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Help me with my Board Layout and Stealth Mechanics

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dtrik's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008

Hello everyone, I joined this board awhile back, but life caught up with me and took me away from my ideas of designing games. Now I've recently rediscovered some of my old ideas and I'm currently working on completely redeveloping an idea I previously had (which was more of a hybrid between miniature wargame and roleplaying game) into a board game. I have alot of ideas about streamlining previously complicated and somewhat confused rules and mechanics, but before I work on detailing the rules and developing the game, I've hit a road block that really messed with me when I was originally writing the rules.

Alright, so as I was writing this post, I thought I would avoid describing my game to protect my ideas, however I realize that its impossible to get useful feedback without at least telling you a few key elements about the game. Also, I'm sure this is a relatively secure place to share such ideas since I've read some very detailed and intriguing ideas already. So this is my baby, be gentle ;) Also keep in mind, I play miniature wargames, a few cardgames, and a few popular party games so I'm not too familiar with alot of mechanics or precedents.

So to sum up the game for working terms, it is a competitive survival game that requires players to find, catch, and consume prey in order to survive as well as interacting with other players (usually attacking) and lasting through unpredictable and changing environments. The board will most likely be a hex map (double sided, possibly include other double sideds) with separate terrain that will create a unique board every game. Players control a single miniature and take turns trying to hunt, hide, survive, etc. I have alot of the more specific elements of gameplay and some unique mechanics I am proud of, however I still haven't pinned two very very significant elements with both revolve around board layout, one of which is randomization of encounters, and the other is the stealth element.

Encounter cards include prey, diseases, items, temporary abilities, and other random events that may benefit you, harm you, or affect players other than yourself. I need some feedback on ideas for implementing random encounters into the game. There are three things I've been considering:
1) Spaces with Cards: The encounter cards are shuffled and randomly placed on spaces on the board that are labeled as card spaces. The benefits: the encounters are very unexpected and random, different every time. The drawbacks: A bump of the board and the game is ruined. The encounters have no connection to the area on the board; even though the encounters can be both positive and negative, players will ignore spaces without cards and lead to some dead space. This was my original idea but it seems flawed, perhaps reworkable into a better format. Suggestions?
2) Tiles: The board is composed of reversible tiles. On one side is the art of the open space, and the other side could be either a slot for encounter cards, or a fixed encounter. The benefits: encounters are very relevant to location type. The drawbacks: this idea is still very fresh in my mind and I wouldn't know how to implement the system. How can the tiles be flipped without disturbing other tiles? Would players recognize certain tiles and associate them with certain encounters? Would distinct area tiles lead to very square patterns that look unappealing? This idea seemed solid on first conception but now seems very impractical
3) Encounter Rolls: Another option I've been considering (only within the past few hours) has been to determine an encounter type based on a random roll when a player lands on a space. The result may include not drawing any card, drawing a certain type of card, etc. I don't have this one entirely figured out, perhaps you all could help here.

The stealth element is also a bit tricky. I have an idea, so I'd like your feedback on this mechanic. Ideally, I would have all movement and actions be hidden between players, however I do not want to introduce a GM/DM role into the game and want to ensure that no one can cheat. So, my original idea was to use a Perception system. Outside of the game world, everyone can see everyone's piece on the board, however, in the game world the player can only see what is within their Perception range. Each player type has a Perception statistic that indicates the size of their Perception radius in spaces. You can only target/interact with things within your perception radius. Perception can be modified, however, by things such as terrain, time of day, ailments, camouflage, abilities etc. Thats the system in a nutshell, let me know if you need any clarification or have any ways to improve it...or let me know if its garbage and needs scrapping!

SO, that post was really long, I apologize. However, I do really need the help. To sum it up:
>How should I implement random encounters?
>How does my Perception mechanic work? Any other ideas on stealth?
>How unique is my general idea? Im leaving out alot of key ideas and mechanics because Im paranoid but from what I said, does this ring any bells? I like to be unique. Also is the idea sound?

Let me know if any of the ideas presented need clarification, I love to talk about my ideas :)

Thanks in advance for the help and I'm looking forward to becoming an active participant on this site as I develop my own game ideas.

Joined: 02/14/2009
A couple of things...

You might want to see if you can find an old game called "Outdoor Survival" by The Avalon Hill company.
I believe it is pretty old as it was listed amongst the inspirations for some of the early overland mechanics of D&D, including encounters and... well, outdoor survival. It sounds possibly similar to your game.

