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Using Dice as Pawns

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Grall Ritnos
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Hey gang. I'm kicking the tires on an idea for a co-op game where players have to defend their base from randomly spawned enemies. (I'm fighting really hard to resist a zombie theme, but I may end up giving in) One idea I had was the idea of using dice as the pawns to represent the enemies. When a new enemy spawns, a die is rolled and placed on the spawn location, representing the starting strength of the enemy. I want combat to be very simple, so the value of the current face of the die would represent both the health and the attack value of the enemy. When a player attacks an enemy and does damage, the die would be rotated down that many faces and the enemy would be weakened both in terms of health and attack power. Early in the game, enemies would be represented by d6's, but as the game progresses and players get stronger, enemies would become d12's or even d20's.

I like this system because of the high level of variability and surprise that results. (Oh no, a d20 enemy is spawning! Will it be an easy 3 or a crushing 18?) One concern I have is that marking damage on enemies can be a little tedious, since the faces of most dice aren't marked sequentially, forcing players to hunt for the new value every time an enemy takes damage. If you've ever used a standard d20 as a life counter for Magic the Gathering, you know what I'm talking about.

I'd love to hear feedback about this idea. Has something like this been done before? Does it seem interesting? Does the aesthetic of dice all over the board hurt flavor? Would hunting for faces on larger dice be too annoying?
Thanks as always!

Dralius
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I used 10 sided dice as cars

I used 10 sided dice as cars in my racing card game Nitro Dice.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/94002/nitro-dice

The value on the die was the speed you’re moving and using the dice like that allowed the players to see how fast everyone was going at a glance.

This game was in development for several years and not once did any of the dozens of testers complain or even suggest that there was any problem using the dice this way.

When it was published several reviewers found it difficult to regularly change the die face. Even some who loved the game disliked the mechanic.

questccg
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Hmm...

Grall Ritnos wrote:
One concern I have is that marking damage on enemies can be a little tedious, since the faces of most dice aren't marked sequentially, forcing players to hunt for the new value every time an enemy takes damage. If you've ever used a standard d20 as a life counter for Magic the Gathering, you know what I'm talking about.

In the current game I am working on, which is a 2 player dual, I too am using a fair quantity of dice. Each turn, players roll 5xd6 (each of a different color). Then players use their point values (rolls) to do different actions. Each action requires its own amount of points. For example, drawing a card from your deck to your hand costs 3 points (any) or moving a unit costs 2 points (of specific colors).

Players must hunt the new value every time also...

BUT the thing is, they are only d6s not d20s or d12s... So there are much less faces even though the dice numbers are probably not sequential. I am favoring NUMERAL dice versus the dice with holes (d6s).

So far in the simple tests I have done, it is not hard to keep track of points (Mana Points = MPs). I am also using d12s for combat... I have been considering upgrading to d20s, not certain yet. Still want to play test the d12s once I receive the 2 green d12s...

questccg
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Dry ink

Grall Ritnos wrote:
I like this system because of the high level of variability and surprise that results. (Oh no, a d20 enemy is spawning! Will it be an easy 3 or a crushing 18?)

The thing is, counters, dice or other methods of tracking health can be substituted with CARDS and PLASTIC SLEEVES. You can use DRY INK pens (now they have pen-like ones) and you can keep track of whatever you like directly on the card. Since it is dry ink, you can just rub off the value using a tissue or even your fingers (but your fingers will get a little messy).

For a dungeon crawl, that is the way I would track enemy health and player HPs and Mana. You need to use space on the card to do it... But it is very plausible.

NOTE: If we could *laminate* mats (at The Game Crafter), then we could use dry ink on all of them...

Grall Ritnos
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Still considering options

Thanks for the comments. Quest, I'm glad to hear your system seems to work ok with many d6's. Unfortunately cards aren't a great option because I need to represent the enemies on specific spaces, so using cards to track health would still force me to invest in pawns to represent the enemy location, and matching up specific cards to generic enemies gets tricky. I considered the dice solution because its far simpler than using counters or writing to track values in what I hope is a calculation lite game.

Drallius, that's very interesting that you made it all the way through playtest without any comment on the rotating issue, only to get surprised by reviewers. That had to be frustrating! I haven't played Nitro Dice, but it seems like the dice would be getting adjusted almost every turn. Is that true? My game idea features combat as just one part of the game, so it hopefully won't be necessary to change faces as often, but if you got this feedback on d10's, which are quire regular, though non-sequential, that makes me even more nervous about d20's. Maybe I need to consider using d4s, d6s and d10s rather than d6s, d12s and d20s.

I guess I'll have to work on mocking something up and see how people react. I'd still love to hear any other comments.

pelle
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I hate using dice for

I hate using dice for anything that is not rolling to get random numbers, so now you have one negative vote.

I guess Magic players learn to quickly find the next numeber to rotate a d20 to. I would not even use a d6 to track numbers like that because of how annoying it is to find a side.

