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What makes a good board game?

Discussion in 'Civ6 - General Discussions' started by ezzlar, Oct 8, 2020.

  1. ezzlar

    ezzlar Emperor

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    There is an interesting article in The Economist about the resurgence of board games and more specifically what makes a good board game. One of the most popular board games is Monopoly despite badly constructed game mechanics (about halfway through the article). I think there are some things Civ could learn from the observations:

    https://www.economist.com/1843/2017/12/13/table-top-generals

    "One of Monopoly’s big mistakes is positive feedback, designer-speak for a mechanism by which a small advantage early on snowballs into a big, insurmountable one later in the game, which makes things boring for the other players. Modern designers tend to prefer negative feedback, in which life gets harder for those doing well. Sometimes that is enforced by explicit penalties. Sometimes it emerges by itself, or through political dealing by other players. Conquering too many planets in a game of Twilight Imperium may make it hard to defend existing territory, for instance, especially if other players decide to gang up on the leader. That helps to keep things interesting for everyone."

    To me this is clearly where the biggest flaw in Civ lies. Once your "Civ capital" becomes large enough the snowballing effect causes the AI to never catch up. The game can be decided in the Renaissance and becomes a click for next turn experience.

    "Another problem is that Monopoly has a large element of luck (movement is controlled by rolling dice) and limited strategic depth. Some properties simply offer a better return on investment than others: buying them is always a good idea. Better to offer players less obvious, more thought-provoking choices: advantages that come with significant trade-offs, for instance, or whose usefulness varies depending on what is happening in the rest of the game. Hidden information opens up the potential for bluffing and misdirection. "

    Civ doesn´t rely too much on luck, which is good. However, advantages seldom comes with significant trade-offs. Not government wise and not civ selection wise (I find Mali one of the most interesting civs to play in this regard). There are no hidden motives either (that really matter). The few ways of winning are obvious all the time.

    Much discussion on this board concerns the AI:s ability to wage war. By some, hopefully, simple mechanic adjustments the AI:s performance would matter less. Emergencies is one such try.

    Two steps in right direction is congress where many civs wield considerable power compared to one civs in the form of increasing voting cost. The other step is the slightly harder to get Golden Age if you just had one. These penalties are however small and usually don´t matter if you have surpassed the AI already.

    And lastly, some people are negative towards any rubberbanding effects. I usually see some connection there with people who struggle to win the game and fail to capitalise on the snowballing effect.
     
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  2. hhhhhh

    hhhhhh Prince

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    I think that's mostly Civ VI only. Civ V late game, after ideology, AI can kill you, either by military or by influence (so your happiness tank and everything develop super slowly). And I've heard people said in Civ IV AI can annihilate you. Nowadays people only use AI as a gold dispenser so you win faster and faster.
     
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  3. Victoria

    Victoria Regina Supporter

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    I struggle to think of VI as a board game.
    I enjoy it but rarely finish it, its rules and mechanics are both complex and unexplained, when it is played by MP it is often at a brutal level.
    When I think of my hot seat games, they do not feel like board games, more like a hunt we all go on together.
    All 3 of my children say that while phones exist board games will never ascend so I wonder if the article is a line filler based on some trendy pubs they visited. Board games have never left the tea houses etc of the world where people meet, of should I say met?
    I was a big board gamer, and my main friends often used games as a context to meet. Nowaday one of them persist in playing weekly an all day board game which is a stress to their family. They admit that it feels a litte dated but is a fond memory they like to relive.
    I always loved the words board game, so close to the truthful spelling.
     
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  4. FinalDoomsday

    FinalDoomsday Prince

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    I think trying to mold Civ into a board game has been a mistake one of the reasons for that is your AI opponents don't make good rivals. They dont really try to win and they are programmed to make decisions due to roleplay which is at odds with the board game design.

    Jacking up the difficulty won't make them any smarter or more competitive its just more likely they will stumble into a victory. It's like a board game where your opponents start with a lot more funds/territory/whatever but then just make random desicions and bumble about but theres still the threat they might just accidentily achieve a victory before you have a chance to catch up.
     
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  5. Chefofrats

    Chefofrats Prince

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    Firaxis tried it with the Maya and it really did not turn out great, at least in my opinion. The extra yeilds in the core cities are cool, but all the other cities being gimped is really not fun from my perspective as a player. Same with the lack of fresh water from rivers and getting more housing from improvements you have to build later - in theory it's good not having to rely on fresh water sources, especially with Mayan specific requirements for city placement, but before you surround your cities with farms and plantations, your cities are stunted, which - again - is not particularly fun. Can't say I'm a big fan of the trade-off thing.

    Perhaps it could work as yet another game mode?
     
  6. criZp

    criZp Emperor

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    Opportunity cost is a trade-off, so you don't really need other trade-offs on top of that.

