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Help designing a "Game Engine"

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questccg
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This may sound a bit strange, I am looking for information concerning "Engine Building". The closest game I can find that has any similarities is San Juan...

TradeWorlds used San Juan's roles mechanic... And now I am more interested in the mechanics for scoring points (or using/creating resources).

This is for Quest AC, version 2.0.

Anyone can point me to other games that use a game engine??? I also want to use it to simplify the AI mechanics too.

Cheers.

polyobsessive
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Engine

Probably the majority of Euro games have some form of engine building, mostly along the lines of:

Resource A -> Resource B -> Resource C -> Victory points.

Usually the engine build is largely about enhancing the pathways that allow you to convert the resources more efficiently, and different players may be able to construct different paths.

What are you trying to achieve here? What are your resources? What outcomes are you trying to achieve? What sort of decisions do you want players to make?

let-off studios
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Dominion

You may want to refresh yourself with a completely vanilla game of Dominion, without any expansions. Play maybe five games, with a couple different cards available in each game, and see how everything allows a player to refine their engine up until that critical, self-determined tipping point where one must stop minting coins to gain production capacity, and start spending coins to gain VP.

pelle
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Lots of (euro)games are all

Lots of (euro)games are all about each turn deciding to improve your engine (become better at producing some resource, or turning one type of resource into another type of resource, or turning some resource into victory points) OR creating some victory points. And the main strategic decision in almost all of those games is what turn to stop focusing on the engine and start creating victory points instead. It is the first thing I focus on when someone teaches me a new game, trying to understand what to look out for to guess when the engine is "done".

Not my favorite type of game though. Feel kind of cheated when I am done creating that amazing engine, and then instead of being able to actually use it for something (eg make war against the other players) we just count victory points and then take down the game. I was actually surprised the first time I was introduced to Carcassonne, the first euro-type game I played, and when we had set up all the tiles to make a nice map we did not play anything on it, we just counted points. I expected there to be another phase where we started to move around the meeples and actually DO something in the game. But then having played many euros since I have learned to expect that the setup-phase is all there is, and it seems to be the expectation of fans of the genre as well.

let-off studios
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Setup is the Game

pelle wrote:
...But then having played many euros since I have learned to expect that the setup-phase is all there is, and it seems to be the expectation of fans of the genre as well.
Oh! I never quite looked at it that way, but your observation makes a lot of sense.

The trouble with a typical Eurogame and extending it into the "next phase," I think, is that it would be difficult to prevent a foregone conclusion in Phase Two. Among other things, I personally think typical Euro's escape the potential quagmires of "player elimination" and "the winner keeps winning" due to their structure, in addition to keeping all players in contention for the win up until the end.

pelle
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let-off studios wrote:pelle

let-off studios wrote:
pelle wrote:
...But then having played many euros since I have learned to expect that the setup-phase is all there is, and it seems to be the expectation of fans of the genre as well.
Oh! I never quite looked at it that way, but your observation makes a lot of sense.

The trouble with a typical Eurogame and extending it into the "next phase," I think, is that it would be difficult to prevent a foregone conclusion in Phase Two. Among other things, I personally think typical Euro's escape the potential quagmires of "player elimination" and "the winner keeps winning" due to their structure, in addition to keeping all players in contention for the win up until the end.

Yes, I know. Just adding a "game phase" at the end of the euro "setup phase" would probably end up with just a too long game that is often decided too early.

But I prefer games that have more of "doing things" built into them overall, rather than being closer to pure "engine-building games". I thought Dominion and Ascension were pretty fun for instance, but then when I was introduced to Star Realms (and Hero Realms) that really got me into playing deckbuilders, because instead of just optimizing my deck and counting victory points it suddenly was a lot about using the cards to DO something. Thematically I must admit the games are still almost as weak as the other games though. Both Star Realms and Hero Realms also frustrates the thematic gamer in me by having all those fun thematic cards that in the end are just use for very abstract operations. There is a very weak indirect link between the games I play and what actions I then take on my turn (compared to a highly thematic cardgame like old Up Front for instance, where the connection is very strong).

