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When is a round over? (The search for elegant mechanics)

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

I'm considering ideas I have for a game that has elements of a worker placement game, but your "worker" actually moves around the board. As with many of my favorite games, there will be a number of rounds to the game, and in each round, each player gets X moves/actions (3, 4, 5, ?...i'm not sure yet). The question is: once i decide how many actions each player gets in a round, how do the players keep track of when a round ends and it's time to setup for the next round?

Here's (off the top of my head, in rough elegance/simplicity order) how some other games I enjoy handle round-tracking:
AGRICOLA (or BELFORT or STONE AGE or...)--all players run out of workers to place
CASTLES OF BURGUNDY--each turn one of the 5 goods is moved to a depot, after those 5 turns, the round ends.
RA--the ra tile track is full OR no one has sun tiles left.
LE HAVRE--ships move until they reach the end of the track.
AMUN-RE--you use all 3 of your control markers
CAYLUS--all players run out of workers OR pass (marked on the passing track by the bridge)
PUERTO RICO--everyone has taken one role
SMALLWORLD--every time it's the start player's turn, move the round marker down one. (note: this is not elegant.)
GOA--you have to count your 3 actions AND you have to count when 4 rounds have passed before going to the second phase. (tricky if you're not careful! this is the least elegant, i think.)

Do you have others? I've been considering one option (hard to explain it quickly--but it's somewhat close to how Caylus operates) but not sure if there are better ones out there. Again, keep in mind, I'm talking about a game where you have one worker/token that is moving around a board, so how do I say "you get 4 moves and then you do the setup for the next round"????

Thanks in advance...

drktron's picture
Joined: 07/18/2010
If I understand you

If I understand you correctly, you want a simple way for each player to track the used actions of their one worker so that you know when the round ends. What if each player's worker was represented by a die. Start the die on the number of actions for the turn and reduce the number of pips shown with each action used.

Joined: 11/10/2009
What kind of token?

What kind of pieces are you using to represent your worker? Cardboard tile? Wooden pawn? Die?

A cardboard square could be rotated 90-degrees on each action to track usage. A 4-sided die (or four sides of a d6) could also be rotated to indicate action count.

If you're using pawns, dividing each space on the board into four subregions or lanes could work, so that your position inside the space indicate action usage.

A multipart pawn, like stacked poker chips or a classic Sorry! pawn with washers or Lifesavers slotted on it that are removed as actions are taken.

Joined: 11/25/2010
Thanks for the ideas, but...

I see where both of you are going with this. And I thank you for the ideas. It's a workable solution, but again, less elegant than I would like. It's pretty easy to lose track of which side a die is on, or "did I take a washer off my pawn?" But, then again, if you compare to the other pawns/dice on the board, it shouldn't be that hard to see...hmmm...

That said, I'd love something that flows a little more seamlessly. Anyone else have new ideas?

Joined: 08/20/2008
Why not just place X pawns

Why not just place X pawns instead of placing one pawn X times? It can still conceptually be a single worker moving around, and having a visible 'history' may open up additional options in the game (eg a card revealed mid-turn that says "at the end of the turn, any worker that has visited the optician earns $1")

If progression is determined by previous placements (eg workers can only move a maximum of two spaces when moving to a new action), number the pawns and require players to place their pawns in order.

If placement is constrained by other players (eg the intention was that you couldn't place your worker somewhere currently occupied), make the rule that you cannot place your pawn on a space if that space is occupied by another player's highest value active pawn.

Joined: 08/03/2008
You want something that

You want something that players automatically do as part of their action. If it's some variant of "on his turn, start player adjusts a counter on the 'turn track'", then it's just as likely the start player will forget to do this as that the players will collectively forget how many turns there have been this round.

If players use action cards to select their actions, or place action tokens on a board to select their actions, then you can just count how many cards/tokens have been placed. Something like this would be the easiest approach.

Joined: 11/25/2010

Thank jwarrend. I agree those would be easier, and that's exactly the kind of thing I mean. However...they don't fit with the mechanics of this game...hmmm....


sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
I agree with the guy who said

I agree with the guy who said "why not use multiple pawns?"

That said, if multiple pawns is not a possibility, I agree with Jeff that you want something that's physically limited so that your round has a natural limit.

I happen to like games where you might have non-standard number of turns per round. For example, suppose each round every player gets an income of 4 money. Then suppose that each action cost money. If most actions cost 1 money, then players will naturally play 4 actions per round, then they'll run out of money. Maybe you're compelled to take actions if you have money - or maybe you can pass early and save money to use later.

Then suppose you have particularly weak actions that do not cost any money (a catch-all for example, so that a player cannot get totally screwed), and more importantly, some actions which cost 2 money. These actions would likely be stronger, because they effectively take 2 worker placements - a player who takes this action would be finished with actions for the round before other players.

Also, there could be effects which increase a players income by +1 money, allowing them to effectively do 1 extra action each turn (many worker placement games allow you to get additional workers in some way).

And there could be a space that gives you 2 money (but then you have to pass - no infinite combo!) - meaning you spend 1 action this round to do nothing but get 2 actions in a future round (net +1 action).

