Skip to Content

Mechanic to Show Strategic Exploration

12 replies [Last post]
JDevery
Offline
Joined: 05/12/2015

The Background:

I have been playing around with a game design that focuses on exploration with the goal of achieving a level of wealth. To do that, the theme sets you in the ancient middle east, searching for a lost treasure of gold, or mechanically speaking, finding a specific tile. However, there is the option to construct work huts or settlements, to produce/collect various goods and sell them. This will give the player various paths to victory (Exploration for a large payoff vs developing in one area with steady payoff or a little of both).

My Dilemma:

When playing the game, the feel of discovery wasn't there. It more-so felt like resource management, mixed with worker actions, and a hint of exploring.

I currently have different piles of tiles (1-5), every time you draw a tile, it contains a different terrain but also tells you which pile you can draw from when you explore from this location. Some tiles keep you in pile 1, others let you move to 2, some may send you back a level, and so on. This ensures you cant find the best spot on the first turn, and that you need to work for the exploration. But it is still just randomly drawing tiles. You can draw the best 5 tiles in a row and end up reaching the goal. (This doesn't mean you will win the game, but it will give you a good advantage).

The feeling of exploring and making a intelligent decision based on what you have found isn't there.

I am trying to develop a game mechanic that allows players to explore the map by tile placement, but rather then exploring by simply drawing a random tile, hoping to find something good, they made strategic decisions to lead them to a better location.

I was thinking of adding an additional layer to my current piles of tiles. (That sounds funny... "piles of tiles") The player chooses which route to take, and will decide, based on the terrain that is revealed, if that is leading him to the treasure. Obviously, players will have to be acquainted with the terrains that lead to the treasure. The piles of tiles will have to be in multiple groups, so that they can be rearranged each different game into different routes. (This would be to make sure there is replay-ability)

To Sum Up:

1) Does anyone know a current mechanic where choice & decision plays a larger role in the exploration of a hidden map? With the goal of reaching a specific point?

2) Am I Over thinking this dilemma?

Orangebeard
Offline
Joined: 10/13/2011
Thoughts

JDevery wrote:
To Sum Up:

1) Does anyone know a current mechanic where choice & decision plays a larger role in the exploration of a hidden map? With the goal of reaching a specific point?

2) Am I Over thinking this dilemma?

1) I do not know of a mechanic like this, other than games where you can choose where to lay the next tile. If I understood correctly, you need the first or base tile to have information that would allow players to make an informed decision as to whether or not they should stay on this tile or move to a different base tile. I think this would require the players to have some knowledge of what could happen if they stay on the current tile.

It almost sounds like the players need a map or clue book to guide them; for example, the Lost Gold is past the oasis, over the dunes, near the rocks. The players are then looking to lay tiles that complete this pattern?

Sorry, this is kind of an incomplete idea, but it does seem like the players need info on the tiles that can tell them where they could go and an independent source of information that tells them where they should go?

2) Depends :) - is your game solid even with the missing exploration element? If what you have designed is good, it may not matter if the exploration element isn't quite what you were wanting.

good luck with your design!

Icynova
Offline
Joined: 06/02/2015
What if...

I know this is a major change, but what if the goals are hidden in addition to being random? (upside down tiles or two tiles stacked together,with hidden text or graphics). Now you have to decide whether to spend a turn searching/excavating an existing tile, or exploring/placing the next tile.

Certain resources can only be found in certain terrain types, such as construction materials, camels/horses, supplies/villagers, etc. Assume that some clue tells you that Gold can only be found in parched or desert terrain, but you give up the opportunity to find the other types of resources if you concentrate on finding the gold. Or you could decide to be methodical and search every tile, but you would uncover a lot less of the map that way.

This even adds tension. Do you turn over that jungle tile to see if it contains a resource? Or do you draw the next tile on the stack hoping for desert? Beware, your opponent can now take advantage of your hasty exploration by searching behind you...

JDevery
Offline
Joined: 05/12/2015
Thanks

Thank you for your responses.

Orangebeard wrote:

It almost sounds like the players need a map or clue book to guide them; for example, the Lost Gold is past the oasis, over the dunes, near the rocks. The players are then looking to lay tiles that complete this pattern?

Sorry, this is kind of an incomplete idea, but it does seem like the players need info on the tiles that can tell them where they could go and an independent source of information that tells them where they should go?

2) Depends :) - is your game solid even with the missing exploration element? If what you have designed is good, it may not matter if the exploration element isn't quite what you were wanting.

