.)

The second game, the stretch, is the Settlers games. You don't really have an action point system per se, but if you think of it, the more resources you have, the more you can do a turn. It's a big stretch but I can see it. The rich getting richer part happens there too.

ekted wrote:
The other thing action points does is to assign "weight" to all possible actions. Something that is more advantageous costs more points to execute. And if action points can be saved from turn to turn, then costly actions need to be saved for, but only by doing much less for a while.

This is a great use for action point systems. I didn't state this either, but some games allow you to store your points for later turns. I have thought about using this (and have seen it somewhat in DarkDream's Chariot game, although his uses a set number at the beginning of the game, I believe, and the players have to use it carefully until the rest of the game, without any hope of getting it back.

There were many other great points made and I appreciate the comments. Keep them coming!

-Steve

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
Action Point Allowance

SVan wrote:

The second game, the stretch, is the Settlers games. You don't really have an action point system per se, but if you think of it, the more resources you have, the more you can do a turn. It's a big stretch but I can see it. The rich getting richer part happens there too.

I think that what this shows is simply that the "rich get richer" problem is a common problem not unique to action point systems. Settlers most definitely couldn't be called an "Action Point Allowance" game.

To take that further,

GeminiWeb wrote:
I think I'm a little unclear about 'action points' vs 'fixed number of actions'.

I think this is an excellent point, and maybe we should back up and clarify our definitions. I think there's definitely a distinction between the "Tikal" sense of Action Points, where you really do have a variety of actions of varying Action Point costs, and a game like Tigris&Euphrates, say, where you have several options available to you each turn, and you must choose a set number of these actions per turn.

I think it's very common to conflate the two, but you must admit, the difference is rather subtle. To me, whether you consider them to be the same or different depends on your point of emphasis. If you see the important quality as "permitting a variety of kinds of actions", then they're functionally the same. If, on the other hand, you're viewing the important quality as "balancing different kinds of actions", then only Action Point systems in the "Tikal" sense would really qualify, because in all other games, the actions all have the same cost; the designer has balanced the actions themselves, whereas in Tikal the designer has balanced their cost.

I welcome further insight or clarification on the issue; is there a distinction, and if so, is it meaningful?

-Jeff

Brykovian
Brykovian's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Action Point Allowance

Good point, Jeff ...

I've always considered the "do x number of actions from a list of y available actions" to be a subset of Action Points, in a way. You will have x APs to spend, and everything in the list of y actions costs 1 AP.

But, you bring up a good point that one thing a "true" AP system will allow for is the different actions having different costs.

I still put them in the same camp ... just noting it as an important difference.

-Bryk

GamesOnTheBrain
GamesOnTheBrain's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/24/2008
Action Point Allowance

jwarrend wrote:
...only Action Point systems in the "Tikal" sense would really qualify, because in all other games, the actions all have the same cost; the designer has balanced the actions themselves, whereas in Tikal the designer has balanced their cost.

I agree. I think unbalanced actions that are balanced by their cost is an important part of AP systems.

When you have equally balanced actions, for example:

1) in an I-move-you-move system, you try to guess what your opponents next move is

2) in a 3 Action Point system, you try to guess what your opponents next 3 moves will be

Thus, IMHO, selecting a few equally balanced actions is not that different from simply having to predict more of your opponents future actions.

phpbbadmin
Offline
Joined: 04/23/2013
Just curious

Just curious, I'm working on a system whereby each player controls a fleet of ships, and the number of crew limits how much of three possible actions each ship can perform (I.E. load, sail or unload). In my example, I would consider the allocation of the crew to be action points. Each 'action' costs one crew to peform it, but they are weighted differently. I.E. One crew could be allocated to load three goods, or one crew could be allocated to move the ship one space, or one crew could be used to unload five goods. Even though the different possible actions cost the same; the actions themselves are weighted differently. Would this still be considered an action point system? And if so, shouldn't we then consider the 'choose x from y possible actions' to be an AP system as well? Who knows what sort of balancing act the designer did to make sure each of those actions were well balanced throughout the game. In a theoretical gold mining game, if prospecting in a river and digging in a mine both cost 1 action, then in general, neither should be any more profitable to choose than the other. And as I gathered from this thread, the purpose of using an AP system is to balance actions that would be otherwise unbalanced. If the designer is able to balance the actions themselves to a single common denominator (I.E. each weighted action costs the same), then why not still consider the system to be an action point system?

