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I am designing a game in which players add tiles to the board (similar to Carcassone) in order to create sequences of symbols (which are on the tiles) - they are then used for playing cards.

This mechanism works nice, but the problem is, that the first few rounds - there are just not enough tiles (and symbols) on the board so players can only place a tile and pass the turn because they are unable to play any card.

Midgame is fine and at the end of every round, there are enough symbols on the board to play almost any card you have in your hand... which is not what I was hoping for when designing the game.

Do you have any idea for a mechanism, that would eliminate this "slow" start and too "easy" end of every round? I was thinking about dealing some tiles on the board in the beginning at random and limiting the total numbers of tiles avaliable, but I am not sure if this wouldnt spoil the game...

I havent found any boardgames which uses this exact kind of mechanism (paying for cards with sequences of placed tiles) so I am trying to come up with something that would balance the gameplay.

Thanks for any tips (I can provide some additional info if needed)!

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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I was thinking about dealing some tiles on the board in the beginning at random and limiting the total numbers of tiles available

You need to try it and see. It's the most natural solution, and that's what playtesting is for. If it turns out not to be fun, you can always bail midgame.

Other suggestions:

  • Are all the symbols the same rarity? If some are associated with more "basic" or introductory actions, you could choose a few specific starter tiles that contain only those symbols and start the round with those in play.
  • You could include cards that can be played for a reduced effect without the appropriate matching symbols. This would encourage players to match the symbols, but give them something to do early on while the board develops.
  • As midgame passes, perhaps players move to replacing existing tiles rather than placing entirely new ones. This would keep the board from becoming too full of options while not cutting the round short.
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First, I'd make sure this is a real problem. The beginning game of "play a tile" should be really quick, so it may not be as big of a deal as you think it is. I'm thinking of some of the "flip a tile" games for exploration, where it's an obvious move, and those plays go by quickly.

I like sitnaltax's idea of limiting the board to a fixed number of tiles. This would encourage strategy of limiting other player's actions and duplicating symbols on the board (or having some cards require multiple of the same symbol for an enhanced effect).

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I would recommend having a starting block. This could be a 4/4 printed board with some of the symbols on it. Players could then add their tiles to this block.

You could also draw some tiles randomly and build this block. It may be less balanced, but a random starting condition often makes games better. You could even have a suggested starting block for beginners printed in the rules.

What I would be concerned about in this case is 1st player advantage. They would have an easy time attaching to a random block first and taking full advantage of it. In a way I like your game's start where going 1st has a disadvantage until you take your second turn

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There actually is a starting board with beginnings of the sequences (there are 4 beginnings).. I shoulw have mentioned that in my post... –  Smajl Jul 31 '13 at 9:06

Other answers have come up with good points. It's hard to say whether this is really a problem without seeing the rest of the game and how it plays. I think a "slower" early start is almost certainly not a bad thing. It's too easy decision-making in late game that most likely needs addressing.

Here's my contribution:

  • You haven't said how players get cards in hand in the first place. If players are unable to play cards at the start, maybe don't give them many to start? Or conversely, perhaps you want these cards played and you need to give them more to start for more play possibilities, and have them not fill up as fast as game progresses in order to limit options. There's lots of randomness vs. strategy dials to tweak there.
  • If decisions become too easy later, perhaps you need to add some "hoser" cards of some kind, where symbol tiles are changed or removed.
  • Although your description is vague, perhaps late game is easy because your symbol constraints are too easy. Are symbols evenly distributed or are there more rare ones? Perhaps a card could only be played if two of a particular symbol touch? Or three? You could have common cards with easy constraints, and rarer cards with harder constraints/rarer symbols.
  • You said you were hoping for there not to be every symbol

These decisions will surely need lots of playtesting to see where the "most fun" mix of randomness, strategy, and pace of game intersect.

One final point:

Midgame is fine and at the end of every round, there are enough symbols on the board to play almost any card you have in your hand... which is not what I was hoping for when designing the game.

An easy solution used in many board and card games is to set aside a randomly selected pool of unrevealed "dead" tiles at the start of the game. (I'm presuming the tiles, as in Carcassonne, are hidden and selected randomly as the game progresses.) This limits the number of symbols available, and the knowledge of which cards in hand are now harder to play is unknown to the players. It also improves replayability since each game has a different pool of tiles.

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