Monday, April 21, 2014

You're not thinking 4th dimensionally!

Time travel has always been an interesting topic for me. Unfortunately, most of the time travel games I've played tend to fall flat, because time travel is hard. With advances in board game technology, and in general creativity of designers, I feel like we're getting closer to one of the holy grails of game design - a fun, fluid game about time travel.

As yet I have not come up with anything that really worked well with respect to a time travel themed game design. However, last night I might have stumbled onto an idea that could work... at this point it's just an idea, and it would probably only work for 2 players, but here's a potential way to do a sort of time duel card game:

Suppose each player has a set of cards, numbered 1 through N, where N is the number of total rounds there will be in the game. These numbers would correspond to specific times (T=1, T=2, etc) and would represent some action a player would take at that time interval. You'd have several cards for each interval in your set, but you can't play more than 1 card of each time interval - because you can only do one thing at a time!

Each round, each player would simultaneously choose one card to play face down, simultaneously revealing them. You would not need to play the cards in any particular order - the only restriction is that you cannot play a card if you've already played a card at that time interval. Then, after reviewing your opponent's card, you move on to the next round and select another card to play.

The idea here being that you can see your opponent is going to do a specific thing at time T=4, so you can decide to take an action at time T=3 which makes their T=4 action weak or useless. In other words, you see that your opponent is going to grab a tool at time T=4, so you go back in time to T=3 and grab it first! Or something like that.

Once all N rounds have been played, players would put their cards in numerical order and resolve them to determine the result of the game.

I would think that strategically, you could play lower numbered cards early, making yourself less susceptible to an opponent's monkeying with your plans, however you also give up the ability to 'undercut' your opponent's actions as well. On the other hand, if you play higher numbers first, you reserve the ability to undercut an opponent, but at the same time you open yourself up to possible sabotage from your opponent.

I'm not sure if that could be  made interesting, but it sounds like it might work. I would think players would need an open goal from the outset, and possibly a secret goal as well in order to give them reasons to choose one action over another, especially in the early game.

Anyway, that's just an idea - I wanted to get it down here so that I don't forget.

2 comments:

Sean said...

I like the idea. It's asynchronous during play and linear during resolution, which is a nice solution to the problem.

Designs I have come up with or seen that integrate time as a game element seem to always have serious game balance issues. If, for example, you hook a player's power during the game to a question like "what time/year/era is it?", then the fight over the current time has to be incredibly well balanced and not leave anyone powerless, regardless of how badly they play.

I'll be very curious to see the results if you run with this idea!

Roger Hicks said...

Intriguing! I look forward to trying the prototype.