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Does the board need to be mathematically balanced?

3 replies [Last post]
Drayst's picture
Joined: 07/20/2012

Hi all!

Little background. I'm very logical minded person and I love symmetry and balance what comes to my games.
Previous game I made was both and people said it was boring so I tossed to the cooler for while.

Now I have a new game idea and I need to have some opinion from here as well from my friends.

The latests board is here

Those with keen eyes notice few things.
-There are circles and squares. You travel on both equally, but the circles contain coins (not in picture) that you can turn.
-Big "H" in the middle (thats the finishing line when sertain tasks are done)
-Four big half circles each side the board (place where you can start)
-Each colored area has eight (8) circles but different amount of squares.
-There are three (3) circles that are different. These are mining shafts where you can travel between them.

Those colored areas are for different monsters and the white area is "neutral".

My first attempt to make the board was yet again symmetric and calculated and by now you guess what my wife said... "You are making it boring again" ;) I do love her really. Shes honest.

My concern is that if the areas are unequal then some of the monsters/players has more advantage.
What my wife says is that "life isn't balanced and fair and the tone of the game is dark".

Question remains: Does the board need to be mathematically balanced?

MarkKreitler's picture
Joined: 11/12/2008
Usually, yes

> Question remains: Does the board need to be mathematically balanced?

For most games, you want all systems -- including the board -- mathematically balanced.

But this does *not* imply symmetry or equality within each system.

Consider the board for Settlers of Catan. The tiles aren't symmetric, but the designer imposes balance through order of placement in the starting settlements. Players go clockwise around the table when placing their first settlement. Then, starting with the last person to place, proceed counter-clockwise placing the second settlement.

In your case, you could have fewer, larger treasures in one area (with correspondingly tougher monsters), and "below average" treasures and monsters in another, leaving the third area as you have them, now. This is just an example. I don't know enough about your game to suggest actual changes. Hopefully, it demonstrates two important points:

1) You can balance a group of systems without requiring each system to balance individually.
2) Balance is not the same as symmetry.

Good luck!

Taffer's picture
Joined: 04/14/2012
Agreed. As long as the game


As long as the game rules or placement of components balances it out, the board itself doesn't need to be balanced. I think some amount of randomness/luck can still be part of the game (hey, some games are all about luck) -- just don't make it so that if Player 4 is the last one to pick a starting position, he gets the bad position and has a worse chance to win just because of that.

In my game (Lines of Fire) I'm doing the opposite: the board is symmetrical, but "loot" is placed randomly on the board. Some players may get luckier than others, but then I have *some* balancing mechanisms to counter a player finding too much loot (power-ups) compared to the others, but mostly the lucky players will still have a somewhat better chance of winning.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
According to Christopher

According to Christopher Alexander's theory:

"Local symmetry" is good but not complete symmetry. Some games elements needs to be symmetric but not the complete game.

The property he calls "Roughness" explains that imperfection is better than perfection. In board games, this is generally the case for special abilities or unit stats where you know it is not perfectly balanced for sure.

Take a look at my article "playing with numbers" that explains how to use number sequence to make a game look better designed:

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