I think that is something for quest to consider. Games that focus a lot on the engine-building often feels like "building an engine with some theme pasted on" no matter how fun thematic cards are used.

Corsaire
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In terms of examples... The

In terms of examples...
The cleanest example is Century Spice Road.

Through the Ages has very video game familar engine elements. Steam Works is both literally and conceptually an engine builder.

Automobiles has a more literal element and a cool balance as a bag builder.

Lisboa is a heavy euro example, but the engines aren't deep though the strategy is.

7 Wonders may not come up on many lists as an engine builder, but it has all the trademarks.

Splendor qualifies, but is pretty shallow as engines go.

Terra Mystica or Gaia Project are heavy engine builders and success depends on tightly managing excess and leverage engine aspects early.

questccg
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Something a little bit "different"...

polyobsessive wrote:
What are you trying to achieve here?

Hi Rob, thanks for your reply. Strangely enough, I am trying to design a "Collectible Card Game" (CCG) that uses a "Game Engine" to drive play like many lite "euros".

polyobsessive wrote:
What are your resources?

I have three "resource categories": Riches, Fame and Influence. Next each side (Light/Shadow) has their own resource for each category:

  • Light: Income, Renown and Favor
  • Shadow: Bounty, Villainy and Servitude

polyobsessive wrote:
What outcomes are you trying to achieve?

Each card you can play is in three (3) categories for each side:

  • Heroisms: Heroes, Equipment and Nobles.
  • Terrors: Monsters, Treasures and Underlings.

Both sides use only their cards to define the "play area" (Table).

Both sides "are building" the realm: one the dark side (Shadow) and the other the light side. Still not 100% sure about "Victory Points" (VPs) ... for now I have it in my mind, one (1) card equals one (1) VP.

polyobsessive wrote:
What sort of decisions do you want players to make?

The game is divided into three (3) phases: build, challenge, and lastly score.

During the "Build" phase, players are both trying to populate more of the realms Landmarks/Locations. The "Challenge" phase, both players will combat each other in the attempt to defeat their opponent and lastly the "Score" phase which is points related earned towards a victory.

Different Landmarks/Location can be in different phases too.

The game is over once both sides convert all their Landmarks/Locations to the "Score" phase such that a winner can be determined by the most number of points.

What is fundamentally different is that BOTH players will battle each other in "direct" conflict. And the game can be made "easier" or "harder" depending on the "initial setup". Obviously the more "Shadow" cards on the table, the more difficult the challenge to win...

Does all of this make any sense??? Is it something interesting?? Have you seen anything like this before?

I'm asking because to be real honest, I don't play many board games. And from what I know about "Engine Building" the game fits the category but is somewhat different from what is already "out there".

Please feel free to comment/ask questions/give feedback/etc.

Cheers.

questccg
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Oddly it may sound similar to...

Magic: the Gathering. But it's not. It just sounds similar from the description but playing the game will be different.

So "Build" phase could sort of be like amassing "Land" cards for mana and the "Challenge" phase could sort of be like the "Magic's combat" resolution.

The game's goal is to defeat your opponent by reducing his health from 20 to 0 points. If you abstract this, it basically means "Scoring" 20 of more points before your opponent does the same.

Although all this is TRUE... My game is so very different (aside from the game's phases). How? Well for one thing, there are no "Land" cards, they are Landmarks/Locations in the realm. Like a City or a Dungeon, etc. Similar maybe, but different. Those cards produce "resources" according to the other cards in play (after the Challenge phase).

Challenge phases are completely different. Where Magic is deterministic, my game uses odds/probabilities to combat (no dice). So there is a factor of luck involved ... but each player can improve his/her odds of success or victory.

Scoring phase is still a bit nebulous at the moment. Is it first one to 20 points or is it end of game "computation" and the higher score wins. Again not sure. But scoring will be based on the cards played on the table... That's for certain.

I can't firmly explain how different the game really is ... Obviously I guess you could also say that Magic has it's own "type" of Game Engine and my game is very different aside from the phases of play... Which are probably similar to most "interactive" games with direct conflict resolution...

