Odd Idea for Hand Management and Area Control Scoring

Complete District Example
I have this odd idea for a scoring mechanic that combines hand management and area control in which each one is as important as the other for maximizing scores. If you'd like to test this out yourself, download PnP tiles here. Here's the gist:


TILES
There is a supply of randomly shuffled map tiles. Each tile has an arrangement of streets and four types of districts: PARK, MONUMENT, RESIDENTIAL, and BUSINESS. These would be replaced with icons in a real game.


SETUP
Draw a random tile and place it in the center of the board. Each player begins with a hand of two tiles. Hands are kept public, visible to all other players.


PLAY
On your turn, draw a tile into your hand. Then, play a tile from your hand onto the table, adjacent to another tile.

A district is considered complete when it is completely surrounded by continuous street. If a tile completes a district, all players immediately score points in the following manner.


SCORING
Check if you have icons in your hand matching icons in the completed district. Score ([Number of an icon in the district) x [Number of matching icons in a player's hand]) points.

For example, the tile in outlined yellow has just been placed, completing the district outlined in magenta. All players may now score for this complete district. Here's an example of how you would score.
  • The complete district has 4 PARK, you have one PARK in your hand, so you score 4 points. (4x1)
  • The complete district has 5 BUSINESS, you have two BUSINESS in your hand, so you score 10 points. (5x2)
  • The complete district has 1 RESIDENTIAL, you have three RESIDENTIAL in your hand, so you score 3 points. (1x3)
  • The complete district has 3 MONUMENT, you have no MONUMENT in your hand, so you score 0 points.
In total, you score 17 points this turn.


FINDINGS
We playtested this until we went through about half the deck. Score at the time was 76-74 in my favor. I spent much of the game trying to get a hand in which I had at least one of each type of district in my hand, thus scoring a bit when any district was completed. I wasn't always successful, but our scores always stayed suspiciously close.

I fear two cautious players could turtle if they get a pair of complementary four-icon tiles in hand. Scoring would be even every time, too, thus resulting in rather dull play.

I see two courses:
  • Cut hand-size to one tile would reduce the score inflation and cut down on the need for mid-game multiplication. However, that multiplication is probably the one gimmick that makes this more than a standard abstract tile game.
  • Or keep the current hand size and add more one or two more district types. In addition, adjusting the tiles distribution such that it is impossible to have every icon in hand in equal amounts in one hand. I need to guarantee the absence or overabundance of at least one icon. (Preferably both.)

Clearly I lean towards the latter course. We'll see where it ends up!

30 comments:

  1. 3) Work in a "counter-turtling" incentive to play tiles from your hand (or otherwise get them out of there). e.g., Once you score using tiles in your hand, discard those tiles.

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  2. I like this idea, and I also think there should be a bonus for playing the final piece that completes the city block.

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  3. Multiplications tend to break the rythm of the game, and I'm not sure it's making the game less abstract. Maybe a bit of majority would make gaps in the scores : "When a district is complete, the player who has the more symbol of that kind in his hand wins the points (=number of concerned symbol in the district). If even, then no player does."

    And a fifth symbol in the game would be cool, I think.;)

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  4. That's a very elegant solution, Fred! I'll definitely use that. It also helps the game scoot along a little faster than the playtest was allowing.

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  5. As a means of keeping scores below 100, I was thinking about this other idea:

    Whena district is complete, score points as shown above. Then you get a
    Victory Chip for every five points scored this turn. Victory points
    determine the winner. In this way, you don't have to keep track of big numbers across every turn.

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  6. Any thoughts on a fifth symbol?

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  7. Not a fan. That's essentially saying "do multiplication, addition, AND division each turn". Keeping track of 'big numbers' isn't that much of a problem IMO. Any amount of keeping track is going to need a tracker of some sort -- consider the board games that have the "0 to 99" track that rings the board, with the meeples moving along and keeping track, etc.

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  8. What happens if you go in an opposite direction, here -- instead of counting up the number much smaller, and wouldn't require multiplication, but would still make the goal of "keeping symbol diversity in hand" important.


    That also presents an interesting choice: I've got an intersection that represents 3 or 4 symbols in my hand. A district just completed that matches two of those symbols. Two ways to go with the scoring there -- one, is that I could discard that intersection to score off one of the matches, or I could discard it to score off both, depending on how you define the rules. I personally think that the "you can only score off one of the symbols in the discarded tile" method adds a little more strategic thinking, while keeping multi-symbol tiles from being SUPER powerful, instead allowing them to be merely flexible. More options without more math/score-potency.

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  9. I have no idea why Disqus decided to put my second reply above my first. :P

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  10. Not sure if I understood the first sentence correctly, but if I do, you mean something like this?


    In the example above, you could choose to score only one icon in that turn, which would logically be Business, since it's worth the most points.

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  11. I don't see a "this", so I'll just write this out:

    The completed district above has 5 Business, 4 Park, 3 Monument, and 1 Residential.

