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Worker Placement with Conventional Turn Structure

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schmanthony
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Joined: 12/18/2008

I'm curious to know what everyone thinks of combining a core mechanic of worker placement with a conventional I-go-you-go turn structure. In my design "The Manhattan Project," (http://www.bgdf.com/node/2770) I'm attempting to do this.

Of course, this idea eliminates rounds and turn order management/manipulation. No rounds means no convenient time when everyone removes their workers. No manipulable turn order means no control over being able to capitalize on those moments - or does it?

There is no doubt that this is a special challenge - but I think a worthwhile one to pursue as I find turn order manipulation to be anti-thematic and end-of-round administration to be distruptive to flow.

metzgerism
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Joined: 06/19/2009
This doesn't seem

This doesn't seem particularly complicated to me, although you have to break from the traditional mold of variable-turn-order worker-placement mechanics.

Players pick up their workers at the beginning or end of the following turn (end would make things a little fiddly, I know). If an opponent wants to go there, maybe they have to outnumber the other workers to eject them? IE: Instead of putting two in the love shack, you have to put three.

schmanthony
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Joined: 12/18/2008
The Puzzle Unfolds

metzgerism wrote:
This doesn't seem particularly complicated to me, although you have to break from the traditional mold of variable-turn-order worker-placement mechanics.

Solutions to this problem need not and should not be complicated, I agree... but I challenge you to come up with a simple design that uses this combination. Certain new gameplay issues will pop up that will require solutions. These issues are automatically eliminated by the Variable Turn Order (VTO) and rounds. In fact, I believe WP/VTO to be a very obvious and natural combination, one that designers possibly assume to be necessary or to just go together (pork chops and apple sauce*).

Using a Conventional Turn Order (CTO) would defy this concept, and if workable, could possibly yield a whole new feel to WP games when some gamers are beginning to feel WP is already getting tired.

metzgerism wrote:
Players pick up their workers at the beginning or end of the following turn

Of course, now that we're talking CTO... "turn" means what it always has for the last hundred years. You do your stuff on your turn, then your turn is over and it's the next player's turn.

I'm not knocking this idea, but I'd like some clarification. If you mean that every other turn you'd place workers, then every other turn you'd remove workers, then aren't you placing a whole lot of workers at one time without other players being able to place any in between? Or are you only placing one worker - then removing it on the next turn? In that case, the board only ever contains a small number of workers. In both cases, there is a severe problem of first player advantage - which can't be overcome by the VTO, since we're not using it.

metzgerism wrote:
If an opponent wants to go there, maybe they have to outnumber the other workers to eject them?

Now this is definitely viable. If there is money in the game, perhaps a player could pay to oust someone else's worker. If either of these are used, you kind of have to resort to instant activation of the space upon placement, don't you? Otherwise, the first player to take the space wastes and action and gets nothing.

Instant activation is OK (doesn't Agricola do this?), but IMHO it removes the interesting speculation of how your position will shape up a few turns later once you've placed all - or several - of your workers.

In previous iterations of my prototype, I've experimented with this concept, but have since abandoned it. I may try again at some point.

Currently, I'm giving each player a choice on each turn: place 1 worker or remove all workers. Your spaces are not activated until you choose the latter... and each turn you must choose one option. You can't just pass.

The first problem this creates is that a player might want to keep placing workers just to keep from opening up the options for his opponents. I'm solving this in my design with the "buildings" that can be purchased. The buildings give a player spaces that only he can select. So, even though taking back workers opens up "common" spaces for everyone else, it also opens up spaces that only the current player can choose. He'll be confident that those options will still be available when his turn comes around again.

I like how this is working, but I'm looking for a slight tweak to give a player some other ability to take common actions that have already been claimed. Maybe a new space the purpose of which is just that. But then how do you oust from *this* space, and what compensation is given to the ousted player?

------------------------------------------------

*Personally, I like pork chops and applesauce, but not together. Yet I like other fruit/meat combinations. Go figure.

notMe
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Joined: 09/22/2008
Phases

I'll admit to skimming your entry before writing a reply so forgive me if this concept has been mentioned.

If removing the idea of a conventional "turn" is what you are looking for, you could always have a set of cards for phases and each player chooses which he wants (only those chosen can be performed) to perform that round (in which all players act simultaniously ala Race for the Galaxy: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/28143/race-for-the-galaxy). If cost is an issue, instead of using cards for each phase, you could use a die and then consult the phase/turn order card mentioned below.

Alternately you can just have a card that shows the turn order and each player acts simultaneously through all phases.

As for end game, depending exactly on how you define the end (total points after a round, or after certain conditions are met (eg. most buildings), everyone would be allowed to complete all phases for that turn and then once a "victory condition" is met, everyone compares their progress to determine the winner.