Just food for thought.
-Darke

SVan
Offline
Joined: 10/02/2008
Action Point Allowance

jwarrend wrote:
SVan wrote:

The second game, the stretch, is the Settlers games. You don't really have an action point system per se, but if you think of it, the more resources you have, the more you can do a turn. It's a big stretch but I can see it. The rich getting richer part happens there too.

I think that what this shows is simply that the "rich get richer" problem is a common problem not unique to action point systems. Settlers most definitely couldn't be called an "Action Point Allowance" game.

It was probably too much of a stretch, but in my weird mind, it was enough for me. It certainly works very similar, even if it not an action point system. However I agree with you that Settlers was never meant to be a AP system.

On the subject of the different action point systems, I agree with the difference between the balancing cost or balancing actions. I don't see a "true" system between the two, because they both work and they both help to do the same thing, just in a different way.

However the two systems just provide the basis for the action point system. I have a different way of using it for each of the games I am using it in. They're all the one action point for each action, but the way you gain action points is completely different for each of the games.

So, basically there are two parts to the system:

-How to get the action points (from your resources, the game provides a certain amount a turn (which can be so much per turn, or so much per action, like 3 for one action, 2 for another action, 1 for another action, etc.) or you could be given a limited amount of action points for the entire game without receiving more (I guess it could be called a limited resource) or any other way I cannot think of at this moment.

-How you can spend your action points (either 1 ap for an action or a variable cost for the different actions.)

Is there anything else that is a part of this mechanic that i have missed?

Darkehorse wrote:
Just curious, I'm working on a system whereby each player controls a fleet of ships, and the number of crew limits how much of three possible actions each ship can perform (I.E. load, sail or unload). In my example, I would consider the allocation of the crew to be action points. Each 'action' costs one crew to peform it, but they are weighted differently. I.E. One crew could be allocated to load three goods, or one crew could be allocated to move the ship one space, or one crew could be used to unload five goods. Even though the different possible actions cost the same; the actions themselves are weighted differently. Would this still be considered an action point system? And if so, shouldn't we then consider the 'choose x from y possible actions' to be an AP system as well? Who knows what sort of balancing act the designer did to make sure each of those actions were well balanced throughout the game. In a theoretical gold mining game, if prospecting in a river and digging in a mine both cost 1 action, then in general, neither should be any more profitable to choose than the other. And as I gathered from this thread, the purpose of using an AP system is to balance actions that would be otherwise unbalanced. If the designer is able to balance the actions themselves to a single common denominator (I.E. each weighted action costs the same), then why not still consider the system to be an action point system?

Just food for thought.
-Darke

If my breakdown is correct, the crew provide you with the way to gain action points. If I have understood you correctly, when you assign a crew to an action the amount of actions you can do is always the same. As in the example above, if you assign a crew to unload, they would unload 5 things everytime.

Although it would be very complicated, another way I could see this is each different crew gave different actions a different amount to use. Example: A purple crew would give +1 unload, but -1 to load and move (basically there would be a base system and the different crews would effect the system accordingly.) I didn't mention this system above, but this would a third way to work with spending action points. (I could see this as a possiblity from your rules, but I believe it's the first example I gave above.)

If it's the first example, then the spending of action points in an one ap for one action still, except when you choose a different action, it gives you so many of that action to use. The actions are being balanced instead of the costs. If it's the second example, it would be definately unique, but I bet extremely hard to balance. I might have to take the chance on it one day.

Tell me what you guys think,

-Steve

Scurra
Scurra's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/11/2008
Action Point Allowance

One aspect of Action Points (not sure if this has been covered) is that it can be used to transfer responsibility for the turn order sequence to the player and away from the game.
IOW, part of the tactical range of the game comes in the most effective ordering of choices available, as well as the most effective "spending" of the points.
This is sometimes not immediately obviously an Action Point system of course.
For example, a game can give a player a number of options of which they can take none, some or all on their turn but lets them use each one only once during that turn. This is clearly an AP system but with a fixed criteria for both generating and spending them.

(edit: I see Jeff mentions this distinction earlier - although he doesn't seem to consider it a "true" AP system.)

For a designer, this can grant a much-needed illusion of significant choice to the player: after all, if it is the player's choice, it must be their fault if it goes wrong.

