5/23/2014

Published on 5/23/2014 Written by 3 comments

Game Mechanics Part 3

Today's post is about a mechanic I really enjoy: Simultaneous Action Selection.  You know, I'm not quite sure why I just capitalized that...  Anyway, there are a bunch of games that use this mechanic, but I'll stick to just 2 as examples, and the slightly different strategies they evoke.
B-Wing movement options
The wheels when assembled
The first is a game I've talked about before; Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game.  You can read about the basic premise here.  Today I'll focus specifically on the movement and initiative portion of the game.  Each pilot / ship has an initiative number.  The lower initiative moves first, but shoots last. This is something really important to keep in mind as the main point of the game is to get other ships in range within your firing arc, or to get out of range or firing arc of the enemy (typical dog-fight tactics).  The way movement works in this game is that all players lock in their chosen movement for each of their ships secretly.  Once all are set, they are all revealed at the same time, and then movement commences in the ascending order of initiative.  Movements are chosen on clever 2-layer cardboard wheels, and each type of ship may have different movements available based on the performance of their ship.
As the initiative order never changes, the strategy remains fairly constant throughout the game; shoot as much as you can, try not to get shot at. Within this strategy is the need to anticipate what moves the other player will make and choose your own accordingly.  If this were a turn based game, the higher initiative ships would have a huge advantage and game play would be very unbalanced, but as a simultaneous action, it works beautifully.

The second game has more than one instance of simultaneous action.  A Game of Thrones, the board game uses this mechanic often. The main use is in the "set orders" phase of each round.  Players all assign orders: March (attack), defend, raid, support, or consolidate power, one order to each force or
"Are you done yet?"
army they have.  These are placed face-down on the board, and all revealed at the same time.  There are so many possibilities of what you can and will do, and you must try to anticipate what the other players will do.  Do they have enough strength to beat you if you attack them?  Will they get support from another player?  Can I consolidate my power safely and have a stronger position later? The depth of strategy in this phase of each round is daunting, but also a big part of what makes the game so enjoyable.  Due to the sheer amount of calculation needed, I have found it beneficial to set a time limit for each round, usually around 5 minutes.


Everyone clear on what they are doing? Good!

What is beautiful about this mechanic is that it simulates real battles where the generals don't know what the opposing forces will do, and must make their decisions ahead of time.  As in real life, once you see what your opponent plans on the battle field, it is usually too late to  change your tactics.

The other place the mechanic is used is in bidding.  First is bidding for the "tracks".  There are 3 tracks of influence in Westeros: 1) The Iron Throne.  Whoever controls this resolves their actions first, and breaks ties in many situations. 2) The Valaryan Blade. Whoever controls this has an extra point in 1 combat per turn, and always wins combat ties. 3) The Messenger Raven.  This person gets to change 1 order after they have been revealed each round, and also has a larger selection of orders to choose from. 

"I'll pay $50 for one!"
Occasionally players are called to use some of the power they have collected using the "consolidate power" order to bid on these tracks, in the form of a secret bid.  All players must announce how much power they have available before the first of the 3 bids.  After that, each puts the amount they want to bid in to a closed hand, and all are revealed at the same time, and this is done for each track.  Because the Throne can change hands, the order of play changes.  This relates back to the first part of placing orders.  Often if you move first you can be more aggressive in your attacks as the other player won't be able to reinforce.  Or if you move last, you can walk in to somewhere another player has left weakened after they have made their own moves.  So being able to change which advantages you have can then change the rest of your play throughout the game.

I need some feedback.  Are you enjoying my game mechanics posts?  Want to give me suggestions of games using Simultaneous Action I should give a try?  Let me know in the comments!






3 comments:

  1. I like 'em. I get to game vicariously through you.

    But 5 minutes for the AGOT order phase? Pussy.

    Another cool simultaneous action is from the old Battletech game. You used initiative order to move into position, but everyone fired at the same time. Postitioning was key - sounds very similar to X-Wing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After our games with you and Dave took 2 to 3 hours... yeah 5 minutes per phase sounds good to me. ;)

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    2. As my first ever response, I'd just like to point out how fun/frustrating spontaneous random order allocation went.

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