Skip to Content

Semi-cooperative game....thoughts on turn order

8 replies [Last post]
MarkD1733's picture
Joined: 07/05/2014

My game concept is a semi-cooperative game. I am curious about how to work player order. I certainly do not want a static turn order like in Pandemic. I recently played 1775 and really liked the random order produced by drawing each faction's dice one by one. I think a random order is doable, but what else can I do? Here are some thoughts, and I would like some comments on pros or cons to any of them.

1) Bid for desired position in the turn order in some way, or pay for desired position in the turn order.
2) Let the outcomes of the previous round determine the sequence of the next round to balance options. For example, if player 1 has the least money, he goes first next round which potentially gives him maximum options.
3) Let a most favorable outcome of the previous round reward the player with the first play of the next turn.
4) Randomize -- roll dice to determine starting player and CW or CCW.
5) Players' choice/consensus on starting player
6) Players' choice/consensus on the order of play for all players
7) provide a proactive mechanism (power card, etc) to assume a player's desired order

My only thought is that I don't want a mechanic that could possibly make turn order feel punitive for someone. (The person who lost the most coins last round goes last in the next round). I also do not believe I will have any situation where going first is completely undesireable. At the same time, having the all other players' actions complete affords a last player more information and potentially a better determination of his action. I also do not believe there will be an unequal number of actions from each one should exhaust their actions any faster.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and comments.


Joined: 03/02/2014
Runaway leader is bad.

It depends a lot on how much of advantage it is to go first. If it is a big advantage, then you get some game balance by letting the person who is in last place go first. In that case, it is a disaster to let the person in first place go first, because then you have a runaway leader issue.

You said that in your game, it might be an advantage to go early or late, depending on other circumstances. There is a similar situation in the game (which I had to go look up on a friend's BGG list to get the name, so I figured I would go ahead and put the link in). In that game, the first phase in each round is choosing when to go to market (which really means choosing the turn order for the entire round). There are advantages and disadvantages each way, so it isn't a case where you would always want to go first, though sometimes you really want to do so. Anyway, the game works by making this selection in reverse order of score, so the person who is in last place gets first selection on the turn order chart. They have done a good job of balancing the whole spectrum of when you go (the earlier you go to market, the better the selection but the higher the prices -- if you don't have much money, you can still buy a lot of stuff if you are willing to take whatever is left after the other players have ravaged the place. Other times it might be important that you are at least second, but don't have to pay the extra cost of being first.)

Lots of worker placement games (Lords of Waterdeep comes to mind) have one of the activities for your workers gives you first action on the next turn. So there's a small opportunity cost to spending a worker, and the player has to weigh that cost against the benefit next turn. In all of those that I can think of, the play goes clockwise from there.

Joined: 04/29/2013
Dynamic Turn Order

If its semi co-operative, I would have the basic turn order be least powerful -> most powerful, but have it be amenable to change. For example, a player can modify their turn order by spending resources or even lower it to gain additional resources.

you could even have an one-off interrupt that would the player who possessed it to go first.

Joined: 07/03/2013
Some Examples

I've noticed that altering turn order can really help the players feel like they're in control of the game, and that players who enjoy deeper games really like games that mess with turn order. Casual gamers don't like you messing with what they already know. Bear this in mind when designing your game: most turn-altering schemes are a turn off to casual gamers.

However, I really like games with those mechanics. As such, allow me to summarize some that might spark some ideas:

Game of Thrones
When I heard of the Game of Thrones Board game, I rolled my eyes because I had never gotten into the series, and didn't honestly care for the theme. However, when I started playing with some friends, I realized that the game is a true gem.

As you play, if you don't have to order troops to attack, defend, etc, you can order them to collect power. For some, this is rather difficult, because you never have those free moments. However, power really becomes important because at random times during the game, you bid power in order to better position oneself along 3 different score tracks (using the term score loosely). The first is for "the throne" (I forget the actual name) which determines turn order. They also get to determine the results of all non-combat ties. The second determines who will win in the case of a tie in military combat, with a bonus to battle as well. The third lets you take back a preassigned move (not going into that), access duplicate moves, and see the future in a small way.

You all bid for power along these tracks by putting "Power" tokens into hand and simultaneously revealing them. The player who bid the most takes the top spot and the special token while the others are placed in order along those tracks. Turn order shifts as a result throughout the game, and can stay there for quite a while, so taking the advantage while you can is important.

Power Grid
I love this game. My wife does not. Oh well.

The players that have the most cities are moved to the lower positions (1 and 2) on the turn order track, and the players with the least cities move to the back (5,6). Having claim to cities is advantageous for a variety of reasons, and the game ends when a player reaches a certain number of cities. However, having more cities often hurts a winning player, because while you go in turn order for bidding on power plants (which sucks when you're first to bid), you go in REVERSE order for other parts, like buying up the resources (which are in a limited quantity, and the less there are, the more they cost) and building stations in new cities.

Smart players will intentionally stay a bit behind the pack in order to reap the benefits of being low in the turn order before they burst ahead and claim a lot of cities. It's all about when to make that power play.

This is one game where the turn order is DESIGNED to benefit the winning player, and yet people love to play it!

As you likely know, seating is determined by the order in which players remove all cards from their hand. Deciding when to start taking hands becomes very important, because you want to ensure that you get a chance to play your lower cards, but you also don't want to waste all of your big cards right away either or you'll most certainly end up last. Sitting closer to the king lets you reap the benefits of playing your low cards early (unless they're dealt an inhumanly good hand), but if someone a little lower down has the power to claim the trick and start anew, you get the short end of the stick and often end up with the ability to only play high cards.

This mechanic is great though if you want everyone to be ganging up on the winning player, because it just adds insult to injury to see the winning player then get the biggest advantage in turn order. If everyone gangs up on that player, then such advantages are mitigated.

Joined: 10/12/2013
Tiny Epic Defender (a full

Tiny Epic Defender (a full co-op) has, every turn, a deck with all the "evil" actions and a card for each player, which is shuffled.

I find the turn order mechanism in Pillars of the Earth to be quite nifty as well, and would do well in a semi-coop where you could have the "evil" action pawn in there.

Have you considered a time track, like in Thebes? It's a rich mechanism: if you take a powerful action, it will take longer before you act again. This one would also work great with a semi-coop (or full coop, for that matter), as you can have a pawn for "evil" actions, with each of them taking a certain amount of time.

MarkD1733's picture
Joined: 07/05/2014
...continuing the thought on turn order options

I could do something similar to that last one regarding power but focus "communication" as the thematic connection. Basically, the players are historic generals in a "pre-electronics" war, and they can select which battles on the map to participate in. The highest commanding officer (not a player, just a mechanic) who these players report to is located among those points on the map. I could basically give the players a default turn order (random, select, etc). However, their selection of where to go on the map determines their proximity to the commander and the length of time to communicate with commander to exchange orders and plans. Distance would supercede default order. There may be great need and reward to go anywhere to fight a battle, so a player can choose to do so at the expense of turn position.

Joined: 07/03/2013
Sounds like you're onto it.

Well, what if you had a track off in the corner of the board like Power grid, which was shifted at the end of every round, based on the shortest communication line to the commander. The players that are close would act first, and everyone would get their turns.

However, I also envision a treadmill mechanic, where the people who are really close can act twice before someone far away could act once. For each territory away, you must take that many "ticks" of a pause before you can act next time. You would have a mat to the side of the board with a solid line that would move to indicate the current turn location, and have markers that represent each player, placed after each player acts at a distance along the track that correlates to the distance from the commander. When the marker hits a spot where two players are, you roll a dice or something to randomly assign who goes first. I call it a treadmill because you would eventually reach the end of the mat and have player pawns populate from the other side again so that you never run out. Maybe special events could happen at the end of each cycle.

This would be really cool if you had an insubordination mechanic, where you could choose to act early without orders, but losing only 1 "favor" if you managed to do so successfully, while losing 3-4 if your attack failed when acting alone. That would allow only a few bonus attacks per cycle or something, to prevent players from abusing the mechanic and goin' all General Grant on the game. Maybe impose a penalty to the attack for attacking without the orders and guidance of the commander? It would make it even more risky.

Still don't know whether that's what you're looking for.

MarkD1733's picture
Joined: 07/05/2014
your ideas are very helpful

I don't have any of the games mentioned, so knowing the variety of turn order mechanics was helpful. In this case, the three pieces of advice I am focused on are:

1) for semi-coop, having more control on turn order makes more sense and should provide better gameplay.

2) distance from the commanding officer influences turn order.

3) there should be a mechanism for allowing players to alter turn order at some cost...maybe even victory points.

Thanks for all the great input!

Joined: 07/12/2013
Last Will Mechanism

I personally like the mechanism used in Last Will. Basically, there is an "Offer" of some kind placed in order left to right. In Last Will, the Offer is the same round to round (i.e, slots in the Offer do not change. each one rewards a different number of cards drawn, worker placement tokens, etc).
I'm designing a game where the offer is laid out with cards drawn randomly from a deck of "actions." There is still a "first player" that changes every round, clockwise around the table. The first player places his/her token first on the card in the offer they wish to possess. Proceeding clockwise, each player places his token on a different, unused card in the Offer. After all tokens are placed, the player whose token is leftmost in the Offer continues as the first player to take actions.

This mechanism provides some interesting choices and strategy. Should you place your token on the first card in the offer because you really need to go first this round but may not need that card or do you sacrifice your turn order to obtain the action card you really need?

thats my .02. Good Luck!

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut