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Sequels and trilogies

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Joined: 08/03/2008

For one of my designs, I have always intended to design a "sequel" game that would exist in a similar thematic setting and that could be combined with the original game to make a bigger "campaign" game. I have since had some thoughts about how to split the sequel off into two separate games, thereby enabling the possibility of a trilogy. I believe the way the "campaign game" will work is that the end state of each game will provide some of the setup conditions for the game that succeeds it. The goal is to have continuity between the games beyond simply "add up your score from each of the three games and highest total wins", although there is an element of this as well (and there's nothing wrong with this in general, anyway).

I'm wondering whether others have tried a similar approach of making sequel games, either that are or are not intended to be played in tandem with a different game.

One question that has emerged for me is whether the mechanics of each game should be relatively similar or relatively different. For example, imagine you're going to make a trilogy out of Tikal; maybe the second game is about reporting on findings from Tikal at conferences, and the third game is about protecting the discoveries in the jungle from the encroachment of tourists and businesses and decay, (or whatever). Would it be better if the games were all "action point allowance" games like Tikal, or would it be better if the second game was an auction game, the third game was a negotiation game (or whatever)?

I'm working from the assumption that to play the games all in one sitting, you'd want there to be some continuity between the games, or else it will just feel that you're playing three separate, unrelated games. But should that similarity come in the form of mechanical continuity, or is it better that the games feel different so you don't feel like you're playing a very long version of the base game? Does the answer change if the sequel games (keeping with the Tikal example) still used action points but implemented them in a different way than Tikal does?

I'm interested in your thoughts on this, whether you've worked on a game series like this or not!

Joined: 04/14/2009
What an interesting idea!

I have to confess I've never thought of this before. I've toyed with ways to expand an existing game (make it for 5- 6 players instead of 2-4), but it never occurred to me to create two or three games that you'd play in succession.

So...without getting into are some things I thought about from the get-go:

1.) Length: How long do you want this to be? This might be a tough question because some players really like long, epic games. Others want to play for 20 to 60 minutes and be done so they can move on to a different game, or play the same game again. Personally, I like a fairly quick game...maybe 40 to 90 minutes depending on the game and how fun it is to play....I played RACKO! with my wife and daughter over the weekend. It was fun for about 30 minutes...then I got tired of it. However, I can play Settlers for MUCH longer than that because l like the game and there are so many interesting aspects to it. So...I'm going to make the assumption that MOST players don't want an EPIC experience. I'm assuming they're like me and like a game to last up to 90 minutes (or less). This means that each "section" of your trilogy needs to be played and completed (or you need to move on) in about 30 minutes.

2.) Theme and mechanics: Although I'm trying to be coherent and make sense here, I'm also just getting ideas down so I don't forget them. Please forgive me if I jump all over the place in my thinking.

I agree with you 100% on your questions: Should the games be similar, or should they be different so you feel like you're playing a different game? I'm struggling with this right now. I might be able to narrow it down better if I think up some examples. Maybe that'll help spark some creative thinking from other posters? Who knows?

When my daughter was in 4th grade, the teacher assigned a "family project" (which irritated me because I've already BEEN to school...I didn't WANT a family project). Anyway, we decided to do a board game and since my daughter was studying the Titanic, that was the theme we used. The game was called "Survive the Titanic". It's a simple board game where the players roll a die and move around a board. BUT...we changed things up a bit and divided the board into 4 sections. Each section represented a level on the ship. Everyone starts in the lower level and you have to get to a higher level before the section you're in sinks under water. You do this by getting to a stairwell. Once you get to a stairwell, you can move up the next level. Okay...enough of that.

I mentioned the above because I wanted to establish how one might turn this into a trilogy game. What if you're able to get off the boat before it sinks? Now you're in a life raft with limited supplies. Or perhaps each player is in a separate life raft?

Enter the 2nd part of the trilogy.

Do you have a different board for this? Perhaps it's now a card game? What's the object? Do the players try to get rescued? Perhaps they simply attempt to survive until help arrives? In the original game, a player could get thrown off the ship (either they get pushed, or they are accused of being a stowaway.) If they can't roll the correct die roll, or if they don't have a special card to get back on board, they drown and lose. There could also be multiple winners. Anyone in a lifeboat at the end of the game wins. So...back to the example...what if there are certain players that don't make it? They have to sit around and wait for the game to end before they can play again. I don't really like these mechanics very much. It's boring. BUT...what if the losing players could become sharks or something? At least they can keep playing even if they're in a different roll. (see? Stream of consciousness...I'm jumping around)

Okay...I'll have to get back to this...I'm at lunch at work, but lunch just ended. Maybe there's enough here to think about? I hope so. If you want me to continue rambling on, I'll do so. I'm having some fun thinking about this, so you might not have a choice! :)

Joined: 07/08/2009
The only problem . . .

