• paulbaalham

Whose Turn Is It Anyway?


Like many board games, Spaceship 47 consists of rounds, with the players taking multiple turns during each round. As a co-operative game, the players are working together to overcome the challenge of their mission. On their turn a player can take one action from their selection. All characters have a movement action they can perform and they can all use the same "map" actions, where they interact with the environment specific to the current mission. Each player also has a set of actions that are unique to their character. Most actions require a player to roll a dice to try and hit a target number. A player can spend ability points before they roll to boost their score. If the player reaches the target number, their action succeeded, if they didn't, then the action failed.


Today's blog post is about how to determine the order of the player's (and enemy AI) turns.


Pre-determined System (current)

3 rows. Top row alternates between the five symbols that represent the players and the enemies. Second row has numbers 1 to 15. Bottom row is blank and is used to denote which round it currently is.
Tracker showing whose turn is next

The current system (pictured above), is that the players act in an order determined by the game. This is obviously the quickest way to do this as there is no decision point and there is nothing the player can do to influence the turn order and it is easy to see who's turn it is next. However, it takes agency away from the players.

Pros: I cannot think of a system that would be quicker than this in determining whose turn it is next.

Cons: Takes away player agency; no decisions at all for the player to make.


The "Tokaido/Patchwork" Method

A table of two columns and six rows, with the numbers 1 to 6 in the left column and blanks in the right hand side
Small tracker for turns that allow players to move their cubes over the six spaces

This system was inspired by Tokaido and Patchwork. Each player has a cube of their colour on the track (the track is shown in the above image). Each action takes a certain amount of time, for example, I've Spotted A Weakness may cost 2 units of time, whereas, Kill It! may cost 3 units of time. The player furthest back on the track acts next. I will need a tie-breaker, especially as all players will start on 0. When a player takes an action, they move their cube down the track by the amount of time it takes them. If they have crossed a red line in doing so, then the enemies get to act, once the player has finished their turn. Obviously if a player uses actions that cost more time, then they will have fewer actions in a round.

Other interesting things that could be done with this system are:

  1. Actions where the player decides the length of the action. For instance, if the Deadeye is using Suppressing Fire to make it easer for other players to move through enemy sections, they can decide how much time it costs. Until the Deadeye takes their next turn, the Suppressing Fire action is in effect, making it easier for other players to move through the enemy's sections.

  2. Actions that automatically do the intended effect, but the roll is used to determine the length of time it took the player to do the action. If the player succeeds the roll for the action, it takes less time than if the player fails the roll.

I actually intended to use this system for the solo play test I am about to do, but I ended up making every action cost the same amount of time. I need to make some actions obviously better than others and then set the values of the actions accordingly.

Pros: Could make for some interesting decisions as to whether a player wants to use a longer action knowing that it will trigger the enemies after their turn, or knows that it will reduce the number of actions they can take this round.

Cons: Working out the time cost for each action is a a pain for me; there might be some fiddly rules with the tie-breaker.


Slightly Freeform Style


Two rows, the top one has numbers 1 to 12 and the bottom are blank. Columns 4, 8 and 12 are all highlighted red.
Shared tracker for all of the players

I played Batman: Gotham City Chronicles a few months ago. The way the initiative order is determined in that game, is the players themselves decide who goes next. Once the players have run out of energy (which powers their actions), or all of the the players pass (as they might want to keep some energy to power defences when the enemies act), then the enemies act. I don't have a small amount of a resource that refreshes often like energy in the Batman game, so taking this idea wholesale would not work. However, I can use a modified version of it, using a similar (but longer) track as the previous method, which is pictured above. The players would share a single cube and the players themselves would decide who goes next. The cube then gets moved a number of spaces equal to the time cost for the action the player used. If the cube lands on or passes over a red space, then once the player has completed their turn, all o the enemies act.

Pros: The decision by the group as to who goes next can mean that the players can really get into the tactics of the situation.

Cons: Alpha players; discussions could take a lot of time which is time where the players are not doing cool things.


Determined by the Previous Action Used

I'll be honest with you, I'm not a fan of this one, but I thought I'd include it to see if other people like it and maybe it might spark an idea from someone else that I could then steal ;).

As I mentioned, the players have a number of options for their actions that are unique to their character. On the action card, it would specify who will act once the player has completed their action. There will be four unique actions that each player can perform, with three of them dictating that one of the other players acts next, while the fourth one would say that the enemies act next. The reasons I don't like this are two-fold:

  1. It doesn't allow players to find the best combo. If at one point in the game, the players realised that Player A using Blade Wall followed by Player B using Taunt would be the best thing in the current situation, but Blade Wall dictates that Player C goes next, then that doesn't feel very empowering to the players.

  2. What's to stop the players from using only the actions that let other players go next, instead of the enemy? The enemy would never act and that would make the game too easy.

Pros: Trade-off between what action to use and who the next person to act could be interesting

Cons: Players can't use optimum combos, could lead to enemies never acting


Random (Dungeons and Dragons style)

In D&D every time a fight breaks out, you roll for initiative, with the player with the highest roll acting first, then the combatant that scored second highest and so on. Once all combatants have acted, the round is over and the combatant that rolled the highest initiative gets to act again. This cycle continues until the combat is over.

I think this works perfectly for D&D, because the default state of D&D is that you are not in combat, so players are freewheeling who is acting next when out of combat, and then there is "stuff is about to get real" moment when the DM calls for initiative to be rolled and the game moves from freeform to more structured actions. As Spaceship 47 is a board game, the whole thing needs to be structured which I think doesn't allow itself to this method as nicely.

Pros: Once initiative has been rolled, it is easy to know who acts next; potential for abilities that could manipulate the initiative order.

Cons: Feels a bit restrictive for a two hour board game compared to a half hour D&D fight.


Random (Drawing Cards)

I thought of this one this morning so I haven't had time to fully form an opinion on it. At the start of each round a Turn Order card is drawn which lists the order of the participants acting. There could be an ability from one of the characters (most likely the Human Officer) where they could spend an ability point to redraw the card, if the group does not like the current one.

Pros: Quick and easy to see who is taking their turn next; could have some small abilities that let the players influence the card drawn.

Cons: Not sure it feels satisfying enough; yet another deck of cards to add to the game.


Conclusion

For my next solo playtest, I will use the current method, but I will probably switch the system once I have feedback from other people.

I feel like the players influencing the turn order is probably a positive, but I also want them to know instantly who acts next. This probably rules out the current system and the Batman inspired system.

What do you think? What is your favourite system for determining who acts next in a co-operative game? Do you have any other ideas?

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