    And it's basic psychology that people think more about negatives than positives, so that adding trade-offs to a choice makes it feel worse than it actually is from a logical perspective.
     
  7. criZp

    criZp Emperor

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    I don't think civ should try to be a board game either, I want the game to have a grander feeling and role play that I'm actually leading a state, and trying to make it feel like a board game is to go in the opposite direction. I mean, if people want a civ board game then surely they can just make one that is actually a board game?
     
  8. civac

    civac Warlord

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    This. Negatives can make a civ more interesting or more unique sometimes. (Though FXS should better be careful with them.) From a balance perpective they are not needed.
     
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  9. ezzlar

    ezzlar Emperor

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    Now, learning something from successful board games is not the same thing as turning the computer game into a board game which somebody suggested early in the thread. The lessons could be applied even if we are talking about different types of games.

    I don´t really buy that. Both Mali and Maya and the dark age policies affects the game more than all the +something bonuses. This is of course my opinion but to me the game feels bland when everything is just different levels of positive.

    Sure, Maya didn´t turn out great but their boon, net of the downsides, really is weak compared to other civs.
     
  10. criZp

    criZp Emperor

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    Negative bonuses can work to push you in a more specific direction, but requires that the positive bonuses are much bigger. Like that gov building that boosts housing and amenities in your core cities. Also gives -2 loyalty in other cities, that lasts all game long and can't be undone. Not fun. Mali has a reduced production, but a much more increased gold purchasing power that makes up for it in plenty.
     
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  11. civac

    civac Warlord

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    You don't have to introduce negatives to make strong distinctions. Just make the positives really strong.
     
  12. UWHabs

    UWHabs Deity

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    I think civ tries sometimes, but it often fails. Funny this came up here, since I remember reading someone post a page from Sid Meier's book on twitter yesterday talking about similar stuff - basically in an open-world game, you don't want your action to be meaningless. It's fine in Mario to finish a level, and then get the "the princess was in another castle". But I wouldn't want to invade a neighbour and then have the game give back those cities and tell me I had to invade someone else, or something like that. Also read an article this morning on Fangraphs talking about what it might look like to apply "Mario Kart" thinking to baseball - ie. if you're up, you give the other team 4 outs, in order to make the game more competitive.

    And overall, I do think you need that a little bit, but only a little bit. I like how emergencies give a chance to kind of turn the tables on an aggressor, however, the flaw with them are that they often seem to come too late. Like in my last game, I had an emergency called against me, but I was already steamrolling the AI and there really was nothing they could do. So overall, I actually wanted the emergency to pass, since I know I was going to very easily win it. Now, if the emergency had a mechanism which actually made it a lot tougher, then that would certainly be more curious. In that event, it might actually matter how much diplo favor I had.

    Or with golden ages, the problem now is that you can easily snowball them. Sure, in the classic mode, there's a bigger chance to go golden age -> dark age, but dark ages aren't too damaging. And I think a big problem is that too much to do with golden ages almost feels backwards - like, once you start snowballing, it's so easy to rack up promotions and science and all those little things that are giving you era score, that it's easier to chain them together. There's no real penalty. They probably should have a penalty. Like, maybe there should be something where if you're in a golden age, but your civ's amenities fall too much (ie. from warmongering), then you immediately flip to a dark age, or it prevents you from a future golden age. Or if it was something like "while in a golden age, your empire's negative amenities get added up into a bucket, and the threshold for the next one will increase in ratio". So basically if you're in a golden age but your citizens aren't happy, then you can fall. Although obviously, as to the first point I mentioned at the top, it should only kick in if there's something you can actually do about it. You don't want to always fall, since that's not fun. But it would be nice at times if there was a threat of failure.

    Of course, that being said, I still play the game, and I don't particularly want one game of mine to take months to play to grind out the win, so it's not all bad. But I do wish that sometimes things were a little more like the original colonization game - basically you build up for a long time, and then you hit the button to declare independence, and then you have a final flurry of activity to finish off the game. So most of the game is essentially about building everything up for that final confrontation, so even if you have built up enough to know that you've obviously won the game, at least that final push is a slightly different challenge, so you don't get the same level of monotony as in civ you get when you know "well, I've got 4 more AI to clean up. Better let my tanks roll over their musketmen quicker here."
     
  13. kryat

    kryat King

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    I think that Civ VI largely succeeds at being a board, but could be improved slightly.

    The luck factor is most strongly emphasized in the map generation. Some days you start next to spice and a natural wonder, some days you get all grassland and desert. It also mostly succeeds at being a largely asymmetric game, where everyone is similar, but not exactly the same. It matters who you play as.

    Mechanically, it also has some interesting things going for it, most noticeably in the adjacency and loyalty puzzles. I think there should be more variation in what makes a “good” city, but it’s at least a satisfying puzzle to work out, even if some solutions are generalizable to most games (see IZ and aqueduct triangles).

