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how to create A-symmetrical map design but still get a balanced game?

5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 04/30/2011


I am designing map variants for my game but am having a lot of difficulty predicting how the maps will affect the gameplay. This makes it difficult to judge the balance of the game as i'm not sure if it's the map making things one sided or the other rules.

I have sat and analysed it a bit more and made some progress I think. I will post my thoughts in case anyone finds them useful but I would love to get some help from others to understand how this all works.

So my game is a miniatures skirmish game with resource management. Players are battling for a central objective but they need to secure generators that are placed around the map. These Generators can change hands repeatedly and they supply 3 power each to whoever has control of them at the beginning of the turn.

Map design - gens controlled vs gens controlled
2 generators on the map leads to a 2vs0 dominance which the loser can almost never recover from
3 generators leads to a 2vs1 with the 3rd gen changing hands repeatedly, making for close games. The difference is only 3 and only one gen needs to be captured to gain dominance
4 gens evenly spaced encourages 2vs2 stalemates with players defending their gens
4 gens a-symetrically placed leads to a 3vs1 which is very hard for the loser to recover from and the 6pt difference leads to large dominance. 2 gens need to change hands to reverse the dominance which is hard to do.

increasing gen supply to 4+ per turn
low supply makes for slower games and less dominance, high supply is the oppositite

Probably pretty obvious really.

Now can any1 suggest how I can tell what difference the placement of the generators will have without playtesting each time.
Example. If I put 2 close to one players starting point and then 1 near the other and 1 away from both teams you can expect one side to dominate but I dont want to have to create symetrical maps all the time.

So I see now that the final question is how can I create A-SYmmetrical map design but encourage balanced gameplay?

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated

ilta's picture
Joined: 12/05/2008
One way to balance this is to

One way to balance this is to assume that a player will be able to expand at a certain rate each turn, and will move to capture the nearest generator.

Calculate his total energy earned this game after each turn, assuming no interference from the other player, until he has captured all the generators on the map.

For instance, let's say that you've placed one generator 2 squares away, and another 5 squares away, and the player will move one square per turn.

Turn 1: moves towards gen 1, 0 energy total
Turn 2: captures gen 1, 3 energy total
Turn 3: moves towards gen 2, 6 energy total
Turn 4: moves towards gen 2, 9 energy total
Turn 5: captures gen 2, 15 energy total, all generators conquered.

Then do the same for the other player and graph both results. If the lines are similar (possibly one peaks early but another peaks late, or possibly they simply roughly mirror each other) then the map is -- theoretically -- balanced, at least as far as generators are concerned. It gets more complicated if some generators are farther away from a player, but his side has cheaper-but-stronger troops. However, running the numbers in this way on the generators will give you an idea of how much the combat needs to balance out the map advantage.

Joined: 05/15/2011
IMHO, there's no general answer

I'd go for an odd number of generators. Any even number could lead to a stalemate situation, where the ideal strategy for both players is to protect their half of all generators.

If you feel that 3 generators make the game too fast, so go for 5. Place 2 of them near the starting positions, and scatter the remaining so that they're on the average equally close to both players.

ilta wrote:
Then do the same for the other player and graph both results.

Agreed, the total amount of energy collected during the opening game is important, and so may be the exact shape of the graph. This depends on the usage of the energy, does it matter if a player gets the energy on turn 1 or turn 5?

Not only the distance to the starting point but also the distance to other important things counts, including other generators and the building where new units come out from (if there's such a thing). Controlling two generators is easier if they're close to each other.

It all can get quite complicated, or not, depending on the details you didn't describe. The easy and general solution is to let players bid (energy) for the starting position, but some people don't like auction. Sometimes comparing the total energy both players get before they start fighting may suffice.

hotsoup's picture
Joined: 08/28/2009
Some ideas: You could have a

Some ideas: You could have a generator close to each player, and then have 1, 2, or 3 near the center of the map, equidistant from all players, and force them to fight over those. If they are close enough together, that should prevent stalemates.

If you want something asymetrical, I recommend making a system whereby the players get to place the generators before. Perhaps something like the Twilight Imperium Setup process, where players take turns playing hexes (out of a hand of hexes) to the table, where the build out a galaxy ring by ring. In that case, players are always deciding whether to play good resources near themselves, or hindrances near their opponents. It ends up with a highly variable, but usually quite balanced map.

I don't know if your game uses hexes, but some system where the players have to set up, and have to choose between playing good terrain near themselves or bad terrain near their opponents would probably work well.

Geikamir's picture
Joined: 10/20/2011
The game I am working on uses

The game I am working on uses a very similar mechanic and I had similar problems. I started of using a square grid with roll to move. With the help of the guys on here I went to hexs and a set amount of moves. I eventually just chose a symertrical map, though I toyed with the idea of player choosing. In the end I feel it will guarentee balance but at the cost of a unique map each game.

I agree that the best way to balance is to calculate perfect movement and make sure each player has equal 'steps' in acquiring all points available.

Joined: 04/30/2011
Lets consider deployment

Thanks for the feedback everyone, very helpful.

The game is tabletop so it uses a tape measure. I used the calculation system that you suggested and that worked to show me that the table was balanced. I also took into account that 2 of the gens were very close to each other which means if you win the fight over them you will end up with 2 gens before your opponent can recover.

With the suggestion to have players bid for starting positions I originally had two starting positions set for the map but now I am considering letting the winner of the bid place his deployment zone on any edge of the battlefield. This makes an asymmetrical map produce a different game from every position (I think).

So as an example the map I have at the moment has 4 gens. 2 close to eachother on the WEST side and 1 in the NE and 1 in the SE. Whoever places second must place opposite to his opponent. So if you win teh bidding and decide to place on the W edge you are next to the 2 gens close together. But your opponent then sets up on the E side and is equally close to 2 gens although he will have to split his force. It is tactically better to choose the N or S edge and then race for the 2 close together because you are also close a third gen which is farthest from your opponent. But it would take a few games to properly understand that tactic I expect which will add some depth to the map. I hope all that makes sense in your mind's eye :)

In addition to this if I add the corners of the battlefield as a viable choice it changes the dynamic of the map even more. In that case it may actually be most advantageous to choose the SW or NW corners forcing your opponent to start in the NE or SE near only 1 Gen. This might unbalance the map a bit so i'll have to check it using ur calculation.

Finally, I am toying with the idea of not forcing it to be opposite ends either. So if your opponent chooses the SW corner you can choose the NW corner. Although this will mean combat is met early it wont affect the gameplay in the long run for two reasons:

1) PLayers only start there they dont have a base or anything to defend
B) dead units re-deploy so combat is not the end all
3!) Players can place re-deploy points around the battlefield by spending energy so can tactically alter the balance of the map depending where they place those deploys.

Well I might have got off track but hopefully there is some interesting stuff to discuss there

PS. what do you think about randomising the starting locations? Does these lead to players blaming their starting location for their loss too much?

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