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Bombarena: a turn based Bomberman-like game

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Taffer
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Bombarena prototype after set-up

I am trying to turn the concept of Bomberman into a board game. Obviously I cannot use that name, but it's the only word that easily describes my game, so I'll mention it.

In this game, 2-4 players move on a 9x9 board, 5+ steps at a time. During movement bombs are dropped, with the intention of destroying walls and eventually other players. The goal of the game is to be the last man standing.

When everyone has completed their movement, you must check if you are "under fire" (in range of a bomb that is about to explode). If you are, you must make a final push of 1-3 steps and try to move out from under fire. After your first step, your own dropped boms explode, potentially causing chain reactions.

When everyone has had their chance to move out from under fire (if it was even necessary), all the rest of the bombs explode. If a player is hit, they die. If a destructible wall is hit, it may drop a power-up (+1 bombs, +1 to explosion range or +1 to movement). A die roll determins whether/which power-up is dropped. Power-ups are picked up by moving over them.

At the end of a round, a first player token moves clock-wise.

There's also a real-time simulation variant which has different movement rules (1 step at a time, taking turns)

I will attach the rules (PDF) and a photo of the prototype board after set-up. On the photo you can see that I use Agricola components (what I had at hand) and the rules also refer to those by color, currently.

Let me know what you think or if you are interested in play testing.

I'm not thinking about publishing this game yet, but do you think I could get into trouble if I published it, even if I don't refer to Bomberman by name anywhere or try to copy its art style? Some aspects of it are pretty much directly from the bomberman video games: the checkerboard-like layout of the board, the types of power-ups, the way explosions and chain reactions happen.

Taffer
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Advice needed

I've tweaked the rules a bit since I posted that PDF, and currently am working on adding a 15 second time limit to the movements in Phase 1 (play tests have showed that there's a lot of boring thinking time).

However, I'm concerned that the time limits combined with the escape phase and the rules about "being under fire" are not very elegant.

Phase 1 -- you cannot voluntarily end your movement "under fire" (otherwise you could always get extra movement steps during Phase 2).
Phase 2 -- if you did somehow end up "under fire" (usually by bomb placed by other player), you can make an escape attempt and move 1-3 steps (but your own bombs will explode after the first step)

Now, add a time limit to Phase 1 and suddenly it becomes difficult to decide whether a movement that ends "under fire" is valid or not:
* it could have been that the player ran out of time in mid-movement and ended up under fire
* it could have been that the player pretended to run out of time in mid-movement
* it could have been that the player didn't have any other choice
* it could have been that the player did have another choice but they didn't see it quickly enough

It's especially problematic when ther are only 2 players left: each will have 2 consequent moves since the starting player token moves after each round.

How would you solve this?

One option I'm thinking of would be to drop the rule about not being allowed to end movement under fire:
+ call it "playing with fire": you must carefully select a position where you can escape with 1-3 steps (and your own bombs still explode after the 1st step). Other players see that you are in a vulnerable position and may be able to take advantage
- it will mean some kills will become too easy -- or too hard to preventm -- if you didn't have enough moves to block another player with a bomb and get out from under its fire, well now you do!

Another option is just to put the player who ended up under fire (and clearly had another choice) back to where they started or let them retake the movement (new 15 seconds)

Any ideas?

[EDIT] I uploaded a new version of the PDF (attached to previous post) that has a new section "Resolving Invalid Moves" with my current solution to this problem.

Orangebeard
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build in the rule?

Hi Taffer,

Would it work if movement was always a 2-phase approach? For example, move, check for "fire", move again? You could further qualify this by having a rule that does not allow you to use your second move phase to move into an area that is under fire; or possibly not move at all if you are on a "safe" square. I think your 15 second time rule could still work on the first phase as it basically means you have 15 seconds to find a) a safe space or b) a space you can escape to with your second phase 1-3 space moves. It think this is very similar to your solution...