    From a top-down point of view though, I think it would be a better “board game” if it had a bit more push and pull between players. I don’t mean rubber banding, where the strong player is punished and the weak is rewarded, but instead that players felt more pushing to do something or pulling your reins to stop doing things.

    This is best exemplified in multiplayer. If you’re playing with friends, there is little chance you will go to war against each other, because you’re all friends! Many players play against the AI in a similar way. If there were a little nudge, like your citizens’ eagerness to go to war for that tasty border city or if they expressed unhappiness at your inaction over a conquering neighbor, you might be more likely to make the map dynamic. Instead, we have war weariness, which tells players that war is bad, and maybe they shouldn’t go to war, even if there is an upside. Emergencies help, like telling the player that maybe the war would be justified, but I think a little more stick would help shake up the game.

    On the other hand, if you’re playing against random online players (or if you’re a natural warmonger against the AI), there’s not enough downside to conquering. Some players recognize the snowball, and so they go all in toward this. Loyalty, amenities, and DF penalties have helped, but there really needs to be more effort in putting the breaks on all-out war being the best option. I’d really like to see some sort of civil-war mechanic integrated in the main game for when your empire gets very large, like a dramatic dark age, but less predictable (meaning you won’t know what turn the rebellion will happen on).

    Another way to solve this would be to dramatically alter the relative value and relative defensibility of cities. If the difference in population of cities made them stronger geometrically, rather than linearly, conquering a bunch of garbage cities would be relatively less valuable and conquering the capitals or other principle cities would feel more rewarding.
     
  14. Chekko

    Chekko Chieftain

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    I don't think Civ as a board game. I see it as a casual-looking strategy game with a lot under the hood. Its simpleness is its charm imo.

    And if the game already is board game-ish and have the feature to play multiplayer games turn by turn in that Multiplayer mode, I think it would hurt Civ more than if the series was a normal RTS. I mean you can technically already play it as a board game with your friends in person if you all bring your computers.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2020
  15. UWHabs

    UWHabs Deity

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    I do think the strong bonuses you can get from alliances is at least a good thing to not cause complete reckless warmongering even if you end up going for a "peaceful" cultural or science win. Like, being able to get +6 food, +6 production, plus large bonuses to great people, science, etc... makes it so that if I can, I'm much better making friends. Even if it ends up being a little roundabout (stuck in policy cards and trade routes for the main bonuses), at least that's one aspect that helps at least "balance" the game a little.

    The last few points in your post are good too - it's still too valuable and too easy to go conquer large amounts of territory, and one aspect I don't like is that captured cities are too good - if I capture a Russian city, it can actually become useful to me while I'm still slogging out battles against Russia. Part of me wants to at least go back to the old way that the city won't do anything for you for a number of turns, which at the very least would slow down warmongering a little, and make it a little more costly. It's still too easy to be fighting a global war against every civilization while your homeland cities are happy to build more banks and universities.
     
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  16. CoconutTank

    CoconutTank Unapologetic Warmonger Supporter

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    Super interesting to see board games showing up in the Civ 6 general section and getting discussed :) Board games and tabletop games are one of my primary hobbies, and they still are despite the pandemic making meet ups impractical. Lots of board games and tabletop games have started moving into the online space, and virtual/digital board games are doing quite well. I'm hoping that physical board games won't go away as a result, but the pandemic has made the industry more aware of what they are potentially missing out on, and also that they (well, most) are not well prepared to address customers that can't meet in person.

    Monopoly is definitely a very dated game, which isn't helped by the fact that most folks tend not to play the game correctly :p But in addition to snowballing being a big issue (which is what The Landlord's Game wanted to point out about with property and rent), player elimination was a thing, both functionally and explicitly. I'm curious if folks here would want to see rubberbanding mechanics that worked in the other direction, namely that players which weren't doing well were given boons to make sure they were able to keep up, and that players which were outright eliminated would come back into the game, or couldn't be eliminated at all!

    But also... Civ is pretty big on luck in standard settings. Lots of things are randomly seeded, such as natural wonders, resources and city state placements! Meeting a bunch of cultural city states early on can accelerate one to Political Philosophy. Getting an early holy relic can become an early pantheon and a source of persistent early tourism. One's entire continent (or the share of it) could be lacking in iron or niter or some other key strategic resource the moment they're revealed to oneself. Maybe one spawns directly in-between Shaka's Zulu and Chandragupta's India, oh my.

    Well, this is kind of a tangent, but the good news is that board games are starting to get digital versions that play on phones as well :) In fact, in some cases the digital versions might be considered more sane to play than the physical version. Consider all the cube pushing and number crunching one has to do in games like Through The Ages, Twilight Imperium, Eclipse or Terraforming Mars, and how those games become much more playable once the component micromanagement and mathing gets handled by the computer :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2020
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  17. kryat

    kryat King

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    For fun, here’s some clever board game mechanics I’ve seen that could be interesting if Firaxis were looking for inspiration...

