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Experimenting with Action Points

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jonathanflike
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Hey everyone,

I recently had a play test session for my card game, and my players are suffering from some minor analysis paralysis. In the current iteration, I feel there is just too much to do too early. I definitely plan to scale what actions are available to the player throughout the game better, but I was also thinking about experimenting with actions points. Specifically, limiting the amount of attacks or moves a player's units can make. Has anyone had any experience with adding action points in their games? If so, what were the effects, and did you have any helpful tips or things you learned from them? Also, I just purchased Tikal, which has them in the game, any recommendations for games to research that handles this mechanic well? Thank you so much in advance.

Best,
-Jonathan Flike

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
Action Points (AP)

Well, I have experienced AP for a year or 2.

Since you are talking about a card game. I don't know if my experience counts. But here it is any way.

***

The game that we played resembled your standard RTS games.
Like C&C, Red Alert, KKnD etc.
But instead of real time, we used AP and Event Cards to interrupt other players.
The field was hexagon. And terrain had a lot of influence on the units.

***

Some ground rules in my game.
Each player gets 7 AP at the start of each round.
And each round, the order of players is randomly decided.

There are actual chips with the players colour AP written on them.
Players could place them on a squad. And this squad was allowed to do something, right at that moment.

Since the turns where random.
Only the primary player that was in turn for placing the AP first.
Only this player could suffer from decision paralysis. (we got rid of the timer after a month or so, we really tried)

Immediately after deciding on the action. This player could start with the resolution.
BUT.
Any other player could now interfere if they wanted to. This in the form of doing an action themselves. Or player an Event Card.

If they didn't interfere, they would simply not loose their AP. But they could not stop the primary player either. The primary player would always loose at least one AP.

Some action costed more AP.
And playing more actions with one squad, would increase the AP cost for the next action.

***

Negative experiences
In the beginning. All those AP where rather useless.
When the game progressed, the AP actually became rare.
However, it brought balance. So the second part of the game was accepted by the players.
The game pace became slow. And many squads became fodder squads. For the hero squads to feed on.

Positive experiences
As said above, it brought balance.
It also brought more structure. There wasn't much of tracking any unit, because the AP chits took care of that. And multiple actions where possible with a squad: Thus also strategy increased for the game.

Things that where not really worked out
The list of options for AP was big.
The primary player had a choice of about 10 actions.
My next goal was to separate the choices in simpler ones. But those could be combined by the player.
I never got to it, since my group disbanded at that time. But this "choices" problem is probably not for your concern.

jonathanflike
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Thanks for the insight

X3M wrote:
Well, I have experienced AP for a year or 2.

Since you are talking about a card game. I don't know if my experience counts. But here it is any way.

***

The game that we played resembled your standard RTS games.
Like C&C, Red Alert, KKnD etc.
But instead of real time, we used AP and Event Cards to interrupt other players.
The field was hexagon. And terrain had a lot of influence on the units.

***

Some ground rules in my game.
Each player gets 7 AP at the start of each round.
And each round, the order of players is randomly decided.

There are actual chips with the players colour AP written on them.
Players could place them on a squad. And this squad was allowed to do something, right at that moment.

Since the turns where random.
Only the primary player that was in turn for placing the AP first.
Only this player could suffer from decision paralysis. (we got rid of the timer after a month or so, we really tried)

Immediately after deciding on the action. This player could start with the resolution.
BUT.
Any other player could now interfere if they wanted to. This in the form of doing an action themselves. Or player an Event Card.

If they didn't interfere, they would simply not loose their AP. But they could not stop the primary player either. The primary player would always loose at least one AP.

Some action costed more AP.
And playing more actions with one squad, would increase the AP cost for the next action.

***

Negative experiences
In the beginning. All those AP where rather useless.
When the game progressed, the AP actually became rare.
However, it brought balance. So the second part of the game was accepted by the players.
The game pace became slow. And many squads became fodder squads. For the hero squads to feed on.

Positive experiences
As said above, it brought balance.
It also brought more structure. There wasn't much of tracking any unit, because the AP chits took care of that. And multiple actions where possible with a squad: Thus also strategy increased for the game.

