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Indirect Area Control Mechanic

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YellowLab
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Joined: 11/07/2009

I have an indirect area control mechanic that I am looking for some help with. There are three controlling attributes, i.e. A, B, and C. Players influence these properties through the game and the total is tracked as a +/-. I have six regions that will have one of nine "equations" that relate how each region responds to the three controlling attributes. For example, one "equation" is +1A, +1B, -1C. During scoring, the equation is calculated by multiplying the equation value times the attribute and then summed together. If the sum is positive, player X wins the region; if negative, player Y wins the region. So if attribute A is +2, attribute B is -2 and C is +2 then the equation result is 1*2+1*(-2)+(-1)*2 = -2.

During the last playtest, I ran into a situation where five of the six cards in play had one of the attributes as a negative. The three cards on the sidebar all had that particular attribute as postive. It was evident that one of the players understood how these equations affected the scoring regions as he didn't increase his standing in that attribute allowing the other player to dominate. The final score was greatly in favor of that player. After the test, it was determined that the second player did not understand how a high score in an attribute could be detrimental to her play. Is this a flaw in the system or a flaw in the player? I lean toward a flaw in the player; however, it got me thinking:

1) Is the mechanic flawed or overly complex? If so, is there a way to simplify it while still maintaining the indirect area control and the consequences of affecting other regions by your actions in one region?
2) Are the control equations balanced? Mathematically, it appears that over the nine equations, they are balanced. However, is a particular game flawed if a majority of equations have one or more of the attributes as negative? Or is this a flaw of the players not reacting to that particular set-up of the game?
3) Players can swap the equation cards with cards in adjecent regions in an effort to change the control and thus the VPs of the regions. Should players be allowed to swap cards out with the sidebar (3 equation cards will not be in play)? Another thought I had was the ability to invert the card, turn it upside-down or flip it over, so that negatives are positive and positives become negative.
4) Currently, players can only increase their influence in a given attribute. Two ways currently are avaialble to decrease influence in a particular category: 1) event cards, 2) opponent increasing their influence than that category. Both of these are out of control for the player in question. Should a player be able to negatively affect theri standing in a given category?

I understand that some of these questions can only be answered through playtesting of the various changes. However, I wanted to post some questions to start discussion and inspiration to look at things in a different way.

The complete rules in their current version can be found here if interested:
http://drop.io/yellowlab

Thanks,
Bob

shiraz
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Joined: 10/20/2009
Interesting Question

1)
The way you describe it, in abstract terms, it seems like a complicated mechanic, but it definitely is not. I haven't had a look at your complete rule set, but I wonder how the mechanic is actually implemented in the game. Are the area equations and influence equations themed? Or simply presented in the abstract. This could make a big difference to the accessibility of the mechanic.

For example, if the game were representing political territorial control, then the three aspects might be represented as cultural bias toward military might, economic development, and acquisition of knowledge. An example region A might have the 'equation' (+1, +3, -2), indicating a mild appreciation of military might, a profound admiration for economic achievement, and a disdain for scientific endeavour. An example of an action card might be a policy of pacifism, which may perhaps be (-2,+1,+1). In this case, i suspect it would be easier for folks to get the mechanic initially, and make it more intuitive to play in general. (I don't think this example will apply directly to your game, but what I'm trying to say in a roundabout way is that if you can use more concrete concepts then it should make the mechanic much more intuitive - since eg. anyone can realise militaristic people are going to be peeved with pacifist policies)

2) If players can only increase an attribute, and if a majority of the control equations on the board (ie. 4+ of 6) have a negative in one (same) aspect, then players cannot make intentional efforts on their part to exhert control over those regions with respect to that aspect (if I understand your description correctly - they cannot 'adapt'). The risk of this is that the event cards may become too significant in these games (ie. if an event card comes along which makes a players attribute go into negative when the majority of control regions have a negative for that same aspect, then it will be too powerful for the player that received the favourable (usually unfavourable I imagine) event card.

3) Playtest? I cant imagine.

4) See 2) and... a different option would be to make sure that no aspect could have a negative majority in any aspect. This could be achieved by ensuring there were no more than three control equation cards with a negative in any one aspect. Since there are six regions, in this way, it would be impossible to have majority negative for any aspect.

