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How can I make my game exciting to the end?

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Meldrum
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I have a board game that I have been working on for a while that has done well in the limited playtesting that I have done. The main problem I am encountering is that part way through the game it usually becomes quite obvious who will win and so the final rounds are just played out as a matter of course. In my game each player builds structures and castles which increases their income that they receive each round. Once a player reaches a certain income level they win the game. I want to make the game exciting to the end and so I have thought of two-three possible solutions:

1) Create a robber (Settlers of Catanish) that can be moved around by each player in some random fashion (rolling a die, or drawing a card). So since everyone wants to win, they will usually put the robber against the player that is leading in the game (has the most income).

2) Keep the scoring hidden. So either the amount of income you get from building each structure is only known by the player building that structure, or no counting is done until some predetermined number of rounds.

3) Add some kind of bartering system to the game. Currently your only resources in the game are money, and action tokens that let you build at different locations on the board. Maybe if you had more resources then the players in the game could exclude the top player from their trades (Settlers of Catanish again). *I don't want to resort to this.

This problem has been bothering me for awhile and I thought someone might have a good idea for me. Let me know if you need more details.

Ekobor
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I like the thief idea a lot,

I like the thief idea a lot, but not knowing the game intimately, it could seem strange...

How about 'natural' disasters at random times? More likely as you get closer to the end condition(as you have a larger castle) things like improper building, hurricanes, earthquakes, small nuclear warheads, etc.
Or, if it's more monopoly style board-game-ish, you could just have a square or two dedicated to this kind of thing....

Best of luck.

clearclaw
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End the game as soon as the

End the game as soon as the winner is clear.

Esenjay
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I have a couple games where I

I have a couple games where I use "event" cards that affect things on a global scale. Perhaps something like that might help keep the players guessing, add that random factor that could turn the tide in the end game, so nobody feels safe until they've reached the finish line. Combo that with your movable thief, might help shake things up some.

ReneWiersma
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Separate resources and winning conditions

Hey Meldrum! This is a problem that crops up in a lot of (unpublished) game designs. Basically, what you have in your game is a snowball-effect. Players take actions to earn income, this income leads to more income, which finally leads to victory (also determined by income). This leads to the runaway-leader syndrome you experience in your games.

You can somewhat eleviate this problem by introduce "bash-the-leader" mechanics, like your proposed "solutions" #1 and #3, but that's not really fixing the problem. Hiding the victory conditions (#2) will just lead to an even less satisfying game end, I strongly suspect.

So, how to fix it? I am a big advocate of separating resources in the game from the winning condition. Instead of determining victory by income, let the winner be decided by victory points. Introduce some buildings that are very good at generating victory points, but not so good at generating income, and vice versa. Maybe some buildings score a number of fixed VPs at the end of the game, or maybe they only score under certain circumstances.

The end of the game could be detemined by playing to a fixed number of rounds, or something like that. You could still award a number of VP to the player with the most money at the end of the game. There are many ways you could go about this. Just think about it, and you'll see a whole new world of possibilities.

Torrent
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To add to Rene's solution...

To add to Rene's solution... think abotu the ability to buy VPs directly. Princes of Florence, Dominion both have similar ideas. Depending on how you set it up, it means that those that have the most income will tend tohave the most points, but if they buy VPs too early, it leaves their economy stunted ifthe game ends up longer than they expect.

Meldrum
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Income vs. Victory

Thanks for the input, I like the idea of seperating the income portion of the game from the victory conditions. I will see what I can do.

[quote=ReneWiersma]Instead of determining victory by income, let the winner be decided by victory points. Introduce some buildings that are very good at generating victory points, but not so good at generating income, and vice versa. Maybe some buildings score a number of fixed VPs at the end of the game, or maybe they only score under certain circumstances.

KAndrw
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Railroad Tycoon has a nice

Railroad Tycoon has a nice mechanic where as you initially advance along the money trail, you get more money each turn, but after a certain point, each advance actually results in less income.

Maybe something like that to rein in the leader?

Rick-Holzgrafe
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KAndrw wrote:Railroad Tycoon

KAndrw wrote:
Railroad Tycoon has a nice mechanic where as you initially advance along the money trail, you get more money each turn, but after a certain point, each advance actually results in less income.

Maybe something like that to rein in the leader?

That rule in Railroad Tycoon doesn't really rein in the leader. Its purpose is to keep money tight, so that budgeting decisions are still significant in the late game.