Note: The game is for one (1) to two (2) players. So the game will either be "solitary" or a two (2) player duel. It is not designed to play more players – and I'm okay with that.

questccg
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No Deck-Builders please!

pelle wrote:
But I prefer games that have more of "doing things" built into them overall, rather than being closer to pure "engine-building games". I thought Dominion and Ascension were pretty fun for instance, but then when I was introduced to Star Realms (and Hero Realms) that really got me into playing deckbuilders, because instead of just optimizing my deck and counting victory points it suddenly was a lot about using the cards to DO something.

I am trying to not "rely" on "Deck-Builders" because my last game was a Deck-Builder ("TradeWorlds") and although the game was a moderate success in crowdfunding ... We are still awaiting the reaction from the public for this game. Now while I don't want to be overly excited, I have heard comments that our game ("TradeWorlds") is better than "Star Realms". For reason such as there is less "fodder" or too many types of cards, which make the "building" of your deck somewhat "try to get the best cards as possible"...

I've played Hero Realms and that too was an "average" experience too.

But I want to focus on "Deck-Construction" (Offline) and not "Deck-Building". And I want the game to be what amounts to an "Engine" with some actual "conflict" between both sides (light/shadow).

So while it may be a good suggestion to look at "Deck-Builders" as building an "Engine" ... I want to stick away from that ... because true to it's nature, the game is more about "Building a Realm" and not building a Deck...

I see that as a fundamental difference. Once cards are in play, they are subject to the "Engine's" phases.

And as a "reference", the game is about different "Quests" (or Campaign Decks). The game's goals will change according to the "Quest" being played... Unlike Version 1.0 where there were a bunch of Quests to accomplish, Version 2.0 is about beating ONE (1) Quest at a time.

Since it is an engine, you should be able to "push the limits" by adding cards to the initial setup, making the game harder and harder to beat. Why would you do this? Because solo play allows you to build a tougher deck for duels... So by playing alone, you can tweak and perfect your Mini-Decks for future match-ups.

It definitely is something DIFFERENT than "TradeWorlds" and also very different from "Magic" too. I'm really trying to focus on the "Engine" aspect, so that the game allows players to perfect their own decks by TRYING their Mini-decks out...

That also is something of a novel element: test out your Decks before battling an opponent. Since "solo" play is one of the game's two variants.

Again, any "Game Suggestions" that are NOT "Deck-Builders"???

Note: Sorry @Corsaire... I'll take a look at some of your suggestions. Thank you.

RyanRay
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I would highly recommend the

I would highly recommend the game Specter of Zavandor, but NOT because I think it's a good game, quite the opposite actually.

It's an engine-builder that goes veeerrrrrryyyyyy slllllooooowwwwwllllyyyyyy. I would try to play it at least once so you can see how to make a game that builds up so slowly that it's just not enjoyable.

Splendor, Century: Spice Road, and Dominion are easy-to-find games that show the lighter side of engine-building.

questccg
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Good advice

RyanRay wrote:
It's an engine-builder that goes veeerrrrrryyyyyy slllllooooowwwwwllllyyyyyy. I would try to play it at least once so you can see how to make a game that builds up so slowly that it's just not enjoyable.

I'll see if I can watch a video review about it (Specter of Zavandor).

But my game can't be SLOW: you only have 30 cards! I'm thinking games get played between 30-45 minutes. Because you only have a limited amount of cards in your "Mini-Deck" (30 cards is small enough), the game needs to be "on the seat of your pants" right from the gecko!

But I'll check it out! Cheers...

Update: And another fact is that it's a two (2) player game... So the amount of downtime is minimal. In the solo version, there is basically NO downtime – because you need to play for the AI and then your own turn. So something is always going on as you play the game...

Update #2: I saw a Video Review by the Gamer's Table... It seems like the winner can be "predicted" with a "lot of analysis". The box looks neat and the "ideas" of the Schools of Magic looks pretty interesting too! But like one reviewer said, if you play with someone who analyzes everything they can do on a turn, it will be impossible to beat that person. Moreover if EVERYONE did this... the game would take hours.

questccg
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Looked at "Keyflower"

This is a part "bidding-auction", "worker-placement", "tile-laying", and "pick-up & deliver"!