I was thinking that, adding some sort of general knowledge, that either changes or stays consistent, so players have a guide to help them find where to go.

Yes, i know, it is incomplete. I think maybe i am trying to work with just board tiles, rather than also incorporating a different element to give information, like cards.

I do think the game is enjoyable without this exploration mechanic i am searching for. But, i guess my original vision for the theme will have to be adjusted since it doesnt represent the theme as correctly as i would like. ... Or hopefully i can figure this out to my liking....

JDevery
Offline
Joined: 05/12/2015
Interesting

Interesting idea, i will play around with that. Maybe a face down board of tiles, and you can choose whether or not to flip it, or draw one to place over it, giving different results...

Hmmm..

As mention above, incomplete, but room for growth...

Orangebeard
Offline
Joined: 10/13/2011
on the right path

What if each player placed a tile on the treasure? You would not know what the other players played (perhaps having even played the same type of terrain as you), but you would at least know that when your terrain comes up, you might be on the right path?

Either way, I like what you have so far...keep us posted, I would love to hear what you come up with!

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Game Managers

Orangebeard wrote:
...It almost sounds like the players need a map or clue book to guide them; for example, the Lost Gold is past the oasis, over the dunes, near the rocks. The players are then looking to lay tiles that complete this pattern?

Personally I like this idea. Instead maybe at the beginning of each game, each player choose three (3) tile (not randomly) and a determines that this is the "correct" path to find the hidden treasure.

Next step each player is responsible for being the GM for one (1) of the other players. The trick is to balance out the different tiles, having enough variety and sufficient mix of each tile.

Then you can divide your world into different "regions": mountains, desert, plains, ocean, swamp, hills, etc... Six (6) seems a little low. Perhaps you can split each one into three (3) categories like:

Mountains: Volcano, Sedimentary, Snowy Peaks.

And in AROUND the board you could have different regions you must travel along your JOURNEY to discover the secret of the treasure...

Granted I see one problem with this: how to "share" hidden information from the player. Perhaps you can "buy" information about the tiles and reveal this information gradually. To be honest, I'm not really sure how to do this...

Best of luck with your game!

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Additional comment

I was re-reading this and ... aside from liking the idea, I thought about how to "share" hidden information.

See the thing is you DON'T want to go to a location AT RANDOM. That would imply pure luck and involve no strategy whatsoever. So what I was thinking is maybe you can RE-GROUP tiles into sets of threes (3).

So let's say you know that you MUST travel to a Mountain as the first step in your journey. What this does is setup three (3) possibilities: Volcano, Snowy Peaks and Sedimentary (again just examples).

Now you only have to decide between 3 destinations. I agree that again luck can be a factor in choosing the right one of the three... So here is MY IDEA: you need to travel to OTHER destinations on the board to earn POINTS which you can use to narrow down your search to the correct Mountainous destination.

Each location on the map has either the "Journey" component and the "Points" component. Again bad terminology... But I am just trying to convey the concept. Let's say if you visit a destination which is NOT one of your journey destinations, you earn +2 POINTS. Maybe you need to collect 5 points for the 1st part of your Journey, 10 points for the 2nd and lastly to win the game you need a final 15 points...

Destinations can also have "negative" aspects like the "Desert", "Thirsty": lose 2 points or "Lost in the trees": lose 1 point, etc. There is a certain amount of luck if you draw positive or negative destinations... Maybe this aspect needs more thinking...

Anyways just some ideas for you... You said you wanted the "exploration" to feel more like a Journey... These are ways you can maybe implement it.

Best!

JohnMichaelThomas
JohnMichaelThomas's picture
Offline
Joined: 05/30/2015
I can think of a few ways...

One of the questions I always ask is what kind of emotion my game is trying to generate. This comes from my fiction writing background, where generating emotion is the ultimate goal, but I find it translates really well into games and mechanics, because if I have an answer to that question it helps me stay focused on the mechanics that help evoke that emotion.

Applying that here, from your OP it sounds like the feeling (emotion) of exploration is one of your goals for the game.

My first thought was that if the ultimate goal is to get gold, then that's a little at odds with the feel of exploration. If you want the game to encourage players to explore, you need to make the win conditions for the game in line with exploration, not making money. So maybe instead of the goal being to make money, the goal should be to find X hidden/lost treasures, or a number of hidden/lost treasures totaling X value in gold? You could even push this further to say players can sell any treasures they find, but they can only win based on the treasures they still have, giving players low on cash the choice of either selling the treasures they have to generate money or holding onto them and scraping by so they can use them for the win.

