Friday, November 30, 2012

A Game Design From a Dream

So I had a dream the other day in which I was invited to a board game party. When I arrived it turns out it was some sort of live board game event, where people stand on the game board. I won't go into the details of the dream, I don't want you aspiring Freuds blaming my mother for anything, but I'm curious how good the game is on paper. Lets take a look.

The rules of the game.
The game is played on a grid of any size
Two players take alternating turns first placing a farm on an unoccupied space, then playing a weather effect on the board.
-Sunshine gives +5 points each to five farms in the shape of a '+'
-Wind subtracts points from all farms in a row/column. Each player loses 2^n total points where n is the number of farms they own in the row/column.
Each player has a limited number of Sun/Wind effects to play. (but enough total to always have one available)

At face value this seems like an interesting game to play. The sun encourages the clustering of farms together while the wind discourages it. Do you want to place your farms close to your opponent to get some of his sun, or do you want to play far away and hit him with wind. Unfortunately, though, this game suffers from big problems.

Optimal play leads to draws. - The ideal mode of play is both players playing their farms in a checker board pattern. This minimizes the damage both players can inflict with wind (both players will have a near identical quantity of farms on each row/column). And offers near maximum points with each sun. (play the sun centered on your opponents farm and your four adjacent farms. For a net gain of 15 points relative to your opponent.) Think of it like tic-tac-toe. Any deviation from the pattern gives your opponent an advantage so both players play for a draw.

Relative strengths of Wind/Sun vary based on board size.
- Assuming both players are playing extremely defensively. On an even sized board both players will take equal damage from the wind. On odd sized boards one player takes 2^floor(width) and the other takes 2^ceil(width) damage. The larger the board is, the larger the difference between the two. While creating an imbalance between the relative strengths does solve the checkerboard problem, it makes half the game pointless.

Farm placement doesn't take much strategy. - There's no way of creating a weak position for the other player, or a strong position for yourself. In fact the farm placement stage of the game is overshadowed by the weather stage.

Oh well, not as awesome as I had hoped. So much for getting work done while I sleep. At least I can now brag that I can design games in my sleep. I just hope nobody asks if they're any good.