Thursday, 12 March 2015

Titanomachia: Randomness (Part 2)

Previously I mentioned the bane of combinatorial games: The ko-position, whereby the players get stuck in an indefinite loop. One way out of these things is some random pathing, so that players aren't guaranteed to loop as the path is randomly chosen rather than optimized. Many players resent the notion that they may be 'forced' into a non-optimal situation.

So I had a few thoughts about the shape of the board, and how it can be used to provide a kind of random element to the game. One way of doing this is by letting the players populate the board. This could be done two ways:

  1. Placing a position marker in a square requires a terrain marker to be placed in that square, if it isn't already.
  2. Allow players to replace target markers with terrain markers, if the square isn't already occupied. In other words, allow players to fix terrain on parts of the board.  

For example, if Player A places a position marker in a square, then Player B can place a terrain marker in that square as well. This means that players can oppose each other's movement, literally using the terrain against each other. To continue the example, suppose that Player A sees where Player B has placed blast markers in Player A's path of movement. Player A could try to change direction, for example, and find her Titan mired in high Difficulty terrain. It also means that Titans like Warhounds can put points into terrain to help them avoid this fate, and to foul larger Titans. It might also be an idea to turn Interference from a penalty to target markers to a bonus to System armour: Interference being positive for targets, and Difficulty negative for changing position.

These two ways allow players to develop the board as the game progresses, and gives them more to do than just trade shots, dodge, and try to outflank each other. And it makes those things more interesting, I think.

So on one hand players have to cope with managing their Titans, and also develop a favourable board using their terrain markers. I mentioned in the previous article about using the 10x10 board to help track game states, and I feel like it's probably time to discuss Objectives in more detail.

In terms of parameters, I feel like there are several ways that objectives can go in Titanomachia. One is the basic "Destroy X" objective where the players have to destroy either the enemy Titan, or some System on the enemy Titan, or perhaps a terrain marker. There's also objectives like "Be on a certain square of the board by round X," and "exit the board on the opposite board edge by round," and the interesting notion of "score Y points for reaching a certain square on the board."

I feel like the game needs to have some sort of time crunch, but without the problems that result from a definite game-length. I did something similar with rounds, preventing people from letting their opponent exhaust their actions by giving the initiative, the first turn in any round, to the player that didn't pass on their last turn. I'm not really a fan of games that end upon achieving a certain score, but I had an interesting discussion with a friend about the difference between Aggro and Control in Hearthstone the other night, to differentiate between trying to finish the game quickly, and trying to drag it out. There is also the point that where Titans can be destroyed, the game should end where one player can no longer continue.

On this latter point, there's an interesting case to be made for players allowing their Titan to be destroyed if it means that the game ends with their opponent behind on points. Pyrrhic victories, after all, are technically still victories, and the context of each duel is the greater Engine War of the Titans themselves. Yay fluff justification in game design!

More formerly, there's something to be said for ongoing scoring, in that it gets people into the action when otherwise the dominant strategy is to let the other guy hang himself.

Having terrain markers be objectives is tricky, because players can decide to fill up the board with terrain markers that aren't pre-designated objectives, and otherwise deciding whether a terrain marker is an objective is tricky. But back to the notion of using the board's 10x10 to determine game states. my notion is that one player gets the X-axis and the other gets the Y-axis (the notion being that the Titans start in opposing corners). Each turn the player also moves a turn-tracker advances one square along the axis until it reaches the opposite side of the board, and then it changes direction.

Notice that while rounds are broken down into player turns, there's no set number of turns per round. It's a variable depending on how the players want to spend the action points defined by their Crew's Skill and Stamina (or the total number of action points and their ability to renew action points next round). In addition, since the player with the initiative goes first in the next round, having been the last player to pass in the previous round, the turn-trackers should move at a brisk pace.

The row and column of these trackers will intersect at different times on the board. And that's about where my train of thought leaves off. Still, it bears investigation.

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