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need help for a tile-laying game

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ofercohn
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Joined: 07/25/2011

I'm pretty new to this site, and am looking for people who could help me develop a little tile-laying game for 2 players. It's actually a sort of mini-game in a larger game i'm designing that is themed around designing a Chinese garden. The garden is an 8x8 grid (this might change to 7x7 or 9x9, depending on the victory conditions, for the moment it's irrelevant). The square tiles come in 4 colors, and represent flowers that players plant in the garden.
each turn, players can buy a certain number of flowers at the market (I'm thinking at 2-4 or 2-5 flowers bought per player per turn), and "plant" (=place) them in the garden. Players will usually only be able to buy flowers of two colors, but they also have a warehouse to store them, so I think typically a given player's "planting" in the garden will be done with 2-4 flowers (=tiles) of 2 colors, or 3 colors if the player stored flowers from a previous turn.
I'm looking for an interesting mechanic that will award points for each flower placed (the main scoring mechanism for the game). These points are awarded at the moment of placement, not later. I also don't want players "owning" tiles, so that both players will have the opportunity to cash-in on lucrative positions, which will make for a more cut-throat game.
I was thinking of a few ideas, but none of them seem to provide for much strategy. Just to get you going on the right track, here's one example:
- players get 1 VP for each flower of the same color that is positioned horizontally or vertically to the flower placed, and 1 VP for each flower of a different color that is positioned diagonally to the flower placed.
for ex., if the current position is (instead of colors I use numbers, from 1-4):

1 2

3

and you place a new flower numbered 3 at bottom right:

1 2

3 3

you would get 2 VP (one for the horizontal 3, one for the diagonal 1). The vertical 2 doesn't give anything as it's not a 3.

My basic problem with this mechanism is that it nearly always invariably ends up giving each tile 2 VP, you need to really work hard to get a 3 VP tile.

I also thought of adding an extra variable/dimension to the tile (like direction, or height, or an extra number) to add more strategic depth, but it makes the whole thing too difficult. I still can't seem to get a fix on an interesting (and not too complicated- this is a minigame after all) mechanic that would reward clever players without getting too out of hand and cumbersome,

Any ideas?

Thanks!

kos
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Joined: 01/17/2011
Reward for good play

Just some random thoughts...

A classic tactical choice is the safe-low-reward vs the risky-high-reward. Related to this is the instant-payoff vs delayed-payoff.

One way to do this would be to make the score increase for playing multiple tiles (or combinations of tiles). In this case the scoring should be linked to the difficulty of getting the tiles (or combinations of tiles).

You said that player normally buy 2 colors per turn with the option to store tiles in the warehouse. So following the principle of "more score for a difficult action", it seems players should get more score for playing multiple colors in the same turn, and less score for playing just one or 2 colors. This gives players incentive to store a few different colors for bigger plays in future turns.

What about something like:
- Score each tile before playing the next tile.
- Select one direction (north, east, south, west) in which to score.
- The score is equal to the greatest of:
- Number of tiles of the same color
- Number of different colors, with +1 score for each scoring tile that you played this turn
- The tile you just played never scores.

Example, where * indicates the tiles played this turn.

1 1* - scores 1 for 1 of the same color
1 1* 2* - scores 2 for 2 of the same color
1 1* 2* 3* - scores 4 for 2 different colors +2 of these tiles played this turn
1 1* 2* 3* 4* - scores 6 for 3 different colors +3 of these tiles were played this turn
1 1* 2* 3* 4* 1* - scores 8 for 4 different colors +4 of these tiles were played this turn
Total score for 5 tiles: 21

Example, showing how multiple of the same color can't get as much score

1 1* - scores 1
1 1* 1* - scores 2
1 1* 1* 1* - scores 3
1 1* 1* 1* 1* - scores 4
1 1* 1* 1* 1* 1* - scores 5
Total score for 5 tiles: 15

Another scoring system that uses adjacency instead of lines:
- Score each tile before playing the next tile.
- The score is equal to the sum of:
- Number of adjacent tiles of the same color as the tile just placed
- 2 points for each different color adjacent

I suspect that any scoring system based on adjacency would need another rule to encourage players to play somewhere other than adjacent to the existing tiles. Otherwise gameplay would always spread out from a single point, and may become too limited. Also the player going first has a disadvantage because they have nothing to place adjacent to.