Things that where not really worked out
The list of options for AP was big.
The primary player had a choice of about 10 actions.
My next goal was to separate the choices in simpler ones. But those could be combined by the player.
I never got to it, since my group disbanded at that time. But this "choices" problem is probably not for your concern.

Thank you for the insight X3M. My card game uses RTS elements (barracks builds units, unit caps, etc), so this is actually really helpful. The choices are the problem, and why I was thinking of adding an action point system. There is just too much to do, so instead of the player doing a little bit of everything, I was hoping to use action points as a way to focus their efforts in a few manageable choices instead of all the things. I just finished playing Tikal, and I found the action points add a nice structure to the game, but I'm not sure about the static action points. Was there a reason you chose 7 AP? How do you think it would affect your game if you had some system where action points were used kind of like a resource that could be gained and spent? How much slower did it make your game when you added them versus the game without the action points?

bluesea
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In Tikal, Analysis paralysis

In Tikal, Analysis paralysis is a very, very frequent complaint. While the action points limit the decision space, there is still too much choice to iterate through to keep the game on a good pace.

In your game, is there a way, thematically, to limit the choices players have on their turn? Is there a way to shift/intersect the decision between "What to build?" to/with "What not to build?".

For example, a player can draw four "Construction Cards" on their turn and choose build two elements. If a player draws two like cards, they can choose to build one element twice as fast or with a bonus/buff. Next, the player completes their turn by discarding one card and "queuing" another card. The "queued" card may be included in their hand the next turn so as to mitigate bad or untimely draws.

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
jonathanflike wrote:The

jonathanflike wrote:
The choices are the problem, and why I was thinking of adding an action point system. There is just too much to do, so instead of the player doing a little bit of everything, I was hoping to use action points as a way to focus their efforts in a few manageable choices instead of all the things.

It sounds like that players don't know where to start with their choices. Correct?
Are the order of things in your game (semi-)simultaneously with all the players?

jonathanflike wrote:

I just finished playing Tikal, and I found the action points add a nice structure to the game, but I'm not sure about the static action points. Was there a reason you chose 7 AP? How do you think it would affect your game if you had some system where action points were used kind of like a resource that could be gained and spent? How much slower did it make your game when you added them versus the game without the action points?

The game without action points was one big chaos. It was about 60 squads that where to be tracked (yes, big game, never meant for public release).
The biggest problem was that bigger players had more to do. The extra squads had more or less, free play.

This was considered "unfair" to the "losing" player.
And each squad was limited to one action.
But in overall, the game was faster. This because more squads could fire per round.
While you normally expect 2 players to be equal for a while. When more damage is done, the unbalance is reached faster.

What we wanted was that some squads would do several actions in one turn. But also remove the "unfair" effect from the game.
After all, in RTS games, when a player is outnumbered, the last units are being controlled to a full extend. They should have more to do.
A macro player too, could choose to select a small group. And do a lot with it.
There where some other factors too, that made us decide to go with AP.

***

We started with 6 AP at first. But shortly after, we went with 7 AP. The reason was simple for our game.
If a basic action costs 1 AP and the same squad does another action, the AP already spend, is spend again.
1 action; 1 AP
2 actions; 1 AP + 1 old AP + 1 already paid AP = 3 AP
3 actions; 1 AP + 3 old AP + 3 already paid AP = 7 AP

As you can see, 1 squad could do 3 actions in the game. This choice was made a lot. Since you want a squad to move out. Then attack. Then move back into safety again.

***

We did have Event Cards to change the AP costs of actions. But also the total AP of a player. Whether it was temporary or permanent.
Also, one card could mess up the AP of a player for that round, including the victim squad.

We never considered to have AP as an harvest-able resource. I don't know how it would have fit in our game.

We did one time a game with the option to save up AP per round. A player could spend 2 AP for this, and 1 AP was saved for emergency uses later on.
But it didn't feel like a good choice.
It was a waste of AP.
3 for 2 was bad too.

4 for 3 showed a change. But the amount was already on a level that the second round after this would make one of the players too strong already on the front.

jonathanflike
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That paralysis is definitely real

bluesea wrote:
In Tikal, Analysis paralysis is a very, very frequent complaint. While the action points limit the decision space, there is still too much choice to iterate through to keep the game on a good pace.

