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Need some advice on an enemy mechanic

17 replies [Last post]
smeagolthevile's picture
Joined: 11/24/2012

I'm trying to design a survival horror board game, that has an enemy monster/monsters hunting down the player characters. I Idealy dont want the monsters to be human controlled, I'd rather some kind of system to do it, because the players should not know where the monsters lie at any given time, that way it builds tension and suspense and guides the player's actions.

I'm trying to figure out a way to do this but I dont think its at all possible, so I think I would ask for your advice here.

I do know I could easily make it a player controlled creature and have one person work as a monster, ala mansions of madness but I'm not overly keen on that, It might end up being hard to get someone to play that part, or want to play the non monster characters.

Joined: 11/23/2011
Take a look at the way

Take a look at the way General Volkare is controlled in Mage Knight. Essentially you set up a draw (or it could be a roll, but a draw offers more interesting strategy) and 'program' fixed activity that depends on the draw. For example, using a prototype of a standard playing deck. On a draw of 5 diamonds, 5 zombies move north. If it were a 5 hearts, 5 zombies attack the nearest player.

Joined: 01/02/2014
is there any game that has

is there any game that has all of the enemy units controlled by draw or a form of 'AI' though?
as this has been what me an my friends have been trying to tackle as well

KnightmareDave's picture
Joined: 01/05/2014
an event deck...

use a randomly shuffled event deck. use more cards for more options and for even more options use a rolled result for every event card flipped. don't have much more for randomness of ai aside from that.

Joined: 07/03/2013
You might consider...

I was working on a game similar to this before, but we ran into some troubles. However, you might consider the scaring/haunting to take place as part of exploring, or based on indicators on spaces of the board or tiles.

For example, if you have a game of upside-down tiles that are flipped over for exploration, then the ghost might some bursting out towards the player and travel in a specific direction shown on the tile afterwards. It always comes straight out at the exploring player (just as in a real haunting...?), and could also haunt some other players in the path.

You could also have a symbol deck too, and each tile or space has a symbol that is drawn by the deck, with some symbols drawn more often than others (correlating to the tiles with the creepy artwork). The ghost/ghoul/ghast/whatever could move according to the paths indicated on the card after the ghost starts on the symbol card.

pelle's picture
Joined: 08/11/2008

We had threads like this before, and probably repeating myself, here are some useful links:

Difficult to suggest a particular mechanic to use without knowing all the details of what the game works like. On the other hand you probably want to start from the AI mechanic and then build the details of the rest of the game around that if you want it to work well. Eg if you use a deck of cards to draw from, think of what other things can be driven by the same cards. Think about ways to tweak the game to make player decisions difficult while AI decisions are easy, and how the board and other components can make random or really stupid AI decisions still make sense.

smeagolthevile's picture
Joined: 11/24/2012
So I have descided to scrap

So I have descided to scrap the idea to have it AI and have it player controlled, my big question now is how to handle the monster/mosters moving without the players knowing. Should I label every tile with a number and have the monster player just keep track of it on a small included white board so only he knows where the monster is?

donut2099's picture
Joined: 01/09/2014

But going back to your original question , you wanted a mechanism for hunting players that the players were unaware of. Would the players be able to discern between an AI mechanism (doesn't that sound odd? There must be a better term for that) that they couldn't observe and a random monster attack?

As far as the player controlling, I would try just what you said, a screen with a scaled down map behind it seems the easiest solution to the problem .

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Another angle

I could not find the post about another designer's mechanic - but I'll paraphrase it and try to explain the *effect* he was trying to achieve.

So instead of NOT knowing where the Zombies are, players KNOW EXACTLY where they are... But the trick in his game was trying to not "attract them to yourself". Zombies moved *towards* where they heard noises. If they line-up with a player, that would increase their rate of movement.

The key difference in his game was the tension that occurs because player try to *evade* the Zombies as they move around and play the game. His mechanic was cool - because he did not worry about players knowing the positions, his goal was to try to inspire fear when they were nearby and a sort of tension was built from it...

Update: I found the thread =

The OP tells about using a *Thread System* for the Zombie AI... I had posted some ideas regarding the mechanic he was trying to design...

Note 2: His AI was that the Zombies always move towards the CLOSEST player OR the LOUDEST... I'm not sure how it all worked out, but no harm in sending him a Private Message (PM) and ask his how things worked out for his Zombie game...!

smeagolthevile's picture
Joined: 11/24/2012
survival horror

See, I am going for a survival horror element, the kind you would get in video games such as amnesia, or slender. You know the monster is out there, but you don't know where it is, what it is, and you absolutely have no way of dealing with it, besides literally hiding in a cupboard and hoping it passes by. The monster will have built in mechanics so he can not camp a closet waiting for the player to come out (for very long) and since there are 2 other human players it would not be smart to do so, letting them complete the game.

Also, it would be hard to use a map on the back of a divider since it is going to be a tile based game, so each map is different, similar to games like betrayal at house on the hill.

Joined: 10/20/2013
Just some ideas

If it's tile based you could design the tiles to function together with a series of arrows. Each time a player does a certain action they will have to roll a die to move the monster and the arrows on the tile will correspond to the dice roll. Also in Firefly the board game there is a deck of events called the "Aim to Misbehave" deck, where there is a balance of risk reward options available. So ideally the more cards you draw from this deck the more likely you'll run into a situation you can not get out of. This would work well for survival horror in much the same way.

