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How can your make your game more interesting to players during OTHER players turns?

19 replies [Last post]
Joined: 09/14/2015

Hi everyone,

So we are trying to design a semi-cooperative war game, where all the players are working together to defeat one enemy. The enemy spawns in different areas, and you can attack/defend against them.

Each person can do a number of things on their turn (collect resources, trade, move troops, battle, etc).

So far its been good, but most of the feedback we get is that each person's turn takes too long and makes waiting for your turn boring.

How can we keep players interested when it isn't their turn? We began allowing players to defend their territories from the game if enemies are spawned in their territories, but that's really all we could think of. Any ideas?


X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
I had the same problem some

I had the same problem some years ago. But i have players battle each other. Not an ai.

I have other players to react to an action of the active player. Even if you are a third power, you could still help one of the 2 other players. For this, there is also a little reward in the form of xp gaining.

But in a game where you battle only ai. The only thing that i can think of is supporting another player when they have to fight. You get the old "help!" situation.

Joined: 03/02/2014
Some in parallel

Is there any way that people can do some part of the moves in parallel? For instance, if a turn consists of choose which cards to play, then make the actual moves that the cards enable, then you could have the 'choose cards' portion be done at the same time, with a simultaneous reveal. The cards themselves could have priority numbers, which determines the actual order of play. Possibly even the highest priority card goes, which means Player 2 does that action; then the next highest, so player 4 does an action; then the next, which might be player 2 again. Etc.

Joined: 09/14/2015
X3M wrote: I have other

X3M wrote:

I have other players to react to an action of the active player. Even if you are a third power, you could still help one of the 2 other players. For this, there is also a little reward in the form of xp gaining.

Interesting idea. Right now players are able to help each other but it costs resources and you don't gain much from doing it. I'll try to think of a way to add more incentive! Thanks!

Joined: 09/14/2015
Zag24 wrote:Is there any way

Zag24 wrote:
Is there any way that people can do some part of the moves in parallel?

Hey Zag24... hmm, not really that I can think of. Turns consist of rolling a die for yourself, collecting your resources, building your own structures, and creating/moving/attacking with troops.

radioactivemouse's picture
Joined: 07/08/2013
keyword: cooperative

Have non-active players able to help the active player during their turn. Make some of the enemies just slightly overpowered just enough so that players will need to ask for help. That way, players need to pay attention during every player's turn...especially if you add a traitor element to the game.

See videos for the game Xenoshyft from Cool Mini or Not.

adversitygames's picture
Joined: 09/02/2014
Could make all the battling

Could make all the battling (which I'm guessing is the most time-consuming part) simultaneous at the end of the turn.

Ie everyone moves/handles resources/etc, then everyone fights the game (with the players' armies teaming up if they move into the same battle).

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Turns = Several Phases

I'd do what I can to divide a single turn into a series of phases. All players do the same action, then when all players have completed it the game moves to the next phase.

I don't know much about your game beyond what you've told, but the roll dice-and-collect-resources thing has been elegantly solved before, even in Settlers of Catan.

Another way to approach it is to apply roles to players. Each player has their own turn, but they can do only one of several options: attack OR collect resources OR build structures/military units OR etc. When all players have had a turn regardless of the action they took, the AI will have a go. Then the round ends and for the next turn players can choose the same or different actions.

The advantage of such a role-choosing system is that it can encourage collaboration and cooperation between the players. One player can be the resource gatherer, another can do the manufacturing/building, and another attacks. The flexibility of being able to choose the role means that one player isn't stuck doing the same thing for the entire game.

Good luck with your design. :)

KeeperoftheGate's picture
Joined: 06/19/2013

-Speed up combat (take out fluffy mechanics).
-Build in a timer. Everyone loves when timers go buzz, we watch them.
-Put more wieght in any player's choice on other players. "If they do x, I can't do y... so what are they going to do?" Usually this works, (like Catan) but sometimes it just makes people take longer.
-Include mini puzzles, or chinese finger traps, or tootsie rolls to occupy time. (not serious).


Joined: 12/27/2013
Remove trading as one of the

Remove trading as one of the things you can do on your turn, and make it happen only between those players who are not actively playing their turn.
I'll speed up the turn a lot, as player has one less phase to do, and has a static hand of goods to think how to use.

Joined: 05/05/2014
You can try to divide the

You can try to divide the actions of a player in some way that some are played "in-turn" and others are played "out-of-turn".

Some actions can be played in "background", maybe some movements, fights or solving some situations.

The problem with this division of actions is that the "background" actions cannot be viewed by others players or cannot be important for them.

Moreover board games tends to be very slow compared to card games. This is one (of many) reasons why I prefer card simultaneous games.

Joined: 08/21/2015
Remove trading as one of the

Remove trading as one of the things you can do on your turn, and make it happen only between those players who are not actively playing their turn.

Interesting, because I can see that this would work really well, even though it is the opposite of what I would have suggested, that is to make it necessary (or at least strongly advisable) for the player whose turn it is to bargain/trade with all or most other players each turn.

Otherwise, adding more actions which affect at least some other players (especially if it is sometimes in a positive way, like resource-gathering in Catan). That would also fit well with the semi-cooperative nature of the game (where I assume you want to help the other players in the short term, but not too much for your own good in the long term).

MarkJindra's picture
Joined: 01/24/2014
Options Options Options

I am currently working on a co-op game with the same issues. My co-designer and I have worked hard to allow cards that players gain on their own turn to be usable during other players turns. We also have capacity limits on the hexes our board is made from and we allow players to spend a commodity to move an additional space on someone else's turn. Lastly we have a special ability that each player can use on their own and other players turns that helps by adding support in various ways. This has promoted cooperation and in a way it asks the active player to engage with the other players or keep the other players engaged on their turn so that the players will have the best chance to win the game.


Zedrex's picture
Joined: 12/29/2015
What I'm working on right now

What I'm working on right now has a dynamic where players contribute to each other's experiences by 'setting traps'. That is, they enjoy spending their turns playing stuff that will trip up the other player and they are engaged with their opponent's turn as they watch them interact with the traps they have set.

That's the idea, anyway - still fleshing it out so haven't playtested it yet

Michael Melkonian
Joined: 12/19/2015
I just played a game called

I just played a game called The Big Book of Madness, which is fantastic and I recommend it to everybody. It's a cooperative deck building game where you are trying to defeat monsters escaping out of a magical book. The way it gets around having down time on other players turn is by having a "support card" mechanic, which allows players to put some of their cards into support, meaning that you can play those cards on another players turn to help them accomplish a goal. There is also a mechanic which allows you to give other players the ability to take an action on your turn, which, if timed right, can be chained so that everyone gets to perform an action on your turn. Those are just a couple of ways to keep the game interesting on other people's turns.

Joined: 12/27/2015
special abilities

You could give each player a role at the beginning of the game. This would allow your players to each have a special ability that may be used in certain situations during someone else's turn. This way, each player would be looking out for ways they could use their special abilities during other people's turns, and not become bored waiting for their turn.

One person could be a medic, and has a special healing ability or something that allows them to intervene if you are suffering heavy losses, under certain conditions.

Stealthpike's picture
Joined: 12/30/2015
Learning to balance speed and strategizing

I've noticed that some of the best ways to keep players looking at the game rather than their smartphones during another player's turn include either quick turns or strategy that has to be planned in between actions. Dominion is an example of a game I feel does this well because most turns don't take very long and when it's not your turn, you are looking at your hand of cards, how much cards in the supply cost, what you need to do, etc. so you don't really have time to "zone out". Long story short, if a player can do their turn and then not worry about anything until their next turn, they are more likely to lose focus and interest.

Another option that works, and that other people have mentioned, is giving players actions that can be played when it's not their turn. Shadows over Camelot has the Merlin Cards, Pandemic has the "Play at any time" cards, and Dominion occasionally has attack cards that affect other players. If you have actions that can only be played on other players turns, it can mean your players get to perform two roles, their active and passive roles. Building on what connerdrake5757 said, if you had a medic for example, maybe he can only heal when it's not his turn or something like that.

Zedrex's picture
Joined: 12/29/2015
The Big Book of Madness

The Big Book of Madness sounds like an awesome game - will keep an eye out!

Joined: 07/03/2013
Split it up!

The massive, epic, sci-fi ameritrash behemoth that is Twilight Imperium does a good job of keeping everyone engaged throughout the 8-hour gaming festival that is playing the game. The key to their success is to let each player only take a few actions per turn, and split those actions into micro-turns, where each player plays a single action in sequence. Each player is handed a number of "strategy markers" each game round that they can allocate to their individual actions (or save between turns). This idea keeps turns short by limiting how much gets done at a time.

In a co-operative environment, this would better allow you to co-ordinate your attacks, and would allow one player to move , and another to support in short order. How you implement combat with this system is up to you (is each "shot" (or roll of the dice) an action, or is the whole battle an action? How about 3 "shots"/action? Could you attack and get resupplied/healed by another player?

Alternately, this also would work well with an airstrike or something that gives a disadvantage to defense until the end of the round, since the bombing micro-turn can happen early, and they can still participate in the fight with their own micro-turns later in the round.

Just some thoughts...

Joined: 12/25/2015
Micro turns

I was planning on making this suggestion, but ruy343 just did, so I'll second it.
If everyone only can do one thing on a turn, the downtime is chopped up and is less noticeable. It also helps gamers, especially those new to your game, to figure out how to play, since they only have to identify a single action, rather than 5 or 6.
You may want to consider reading the article on downtime at gamesprecipice ( if you haven't already. I found their series on design to have a number of good ideas.

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