If you already have "money" in your game, you can replace what I've said with some other commodity and it could still work, the point is that you get something to spend, and you spend it when you take actions, and the round ends when everyone's spent.

Joined: 11/25/2010
Yes again!


Your solutions are along the lines I've been considering...just not sure how to implement them yet.

And, thanks again everyone for the ideas...I may not be able to check this thread for a few days, but they will definitely be running through my mind as I have a 12 hour plane flight in the near future during which to contemplate...

Joined: 07/12/2012
Another idea

I'm not sure what your theme is, but lets assume for a moment you're talking about a spaceship that is moving around, perhaps your ship could have a power source that generates X power, allowing your ship to make X moves in one turn. Each player would be given X power tokens a turn, and then you could treat the power tokens as your "workers", taking turns spending one until no player has any left.

Matthew Rodgers
Matthew Rodgers's picture
Joined: 03/01/2012
Another solution

The solution i use in The Abbey is to have a circle with eight spaces on it (called the "Wheel of the Year"). A marker pawn starts on a certain space and one of the three actions a player may take on their turn is to move the marker pawn forward one space on the wheel. The first few spaces give players the benefit of lots of workers to put out, the latter spaces only give them one worker, but move the pawn that much closer to the end of the round (perhaps preventing certain players from having another turn). Since on each player's turn there are three possible actions, only one of which moves the marker, no one knows quite when the round will be over.

You can see a blurry picture of it here. and a much better rendering of it here.

Perhaps you could do something similar, but tie the position of the marker pawn to how many spaces the single worker gets to move or effectiveness of the action or something like that... as said above you want something that the players will naturally not forget to do.

Traz's picture
Joined: 04/06/2009
Sedge is da man......

I think Sedge is definitely on to something - but it doesn't need to be 'money' and the 'money' doesn't NEED to go back to the bank. Here's a freebie I just thought of.

Have a limited # of 'things'. Think of them as money or actions or turtles or whatever will fit your game/theme. There will be a different # of these 'things' based on how many players there are.

To start, each player gets a certain amount of the 'things'. [2 players - each gets 5, 3 players - each gets 4, etc].

Per Sedge - each action or move or purchase or whatever 'costs' a certain # of 'things'. As you expend your 'things' instead of their going into the bank, pass them onto the player at your left. On your next expenditure, pass them onto the player on HIS left and so on, until you get to yourself - you can't do anything, because you can't pay yourself, therefore you know your turn has ended.

Some players will be able to do more things, some less. Each player should be REQUIRED to do SOMETHING each turn, but require the FIRST thing you do be something that costs a 'thing'. The rest can be '0' cost actions/whatevers until you get back to yourself, thereby saving a bunch of your 'things' and not passing out too many to the other players.

There's a game in there somewhere.... ;-) I'll be printing this out and hanging on to it as a turn mechanic for a project I've had lurking for a year - but you're welcome to it if it helps your game. I guarantee your's won't look like mine. ;-)

This is why I LOVE this website!

Joined: 07/09/2012
Not on topic... but Traz's idea is interesting.

I was thinking about this mechanic... but not as it relates to the problem at hand.

If you "trade" or "buy" from a player on your immediate right - you pay her 1.
If you buy from some one her right, you'd pay that person 2.
And so on.
You can't (obviously) buy from yourself.
Everyone's deals are the same - only based on where they are sitting.

So in a 3-player game: you have a favorable or cheap option - and an unfavorable or expensive option.
In a 4-player game: you have a "cheap", "balanced", and "expensive" option.
In a 5: a wider gamut - but no "balanced" options.
In a 6, a wider gamut - with a single balanced option.
Everyone's relationships are the different to each other's.
But everyone has the same asymmetrical trade ratios.

So buying from the right makes the most sense - but they'd never buy from you if they could avoid it.
So everyone would have to feed everyone else in a round-about way.

You want your cheap option neighbors to the right to do fairly well - because it helps you buy the right things cheaply.
So your strategy is tied somewhat to what others produce, etc...

I don't know where this goes... but as a trade mechanic, it could create an interesting dynamic...

Joined: 08/09/2008

If you want people to always move exactly four times, there is no way to avoid counting it. Giving someone that many items is still counting, just with an aid. The most elegant solutions (as are several suggested here) are methods that make counting feel natural by integrating it with another game mechanic or new resource.

KAndrw's method of providing multiple pawns is pretty interesting. I would say you might want to provide 5 pawns and have the player pick up all but the lead pawn so they easily know where to begin from (assuming player's begin from their stopping point). You could add to your game by giving the pawn's different identities and giving bonuses on certain locations based on their identity or allow other players to place on the same location, but only with a pawn with a different identity. Of course, this may not fit in with your game at all.

Sedjtroll's idea is also very elegant. By relating the 'counting' of moves to a new resource, the player no longer feels like he is doing bookkeeping, but just playing the game. Of course, it only feels elegant if this resource has alternate uses/costs.


Joined: 11/25/2010
Nice to see...

I just wanted to add an off-topic comment...

I was very happy to see this thread I started pop up again. And I was even more pleased to see that it has generated so much discussion and new ideas...THAT is why I love this site!

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