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Possible to design turn based strategy without a board, randomness or hidden info?

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I have been thinking about this: Is it possible to design a turn based strategy/tactical 1v1 game that does not make use of a board/map/grid (chess board, hexagon grid map etc), does not make use of randomness (dice rolls etc) and does not have hidden information (unknown cards in hand, fog of war etc)? So far it appears impossible: When there is no hidden information and no randomness, players seems to always be able to calculate and come out with the optimal solution to counter any move. Unless there is a sufficiently large board/map/grid which makes the number of possible moves large enough to be incalculable. Or is it possible to make such a game work by just adding complexity: e.g. you have 5 possible moves, to which your opponent have 5 possible counter moves, to which you have 5 more counter-counter moves. Hence, it becomes like the chess board - too many possibilities to easily calculate the optimal solution.

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Yes. What you have described is possible. Imagine you have a team of five ships: each has a set move described on a relevant card (movement is in inches), and can fire from cannons at various points on the token. Adding terrain would add more tactics, but this would work.

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The main challenge in what you're describing seems to me to rely on rules resolution. There are many ways to resolve rules and the tools you're omitting are probably the ones we're most familiar with. Anything not familiar may still be viable but likely cumbersome.

Here's an example similar to Star Control's melee mode: It's a ship to ship battle game where fleets engage each other one ship at a time. At the start of the game players buy ship hulls and modules, both of which sit in a visible pool before them. There's no game board and the theme is hard science fiction, which basically means that ships don't engage like World War II battleships but rather at high velocities and vast ranges with battles resolved in minutes.

The game lasts for a number of turns equal to the number of ships. At the start of a turn both players choose their hull and place it before them, then place modules. Modules come in a variety of flavors (defensive, offensive, vital, special) but must match in slots, which are laid out on the ship sheet in a puzzle-like fashion. Modules can also be placed outside the ship, representing things like hunter-killer drones, diamond particle clouds and reflective armor arrays (these are placed off the ship sheet and represent free floating objects moving along with the ship). Internally adjacent modules can affect and protect one another, allow modules to switch position, offer redundancy.

At any time each player can see the ship the other player is throwing into battle. However, to make it interesting players only have 10-30 seconds, depending on difficulty level, to assemble each ship.

Once assembled, modules are eliminated in a rock, scissors, paper fashion from outermost to innermost as players take turns choosing which module to activate and which module to target. Some modules, like weapons, have limited ammo markers (board pieces themselves). Some modules have multiple effects when damaged (represented by turning the module counter on the ship sheet), even cascading effects to neighbors or along conduits visible on the ship sheet. Damage is alternately determined by attacker then defender. Ships can only make one action a round, either turning to rotate modules into position, rearranging a module, defending or attacking (depending on whose turn it is) or using a module to repair another module.

When a ship loses all vital modules or all modules in total, it is destroyed and the hull sheet, along with modules, is removed. The game ends with the winner being the player with ship hulls remaining, or draw if all hulls are destroyed.

You could add rules on top of this, such as allowing players to change tactics each turn, which might change functioning of modules (unless this constitutes as hidden information). Even without a board you could denote the idea of relative spatial positioning, breaking the engagement into long, medium and close range, changing the effect of modules or only allowing some to function at different phases.

One trade-off would be whether you risk watching your opponent build their ship or pour all your time into getting as much onto your ship sheet as possible. If actions against modules had multiple outcomes, chosen alternately by attacker and defender, there would be more variety as well.

I've never tested this so I've no idea if it would be a good game but it seems to me that limited time can act as a stand in for things like dice rolls and hidden information.

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What you need is uncertainty. There are three ways of doing this:

1) Randomness.
2) Hidden information.
3) Complexity.

You can do without randomness and hidden information, as long as you make the game complex enough. I'm pretty sure this can be done without a board, though I can't think of any examples.

What you do need is trillions of possible game states or more, and the easiest way to do that is use a board.

I think you could make a card game that relied entirely on complexity. You might try making a two player version of Freecell or something, where the winner would be the player who put the most cards on the 'finish' pile. You could even start with a predefined arrangement of cards, I think it could still be fun (though it would need some work).

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
The main challenge in what you're describing seems to me to rely on rules resolution. There are many ways to resolve rules and the tools you're omitting are probably the ones we're most familiar with. Anything not familiar may still be viable but likely cumbersome.

I've never tested this so I've no idea if it would be a good game but it seems to me that limited time can act as a stand in for things like dice rolls and hidden information.


Thanks for the elaborate write up. I see two factors that adds randomness to your game: Limited time and the fact that the two players are simultaneously choosing. Although players can see each others' ships, they don't have time to complete the calculations require to come up with an optimal solution. So even though they might try to counter each other, it might be largely random.

Can I say this mechanism is similar to a small army vs army game where players choose their armies simultaneously without knowledge of what their opponent chooses? In this case, the "luck" factor will be much greater than in yours.Both our examples make use of "randomness" in order to make the game work.

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every turn you get to add a bit to the end of a computer program. the first person to get it to print out their name wins.

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I recommend interaction between players as a way to introduce uncertainty without random elements. Simultaneous turns are the most obvious choice, but every time outcomes depend on what opponents do there is an element of prediction of others' moves.

For example, imagine playing Dominion without randomness, by stacking the deck each time it would be shuffled: you cannot simply plan a (very long and complex) sequence of optimal turns, you must adjust to what each opponent is expected to do many turns before they do it.

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Once I had a friend who had just sold his massive Magic The Gathering card collection, and he saw my cards and was sad that he couldn't play, so I proposed that we play with note cards, and he pointed out that it would be ridiculously easy to mark the cards and take too long to make decks. After some discussion what we ended up doing was creating the rule that on your turn you could draw 1 land and 1 other card, and play both, and they could be anything you wanted from all existing MTG sets. You could not use the same card more times than tournament legal though. It made for a few very interesting games as we were figuring out which cards were most effective this way. It did involve hidden information a little though because you could choose a counterspell and keep it hidden in your hand until you wanted to use it.

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Quote:
Original post by LorenzoGatti
I recommend interaction between players as a way to introduce uncertainty without random elements. Simultaneous turns are the most obvious choice, but every time outcomes depend on what opponents do there is an element of prediction of others' moves.

For example, imagine playing Dominion without randomness, by stacking the deck each time it would be shuffled: you cannot simply plan a (very long and complex) sequence of optimal turns, you must adjust to what each opponent is expected to do many turns before they do it.


I think simultaneous turns and stacking decks introduce randomness to the game. It becomes a little like Rock-Paper-Scissors where you have to guess your opponent's strategy and build your own to beat his expected move.

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Is there no way to make a strategy game without a board/map, randomness, uncertainty (rock-paper-scissor, simultaneous decisions etc) and hidden info?

Are strategy games all about 1)having so many moves possible on the board that players cannot calculate everything or 2) element of chance through randomness or uncertainty or hidden info?

Is it possible to have a game like Chess without the assistance of the board? Where players can see all the pieces in the game and make decision turn by turn without tight time limits or require reflexes.

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