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End game triggers/problems

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Carl G
Joined: 09/21/2014

Hi All! I am currently working on balancing a Euro pick-up-and-deliver game.
Through much work playtesting and thinking, I have got the game reasonably balanced and smoothly flowing and user friendly. However, sometimes at the end of the game it bogs down and becomes not enjoyable nor strategic. The problem is the endgame condition.

The game involves moving around and selecting dice that give you resources (there are 18 dice). As you select them you place them on a dice track. When the dice track is full (10 dice spaces) the round is over. At the end of the game when the track gets filled it initiates the endgame.

So currently the rule is this: The player that initiates the endgame gets a 5pt bonus(average scores are in the 130-170 range) and then every other player gets one more turn.

Players gain more stuff as the game progresses and get most points from the last couple of turns. If a player can't cash in their stuff, then they will lose badly. The above rule makes it so a person has to choose to end the game(thereby knowing the game will end for them) and yet all other players will yet get a chance to use their stuff to the best of their ability as well(noone gets stuck "holding the bag").

The problem I have encountered is that it seems like it is always best to NOT initiate the game end. As long as you have stuff to do that doesn't involve grabbing a dice it makes sense to not initate the endgame as the points you can get by stalling are higher. Also, since everyone else gets an extra turn its not like you cut them off from potential points either.

In the game I played tonight I played 3 rounds(a 2p game) and it took 1 hour(a good playtime). however, that hour is 3 rounds minus one dice. The game stalled for another 36 minutes until that last dice was grabbed pushing it to a not good 1:36 playtime.

In a 2p game I see issues both ways:

1) If the rules stay as is, the 1st player has an advantage as they can stall and get 1 extra turn. Being that an average game only has 10 turns, 1 turn is quite significant.

2) If I change the rule to finish at the end of the 2nd players turn. the 2nd player can wait for the 1st player to commit their resources(expecting the end of the game) and then can stall and take advantage of the other player being out of resources. On the flip side, if they 1st player holds their resources, the 2nd player can end the game leaving the 1st player "holding the bag".

I hope I have explained this decently. There are a couple solutions I can see:

1) up the endgame point bonus to the point where it is desirable to end the game. And thus players likely won't stall if they have a chance to cash out and grab it(would probably use the "end a round" rule for this).

2) Since the game usually takes 10 rounds, simply make it a 10 round game.

I am not a fan of either of these solutions for various reasons. Do any of you have any thoughts or insights in this regard?

Have you guys run into similar issues in the endgame portion of your designs?


PS- I have also tried "every player gets another turn including the person who initiates the end game" as well. However, since the dice are also resources, it always makes sense to end the game as a player can load up on the leftover resources knowing they will have an extra turn to use them, whereas the other players only have 8 or less dice to work with and only the one last turn.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Last die counts

Last die counts twice?
Meaning that any extra point is added twice.

Players can try to focus having the best result on that last die.

Joined: 01/17/2011
Final Cash-In

Could the final round be a cut-down round, where the only thing you can do is cash in (potentially including the player who finished first).

Alternatively, is it too harsh to just end the game immediately instead of having a final round? Once people can see somebody getting close to ending, they will need to cash in before they get left in the cold. So that could be turned into a significant part of the strategy towards the end-game.

To generate excitement, you want people to be racing to finish first, rather than stalling to finish second. As soon as stalling becomes a viable strategy you lose the fun factor.


Joined: 11/06/2013
Wouldn't it be better if you

Wouldn't it be better if you automatically initiates the end game at some point. Take a look at the end game mechanics for pandemic. You can try to put off the end game, but eventually it will happen, no matter what you do.

If the end game is unavoidable, it offers more incentive to the players to play their best.

Joined: 03/02/2014
You gotta fix it!

kos wrote:
As soon as stalling becomes a viable strategy you lose the fun factor.

Quoted For Truth! You have to fix this.

I was going to suggest the idea you said you tried right at the end, that the person who triggers the end game also gets one more turn. I didn't follow why this didn't work, but I'll believe you.

I'm not wild about just bumping up the bonus for triggering end game until it is 'enough.' It isn't the worst idea in the world, but I think it should only be your last resort. I like the idea of the last die counting double, which is a somewhat prettier approach than just some bonus points, but it still feels a little manipulative.

Does your game offer fast and slow strategies? Of games that end by a trigger action, the best ones have these competing strategies. For example, you expect games to be in the 130-170 range and take about 10 rounds.

Strategy slow: build an engine that starts with little but will get more points each round. i.e. 0 + 0 + 0 + 5 + 10 + 15 + 20 + 25 + 30 + 35 ...
Strategy fast: take the cheap points where they are, get an early lead, and try to end the game quickly. i.e. 5 + 15 + 5 + 15 + 10 + 10 + 20 + 15 ...
If Strategy fast can end the game by turn 9, he wins. Turn 10 it's close, and turn 11 he loses.

If your game offers such strategies, then you definitely should keep the game-end trigger, and find a way to make it work. You need to have some actions that give cheap points but that don't build for an improvement, and other actions that build up a points engine that takes a while to pay off.

Carl G
Joined: 09/21/2014
Thanks for the input!

Hi All! Thanks for all the input so far! I thought I would give you all a few more details to help you see the issues:

The main resources in the game are cubes which come from dice. A player gets the color and number of cubes corresponding to the dice(eg. a 3 red dice would net you 3 red cubes). There are 6 different colors of dice and 18 total. You use these cubes to buy stuff.

So to answer anonymousmagic, the endgame is unavoidable as you need resources to do anything thus you must select dice, which thus eventually triggers the end of the game (when 10 out of the 18 dice are selected a round/the game ends).

Now you go around with a boat with limited space on it(12 or 15 if you upgrade). So simply doubling a dice doesn't work...especially since you need different combinations of colors to buy things. (responding to X3M and why I needed ot give more info).

Now the reason why ending the game immediately doesn't work is that there is also an "extra actions" track that each player has. A player gets 3 base actions(which they can move to islands and select dice with) which can get upgraded to 4 actions per turn. If a player saves up 5 extra actions on top of this A player could potentially could grab 6 dice in one turn to push the end of the game and leave players before them stuck with alot of unused goods. If players see the potential for this and use their goods up later players in turn order can stock up on the good dice(4-5-6) and just make sure they stay beneath the 10 threshold so they for sure get another turn to use all these resources.

I would be a fan of the "finish the round" option if I can find an intuitive way to limit the amount of extra actions gotten. (Maybe max the track at 4?).

Kos's "cash in round" ideas sounds decent too! Maybe have a "when the 10 dice is selected everyone gets another turn including the dice grabber and then finish the round so that every player has an equal amount of turns". This would lead the max/min issues to just the final round. As grabbing the 10th and up dice would be desirable as by that time there are usually only a few "good" dice left. I will likely try this option next playtest. If it makes the game too long I may just have to scale it down a bit(maybe rounds end after 9 dice or something like that).

The game does have some long vs. short game aspects. If you go for contracts directly they give direct payouts in both points and flexibility(eg. 15 points, 2 wild cubes, and 1 extra action). Whereas there are also tech tiles that give you more staggered abilities and points(eg. 1 wild cube whenever you select a red dice) Points for these tech tiles square and so you need to get a lot of them to make them pay off points wise.

Players have to determine the best way to approach the game: build up tech and get points that way, then use those tech abilities to grab some choice contracts later. Or players can focus on contracts directly and use the immediate benefits to continue to go after contracts. Or get a few helpful techs, and then use these to focus on contracts. On top of this there are also workers you can hire that act like the tech tiles but are all points related(eg. 5 points every time you select a red dice).

Balancing is coming slowly but surely as there is a lot to juggle! I am still learning about the game and possible strategies 30 playtests in! While I don't mind discovering balancing issues, I hate discovering "fun killing: issues, which is why I posted this here. These end game issues don't happen all the time but enough that they need to be fixed! Thus the beauty of the bgdforums!

Thanks for the help guys! Any future thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

PS- I have the game available as a PnP if anyone is interested but it is a beast to print off!

Beggarking's picture
Joined: 09/09/2014
Its hard for me to grep the

Its hard for me to grep the gameplay without having a proper rulebook or gameflow... is it possible to trigger and endgame by limiting the number of resource cubes?

Carl G
Joined: 09/21/2014
No, not really Beggarking. I

No, resources won't really work Beggarking. I am still pretty new to this site so I haven't figured out how to upload rulebooks and such.

Basic game is this: The board has two halves, the ocean with the dice islands on one half(9 islands, 2 dice per island) and the mainland with villages on the other half(13 villages each with a tile on it that has a 3 cube price on the tile).

Every turn a player gets three actions with their boat and their cart. The boat travels around the islands and each movement between them costs 1 action, and each dice selected costs 1 action. Cubes are placed in ones boat(on a personal player board) when dice are selected. Cubes are brought back to mainland and transferred onto the cart and then brought to villages where the cubes are exchanged for the tiles there. Tiles fulfill contracts or give a player special abilities, etc.

