Monday, April 19, 2010

Predictably random

I have been mulling over some basic mechanics in FMB trying to figure out if the ways in which I am generating random results are optimal.  The randomness in the game until today was of 3 varieties:

1.  Dice roll.  Just like most classic wargames each player would roll a six sided die (d6) to resolve attacks.  This has the advantages of being quick and easy but the disadvantage that one person can fairly easily miss several key rolls over the course of the game and lose despite outplaying their opponent.

2.  Drawing spells and artifacts.  This is a simple draw from a deck of cards with many possible results.  Unlike the d6 I can actually balance each draw so players have the chance to use any draw to their advantage.

3.  Going first or second.  In many games going first is just flat out better.  I hate that system so I arranged a bidding system where players can try to figure out the value of playing first and bid accordingly.

I talked about this in an earlier post where I was trying to decide between two game systems.  I concluded that I like having random 'rolling' in the game but I have recently concluded that the amount of randomness was just a little too high for my tastes.

Awhile ago I saw a similar sort of debate surrounding the board game Settlers of Catan.  The dice rolling in that game really made it pretty random once everyone was playing reasonably and the difference between 'good play' and 'consummate professional' was extremely small.  The solution was to create a deck of 36 cards that simulates rolling 2 dice (2d6) to dramatically decrease but not eliminate the luck factor.  I have been plugging away at this idea for FMB to see if it could be used effectively.

Today I set it up so to resolve an attack you draw from a deck of 6 cards.  The cards are marked -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3 which corresponds to a d6 with a slightly different and more intuitive resolution system.  As soon as you draw the last card you reshuffle the deck.  This creates some interesting situations where you know what the result of your next attack will be when the deck is almost depleted and can work around that.  It adds an additional level of complexity to the game for advanced players but newer players can still basically ignore it and play the game quite reasonably.

This also allows all kinds of other interesting mechanics.  I have cards that remove the +3 from your opponent's deck, cards that remove the -2 from your own deck and cards that let you look at the top few cards of your deck.

The downside of course is that now you have to shuffle a small deck of cards fairly regularly.  I think that tradeoff is worth it though.  It may well be worth me having the cards and rules support both versions of the game - dice rolling as part of the base game and the card stack as part of the advanced game.

Someday I hope to be actually done iterating on my design.  I still have plenty of perfectionist left in me though and the game isn't *quite* to Beautiful Game status yet.  Soon!


  1. Just curious, do you plan on publishing this game once you are done designing it?

  2. That is a very good question. I plan on publishing the rules, the components and everything someone would need to build a set themselves for sure. Honestly building board games is not a way to get rich, it is mostly a way to get poor. I would love for people to play my game though even if I got nothing monetarily in return.

    I plan to investigate production more thoroughly at some point but from what I have found so far it looks like the costs don't support the potential return. I suspect I would be publishing it purely for personal satisfaction and just hoping to recoup my costs with nothing for my time.

    That doesn't mean I won't do it of course, I would be absolutely thrilled if I could produce a hundred copies of FMB and net nothing at all. This, by the way, is the reason making money in games is so hard. There are a lot of people willing to do the work for no pay, so actually getting paid is tricky!

  3. Well, you could also just sell the game to some gaming company or something, you never know.

    I'd be interested in learning how this works.