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What percentage of a game should be spent doing upkeep?

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harmon89
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I've been working on a new design for about a month. The game is a lot of fun and people seem to really enjoy it.

No one has commented on this, but I wonder if it can be improved.

The game lasts about 45 minutes and is played over 5 rounds. At the end of each round players must collect resources and pay upkeep costs. In the later rounds this could take 2-3 minutes. This means that about 7-8 minutes of the game is people doing basic math as they collect resources on their cards, and then paying the cost of each card they own at the end of each round.

Is 1/5th of a game being dedicated to fairly mundane tasks like this an issue in your opinion?

The Odd Fox
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Depends on what it feels like

If upkeep doesn't feel like upkeep and it feels either fun or thematic then it's not a problem. If upkeep feels like a chore then 1/100th of the game is too much in my opinion. For me it's all about how the player experiences the upkeep phase in the game.

Mosker
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Player differences...

How often are players waiting on one another to finish upkeep? Are there any decisions and can this be done in between turns to make things even faster?

questccg
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Personally ... It's probably "just me"!

I don't like it when player START their turn before the previous player is finished their turn. I know he's only buying cards and then figuring out which ones he wants to keep and discard, but TO ME it's freaken annoying.

The major problem is making sure the PREVIOUS player doesn't cheat and take more cards from the table or uses enough points to buy the cards and then makes sure he only refreshes to five cards and not six, etc.

And yes, all these things have happen in various playtests that I have participated in.

I get it: "The other player is almost finished his turn." And he's performed his role, so all that's left is his BUY and DISCARD phases. But still watching ONE player do this and trying to see what the NEXT player is choosing as his role and then determining what cards he will play, etc...

It's probably just me... but that kind of "concurrent" playing drives me crazy. Just wait the 10 seconds longer for him/her to finish their turn and it will be YOURS next... Sheesh.

Update: How does this comment relate to the OP??? Well what I guess I am saying is that I would want the player to end his turn ONCE ALL his upkeep tasks are COMPLETED! I wouldn't want to see a second player start his turn while the other player completes his upkeep.

That would really frustrate me and I would probably not play the game again. Like I said I dislike parallelism unless it's like secret play and simultaneous reveal.

It's also why I don't believe in RTS TableTop games: too much is going on and players can abuse the game/rules when they are all doing things at the SAME time (or concurrently).

Really don't like that.

polyobsessive
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Ideally 0%

harmon89 wrote:
The game lasts about 45 minutes and is played over 5 rounds. At the end of each round players must collect resources and pay upkeep costs. In the later rounds this could take 2-3 minutes. This means that about 7-8 minutes of the game is people doing basic math as they collect resources on their cards, and then paying the cost of each card they own at the end of each round.

I think that the answer to your headline question is that 0% of the game should be spent doing upkeep. In an ideal world, that is, but obviously you can't always have that, so I think that in general it is a matter of reducing the time spent on upkeep as much as possible.

A few thoughts on this...

Experience of playing and playtesting suggests that players like things that gain them stuff, so an income phase can be fine, or even positive. Paying costs (particularly when it is just outgoings and you are not directly getting anything back) can be a downer, and feel like an undesirable part of the game. So if you are able to refactor the upkeep phase some way (this may just be rephrasing something, or it might need re-engineering) so that players only get income, it can make the whole phase more palatable.

Having to do maths during an upkeep phase can be hugely offputting for some players, so if you can find a way to avoid any arithmetic, it is a good thing. If you want to see a clever approach, take a look at either Eclipse or Terra Mystica, which both use neat player board designs that effectively calculate income for you and your status is visible at a glance.

Another approach is to break up the upkeep so that there are small amounts of upkeep activity taking place more often. Say, something on each player's turn rather than at the end of each round. I have no idea how viable this would be for your game, and trying to do this might end up making turns drag rather than allowing everyone to do this admin at the same time which it sounds like is the current approach.

From what you have said, though, it sounds like the main concern I would have is with the maths, as if everyone is acting at the same time to collect resources, etc, that means that the admin would not create downtime, but may create confusion for some players.

Anyway, good luck with your game.

harmon89
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Some more details

Thank you for the comments thus far.

Just a few more details about my particular situation.

The game is a blind bidding/bluffing game with some engine building and resource management aspects. There are 6-9 cards face up in the center of the play area each round that players are bidding on simultaneously. Each player has a hand 7 cards that they can use for bidding (everyone has the same hand of cards). Each of the cards in your hand has a slightly different purpose so there is an aspect of the game where you are trying to guess which card(s) your opponent is going to play, because often that will affect which card(s) you will play.

Once all the cards in the middle have been claimed the round ends.

The upkeep phase includes everyone collecting the resources on all the cards they own and then paying gold for every card in they have. So the upkeep phase is mostly positive unless you find you over extended yourself and are unable to afford all the cards you have and as a result you have to discard something. So the only math you are doing is adding up all the gold you have on all of your cards and then subtracting 2 gold for most cards (there are some cards that cost additional gold each turn.)

