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Abstracting Ninja Encounters off board

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larienna
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Long story short: I had an abstract idea recently to roll and pair dice together to perform various actions. But I quickly realized that I did not really need to do this as a detailed system of classic skill rolls could actually do the job.

Now the real problem is how to deal with the various threat on the board most specifically the mobile threat (Guards), because I could possibly easily design an obstacle course where you do various skill roll during your path, but when you add people to the map, it is very complicated to keep track of alertness, guard status, AI script, etc.

So I thought that it's the opposing forces that needs to be abstracted, not the player. So my idea is that each area of the board can have at most 2 types of cubes (Guards and innocents). I could look similar to something like that (last year's prototype):

http://bgd.lariennalibrary.com/uploads/Mainsite/GameIdea/GameIdea2010050...

Now when you enter a square(area) you flip a number of cards equal to the number of guards and innocent people. Now you must take your actions in this square according to those people currently present. You could kill them, trick them, sneak on them, etc. Then when you are done and move to another square, the enemy characters do their last resolution, like finding dead bodies, and then the cards are discarded. A new set of card is drawn for the new square. So when the actions in a square is over, the game forgets what happened in that square, and then move to the next square. If something bad happened during that encounter, alert levels could raise, new guards could spawn or move on the board, etc.

So it follows the philosophy of detail the game on demand instead of detailing the whole board. It somewhat makes more sense because the area is likely to get crowded by much more than a few guards like seen in many video games.

FrankM
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I like the idea of less record-keeping

I like the idea of the game forgetting non-essential details, though I'm not sure it can be abstracted all the way down to just cubes.

Don't know any of the details of the game beyond what was on your "game ideas" page, but there was mention of an alert level. I'm assuming this is general alertness rather than specific awareness of the ninja's actions/whereabouts. For illustration, suppose there are five levels of alertness which I will color-code.

Black: Oblivious (asleep, knocked out, absorbed in a chess match, etc.)
Green: Unaware (walking casually, eating, etc.)
Yellow: Normal (aware but no Spidey Sense tingling)
Red: Alert (suspicious that something is afoot)
White: Engaged (knows that something is afoot)

This might work as a colored chip that is placed under the piece.

Typically, innocents will start off at Black or Green, while guards start at Yellow. The mechanics would allow for situations that raise alertness, but should also allow for some alert fatigue (alertness above Yellow drops after a while). Actions can have skill-check modifiers depending on the target's alertness, and might even have different effects.

It would make sense that changes in alertness can affect others nearby, and maybe even in areas that have visibility into where the person is (a guard at White might raise the alertness of any guard who sees him to Red and any innocent who sees him to Yellow).

Depending on how you want to model objectives, I would suggest making a small number of innocents and guards distinct. Continuing the idea of colored chips, these could be flagged with an orange, purple or gray chip in addition to their alertness chip. These would be for roles such as Guard Captain or Intended Assassination Target.

For the campaign mode, what is to prevent the player from just using one ninja for every mission to level-up as much as possible?

larienna
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The alert level is more like

The alert level is more like a global alert level that effects everyone.

Keeping track of individual awareness is actually what I want to avoid because it make the game fiddly and annoying to manage.

One solution could be to use a low scale detailed map, where you'll have at most 6 or 8 enemies in order to keep track of everything. They could even have a character sheet of their own. Reminds me of invisible inc. Then again, not very convenient because it would now require a more sophisticated AI.

Else while looking at my game collection, I was thinking about dungeon quest where certain tiles has some special effects and when you enter an area, and when you draw a card as an encounter.

I could use a similar system where every time you enter a new area, you have an encounter card. The type of area (Houses, garden, etc) could determine which kind of card is drawn. The card could contain a list of chararacters, obstacle, or a difficulty to use certain skills. Or even a mini map containing where the people are positioned on the tile.

I gave some thoughts to the map design, and to make terrain interesting to navigate, I thought of maybe allowing player not only to move between space, but also move in corners and move between corners using walls, rivers, etc. It could look like an octogon + square tile floor.

Right now, I think I should be focusing more on making an obstacle course without any people and see if that can make a fun game. Then I could see how people could influence the core rules.

FrankM
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Maybe room-level alerts

Yeah, individual awareness is probably too much, though a ninja who tips off an adversary should have at least a slim chance of keeping the whole place from going bonkers. Maybe at the end of a turn, surviving occupants affect adjacent areas to go up one level, up to their own. It would take a bit for the whole complex to "wake up." Of course a serious blunder lets someone raise the alarm.

Still think the occasional distinct NPC is a good idea when you get to the point of adding people. Guard Captain can keep his area at a higher awareness level, but more important would be flagging a target for certain kinds of missions.

larienna
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I post an idea of map design

I post an idea of map design here that would allow various level of depth:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/26731830#26731830

In that scenario, you would only encounter 1 unit at a time during movement or action.

I intend to have some sort of patrol lead by a samurai. When it enters the space, nor only it reinforce security, but it checks if everybody is there. If not then it grow suspicious and start wither looking for people, add people, raise alert level, etc.

So you would have some sort of delay before the nasty things you have done gets discovered.

