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Making an Opponent's Turn Relavent

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BlueRift
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I did a quick search but didn't see any recent posts on this topic so here goes.

So as some of you may know, I'm working on a strategy game. One failing that many games of this type has is that opponents' turns are mostly irrelevant to players. Sure you get to roll occasionally when you're attacked and a good commander can tell a lot from a player's turn but still. Aside from the dice, you can just sit back and wait until your turn and then drink in the board and figure out where to go from there.

For my game, I'm playing with a card system useful for both offensive and defensive situations. I'm thinking each player will have a hand of 4 (or 5) cards and can play only one card per turn (that is every player's turn). So in a round of four players, you will get a chance to play 4 cards, one for each players turn. If you don't play a card in a given turn, you can discard it and gain income for doing so. However, you only draw new cards at the beginning of your turn.

I'm hoping this will cause players to watch each other's turns more carefully to see if something they could play is of value and if not, they can get a monetary bonus. If a player has good cards that they don't want to use yet, they might choose to forego bonus income as well, curbing the effect of powerful cards because of the lost income potential.

What do you think? Will this work? I'm worried about the high rate of turnover of cards. Also, should hands scale with the number of players?

In general: what are some other ways to make opponent's turns relavent? Are there any examples from games you like?

MarkKreitler
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Glad someone's doing this

I agree that many games could use a boost in activity for off-turn players.

Here are some mechanics that work well in other games:

1) Trading. You mentioned Settlers in an earlier post, and it's a prime example.

2) Bidding. While I'm not a huge fan of bidding (as I'm really bad at it), it's a great way to get everyone involved.

3) Negotiating. Usually, this is a "meta-level" activity not mediated by any rules (as in, "Don't invade me! Invade Bob, instead -- he has more VP!"). There's no reason it couldn't be formalized via a system. Could be especially interesting when combined with '2'. Maybe players "bid" to establish treaties with neutral "buffer territories" which non-treaty members must treat as hostile when moving.

4) Resolving NPC actions. Starfarers of Catan does a lot of this, where off-turn players roll dice for hostile NPCs and/or events.

SlyBlu7
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I've developed a lot of

I've developed a lot of map-based campaigns for tabletop strategy games, and one thing that I've learned is that smaller map = more activity. We even knocked the game down to what is called a "node campaign", where instead of having clearly defined territories, each player has a cluster of 3/6 hexes, sharing a border with other players. Each hex provides some kind of bonus. Suddenly there was no "buffer zone" or road that had to be traveled. You were being attacked *every* turn. There were still upkeeps and economic turns, but they all fed almost directly into the attack action of that round.
Perhaps, since you are already on a card-system, you could do that? Each player drafts 'X' cards to represent their empire, or plays more cards down to modify their empire, but opponents can target those cards for attacks without having to "march in".

Orangebeard
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Mini Turns?

I would love to see this topic get more discussion, but in the interim...

What if other players could take a "mini turn or action" after the acting player? For example, if it is my turn, I can move any number of pieces or spaces; when I am finished, each opposing player can move 1 piece up to 1 space (or some similar, heavily restricted form of movement). Or perhaps, I can make unlimited puchases on my turn, but opposing players are limited to a certain cost or number of purchases.

There are existing games that use this mechanic already, but it might be an intersting exercise to develop a game that focuses very heavily on a rotating "main" player with all players being able to take actions.

As a another alternative, perhaps the acting player could decide if the secondaries act before or after the main player?

hotsoup
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I like your mechanic,

I like your mechanic, BlueRift. It would keep things very tight, I think, and keep players glued to the action. In fact, I would be tempted to FORCE players to play a card each turn, and remove the monetary trade-in mechanic. This would make things pretty interesting, as you could have cards that helped and cards that hurt opponents, and so there would be negotiation on who you were going to help and who you were going to hurt this turn. If you had made an alliance with two other players and you only had one beneficial card, which one of them will you have to hurt?

Choices like that are delicious.

Also, yes, I would scale the hand size to the number of players.

