As part of Arcada's game design course we had 2 assignments where we had to analyze a game. Here's what my group (which besides me included Jade Allen, Jakob Myllymäki, Mathias Mäenpää, and Omar Escalante) has submitted.
Game of choice
For our first assignment on game mechanics we have selected Resident Evil 3™️: The Board Game on Tabletopia, more specifically the Gen Con Demo, which has less features, than the full game. Tabletopia indicates the demo as 1-5 players, but it is actually a 1-4 players game and playtime is estimated from 15 minutes to 1.5 hours (full game can have campaigns for 19+ hours).
This game is a turn-based survival game, where you can have up to 4 playable characters, who need to escape a predefined set of rooms, while avoiding enemies (only regular zombies in the demo) and using various items. Players can also trigger various events, which can make getting to the goal quite a bit harder. It is a game of strategy, where you need to manage limited resources of each character and of the team as a whole. Limited health points and ammo and considerable number of enemies may cause situations, where it may be wiser to flee, rather than fight your way through. While there is no need to play as a team, doing so can make things much easier, as it happens in any survival situation.
Since our group had 5 people, and the game technically supports only up to 4, one of us taken over the role of the zombies.
The demo is limited to 7 2-dimensional tiles, each divided into a various number of square cells. Each tile has walls around it, which you cannot pass through. Between 2 adjacent tiles there can be a door, which allows movement between the tiles, if the door is open. Each cell can contain no more than 4 characters and/or enemies. At least 1 tile has at least 1 cell working as exit from the game.
The game has discrete approach to time, as it is turn-based, where each player takes a turn in a pre-agreed order. Each turn also consists of 3 phases: action, reaction, and tension. Each respective phase sets appropriate limits to what a player and enemies can do within the phase.
The game provides a set of possible actions, that characters and enemies can (or sometimes have) to make, depending on the phase:
- Action phase (up to 4 actions per phase):
- Move: characters can move to any adjacent cell in their current tile or to adjacent tile, if a door connecting 2 tiles is open. They cannot move through the walls or through conners (meaning they need to go around the corner). Moving 1 tile costs 1 action point.
- Attack: characters can attack enemies using any of the weapon items in their possession. Range weapons will decrease the ammo number for the respective weapon. Success of the attack is determined by respective dice roll. Enemies can also attack, if a character uses a non-attack action while standing on the same cell, as an enemy.
- Search: a character standing on a cell, that has an item button, can take a card from respective items' deck, while removing the item button from the cell.
- Use item: characters can use any of the non-weapon item in their possession.
- Open/close door: if standing in a cell adjacent to the door card, a character can flip the card to either open or close the door, affecting possible range of movement for all characters and enemies.
- Dodge: if a character does a non-attack action while on the same cell as an enemy (which triggers enemy attack), they have a chance to dodge using a dice roll.
- Push: if a character fails in dodge, they can move 1 enemy by 1 adjacent cell of their choice.
- Die: a character, who failed dodge and lost the last of their health points, dies and can no longer participate in the current game.
- Escape: a character, who reaches the exit cell, escapes and can no longer participate in the current game.
- Reaction phase:
- Move: all enemies, that are present in current character's tile or any tiles connected to it through open doors move towards the character, until they can get into attacking range. Each enemy moves by up to a number of cells represented by the movement value on respective enemy card.
- Attack: if an enemy is within its attack range from current character, it attacks the character.
- Dodge: if a character is being attacked by an enemy, they can attempt to dodge with the same rules as in Action phase.
- Push: if a character fails to dodge, they can push 1 enemy by 1 adjacent cell of their choice.
- Die: a character, who failed dodge and lost the last of their health points, dies and can no longer participate in the game.
- Tension phase:
- Activate: a character in Tension phase needs to pull a card from respective deck and activate respective event described on the card for current or next turn.
The game uses various objects with various attributes and states in order to make the outlined mechanics work. Here are the basic examples, since item and event cards can be relatively complex:
- Have action points and health points as their main simple attributes, as well as inventory as a composite attribute (contains various other objects). Also has secondary simple attributes like evasion and size of the inventory.
- Can be active (can act in the game), dead (killed by an enemy) or escaped (reached an exit cell).
- Have health points, movement speed (number of cells that can be covered per move), attack strength (number of HP to remove from a character on success), attack range, as well as a threat level (used for some events).
- Can be inactive (in a tile with no characters or not linked to any other tile with characters through open doors), active or dead (off the board).
