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Tile (hex) laying maze/race game concept

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Control Group
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Joined: 03/19/2009

Much like many other people here, I have what I think could be a solid core mechanic for a game. What I don't have are all the (important!) details to turn a concept mechanic into a functional game. After hearing about this forum elsewhere on the internet and reading some of the fascinating threads here, I thought I'd post here asking for input.

I'm basically looking at a hex tile-laying maze game in two stages. The tiles are hexes, where each side is a wall. Each tile has 2, 3, 4, or 5 doors on it in various combinations (so there are 3 different types of 4-door tiles, 4 different types of 3-door tiles, etc). The distribution of tiles (i.e., how many of each type are in the deck) is still indeterminate.

There are two phases to a complete game. In phase one, the players build the board and traverse it. In phase two, the players move back across the board and can modify it. First past the post wins.

Phase 1
Each player must take three actions on each turn, and each action can be one of three things: draw a tile, lay a tile, move his pawn. Any combination/count is allowed, so a complete turn might be drawing three tiles, or drawing two tiles and laying one tile, or moving the pawn across three tiles, etc.

There are a number of starting tiles equal to the number of players, featuring two doors on adjacent sides. To begin the game, each player lays down his starting tile such that they form a line of adjacent hexes, touching along the sides, with all the doors facing the same direction, so for three players the start line would look like this bad ASCII:

/-\+
\-/+
/-\+
\-/+
/-\+
\-/+

The pluses indicating the sides which have doors.

Tiles are drawn from a communal deck, and kept secret from other players. There will probably need to be a maximum "hand" size, but I have no idea what it should be. I'm also considering a semi-open system, where some number of tiles are kept face up on the table, and can be drawn at the cost of losing one action, but my inclination is to keep it simple/secret.

One of the open questions is whether I have an actual board on which tiles can be laid, or if the tiles themselves make up the board. The advantage to the former is it removes the problem of defining the far end of the playing surface; it would just be the opposite edge of the board. It would also allow me to introduce a special space in the center of the board: a pre-laid tile with all six sides having doors. Each player's eventual path to the finish line would have to pass through this space. I think this would help ensure player interaction in tile laying (as opposed to each person laying completely independent, non-intersecting tile paths). The advantage of not having a board, of course, is simplicity - I don't have to worry about board size from a balancing perspective. And it would potentially scale better to smaller/larger numbers of players. I keep waffling back and forth on this; input would be much appreciated.

In any event, tiles are laid such that they adjoin at least one other tile along an edge (though if I do go with an actual board, this rule could be removed or made optional).

Pawns are moved one tile per each action dedicated to movement by the player, so 0 to 3 tiles per turn. Obviously, they can only move through door-door pairs. Once a pawn reaches the far end of the board (however that ends up being defined), Phase 2 begins.

Phase 2
This runs in a very similar fashion to Phase 1, with the following differences:

Any player who has reached the far end of the board may no longer draw or lay tiles, but may now rotate tiles that have already been laid at a rate of 60 degrees (one facing change) per action spent.

Any player who has not reached the far end of the board may no longer draw tiles, but may still lay down any tiles still in his hand. He may also rotate tiles already laid at a rate of 60 degrees per action spent.

The first player to return to the starting line wins.

Problems/Questions
1. Initial tile counts. Most of my open questions regarding how this works out can only be determined by some initial playtesting. But to even get to the solo playtesting stage, I need some idea of how many tiles of each variety should exist. Problem is, I don't have any idea how to approach rough-answering that question.

2. Whether or not to have a fixed playing surface, as I outlined above. There's an elegance to having the tiles be the whole game, of course. If I could find a way to ensure interaction between different players' paths (the problem I'd solve with a mandatory, fixed central tile) and an elegant way to define the end of the board, I'd remove any real need for a fixed play area.

3. Maintaining balance between phases. My original conception was to have only people who had reached the far end be able to rotate tiles. But the problem occurred to me that the first person to get there would have no particular reason to rotate anything; he'd just retrace his route at 3 tiles a turn. I'm hoping that granting everyone that ability as soon as anyone crosses the line addresses that (and adds a level of cost/benefit as to timing that move). I'm not sure this is the best way, though.

I've got some other spitball-type modifications (like adding directionality to the hexes, so doors can only be gone through in one direction - and making the ability to modify a hex's directionality an action players can take) to the game I'm tossing around, but they'll have to wait until I've tried out what I've already got.

Anyway, feedback/input much appreciated!

Katherine
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Joined: 07/24/2008
If you intend to hand making

If you intend to hand making your game for friends and family you can have a board and hexes.

If you intend to commercialise your game then the cost of production could become prohibitive with both hexes and board.

Control Group
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Joined: 03/19/2009
shazzaz wrote:If you intend

shazzaz wrote:
If you intend to hand making your game for friends and family you can have a board and hexes.

If you intend to commercialise your game then the cost of production could become prohibitive with both hexes and board.


That's an excellent point, and not one that had occurred to me. I admit I hadn't really thought about it in terms of marketability; my only goal at this point is to create something fun. Still, it would probably be better not to preclude the possibility of commercialization, just in case it turns out to seem worthwhile.

And that increases the importance of trying to solve the problems a board might address in a way that doesn't need a board. I might be getting ahead of myself, though - playtesting may demonstrate that I'm worried about the wrong things, anyway.

ilta
ilta's picture
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Joined: 12/05/2008
rotating

Parts of this game remind me of that great old Ravensburger classic, "Labyrinth." Moving pawns around a shifting maze, and in particular the way that moving the maze might affect someone else...

Anyway, I've got a "non-board" solution for you: what if instead of drawing tiles from a bag, you laid them out face-down in a defined pattern or size? This, then, becomes your "board" without requiring any other materials. Also, you could alter its size and shape based on the number of players and can specify where a given tile, like your theoretical 6-door center tile, or players' start tiles, would go.

Instead of drawing from a bag, then, players draw from the "board." Perhaps they can take a tile into their hand, or perhaps they just flip it over, memory style, at which point they can rotate it, or switch it, or something else. Playtesting will help with this.

I like the "one way" door idea a lot. This is easily accomplished with arrows and the like.

Something else to consider: what if players are starting at opposite sides and moving towards one another? Then each tile you lay could help your opponent in a very real way, unless you're careful to cover your tracks, in which case you're making it more difficult for yourself later. A combination of this with one-way doors could make for some fun gameplay choices.

Control Group
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Joined: 03/19/2009
ilta wrote:Parts of this game

ilta wrote:
Parts of this game remind me of that great old Ravensburger classic, "Labyrinth." Moving pawns around a shifting maze, and in particular the way that moving the maze might affect someone else...

Anyway, I've got a "non-board" solution for you: what if instead of drawing tiles from a bag, you laid them out face-down in a defined pattern or size? This, then, becomes your "board" without requiring any other materials. Also, you could alter its size and shape based on the number of players and can specify where a given tile, like your theoretical 6-door center tile, or players' start tiles, would go.

Instead of drawing from a bag, then, players draw from the "board." Perhaps they can take a tile into their hand, or perhaps they just flip it over, memory style, at which point they can rotate it, or switch it, or something else. Playtesting will help with this.

I like the "one way" door idea a lot. This is easily accomplished with arrows and the like.

Something else to consider: what if players are starting at opposite sides and moving towards one another? Then each tile you lay could help your opponent in a very real way, unless you're careful to cover your tracks, in which case you're making it more difficult for yourself later. A combination of this with one-way doors could make for some fun gameplay choices.


Oh, nice - I like the face-down layout idea a lot. Players start with a random hand of, say, 3 tiles. Part of the deck is laid out face-down, with key tiles revealed and emplaced. Players can draw either from the deck or the board. If drawing from the board, the tile must be replaced by one from the player's hand - who will now, of course, know what's in that spot. When laying a tile, you swap the one you're laying with the face-down tile that's already there. So the deck can increase your hand size (and therefore your options for laying tiles), while the board can increase your knowledge of game state.

As you say, playtesting will be required to determine if that's a reasonable balance, or if one of those options is always clearly better, and demands tweaking.

And I admit, the one-way doors do appeal to me. I'm just concerned about them being game-breaking. I worry that they may make it such that there is no path across the board for several straight turns, which I suspect would be no fun.

Of course, that's what playtesting is for. ;)

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