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Private country affairs

7 replies [Last post]
Joined: 06/28/2010

To start off im completely new to board game design and suspect that the project I want to create (my first project) is overly ambitious... Nevertheless I like a good challenge.

I seek to create a game with a friend of mine which is essentially a mix of a computer RTS, Axis and Allies, Risk, Traders of Genoa, and Sim City. This game will hopefully allow at least 4 players, you and your friends, to design your own land masses (probably islands) from which you will build cities and armies with which to takeover each others landmasses. Obviously i wont ask for advice online how to solve most the problems i expect to run into or have run into but one problem is perplexing me to no end. This is the matter of privacy.

The problem im anticipating is that if all country affairs are completely private, almost everyone, even the most honest of players will fudge the numbers in their favor. However i wish to incorporate the element of surprise into the game. I want victory to depend most heavily upon strategy. Which makes privatizing country affairs seem impossible. So how do you keep a players private movements honest, yet not expose his or her movements to the rest of the players, while still allowing grace for honest mistakes?

A couple of solutions have been brought forth...

The first came from my friend who's quite familliar with Dungeons and Dragons. He suggested setting up a sort of DM for the game. He would essentially watch over what each player does to make sure they dont cheat.
The problem is first that it would be a huge bore.
The second is that it would be a huge job. Whoever was "DM" would have to watch over at around 4 people in a timely and smooth fashion, so the game flows.
The third is that refs are usually not considered players so even if the first two could be overcome it would be hard to find someone willing to ref.

Other ideas mostly involve points in time where the privacy is shattered and at least one other player gets to check up on the honesty of his or her fellow friend.

Any ideas? solutions? thoughts? comments?

truekid games
truekid games's picture
Joined: 10/29/2008
it's hard to say with such

it's hard to say with such limited info on the game- in particular, we have no real idea of the amount of information or variables you're presenting the players with, nor the way they're manipulating them.

the best i could do at this point is give you the broad design advice of "if you don't want someone to be able to do something, make it so that's not an option". yes, a DM would accomplish this, but obviously it would be better to work the game mechanics to accomplish it. restrict the way resources are either provided or grouped so that how they manipulate them would be re-created after the "big reveal", or have players track their actions in pen on paper, or don't inject random variables into the game during the "private building" portion, so that everything they create is within static bounds.

genericm's picture
Joined: 08/11/2009
A design Goal

I understand the challenge you face.

I have been working on a design of my own that incorporates a 'fog of war' element, and to be honest these unsolved problems you described represent the greatest area in which Board Games stand to improve. Frankly no games I have seen solve the issues completely in a satisfactory way. (Three copies of a game board and a GM is just not satisfactory)

Here is the design mentality I approached my game with and it may help...

First... Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Your simply not going to be able to incorporate the number of options that a computer RTS gives to the players. This is not an all together bad thing though, the more times your reduce the options the players have the more your game system as a whole will develop strategic options. (army/battle size, action points, resource limits) In a nutshell: "The simpler the game system is, the more I can comprehend the game as a whole and develop a strategy for the entire game, not just picking from the options in from of me."

Second... If you wish to have hidden information, consider hiding that information from everyone, even yourself. Give each player control of their variables, but not complete information of what they have until the time comes to reveal the Information to everyone. Force me to make my decisions at the point when everyone will see them, rather than making my decisons ahead of time and then hiding them from other players. (The second design strategy will tempt me to cheat as I begin to see the other player information revealed.) In a nutshell: "If I cant make my decisions until they are immediately relevant, I have no opportunity to cheat."

As far as hiding movement, consider hiding other facets of information rather than location. You could hide size, power or even use decoys.

Hope that helps...

Eric Martin

Pastor_Mora's picture
Joined: 01/05/2010
Dump the DM idea

My advice is using assets that are visible to other players, but remain not shown (¿?). Sorry, english is not my first language. The idea is to play with the opponent's memory. i.e.

Let's say you have a set of assets (buildings, special actions/units) depicted in cards. You draw these cards to your hand in some way. You also aquire resources at a certain rate, taking colored chips. You keep your chips hidden to from players. Then, with the resources you acquire, you can activate the cards in your hand.

To activate a card you show it from your hand and pay the resources required. When a card has been activated, you can use it in your turn (showing it). Activation will move the card from your passive-hand to your active-hand (you can use a rumi "stand" ¿? to keep the cards shown and visible to you but not visible to others). Other players can look at your card when you activate or use it, but, will they remember it?

This way players don't know how much resources the other players have (unless they can keep the count mentally!) and are not sure what cards the other player has available. They just check that when they produced it, the proper cost was paid.

For example, say you draw into your hand the Manhattan Project card (WWII scenario). Say it requires 3 research resource chips and 2 industrial resource chips. To activate it, you discard the resources (everyone sees that) and show the card to other players. Now, everyone knows you have a working nuke! The thing is, none will know when you are going to play it. Say you launch an air strike, using a card (facing down) from your active-hand. Boy, that would scare people! Maybe you will use the good old B-17 Bomber card, maybe you'll fancy your nuke surprise... jejeje. Will your opponent field his best interceptors (the Zero fighter card) or take his chance with the regular AAA card?

You see, having this two sets of active and passive cards, plus hidden resources chips, can allow you to keep the player assets hidden from others, while keeping things under everyone's control.

Sorry for the length. It's hard for me to explain in english. Keep thinking!

Joined: 06/28/2010
Reply to all

I want to reply to all of you and thank you all so ill do so in the order the responses came....

1. Sorry about the lack of information it does seem i need to throw in more details...
At this point as i said the game map is designed by the individual, however each city has a map of its own. And each player can build as many cities as his landmass can hold (there are limits on how close cities can be together), Within the city map are squares where a player, when he has bought a building, places the building he bought. Just as in an RTS like AOE or Warcraft 3 There are three basic buildings where you get your resources each turn. Farms for food, Mines for stone, and Lumber mills for wood. Then obviously there are millitary buildings you can buy which spit out units as you buy them. This system presents the problem of how to make an "Economic fog of war". In which every player makes the resources they build buildings for but they dont get more resources than thier buildings warrant.
The game is also designed as a millitary game. So when you build up your massive, highly developed force you can send it out to smite your enemy. Although this game may turn out to be simply blob warfare as in risk I would like to incorporate more strategy into the game as you might see in real warefare for example having a seige over an opponents city, or the possibility of betraying each other by pretending to send an army one way but really sending it another. By allowing for surprise flanks and surprise attacks from behind. So i need a way to create a "millitaristic fog of war"

2. I thank you and value your advice. As you said one thing i do need to work on is simplifying the game. A couple ways iv been working to do this is through establishing turn orders and Forms of organization for everyone to follow, so instead of having a blob of things to look at at once only the most relevant information stands before a player at a time. It may be that i have to remove some of the game mechanics to make room for strategy as you said so ill be looking out for that.
In response to your second paragraph i obviously cant do that for everything as almost everything will be pertinent the very moment it happens but your advice may be useful for hiding other aspects of the game...

3. lol your english is probably better than mine. I also tend to respond very lengthily so it doesnt bother me. Although my game has very little to do with cards i may be able to use the basic premise to create an economic fog of war... i'll have to wrestle around with the idea....

Joined: 06/18/2010
Fog of War

Hammer of the Scots has a very nice way of representing "the fog of war". Maybe you should check that out for ideas. Its very much like Stratego if you're familiar with that game. You could have the buildings and units on a side that only the player can see, or something like that. Maybe differentiate the building and units by making them different sizes or something like that. Just bouncing some ideas at you.

Pastor_Mora's picture
Joined: 01/05/2010
All right, I'll try a different angle

How about simultaneous actions? Then you won't know what you enemy is up to, well, at least until it's too late.

As a side note, wars are won by logistics, not tactics. Risk has a number of mechanics on logistics, quite more than on actual combat really. Have you thought about it?

Keep thinking!

Joined: 06/28/2010
Iv looked at Hammer of Scots

Iv looked at Hammer of Scots and i do know stratego... while i like the way they create a sort of fog my goal would be to completely hide all the millitary units until an opposing force got close enough to detect them or until they are detected by scouts or something of the sort.

As for simultaneous actions that is another great idea which i also will probably have to impliment due to time. Because at this point a single game would last for days.

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