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Avalander

Action points in turn based strategy games

13 posts in this topic

Lately it has been a lot of talking about strategy games in this forum, so I've been thinking about the subject quite a lot. I'd like to talk a bit about the possibilities of an action point system in that kind of games.

 

In the turn based strategy games that I've played that implement an action points system, I've always seen that the action points are assigned to each unit, so for each unit in the map, the player has a fixed amount of things to do. To put it in a simple example: if each unit has 5 action points per turn and the player has 10 units, each turn he will make actions for a total amount of 50 action points, 5 for each unit; if he has 100 units, each turn the player will make actions for a total amount of 500 action points, again, 5 for each unit.

 

What I've been thinking is: what if the player had a fixed amount of action points per turn instead of per unit? I.e., each turn the player has 50 action points, regardless he has 10 or 100 units, so it's possible (and likely) that he is not able to update all his units each turn (or that he hasn't enough units to spend all his action points, but I think that shouldn't happen often in a well designed system).

 

I think that allows for some mechanics interesting to explore:

 

For instance, if sending a unit to somewhere in the map costs action points, but once the point of destin is setted, the unit moves each turn at a fixed speed, without spending more action points the following turns. Suddenly, the player needs to think the possible outcomes of sending a unit somewhere, because moving a unit to a different place means less action points to spend in other things that turn.

 

Alliances then would acquire a new strategic relevance: two players attacking another one means that the defender has less action points than his aggressors combined, so acquiring allies and multiplying the attack fronts could be a decisive factor, as the defender wouldn't have enough action points to defend effectively all the fronts.

 

Also I'm thinking that specific buildings and units could increase the amount of action points per turn, something like upgrading government buildings, or training generals, for example.

 

So, what are your thoughts about this idea? Does it make sense? Do you know any game that implements something similar? What interesting mechanics do you think could be implemented with that system in mind?

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Doesn't really change the issue of alliances at the core, but opens them to some exceptional abuse depending on the game stage. If you are facing off against an alliance in a normal game, then you are most likely out numbered as it is. Having one side in a war suddenly get double the attack potential, regardless of how strong everyone's economic bases are, can quickly become horribly unbalanced and even worse than it normally would be.

 

This is made worse if you do not put strong limits on how units can be used, or how often they can attack. What does it matter if you have the better economy to afford to build and field more units if a vastly inferior force still becomes an equal because they can just keep reusing the same unit to attack with while much of the 'superior' force sits and is unused?

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Thanks a lot for your feedback!

 

The thought of unit acting more than once each turn didn't cross my mind, to be honest; actually I was thinking that each unit could do at most one only action each turn, and perhaps the user would not know the outcome until the end of the turn, kind of first giving commands to all the units and then everything happens at the same time, so the user cannot react to the outcome of a specific action in the same turn (but that makes for another whole thread).

 

Having one side in a war suddenly get double the attack potential, regardless of how strong everyone's economic bases are, can quickly become horribly unbalanced and even worse than it normally would be.

 

I totally agree with you, that's why I suggested that some buildings or units could increase the amount of action points per turn, so a player with a better developed economy could also have more action points per turn and an empire powerful enough could defeat multiple enemies at the same time.

 

On the other hand, that would make a game where it's really important to think about and work on the diplomatic relationships with other civilizations and think twice before starting a war with some opponent when the diplomatic situation is adverse to you. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, sure, there will be players who don't enjoy it, but you can't please everybody.

 

The player action points could be increased over the course of the game through technologies, buildings, or other improvements that contribute to logistics and organizational ability.  The sort of thing that a player needs to invest in.  If they invest too late, they might find themselves incapable of responding quickly when the need arises.  If they invest too early, they might hurt their economy elsewhere and not be able to fully utilize their awesome logistics.  Of course, determining the "correct" time to upgrade would likely be heavily dependent upon the state of the game, and thus on the player's skill at reading the state of the game and choosing actions appropriately.

 

That's what I was thinking, so action points would be another resource that would require investment and would grow as the game progresses. But also I don't want to make the game completely dependent on who uses a better strategy to get more action points.

 

I like the idea of leader units, I would have never thought of that!

Edited by Avalander
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while pooling action points may result in interesting new gameplay, it also sort of undermines the original purpose of action point modeling - thus leading to a less realistic simulation.

I was kind of interpreting pooled action points more as organization or group coordination.  Not enough action points means that a unit doesn't know what to do, and thus does nothing.  (Or perhaps defaults to an extra-defensive fortifying action.)

 

I wonder if there might be other metaphors for pooled action points that could make reasonable sense to a player and would lead to other game mechanic ideas.  Energy/fuel could be one, especially if the distribution of fuel were abstracted away, and the player simply had access to n units of fuel per turn based on production/trade.  In a robotic future setting, centralized computer resources might be a source of pooled points; that would likely be similar to my earlier logistics concept.  But could go in another direction if a robotic unit would keep following its last supplied orders until given new orders, and the number of new orders that can be given is what limits the player each turn.