My concern is something that Quest alluded to. Should I just assume that no one is going to cheat on the upkeep phase knowingly or accidentally, or should players watch everyone collect their resources and pay upkeep costs?

Jay103
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Are all the players doing

Are all the players doing upkeep simultaneously? Is there a reason players would want to watch their opponents' upkeep phase? If it's sequential and people are sitting around watching OTHERS do upkeep, that's going to be a problem regardless of how fun the upkeep is for the keep-upper.

harmon89
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Yeah, right now everyone is

Yeah, right now everyone is doing upkeep at the same time, in fact almost everything in the game players are taking simultaneous actions, so there is very little downtime, which is nice.

Currently, the only reason someone might want to watch opponents do their upkeep phase is if they were paranoid about cheating.

questccg
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Dislike simultaneous play (any kind!)

harmon89 wrote:
... Currently, the only reason someone might want to watch opponents do their upkeep phase is if they were paranoid about cheating.

I don't know WHY... But every time I demo a game, there is always someone who will invariably cheat. It may be by confusion or by accident... Like I said: "You buy from the TOP of each pile." Well one player forcibly had to check half the cards from one of his piles... (As an example).

When players figure out they are not going to win, they also find ways to be less than honest. Some figure: "Hey I'm not going to win... might as well try to get closer to the leader..." And do something wrong next.

It also has to do with how competitive the player is too. The more they WANT to win, the more likely they will find ways of making things turn in their favor...

harmon89
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Quest, you don't like

Quest, you don't like simultaneous play of any kind? What about a game like 7 Wonders? Is something like that ok?

Is it just the potential for cheating you don't like, or is there another reason?

questccg
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7 Wonders is not for me...

harmon89 wrote:
Quest, you don't like simultaneous play of any kind? What about a game like 7 Wonders? Is something like that ok?

I've never played 7 Wonders. Tell me: is it possible to play more than ONE (1) card from your hand each turn??? If the answer is YES, well then I don't like this style of game... If the answer is NO, you can only play ONE (1) per turn... Well then maybe the rules are more clear and there is less room for "cheating"...

Or perhaps there is a rule, you can only play THREE (3) cards from your HAND. Something like this is OKAY. I'm just not a FAN of concurrent play when it is not defined with rules that restrict play.

harmon89 wrote:
Is it just the potential for cheating you don't like, or is there another reason?

Exactly if the nature of a turn is that you can EACH play a VARIABLE amount of cards... TOO MUCH confusion and possibility to cheat on a player's turn. Plus you never get the opportunity to SEE what your opponent's are doing... You have to figure things out while you work on your own CARD DRAFTING...

I personally don't think I would like the game... because of concurrent play. If it was more orderly like PLAY ONE (1) card from your HAND... Well then everyone plays one card and it is much more "civilized". (Eh, that's a PUN!)

No but seriously it's hard after a player's turn to figure out all the ways you need to BLOCK a player, etc.

Really think that I would PASS on such a game... Not for me.

harmon89
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I'm actually not sure how

I'm actually not sure how someone could cheat on this game except for on the upkeep phase.

During the round players have 3 types of cards in their hand. They have 3 "attack" cards valued 1, 2, and 3. They have 3 "peace" cards valued 1, 2, and 3. They also have a "castle" card.

Attack cards are played if you want to take the card. Peace cards are played if you want to only take the resources on the card, and the castle card is played if you are passing on the card being bid on. Instead you get to draw back your lowest valued Peace card into your hand, and can use military tokens to buy back your "attack" cards. (If you don't buy back attack cards you will have to wait until the end of the round to get them back.)

So there isn't really much room for confusion. Everyone knows which card is currently up for bid. They have to decide if they want the card, and if they do how many attack cards they want to put toward that attack.

Once everyone has their card or cards played face down on the table, they all reveal their cards simultaneously.

questccg
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That sound OKAY to me!

Simultaneous play seems okay (as I said, if it's a simultaneous reveal). That's fine... I was more thinking RTS TableTop games where everyone is doing their own thing at the same time.

If you read my earlier comment (the one with the update), I clearly state that if it's simultaneous play followed by simultaneous "reveal", that style of game is okay. Because when you REVEAL what cards you have played, that's when "resolving" your cards occurs.

And like you said, it's hard to cheat.

Now that you've explained how the parallelism works in your new game... I think that it is fine. Not at all about PURE concurrent play.

harmon89
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Ah, gotcha. Yeah, I don't

Ah, gotcha. Yeah, I don't know if I'd like that either.

MatthewF
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Informative Upkeep

My take is that if upkeep is how I learn my status in the game then it doesn't feel like upkeep at all (unless there's a ton of it). If I'm moving markers/counters or shuffling my deck that has a variable number of cards (not always the same quantity) or similar actions that help me figure out what to do on my next turn then it just feels like gameplay.

