Game Mechanics

This section will cover the multiple innovations in game mechanics, such as the order tiles, the duels, the tutorials, the scenarios, the I.P.S, the S.A.G.S, etc.

Order Tile System

posted Nov 18, 2010, 5:11 AM by Christophe Boelinger   [ updated Nov 18, 2010, 6:06 AM by Jean-Charles Mourey ]

At the beginning of the design process, for this game, I imagined that the characters were all connected through radio waves using headphones and microphones and even most of the times connected to a close central command HQ, like an underground moving driller occupied by the Intelligence service who would dispatch orders and directions to their above the ground troops. Also I wanted to get away from all the ordinary commonly used game mechanics to activate your various miniatures and try to find something new that could match the above simulation. Meaning, when you are awaiting for your superiors orders through air-waves it’s not always so easy, and you cannot always get the info right away, hear well or interpret in the right way some orders, there might be some perturbations in the signal, the radio frequencies you are using could be scrambled (and that comes in with the Radio Scrambling rule), and so on...
To simulate all that I had to find a game mechanic that allows sufficient freedom to the players so that they can perform actions according to their objectives, but on the other hand this shouldn’t be too easy because of all these chain of orders and transmission problems. To define more clearly what I had in mind in terms of translating the rules back to what they are supposed to simulate : to my POV (Point Of View) each player is partly playing the command centre distributing orders from their remote HQ or vehicle, and partly playing the leader characters in the team he is controlling. This is why some leaders bring extra Command Points during the Initiative Phase, it’s because they are able and allowed to take some of their own decisions on the field and radio-transmit orders to their troop or act on their own.
From all the game mechanics I had imagined it seemed that the Order Tiles system was the most flexible and yet with some constraints that I had.
The constraints:
  • not having always the right tiles was simulating the fact that either sometimes you couldn’t hear quite well orders, or the HQ was not really aware of all the elements of the situation and they are having a hard time selecting the right orders.
  • paying 2 CP to go search for a specific tile in the discard pile. The more CPs you spend on an action the more time you are spending on this action, or the more you are concentrating on this action. This principle is valid for most of the game mechanics in Earth Reborn. So paying 2 CP to go search for a specific order tile simulates the fact that you are spending time giving HQ all the proper and detailed information on the actual situation, on the field, and you are trying to convince them that the decisions and actions to take should be these ones and not others.
  • Red and Gold order sections that are needed for interrupting actions, simulate the fact that under the stress of an enemy appearing in your line of sight or getting close to you ready to attack you in close combat, keeping cool, staying focused, quickly do the right choice is not so easy for the character involved, and even more difficult for High Command to react that fast and give correct orders. So since you can only play red or gold orders as reaction orders really sets a limit to your possible choice under pressure. In terms of game play, it also makes it faster for the interrupting character to pick up a decision, which really follows the speed of the action and reaction process.
And even with these constraints, we can really feel when playing the game that the players still have lots of choices and combining possibilities, at least sufficient freedom and control to be able to perform almost any type of combinations of actions to reach the goals they strategically aim for.
Then also, the tiles are very useful to keep track of how many Command Points each character has already used this turn.
Play tests went on and on.... and apart from the tile distribution, nothing has changed since the original design of this new order / activation mechanic.
Welcome aboard a brand new tile order activating system ;) I hope you’ll enjoy...

The Puzzle Board

posted Sep 25, 2010, 2:14 AM by Christophe Boelinger   [ updated Oct 2, 2010, 3:32 AM by Jean-Charles Mourey ]

At the beginning of the designing process one of the constraints I set to myself was to have a board as modular as possible, more than everything I have ever seen thus allowing to create endless map designs to simulate so many different types of story. All these games with puzzle tiles that can be clipped together provide some modularity but still the attachment system comes with constraints. Plus I needed thin on square corridors to create small areas easy to block, but I also needed wide two squares corridors for the 4 squares miniatures to be able to move through.

That’s when I had the idea of a puzzle frame with squares, sizable to different rectangular shapes and the players will fit tetris shaped pieces in this frame. I think it was one of the first original idea I had for the game and it also became the start of the SAGS construction.

I also wanted to be able to design outside areas and inside areas, as well as mixing those two types however I wanted to design a scenario fully outside with almost no buildings or houses, or a small town with 5 or more separate houses, with alleys or deserted roads running in between. To achieve this I decided that all tiles should be printed both sides and show some inside floor on one side and some outside floor on the other side.
At the beginning the frame puzzle was even bigger than the one in the produced box, but playtests showed me that we didn’t need such a big frame for the moment. But we kept the option of adding frame sections to enlarge the board size, and the frame provided in the box is already studied to be enlarged by receiving frame sections from future expansions for example.
Then, during the creation process for the tutorial scenarios, I started to design scenario in which I didn’t need the frame. I was afraid the pieces would move and that it would be very disturbing, but on all the tables and napkins I’ve played on this appeared to be an invented problem that never came up or bothered anybody.


A little anecdote about the frame :
I don’t know why but originally the frame was printed on one side only, with an external decorum. To my mind, it seemed that all scenarios using the frame would have an outside ground all around. There are no scenario in the tutorial using the inside side of the frame, and the SAGS modes use the outside frame no matter the number of players. It is only during the final layout of the game and when everything was ready to go into print that I had the idea of printing an inside decorum on the other side of the frame. That is the reason why no scenario is using this side in the scenario book. But I knew there will be cool scenario to design using this other side of the frame.
Plus this other side has squares all along to each border, which means that if you design two rectangular frames, you could put them aside anyway you want and pass from one to another, or place some corridors in between two smaller frames to provide access.... So many more possibilities once again.
And I have started to exploit this internal side of the frame in some of the tutorial scenarios I’m currently designing for 3 and 4 players.

Analyzing ER Game mechanics

posted Sep 16, 2010, 10:25 AM by Christophe Boelinger   [ updated Sep 16, 2010, 11:12 AM ]

This is going to be a section for the game designer point of view. This means myself, this means a french guy living on the french riviera who has spent some time in the US but who is not a english native speaking anyway. So I'll do my best, but I won't be perfect I guess :(
Please be indulgent...
Now, mainly when I finished designing ER, some of my close friend playtesters started telling me, "now in this game you have put so many different little games into one !!!!".
That's when I began to count how many new game mechanics this game had, or game mechanics that were never seen before in those type of games even though they might not be 100% new to the gaming industry, I would say.
Well, if I remember correctly, I think there are 11 of them.
So each week or maybe faster, whenever I can find the time to, I'll come here to discuss game mechanics, and maybe later on game strategies or technics that you can apply to get a better control over the game.
So feel free to come back from time to time and check out new game mechanics analysis ;)

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