Lines of Fire is my first board game design done as an adult. I used to make some simple board games as a kid, but haven't done it for almost 20 years. I've posted about the game on the forums:
I've had quite a few play tests so far, some by myself, some with other local players. Only in a very recent play tests did a big problem with one of the board layouts come out. There's a hex board and a square board. The square one is the most tested and seems to be fine, but the hex board has a big problem: with at least 4 players, there seems to be an almost certain way to always trap and eliminate another player at the start of the game.
The hex board is 6 hexes for each side, and the whole board also forms a hex. Players start from corners of the big hex, and have only 2 start moves that make sense -- put a bomb to the left or to the right. If two adjacent players put bombs towards each other (and one of them can obviously force the situation), they will have a clear path between each other's corners. And getting there is easy with 5 (or more) steps available on each turn.
Now, the starting player token moves each round. With enough payers, between at least one such pair of players described above, Player 1 can move before Player 2 for several rounds. 3 rounds of moving before the other one seems to do the trick.
Some info about the board (see image) and rules (PDF on Dropbox):
Round 1. The way between the players has cleared (Bomb1 and Bomb2 spaces have bombs that explode)
Round 2. Player 1 uses 5 steps to move from his corner onto the Bomb2 space, so that Player 2 will be locked into a dead end where he can only move between the spaces P2 and DeadEnd. If Player 2 moves to DeadEnd, they die next round; if they move to P2, they die after 2 rounds. Lets assume they pick P2.
Round 3. Player 1 still goes before Player 2, places a bomb on Bomb2 and moves away (2 steps, out of bomb range) -- the other player is now still blocked between P2 and DeadEnd and is forced to move to DeadEnd to escape the bomb's range.
Round 4. Player 1 still goes before Player 2, he now moves to P2 and can put the bomb there. Player 2 is now totally locked in and can't do anything. They blow up when the bombs explode.
So basically, Player 2 is locked into doing pretty much nothing for 3 rounds early in the game, and is then eliminated! What a fine experience, eh? And with 5 or 6 players, this is pretty much guaranteed (unless the players who have this opportunity don't see it or use it)
This situation actually happened, very similarly. The game has cards with additional powers, though, and Player 2 was saved by them (lucky draw!). What's worse is that Player 1 could place a landmine instead of a bomb (with a card -- ok, maybe the card is too powerful and needs to go). Landmine doesn't go off until it is stepped on, and that basically locks the other player in until someone else saves him from the other side (or not at all). Landmine can also be countered with some other cards -- so it's all down to luck.
But nevermind about the Landmine (I'll probably get rid of it) -- what can I do about the main issue here? I've thought about some solutions, and why they are not elegant enough:
All of these solutions seem artificial, inelegant, complicated.
Ideally, I would keep the movement at 5 steps -- it's the same as on the square board then, and it works fine for most of the game on the hex board, just this one situation is bad. 5 is not totally arbitrarily chosen: on both the square and the hex boards, it's enough to go around a corner two rows away from you, place a bomb there and then step back around the corner (or forward around another corner), out of harms way. 4 might work, but then I'd need to do a lot more tests again and I suspect the game will turn quite a bit longer.
No speed power-ups on the edges seems like it should be done anyway, but that only reduces an even worse version of the same problem to the one I just described.
Any ideas? I know this is probably a lot to take in, especially if you don't already have an idea about how the game plays. Perhaps I should just drop the hex board, but I like it except for this one big problem.