I need to read through your PDF rules...

[edit] Ok I read the rules...as a variant rule, could each player have move tokens and you lose one everytime you are hit by an explosion in the Ka-boom phase? Eventually, the players can't outrun the explosions anymore and will take a direct hit. Maybe this would work best as a 2 player variant.

Taffer
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Thanks for taking the time

Thanks for taking the time for reading the rules and providing comments!

I thought about making movement always be 2 phases. The problem is that for 2 players, each player already gets two movements in a row. Now they would get 4. This would pretty much make it too easy to trap someone, I think. Perhaps I could reduce the movement. Maybe 3 and then 3 again, and the second 3 would still be unaffected by power-ups and without dropping new bombs. Hmm... sounds like something I should try.

I have thought about reducing the movement tokens near the end (reducing them as you get hit sounds like a good twist!). However, currently I'm actually giving players more tokens near the end of the game -- if the players can't move long enough, they can't place bombs in a way to cause other players to die, so the game will drag on and on (I assume -- haven't actually tested that). When movement gets to around 12 or so it seems to pretty much guarantee that one player can surround the other with bombs on both sides in one or two turns. This makes sure that the games are short, but on the other hand it makes it a bit random who of the last 2 players wins. I'm not sure if that's bad, though -- for experienced players, that might be motivation to think of something clever to trap the other player earlier.

I will consider your suggestion as a variant, though.

I'd also like to have a variant that doesn't eliminate players, actually. Still thinking about how to make that work. I already introduced the number of bombs as a tie-breaker (since you never use more than 2-3 bombs at a time but might have more -- gives another reason to collect them), so maybe I'll make that the winning condition of some variant.

Orangebeard
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bomb triggers

Maybe a scoring system based on the number of times your actions cause other players to get hit by explosions? The players might need more control over the explosions though so a change that allows for some bombs to explode automatically while others are triggered remotely might be needed. Perhaps bombs that explode in a chain reaction while others don't would add variety.

Are you picturing a slower, stragetic game or something fast and hectic?

Taffer
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Fast and hectic. Basically I

Fast and hectic. Basically I want it to be as hectic as Robo Rally, but a lot faster. 20 minutes with 4 players would be ideal. At the moment it may go a bit over 30 minutes, and the end of the game becomes slower, with lots of thinking pauses, and then it's suddenly over when someone makes a mistake. That's what I hope the time limit will solve (will test it tomorrow).

But I may want to have a slower strategic variant as well.

Taffer
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Orangebeard wrote:Maybe a

Orangebeard wrote:
Maybe a scoring system based on the number of times your actions cause other players to get hit by explosions?

This is what I'm thinking. I might try to do that without any additional rules or tokens, though:

If you kill a player you get half of their stack of bombs (and maybe half of all other power-ups too), rounded down. So if you manage to kill someone close to the start, you won't get anything (1/2 bomb rounded down to 0). If you kill someone powerful, you get a lot. Become too powerful and you become a target for other players. An end condition would then probably be a certain number of rounds after the center wall has been destroyed.

Of course all of this requires a lot of testing... And I haven't figured out yet how to "respawn" players in a safe spot when they have been killed -- can't just leave them where they were (or maybe I can, since many repeated kills won't necessarily yield much). Perhaps I could also have respawn spots on the map and the player can select any one of them.

KAndrw
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Make your destructable wall

Make your destructable wall tiles double-sided, and put powerups on the back face. That way you don't have to pause the game to roll a die each time a wall is destroyed.

You can also balance the powerups distribution more finely.

Taffer
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Thanks, that's a good

Thanks, that's a good suggestion. I actually had it planned -- the dice rolling and messing with the tokens wastes too much time. I just have to figure out where are the fixed places and which to leave randomized. I hope I can do this before tomorrow's playtests.

Taffer
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Back to the drawing board!