For example going onto a certain tile would require a player to draw two of these type of cards.

They draw a card that gives 3 options:

If a player has a weapon they may discard it to continue
If a player doesn't have a weapon they may be given a fear token and continue
or if this player has 2 fear tokens already, move the monster to an adjacent tile not occupied by another player.

Another idea is to have 12 cards face down all with a picture of a door, only one will have the monster on the other side. Each time a tile is explored the player must flip over one of the cards. If it's the monster it is moved to the player's tile.

Last idea is a track system. Each room has a path or track that the monster will move along. After a player takes an action they roll the die and the monster moves along the track or path and stops if it enters a room with a player. Risk/Reward type stuff is good for survival horror.

Hope any of this helps! I've had the same trouble with a game idea too only it involved rescuing a hostage and terrorist moving around the board.

Joined: 10/20/2013
Another idea

Just thought of this, have tokens scattered across the board that would move around the board but only one is the monster. When the token enters a room with a player it is revealed, if it's the monster then the monster is resolved and then the tokens are shuffled around and placed on the board again. Sure there is some idea that something might be there but you're not sure what it is.

They can move on either a dice or card based mechanic.

Follow me on this one...
Each tile will be assigned a number 1-6
Roll one die, all tokens on the corresponding tiles marked with that number will be moving. Then roll a second die. If there is a tile next to the first tile with that same number then that's where those tokens will move.

Or same kind of set up only with a deck of cards that will say "Tokens on 1 move to 4" sort of a thing.

Joined: 10/08/2013
Had the same issue

Had the same issue with a game I was thinking about. I ended up making it so the players choose the action for the enemy player. They have a choice of moving the enemy a square closer, allowing it to gain a momentum token (moves a number of momentum tokens per turn), or for it to howl and demoralize the players (and other effects). If momentum gets to be too high, the enemy has two turns in a phase and loses all momentum tokens.

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
From the inworld character

From the inworld character experience, I think weighted random encounters can represent things well, and can embody secret passageways or the ability to walk through walls, etc.

When do things make you worry:
You cross a doorway
Open a door
Pass another hallway
Enter a room
Accidentally make a loud sound
Become isolated from the party
Notice a large ventillation opening in the ceiling

You can toss a die at these moments and have a result chart modified by what's gone before.
Like a d20:
1-4 Thoroughly checked add a -1 token
5-10 nothing
11-13 you heard something place a +1 token here
14-15 you saw something +2 token
16-17 you accidentally made a loud sound +3 token
18-19 if someone is out of sight from others, they are attacked
20 attack on group

I believe this sort of approach will allow behaviors to emerge that closely resemble something like Alien.

"Wait, this is the corridor where I thought I saw something. Every get together, get out your weapons, move slowly."

Chip Molter
Chip Molter's picture
Joined: 11/20/2013
Think about what you're actually trying to model.

Whether the zombies are visible or not, what you are trying to do as a player character is to EVADE the enemy. And there are things that you can do to increase your chances of avoiding an encounter, and things you might do that make an encounter more likely. Come to think of it, this is what you're doing if you're hunting as well!

The mechanic that best simulates this experience is a die roll. However, it's not quite right. What is missing from a set "Roll 15 to save" is the dynamic tension between what the player perceives to be their odds and what they actually are. A straight die roll is too nondeterministic, thus lacking tension, and thus lacking fun.

You could have double sided tokens that represent bonuses and penalties. A player can do certain things that add bonuses and penalties. You can have event cards that throw another bonus or penalty into the ring. Each bonus or penalty has some range of values it could be. Alternatively, you could have 2 piles of dice, one for bonuses and one for penalties. Math doesn't require adding numbers up, either. A deck of cards where the number of cards you draw changes based on bonuses and penalties can be a way to do let the game design take care of the math for the players. Either way, what you're doing is adding a mechanic of limited and uncertain player influence on the outcome, but always that tension of not knowing how good your odds truly are.

One thing that's useful about doing it this way, is you can have the same draw allow you to be attacked by zombies or see the zombie without getting noticed, taking care of two game elements with one mechanic.

I hope that's useful. Good luck!

Chip Molter
Chip Molter's picture
Joined: 11/20/2013
Oh, I forgot!

All that said, I get the appeal of moving a bunch of monsters around a board. So if you need an example of an AI moving monsters around in a manner that feels less random than simply drawing a card, take a look at Battlestar Galactica. There's an ordered list of "if, then, else" instructions for the different troop types based on their proximity to the players.

senorbaub's picture
Joined: 08/20/2011
Fearsome Floors

Maybe check out Fearsome Floors which has an automated moving mechanic for the monster.

smeagolthevile's picture
Joined: 11/24/2012
Thanks for the Input

Thanks for the Input everyone, I decided to keep the monster player controlled.

Random movement defeats the purpose of the game, as does rolling dice. As someone who consistently has poor dice rolls I find games that use them as a major mechanic are just lacking inspiration for a better way to handle it. Games based on strategy... whos' main thing is luck based, negates strategy (IM LOOKING AT YOU CATAN)

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