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Free roaming, non-controlled character on a hex based boardgame

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Thaiphoon
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Hi,

I want to include a character in a hex based board game that shall not be controlled by any player. It should instead respond to certain situations and move from where ever it may be towards a specific player-controlled character and attack it a non-biased manner.

Are there any ideas on how to go about makeing the movement independent of player control?

The player-controlled characters are permitted to move up to 3 hexes every round and I estimate the non-controlled character will have to move 5-15 hexes (at about the same speed as regular player-controlled characters) ie it will take several rounds.

No character can stand on the same hex as another character so fellow characters and other non-permitted hexes must be avoided, preferably in an objective manner such that no participating player should feel that the movements and actions of the non-controlled character is un-fair.

The non-controlled character should however be able to fly over non-permitted hexes given that it doesn't have to move beyond the reach of its maximum distance per round.

It may of course be necessary for participating players to aid the character in rolling some dice for guiding certain actions of the non-controlled character, but preferably as little human intervention as possible.

Cheers,
Niklas

Willi B
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Use a deck of 6 cards for the

Use a deck of 6 cards for the 6 directions... shuffle and repeat for each move.

Thaiphoon
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Random movement with D6 doesn't quite do it.

Totally random movement can be accomplished using a D6 for deciding direction (up+right, right, down+right, down+left, left, up+left) and another dice for distance. However this doesn't quite fulfill the requirements.

I would like to make the movement directed towards a specific character that may be anywhere on the board. How do we control the movement of the non-controled character in every step on the hex-board without having a participating player having to decide?

Mitchell Allen
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Hex Board Heat Map

Free roaming doesn't mean random. If your NPC (Non-player character) is going to be more than a chance encounter, it's going to have to pack some heat.

Let's pretend that we have a mechanism for tracking movement by human players. Depending on what the range of motion tends to be, the NPC can gravitate toward a likely victim.

For example, each player has a quest. Generally, this means that they'll have destinations. By extrapolating player movement, the NPC can set an "intercept" course.

In another instance, players are exploring a world, hoping to find a good spot to do whatever they must do to advance their chances for victory.
The NPC could keep track of all of these so-called good spots and "patrol" them. It is bound to run into a player.

In the final example, if the players are wandering aimlessly, waiting for chance encounters with good and evil entities, the NPC may as well target a player who wanders too close to an edge of the "world". That's because the player will have fewer spots to travel toward.

As for the mechanism? Why, siftables of course :)

Cheers,

Mitch

Thaiphoon
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Of course siftables

I did stumble upon these wonderful things the other day, but I don't expect to get my hands on a bunch of them any time soon. But YES, siftables, that's the ticket.

Thanks for the input.

//Niklas

Dralius
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Hamster!!!

My first thought was a hamster. But they would chew all the cardboard into little bits.

Like any program you need a set of conditions and appropriate responses. The tricky part is making these rules easy to understand and implement. I am all for some randomness in the equation so that the behavior is not 100% predictable. I find this makes the game edgier as long as there is some predictability.

In my game Dead Man’s Island the zombies have one rule which is to gravitate to the closest living target. When they are of equal distance from two targets or have multiple path of the same length to the same target a die determines the outcome. The potential for having multiple zombies mucking about is high so I kept it real simple.

If you have just one wanderer the rules could be much more complex without dragging the game down.

Mitchell Allen
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Pseudo-Siftable NPC on Hex board

Thaiphoon wrote:
... I don't expect to get my hands on a bunch of them any time soon. But YES, siftables, that's the ticket. //Niklas

Heh, that was just my cop-out. After reading your second post, I decided to pose a hypothetical:

Since you don't want a human player to have any participation in the NPC's decision process, you're going to need some rules. For now, let's follow Dralius' idea of a single NPC.

The topography of the board will determine some of the rules. For example, if your board is modular and randomized, is it possible that certain geographic features could emerge, such as a peninsula? Imagine how much fun the NPC could have trapping a player in one! A simple rule could prioritize movement thus: "If any player is in a peninsula, with no chance to escape before NPC reaches the connecting isthmus, proceed apace!"

