For the inaugural post of the series I wanted to talk about a pattern that has been really important to my own designs, and that has become a hallmark of modern games.
What you do helps others too is a pattern in which your play doesn’t function to block others as much as it opens up possibilities to them. In this kind of game the winner is the one who is best able to get more out of her plays than she gives up to others. The name of the game is to capture surpluses, not to enforce scarcities.
In Carcassonne each tile creates new possible scoring options for players – though a strong player will claim the best scoring options for himself first. Ingenious has a similar feel, but unless tiles are placed so as to foreclose the option, it’s often the case that the following player can score one better than the one who played before him. Tile-laying games have this pattern deeply embedded in them.
Eminent Domain is just one example from a rich collection of role- and action-selection games that feature some mechanism that allows other players to benefit from actions on the active player’s turn. Glory to Rome, Puerto Rico, Race and Roll for the Galaxy, and Tiny Epic Galaxies all have different flavors of this mechanism. In Puerto Rico, everyone gets to take the action of the role selected, but the chooser gets a bonus. In Race and Roll for the Galaxy, the only phases that take effect are those chosen by the players. In Eminent Domain and Glory to Rome, players can follow the actions of other players, and may take very strong versions of those actions based on the cards in their hands and tableaus that match the chosen action. In each of these games, players must think carefully about which actions to take so as not to give away too much to their opponents, and must also position themselves to be able to take advantage of actions their opponents are likely to choose.
In our game, Seikatsu, Matt and I took this dynamic that’s typical of tile-laying games and pushed it to the extreme.
In Seikatsu, players have the opportunity to score every single tile in the garden, whether they played it or didn’t. However, each player scores sets of flowers that exist in rows, and player view the rows from different perspectives. With every play, players create opportunities for other players to create sets, and must consider carefully how to maximize their score not simply by making the highest-point play, but by taking into account how their opponents might score off of that play too.
This design pattern can support both low-interaction games like Race for the Galaxy and high interaction games, like most tile-laying games. While it supports some blocking, especially in expert play, it tends to generally create positive feelings of increase, building, expanding and opportunity. Players feel good because they’re always gaining, and players feel clever when they maximize their opponents’ plays for themselves.
Your turn! What are some of your favorite games that feature the pattern of “What you do helps others too” ? What kinds of design problems do you solve with this pattern?