Railroad Tycoon solves the "runaway leader" problem in the way that René suggested above: you win by getting the most VPs, not by getting the most money. I can endorse that approach: one of my own designs (the most successful one so far) came alive only when I changed the victory condition from "most money" to "most victory points". (I eventually dropped money from the design altogether, but that's another story!)

clearclaw
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This is a question of

This is a question of positive feedback loops. If the primary thing that is scored is also produced by the players in ever increasing numbers due to their continued investment in that success then you have a positive feedback loop and the game is liable to suffer from runaway winners for that reason. The winner becomes a question of which player hits and maintains the best exponent for their growth curve first.

There are many possible addresses. I started out with one of the more simple: end the game while the growth curves are still close to linear, before they start up-curving strongly. Another choice, the choice made in all economic engine games, is for the primary positive feedback loop to not be VPs, but to be able to be converted into VPs. Thus a player rampsl their engine quickly and then converts it into VP production. (I have a particular and strong dislike for this model) The same conversion system can be used but without the leading exponential period. In this pleasing model the player builds their economic engine mostly linearly for a short period and then must convert into balancing increased resource flow with VP production and other-player-opportunity managment. A fourth model, one I also like, especially if done via deficit spending, is to simply increase expenses with a higher exponent than the current player's growth. As expenses are accelerating faster than player growth the challenge is to bankroll early and then manage the ever-increasing drain most efficiently. There are certainly many other approaches.

InvisibleJon
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Create monetary diversions for leading players.

You could increase the cost of items that you need later in the game, or otherwise create things that the leading player(s) will want to spend money on.

A few random examples off the top of my head:
* There's a burglar (or arsonist, or whatever) who you can hire to steal from (or destroy buildings) another player. The agent goes to the highest bidder. If you're the lead player, you'll want to buy the agent, if only to keep it from being used against you. If you're in the rear, you'll put at least a small bid in in the hopes of getting it for cheap.

* Events that "tax" the person with the most of a given resource.

* Level 1 buildings cost $4. Level 2 buildings cost $8. Level 3 buildings cost $16. (and so on)

* There's a robber who prefers to target the wealthiest player, and becomes more likely to target that player as their wealth increases. To prevent the robber from stealing from you you can...
Hire guards / increase security. More guards increase your chances of catching the robber, if the robber decides to strike.
Pay "insurance" to the thief's guild. Pay a known quantity now to avoid the risk of losing a larger quantity.
Deliberately keep your lead small so the other players look like good robber targets too.

* Make expensive things that create neat in-game effects but do not directly give you the win.

Oh, and one more thing...

If you have randomly-occurring bad events, make the penalties percentages instead of flat numbers. Use, "Lose 1/2 your cash," instead of, "Lose $500." Losing a percentage of your cash hurts players in the lead more than poor players. Losing $500 sucks if you're poor, but isn't a big deal if you make $500 every turn.

kodarr
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alteration of building prices

I'm not sure of how the game is but if you are just building up from an area and the leader would have no use for small buildings near the end you can have the cost of small buildings lower later in the game.

Also you can have some form of upkeep that you have to pay for each building you have maybe like 1/3 the income it produces but before you actually acquire the income. This would allow some players to get a bunch of small buildings while some can go for larger upgraded ones. If they don't pay you can have the building downgrade one step or is destroyed.

toadsoup
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More ideas!

I'm not quite sure of how your game plays out, but perhaps having different building blocks would work out.

ie... you could choose what room to add to the castle.

It could be a shop that builds you wealth
It could be a throne room that builds you prestige (victory points?)

Or some combination so that money isn't what makes the game. I'm kind of imagining something between St. Petersburg, Puerto Rico, and Torres.

Meldrum
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Meldrum

Thanks for all of the suggestions so far, I have lots of work to do now. I will write another post once I have tried to work in some of these modifications into my game.

provfrog
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Bash the Leader

I use the "bash-the-leader" mechanic in my game, only I had no idea there was an actual term for this. : )

My game is based on carpooling. Each driver has to pick up his 4 passengers, all at different locations, then head home. It becomes obvious somewhat quickly who is in the lead so other drivers have the ability to slow them down by using detours and traffic jams, forcing them in a different direction, in addition to a few other tricks. An unintentional 'element' to my game was players working with one another to slow the leader down.

s2alexan
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Joined: 10/25/2008
VP vs. income

An interesting discussion on VP vs. income, as it relates to the new Age of Steam remake:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/2789518#2789518

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