    In my hand I have 3 tiles (right?):

    Tile A: Business/Business/Park

    Tile B: Residential

    Tile C: Monument/Residential

    To score on the completed district, I:

    * Discard tile A, selecting the "business" icon on it in order to score for Business. 5 points.

    * Discard tile C, selecting "monument", to score 3 points.

    * Discard tile B, which is nothing but Residential, so I score 1 point. I could choose to reserve tile B, tho, since that's a small gain -- maybe better to wait until a high-Residential value district completes.

    I come out of the turn scoring 8 or 9 points (depending on my "B" tile decision). Importantly, I didn't score for all the icons on each tile I discarded, just the one I selected. And this was pure match-and-addition in terms of its operations. No multiply, no divide.


    (Further, I probably can't score for the same icon type twice per district -- i.e., I couldn't discard two separate Business tiles and score 10 points off this district -- tho that might be worth playtesting, as it'd interestingly create an impetus to hoard the icons that are most plentiful in a district that's not yet completed.)

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  12. Have you seen the clever "hit 10" mechanic from Sunrise City?

    Skip to 2:22 in the video here. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/clevermojogames/sunrise-city

    It's a clever way of keeping scores low in a high-point generating engine.

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  13. Without looking at it, is that essentially just "drop the ones digit, score the rest"? That had occurred to me. I'm just not sure it makes sense in a game where folks might (under your original scoring paradigm) often have only one icon in their hand and districts often shy of containing 10 of one icon in them.

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  14. Aaaaah. I understand now. Much simpler. Hm! Definitely worth considering.

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  15. Close. If you lap the track, you score one chip. If you hit the 10-space by exact count, you score two chips. This makes the game more than a race for points. It makes you consider the timing of your placement, too.

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  16. Ah, yeah. That's cute.

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  17. I thought so, too. I've been looking for a reason to hack it for my own purposes.

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  18. Discard for scoring - it should create nice dilemmas, I like it !
    Maybe another thing could be good : the player who close the district chooses first wich type of symbol he scores, and no other player can score this one. After him, each player can score a different type of symbol - if they have a card matching (and if they discard), of course. Another way to prevent scores to be too close.

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  19. Oh that is lovely. I like it!

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  20. Here's a few thoughts:

    I'm going to prioritize sluffing off cards with only one or two symbols on them, as they aren't very valuable to hold in my hand.

    Unless we have a situation where the "full tile" verson of the park is worth 4 parks, in which case I might hold onto it in order to get the multiplication bonus.

    I'm much more likely to keep the cards in my hand with 4 symbols, until I can tactically strike and get a good score.

    Also, there aren't seemingly any rules regarding what may be played next to what. I can play a park next to a monument or a business or residential.

    Perhaps a rule that states at least ONE side on the newly placed tile has to match an existing tile's "type".

    This would add interest and strategy to the placement mechanic, as well as a potential "screw your neighbor" aspect to the play as a result of clever placement of tiles to prevent opponents completing structures.

    Also, perhaps some sort of incentive for completing areas? Perhaps an extra turn or something (a la lines and boxes), but no cascade... you can only earn a total of one extra turn.

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  21. I like the idea of scoring 4 pts.per tile with 1 per quarter region with your multiplication scoring system. it makes things more dynamic.



    Perhaps also add another type of play - rotating an existing tile if it is not part of an existing district? This creates a tension between having 2 tiles to score with when you rotate vs. a larger district.


    Also, how about only having the player who "closes" the district scores?


    Hidden hands and you sacrifice the cards that you score with for multipliers?

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  22. If you are looking for refences to past games that are similar, you can try Agora by Cheapass Games, and Quads by Gigamic.

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  23. I'm a big fan of Agora. The diagonal layout is definitely inspired by that game. That and Carcassonne!

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  24. I would go government or industrial for a fifth type.

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  25. You could avoid multiplication by having each card of a scoring type score +5 points, so two cards of the same scoring type would score +10.


    You could also mix up the scoring by having different tiles of the same type having a different point value. It would slow down scoring a section a bit, but it could make play a little more strategic.


    One thing that I don't understand. You start with two cards, then every turn you draw one and play one. So your normal hand size is two cards. Your scoring example has three residential, how is that possible?

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  26. Some of the tiles have two of the same type separated by a road. See the tile right above the tile highlighted in yellow? It has two monuments.

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  27. Those last two points are things I'm strongly considering for any further development. Hidden information is great for reducing AP. Discarding tiles to score is a nice way to add some dynamism and speed up play.

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  28. I could easily see expanding this game with some special tiles that offered benefits to completing neighboring districts. For example, "If you complete a district neighboring the fountain, you can take an extra turn."

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  29. As described, this has the "draw at the start of your turn" that bugs me about Carcassonne. I much prefer the game play acceleration that happens when you draw your tile at the end of turn - this lets you plan your turn more accurately, as there's one less unknown that happens before you can act. Drawing at the end of turn also helps break the turtle strategy ;-)

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  30. Indeed, I'm a planner, too. If I do go this route, I'd change the
    scoring mechanism as Fred Hicks has described so that having three tiles
    in hand isn't an advantage.

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Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.