You can always go…

Downtime.

(AKA Maintaining the Pace pt 2)

In my last post (before I lost the internet for over a week. What a calamity!) I talked about why pace is so important, and that I’d revisit the three things I consider key to maintaining a good pace. So here’s the first one from the list: Downtime (as well as some stuff about 3 Districts because that’s what’s compelling me to write all this stuff).

Downtime is, at best, an unfortunate necessity in a lot of games. If there’s meaningful choice there has to be meaningful time to consider the options. But there are things games can do to alleviate the downtime.

  • No cards filled with text. If most cards have an array of new rules, conditions, events etc, then every time a card is drawn the game comes to a halt whilst people work out what it means. If the mechanics are too complex to describe with symbols or a few words, then question whether they’re worth disrupting play for. It may be the case that some exciting cards are needed to make the game what it is- but make sure when playtesting that you measure the downtime induced by these cards, and always look for ways to streamline their explanation.
  • Keep player’s turns as short yet meaningful as possible. A players’ turn should never consist of just boring admin, there should always be a decision to make. But if there are several then split them up, interleaving each player’s actions. Better to wait 3 minutes to make a 1 minute move, than 15 to make a 5 minute move.
  • Ensure the players are involved on other player’s turns. Even if you love solitaire Euros, there’s still some element of interactivity (I hope). The more there is, even if it’s passive, the more engaged players will feel on other players turns.
Some icons designed by Mike Brown on BGG for prototypes of 3 Districts.

In 3 Districts I’ve worked hard to get the amount of new information on cards down to a minimum. There are a few which are still worded- special cases which only occur once, and iconography would be overkill. The card effects have become simpler, but are no worse for it. The game now moves a lot faster and is much more fun, as well as being better balanced. Is there room for more complex cards? Probably, but only a few, no more. As for the other two points, the game is definitely interactive, people visiting you can be advantageous or disadvantageous, and your city stays open for everyone else’s turn. And the turns are short and sweet, yet meaningful.

As always, let me know any thoughts or even just rant about the plain wrong things I’ve said. Next time: the other things I said on the list.

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