Game Mechanic For Hire

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Downtime Reduction, 8.31.09

with one comment

Downtime, or the time between turns, in games is often acceptable, provided it isn’t too long.  It can get out of control, though; Tikal is probably the most egregious offender.  While an excellent game, you can often take a nap between turns as other players optimize their moves.  The ideal ways to minimize this are to have a little something for everyone to do on every turn or streamlining the rules.  Lets have a look at a few ways to minimize downtime, shall we?

-Trade.  If the game allows for it, trade is a good way to allow players to do something when it isn’t their turn.  It encourages players to pay attention to what the active player is doing so that they can offer up an optimal trade.

-Turn Structure.  Remove extraneous and repetitive steps from the turn structure.  As an example, if players are required to count how many areas they control every phase (and there is notable change between each count),  your game is gonna bog down due simply to counting.  Either do a control assessment once each round or have a ‘leader board’ that tracks it for everyone (although this can still potentially cause issues due to fiddlyness).  Or, if players have LOTS of action points each round to the point of causing excessive cognitive suffering, reduce the amount of action points (and corresponding costs) and see what happens…

-Simultaneous Action Selection.  Players select their key actions to perform at the same time as the other players.  While players will still need to wait for everyone to choose their action(s) and perform it, choosing what to do all at the same time reduces the AP factor a bit.

-Streamline Combat.  Make combat as swift and simple as possible.  This is one of the most common sources of excessive downtime.  Unless you’re designing the next ASL, your combat system should resolve quickly while still giving players some strategy to their moves.  Modified die rolls, card play, rock-paper-scissor unit types; the list goes on as to what can be implemented.

Now if only downtime were as easy to get rid of in real life…


Keep on designing, yo!



Written by krinklechip

August 31, 2009 at 1:31 pm

One Response

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  1. A couple other occurrences of downtime that I usually watch for are planning-related.

    Card draw — some games have a player (re)draw at the start of his turn and others at the end. In general, drawing at the start of a turn adds a little more downtime because the new cards may alter his plans. If a player draws cards at the end of his turn, he knows what he has available for his next turn and can start to make plans.

    Related to that is how fast board-position or game-state changes between a player’s turns. Between two games that allow a lot of options, the game in which the game state changes fastest will tend to have more downtime because a player’s plans may be rendered moot by the time it is his turn again. I think this is why Tikal is so “bad” in this regard: not only do you have 10 AP to plan/spend on your turn, but (in a 4-player game, for example), there were 30 AP worth of opponent actions since your last turn, meaning you have a lot of new information to digest between your turns.


    September 2, 2009 at 2:40 am

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