    1) Terra Mystica - Reciprocal boons. This needs explanation. In the game, you are required to build very close to your opponent to upgrade certain the basic building to their intermediate form. Doing so is hugely important for you, but it comes at a cost, in that they also get a reward for you building next to them. The closest thing in Civ to this is maybe alliances, in that your alliance partner also gets more powerful trade routes sent to you (trading also arguably falls in this category, and open borders for tourism). It’s nice, but it’d be better to also exist outside of these interactions, like the research agreements in earlier games (reduced cost to research by cooperating with an opponent). Basically, giving the player more real diplomatic options. Maybe another thing would be being able to trade with another opponent for actions? (I.e., can I pay you to spread my religion? Or can I promise not to attack you in exchange for something?)

    2) Game of Thrones - Ranked bidding. In the game, player periodically bid for various roles, all simultaneous and secret until revealed. The ranked size of bids can become turn order with the highest bidder getting a massive power boost (they get to resolve ties). I don’t like the current world congress because it feels passive. I often “forget” to participate in disaster emergencies, partly because I feel like the AI will cheat at the last minute. What would help here is if emergencies had less public information. If players didn’t know how much to contribute, there might be more variation in outcomes. In WC, there needs to be something very powerful for whoever invested the most favor, and something less powerful for those who came close or helped the winning resolution (arguably that sort of exists, but it seems too invisible). And maybe, if firaxis really wanted to play it risky, they could have something where if enough players didn’t pony up, something really bad could happen for everyone.

    3) Star Wars Rebellion - Asymetric, paired objectives. In the game, the Empire is massive and the Rebels are small. The Rebels win by avoiding detection for n turns, while the Empire wins by finding and destroying the Rebel base. This sort of exists in Civ, because there’s different paths to victory, but they’re not too deeply intertwined for it to matter. Admittedly, this would be the hardest to implement in the stock game, but game modes could have an interesting opportunity here. Maybe if everyone had to fight over conquering n city states for the game?

    4) Many, many others - Hidden information. I don’t like that you can see how well everyone is doing at a victory, or where they are in the tech tree. While it’s a nice safety blanket, it reduces the uncertainty in the game, and therefore, there’s less tension.
     
  18. 8housesofelixir

    8housesofelixir King

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    Agree on this. I hardly feel tensions when the game reach late stage, for I'm clearly in the lead and the AI cannot stop/strike me in any case.

    (The only exception was a game where I encountered the "Theocracy Different Government Relationship Penalty Bug" happened in a large scale. Every civ was hating each other, constantly denouncing and DoWing each other, while building up their own nuclear arsenal. I was only able to secure 3-4 alliances in that game, kept a huge fleet-in-being for deterrence, struggle to stay neutral while watching at least 3 modern wars fought on my territory. I never feel that relieved when my exoplanet expedition went beyond the solar system and left this 1984-like world behind.)

    IMHO, the civ series, or 4x games in general, were/are all trying to balance between a city-building game, a strategy game, and a competitive board game with clear wining conditions. Civ6 is currently fine at city-building, but not really in strategy (there are opportunity costs but most of the strategies are similar to each other), not to say competitive. I wouldn't argue for hyper-competitive - if you want pure competition why not have a nice game of Diplomacy? - but more developed strategy (for instance, a larger possibility of bankruptcy would let you rethink settle everywhere) should spice things up and lead to more competitive games.



    Also,
    This almost makes me to suspect that the writer of this piece never played Monopoly - this is a game, even if you are snowballing, can be bankrupted by an overpriced rent payment in a second. Civ6 on the other hand doesn't have this kind of late-game-instant-destruction mechanism (unless we have a nuke happy AI).
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2020
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  19. Alexander's Hetaroi

    Alexander's Hetaroi Deity

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    I mean they have several including one based off of Civ 6. What got me into the PC version was the 2010 Board game that combined elements of Civ 5 with Civ Rev. I agree it is similar but coming from the board game to the PC version, this is way more complex and intricate than the board game at least.

    Yes I agree.
    That's what should have been done at least with the "Appease the Gods" Emergency in Apocalypse Mode. I mean if you don't appease them why doesn't anything negative happen to you such as an automatic natural disaster?

    Plus comets (meteors) in Apocalypse Mode. :mischief:
    To add on sometimes you can go through a drought of other players not landing on any of your property which also ends the snowballing effect as well coupled with the bankruptcy.
     
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  20. Victoria

    Victoria Regina Supporter

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    You can be going for a culture victory and find Pericles as your last civ, the other side of the planet earning 250 CPT. Butr I gues you can always swap or 'cope'
    but yeah, VI is certainly not monopoly
     
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