- All weapons have range of attack (can be a number or "line of sight"), attack strength, number of attack dices required for success of an attack as simple attributes. They also have action types assigned to 2 attack types, which can pop up on the rolled dice. Ranged weapons also have ammo, which decreases for each dice roll, and may have "rapid fire" attribute, which allows use several points of ammo per 1 action.
- Can be undiscovered (hidden somewhere on the field), discovered (and in inventory of a character), as well as unusable, in case of ranged weapons without appropriate ammo.
Change of space
There are 2 possible changes to space, that we can do to affect the game:
- Add obstacles (present in the full game). Adding obstacles to tiles, will affect the use of ranged weapons, which rely on "line of sight" for range attribute. "Line of sight" means, that you can draw an uninterrupted line from the center of the character's cell to a cell with an enemy (meaning, you do not cross any of the walls surrounding a tile). Without obstacles a character can attack any enemy on the same tile, but with obstacles, they may need to move around the obstacle first or somehow lure their target to them before the attack. For enemies it may become a challenge as well because an obstacle may limit how they move.
- Remove the walls completely (or remove the doors only). This will make all enemies react to characters, moving them as a horde. This can make the game much more difficult, and even result in situations, where you may need to sacrifice a character to the horde, if you are not fast enough.
Change of time
There are 2 possible changes to time, that we can do to affect the game:
- Limit the number of available turns, essentially creating a time limit. If characters are not able to escape within the time limit, they lose. To make it a bit easier, we can, alternatively, trigger an event, that will increase the difficulty of the game. For example, spawn Nemesis enemy, like the original video game did, when you were too slow in certain areas.
- Introduce fatigue or stress level, which will reduce the number of action points per turn. Characters will start with the same 4 action points, but after a set number of turns (estimating 2 or 3), they will lose 1 action point, resulting in only 3 points for next turn. Then in another 2-3 turns they will lose 1 more action point and so forth, until they have only 1 action point per turn. This is similar to insanity mechanic in some horror games, where you can lose if your sanity drops below (or insanity rises above) a certain value. Such change would introduce a big strategical challenge, so it will be required to carefully evaluate the frequency of the action points reduction, as well as ways to increase the number through items and/or events.
Rules, Goals and Consequences
As any game, Resident Evil 3™️: The Board Game has goals, rules that you need to follow to achieve them, and actions taken carry consequences, with some being relatively negative, making you think twice whether you want to take those. If you even realize the price beforehand. Here are a few examples:
- Taking a non-attack action in the same cell as an enemy triggers the enemy attack. Say you want to reload your gun (use an ammo item), which will allow you to shoot the enemy, but then, if you do that or even just try to move away – you can get bitten and lose your HP.
- Opening doors is required to move through the map, but it's a double-edge sword, too. Opening a door make a tile available not only for the players, but also for the enemies, meaning, that all enemies in a tile, that you've just connected will enter a reaction phase and move closer to you, potentially making it more difficult to avoid their attacks with every move.
- Attacking can also be risky. Not only can your attack not kill an enemy, but just push it away, it can fail entirely, and if there is an enemy in the same sell – you become a snack. But even if you do manage to kill an enemy, if there are any other enemies in the current tile or any of the connected ones – they will move towards you, again potentially creating some dicey situations.
Of course, if every action brought about only negative consequences, the game may become simply not fun, because you will not feel rewarded, unless you are a souls-like fan. As such the game has rules, that can make it worth the risk:
- If you are standing in the same cell as an enemy, bleeding out, you may want to use that first-aid item, that will heal your 3 points, even if you will lose 1 point right after. Besides, you will need to roll for dodge, when the enemy attacks, and if your roll is successful – you will avoid the damage. If not – you can, at least, push the enemy away, giving yourself a little bit more room to maneuver.
- As they say, when one door closes – the zombies can't get you. Even if opening a door has triggered enemies in a tile you are moving in, if there are still enemies in the previous tile, and you close the door just in time – you may save yourself some bullets.
- If you are attacking using a gun, which has rapid fire, you can… Well, fire rapidly, that is several times. Yes, you will waste more ammo, but if you up against multiple enemies, you have a chance of killing all of them with only 1 action point. And if you are playing as Jil Valentine and roll a full dodge icon you get to move regardless of whether attack failed or not.
These rules balance the difficulty of the game, promote strategic thinking, and make it so much more satisfying, when you are able to escape the danger.