This week’s guest post comes from the creative minds over at RAINN Studios, the company behind War of Kings, a strategy game that combines simultaneous play with fun and exciting battles on the field. Here’s Seth to tell you more.
Simultaneous Play, Why Not?
Simultaneous play is a core component of real-time strategy video games, but it is not as common in strategy board games. In this article, we would like to share our experience integrating simultaneous play into our game, War of Kings. While strategy games are traditionally turn-based, we were able to implement some unique mechanics that allowed us to circumvent this stereotype.
War of Kings emphasizes expanding your kingdom economically and through military conquest. Typically, such a game would call for each player to gather resources, build or upgrade structures, and then move and attack with their armies sequentially. However, this creates a situation that all of us have been in. One player spends time deliberating all of the options while the other players are just waiting—especially in a six-player game. War of Kings was no different during its early playtesting. In fact, the most common feedback from play testers was to find a way to reduce the wait between turns.
After brainstorming, we tried to pull as many phases of the game as we could into one phase that every player could participate in at the same time. We found that resource generation, construction, raising armies, and the army support mechanic could all be blended together and played simultaneously. After this phase, the players could move and attack with their armies sequentially around the board. Generally, everyone at the table is interested in these battles, so it seemed appropriate to handle them in the traditional manner.
As might be expected, this simultaneous play initially introduced some imbalance to our game because the first player will get to move his or her armies immediately after everything is constructed, whereas the 6th player must wait until the end of the round. While painfully simple now, the “moved token” mechanic was our solution. By restricting an army to a single movement each round (including a withdrawal from combat), movement in War of Kings became much more elegant. The first player has the initiative, but must risk their armies being unable to withdraw from an unfavorable battle. The last player must react to everyone’s movement, but has the certainty of knowing where everyone else has moved and thus is less likely to get into a situation where his or her armies could become trapped.
In the case of War of Kings, the simultaneous play mechanic not only speeds up the game, but it also greatly simplifies the resource generation. When we were still thinking in terms of turn-based play, resources were generated more or less often, depending on the number of players in the game (i.e. resources generated six times per round in a six-player game vs. two times per round in a two-player game). This made it very difficult to balance the economic system. Our first attempts revolved around adjusting the quantity of resources that each settlement would generate based on the number players in the game. This was clearly far from ideal, because it required multiple tables for players to keep track of. We would much rather keep all of these things independent of the number of players. Now we get to do exactly that.
This simultaneous play mechanic makes War of Kings a hybrid between “real-time” games and traditional turn-based games. The Construction Phase of the game transformed a long wait to a fast-paced and active experience. Players are collecting resources and building their kingdoms while shouting out potential trades they are interested in, similar to traders on the floor of the stock market. Now, both the economic and military components of the game stay exciting and engaging for everyone while speeding up and simplifying game play.