GreenO
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I like the thought process

I like the thought process behind the idea but the practicalities of playing with it might be a bit processional. Having to go around the table and get each player to play a card or cash it in will take time and might take people out of the flow of the game. Also, anyone with analysis paralysis is going to slow the pace down to a crawl. If you go with this mechanism, make it a really simple, almost binary, decision to execute.

Cosmic Encounter draws people into other players' turns by asking assistance from them in attacking or defending planets, the other players have two decisions to make: 1) do I help at all and 2) if I do, how much do I risk? Munchkin (for all that it is rightfully derided) also does this by getting other players to influence the stats of monsters. Again the decision tree is simple for the out of turn player. Worker placement game do it to a degree too, in that if the spot you want is gone by the time your turn come around you have to choose the next best spot for you. That requires the player to be constantly looking at what has been taken and re-evaluating the best positions that remain available.

BlueRift
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I agree

GreenO wrote:
I like the thought process behind the idea but the practicalities of playing with it might be a bit processional. Having to go around the table and get each player to play a card or cash it in will take time and might take people out of the flow of the game. Also, anyone with analysis paralysis is going to slow the pace down to a crawl.

I completely agree with you on this point. I also worry about the mini-turn idea in slowing down a turn so that it could fee hi-jacked from whomever's turn it is.

My idea is that cards individually specify when they can be played and it is the responsibility of the owner of the card to play it when appropriate. My only concern with this is for the player whose turn it is to rush through phases to try and catch opponents off guard. Maybe that's a good thing that will keep people vigilant.

SlyBlu7
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Another thought that I just

Another thought that I just had: Abolish the turn system altogether.
Look at RoboRally or Wings of War. Players play their cards blind, and then resolve them all together, attempting to guess what the opponent is going to do. Not sure how this could fit into your theme, but it works well in any game that is actually simulating simultaneous events.
Perhaps even break apart the turns so that there is a "initiation" phase in which players lay a card to start the chain of events, and then subsequent phases they either counter their opponent's card, or build upon their own. At the end of each game turn, the cards are compared in a similar method to M:tG's "Stack" or FI-LO mechanic to determine which player 'wins' the turn.

BlueRift
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It works for some

SlyBlu7 wrote:
Another thought that I just had: Abolish the turn system altogether.
Look at RoboRally or Wings of War. Players play their cards blind, and then resolve them all together, attempting to guess what the opponent is going to do.

This brings to mind games like diplomacy and A Game of Thrones. Both games have simultaneous turns. I find that this doesn't make the game more quick because some players take longer than others. You also have to resolve turns in some order which makes players who aren't involved tune out.

It also amounts to guessing what your opponent will do instead of strategically reacting to actions. Which reading your opponent is perhaps more important in most forms of combat. I'm not saying that it's bad just not the type of strategy I'm going for.

wooberg
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Simultaneous Turns

I like the simultaneous turn mechanic like in Wings of War as a means of reducing downtime between turns. This way you still get too keep a good chunk of the strategy and it allows for some interesting (or funny) results. I think a lot more games could benefit from this style of play if used correctly.

Jarec
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One simple thing to make the

One simple thing to make the "others'" turn more interesting (not really relevant) is to make players draw their cards at the end of their turn, so they can plan their move ahead.

Just came to my mind when playing both SolForge and Hearthstone and the (arguably) more polished one is making such a bad design decision.

pelle
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wow, old thread

Reaction moves. Opportunity fire. Interception.
Depending on scale and complexity of the game those can be of different types, but they have in common that you need to carefully watch what your opponent do to know when to interrupt to take some action.

Putting other-player(s) reserve movement phases inside of a player turn. This is common in operational level wargames. Effectively splits up player turns so that you don't have to wait for the entire enemy turn, but get to take some actions in the middle of it.

Chit-pull activation with small activations for every activation rather than long player turns.

larienna
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Drawing cards at the end is

Drawing cards at the end is something I use because it allow players to read cards while others are playing.

My suggestion is to allow some sort of retaliation during a specific condition.

For example in duelmasters/Kaijudo, when a opponent loses a shield, he look at that cards an decide if he can and if he want to use the card as a retaliation. In one of my game, during a similar phase, a player can chose or not to retaliate with a card in hand.

But the important element is that it only happens in a specific step of the game which prevent other players from interrupting the game flow of the active player.

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