# How much math is too much?

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2151 Games
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Joined: 11/29/2018

I was working on a space exploration game a while back but ended up dropping it because it was too math heavy. It revolved around distance between stars. Depending on your ships engines, you would figure out how long would it take to make the trip, did you have the fuel to travel there? After you got the time it would take to travel there you needed to check if you had the resources (food, oxygen) to last that long.

If I had kept it simple where it was distance divided by speed to get time spent traveling it might have worked. But I wanted to have a way for players to interact with one another by causing delays or speedups. One card was “find a wormhole, cut 30% off your travel distance”. Another was “rouge black hole, speed slowed by 10%”. So people were doing 4 or 5 calculations at the end of each turn to see if they had enough resources to make the travel and how long it would take.

I realize I probably was over complicating it all and should have just had the cards add a specific amount of something (distance, speed, time) and instead of trying to balance based off of percentages. But I wanted to use percentages so some cards wouldn’t be totally broken. Example if a card added 2 lightyears in distance, when it is played on someone traveling a short distance 3 lightyears the impact is big. They would have to add an extra 66% to their travel. However if the card is played on someone who was going 10 lightyears the impact would only be 20%.

Anyway back to the question at hand, how much math is too much? I think the answer is anything that can’t be done in a player’s head is too much. I don’t have much to base this on except for what I have seen. Take for example Monopoly the luxury tax used to be \$200 or 10% of your worth. But so many people just said it was \$200 in their house rules because they didn’t want to do the math that Hasbro changed the rules in 2008 and just made it a flat \$200.

But limiting math to what a person can do in their head, takes away the possibility of a lot of interesting mechanics. It can also leads to broken mechanics where %'s are better but just require too much math. I don’t know where I am going here, I was just wondering what others thought about the subject.

Tim Edwards
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Joined: 07/30/2015

I've been thinking about this question too. I'm having to break long-engrained instincts developed from programming weird little games in BASIC as a kid, where I LOVED messing around with variables and percentages.

My idea is to have

a) some cards that ADD (which, as you mentioned, may give a comparatively small or large impact depending what they're being added to)
b) some cards double (or perhaps divide by 2) - again giving variable impacts depending what values they are doubling, etc

Since adding and doubling are easy maths, I'm not worried about using them.

You (we) could also have cards that EITHER add or double, depending on other factors, etc...so there's potential for plenty of variety without getting into fiddly percentage calculations.

The way I see it is, the simpler the maths, the more head-space there is for players to deal with other (more fun) types of thinking.

Jay103
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Joined: 01/23/2018
2151 Games wrote:But limiting

2151 Games wrote:
But limiting math to what a person can do in their head, takes away the possibility of a lot of interesting mechanics. It can also leads to broken mechanics where %'s are better but just require too much math. I don’t know where I am going here, I was just wondering what others thought about the subject.

Is it about space exploration, made more interesting by a mechanic where the players have to manage resources to move from place to place?

Or is it about doing math?

Quote:
If I had kept it simple where it was distance divided by speed to get time spent traveling it might have worked.

There you go.

Maybe figuring out a totally different mechanic that lets players interact would be a better option.

Or treating your current mechanic the way it is ("+2 light years" or whatever), and considering that a VALID card, that adds some strategy to the "take-that" element. Because mindless "take-that" is stupid. But in your game, if you have a "+2 light years" card, you maybe want to WAIT and play it when it has the most impact, and NOT have it have the same impact no matter what the opponent is currently doing.

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
Don't use divide?

Adding, subtracting and simple multiplication are the only ones that can reach the broader audience.

Example.
A distance of 5 LY.
Your ship pays 2 fuel per LY.
1 food per LY.
And 1 time per LY.

So the journey costs 10 fuel and 5 food with 5 time intervals.
A slower but lighter ship will ask for 1 fuel per LY. And 2 food with 2 time per LY.

A self food producing ship would ask for 1 less food per LY.

Faster ships have lower costs on certain resources. Just like when you would divide stuff. But now you turned it around and let players multiply.

Cheers.

Fri
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Joined: 09/06/2017
Like any part of a board game

Like any part of a board game you have to ask does the math add enough fun to your board game to justify its existence?

Like you have eluded to you could simplify things greatly by just using making ships fly a certain number of areas on a map. Then you could have something like engines consume X units of fuel to move up to Y spaces per turn. Then you crew consumes Z food and W oxygen per turn.

Instead of using a percentage based system You could have effects last until the ship reaches the next planet or can otherwise logically be resolved. Like leaky fuel tanks uses one more fuel. Or a broken sprocket in the engine limits movement by a space. Or you find a stow away and they consume an extra food.

I going to suggest that you look how the ships move in the firefly board game. (I'm just talking about the players options for moving their ship and not the navigation cards resolving)

You may also want to consider what you want your game to focus on. Do you want it to be an optimize the travel type game or is it more of a take that type of game? If you can find the answer to that question you can then have the game concentrate on that aspect. Or if your really ambitious make both games.

gxnpt
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Joined: 12/22/2015
resources and time

Oxygen,food,etc used depends on travel time.

Fuel burned could decrease time (distance/fuel concept) which could be based on distance => base fuel cost and time units
--- can reduce time by 1 for each additional 2 fuel burned to a minimum of 1 time unit (dist 5 burn 13 => time 1)
---- increase time by 1 for each fuel unit below base cost burned to a minimum of 1 fuel burned (dist 5 burn 1 => time 9)

Routes between stars could be rated by safety (or distance ranges if preferred) and some cards could vary their effects intensity according to the rating of the route. Somewhere in the area of 3 to 5 different intensities, most likely 3.

The surprise wormhole card would add a different number of distance units depending on the rating of the route.

Might need to change course to a closer destination to arrive somewhere before supplies run out!

Resources (not fuel) consumed depend purely on time in transit.

Angrycyborggames
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Joined: 04/02/2018
I suppose it depends on your

I suppose it depends on your audience, but I think the less mathy the game feels, the more inclusive. There are ways you can design mechanics / cards to simplify math but keep it inside the core.

Essentially I’d say bake the math in to the game play itself. Have hidden math. Deck builders are a good example of this. Most of them are inherently about math — setting up a % increase, improving odds, etc. But you never have to do math operations, the math result is just from choices and decision making. Players who enjoy the math can get that little edge, but it also just inherently works for people who don’t.

For cards or upgrades that improve travel time, you can do similar tricks. Instead of a 10% penalty, you can reduce a “roll”, or add an inefficient piece to the player’s engine. This kind of depends on your design having an engine that optimizes as the game goes on, which should be present in most games anyway.

Quick rough example... assume you have an “engine” deck. Your ship’s speed rating determines how many cards are dealt from your engine deck. Let’s say you have a speed of 4.

If I have 4 cards that give +1 travel, and I am saddled with one (“thrusters malfunction +0 travel”), you’ve just mathed in a 20% chance for a 25% travel penalty. But the nice part about this solution is it feels “gamey”, and the % scales throughout the game without more complex math required.

Similar solutions can be found for dice rolls and the like.

Food for thought.

2151 Games
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Joined: 11/29/2018
Angrycyborggames wrote: Quick

Angrycyborggames wrote:

Quick rough example... assume you have an “engine” deck. Your ship’s speed rating determines how many cards are dealt from your engine deck. Let’s say you have a speed of 4.

If I have 4 cards that give +1 travel, and I am saddled with one (“thrusters malfunction +0 travel”), you’ve just mathed in a 20% chance for a 25% travel penalty. But the nice part about this solution is it feels “gamey”, and the % scales throughout the game without more complex math required.

I love this concept. Math without actually making them do math.