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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Monday, February 20, 2012

Game Design, Some First Hand Experiences - It Really Is Hard Guys, Part 2

We have awesome birds in Australia! And I've worked with them up close now! But note, no sympathy for an idiot. Electric Fence should have said that.

In my previous article, I looked at the example of Rock, Scissors, Paper in relation to a working example of games design and balance, extrapolating the idea to 3 separate weapon attributes - Rending, Stun and Preventable. We saw that once we started to mix and match the attributes that things became increasingly complex and time consuming to contemplate/balance. Corners would need to be cut if we were to advance the system in the foreseeable future. This article continues on from where we left off and expands on possible avenues that a games designer might explore post a play testing session.

In our working example, let's say that during play testing we found that Preventable damage was weaker then Stun or Rending and that Rending was more powerful than the other two attributes. This was brought on from the mechanics of the game and how it played out for us in relation to equipment and core rules. So this is where we go back to the drawing board and try to balance the cost of these attributes when used in combinations. To recap, our combinations and values assigned were:

1) Rending (R) {1pt};
2) Stun (S) {1pt};
3) Preventable (P) {1pt};
4) Rending + Stun (R>S) {2pts};
5) Rending + Preventable (P>R) {2pts};
6)Preventable + Stun (S>P) {2pts};
7) Rending + Stun + Preventable (R>S>P>R) {3pts};
8) No Attributes (N/A) {0pts}.

But instead of a R/S/P = 1/1/1 points system, we now get Rending = 3, Stun = 2 and Preventable = 1, with No Attributes = 0 (Rending is the most powerful, Stun is the second most powerful and Preventable is the least powerful). This radically changes our previous perception that Rending > Stun > Preventable > Rending, to Rending > Stun > Preventable > Nothing = 3/2/1/0. This then gets us new values for our combinations as follows:

1) Rending (R) {3pt};
2) Stun (S) {2pt};
3) Preventable (P) {1pt};
4) Rending + Stun (R>S) {5pts};
5) Rending + Preventable (P>R) {4pts};
6)Preventable + Stun (S>P) {3pts};
7) Rending + Stun + Preventable (R>S>P>R) {6pts};
8) No Attributes (N/A) {0pts}.

Following on from this, we find that we can get back to 4 groups of values of attributes, one that is very powerful or very weak, one that is equally powerful yet average in output, and two that are powerful and below average.

Group 1 - Average)
1) Rending (R) {3pt}; PLUS 6)Preventable + Stun (S>P) {3pts} = 6 points Total.

Group 2 - More Than/Less Than Average)
2) Stun (S) {2pt}; PLUS 5) Rending + Preventable (P>R) {4pts} = 6 points Total.

Group 3 - Powerful and Weak)
3) Preventable (P) {1pt} PLUS 4) Rending + Stun (R>S) {5pts} = 6 points Total.

Group 4 - Most Powerful and Weakest)
7) Rending + Stun + Preventable (R>S>P>R) {6pts} PLUS 8) No Attributes (N/A) {0pts} = 6 points Total.

This grouping of attributes then allows us to do several things. The first is to see firsthand where each of the differing types of weapons stand in relation to each other, and also allows us to potentially assign differing classes/level of unit to these weapons. Let us say that hypothetically speaking, this games system is made up of several units and each unit is assigned 6 members (A Leader and 5 Grunts - Oh hello Warmachine/Hordes!). Ignoring any other equipment/special rules (we aren't testing those currently here) we have 4 different yet balanced options for paired weapons that the group can take. As each of the four Groups are balanced to the same points total we can assign these weapons to each Member of a Unit in those grouped pairs or in such a way that a grouped pair of weapons is split between two models. To progress this into two equally balanced factions we will start with an introductory skirmish level game and take just two units (and thus 1 unit per faction) and split each of up to 3 Groups of Weapons between the Units. The weapon groups are balanced so the Units (assuming they each have the same characteristic attributes in their mirror members {Leaders = Leaders; Grunts = Grunts}) will be balanced for play.

E.g. Faction One = 18 points

LEADER equipped with Most powerful Weapon (Group 4)
GRUNT equipped with Powerful Weapon (Group 3)
GRUNT equipped with More Than Average Weapon (Group 2)
GRUNT equipped with Less Than Average Weapon (Group 2)
GRUNT equipped with Weak Weapon (Group 3)
GRUNT equipped with Weakest Weapon (Group 4)


Faction Two = 18 points

LEADER equipped with Powerful Weapon (Group 3)
GRUNT equipped with Weak Weapon (Group 3)
GRUNT equipped with Average Weapon (Group 1)
GRUNT equipped with Average Weapon (Group 1)
GRUNT equipped with Average Weapon (Group 1)
GRUNT equipped with Average Weapon (Group 1)

We can see that Faction One is more about going to extremes, they have a lot of specialists in their ranks with more powerful weaponry, but they also have a lot of rookies who aren't trusted with the more powerful weapons. Faction Two on the other hand, doesn't like taking as many chances, is more militarily minded and trains all their troops well. Faction Two is a reliable faction, nothing too out of the box and is more friendly then the far less forgiving Faction One. One is a beginners faction, the other is more suited to an experienced player of this system. Both sides are balanced equally.

And this is the cool thing about these first two article sections that we've never seen on before - We've suddenly got the absolute bare basis for a new tabletop skirmish or war game which so far is balanced. It doesn't have the rules for the above weapon attributes though it does have the balancing guidelines, nor does it have the turn structure (is there a formal turn structure at all?) in place or the other game mechanics or even the Unit/Member of a Units' characteristic attributes yet, but it is a start, and that is cool.

I'm going to sign off on this point as the next part gets messy and is a good reason why games design and Balancing is not easy. Till then, have a great day.

Auretious "Watch Tower" Taak.

P.S. If you haven't had a look yet, check out to see what's new with the company and what's coming out soon (keep your eyes out for the first board game to be launched later this year, it plays quite well).

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