. . . with making the mechanics really different, would be that it might turn some people off of one or more of the installments because they don't like the mechanic. So, the theme would have to be pretty awesome to lessen that. On the other hand, you might end up exposing people to mechanics they never knew they'd like, because they liked one of the other ones and tried the next part.

You mentioned something about having the end of one game affect the start of the next. The only problem I have run into with this is that the end of a game usually has a winner, and the winner's probably in the best position (I've tried this before with Star Wars CCG), so there has to be some way to negate that, or they'll probably just go win the next game by even more!

It's a cool idea!


Joined: 08/03/2008
Good thoughts guys, thanks.I

Good thoughts guys, thanks.

I agree, length is probably the biggest consideration. Each of the component games in my trilogy would be 60-75 minute games, and the audience for games of that length is not necessarily the same as the audience for a 3-hour game, so the composite game might not be aimed at the game's core audience. It might be necessary to cut down the length of each of the sub-games when playing in composite game mode.

Point taken that if the games are all different in their core mechanics, then fans of the base game may end up not liking one of the sequel games because it's not a game type that appeals to them.

In my game, what I meant by the outputs of each game provide inputs for the sequel games doesn't really pertain to the player positions or holdings; rather, it's that in the third game, when playing in standalone mode, certain cards and tokens are selected and placed randomly. But when all three games are played in tandem, the selection and position of those elements occurs as a result of the action in the first and second games.

As of now, my vision isn't that players will control the positioning of those elements as part of a coherent, multi-game "strategy", necessarily; it simply provides thematic continuity -- that all of the games mesh together as part of one coherent "story".

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
My first thought that come to

My first thought that come to my mind are:

1- Once we thought of playing multiple money games in a row, from lowest money billes to highest money bill. (ex: Monopoly, stock ticker, etc). When the game ends, the money you ended with in the first games is transported to the next game.

2- One of the designer I met was intending to make 3 different games which make it follow a story: the start, middle and the end. But the ending position of a game did not influence the starting position of the next game.

3- Dune: In dune, if you play with some expansion, you have first the spice distribution game which determine setup for the real game. Still, I did not liked it much because it feels like the first part was not that much important.

4- As for me, I wanted to make many games that would take place in the same world but there would be no connection from one to another.

So I would say it's a good idea if the games does not connect to each other, which mean that only the theme is in common between all games.

But if you want to make you game chain, you need to have some common core mechanics, else you could have a situation where some players does not want to play a piece of the chain.

For example, puerto rico and san juan has simillar mechanics, so it could be OK to chain these games.

Joined: 04/14/2009
I like this, but I don't know how I'd implement it

I like the idea of an overall theme that ties everything together.

I think the individual games should be shorter, though. I also think that if someone is "winning" at the end of the first game, that person should have an edge at the start of the second game. They earned it, right? I think someone posted there's a worry that anyone that's too far behind in the first game won't have a chance in the 2nd and 3rd games. True. But let's say they're behind in a stand-alone game. They still lose if they get too far behind, so I don't really see the difference. Does the trilogy idea just prolong the agony? Meh. I dunno.

I wonder if it's possible to take the mechanics that work in the first game and keep them running into the second and third games. However, make a few tweaks here and there so that the 2nd and 3rd games are different enough from each other to keep the interest and variety levels high. Tough to do. This is hard to do in single games let alone trying to keep things together for mulitple "chapters".

Getting back to my Titanic example above, we've managed to get into a life raft. Perhaps there are different "grades" of life raft, so that leading players are able to get into a faster, more stable raft, whereas other players have to settle for slower, leaking, rescue boats. We're now in the second game and the object is to survive the ocean by staying afloat and staying alive. Or maybe all you're trying to do at this point is get to some type of land mass? Hmmm...let's skip the Titanic example and just call it "Shipwreck!" Let's put the setting in tropical waters so we can have sharks and typhoons and little islands dotted all over the place.

Now the players have all landed on some type of island and the object is to be rescued. Are you the first to build a signal fire? Spell out SOS in the sand with rocks, or palm fronds? Does each player have their own island, or can more than one player land on the same one? What's the time frame? I it modern-ish...can search planes find you, or is it set before we had planes?

My point is that this scenario has three distinct phases. All are tied to a shipwreck. Each phase follows what might happen and the mechanics from phase to phase can change a bit to keep things fresh, but they're not so different as to make the games seem like separate games.

Joined: 08/03/2008
Your post brings up a good

Your post brings up a good point; I think there are actually two somewhat different ideas that could be contemplated here.

