Game Mechanic For Hire

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Multi-function Pieces, 9.19.08

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Hi-Ho, everyone. It’s time for another installment of Mechanic of the Day. Today’s mechanic is Multi-Function Pieces. Most common on cards, Mulit-Function Pieces are when pieces can do one of three or four options when used, or serve multiple purposes. (Twilight Struggle and Combat Commander both do this.) This can cause cognitive suffering for many a player as they try to decide which use would be the best for their situation. Here’s a few ways to implement it…

-Multi-Use Cards. Players have cards that can be played in two or more possible fashions and must choose one option only as the card is played. This is one of the easier ways to use the mechanic; print multiple functions on each card and away you go. The trick is balancing the actions on the card; a card that has one crazy good action and two meh actions is going to be played for the crazy good one 90% of the time. If both actions are crazy good, you get (all together now) cognitive suffering. In a railway game, cards could have movement, supplies and special actions on each. Do you play the card for a killer jaunt across the board or to get a bunch of supplies for cheap?

-Alternating Function. Components take on different attributes as the game progresses toward the endgame. A better way to think of this may be to consider components dual-function, with each function being active at a different time. There is less choice here as both functions are necessary, but at different times during the game. For example, in a feudal game, wood is needed to expand your city during the spring and summer, but is required to keep your people warm in the winter and not freeze to death.

-Score V. Function. Pieces are both used in-game and for end game scoring. Most common for resources, this creates the dichotomy of should I use resource ‘X’ now to get an immediate benefit, or do I bank it for points? This is better utilized in tight resource games, or when the piece in play is really good. In a gold mining game, the gold could either be cashed in for points or used to buy new equipment, stakes, etc. The points would need to be a diminishing returns kind of thing, with the first player to cash in ‘X’ gold gets the most points and declining from there.

I hope this article has been multi-functional as well; informative and (almost) entertaining.

Keep on designing, yo!



Written by krinklechip

August 18, 2009 at 2:24 am

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