If, on the other hand, it's really cleanup work and I'm not really learning anything, I'm just setting up/resetting the game state, it feels like overhead on top of my enjoyment. I want that to be minimal.

One example where upkeep works for me: in Agricola after everyone has taken their turn there's an upkeep phase where more goods are put out. This could feel like drudgery, but if I'm doing it (or watching it being done), it's a great time for me to see which goods are piling up and which are barely there. It feels like part of playing the game, an essential part of my strategizing. Sure, I could do it after the upkeep was done, but that "live" state ensures I stay on top of it and don't miss anything.

harmon89
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Great thoughts Matthew. I

Great thoughts Matthew. I think this conversation makes me feel better with how my game currently is. The upkeep phase really is a check on the status of the game rather than a pure clean up time burner. That does seem to be an important distinction.

questccg
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Hmm... Another thought

Because I'm not sure anymore, I figured I'd ask a QUESTION.

So play goes sequentially round the table from Player #1 to Player #4.

After the round is OVER, all players do housekeeping SIMULTANEOUSLY???

This concerns me... As I feel like everyone will be able to cheat to get ahead and there is probably very little "evidence" once everything is tallied and reset to zero (0) for the NEXT round...

If this is the case, I would not like to play such a game. I know I fail to see an ALTERNATIVE.

Perhaps if EVERYONE PLAYED their TURNS concurrently... AND THEN each player would do housekeeping one player at a time. Could that be even possible???

I mean if YES, well that's super. I'd try the game even if there is concurrent play. My problem is with CONCURRENT HOUSEKEEPING. That's very likely and open to "creative" upkeeping.

How could this be possible??? (Concurrent PLAY, individual HOUSEKEEPING)

Actually very easily: you use BIDDING mechanics for pooled items. Like IF during CONCURRENT PLAY both Player #1 and Player #3 want Card #1 (available in the pool of cards), each player BIDS how much GOLD they want to spend on the item... If Player #1 bids 1 GOLD, Player #3 can bid 3 GOLD and then Player #1 may say: "That's too rich for my blood..."

This is an example about HOW you could using bidding to resolve concurrent "buying" of resources from a COMMON POOL.

Anyhow I just wanted to show that IT IS POSSIBLE. Just needs some re-thinking to allow for CONCURRENT PLAY.

Cheers!

Note #1: Obviously this means each player needs to "RESOLVE" their turn individually to figure out who "outbid" who and other things like worker placement (what happens when two players occupy the same LAND area...), etc. Things like that can be figured out DURING the individual HOUSEKEEPING turns (or phase). But the idea is that it works only ONE (1) player at a time.

Note #2: For worker placement, there could be various ways of resolving this: which player has the stronger military force get the challenged position, all other opponents retreat to adjacent spaces. OR to occupy a challenged position, you need to PAY Victory Points to each competitor wanting to get that position, etc.

harmon89
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Quest, I think we are

Quest,

I think we are thinking along the same lines. Currently the game is played concurrently. So everyone is bidding on the same card at the same time, and then that card gets resolved immediately.

You could very easily all take turns doing housekeeping. Maybe I'll just leave it up to the individual group playing whether they are worried about cheating or not. Obviously the game goes faster if everyone does housekeeping at the same time, but it would definitely be less likely for people to cheat if everyone takes turn doing upkeep at the end of the round.

questccg
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That seems reasonable to me

So the game is already played concurrently with bidding?! Cool... That's kind of interesting. Perhaps leaving the "housekeeping" to whichever play group choose (concurrently or taking turns) means that the game is much more flexible in design ... and that's something honestly a PLUS for the game. The more flexible the design, the more dynamic the game play and it allows people to find what works best for them.

That's real positive in my judgement and impressions.

polyobsessive
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Cheating

questccg wrote:
This concerns me... As I feel like everyone will be able to cheat to get ahead and there is probably very little "evidence" once everything is tallied and reset to zero (0) for the NEXT round...

My view on this sort of thing is that people who are determined to cheat will be able to cheat in just about any game. If I discover someone deliberately cheating, then what I do effectively depends on how old they are: if they are a kid, I tell them that cheating isn't cool, and leave it pretty much at that, but if they are an adult, I tell them it's not cool, and then don't play with them again. Life is too short for me to play with arseholes who have to win at all costs.

I do, however, want to design games where it is not easy to accidentally cheat. The rules need to be clear and easy to understand, and components should be designed to help people do things right.

Games where players can act simultaneously are more vulnerable to cheating, both deliberately and accidentally, but generally your group can do things sequentially as everyone learns how to play, and then speed up later when everyone gets the hang of it, reducing the likelihood of accidental cheating. When the game is in full swing, if someone deliberately cheats, I hope it makes them happy, as they won't be welcome back to my table.

tl;dr: People who cheat deliberately are arseholes and we don't need to worry about them from a game design point of view.

Jay103
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polyobsessive wrote:tl;dr:

polyobsessive wrote:
tl;dr: People who cheat deliberately are arseholes and we don't need to worry about them from a game design point of view.

+1

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