FrankM
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Sublocations

So each location will actually be nine sub-locations (interior, four edges, four corners).

Some basic visibility rules will be necessary, since sneaking along the edge between two open spaces doesn't gain you anything. Tiptoeing along a high wall, on the other hand, can be quite stealthy to units on the ground.

It'd be neat if there were some indication of an upper level (rooftops, branches, etc.) to give more options when navigating. No need to be invisible when traversing the roof of an occupied building, but it would be wise to be quiet.

larienna
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I was thinking that edges

I was thinking that edges would be either a moat/river that you could swim underwater and pass undetected. Or they could be wall with the possibility of guards on them. So for now, edges seems like higher or lower ground by default.

There could be thin wall that cannot be occupied by a guard, but that the player could walk on it. Yes, you would not get detected by walking on the edges unless there is a guard there, or unless you make some noise. In that case it would alert/move people in connected space.

Guard behavior is still to determine, but I might want it more to be something the player can manipulate, like using distraction to move guards where you want so that you can move where they were.

FrankM
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Only know of one game like that

I only know of one game with an AI intended to be manipulated, The Walking Dead: All Out War lets players try to get the mindless zombies to unwittingly ruin an opponent's day.

larienna
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I made some ergonomic test by

I made some ergonomic test by placing cubes in 2"x2" squares and placing a lot of cubes can clutter the space easily.

So either I have to limit 2 to 3 cubes per space, or I have to use bigger 2.5"x2.5" per square. Which forces me to use the 5x5" and or 5x10" board on game crafters. Which means needing a bigger box if using the 5x10 boards.

FrankM
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Claustrophobic cubes?

larienna wrote:
I made some ergonomic test by placing cubes in 2"x2" squares and placing a lot of cubes can clutter the space easily.

So either I have to limit 2 to 3 cubes per space, or I have to use bigger 2.5"x2.5" per square. Which forces me to use the 5x5" and or 5x10" board on game crafters. Which means needing a bigger box if using the 5x10 boards.


I don't quite follow, 10mm wooden cubes are about 2/5" on a side, which means 25 of the buggers could fit in a 2" square if arranged carefully. It seems like 5 or 6 could fit comfortably, though admittedly I haven't checked this with actual physical components.

Or are you planning on using something bigger than cubes when the game goes into production?

If the plan is to stick with cubes, for a "mere" 10-fold increase in cost you could use custom 16mm dice instead of cubes. That would let you either store some state information via what face is up, or let you roll the opponents' tokens directly when resolving actions.

larienna
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I tested with 8mm cubes. The

I tested with 8mm cubes. The problem is that the position of the cube matters, so you can easily miss place a cube due to the lack of space. Then you need to possibly add up to 2 pawns, 1 for the player and 1 for the patrol. That could be how crowded the place is.

I might not be able to have multiple areas inside the square, that would be too much. Else I could design an asymmetric map with a similar design (Like the ninja scorpion clan board game), but it's much harder to design, and it would lack of structure even if I gained more flexibility.

Finally on game crafters the larger 11x9 inch box is just 1$ more than the 9"x5" box. So it should not raise the cost too much.

Still, I like small and deep games, but I think for that kind of game, the map design would be very important because it's somehow the fun behind the theme of the game: to analyze terrain and work your way during mission. That is somehow the feeling I get when playing techhu, mark of the ninja, invisible inc, etc.

I think abstracting it more would just feel like a dungeon crawler like dungeon quest where you move in an area, encounter monsters then pass to the next room.

While the idea behind a ninja game is like a puzzle, it's like finding a path in a maze. Use your tools to bend the maze, spend resources and push your luck to accomplish your goal. Maybe there is another way to abstract those concept. Still, the idea of a maze requires a map, which should be the core of the game.

There is a new Ninja video game that was released recently. It looks like a real-time strategy/planning game when you can control multiple characters. I'll see if I could get additional inspiration from that game.

FrankM
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Splitting the difference

It might not matter where the cube (guard or innocent) is within the space, but the ninja could still occupy a sub-location such as in the middle or on an edge.

Then the encounter check is with the room if a ninja is in the middle, or with all adjacent areas if the ninja is on an edge or corner. Presumably, being on an edge or corner is stealthier so the increased checks are each at much lower probability of discovery.

Still might make sense to go to 2.5" squares anyway.

larienna
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But by positioning cubes, it

But by positioning cubes, it increases the depth of the puzzle.

I think the way to see this game abstractly is to see it as a puzzle/maze and try to find what kind of things that could be done in such game. Manipulating the puzzle or the maze is one of them.

Else possibly the characters will not be proficient in all skills, or not having all the necessary equipment, preventing him do to certain actions, like for example climbing walls. So that character will have to find another way to accomplish it's mission. Maybe by disguising itself and trying to persuade guards for example. So the character you use would change how you solve the puzzle.

Another cool idea is that some players could design the maze, by creating scenario map while other players try to solve the map. So it could be fun to play both sides. And it would allow indirect gameplay between 2 players.

What I don't like about puzzle is the fact that there is a solution for a specific character. This is why I might want to add randomness in skill resolution with resource management with maybe random complication/benefits, to make each game unique.

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