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Puzzles, 9.14.09

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Riddle me this:  what kind of games typically have puzzles in them?  Not too many, save for RPGs and some adventure games.  The key reason is that once you know the solution, the puzzle can’t be used again.  But!  It could be argued that deduction based games are a type of puzzle; gathering information until you arrive at the answer the game requires (be it the perpetrator of a crime or some kind of code key).  A re-usable puzzle, much like in Clue, simply switches out the variables each game.  In Clue’s case, the murderer, weapon and room are swapped around each time.  This could be applied in other ways, as well.

-Substitution.  Players use equipment in ways not intended by its design.  Take an exploration game where the players choose their starting equipment (or scavenge it as they go along).  During the game, problems that are potentially outside the scope of the equipment they have; needing to cross a narrow ravine for example.  If the group has an ax, they could just cut down a tree and lay it across.  If they don’t though, the players could combine (and downgrade) their current equipment to make a makeshift bridge:  break apart a tent for the poles, rope and ‘planks’ (out of the fabric).  You don’t have a tent anymore, but you now have rope and poles (with the fabric being too torn up, gamewise).  The potential problem of this is that players may run into a situation that they genuinely have no answer to.  If that occurs, be sure to give them an out (alternate path, can still continue at some penalty, etc).

-Chain Reaction.  A player’s action has an immediate ripple effect with other elements of the game.  Take a dungeon-crawl where the doors are activated by levers.  Pulling one lever sets off the other levers in certain ways (resets them, activates them as well, locks them, etc.) in addition to opening the door in the room.  This creates a logic puzzle where the players must figure out the best order to activate the levers to move from room to room.  This type of puzzle can suffer from two problems:  fiddlyness and ‘dead ends’.  If every time a lever is pulled every other lever is affected in some way, that’s alot of extra stuff to do from one single action.  Board design (such as each lever on a ‘slider’ path to show pulled or not) can mitigate this to some degree, as can the scale of the game.  If it’s just five or six levers, that’s not too bad.  If it is around 15, though, you have a problem.  The ‘dead end’ issue can be a bit trickier if you are building the dungeon randomly as you go.  One way around this is to allow for a reset of the chain reaction components, which may open paths that were previously blocked.  Another way is to allow a ‘force’ for the cost of time or some other resource.

Puzzles are one of those things that are difficult to properly implement in a way that has good replayability.  If done correctly, though, they can take a title over the top.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out this damn finger puzzle…

Keep on designing, yo!


Written by krinklechip

September 14, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Dexterity, 9.9.09

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Dexterity is typically associated with:  a)  sports, b)  video games, c)  being a fan of mass murder and d)  STR & CON.  When it comes to board games, though, dexterity ususally brings to mind games such as Jenga, Barrel of Monkeys, Crokinole and the like.  However, with titles like Cornerstone where elements of strategy are mixed in (building a tower for little doods to climb), we may start seeing more strategy to put our steady hands to.  Things like…

-Skill Shot Randomization.  Players flick a disc along a ‘randomizer’ board to determine various effects.  Take a game where the players are gods and the weather needs to be determined for each round.  You could just make it a card draw, die roll, etc., but why not give the players a chance to play planetary Crokinole?  A disc that represents the Sun is placed on the edge of a modular ‘Weather Board’ and players flick it toward a weather type they may want next round.  A shot that falls off the board counts as the last weather the disc touched before falling off.  This could be applied to just about anything that needed randomization that wouldn’t suffer overmuch from players sort of being able to control the outcome.  Stock price changes?  Check.  Warp Drive malfunction result?  Check.  Combat?  You would be better going with…

-Skill Shot Combat.  Taktika is the game that currently best does this.  Each unit is represented by a disc that must follow different rules to kill an opposing unit.  Infantry must ricochet off another infantry before hitting its target,  archers must get close to their target without touching it and cavalry is all about knocking the opposing piece out of play.  It’s essentially a light wargame meets Crokinole.  What if different weapons were represented by different disc sizes?  Units themselves could be about 3 CM, an arrow may be a disc that is about 2 CM, whereas a catapult payload could be upwards of 5 CM.  And why do the units and such need to be discs?  Sure discs glide fine, but so do cubes, meeples and so forth.  If weapons were represented by cubes, whichever face ends pointing up could confer some sort of effect; extra damage, free move, etc.

-Stacking.  Players build different structures out of cubes and discs on the board for different effects.  For example, building a pyramid out of cubes is reasonably easy and would hav a more nominal effect than say, a hollow tower.  Effects would depend on the game, but could be anything from combat bonuses for towers to more actions for a monolith.

With breakthroughs in concept like Taktika and Cornerstone, game designers should think twice before dismissing dexterity as a mechanic in games.  Now if only my hands weren’t so shaky…

Keep on designing, yo!


Written by krinklechip

September 9, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Design Experiment: Monopoly Without Money, 8.24.09

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Oio, peoples.  About once a week, I’ll post a ‘design experiment’ to further get our gears turning.  I’ll start it off with revisiting the one I posted to Board Game Geek awhile back.  You can visit the thread and see the ideas people had here.
What would Monopoly be without money? How would it work? Would it remain feasible as a concept in some other way, or would all of the required changes change it into something completely new?
Here’s my take…
Money is the driving force of Monopoly. Removing it makes Monopoly a fundamentally different game. Here are some other changes I’d pursue.

-Properties are no longer owned. No money means you couldn’t buy them, anyway.

-While we’re at it, let’s make it a space station instead of Atlantic City, NJ. Spaces represent different areas of the station.

–The board will probably need to shrunk down a bit, too. Combine each set of properties into a single space, remove the ‘Tax’ spaces and change Community Chest and Chance to ‘Security’stations, to a max of one Security Station per quadrant.

–The board should be round, too.

-Movement is no longer by die roll. You may choose which space you are moving to.

-Since it’s a space station and you have no money, the players’ roles are changed to down on their luck crew of a ship.

–The ship is docked, but is in dire need of repair.

–You are trying to get the ship fixed, stocked and disembarked without getting thrown in jail (or worse).

–There are several parts that are needed, some simple and others are hard to come by.

–Since you have no money, you’ll have to scrounge, barter or steal…

-Properties give different actions and parts. Actions range from trading resources, recruiting extra crew (in case someone is arrested/spaced/otherwise indisposed), stealing resources, fixing your ship, etc.

-Stealing starts to attract the attention of security which will start to patrol the station as a press your luck element.

-Potential ‘coopertition’ element if you make it that once the ship is fixed, it can disembark once it has a minimum crew even if the crew is partly met by ‘recruit’ cards while leaving your fellow players behind…

So what do you think?  What changes would you implement?

Keep on designin’ yo!

Written by krinklechip

August 24, 2009 at 5:41 pm

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Mechanic of the Day is back

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Oio, fellow designers.  After a lo-o-ong revision, my rulebook is finished being revised.  That means that the Mechanic of the Day is back.

For those of you who are new to what I do, I take a board game mechanic and break it down into some of the ways it can be used in a board game.  While it may not be every day, I will likely post more than once per week.  Thanks for visiting, and come back again!

Keep on designing, yo!


Written by krinklechip

August 17, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized