Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cooperative Tile Laying Games

As I was reading the rules of Hacienda the other evening I realised that the rules of the game would influence how the players laid out the tiles. "Realised" is too strong a word, maybe I just began thinking about that. This idea has been floating around my head since learning Key Harvest, and it's inspired by Key Harvest's rule that your largest group scores one point per tile and your second largest group scores 2 points per tile. That simple rule encourages you to make your groups of tiles the same size. And as the rules point out, that's what Keywood, the ruler of Keydom, is trying to encourage. Keywood understands that the rules are a mechanism by which the players can be coerced to form a pattern of the designer's understanding. In that sense, by competing, the players cooperate to form a pattern of the style intended by the designer.

In Hacienda the goal pattern is long chains of land tiles with herds attached. However large herds don't score much, whereas connecting to markets does, so the herds tend to be small. Well, it depends on the map I suppose, but there are certainly times when it's much better to make more small herds. The rule that land groups only score if they contain 3 or more tiles prevents players from laying a single land tile near a market and attaching a herd to it - players tend to have only a few land groups.

Consider what would happen if we changed the rules of Carcassonne so that everybody who has a meeple in a city scored it. Joining into a city would about as good as before, but everybody in the city would be trying to complete it, compared to just those players who are currently leading in the city. This slight change in motivation would probably lead to more completed structures and fewer ugly gaps in the map.

Other tile laying games where the players cooperate to form a pattern include:
  • Architekton - except, as mentioned in my previous post, there is motivation to make the pattern ugly.
  • Attika - you're encouraged to play your group together and not build many settlements. If only that would work for me!
  • Ingenious - players generally form clumps of one colour, until the blocking starts. Ending the scoring track at 20 rather than 18 would cause slightly larger groups of each colour.
  • Java / Mexica / Torres - in these games the rules are more complicated because there are more types of tiles and Mr Kramer has more complicated intentions for you. I just realised Hacienda is very much like those games, though a bit simpler.
  • Santorini - does a good job of encouraging the players to form that lovely Greek island landscape with very simple rules.
  • Go - OK, so nobody explicitly designed Go as far as we know, but the rules create some beautiful structures. Sometimes it's really messy, too.
  • Taluva - the desire to place your towers and temples causes settlements in the mountains. Quite simple rules generate gorgeous mountain villages. I don't understand what there's not to love about this game.
  • Gheos - This is an example of a game where the rules completely fail to generate a nice map. A player builds a continent with a civilisation and the next player tears it down. It's like building sandcastles with your 3 year old son - nothing remains for very long. This is probably the major reason the game didn't work for me. I *like* the cooperative nature of tile-laying games, and Gheos is all about breaking things.

1 comment:

Ste! said...

I think you can easily add Tri-Ominos to that list. There could be really beautiful patterns in the end of game.