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Rethinking turn-based games

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Experimental Designs
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I apologize if this was posted in the wrong forum for I wasn't sure if this was supposed to go in Mechanics or Design Theory.

Also hello and long time no-see to those who showed interests in my threads after a very long haitus.

With the formalities out of the way I wanted to share an idea with folks on a theory of re-thinking how we do game turns in boardgames and wargames in general.

Let's break down on the traditional IGOUGO system of two players taking turns and following a turn sequence until Player 1s turn is complete then Player 2 begins theirs. I won't deny that I do become frustrated in most games like this I just sit there waiting as my opponent wreck my pieces and there is nothing I can do until my turn. Where is the interaction?!

So after experimenting with other games and revisiting my own designs I've come to the conclusion that turns can be done away with if games are played in rounds instead of turn by turn. Now some are of you are going "games are played in rounds already when both players complete their turns" which technically that is the case but let's consider each round is played by the phase, not by the entire sequence.

Hear me out.

If normally a game has three phases which in this instance is a command phase, action phase and clean-up phase; then in a traditional turn sequence a player does one phase at a time during their turn until they resolve the clean-up phase then its the other player's turn to do the same, rinse and repeat. Supposedly both players do each phase at a time simultaneously by alternating between actions until they both complete the ending phase and ending the round.

Does this make sense so far?

JohnBrieger
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Difficulties with phased games

There are lots of games that follow this model – probably most notably Role selection games like Race for the Galaxy and Puerto Rico – where players are selecting which phases will be performed in a given round, and X-Wing, which has some phases where players alternate actions and some phases that are simultaneous.

Sometimes phasing makes a game easier to play, but depending on how it's implemented, it can make it harder. There is a reason that some publishers, like Stonemaier Games, ONLY accept game submissions that don't have complicated phases – while phasing a round nearly always decreases player downtime, it increases the cognitive load and # of things to keep track of over duration of play.

Experimental Designs
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So would that mean that

So would that mean that multi-player games with 3 or more will make this design inanely complex?

JohnBrieger
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Complexity

Not necessarily – I think you just have to be very careful about how many phases you implement and how clear it is what is done in each phase. So really just something to watch for in playtesting

My most recent design, Causality, uses phased rounds (2 phases with actions + scoring and cleanup) and is light-medium weight, ~60mins with 4p.

Experimental Designs
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With that consideration in

With that consideration in mind I was of the mindset that if it's anymore than three phases it would be severely impractical to the point of being unplayable.

So it boils down to how complex the phases are themselves or the entire mechanics of the game itself or both?

JamJam52
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Something i've seen is some

Something i've seen is some games is the 'copy' effect. In tiny epic galaxys you can copy another players action by spending a resource (culture i think it was). This is a nice and simple bit of iteration which break the igougo rule (tho it can be a pain with asking after every action 'anyone copying this.?').

MTG has the whole instant/sorcery thing which is easily the best aspect about the game, instants typically cost more for the effect than sorcery's. Prehaps one way to ease the load would be to have a simple phase order but allow the player to break it and make plays out of order by spending a resource, that way it can only be done a certain amount or whenever they have enough of said resource... also allows you to control how much that happens in a given game.

gxnpt
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phases

My game uses 4 phases - simple economic, more complicated movement with written orders, combat that can become complicated and use written orders, and a simple aftermath phase that includes negotiation.

But mine is probably a medium heavy game with several hours play time with 6 players and a couple hours with 2-4.

I prefer phases or some simultaneous action when more than 2 players in strategy based games.

Corsaire
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I think the complexity load

I think the complexity load can be game or phase dependent. It shifts the mindset a bit from grand strategic to reactive. I think you also have to consider what happens when "that guy" is playing...i.e. the overly cautious, slow mover. In groups I've been in, in a turn base game you do other things while they plod. If it is a snappier, phase based, game then it can be torturous because the rythm goes all funky.

Sometimes it just emerges in turn based rules where everyone builds at the same time; in my all time favorite game, Advanced Civilization, that convention amongst experienced players can cut hours off the game.

X3M
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Here is how it goes in my game @themoment

Players in my game have a random "turn" order each round. (But this could even be done for each phase)

I got several main phases. Each have their own use in just going by the turn order. But they are resolved so quickly that you don't have the problem of waiting.
!Pick your amount of resources!
!Pick your event card!
!Place your units/structures!

The only phase that shows a problem of waiting is the "future placement" phase. Where one player decides on what is going to be produced and where. Then another player is in turn and can react to this. Although, notching is set in stone by this phase.

The actual phase of placing things is somewhere at the end. And here it turns out if players bluffed (it costs money and wasted efforts). Or that they simply cannot place things due to destruction or obstruction.

The phase of action point spending is the big one and takes 75% of the total round time. Here players get 7 AP each by default. And they follow the random turn order once again. The one in turn is forced to play at least 1 ap, or else it is lost. All other players can react in their own way by spending ap themselves. But don't have to. This is a shout out before the "main" player does its action.

In short:
Declaration of the action.
Other players possible respond with the declaration of their actions.
Performing all the actions, depending on what they are in their order.

Event cards are also picked in a phase. However, they can be played any time and any where. I got a lot of shout outs in my game. So the IGOUGO system is applied, but players don't have too.

I guess, I could say, that there is a main order to follow. And a (real time) shadow "might" follow this order.

The only players that are left waiting for longer times are those who.... cowardly camp as far as possible from the main action.

Experimental Designs
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The three phases I have in

The three phases I have in mind are three phases.

The first phase is the command phase where you accrue and allocate points to areas you may want such as reconnaissance, off-map support and orders to units. Players alternate accruing and allocating then it goes into the next phase.

The second phase is the execution phase to put the command points to action with ordering units into combat actions and the use tactics (which are cards played passively, defensively or offensively on your opponent's pieces) and to use points for support options selected in the previous phase. Here actions are resolved with traditional dice rolls with modifiers and various degrees of success or failures and like the previous phase these are alternated meaning some of your units activate then your opponents and so-on until the phase is complete.

Finally is the Effect phase which resolves or accrue effects allotted from the execution phase to be recorded or resolved in a clean-up effort to begin the command round again so as to make it easier to keep track on what went on from the last round that may effect the next.

That's the gist how my game works, but is it too complicated?

JohnBrieger
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The Play's the Thing!

@Experimental – it doesn't sound too complicated at a glance, but playtesting it with other people is going to be the best bet! Sometimes things I find simple end up really confusing for others, and sometimes mechanics I worry will be too complex are easy to grasp when put in the correct metaphor.

Playtest and see! (oh and remember to make a short player reference card – very important for phased games.)

X3M
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Playtest is key here. If

Playtest is key here.
If things are too complicated for other players. You need to cut away things. Or you need to apply more structure.

It is clear to my players what comes first, second, third erc.

And there is only one phase that is absolute chaos if players want to. But it is simply shouting their actions. Then the order is already decided and they work down that list.

At first glance it should not have worked. But with playtesting it showed that it did. And it is actually fun too to play like that.

If you are afraid that the structure of your phases is to complicated. Can you play "tutorial" games with just 1 or a few phases?
It also helps explaining them like that. I had some single and co-op missions designed that explain my phases and actions. (still need to rewrite them though). But that way is a good way in introducing new players.

Can your game work with less phases? I mean, leave some phases out.

I can leave out all phases except for the action phase. And I can leave out all possible actions except for the move and attack action. Better yet, I could strip the game down to a tower war. Which is done in mere minutes. Just to explain how combat works at the basics.

In short.
See if you can strip down the phases or to 1 phase. And see if things of the game are explained. See if there is a game that way. Then apply structure in building from there. Does this leave you with a tutorial?

If so, you have notching to worry about complexity. The game just takes a bit longer to learn.
If it is too long for your target audience, only then you need to reduce the "complexity". It doesn't have to be the number of phases. Maybe some of the individual phases can be cut up into more phases. Or being reduced to a simpler phase.

"Quantum mechanic the game"

Experimental Designs
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It has reached a point that

It has reached a point that adding or even taking away phases will create a huge destabilization of the game. Yes, it is so fragile that any modification to the number of phases can make it unplayable. So adding phases or reducing it to 1 is out of the equation.

X3M
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You talked about points

You talked about points allocated. Can you do something with the amount?
Other then that, the number of players too can be adjusted for a fast play test.

If an minimum of points (desirable) and players (2) shows too much complexity, you simply know that with more players and/or points, the complexity might go up.

Try the minimum in a play test. Then see what happens if you double the points. And what happens when you double the players.

Experimental Designs
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The amount varies on how much

The amount varies on how much each player deploys and the size of the game.

There is a certain amount each player can start off with but it's the amount that relies a lot on resource management and risk management at the same time. The points share a pool with the exception of reconnaissance points since that more or less stays with recon elements such as scout units. However there are situations and assets that require recon points to be spent.

larienna
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Quote:So would that mean that

Quote:
So would that mean that multi-player games with 3 or more will make this design inanely complex?

Twilight Imperium 3 & 4 use that system and yes it is annoying.

The objective was to reduce downtime and keep players engaged in the game.

But for me it has the annoying effect of making your forget what you wanted to do. Or sometimes you are lost in the turn flow and don't know who's turn it is.

I am more a "do and forget" style of person, this is why this technique does not work well for me.

Still, now that you mention it, it could be less painfull in a 2 player game. Else, having specific available counter actions during your opponent's turn could be a solution to react to his choices.

questccg
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Re: Difficulties with phased games

Well "TradeWorlds" uses a very SIMPLIFIED "turn-order". It's as EASY as A-B-C-D, let me explain:

A> Action: Choose one (1) out of ten (10) roles and perform the action
B> Buy: Buy cards from your Upgrade piles (which are 4 or 5 piles)
C> Configure: Configure Starships for your Space Lane (and to defend your Homeworld)
D> Discard: Discard any cards from your hand that you do not want to keep for your next turn.

That pretty much SUMS up the "turn-order". And this includes a role-selection mechanic too. Just like "Race for the Galaxy" or "Puerto Rico". So while you can PLAN AHEAD, your plans may need to be changed based on how the other players play their turns.

It took a "Game Reviewer" (Thanks Nicole) to point out this A-B-C-D (simple) turn-order. And once you play, you realize it's actually 100% accurate and keeps things simple in terms of play (while still offering good strategic depth).

So I don't think ALL "Phased" games should be put into the same category when it comes to phases. Sometimes phases can greatly SIMPLIFY how you both teach and explain a game.

Cheers!

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