It mashes a bunch of "stuff" all together. I personally don't see the "attraction". The bidding for tiles seems to be very important and losing the wrong tile can put you at a disadvantage... And you seem to do this at the start of each "season".

There is some "randomness" with the blind-selection of the "winter" tiles too... To me the game seems too "dry"... I guess that's the case for most modern "euros" (I personally don't really like the genre but...) The opportunity to have a simple "Engine" for managing the general direction of the game is what I am looking to achieve.

I am hoping that I can "design" a game that is a bit more "exciting"!!!

Since we know there is "direct" conflict (which is fun – since that includes a certain amount of randomness and tension), no bidding-auctioning (which means that players don't compete against each other – at that level, which could cause "frustration"), there is a worker-placement component (which leads into the battle mechanic... So that's a keeper), instead of tiles that you bid for, each player has his own Mini-Deck (and therefore cards he will play – on the table favorable to that player).

One thing that I took away from "Keyflower" is the "buildings" which add hidden information. Not sure I need to HIDE information, even though some aspects in a two (2) player duel result in some "partial" hidden information...

So I think the direction I am going in touches a little with a "Game Engine" such as "Keyflower". But I think it's going to take far less time to play and result in much less "frustration" as you play against an opponent since there is no "bidding-auction".

Although you do "battle" your opponent and that uses a bit of randomness (using probabilities) could lead to some "damn it!" moments too! Remember the goal is to design a Mini-Deck which is tough enough to battle and still be victorious. Or to be too tough to beat, so you can beat an opponent...

It's interesting looking at "other" types of games with different mechanics. I'm personally surprised at what people "enjoy" playing. I'm definitely going to "work-at-it" to see what I can come up with. Thirty (30) cards per Mini-Deck is a bit SHORT! But that's what I want... Something quicker, leaner and maybe tougher to beat!

Cheers...

RyanRay
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questccg wrote: Update #2: I

questccg wrote:

Update #2: I saw a Video Review by the Gamer's Table... It seems like the winner can be "predicted" with a "lot of analysis". The box looks neat and the "ideas" of the Schools of Magic looks pretty interesting too! But like one reviewer said, if you play with someone who analyzes everything they can do on a turn, it will be impossible to beat that person. Moreover if EVERYONE did this... the game would take hours.

This is precisely what happened to me. I was at a game con and was invited to play with three guys in their 40's who were "those" kinds of gamers (overly analytical, not much table talk, etc.). The game dragged on for nearly 3 hours before I had to leave for the Crokinole tournament I'd signed up for.

questccg
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Common sense

RyanRay wrote:
This is precisely what happened to me... The game dragged on for nearly 3 hours before I had to leave for the Crokinole tournament I'd signed up for.

That's unfortunate, but you live and learn. At least you had common sense to leave for your scheduled event. And there is nothing wrong with walking away from a game if you feel it is taking to long to play.

One of my earlier prototypes took a little longer than I liked. It took about 90 minutes for two (2) players. We cut that down to 60 minutes with a different scenario. If you want to play the "longer" scenario, you are welcome to do so... But again it's a choice to be involved longer with the game! And it doesn't imply the game will, it "might" take longer than anticipated.

questccg
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Century: Spice Road

Corsaire wrote:
In terms of examples...
The cleanest example is Century Spice Road.

Took a look at Century: Spice Road (C:SP). Amazing game. Love that engine. Will definitely use this as a source of inspiration... Thx @Cosaire.

I will look at more of your suggestions. The reviewers say that C:SP can be "re-themed" to suit something other that caravaners. That's why I am thinking it is the "cleanest" because it is fundamentally an "Engine" game.

Nevertheless thank you... Cheers!

Corsaire
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Welcome. I play a ton of

Welcome. I play a ton of euros. My son is currently nuts for engine builders. Him and my wife loved C:SP when I introduced it to them at a board game cafe. But waiting to buy it until the Golem retheme is released to full distribution in a few months.

Biggest concept I'll toss for the design aspect is that engine builders tend to have a flexion point where you shift from engine building to point scoring. Mishandled that can lead to a second half of a game that gets progressively less interesting.

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