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I was kind of interpreting pooled action points more as organization or group coordination.

 

yes, action points could mean different things in different games.  unfortunately its a vague term.    

 

it also depends on what one's goals are.

 

action points are one way to model time costs on a unit basis in turn based games.  

 

IE it is a game mechanic which has been devised to model some aspect of the simulation in question.

 

changing the mechanic may make the model less accurate / realistic.

 

changing what action points represent means your now attempting to model something other than time available to an individual unit during as turn.

 

the question is, "what are you now attempting to model?"  and "does that have anything to do with the simulation? or is it simply a contrived game mechanic?".

 

the usually process in writing modeling and simulation software is to determine what you want to model in the simulation - such as time available to individual units during a turn, and then select a modeling method (a game mechanic, such as action points) and implement it.

 

buy arbitrarily pooling action points, you break the original modeling of time available to individual units per turn, and replace it with - what? what does pooled action points model?  nothing realistic that i can think of offhand....

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... thus leading to a less realistic simulation.

However, I'm inclined to argue that the next question is then--for each game--"how important is that"? In some games it may undermine the experience that the designer is attempting to create, while in others strict simulation was never a goal.

 

That said, either way, I think that Andy Gainey makes good points above about potential metaphors that could be applied to pooled action points.

 

I don't really play strategy games, so I'm hesitant to opine much further. Conceptually, I do like the idea of pooled action points--not more or less than other methods, such as individual action points, but simply as another option and something different.

 

(On a side-note, I actually once used pooled action points for a sort of computer board-game that I put together once, as I recall.)

 

 

what does pooled action points model?

I think that this has been somewhat answered, but to give an answer myself: it can model time, just as does an individual action-point system. However, where individual action points model the time available to each unit, pooled action points model the time available to the commander: he can send out only so many orders at once.

Edited by Thaumaturge
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You could make different kinds of action-points;

move-actions,

attack-actions,

magic-actions, possibly different even different magic-types with corresponding action points to categorize a bunch more special abilities.

 

Then class-types can have effect on what can be used;

berserker can take as many attack-actions as the player has resources for, but can only attack every individual once per turn.

Cavaliers can use up to 3 actions but no more then one attack-action every turn.

etc.

 

What comes to mind is what are the units not fighting doing ?
With restricted APs using only a few units becomes a valid strategy, so some strategy about who "does something different" may spice the game up.

Maybe they're increasing the available AP's, but then a player will just let the weakest party-members do that.

Maybe they give a small stat-bonus to a nearby unit depending on their own stats(and thus both weaker and stronger party-members may be chosen for this task)

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I think that this has been somewhat answered, but to give an answer myself: it can model time, just as does an individual action-point system. However, where individual action points model the time available to each unit, pooled action points model the time available to the commander: he can send out only so many orders at once.

 

To butt in, the commander is the player, and this gives a very convenient way of keeping the length of the turns within some rough boundaries as the game progresses,

(compared to civilisation- and 4X-games where at the end of the game you had to do a million things every turn.)

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per turn instead of per unit?

I believe Space Hulk has an Hybrid system that allows you pooled APs on your units (based on a die roll).

Some games also allow you to activate only some of your units (not the entire list).

 

Personally, I think the per unit approach is more fertile for tactical placement: every unit needs to contribute if you are to win, because if you only focus on your big guns, someone will outwit you with his lesser units by making unexpected moves, or using them as meatshields to tank on the damage while they flank you with their bigger guys.

It demonstrates more skill and I'm a very competitive player :)

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I like it.  Here's my take:

 

You're commanding an army during the age of semaphore.  No radio yet, but nor do you have to send runners with orders.  So you can give orders to distant squads but it still takes some time.  Your assistants at HQ have to encode the messages, squads have to decode them... compared to earlier methods it seems instantaneous but there's still a practical limit of how many messages can be sent.  (There's also a visual limit to the signals, so to move the front you have to also capture enemy semaphore towers and protect your own.)

 

Your per-turn action point unit is expressed in terms of words: your assistants can encode 25 words of orders per turn.  So you can say something like "move north north, attack west".  (You don't necessarily have to type this in; maybe the game infers it from where you click.)  Meanwhile, each squad can only decode 8 words per turn.  (This is to prevent you spending all 25 words on your Thunder God Cid unit.)

 

As the game progresses you get a more nuanced vocabulary, and thus can achieve more per turn than you could with only simple verbs.  "Patrol" is like "move" but the path specified gets repeated until new orders are received; "reinforce" sends the unit towards another unit without having to specify the path; "retreat" allows several spaces of movement per direction specified but only away from the front, etc.

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in general, action points in turn based games are a way of modeling time.

 

I have to agree with this -- XCOM: UFO Defense was slightly more accurate in calling them Time Units rather than Action Points.  As in: Action X takes 5TU, Movement Y requires 3TU.  Individual units can either have varying amounts of TUs, or have different TU costs for specific actions (my preference).

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