We often see a lot of board game mechanics being used in video games, especially in the RPG, puzzle games, and real time strategy games genre. What about some mechanics that are common in video games but not often seen in board games? In this article I’m going to go over some popular video game mechanics and how they might be utilized.
Physics based destruction
As computers get more powerful, we can build more realistic physics based destruction that will actually affect game play. In the board game world, the only games off the top of my head are simple kids games “Rampage/Terror in Meeple City” and “Jenga”. I think this is an interesting mechanic that can be utilized even in heavier strategy games. One idea would be to build buildings out of different colored bricks during set up. As different colors are knocked into different areas on the board, special effects would be triggered. Buildings can be knocked over flicking, a small spring powered gun or cannon, dropping “bombs”, or a small swinging heavy ball.
The main draw back of destruction in board game is the added randomness that is undesired in heavier games. However, plenty of heavier game uses dice, but they have ways of adjusting dice values, or using the same dice face for multiple purposes. This randomness of destruction can also be attenuated by allowing limited removal fallen pieces, or moving the pieces. (One idea would be to “bulldoze” through the destruction, spreading the pieces to either side).
Real time competitive play
When I say real time, i mean the play is non-stop, not just simultaneous. Lots of games do simultaneous game, taking pauses in between turns for resolution. The game that comes to mind for actual real time is Captain Sonar. I think the reason we don’t see this mechanic more often is because of the ease of cheating when all players are so focused on their own choices and actions. Computer games can do real time gameplay easily because there is an omniscient third party that make sure all players are following the rules. Captain Sonar does this beautifully by forcing players to monitor each other in their own team, performing checks after every movement. It is much less likely that the whole team cheats to ruin the game.
There are solutions to this, allowing players to be independent while playing simultaneous real time. The easiest way to reduce cheating would be to increase the time it takes to perform an action. In the board game world, this can be done by rolling dice or drawing cards. These two simple mechanics requires physical movement from the player while giving uncertain results. Lets do cards as an example. Player can be required to draw a certain card out of a deck before they can perform an action. Frequency of the card will determine how fast the player can play, while checks can simply be done by requiring players to place that card in the middle of the table for all players to see.
I would love to see more of these mechanics being utilized, and if you know games at the moment that do them well, let me know!