In a bgg compo to make games using only dice I made a little solitare wargame with dice as units, but they are only rolled to place, then rotated much like blocks in a block game, same face stays up, no need to search for other sides when units lose steps in combat or gain reinforcements.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/651890/wip-solitaire-pnp-contest-dic...

czman
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Without all of the

Without all of the information this seems like an idea that I would not personally like.

I like the idea of dice score equaling monster difficulty.

I think the range you are talking about is to large. If there is a chance to have 2+ attackers in play you now have a range from 2-40, 3 would be from 3-60. That is huge.

I don't care what Rudyard Kipling says, I don't like the idea that an entire game can turn on one pitch and toss.

You might want to think about changing the range of the d12 to 7-12 and the d20 to 11-20.

If you allow a large range you will find that scalability will be difficult to control. You will also risk pushing the game into the range of boring or impossible. Neither is usually considered fun.

Lastly, I am not sure that the characters need to grow in power. If the mechanic is fun to play with a d6 and only a d6, you might be better leaving it at that. If it is not, you will probably be better served to change the mechanic until it is fun to play with a only a d6. At that time I would address the idea of other dice.

Grall Ritnos
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A little context

I think these are really helpful insights, but I'll give a bit of context to explain why I was considering that implementation. When enemies have a chance to spawn, 4 possible outcomes may occur: No enemy, d6 enemy, d12 enemy or d20 enemy. The odds of each outcome are determined by the players progress, so as they get closer to completing their goals, the odds that tougher enemies spawn go up, but the odds of weak enemies will always be greater than strong enemies. So while several d20s would create a lot of variance, this would be fairly rare. Players also will have longer to deal with strong enemies before they reach the base and can attack, compared to weak enemies who spawn closer.

That being said, going with an all d6s would simplify several other issues I've been having and would significantly reduce my production costs. As the system continues to develop, I'll need to test both options. Thanks!

questccg
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Playtesting, playtesting, playtesting! :D

Keep us updated!

questccg
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Wooden Cubes

Grall Ritnos wrote:
Quest, I'm glad to hear your system seems to work ok with many d6's. Unfortunately cards aren't a great option because I need to represent the enemies on specific spaces, so using cards to track health would still force me to invest in pawns to represent the enemy location, and matching up specific cards to generic enemies gets tricky. I considered the dice solution because its far simpler than using counters or writing to track values in what I hope is a calculation lite game.

Well what I was using in the Dungeon Crawl was that the *Monster* cards get played in front of the player and he "chooses" a color of block and places it on the card. Next we spawn the number of monsters of that *kind*... I think the idea works in that it allows you to spawn armies of monsters to beat with some variety.

The Dungeon Crawl is on *Pause* for the moment... I don't mind sharing some of my mechanics/ideas.

NOTE: The amount of cubes is 8 (Black, Blue, Orange, Purple, Green, White, Red and Yellow). So there could be 8 different monsters *on the board* and each one can have spawned a different amount of baddies (1-12)...

MikeyNg
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too much variance?

I don't know about your game - but do you want/need THAT much variance that you need a d20?

Would a d6 with the six sides being, say... 1, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 - would that achieve a similar effect? Do you need that much granularity and variance that you get from a d20, or do you just need the min/max?

Because it might be good to use d6's with different values on each of the faces rather than d12 or d20. (And you can actually get a wider range if you want with custom values)

PaulG
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I was going to say that about

I was going to say that about the variance and using d6s, then I realized that you can't use it to count life that way.

If you're going to use this idea, make sure you're rolling a large number of dice, and that you don't go above d10s or so.

Grall Ritnos
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This is the crux of the issue

Paul points out the difficult part of this decision. It's not variance I need in the d20, it's a combination of granularity for tracking life totals and the ability to vary the strength of the enemies. I don't really need the enemies starting strength to be spread between 1 and 20, but if I want some enemies with strength 20, the only way to get the granularity I need with the current system is to use a standard d20. I could set the starting values to reduce variance (i.e. design my system so that every d20 enemy starts at 20), but this seems like it would further frustrate those who already complain that dice aren't being primarily used for rolling. I have toyed with the idea of rolling multiple dice whenever an enemy spawns and placing only the highest result on the board. This would cut down on the variance somewhat, but it seems a bit counter intuitive to roll several dice in order to place just one.

As a summary, here are the ideas put forth so far:
- Use a mix of dice, rolled for starting values. Pro: Ability to vary enemy strength. Con: Too much randomness.
- Use a mix of dice with set starting values. Pro: Ability to vary enemy strength. Con: Dice are never rolled.
- Use only small dice (or all d6s). Pro: Lower cost, lower variance, simple execution. Con: All enemies are equal.
- Scrap this system and find a different way to represent enemy health and attack.

I'm working on designing some of the other mechanics for the game right now, but once that is done, I should be able to mock up a simple prototype and put some of these ideas to the test. Thanks for all your great feedback.

czman
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" - Scrap this system and

" - Scrap this system and find a different way to represent enemy health and attack."

If this entire system is being put in place because you could not find a better way to represent health, I would say scrap it.

If the primary mechanic in the game is combat, then you should spend most of your time developing it and making it as fun as possible.

I have been running the math on a game mechanic right now and found I had to rescale the entire thing. Variance is important and so are granular differences. Everything should be done for a reason and not just because it is easy. I think you should look at making a fun dynamic and then figure out what the best way to represent health and attack is. The representation of health/attack/defense is not nearly as important as the dynamic that they are used in.

kpres
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You could try the Quarriors

You could try the Quarriors system:

Background: 10 or so cards are laid out and six(ish) dice are placed on each card. Those cards represent spells or creatures, which give you abilities. The game is played just like Dominion, where you buy dice from the pool in the middle of the table and build a collection of dice that you randomly draw from a bag, five or six at a time. (I forget many of the numbers, having only played it once.)

The important details here I want to mention are that most of the dice are creatures. The dice have custom faces, which gives the game vast customizability. When a creature is summoned, it deals damage equal to its attack to each player's sum of creatures. Players choose which of their creatures starts taking the damage. When it dies, the next creature is is chosen, and so on. At the end of your turn, damage goes away. If your creature survives the whole round, then at the start of your next turn, you score it for victory points. So, that's how combat works. Damage is dealt equally to all other players when the creature is summoned, and then it's not kept track of. A creature dies when it takes enough damage in a particular turn. This is a threshold system, like in Magic: The Gathering.

Important points:
- Use customizable dice.
- Forget about keeping track of damage with the dice. Use a damage threshold instead.

New thought:

Dice are creatures, randomly generated by a roll. Different dice are used for different classes of enemies, such as goblins, orcs, black knights, bosses, etc. After you roll a set of dice for an encounter, you place it on the outskirts of the battlefield, prepared for ambush or battle or something.

Here's an example customizable enemy die:

Goblin Enemy
Warrior (2/1, 1/2, or 2/2)
Rock Slinger (1/1, you choose where the damage goes.)
Mad Boss (3/2, other goblins can't retreat)
Shaman (1,1 [thematic ability, for example: sacrifice a goblin to "blow it up".])

There would be some sort of card that shows the abilities and names. Notice that there are six different possible enemies on the same die. One or two are a bit better, but with drawbacks, and this gives some additional appeal. Since the abilities can't be written on the face of a die, use symbols instead (like footnotes). The numbers here would represent power/toughness, and the creatures would be have the same as in MTG, with a threshold damage system.

The enemy above would be great for a game where an opponent controls the enemy. Based on your idea for the game, where the enemy might be controlled by an algorithm or a dungeon master, I'd go with a much simpler enemy:

Goblin Enemy
Warrior (1,1, 2/1, 1/2, or 2/2)
Brute (4/1 or 3/2, doesn't retreat)

You can roll 12 dice and expect about 4 brutes, which will be a bit tougher, but still manageable. They become the obvious targets, especially since they don't retreat. Their algorithms are simpler, though, which makes them more predictable and easier to fight, even though they are slightly tougher enemies.

Based on your description, I'm imagining sort of a D&D style grid and miniatures adventure game. This would definitely be an all-right way of introducing enemies.

Grall Ritnos
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Neat idea, doesn't fit the rest of my game

Thanks for the feedback kpres. I think your idea is really neat, it just doesn't really fit the rest of the system I'm designing. This thread has mainly focused on the mechanic of using dice as pawns to represent spawnable enemies, but there's other aspects of the game I haven't shared yet (mostly because they are still in development) that would make this level of complexity a bit of overkill. I'm a huge Quarriors fan, and I think the idea of using custom dice to generate monsters for a more strategic and involved combat setting has a lot of promise, it's just not going to fit in my system. The biggest issue for me is that this suggestion doesn't make provision for tracking health between turns. Quarriors works like Magic in that damage that doesn't kill a creature "wears off" after a turn, but for my game I need players to be able to inflict damage on enemies gradually over several turns in order to create the needed tension in my action system.

In regards to czman's comment, combat isn't the major mechanic in the game. The game focuses on the players working together to complete a goal, all while being attacked by outside threats. Players are asked to balance actions spent on their main objective with actions spent defending their base from enemies so that they aren't overrun before their objectives are completed. For this reason I wanted a very simple combat system which doesn't demand much mental space. The main choices in the game are how to spend one's actions, not how to maximize combat tactics. Since the system is so simple, I don't think a simplistic representation, such as using dice as pawns, is a significant drawback, but I've really appreciated feedback on that point from posters in this thread. The notes on variance so far are well taken, and have me leaning strongly towards using either all d6s, or else capping things at d10s, and finding other ways to balance my game. This game also draws randomness into some of the other systems, so the balance will never be perfect, but I hope to eventually fine tune it so that it can be repeatably enjoyed. Thanks again!

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