Also, some of your comments reminded me of the Game Designers' Workshop game "Kings and Things."
Kings and Things used a tile system that was blank on one side and had terrain on the other. We set up the board blank-side up and only turned over the terrain when we moved adjacent to the hex in question. So, one never knew what the terrain was until you could "explore". And sometimes moving into one hex would reveal three or four adjacent hexes. This puts a real emphasis on exploration.

Kings and Things used a (to me, at least) unique and elegantly simple encounter system.
When someone first moves into a hex roll a six sided dice. On a 1 or a 6 there is nothing there and the hex is yours "for free". On a 2 through 4 there are that many "things" (in your case cards) in that hex. If there are "creatures" etc that effect you AN OPPONENT plays those cards against you. If there are beneficial cards in that hex you may add them to your "hand".

Lastly, I really like your solution for hidden movement. It seems simple and that's always a good thing. I remember playing Avalon Hill's Guadalcanal game where you had to WRITE down the hidden movements of dozens of units every turn... it was impossible to play. Your system sounds much better than that.


Joined: 12/01/2008
Some more thoughts

I'm assuming that your intent is for encounters to be sporadic and not occur every time a move is made. And that once an area has an encounter, that area is then cleared.
Perhaps, instead of putting the cards on the encounter areas, use a token. When a player enters the area, draw an encounter and remove the token.

Some ideas:
• Make a group of spaces represent a single encounter area. (Surround them with a colored border, perhaps) When any of the grouped spaces is entered, draw an encounter. This way you can make encounters occur periodically, while also preventing a player from going around the encounter space.
• Arrange encounter spaces like a web or net, so that encounter spaces will have to be crossed eventually.
• Every space is an encounter, and include encounter cards that are blank.

The big question is what does the stealth accomplish?
If the answer is mostly to prevent doing stuff to a player that your character wouldn't be able to see, then the perception range should be fine.
If the answer is so that you don't know where the other players are (because there is strategic importance) then here is an alternative:
Use "decoy" tokens. Since players only control one unit there won't be too much bookkeeping.
It works like this: Every player has 3 or 4 placeholder tokes that have a letter, and their actual unit is off the map. Somewhere they have a letter written down, and this letter is the "real" unit, the others are decoy units.
• A player may reveal the real location of his character at any time, and must reveal himself to perform actions or do encounters. (remove any decoys, and replace the "real" decoy unit with the players character)
• If a decoy unit enters an encounter space, the encounter is not triggered and the decoy is removed.
• If an opponents REAL unit gets close to a decoy, he may force that unit to be revealed. If it is a decoy, remove it. If it is the real unit, place the actual unit in its place.
• Decoy units may not reveal other decoy units.
• A player may "hide" his actual unit on the board and replace it with multiple decoy units. (And record which letter represents the real unit)

So Alice decides she can head towards the fruit trees to get food, or go to the abandoned mine to find some tools, or head to the stream for water, but she doesn't want Bob to know in advance where she is headed.
She decides to go to the abandoned mine, and removes her character and places decoy units A, B, and C in its place, secretly recording 'B' as the real unit.

Over the course of a few turns she move the decoy units in different directions.
Bob is not sure which unit is real, and send his decoy units to intercept her - but he is guessing she is going to the fruit trees - and sends his real, but hidden, character that way.

At some point, one of Bobs decoys is close to Alice's decoy 'C'. However, since neither represent their actual characters, no one can reveal the others' decoy, but neither player can be absolutely certain that the other isn't their true location.

Next turn, Bob's actual character is in position to see Alice's decoy 'A', so he elects to reveal his true location, removing his decoys and putting his character on the board. Having done that, he can now use his character to look at decoy 'A', and he finds that it was indeed just a decoy. He now has a pretty good idea where Alice really is, but he's out of position!

Alice now reveals that 'B' is the true character, and gains some tools at the abandoned mine.
Next turn, Alice decides to re-stealth her character. She removes the playing piece and places decoys A, B, and C in the same space, secretly recording that the real unit is now 'A'. She can now secretly move to her next objective.

Finally, as to paranoia and theft of an idea: There isn't much financial incentive to steal a board game idea. Ideas are the easy part and they are a dime a dozen. The hard part is making that idea into a polished game.
Most boardgames aren't exactly cash cows these days, so really, the risk/reward ratio doesn't lend itself to idea theft too well. There's too much work to do to make and idea into a workable game to have the final product encumbered by even the hint of copyright/trademark claims.

Taavet's picture
Joined: 08/15/2008
Stealth is hard

Your option 3 is my first solution for problem 1. When they move on a square the roll a die to determine if an encounter happens or not. The other thought so you didn't have to introduce dice was also mentioned, everytime you move on a space you draw an encounter card. However a large portion of the encounters are blank and so yeild no actual encounter.

As for stealth again what is the purpose of stealth? If it is to keep units from interacting then your perception idea sounds good. The decoys would provide limited stealth and unfortunately I don't think anyone has developed a really good stealth mechanic. Without a GM/DM its just to hard to implement a monitoring device to prevent cheating or invalid moves.

Sounds good so far. Many of us do have hopes or dreams of getting rich off of our game designs although most of us understand the reality of things and do it mostly for our own enjoyment as a hobby. Good luck and keep up the good work.

dtrik's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Thank you guys for the

Thank you guys for the feedback, I really appreciate it.

@Jay: I read up a bit on both of those games, some interesting mechanics there for sure, a bit more inspiring for the tile idea also. Thanks for the positive response on the perception idea, with some refining I think it should be a solid mechanic.

@Desprez: Thanks for the involved response, the encounter ideas really got me thinking, especially grouping spaces for encounters. I'll work that in. Even more thought provoking was the decoy idea, which inspired me to start thinking of a mechanic involving pieces that act like decoys, but can be used with some more strategic opportunities, yet still revolve around the perception system. Ill update you guys on these pack rules when I refine them a bit more, but just know that you really inspired me! THANKS!

@Taavet: I've also been leaning towards an encounter roll system, while still involving random cards and such. At this point I'm far beyond introducing dice, so thats not an issue, the rules are pretty involved and the current system revolves around d10s.

@Stealth Purpose: Originally the purpose was to simply gain a strategic advantage over other players through planned movement, avoidance, use of terrain, etc. However, I'm now working on a mechanic involving "active" decoys so you will also be able to confuse other players and try to keep your motivations hidden. Again, when I get some more done on the pack rules, I'll surely be making a post. Also, when I make a decent foundation, I think I'll start up a journal to chronicle my progress and hopefully prevent me from dropping the idea when life gets hectic again.

@Paranoia: good to hear that this place/industry is more of a refuge for enthusiasts rather than a prowling ground for d-bags. Can't wait to share more with you all, and thanks again for the feedback!

simons's picture
Joined: 12/28/2008
One other stealth idea...

I don't know if it would work (and the decoy idea really might be optimal, it was my knee-jerk thought when I started reading this post), but figured I should throw this out there:

If you don't want a designated GM, but you have 4+ players in the game, why not rotate who is the GM? Each player takes turns being the GM, and all of the players pass him/her their moves. It would then be his/her job to make public any moves which need to be made public. Alternatively, you could randomly decide who is the GM each turn.

If you did something like that, you'd need to have some sort of auditing system. You could consider putting in some kind of rule to punish cheaters (although, perhaps innocently, I usually just assume that players will play honestly).

Either way, other main suggestion is that if you make hiding and sneaking a major part of the strategy, try to incorporate it into the general theme of the game as much as possible. Does that make sense (because if not, I can try to rephrase it)? It seems like something you could really run with.


InvisibleJon's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008

Desprez wrote:
Use "decoy" tokens. Since players only control one unit there won't be too much bookkeeping.
Why have a "real" character and a bunch of fakes? How about "going quantum" with it instead?

Say I have a stealth rating of 3 and you have a stealth rating of 5. That means that I get to move 3 instances of myself around and you get to move 5 instances of yourself around. These pawns behave like normal characters, but when our characters meet, we simultaneously declare if they are real or decoys (by revealing cards?). When one is revealed to be the real one, all others are lifted.

If you have only one instance and you are not observed, you can spawn off other instances to the limit of your stealth.

Joined: 12/01/2008
Quote:Why have a "real"

Why have a "real" character and a bunch of fakes? How about "going quantum" with it instead?

That certianly works. It shifts the decision making around a bit, but it doesn't seem to present too many problems if you can only control one unit. The only real negative is for a player with a stealthed unit to change where he intended to be based on current information from the other players. This doesn't really have to be a negative, however.

It should be noted that this ONLY really works if you control one unit. If you can control multiple units that can stealth independently, you can abuse the system and cause units to warp around faster than then could normally.

InvisibleJon's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
Choosing who you are on the fly...