More generally though, it depends what actually works when you play it. You may like to consider allowing a player to reduce an aspect but not make it negative...

If I dont appear to have understood the mechanism, then i hope there is at least food for thought.

scifiantihero
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Joined: 07/08/2009
I know . . .

. . . A LOT of gamers who would definitely not be able to handle this in the abstract (i.e, just doing math). Most of them would still probably be confused by aspects of it even if the theme made it easier to grasp.

I am trying to imagine how a theme would work, though (I should probably click that link, huh). Um, every region on the board likes or dislikes three things. When the regions who like things more than dislike things are happy or the regions who dislike things more things are pissed off, one player gets the points. When the regions who dislike things more than like are happy and the regions who like things more are pissed off, the other player gets points. And there is a central availability of all three things that applies to all regions that can be modified by either player.

This feels so un-intuitive I am having trouble figuring out how a theme gets attached. Okay, I have typed and retyped several ideas, and I can't get any of them to make total sense. I will definitely check out the rules provided.

My initial reaction to the mechanic, though, is that it won't work for the majority of people because they either won't be capable of keeping track of all the math (having to possibly rethink nine equations every time they make a move) or it just won't click (I'm not sure how intuitive it can ever be).

:)

Willi B
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Joined: 07/28/2008
No need for negative numbers

Keep it all positive and have thresholds of a fixed number of other things.

Say 12 or higher - or 6 or lower - or odd/even. Simpler is better.

scifiantihero
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Joined: 07/08/2009
Okay . . .

. . . checked out the rules, looks interesting!

You can definitely do away with the negative number scoring track thing. Just have three scales (one for each value) that go from ten Russian to zero, then to ten American with control makers that get's moved up and down Then have each region say whether to add or subtract a value from each players total score in the region (along with the multipliers.) Then say whoever has the highest score in the region get's the points for it.

It shows clearly who is in control of a certain agenda. It will be easy to calculate each person's score in a region. It's exactly the same, but just makes more sense intuitively. :D

Along the same lines of 'totally valid and efficient, mathematically, but might cause more confusion than it's worth' is keeping track of the difference in scores. A track on the edge(s) of the the board with two markers would make sense to absolutely everyone, without really taking any more space/ effort.

Hope that's a helpful response!

:)

Jordy
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Joined: 12/23/2009
Sounds a bit like El Grande,

Sounds a bit like El Grande, and quite an intresting mechanic, however I agree that it would be hard to make it intuitive and even more to make it "click".

May thoughts;

Create an overall strategy to pursue for player, i.e. let them focus on one aspect, for example A, B or C.
To add variety they should be able to mix them,
i.e. A and a little bit of C, and to change them during gameplay might the need arise, but having one clear goal an path to follow will certainly help people to get more into the game.

Further, I think it would be cool if regions are inter-connected with each other and respond to each other.
For example a region with a strong bias to A lifts the A part of adjacents regions. Or A kind inhabitans of a region with an A negative will "flee" to adjacents regions where A is positive etc..
So ak kind of pull/push connection between the regions.

This way you can allow for players to "control" regions and receive benefits of them as they pursue a certain strategy.

Hope I was usefull to you.

YellowLab
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Joined: 11/07/2009
Rework

It has been a while, but this has been reworked. I have taken many of your ideas here and worked them into what I was trying to accomplish.

* Players can now decrease their agenda spending. This however comes at a penalty of -1. Thus an agenda card with a value of 2 can increase spending by 2 or decrease spending by 1.
* The cards were rebalanced. There are no +2 or -2 values.
* I took the words of many posts that the math was too complicated to heart. I felt this way as well but couldn't figure out how to simplify it. I hope I have come up with a happy medium. Each card has an arrow either up (+1) or down (-1) for each of the three agendas. If the arrow is up pointing, then the leader in that agenda places a marker of his color on the card. If the arrow is down pointing, then the trailer in that agenda places a marker of his color on the card. The majority of markers shows who has control of each region.
* The boards have been redesigned. The negative aspect has been removed.

Thanks all for your help!

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