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I'm working on a new board game where there's an action (we'll call it Brazening) that only happens every X turns (let's say it happens every 5 turns).

What's a good way to keep track of when it's time for the next Brazening?

The perfect method would:

  • be easy for players to do
  • be hard for players to forget
  • require a minimum of pieces or moving parts
  • not require pencil and paper

There might not be a perfect method.

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7 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

I'm no game designer, so this is just off the top of my head:

I'd try and tie it to a mechanic that already exists in the game and which the players can't avoid, or at least get a obvious (maybe short term) advantage from, so it's unlikely to for them to forget.

Examples:

  • Each player gets 5 cards at the start of the game and must play one each turn. When everyone has no cards left, execute Brazening and everyone draws 5 new cards.

  • A pool of 5 times number of players tokens in it, and at the start of their turn a player must take a token and do something with it. When the pool is empty, it's time to Brazen and then refill the pool.

What kind of actions do the players take in your game? Maybe if you roughly describe the mechanics, we could find a simple may to modify them.

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These are great ideas! Unfortunately, I can't disclose much about the game till it's published, so there won't be much talk of the mechanics yet. –  Joe Jul 24 '12 at 15:17
    
Another along these lines: if there is a scoring phase at the end of each turn, you can tie "increment the brazening counter" into that. –  Monica Cellio Jul 24 '12 at 15:21
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You don't need to disclose the rules. I don't think you would be giving anything away by describing some of the mechanics the games uses. Are there cards? A board with a path? Tiles? Is there a limit to the number of turns (e.g. 6 x 5 turns)? Is there something a player has to do each turn, etc.? –  RoToRa Jul 24 '12 at 15:27
    
There's no limit to the turns, no cards, no path, no required each-turn actions. The board is made up of tiles. –  Joe Jul 24 '12 at 19:21
    
Depending on what the special Brazening state means, the players will need to know whether they are in that state or not at the beginning or end of their turn. When they do this, they advance a counter (or die) one and check the result. If X, reset and it's Brazening time. Else, continue normally. I like RoToRa's pool of tokens version of this as well. These aren't fool-proof, but if the Brazening state is important enough that the players want to know if it's active or not, they will remember more often than not to check (and increment). –  Daniel Richnak Jul 24 '12 at 19:41
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Probably the simplest method would just be to add a turn marker. Have an area on the board with the numbers one through five printed out on it, with an "It's Brazening Time!" highlight around the the number five.

If you're playing a game with a definite number of turns, just print all turn numbers with a highlight around every fifth. If you have an indefinite number of turns, just mark out a five turn cycle, with the turn marker going back to turn one after every Brazening.

This may not be ideal since it can be easy for players to forget to advance a turn marker during the heat of the game, but it's simple to figure out, requires only a single moving part (i.e., the turn marker itself) and is a common enough mechanic in a lot of games. This sort of system can be added to pretty much any game, regardless of mechanic; what it lacks in ideality it makes up for in universal compatibility.

A more ideal system would be to somehow tie it into an existing game mechanic (e.g., the above suggestion works much better if you're already tracking turns because of a definite turn limit). RoToRa gives some good examples of this in his answer, but exactly what will and will not work is very dependant on the mechanics of the game itself.

In your game, it would be well worth looking at any action that must be performed every turn, and find some way to map it to the five-turn cycle.

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As I recall, this is basically the was the BSG game works (they have a count down until the next FTL jump). –  CodeSlave Jul 25 '12 at 14:18
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If you only need the Brazening to happen approximately every X turns, you could simply roll a die at the beginning of every turn with a 1/X chance. For a 1/5 chance, for instance, roll a D10, and if it comes up 1 or 2 then Brazen away!

Whether or not this method is useful would depend completely on the purpose of the Brazening mechanic and the importance of its predictability. If it's necessary for some kind of restocking of important materials (like drawing cards or recovering health), this method probably won't work. On the other hand, if the purpose of the Brazening is to periodically make things more difficult/interesting for your players, or to temporarily modify other mechanics to mix things up, its randomness might be desirable!

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I recently saw a beautiful solution for this problem in the game Ora et Labora. It uses a wheel which you turn after a round is finished. The wheel mechanism updates not only the costs of the available goods, it can also trigger events (here settlement phases). Depending whether you play with 1,2,3,4 players or according to the fast-game or normal-game rules, there will be a unique wheel to keep the game balanced.

If you want to learn more, there is a video that reviews the game.

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Here is a solution for 3 players and more that only needs one object to move and only at Brazening! time so it is unlikely to be forgotten. I think it meets all your requirements and might blend in your game without looking too artificial.

In its basic form the number of turns between Brazening! times depends on the number of player which may, or may not be a good feature, depending on your secret game mechanics.

The idea is that Brazening! happens when the player has the Brazen token during his turn. The Brazen token might be anything but making it substantially big (such as the totem in Jungle Speed) decrease the likelihood of forgetting it. The Brazen token is passed from player to player at each Brazening! time in the opposite sens of the change of turn.

The following drawing explains it for four players marked by numbered circles. The turn direction is indicated in orange and the Brazen token passing direction is in blue. The Brazen token is figured by the blue 'B' and the turn by the orange 'T'. The number of the turn is written in orange in the centre square.

Sequence of turns for four players

Based on this simple mechanic, you can adjust the number of turn between Brazening! times by altering the passing rule.

If Brazening! requires some specific actions to be done, then you can ask the player having the token to do it so the player doing the Brazening! changes every time. It might even been done with the object, thus making it blend smoothly with the game theme.

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This method has a problem: it necessarily varies with the number of players. In the example you gave, the number of turns between Brazening! is n-1 (for n players) and although you might get a different number of turns based on a different passing rule as you mentioned, you can't really detach the mechanic from the number of players. Suppose the game is intended for groups ranging from 2 to 6 players but you want the Brazening! to always happen every 5 turns. You would need to change the rule for different sized groups. –  rahzark Jul 26 '12 at 13:03
    
That is well observed but it is stated in the second paragraph. Either this dependence on the numbber of player is wanted, which depends on what exactely is Brazening!, either the passing rule has to be adapted depeding on the number of player like "pass the token to the second player on your right*. The rule degenerates when there are only 2 players. –  Alfred M. Jul 26 '12 at 13:47
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Use 5 cards (assuming you want to perform the action every 5 turns). Every turn the current play picks a card and puts it at the bottom. If that card shows Brazening than perform the related actions.

Cons:

  • You need to have several blank cards to get to 5 cards.

Pros:

  • Hard to forget because every turn a player has to take the top card so they get part of the turn.
  • When needing more actions later you can write on one of the blank cards (or Brazening card) a new action.
  • You can change the rules easily by adding/removing another card (meaning a different time scheduling for events).
  • You can easily randomize different events if needed.
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You could try a method similar to the dominion method of keeping track of actions; say it out loud! It never fails.

Say how many you have left out loud; this trick works every time (i.e. "I'm playing the Festival and now have two Actions remaining. I play a Market and have two Actions remaining. I play another Festival and now have three Actions remaining….").

Have your players start their turn with "It has been 1 year since the Brazening" and when they say "It has been 5 years since the Brazening" they have to do the brazening action. Remember: this trick works every time

You could add a minor penalty to a player who gets the number wrong to encourage everyone else to pay attention and keep track!

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I've seen it fail more often than succeed at dominion... to the point where almost everyone I see play trees their actions - when you play a village, the two resulting actions are both overlapped off that one village card. –  aramis Jul 24 '12 at 18:05
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@Aramis I guess I should have used the <tongue-in-cheek> tag rather than italics. :( –  Nick Jul 26 '12 at 11:26
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