In your game, is there a way, thematically, to limit the choices players have on their turn? Is there a way to shift/intersect the decision between "What to build?" to/with "What not to build?".

For example, a player can draw four "Construction Cards" on their turn and choose build two elements. If a player draws two like cards, they can choose to build one element twice as fast or with a bonus/buff. Next, the player completes their turn by discarding one card and "queuing" another card. The "queued" card may be included in their hand the next turn so as to mitigate bad or untimely draws.

So limiting thematically, I have the player's turn arbitrarily broken up into different phases where they do the mechanics limited to that phase; nevertheless, all those little phases are still part of a larger turn that the player needs to think about. I do have the payer draw their card at the end of their turn to signal its end so they can think about that card during the opponent's turn. I think the main complexity comes from the units players play and what they are able to do. I was going to add farms that add thematic "food" (action points) that they must use to perform actions like attack. I guess I need to think about this a little more, but I like the idea of a queue. Thank you.

jonathanflike
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X3M wrote: It sounds like

X3M wrote:

It sounds like that players don't know where to start with their choices. Correct?
Are the order of things in your game (semi-)simultaneously with all the players?

Yeah, I think it is a lot to take in. Even though I break up the turn with phases like attack phase and build phase etc. they are all phases of a large interconnected turn that requires some thought. Maybe it's not bad to have a thinking game, I just don't want things to drag in game with more than 2 players. It's like a skirmish card game where a player has their turn with set stages, they end it, and then an opponent goes and does their thing. I heard that Eclipse has simultaneous turns.

X3M wrote:

The game without action points was one big chaos. It was about 60 squads that where to be tracked (yes, big game, never meant for public release).
The biggest problem was that bigger players had more to do. The extra squads had more or less, free play.

This was considered "unfair" to the "losing" player.
And each squad was limited to one action.
But in overall, the game was faster. This because more squads could fire per round.
While you normally expect 2 players to be equal for a while. When more damage is done, the unbalance is reached faster.

What we wanted was that some squads would do several actions in one turn. But also remove the "unfair" effect from the game.
After all, in RTS games, when a player is outnumbered, the last units are being controlled to a full extend. They should have more to do.
A macro player too, could choose to select a small group. And do a lot with it.
There where some other factors too, that made us decide to go with AP.

***

We started with 6 AP at first. But shortly after, we went with 7 AP. The reason was simple for our game.
If a basic action costs 1 AP and the same squad does another action, the AP already spend, is spend again.
1 action; 1 AP
2 actions; 1 AP + 1 old AP + 1 already paid AP = 3 AP
3 actions; 1 AP + 3 old AP + 3 already paid AP = 7 AP

As you can see, 1 squad could do 3 actions in the game. This choice was made a lot. Since you want a squad to move out. Then attack. Then move back into safety again.

***

We did have Event Cards to change the AP costs of actions. But also the total AP of a player. Whether it was temporary or permanent.
Also, one card could mess up the AP of a player for that round, including the victim squad.

We never considered to have AP as an harvest-able resource. I don't know how it would have fit in our game.

We did one time a game with the option to save up AP per round. A player could spend 2 AP for this, and 1 AP was saved for emergency uses later on.
But it didn't feel like a good choice.
It was a waste of AP.
3 for 2 was bad too.

4 for 3 showed a change. But the amount was already on a level that the second round after this would make one of the players too strong already on the front.

60 squads! Okay maybe my play testers can't complain about keeping track of five units lol. I just tested the AP points as a resource, and it worked, but definitely slowed the game down. I think maybe it would be easier to just fiddle with unit caps and costs to bring things out.

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
I guess it depends on size.

I guess it depends on size. The original game was meant to take a week or 2 and slightly sped up by AP.

There is a reason why my new game doens't have AP. It is only meant to be 2 hours. With only 4 to 6 squads that can move around.
And allows each squad 1 action per turn.

***

I think that a 2 hour game would only have AP. If you want to limit each unit on what they do.
I don't know where I saw it. But there is a game out there that has multiple actions per squad. And these actions are derived from the AP that they personally have.
Some squads had 3 AP, some 4, and some 5. With that, they could move, attack, etc. But only to an extend. I don't think that this got developed further since I didn't hear from it any more.

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