(I'll pitch in on the "costs" of Action Points in another post, when I've thought about it a bit more. FWIW, I think you do have divide the mechanism into acquiring APs and spending APs, and that there are several permuations of both aspects.)

--
David

FastLearner
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Action Point Allowance

I don't see how a "balanced" AP system isn't AP and an "unbalanced" AP system is. They're just different flavors of the same thing. I don't think either is a subset of the other, either.

The basis of AP in my book is "choose x actions from among y," where x and y are both greater than 1 and both are specifically numbered. If that's what you've got, then you've got Action Points in my book.

I would argue that if x is completely variable from turn to turn then it may well not be an AP system, however. If it is then nearly every standard wargame would qualify as an AP system, for example, since you can do certain things (move, attack, etc.) and there's a limit based on the number of units, etc. Sure, it's "x of y," but it's not AP because x isn't meaningfully limited or static. Yet games where you can save x from one turn to the next still qualify.

Maybe the key is that x must be "neutral," not standing for any particular thing other than the number of action points you can spend (or actions you can take). That certainly separates it from standard wargames.

-- Matthew

Anonymous
the system has to make sense...

within whatever the theme is of the game.

I you have certain actions cost more or less then others there should be a reason why.

I can't think of any specific examples, but if some game says the first time you do something it costs you 1, the second time 2, but there is no reason beyond "so the game stays balanced" that the same action should actually cost more, that's a problem. If I it costs me 1 to move forward the first step, why should it cost me 2 to move it forward the second step unless something has changed between the first move and the second (ground change, fatigue, etc.).

Now with abstract games this doesn't seem to be as much of a problem, but with games that have themes or play styles, I'd make sure that the system "makes sense overall" in the context of what one is trying to accomplish.

zaiga
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: the system has to make sense...

jjacy1 wrote:
I can't think of any specific examples, but if some game says the first time you do something it costs you 1, the second time 2, but there is no reason beyond "so the game stays balanced" that the same action should actually cost more, that's a problem. If I it costs me 1 to move forward the first step, why should it cost me 2 to move it forward the second step unless something has changed between the first move and the second (ground change, fatigue, etc.).

You mean like in Scott Starky's "Sticky Gulch"? Or the increasing cost of things in "Amun-Re"?

Of course, everyone will design games in a different way, but I like to start with mechanics that are easy to explain, make for a cohesive, balanced game and that I think will provide interesting decisions. Then I think about what theme could be applied to the game so that the mechanics make sense. I find that this way it is easier to create more compact and cleaner designs than the other way around.

- René Wiersma

Velociryx
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Action Point Allowance

As I continue reading these forums, I keep finding a number of wonderful resources, and these notes on Action Points and their uses certainly qualifies!

In particular, there are two variations I've seen and/or used that I've not seen mentioned here yet, and I wanted to bring them up:

Flat-Rate action points per turn: This gets around the "rich get richer" phenomenon by simply mandating that each player (regardless of size, wealth, or relative position) gets the same number of action points per turn. In fact, this methodology can be used as a light-handed means of assisting weaker players, or players currently in a losing position (consider a territory based game, for example). Let's say that each player gets six actions per turn. This might be a sufficient number of points to run a middling sized empire (which the weakest player will likely have), but the poor fellow in the lead (having the largest territorial holdings) will find himself increasingly threadbare where actions are concerned, and increasing less able to do absolutely everything he wants/needs to do in order to properly maintain his holdings.

Action Point Auctions: Turn (unused) AP's into a saleable resource. Now, the little guy who only needs 3-4 of his 10 AP's per turn, can "sell" his excess points to bigger empires who have desperate need of them. It's win-win, cos the little player gets all manner of resources that would otherwise be beyond his control, and an auction setting ensures the best possible price for the offered AP's (in a related vein, consider a game where economics and trade are a vital component. You could set up a trade system thusly:

Imagine two players of radically different sizes. Let us say the big kahuna controls 250 total resources (however they are defined in the game), while the small fellow controls only 50. A mutually beneficial trade agreement is forged between them, and its benefits are established at 10% of the other guy's GNP, plus use of whatever resource is being traded. So, the big dog will see a (nominal) increase of 5r (50*0.1) + resource benefit, while the little guy will see a healthy 25r (250*0.1) + resource benefit (in other words, the benefit to the small fry is 5x greater than it is to the big dog, but everyone winds up with more, so everyone wins). A different variant on the same theme.

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut