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Sand Timer mechanic

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spaff
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In my current design, there is a risk for AP (analysis paralysis) due to complex decisions.

All actions are programmed simultaneously by players, which reduces the impact of AP somewhat, as players experience it together. So if two players in a game struggle, they struggle at the same time instead of separately, which potentially halves time in the game just spent thinking.

I was thinking about this- are their ways to further reduce AP without sacrificing deep choices in a game?

It occurred to me that many games actually tackle this- mostly party games with a sand timer

Then it occurred me games like Chess ALSO use a timer. In fact the timer in (rated) Chess is integral to the game. All, or at least most, sports use timers inbetween plays or for time outs...

Imagine a 4X or dudes-on-a-map game you've played before. Would a timer pull away from the immersion of the game do you think? Is part of the joy being able to carefully ponder with no rush?

Since my game is simultaneous programming- the way I envision this potentially working is the first player who finishes assigning all their actions flips over a sand timer. Any player that doesn't finish assigning their actions before the timer is out suffers a penalty. That way the timer length will scale somewhat to the complexity of the board, as it's based on the shortest thinking time, not always a set time.

In some ways this could potentially add to immersion- if you imagine in a war or skirmish setting a quick decisive decision could mean the difference between success and defeat.

What do you think? Would this pull away from immersion, add to it, or is it neither here nor there?

This would be pretty easy to test, and I will at my next playtest, I'm just curious to get some initial impressions from you all.

X3M
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I have experience with

I have experience with timers.

Bad experience.

***

I strongly advice against them these days. While at first glance, I thought it was a good idea as well.
It doesn't make the game fun any more. In contrary, players make harsh decisions.

It is better to change the game a bit. In such a way that players must react. If they don't while the game progresses, it is their loss.

Timers actually cost me more time as well. Setting the timer, then make the decision. Giving players time to react. They take their time. While in real combat, you react on an act.

The only paralisis that I have is the point where the first stone needs to be thrown by the main player. For that guy, we still use the timer. But I am looking for a way to get rid of the timer at that point as well.

let-off studios
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Sand Timers

Sand timers are inaccurate. The time it takes for one side of the sand timer to drain can be different from the other. If you want something exact, I don't recommend them. It also adds to the component cost of your game, should you be interested in pressing it with a publisher.

Could you incorporate a self-moderating timer into your game mechanics instead? The first player to "lock in" their choice - by doing something conspicuous, like flipping over an order token in plain view of all players - earns an incentive. Meanwhile, the last player to do so earns a penalty. Or rather the last player who hasn't obviously flipped their order token suffers a penalty. Close ties for last player result in no penalty being issued.

Other ways to do this is by requiring players to place the palms of their hands flat on the table, unable to move any more pieces. The first player to do so earns the incentive, while the last player to do so earns the penalty.

Maybe there's a penalty marker that affects the final player to issue their order, so the penalty token is moved around to those who are the slowest on any given turn.

This way, it's the dynamic of the group which gauges the time of the game. Some may take more, some may take less. The good news is that it may take no additional components, depending on how you want to do it.

ElKobold
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One of the ways to lower AP

One of the ways to lower AP is splitting a decision point with many choices into multiple decision points with fewer choices.

Another thing you can do is to limit the number of options at that specific decision point, while not removing the option entirely.
For example, imagine a chess variant where you roll two dice with each dice having a chess piece symbol and you are only allowed to move pieces of the type you've rolled. You effectively reduce amount of potential moves at each decision point (and so reduce the ap) without affecting complexity as much.

spaff
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the case of a tie?

let-off studios

Your suggestion was actually my first idea. My idea was to only incorporate a penalty for the last player- that way the swingyness of this particular mechanic wouldn't be that great.

I suppose I envisioned people slamming fists on the table to quickly identify they were done before someone else and knocking everything over. Or arguments breaking out over what exactly constitutes a "close tie."

I came to the conclusion of a timer of sorts as that would give a definitive end to a round- even if it was inaccurate, all players would be subject to the same inaccuracy every turn so it wouldn't be "unfair."

But I also don't like the idea of added components. And I think sand timers conjure images of charades or some other team party game, which I don't want to do.

And honestly my game doesn't have worse AP than any other game, probably better than some. I was just trying out thought experiments of how to reduce playtime on a longish game without cutting the actual game play.

Side note-
I'm fascinated with your chess variant ElKobold. I play regular chess a lot. Did you just come up with that or have you heard of that before?

FrankM
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If not sand, then a mechanical timer? Electronic?

I was also considering a timer for a game, and since there are two different time periods it would've been two distinct sand timers.

What are the actual alternatives on a not-big-box-game budget?

I'm thinking a mechanical timer (your run-of-the-mill wind-up kitchen timer, but limited to about 5 minutes), but the ticking might be more annoying than the AP!

Digital timers can be cheap, but the only one I see at The Game Crafter would be awkward to keep setting back and forth to the two time intervals, and not cheap enough to include two. But from a gameplay perspective and more to spaff's problem, I think the major downside to its relatively small LCD screen is lack of visibility for all the players.

With the right theme, I could see a Mousetrap-style Rube Goldberg timer that takes a while for a marble to traverse. Of course, this is pretty much the opposite of being economical with components!

To those with some experience with manufacturers, how much would it cost to include a simple custom electronic timer? LEDs around the edge would make it clear to everyone how much time is left, and it could emit a warning beep a bit before time runs out. My guess is that it wouldn't be cost effective for small-scale production, but still curious.

ElKobold
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spaff wrote: Side note- I'm

spaff wrote:

Side note-
I'm fascinated with your chess variant ElKobold. I play regular chess a lot. Did you just come up with that or have you heard of that before?

It's from the top of my head, to illustrate the general approach. Though I wouldn't be surprised if someone have tried it.

let-off studios
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Select With Dice

ElKobold wrote:
It's from the top of my head, to illustrate the general approach. Though I wouldn't be surprised if someone have tried it.
The ancient, Chess-like game Chaturanga used a pair of four-sided dice to determine which pieces the player was allowed to move on their turn.

The set I used to own had a pair of small square rods - like larger versions of Catan roads - with a different image etched on each of its sides. Very nice in my opinion, and gave me a different perspective on d4s instead of expecting them to look like mini-caltrops or three-sided pyramids. :)

ElKobold
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let-off studios wrote:The

let-off studios wrote:
The ancient, Chess-like game Chaturanga used a pair of four-sided dice to determine which pieces the player was allowed to move on their turn.

Haha. No wonder someone had the same idea, considering the age of the game.

Similar approach is used in Memoir 44. Except it's using cards instead of dice to lower the number of potential moves.

let-off studios
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Regarding Unit Decks

ElKobold wrote:
Similar approach is used in Memoir 44. Except it's using cards instead of dice to lower the number of potential moves.
And I'll never forget one of my favourite games from my youth that uses that mechanic: BattleMasters. My younger brother and I - and then later, friends from college - would spend entire Saturdays watching cartoons and then playing that game. Loads of fun. :)

@spaff: I don't mean to go off-topic here. But I suppose my point is to reinforce ElKobold's suggestion about artificially limiting choices. There are several games out there that have done the same or similar things. Personally, I would prefer using cards, as that guarantees there's no unit/combination of units left out due to the luck of the die roll.

Super-Tooned
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Sand Timers.

In my opinion sand timers, or any time, in a strategic game is bad. It forces players to make quick decisions and doesn't give them time to think. Players need a time to think about their next move and not be prssuredas much.

Thats just me.

Super
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