So on your turn you are looking at different color combinations for tiles on the mainland and then using your boat to go get the resources and then bringing them back to shore to go collect those tiles.

18 dice are rolled and placed on the islands. You get the number and color of the dice you select(eg if you select a purple 6 dice you would get 6 purple dice and place them on your boat which has a max capacity of 12). As a round progresses more and more dice get pulled off the islands so there are less options available to pick from. When 10 dice get pulled off the board it is the end of a round. All the dice are then pulled off and all get rolled and the islands all get reseeded again.

Not sure if this helps at all but thought I'd give it a shot!

Beggarking's picture
Joined: 09/09/2014
Thanks for explaining the

Thanks for explaining the basics. I agree with earlier posters in that "stalling" can be a problem and having a mechanism that promotes players racing to the end game state can add excitement and tension.

The way its described it sounds like players race early on in a round to grab those high powered dice, and there's lots of early tension there that dims as the powerful dice get snatched up leaving less attractive options. This seems to be opposite of what you want, which is tension building throughout the game to the end (again, hard for me to really grep this based on just the above posts, so take with a grain of salt). Maybe the higher dice should only be available after players have picked up lower powered dice, or something, to keep that tension throughout.

Also - have you thought about an external competitor to the dice? Having pirates or something(an AI) that take the dice away from the players, and can also trigger end-game? Maybe the rate stolen ramps up each round?

The solution may just be something that comes out of playtesting - you say that players stall as a tactic because there's plenty for them to do( and points to score) before jumping on the last dice. Balancing that part may alleviate the problem with end-game. Maybe you find that players just get too many resources with the higher dice and that number needs to be toned down, or that 10 spots is too many and it should be 8 or 7 (or specific to the number of players).

Sounds like a fun problem - good luck!

Carl G
Joined: 09/21/2014
You have understood the

You have understood the dynamic correctly! There is an early mad dash for the big dice, especially ones that match the colors of tiles that are close together in the villages(eg. if there is one tile that costs 2 purple and 1 blue, and one next to it that costs 1 purple 1 blue and 1 red, and one next to that that costs 2 red and 1 blue then if there is a red/purple pairing on an island it will be desired). And as a round goes on there is less and less good options available. However, there are multiple die rounds in a game so this excitement comes back every round. It is very similar to Castles of Burgundy in this regard: Every round all the new tiles(or dice in my game) are shown and there is a mad dash for the best ones at the start, and then making the best with the rest after that. There's also that same element of figuring out what might be left over after the mad dash that affects what you pick right off the bat.

The tension builds throughout the game through the tech tiles gained or the contracts gained. Off the start you only have the resources on the islands to do stuff with but as you gain techs and contracts you gain access to wild cubes(cubes that can be used as any color) and extra actions. So at the start your possibilities are very narrow as you are limited to a very few tiles that you can buy, but as the game ramps up and if you play wisely you may have 5 extra actions and 5 wilds to work with by the end which means you can virtually purchase any pair of tiles on the board.

My first couple rounds of balancing has been to scale down the amount of wilds and extra actions that come into the game. It gets too chaotic and un-strategic if you can simply buy whatever you want. However, the concept of wild cubes and extra actions adds a lot of possibilities and fun into the game as well and want to keep them in. It has been a lot of work to balance this. I still may need to balance the extra actions aspect some more yet though for reasons mentioned above.

I have considered a pirate, but not as an AI but player controlled. My idea was that players could use actions to move the pirate around who would shut down certain routes/islands thus slowing players down from getting dice from those islands. However, this is a very "euro" game and I didn't want there to be any direct confrontation in this way.

Yes, I have been playtesting this quite a bit to try to figure it out just by playing it. I think I will try what I mentioned above and see if it works.

Thanks for the input!

Beggarking's picture
Joined: 09/09/2014
NP - hope it helps. Realize

NP - hope it helps.

Realize that you are probably done with this thread but I thought of a couple other ideas on my walk home from work today:

1. Balance points with goods: The dice give you points as a well as goods – 6 goods and 0 points, 5 goods and 1 point, 4 goods and 2 points, etc. Balance the points out so that the short play strategy (where a player can try collect points and end the game quickly) isn't too easy but is still viable.

2. Diminishing Dice pool: Every round there are less dice available (round one there are 10 dice, round two there are 8, round three there are only 6 dice, etc).

3. Tiles kick off the end game state: A random tile, when uncovered, starts an endgame timer. Or maybe when the third in a set is uncovered the game ends.

OK, done with suggestions now. Cheers!

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