Just some thoughts.

schmanthony
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Joined: 12/18/2008
Quite the Opposite!

notMe wrote:
If removing the idea of a conventional "turn" is what you are looking for, you could always have a set of cards for phases and each player chooses which he wants

Actually, quite the opposite! I'm seeking to *introduce* the conventional "turn" into a worker placement game.

notMe wrote:
Alternately you can just have a card that shows the turn order...

I'm also seeking to eliminate turn order (well, variable turn order, which is what you are indicating). I'm seeking to introduce conventional turn order, you know: a, b, c, a, b, c, a, b, c, etc. I assume you meant VTO, as in CTO there would be no need to display a turn order ever. It's always understood that the next player is the one to my right.

notMe wrote:
As for end game, depending exactly on how you define the end (total points after a round...)

I'm also seeking to eliminate rounds, hehe. It really seems you missed some things in your skimming. I may have some responsibility in that as I tend to be verbose. Please have another look - I'm interested in your thoughts.

notMe
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Joined: 09/22/2008
err, whoops

Well then maybe Stone Age ( http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/34635/stone-age ) would be more helpful. =}

schmanthony
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Joined: 12/18/2008
Not Stone Age Either

notMe wrote:
Well then maybe Stone Age ( http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/34635/stone-age ) would be more helpful. =}

Stone Age has a variable turn order. And rounds. And end-of-round administration.

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Joined: 07/22/2008
On your turn, you can place

On your turn, you can place one worker. At the start of the game, you can place workers from your supply. When you have placed all your workers, from then on you must move a worker each turn: take him off of one space and put him somewhere else. This will open the worker's old space for another player to use on their turn.

Simple enough, but it will take some careful balancing. Usually in WP games, there are a few locations that are more valuable than most of the rest. Players will want to claim such a space, and then camp on it to keep others out. You'll need a mechanism to prevent this.

The simplest way is to give each player only one worker. (See Le Havre, where you are not required to move your one worker every turn, but he does you no good until you do move him.) But unless (as in Le Havre) there are other things going on in the game, this could be dull.

If players have multiple workers, they need an incentive to move off of a valuable space. Suppose that, when you first place a worker at a location, you get an immediate strong benefit, and a token is placed on the location. On your next turn, any worker that doesn't move and that is on a location with a token can remove the token to receive a lesser benefit. Workers on exhausted locations receive no more benefits until they move somewhere else. Now your players have an incentive to keep their workers in motion: it's okay if they sit for a turn, but after that they are useless until moved. (Better: make your workers two-sided, and flip over the workers instead of placing and removing tokens: easier to do, and fewer bits to manage.)

That still breaks down with more than two workers, because (assuming you can move only one worker each turn) at most two workers each turn will receive a benefit. The third could still just sit and block a valuable space. But two is (perhaps) more interesting than one, and the system can be tweaked for more. For example, allow the players to move more than one worker per turn; or allow more than two states for a worker (use a d3, for example, to get three states for three levels of benefit).

If you allow two moves per turn, you could have an "eviction" space: move one worker there, and that allows the player to move a different worker to any space, evicting the previous tenant back to the owner's supply. Normally you would get two strong benefits per turn by moving two workers, but using "eviction" gets you only one: but it's one you really want. That keeps players from using it every turn, yet allows them the option and gives them another way to mess with their opponents.

Shooting from the hip, here. Hope some of it's useful!

Gogolski
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Pay for occupied action-fields or make actions take longer...

On your turn, you can choose to place workers on the board or choose to take workers away from the board and resolve the action that the workers were on. You can only choose one space on the board, an empty one to place workers on or a space occupied by your own worker(s). After that, you pay for each worker still on the board.

This lets people choose to occupy a space to deny that space to other people or reserve that space for a later action (e.g. if the actions should be done in a certain order), but it will cost something.

I think it's a nice idea to do away with turn order and a "remove-all-workers-from-the-board"-phase/moment.

Actions may take several turns:
* In your first turn, you place a worker on field 1 of an action.
* Next turn, you move it to field 2 of that same action.
* Next turn it moves to field 3.
* From the 4th turn on, the worker can be taken away to resolve the action.

Cheese!

scifiantihero
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Joined: 07/08/2009
I had a dream . . .

. . . last night that came up with an interesting way to approach things that are being discussed here.

A game could have two phases (maneuver/battle, plant/harvest, order/ship, etc.) represented by two boards/areas/sets-of-tiles/whatever. So in the first phase, players take turns placing them in the first area, then when the second phase happens, they just move them to the second area. Rinse and repeat as many times as needed.

This could be done, really, with as many phases an someone wanted (I wonder if Colonia is like that, at all.)

I guess it was my solution to people blocking spaces.

So anyway, I really like this idea the more and more I imagine the possibilities. Feel free to tell me that tons of games have already done it to death, since it was the product of me being asleep, and not actually researching anything!

:D

schmanthony
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Joined: 12/18/2008
Great Ideas

I'm thrilled that this forum has sparked some thinking and some great ideas!

Rick-Holzgrafe suggested smaller worker supplies and replacing placement with movement, forcing players to leave spaces frequently and preventing them from occupying a lot of spaces. I see how this could work in many WP/CTO designs. In my Manhattan Project Design, I'm afraid I'm far too entrenched in larger worker supplies (in particular the ability to aquire a large supply as a strategy) to make use of it, but it's definitely a worthy concept.

Gogolski brought up "cost to evict" again, but introduced a new idea: breaking each worker space into multiple fields, requiring players to move workers along a mini track of sorts and eventually remove it to perform the action. This opens up spaces for other player's workers to "get in line," if I'm interpreting the idea correctly.

scifiantihero thought of separate areas of worker spaces that are activated by phases. I think this has excellent potential and I see how it could tie in well to any theme. The big question is what triggers phases, especially if the turn structure doesn't have any rounds. Maybe each section has a maximum number of workers per player, and when you're at that limit and you place another, you also have to move one into the next section (which also activates a space).

In testing my prototype, my idea of player-controlled worker-spaces seems to be effective. In the early game, worker supplies are low so even though no one has aquired any player-controlled spaces yet, there is less competition for the common actions. Later, worker supplies are larger, but by then players have built several controlled spaces where they can place their workers even when the common spaces are clogged with campers. In fact, I'm noticing that many common actions can be drastically devalued to a player when he has collected powerful controlled spaces that perform the same function. Loss of interest in the common spaces by this player also relaxes the competition for them for the other players. Of course there's the "take that" tactic of taking the weak common action for something you already have in abundance, just to keep your competition starving for it.

I recently uploaded a 3-player midgame screenshot of my protype to BGG, including a comment that describes the game state:

http://boardgamegeek.com/image/666615/the-manhattan-project

It illustrates what I'm talking about with the common and player-controlled spaces.

-Schmanthony

scifiantihero
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Joined: 07/08/2009
:)

Gogolski: I really liked your delayed idea too. Sounds like it would mesh really naturally with any sort of technology research in a game. Might make a neat contrast between strategies where one could get something quickly, or a few things slowly.

Schamnthony: I'm not sure what's going on in that picture you linked, exactly, but you've obviously put quite a bit of thought and effort into it! Keep up the work:)

I was thinking more about my idea of phases today, and came up with an idea where the placement of what you take in one round defines when you get to move your guy on in the next round. That obviously doesn't have much to do with maintaining a conventional turn order, though;)

I think that even without official round ends, phase changes could just happen when all the workers were placed, or something.

I'll keep thinking; thanks for the stimulus!

jasonwocky
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Joined: 07/11/2009
Check out Neuland

Check out Neuland. It has a rough equivalent of worker placement, and turns are handled with an elegant action point track.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/12681/neuland

Basically, it costs action points to put a worker onto a space, and where the worker is determines their options for where they can go next and how many action points it will cost to get there. If the worker doesn't move to a new space in a turn, he comes off the board. Each turn, the player can use up to some maximum amount of action points, and if they use less, they'll get more next time.

One of the core "problems" that arises from this system (I put it in quotes because I don't think it's a bad thing, it's just a "problem" that is meant for the players to solve) is that with enough players, there can be so many workers blocking spaces that it becomes _extremely_ difficult for the players to get things done. Then there can be almost a deadlock as players block spaces to prevent opponents from winning the game, even though they can't make forward progress either.

richardtempura
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Joined: 07/31/2008
Put it in 2 phases: 1st phase

Put it in 2 phases:

1st phase is worker placement. One player at a time, one worker per turn.

2nd phase, players choose which of the worker placement to activate/remove.

You need to have multiple areas that have actions associated to them. Each area has 1, 2 or 3 spots for workers, 1 per player color.

Give the 1st player to activate a region a bonus for doing so plus the action associated with the area.
2nd player gets only the action associated with that area.
3rd player gets the action and some sort of penalty (money, vp, keeping the worker on the spot, etc...)

So now the incentive is to place your workers but also to be the 1st one to activate those workers before the others, all done in conventional player order.

My 2 cents.....

schmanthony
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Joined: 12/18/2008
Phases

richardtempura wrote:
1st phase is worker placement. One player at a time, one worker per turn.

2nd phase, players choose which of the worker placement to activate/remove.

But if there are two phases, and everyone places in phase 1, then everyone activates/removes in phase 2, doesn't the same player always place first in both phases?

richardtempura
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Joined: 07/31/2008
It depends. Maybe players

It depends.

Maybe players won't have the same number of workers to place each turn.
If one gets stuck because it was the last worker activated in a region, it will have to stay there.

So if one player places it's last worker, and he had one worker more than the others, the player on his right would start the activation phase.

OR you can have the player bid for 1st player advantage.

And even if the 1st player is the same in both phases, that player gets the advantage of activating only one area, not all of his workers.

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