An example of a rule to encourage multiple patches of flowers to sprout across the board would be "2 points if the tile is not touching any other tiles (including diagonals)." With a rule like this, I expect that play would start with random patches of flowers sprouting across the board, and then start to fill in the gaps once higher scoring opportunities became apparent.

Along a different tangent, have you considered whether one of the "colors" of tiles could actually be a "path"? The path could then have different scoring rules to the flowers, creating more options.

I hope these suggestions planted some ideas.
kos

ofercohn
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Joined: 07/25/2011
a few more thoughts

thanks! those are some great suggestions.
The immediate vs. future returns is good, but I want this part of the game to be immediate returns (other parts of the game score you VPs at the end of the game). The safe-low vs. risky-high is also cool, i just don't know how to implement that here.
i really like your idea of scoring combos for multiple placements, with the tile placed never scoring for itself. i also like the idea of getting more points for a variety of colors, i'm thinking that will make the warehouses more lucrative and maybe players will need to buy or develop them, instead of getting them at the start.
i forgot to mention that i thought of a starting configuration of flowers, a square in the middle of the board with the 4 types of flowers:

1 2
3 4

this is just a thought and could change of course. i like your idea of sprouting flowers from different places, though i was actually thinking of the garden as one "organic" entity, with players placing tiles next to older tiles (like a real garden develops). you might be right though that this could limit gameplay and strategic possibilities of placement. i could be persuaded otherwise if a really great mechanic comes along :)
the path: there's actually a fifth "color" (these are actually buildings in the garden, represented by a roof) like gazebos..., i was thinking of their scoring as similar to the monasteries in carcassonne, but am also considering them as "restricting line of sight"- any suggestions on what mechanic could use this?

thanks so much!
ofer

kos
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Joined: 01/17/2011
Pagodas and asymmetrical scoring

The pagodas are a good idea.

I immediately thought of them as blocking line of sight on my first suggested scoring system (the one where you would score all the flowers in a direction). The issue with my original suggestion was that if I build up a high-scoring chain my opponent gets to use it too. But I can "cap" it with a pagoda and thus deny the chain to my opponent. I could also use pagodas to cap medium-scoring chains purely to prevent my opponent turning them into high-scoring chains. In either case, the pagodas present more tactical options without increasing the complexity of the rules.

A different scoring option using pagodas could be that the pagodas are the only tiles that score. In effect, the flowers are worthless until there is somewhere to sit and enjoy them. Thematically it makes sense, and it may improve the speed of the game because you only have to calculate score for 1/5 of the tile placements, rather than every tile.

By instant-reward delayed-reward, I was thinking of it in terms of turns, not game-end. That is, a scoring system designed in such a way that I have a choice between playing a safe move this turn for a moderate reward, or spend a few turns making low reward moves in order to build up for a massive reward three or four turns from now. This is also a good mechanic to reduce the learning curve for new players. The safe moves should be obvious even to new players, while the more complex (and rewarding) moves should require more thought and/or forward planning. Without the opportunity for forward planning, the game would quickly become boring for experienced players.

Applying this concept to your game, I think that the ability to build up combos comes from the warehouse rather than board position. That is, without ownership of tiles there is no point me building up an awesome board position only to have my opponent cash in on it. So instead I have to build up an awesome warehouse (sacrificing scoring opportunities for a few turns to do so) and then lay it all down in one turn.

Another random thought to throw into the mix: Have you considered asymmetrical scoring? What if one player scored on the cardinal directions, while the other player scored on diagonals? Or one player scores from lines while the other player scores from adjacency. I was trying to work out a way so that a great board position for me was not automatically also a great board position for my opponent (to reduce the effect of my opponent automatically cashing in on the board position that I created). If this is a mini-game inside a larger game, presumably played several times in the course of the larger game, then the positions could swap each time you play the mini-game in order to reduce the effect of any bias in the alternate scoring systems.

Regards,
kos

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