Thursday, August 22, 2013

Episode 78: Inspiration from Board Games

This is episode 78 of Roguelike Radio, where we talk about Inspiration from Board Games. Talking this episode are Darren GreyEben Howard, Ido Yehieli and Jurie Horneman. 

You can download the mp3 of the podcast, play it in the embedded player below, or you can follow us on iTunes.

Show schedule:
 - "German-style Board Games" (aka Eurogames and Designer Board Games) - decision-based games with heavy detail on mechanics design
 - Features these share with roguelikes and why game designers find them interesting
 - Ido's work on designing a board games crossing rock/paper/scissors-esque mechanics with checkers
 - Random map creation in games like Carcasonne and Mage Knight, and evolution of the play area in Hive and Hey, That's My Fish
 - The emphasis on design and game mechanics in board games
 - Restrictions on design in board games, like only using low numbers
 - Having simple base rules with many caveats and extra effects, and the problems of trying to do this in roguelikes
 - Narrative games and co-operative games
 - Full view of the map - does it change the game significantly? Is it better?
 - FTL winning Boardgamegeek Indie Game of the Year 2012

 - Some games mentioned: Small World, Carcassonne, Risk Legacy, Mage Knight, Legend of Andor, Betrayal of House on the Hill, Hive, Hey, That's My Fish, Cosmic Encounter

Join us next time on Roguelike Radio for a talk about Mobile Roguelikes, followed later by an episode on Unreal World.


  1. A few things to add - Extra Credits did a great ep last week (after we recorded) on Board Games relating to game design, and why you should take them seriously. They also mentioned a video series that covers board games called Shut Up and Sit Down - watch their review of Tales of the Arabian Nights if you're interested in procedural narrative.

    1. Heh; I was just about to mention Tales of the Arabian Nights for the procedural narrative element. Hugely enjoyable game, but a bit fiddly to actually play due to the main component of the game being a CYOA style book. The fan made Doctor Who storytelling game also does procedural narrative well, if a little abstract (...Though not so abstract as to prevent emotional connection to what's going on. And it's implemented on a wiki as well as in a PDF paragraph book, reducing the fiddlyness)

      Also something I find interesting for things that you can look at in board games that get hidden in is mainly in cooperative games - Non player agents, be it enemies or neutral parties; namely the fact that any 'AI' element gets exposed to the players - Be it the rats in Mice and Mystics (A simple dungeon crawl about a bunch of people turned into mice for Reasons explained in the first chapter), and how they prioritize who they're going to attack, or how the passenger in On The Underground is going to choose where to move to, and what route to take, for scoring purposes. The exposure of what the AI's procedure is - however random it might be - can really enhance tactical decision making, though I'm unsure how you'd move that into the digital space.

  2. Everyone should own a copy of Hive. Easy, 2 players, head to head. Good times. Cosmic Encounter is clearly one of the best designed boardgames ever.

    The problem with boardgames is also their strength. They need other players. It's a social experience. So the best games, for me, are the ones that foster that. Cooperation and competition. Anymore if I design a table top game it's a card game, quick to set up, let's you keep secrets, the essential vocabulary of 'draw card' and 'skip player' and what not are known to all.

    I rarely get a chance to boardgame anymore. It's sad. Truly.

  3. Eurogames are fun, but the giant box Amero style is fun too. When the mechanics are made to fit the theme instead of just having a theme slapped on it is easier for nongamers to understand.

    Axis and Allies is my example of this. Tanks move 2. Infantry cost less, etc...and all the fun little toys and stuff can get the kids into it. When I had a gaming group, so many moons ago, it was Axis and Allies and Shogun/Samurai Swords we played.

    Risk and Monopoly are alright, but the designs are just so dated. We require a much faster experience nowadays. :-)

    I wish I had a gamer girlfriend! Or any...:-\

  4. Cool that Highway Encounter was mentioned, I like that game! The sequel even had randomly ordered zones.

    As for the board games, I like Dominion... it has a quirk that, before the game starts, the players get to randomly select 8 types of cards which will be used during the game. Then you need to adjust your strategy to work effectively with the selected cards. There are emergent interactions between the card types, so each game is different. Kind of like equipment in a roguelike.

  5. its a little older but Games Workshops Dungeonquest has several similarities to Roguelikes. It has a nethack level of harshness. FFG did a more modern version of it recently.

    The boardgame scene is definitely expanding in the UK

  6. And probably best known board game - not mentioned even once, really? I mean REALLY?!
    I don't think it have interesting mechanics, but what's actually interesting, throughout the game players might not know, that one of them is close to winning.
    Regarding cooperative games - Pandemic is definitely worth mentioning - all players tries to stop diseases spreading all over the world.
    Regarding competitive games - Dominion: Intrigue variant - I think it was made for ruining friendships :)

  7. Sorry for the blatant self-promotion, but my roguelike is explicitly meant to mimic (some) boardgame design ideas.

    Check it out at and tell me what you think, if the idea worked or not. :)

    My personal opinion -- roguelikes and boardgames are two great things that should be even better together. Too bad not many people are exploring this idea.

  8. After listening to the discussion, I just wanted to add..

    It's Vic Davis from Cryptic Comet who developed The Occult Chronicles.

    Regarding the idea about multiple characters/party roguelikes where you play one character and protect the rest, there are a number of games where the other characters behaviour is automatic depending upon class, but where their physical placement and synchronised movement with the player, plays an enormous factor in the tactical strategy of getting through the waves of enemies presented (and even environmental obstacles).

    I first saw this mechanic in a game called Battle of Tiles by Bimboosoft many moons ago. Used to be available for the PC, but they seem to have now focussed on PS3 and iPad ports.

    Subsequent games on the same theme have been released - mainly to the mobile platform, "Legends of the Heroes", "Sparta 101", and the more polished effort known as Rune Raiders.

    The key fact being you can re-arrange your parties tactical stance, and every turn, according to class and automatic enemy detection everyone fires off their powers. Tanks perform melee, ranged damage (archers,wizards) fire off their attacks, and healers heal who they are spatially placed next to. You can tailor the party placement on a turn by turn basis, based on the enemies that advance toward you.

    It's a very moreish automated action, that requires thought, and action, and it is very dynamic every turn, but which gives you a sort of reveal of your "plan and play" tactical cycle. I think this mechanic could be used in a roguelike game very easily and effectively.

    Also wanted to give a shout out to a boardgame that has a progressively deteriorating map (like the WHeres my fish boardgame) - that is Forbidden Island.

    Theres an iOS port out.

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