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Revealing the Board

5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 11/25/2010

So, I playtested my newest game last night. In general, I was happy that the mechanics worked smoothly, the game took about 45 minutes (about what I was aiming for), and had a very light strategy feel (Carcassone-esque level of play). My wife, the other playtester, however had a different view. "I'm bored," was her main assessment. (At least she tempered it by expressing her deep love and affection for my other two games I've designed up to this point...) The problem seems to lie in the board-revealing aspect of the game...

The concept is that you are in space searching for suitable planets to drop colonies on. So, one of the major mechanics is moving around the board to empty hexes and rolling a die to "search" the hex. Half the rolls result in a "nothing" effect, and only 1 in 6 results in finding a planet (1 in 6 gets a resource for later use and 1 in 6 draws a card that provides some additional effect). So, most turns follow a pattern of move, then roll. When a planet is discovered there's a little scramble to establish dominance, which is more interesting. But, the move, then roll part seemed to be the "boring" part.

So, this brings me to my main question. WHAT ARE OTHER MECHANISMS FOR REVEALING THE BOARD AS THE GAME PROGRESSES? Some ideas I've had:
(1) instead of dice rolls, draw a card from a deck that says what happens
(2) lay out the hexes face down. flip them as you search the area.
(3) draw hexes from a bag and place them (like in carcassone)--this seems the more interesting solution, but less thematically appropriate, which irks me...

Thanks so much...


OdysseyDyse's picture
Joined: 02/17/2011

Instead of having three rolls doing separate things A, B and C and three rolls doing nothing, hence your wifes boredom, why not have two rolls do A, two B and two C? Do the three possibilities producing nothing play a part in the game? Or you could come up with D, E and F.

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008

Using cards or hexes will make the number of habitable planets consistent but that might not be the problem. It sounds like the boredom may stem from the lack of decision making in this part of the game. If all planets have the same chance of being usable your only decision is to go to the closest one.

The solution would be to supply the players with motivations to explore certain planets. This could be open or closed information or a combination of both.

Here is a possible way of doing it and still use the dice. Each planet can effectively have two attributes; Color (Red, Yellow, Blue, Green) and size (Small, Med, & Large). Now have a deck of cards or chits you can draw from a bag with these 7 attributes.

During play there will always be 3 of these that were chosen at random. When a player attempts to survey a planet to determine if it’s suitable for a colony they can use any matching cards/chits to give themselves a +1 each on the die roll. If the roll is successful they are discarded and new ones drawn to replace them. This will give the players motivations on which planets to try based on the bonuses and by how likely it is that the bonuses will be available on their turn. If you want to give players more control you can have them replenish the bonus pool from a hand rather than randomly.

drktron's picture
Joined: 07/18/2010
It seems to me that the

It seems to me that the mechanism for revealing the board isn't why your wife finds it boring but the fact that nothing happens half the time. So I think the solution is to make each turn more ineresting even when you don't find a planet. Possible solutions:

Add more actions or things to do on your turn
Be able to scout more than one hex per turn
Add some other benifit to scouting

Personally I prefer cards over dice because you can easily add other benefits to searching and they could be drawn secretly. I might have you turn in sets of "empty" space cards to gain some other advantage.

Just a few ideas, I hope it helps. Good luck with your game.

P.S. Lucky you to have a wife to playtest with! My wife never wants to play any of my games :( ....maybe if I made better games ;)

rcjames14's picture
Joined: 09/17/2010
A Little Bit of Both

It seems that you could combine a number of these suggestions into one mechanic.

Like drktron, I tend to favor cards over dice because they offer opportunities for hand management and hidden information. However, for this particular game, I suspect that pre-placed tiles will probably do you the best.

As Dralius suggests, tiles allow you to have a consistent tile count. This is good both for game balance and component design since you know how many tiles to make. But it is also an nifty way to introduce an additional layer of strategy into the game. Once certain tiles have been turned over, the odds of finding any particular planet type changes. This dynamic often requires you to adjust your strategy in a way that no fixed random dice rolling can.

But, as OdysseyDyse says, the fundamental problem is not the mechanism but the payoff. When players take an action, they want a result. Provided that there are a number of different strategies that one can pursue, discovering the 'wrong' planet can be just as bad as discovering no planet. But, the difference between the two scenarios is that the 'wrong' planet is up to the player to decide. Perhaps it is just a 'different' planet than they wanted and they will change their strategy to take advantage of it. Or, even if it is useless, perhaps they can use their knowledge of it to their advantage (if it remains secret to other players). So... I would encourage every exploration even to turn up something.

Joined: 11/25/2010

Thanks for the ideas and suggestions y'all! I'll look into some of these and may post some more specific follow-up questions later. Any other ideas would, of course, be welcome...

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