More precisely, back to the square board. For some reason I had the idea that a hexagonal board would make the game more fun. I may have been mistaken -- it seems to make the game too complex for some players at least and some liked the original better. I also added some mechanics (e.g. pushing other players) that ended up complicating things even more, at least on the hex board.

So basically, I'm almost going back to my original design and square board, to keep the basic gameplay simpler -- at the first play tests it seemed easy enough to understand. I'm keeping the score-based victory, condition, because to myself it seems a better game without player elimination. Especially as its meant more of a filler game (i.e. short), it's maybe not the best idea that some players can be out of the game much sooner than others. But I haven't gotten anyone to test the no-elimination version yet.

My first own test after going back to the square board showed that it's possible for one player who has amassed a large number of points (bombs) to safely stay in a corner and protect themselves with their own bombs :( I think I can solve this by adding a couple of more rounds to the end-game, and maybe spawning a bomb power-up in the center at the beginning of each round, so that the other players can think of something to counter that strategy, but that might lengthen the game.

Also, I got rid of dice rolls and the wall tokens are now flippable. This complicates set-up, though, especially if I have both the hex and square boards (different distribution of tokens) but I think that's better than die rolls during the game.

So, the square board will be back and basic rules simplified a bit. But I do want to add some extra abilities to players, to make it more interesting. Maybe based on player character (one or two special abilities) and/or maybe based on cards. I'm thinking of cards that can be kept secret until you need them: get some at the beginning of the game and play during your own turn. E.g. playing "hide" during the movement phase would mean you will stay put but won't die from an explosion this round. Or maybe you play "armor", which is destoryed if an explosion does hit you.

Haven't thought of how the cards will be picked: maybe only at the start, and all pick from a common pool (in that case it won't be much of a secret what you have if you picked first), or maybe each player has their own pool (identical to others) where they pick a couple of cards from. Random cards might also be an interesting option.

TLEberle
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Many years ago I had a punt

Many years ago I had a punt on Steve Jackson's Frag. For my hard-earned money I was hoping to get a rollicking FPS in board game form. The problem is that the game plodded as each of us tried to maximize our plays and agonized over moves. Even if we were to put a turn clock on moves, it still didn't have that panicky feeling that you get playing GoldenEye. Nothing we could do would replicate that feeling except for the original article.

I can play Bomberman on my DS or on Xbox, and if I want to play Bomberman in the way God intended Man to, I have two ways to do it. If you're getting feedback that says "yes, this is awesome and feels the same," then I say bully and that's awesome, but I wonder if you might have more success abstracting the process away from the board and making something closer to Bang!.

Taffer
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I am actually getting

I am actually getting feedback that says "yes, this is an ok game and feels pretty much like bomberman!". Except indeed some players want it to be even more like bomberman and more panicky. Nobody has said it's awesome, yet. Mostly I've gotten 6-s in BGG ranking system if I asked.

It's not my goal to create the most authentic Bomberman experience -- I'm not going to buy a license to call it "Bomberman" anyway. Some players would want me to make it more like Bomberman, though (incl. faster). But there were also players who hadn't even heard of Bomberman, who liked the game almost as much.

I just had another play test a few hours ago and seems going back to the square board was a success, and I got some good advice on how to balance the game. It also showed that maybe a 15 second turn timer isn't quite necessary, as we played without one and it was fast enough, but perhaps a 30 second timer would be good to have, to avoid the occasionall long turns.

It may be true that an FPS won't work well as a board game (DOOM is not a very good board game either, IMHO), but that doesn't say the same thing about Bomberman. I won't be able to replicate the real-time aspect, but I think the main concepts of it can work turn-based as a slightly different game, although I have to somehow balance it well enough that it won't become too much chess/checkers.

Once I've got the main game type balanced to my satisfaction, I'll think about a good variant for those who really want something close to the original bomberman experience. It would probably have to be 1 step at a time movements or maybe I could even make real-time simultaneous movement work somehow.

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