As board games become more and more popular, inspiring new designers with fresh ideas to take action and publish their own games, I feel that some mechanics are being left behind. We see a lot of the same tried and tested mechanics being utilized in thematic modern games, but I feel some mechanics in classical abstract games have been forgotten. In this article I’m going to talk about the area enclosure mechanic of Go, and how they might be implemented with a modern theme. If you know a modern game that uses this mechanic, please let me know!
The easy to learn, impossible to master game that has become one of the tests for machine learning and AI. It is widely touted by the gaming community as one of the most elegant and best designed game of all time. Why is it then that mechanics like card drafting, worker placement are used until they are tired out and this beautiful mechanic is left in the dust in the gaming world?
I think the main reason this mechanic has not been used is that it is very hard to make a competitive area enclosure game that can accommodate more than 2 players. This seems almost like a requirement for modern games nowadays. Obviously there are exceptions, but the vast majority of the market, especially if it’s a new designer, is to play it safe and design for at least 4-5 players. Games that can play so many people while being strategic will need methods to limit player interaction, simultaneous game play, or a large array of meaningful choices every turn. Go in its most basic form has none of those. You can play a piece, and your plan can be ruined three times over before you can play another piece. There exists a multiplayer version of Go itself, but it has not really caught on.
Area enclosure games in general has this issue due to the incredible amount of player interaction. Every move is played to block another player from achieving their goal, while also furthering your own plan. I think the best way to implement this mechanic into the modern world would be to limit the number of choices, and limit the player interactions involved.
To do this, rules can be created to limit placement. Perhaps instead of a piece at a time, players can play tiles of different shapes, or even multiple pieces at a time. This shortens the game considerably while keeping the general idea of the game intact. Another method is to create rules such as one can only block under certain circumstances, or cards need to be played to directly interact with another player. Another direction to go is to allow the use of opponent’s pieces to aid in your own conquest. Perhaps a limited amount of special markers can be used to temporarily take over a chain of opponent’s pieces in order to capture area occupied by a second opponent? The possibilities are obviously endless, and I would love to see a game that can do area enclosure well while playing multiple players.