Other land masses or formations could be calculated ahead of time and stored in the NPC rule set.

After topography comes natural resources (as I pointed out earlier). Depending on the intelligence ascribed to your NPC, it may know that humans want gold (or whatever) and may have rules that have him gravitate toward likely mother lodes. Unfortunately, players will also know and understand the risks of approaching resources so, unless you balance them with great rewards, the players won't bother. Worse, they may sacrifice a weak player in the peninsula. LOL

You could forego terrain-centric rules in favor of mapping and traversal. Think of the stupid chess pieces on an 8x8 board. A rook, for example, is a plodding oaf that only controls rank or file. But, whoo, boy: get a couple of rooks lined up and you've got serious control! In the same way, your NPC can operate along the most optimal paths on the board. You mentioned flying?...

Traversal rules seem like they might be worth investigating.

Cheers,

Mitch

Thaiphoon
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A single NPC

Thanks, great input.

Yes we're talking about a single NPC.

What I want to achieve is for the NPC to reach the player-controlled character with the most resources, steal some and then return home for the other characters to be able to kill the NPC and/or steal the resource from the NPC.

The game is usually completed within 10 rounds so the NPC has to be rather decisive in the choice of direction in order to have intended impact. The topology is modular and randomised but set up and completed at the start of the game, so there are no emerging tiles. However the geography has plenty of hexes that can not be passed, so trapping is still possible.

What I ment with flying is that the NPC should be capable of jumping (flying) over other characters without asking for permission to pass, or lose momentum in passing, given that it still doesn't move further than its maximum distance.

Cheers,
Niklas

End of Time Games
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Thaiphoon wrote:Hi, I want to

Thaiphoon wrote:
Hi,

I want to include a character in a hex based board game that shall not be controlled by any player. It should instead respond to certain situations and move from where ever it may be towards a specific player-controlled character and attack it a non-biased manner.

Are there any ideas on how to go about makeing the movement independent of player control?


This reminded me when I was playing a four player game with three players including myself recently. Two other players, and me controling two players. I had my character and pretended to control another imaginary player. I tryed my best to make unbiased decisions for the additional player I was controling. My oponents couldn't stop laughing at me. I said what? He sais "You're kicking your self in the nuts! It cracks me up."

Clever Mojo Games
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Unbiased vs. Totally Biased

In an early version of our first game, Ogre Castle, the Ogre was a fifth player not owned by any of the four human players. As the last task on each human players turn that player rolled a die and moved the Ogre piece that many spaces. As you might guess, the player usually moved the Ogre away from themselves and toward the most powerful other human player, hoping to force a battle that would weaken that human player.

Such a process might work for your NPC. Each round every player gets to move the NPC so the NPC moves much faster than any other player. And, because the weaker players are motivated by self preservation, the NPC will tend to move toward the most powerful player.

schmanthony
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I've had some thoughts on

I've had some thoughts on your NPC movement problem, but before I can fully develop them I'll need to know a little bit more information:

1. How many hexes are there (roughly) in the map, or specifically, the overall area in which the NPC is allowed to travel?

2. What is the general shape of the area in which the NPC is allowed to travel? Is it basically a large hex?

3. Is the facing of the NPC (or any of the other pieces) relevant to the gameplay?

[edit]

4. Roughly how many other movable pieces are on the board at one time?

5. How large and how numerous are the illegal spaces?

SuperSize
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Here's an idea...

Here's an idea...

At start of play (or whenever a new Hex is laid) you place an upside down token randomly on all hexes where you can possibly travel.

The tokens faced down all appear grey - on the other side they are one of 3 colours (red, yellow, green) that maybe represent how noisily you are moving.

Whenever a player moves onto a new hex they flip over a token to see what colour is revealed.

Red - you make a noise while you move and the NPC 'hears' this and starts to pursue you, immediately moving 1-2 spaces directly toward that hex with the red token...and keeps doing that each turn until you or another player flips another un-turned token.

Yellow token - the NPC gets distracted and stops dead lose interst in pursuit.

Green token - would allow you to proceed with stealth and the NPC would continue doing it's last action (i.e. if previous player last turned a red and ended his turn, then you turned a green then the NPC would still pursue the previous player).

What this doesn't account for is if you move onto previously travlled hexes where there is already a turned over token. Although you could solve this when you move away from a hex by removing the token and replace it with another from a stock of faced down tokens beside the board (ala Carcassonne tiles)

You would leave the active (most recently turned) Red or yellow Token up-turned and in play until another red or yellow is drawn, if a new red or yellow is drawn then that becomes teh active token and the previous red or yellow gets replaced. It would stay active as long as greens are drawn.

Greens get replaced immediately with a new grey after moving off the hex

You could simplify this system further by having only two colours - stealth and alert.

What do you think?

schmanthony
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Supersize, First off, this

Supersize,

First off, this seems like an awful lot of components to add to the game just to facilitate the NPC movement. The tokens are also going to cover up the map.

SuperSize wrote:
Red - you make a noise while you move and the NPC 'hears' this and starts to pursue you, immediately moving 1-2 spaces directly toward that hex with the red token...

A central problem here is the issue of moving "toward." In many cases, there is more than one "toward," and leaving it to the players to decide this is not objective. Also, in many cases it may be difficult to identify and evaluate all the possible "towards," considering obstacles that may be in the way.

SuperSize
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True on both counts.However,

True on both counts.

However, the tokens could be very small as they would not have any writing on them just a colour thus mostly avoiding the masking of the hex issue. But still leaving the hassle aspect.

It also depends on how central the NPC is to the game. If it is a only a small role then i agree my idea may be way too messy to warrant consideration.

In terms of moving towards the activated hex i guess there are a number of options but an 'as the crow flies' or 'line of sight' apporach would solve most. But i agree with hexes there are always at least two options when travelling to a hex 2-away. If the NPC moved 2 hexs at time the destination (2nd) hex would normally be the same whether you went left or right as your first move - so you coudl potentially ignore the 1st hex move?

Anyway just a a quick idea i had, i'm not very expereicned at all with game design, so i'm perfectly happy to rescind it :)

schmanthony
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Here's a complete solution

Here's a complete solution for you. It obviously has some shortcomings over a tracking algorithm that a machine would be able to execute, but hey, this is for humans so that is to be expected. You could always compensate by beefing up the NPC's movement it other simple ways, such as allowing it to move farther.

One gameplay problem I'd like to address is AP (analysis paralysis) potential. Since it is possible to calulate the NPCs path for every target, players will do this mentally when considering their moves. While I think these rules are simple enough to perform on an administrative basis, it's too much to think about over and over while other players are twiddling their thumbs. You might be able to resolve this by introducing some randomness to the NPCs movement, such as moving one d6-generated random space at the start of its turn, randomly altering its movement allowance or using some randomness when selecting its target.

These rules will certainly sound confusing without a visual aid. But if you are looking at your map, I think you will get the idea. Simply choose any hex for the NPC and any hex for its target, then follow the steps.

Let's begin.

First, define "sightline" (or substitute your own term) as a straight line of hexes, extending infinitely from a starting point. Every hex has exactly 6 sightlines.

If the target is on one of the NPCs sightlines, the NPC follows this sightline. Move the NPC as far down this sightline as it can move (without occupying an illegal space and without moving farther than its allowance.)

If the target is not in one of the NPCs sightlines, then 2 paths must be considered. Identify the NPC's 2 sightlines that come closest to its target. Then do the reverse: identify the target's 2 sightlines that come closest to the NPC. Take note of where these 4 sightlines intersect. (To make this easier, 2 markers could be temporarily placed on these intersections.) The 4 sightlines and their 2 intersections clearly define the 2 paths that must be considered. The resulting shape of the 2 paths will always be a parallelogram, incidentally.

If one path goes off the map, it is excluded from consideration. Otherwise, the NPC chooses the path that it can travel down the farthest (without occupying an illegal space and without moving farther than its allowance.)

If the NPC can travel equally far down both paths, it either chooses the path to its right by default or a die roll makes the decision.

JB
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A Table

It occurs to me that if the PC with the highest resources is the absolute priority than you can solve the NPC movement issue with a table.

For example, if the PC is on tile 12, and the NPC is on tile 62, then the NPC will always goto tile 54.

Now the real trick is hiding this table:

You could make a card for each hex the NPC is in with instructions.

You might be able to print little numbers on the map. For instance from the example above, on of the tiles would have '54' at the top, it's tile number. On the bottom it would have '62-12' to indicate if the NPC is on 62 and the target PC is on 12, the NPC should go here.

Just thinking out loud, on the net, er ... something

schmanthony
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You know, JB, I also had this

You know, JB, I also had this idea. It would be like a giant CRT (combat result table). Let's call it an MRT (movement result table). This would be more effective if the game map has a small number of hexes - less effective with more hexes. You could even have a 100 page booklet, each one with an MRT. You could roll a d100 and quickly flip to the table you need. Each table would have a slightly different set of results.

This way, you could write a computer program with a real tracking algorithm (shortest path for starter's) to execute for each pair of hexes, including some randomness to generate each unique table. If you're using printed tables, the results will be fixed so obviously this rules out - or at least complicates - modular boards and lots of other movable objects (PCs for example) that must be circumnavigated.

Here's where an electronic component to a boardgame would really be a neat feature (although quite possibly a massive hurdle when pitching your idea to a publisher). It wouldn't even need to store these MRTs. You could just press the button when it's time and it will tell you immediately where to move all the NPCs. Sort of like a cheap electronic chess game.

belrion16
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sushi
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Genius!

belrion16 wrote:
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Egads. You are right Belrion - that is the perfect solution...

My guestion would be: how complicated do you want the movement to be? Considering your objectives, is there really a reason why the NPC couldn't traverse any tile - making a beeline for the character?

As to picking the optimal player-character, why not use an increasing die roll scale. The player who is the strongest could a) continue to add die that would move the NPC towards them (and at a faster rate) or b) increase the chance of the NPC heading towards them starting on a roll of 6, then 5 or 6, then 4, 5, or 6, etc.

Traz
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and for something COMPLETELY different...

I'm working on a collaborative game with some friends and we had a similar problem come up [how to decide how to move the NPC token]. Here was our solution.

Number each tile [hex for you]. During the NPC turn, roll a die that corresponds to the number of tiles [hexes] and send the NPC to that tile/hex. Simple and to the point. We have 9 tiles, so we used a D10. On a roll of 10 he just stays put, which allows for him to do extra nastiness. YMMV...

In your case, I'm assuming you want the NPC to interact with Player tokens, so if the NPC moves to a hex that doesn't have a Player token, after the move, send him to the hex closest to where the NPC landed [you can label it as TELEPORTING]. If there is a tie, the NPC goes to the hex with the highest/lowest number that has a Player token in it.

I think you guys are overthinking this way too much. Just sayin... :)

coco
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information

I think an important thing here is that making players move a NPC may be a bit boring. So the NPC movement must be simple to calculate and execute. In one of my older designs, there is a NPC. It works like this:

- Players in turn make their moves and actions, leaving some 'information' on the board (cards, rolled dice,..)
- At the end of the turn, that 'information' acts as a computer program for the NPC, that makes it move and act. This computer program is very simple and is executed in a few seconds.

So the players create this program while moving their characters.

slam
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A game I've seen use this

A game I've seen use this idea well is Fearsome Floors or Finstere Flure by Friedemann Friese (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/7805). The game has players trying to escape from a dungeon being chased by a monster. The monster has movement each round equal to a card that is flipped, and simple movement rules. The monster walks forward, one space at a time. However, if it sees at any point a player's piece to its left or right, it will turn to the nearest piece. If two players are equidistant on both the left and the right, it will become confused and continue walking forward.

I could see a version of that working for your idea.

Thaiphoon
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Thank you!

Never thought my problem would get this much attention.

These ideas bring us closer to a solution. I think it is key that the system must be very simple for players to be interested in dealing with the NPC. We'll try some of your ideas and see if we find one that is fun, fair and feasible.

Cheers,
Niklas

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