Consider this: I start my turn in one specific place. I have Stealth: 3. This means that I get to spawn off 3 instances during my move phase. I move one instance to the north from where I started the turn. I move one instance upstairs from where I started the turn. I move one instance to the west into a shed from where I started the turn. I take no actions that only my real instance is permitted to use, so you don't know which one is real.

On your turn, you spend three energy to activate the trap in the shed. I decide at that instant that my shed instance is a decoy and remove it from the board. The rest of your turn doesn't engage either of my remaining two instances.

At the start of my next turn, I decide that my upstairs unit is the real me and lift my instance to the north. Now the entire process starts over again. I can spawn up to three instances, etc., etc., etc...

Core Ideas:
* You do not have one unit that is secretly the true you.
* If there is more than one instance of you at the start of your turn, you must lift all but one instance. The remaining instance is the true you.
* Most of the actions an instance can take can only be taken by the true you. If you take one of these actions, you must lift all other instances of you that are currently in play.
* When something other than you (another player, a board event, etc.) engages an instance of you, you must decide and declare if that instance of you is the true you. If it is not, you lift that instance and the engagement fails. If it is, you must lift all other instances of you and resolve the engagement.
* During your turn, you may spawn off instances of yourself up to the limit of your Stealth rating. These instances of you start from your current location and follow all of your normal movement rules.

* If I were implementing this, I'd let decoys move and reveal what's in their rooms. I would not allow decoys to fight or otherwise affect their environment in meaningful ways. I probably would not let decoys pick up or carry objects. I'd reserve fighting and such for the real you.

Joined: 01/21/2009

Ok. First of all, I'd just like to say that the decoy and (particularly) the quantum mechanics are amazing. I'm going to have to use those in a game...

Secondly, you mentioned that one of your thoughts was to put encounter data on the bottom of terrain hexes, which presumably came in a few distinct types. You were worried about flipping them over being difficult. That mechanic is functionally the same as having one deck of cards per terrain type, with one encounter card in them per hex, reading the same as whatever would be on the bottom. When you enter a hex, you draw a card, resolve it's encounter, and then either discard the card or leave it on the hex, depending on whether it affects anyone who enters that hex or only the first person. That is exactly, functionally identical to your idea, without requiring you to flip over hexes. You could also, obviously, give your mechanic a lot more variety by having more encounter cards for each type of terrain.

dtrik's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Getting the rules down is

Getting the rules down is going well so far, thanks for the inspiration everyone. First I'd like to address the stealth mechanic. I am keeping the perception mechanic (for now) and am still polishing out the pack mechanic, which has its roots in all of these decoy ideas. However, it is not a permanent rule and one may not always have these decoys in play. Basically what I'm thinking right now is that at the beginning of a turn (if you don't sprint, make any special action, etc) then you may call the pack. You then replace your unique character with three identical pack members (one with a label on the bottom indicating the original character, the alpha. The alpha may act as normal and the pack members, while not the real thing, still have many options available to them. This way, your decoys do more than just throw the enemy off. They may consume small prey, so you don't have to reveal yourself every time you want a snack, also you can use this to either deny your enemy resources or make them think if that is the alpha. Also, packs of different types will have their own unique ablilties that either hinder opponents or enhance your alpha in some way. However, they cannot move too far away from the alpha, although one pack's ability might override this, not sure. They also cannot directly attack players, and instead flee to their alpha. All of this means that the only way you have to reveal your alpha is if he uses some sort of special action or takes up a combat, etc. I also wanted to retain a constant position for your alpha, that way it requires decision making and there is no "teleporting" your character out of trouble by replacing him with the decoy. This combined with the perception ranges should be a pretty cool stealthy experience I think, without adding a GM.

However, the thought of a GM did occur to me, since another primary mechanic since the conception of this game idea has been Top Predators. These super beasts are much more powerful than players and require tactics, battles of attrition, or cooperation to take down, but ill provide huge rewards. A GM would make control of these monstrosities easier, however I think the mechanic I came up to randomly control them is more interesting. Basically, since corpses remain in play as long as there are sustenance points on them, Top Predators are attracted to the blood of recent kills and in their turn will move towards the most recent kill. Subsequent kills that are equal or smaller in size will be ignored. Top Predators always attack anyone in their perception range. I think that doesn't really require a GM, but its another consideration in the debate.

I also wanted to thank brisingre for pointing out the obvious to me! That really makes sense and I think I may have different encounter cards for different terrain types, that solves quite a mess for me. I'll keep you all updated on my progress, thanks again for the feedback, the interest is appreciated.

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