The first is a multi-phase game, a game that is presented as a single unit but that has distinct gameplay phases that flow into each other. I believe there's a game about Pompeii that works this way (phase 1 = build up the town, phase 2 = the lava starts to flow). I have worked on an Indiana Jones game that works along similar lines (phase 1 = find the lost temple, phase 2 = enter it and explore it). Curiously, with that game, the reaction has been mixed; some players have really liked how the globe-trotting phase sets up for the end-game dash through the temple, but a minority of players have felt that the phases feel somewhat disconnected and that it's almost like needing to learn two separate games. The design advantage in this approach is that you have excellent control over the pacing of the game and can have phases of variable length and feel, and players will (it is hoped) expect and appreciate the way the phases flow into each other.

The second is truly separate, stand-alone games, which can be combined. But each game can also be played and enjoyed in its own right; this is more challenging, for the obvious reason that it's hard enough to successfully design one game, let alone two or three, and the added constraint that they also need to have clear interfaces that permit flow from one game into the other constrains the development of each design, which adds an additional layer of challenge. I also think that there are probably a more limited number of themes for which this concept fits. For example, maybe you could make a game about manufacturing cars and a game about selling cars, and could combine them to play as a composite game, but my hunch is that this would generally feel pretty dry and wouldn't hold much appeal. I think that the game would need to tell some sort of story or narrative for the composite game to work. "Surviving a shipwreck" seems like it could tell an interesting story and could work very well; "building cars and then selling them" seems less exciting, and is probably a better fit for a multi-phase game than for a composite game approach.

I think how much the previous game influences the setup positions of the sequel game really depends a lot on the game itself. In your example, "getting the best liferafts" could be both the goal of the first game, and could provide an inherent benefit going into the second game, so that could work well. The trick here seems to be that the setup has to work whether or not the sequel game is being played in sequel or standalone mode. That seems easy enough in your example; in standalone mode, everyone gets equally good life rafts, in sequel mode you keep the liferafts that you acquired during the shipwreck game. But in some games, the way the games mesh together may work pretty differently; probably it just depends on whether the game involves acquiring or building stuff in any sense.

Another example that springs to mind is a civilization game, where the first game is about building your civilization up, the second game is about a civilization in decay. So in the composite, maybe there's a decision as to whether you try to build a civilization that will max out on points in the first game, or whether you build something that will last farther into the decline process during the second game.

Incidentally, the idea your game evokes for me is the Swiss Family Robinson, ie part of the action could be not simply securing lifeboats but also trying to recover the best stuff off the boat before it sinks, the second game would involve getting the most supplies and people to shore, and the third game would involve building stuff on the island, either to be rescued/survive/etc.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I don't think themes are

I don't think themes are especially more limited.

I think the idea of the other designer I met was:

1- Empty earth and place people on space ships.
2- Make you space ship travel.
3- Colonize a new planet.

But again I dont think the game were connected.

About connections, beside determining the starting position in the next game, could there be other things? Maybe if you build up a certain advantage or ability in the first game, you can use this ability in the next game.

Another example that comes to my mind that partially applies are the wizardry video games. In wizardry, you could port your party from one game to another, but I think that they make you lose almost all your stuff, even you levels when you switch games. The reason why is that if you end the first game level 15, then the 2nd game will be really easy espeically if new players start at level 1. Also, the new games did not contains all the items of the old game which is why they made you lose your equipment. So in the end, not much got transfered.

Another video game idea that comes to my mind: The Spores.


Anothing to consider is the ratio of power transfered from a game to another. Here is an example for a 10% ratio.

For example, let say that in the first game:
Player start with a power level of 20
Each step in the game increase your level by 1 points.
First player ends with 100 points
Last players ends in average with a score of 50.

Now in the second game
Player stat with the score of the first game
Each step in the game increase your level by 10 points
First player ends with 1000 points
Last player ends in average with a score of 500.

As you can see, here, in the second game, even if the last player did pretty badly, since in the second game, the power increment faster, that player could easily catch up. Here the last player would need 5 steps to catch up what would have taken 50 steps in the original game.

So it all depends how much power you want to transfer. If you want first players to really have better chances of winning in the next game, you could raise you power transfer to 30% or even 50%. But if you want the previous game to have little impact on the next game, you should stay between 10% and 20%.

Joined: 04/14/2009
Good idea!

Yeah, I like that!

The game show Jeopardy! works like that. They've got two rounds. In the first round, questions are asked that range from $100 to $500. The second round is called Double Jeopardy and the dollar amounts are doubled, so the questions are worth from $200 to $1000. This way, if someone was getting pounded in the first round, they have a chance to catch up in the second round. Not a bat idea at all for the trilogy game idea. I don't know how I'd implement it, but the thought is a good one!

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