Second, without tweaking things too much, one way you could encourage more exploration would be to require a build up to the tiles that matter the most. For example, if someone just turns over a tile with the lost city that holds a great treasure, even that player probably won't be that excited (at least not for long) - it didn't take enough effort. But if each tile could only be played if it matched several conditions (such as a string of other tiles) then it takes more work to build up to laying the best tiles. That means that by the time a player lays the lost city tile and claims the treasure, they know they've earned it. It might also provide some opportunities for other players to spoil the party by playing tiles that interfere (depending on your mechanics).

For example, what if, in addition to each tile being a terrain or feature it also has a strength or value, and you can only place it next to another tile of a certain terrain type and value. As a more specific example, perhaps that lost city tile is a value 3 tile, and you can only place it next to a Desert tile with value of at least 2 or a wilderness tile with a value of at least 3. So there's no way to find a lost city next to another city - you have to venture out at least 2-3 tiles into the desert or wilderness to have any chance of finding it. Up the value to 5 and the player has to go that much further to find it; make the tiles with the greatest treasures the tiles with the highest value so they take the most work to find.

How you might make something like that works depends on your other mechanics. If players are randomly drawing every tile they lay down, then they might have to discard any tile that they can't place next to the current tile they're on (which could be a major bummer). But if characters hold a few tiles in their "hand", they might have a tile and have to hold it and keep playing other tiles until they can get the other tiles that will allow them to place that lost city tile (consider this like drawing the lost city tile gives them a clue where to find the lost city, but until they find enough other clues to figure out the whole path they need to take to get there).

If you can share more of your current mechanics we can probably come of with some more ideas of ways to bring out more of an exploration feel.

Denniskam
Offline
Joined: 08/07/2015
Akrotiri

Have you seen the mechanic used in Akrotiri?

Centaur255
Offline
Joined: 06/23/2015
QuestCCG Is Onto Something

While I'm not familiar with Aktiron JDevey, I think the concept that QuestCCG lays out is on-point for what you're looking for: we want players to be able to strategically decide which piece is placed next. There have been a few different games where hex-based tiles are added to the board (the sea expansion for Catan, Twilight Emperium 3rd Edition, etc.), so these are informing my thoughts on this, but a few thoughts for you:

1) In Twilight Emperium (a space exploration game), players have some preference on where they place planets, wormholes, asteroid fields, a supernova, etc. Every player is dealt a certain number of tiles to start the game, and they place them in sequence. This gives players a chance to throw something dangerous on the other side of the board (so they don't have to deal with it), place a wormhole near someone to provide ease of access to their primary base, etc.

What this does is it gives the players limited knowledge of what _can_ be on the board, but doesn't show them what the surrounding area looks like until the players reveal more of the world. What this would do for you is it would open up strategies for players to explore "defensible regions" with high mountains, volcanoes, etc., as well as "resource-rich" areas (lush regions), high-camouflage regions, etc. based on what players put down in different parts of the board. Still not complete foreknowledge, but it gives them a way to prepare in advance for what might come without making it either fully scripted or fully random.

2) If we were to go with a random way of assigning tiles, part of the strategy could be found in the, "what's in the hex you just revealed" part of the game. Perhaps the volcano tile that was just revealed is not just a volcano tile, but a dormant volcano, or alternatively it could be fully active, each changing the way the tile works. This gives players a random occurrence that they can react to, and different tiles that may look alike act differently. This gives players the excitement of "not knowing anything about where they are exploring," but also makes it so that the game isn't a hex-based version of rummy, either.

Just a few thoughts - hope the game goes well!

larienna
larienna's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/28/2008
Quote:When playing the game,

Quote:
When playing the game, the feel of discovery wasn't there. It more-so felt like resource management, mixed with worker actions, and a hint of exploring.

Quick comment:

The key behind discovery is hidden information and surprises.

muchomusica
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2015
Tobago is your answer

1) I believe the game you want to look at is Tobago, it sounds exactly like what you trying to do with your design. In the game the location of treasure is determined by the players playing map cards down. It's an interesting logic puzzle since what you are doing is narrowing down all the possible locations the treasure can and can not be at until you pin-point the exact location.

2) Nope, not over thinking. Giving players the experience you want can never be over thought ;)

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut