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Skill Tree for Board Games

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 03/08/2017

Hi Everyone,

I am in the works of making a board game/card game mixture where a Skill Tree is applied in it. I've been looking at Skill Trees mainly from video games and found some interesting ones, but was wondering if there are any other board games out there that utilizes a Skill Tree?

If there are any board games out there that utilizes a Skill Tree, can you direct me to those games?
Or if you have an interesting idea for a Skill Tree, do let me know as well as I would love to implement different trees into the game.


Gabe's picture
Joined: 09/11/2014
Twilight Imperium has a

Twilight Imperium has a pretty complex tech tree.

Here's a easy to understand version of it:

Joined: 09/06/2017

I'm not much of a video gamer, but I have heard the buildings in Kingsburg compared to a tech tree.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
SKill Dependencies

When it comes to Skill Trees, it's typical to have different segments of a skill tree are open only after a certain number of other skills have become unlocked. One thing I find interesting is the idea that if you go down a certain path, then others become blocked. For example, if it was a martial arts-themed game, maybe players can learn only the Way of the Tiger, which means the Way of the Turtle is no longer available (or is, at best, sub-optimal). The player must maximize their investment in the specific path they've chosen to succeed. See the video game Punch Club for this example in effect.

Additionally, building obsolescence into a tech tree is a great feature. In other words, as more technologies or skills become available later in the game, it makes earlier skills useless or less-effective than they had been in the past. If players don't keep up with research, then they're left behind and/or find themselves at a significant disadvantage when competing with players who have kept up on the cutting edge of tech. A recent board game that does this is Eclipse.

Finally, my favourite wrinkle in a tech tree I've seen is the plateau. The old Eagle-Griffon game War! Age of Imperialism is one I'll never forget, simply because of its tech tree. There were a couple places on the tech tree labeled "Inflation" which would increase the cost of everything for everyone, all at the same time. There was Inflation 1, Inflation 2, and so on.

Why would someone choose to invest in Inflation? Because later levels of the tech tree were not available until you did. Investment in Inflation on the tech tree signaled a player who was far enough ahead of the production curve that Inflation wouldn't be as bad a hit as it would to other players. Choosing when to go for Inflation 1 or Inflation 2 was an excellent, grueling decision point that tested the long-term strategy of the player. I love it, love it, love it, and it's the only thing about that game I will likely ever remember. :)

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
Eclipse also came to mind for

Eclipse also came to mind for me. Sid Meier's Civilization the board game has a simple pyramid card structure where higher levels must sit above two lower levels.

Viceroy has a pyramid card structure that isn't a tech tree but it has connecting colors in the corners and that could be a way to enforce tree relations. Also cards have different effects depending on board position. Lots of potential there; like you could develop primitive ideograms early or save it to develop alphabet later.

Personally I like tech trees that are hidden by requirements (2 of symbol A and 1 of symbol C to play card X.)

joebergmann's picture
Joined: 12/29/2016
A crazy idea...

I wonder if you could have the players create the skill tree? I mean, in video games and most other games I have seen, the tree is pre-defined. Maybe the tree could be made up of cards connected by sticks or something, and the players can choose the order of the cards. Honestly, not sure how this would work. Could result in some silly tech trees...

Joined: 01/27/2017
Encouraging specialization

One mechanism you could use to encourage specialization would be to have skills in layers, where the first skill in a layer has a base cost and each additional increases in cost.

So near the base of the tree you might have

Edge, Blunt, Open Hand, Ranged

It costs 2 skill points to get any one of these, which has child skills and so on. But getting a second one in this group costs 3 points. The third would cost 4 points, etc.

In the immediate child skills, the first one (probably but not necessarily a direct child of the 2-point skill) would cost 3 points. A second skill anywhere on that level would cost 4 points, etc.

This would encourage players to go deep into the tree, but not completely cut them off from diversifying a bit. Maybe some of the skills have prerequisites from another branch, though the prerequisites should be fairly "shallow" to keep them from being cost-prohibitive.

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