Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Area Influence

One of the most common game mechanics--yet one strangely missing from BGG's game mechanic lists--is that of Area Influence. Its implementation is as diverse as the games in which it falls, yet one thing is always true: more is better.

More what? More of whatever resource(s) the players are adding to the board and/or moving around. Scoring is based on the numbers of these resources at various locations. In some cases, the resources are not placed on locations at all; it is simply their numbers that matter. Although there are some hybrids, I breakdown the scoring systems into the following types:

All or Nothing: The top player(s) score full points. All the rest score nothing. This is a very cut-throat system, even though it appears in some light games. Example games: Carcassonne, Caylus, Through the Desert, Wallenstein, and Liberté.

Shared: Points are shared between some or all of the players' resources present. Most often, tied players either split the reward for their place, or score as if they were one step lower. Scores for 2nd place and lower have decreasing value. This is a very forgiving system. If you fought hard but only came in second, you still get points. Usually, just being there at all gives you something. Example games: Web of Power/China, Tower of Babel, San Marco, and El Grande.

Turn-Based: In this system, each player scores (or has the option of scoring) on his/her turn. This allows each player to affect the result before taking his reward. Example games: Medina, Tikal, and Taj Mahal.

There are too many Area Influence games to even cover all the ones in the BGG top 100. Therefore, I will just give a quick summary of how this mechanic works in the games mentioned above.

Carcassonne: Player(s) with the most followers on a given feature score full points.

Caylus: The player who builds the most houses on the current castle section each round gets a favor. Ties are resolved based on who built first.

Through the Desert: The players with the most camels in each caravan color get 10 points. Tied players each get 5.

Wallenstein: In each region, the player with the most palaces/churches/trading firms gets 3/2/1 VP's respectively. If more than one player is tied, they each get 1 VP less.

Liberté: This one is pretty unique. The majority in each province gets one vote (one vote per marker in Paris). However, it's not the player that gets the vote, it's the political party. Ties are broken by card play.

Web of Power/China: The player with the most monasteries/houses in a region gets 1 VP for each monastery/house in the region. The player with the second most monasteries/houses in a region gets 1 VP for each monastery/house in the region of the player with the most. The player with the third most monasteries/houses in a region gets 1 VP for each monastery/house in the region of the player with the second most. Etc. Tied players get full points. No places are skipped. The player(s) with the majority of counsellors/emissaries in each pair of regions indicated on the board (alliances) get a point for each counsellor/emissary in both regions. Tied players get full points.

Tower of Babel: The player with the most houses on the wonder gets the points in the first column of the socring table. The player with the second most houses gets the points in the second column. All other players with houses get 3 points. Ties are scored one column lower. After scoring takes place, the next line of the scoring table is used for the next wonder to be completed.

San Marco: The player with the most aristocrats gets the first number. The player with the second most aristocrats gets the second number. Ties are scored one number lower.

El Grande: The player with the most caballeros gets the first number. The player with the second most caballeros gets the second number. The player with the third most caballeros gets the third number. Ties are scored one number lower. In a 2p game, only the top number is used. In a 3p game, only the top two numbers are used.

Medina: The player who claims the first palace in a given color gets the bonus tile for that color. Any players who subsequently claim a larger palace take the relevent bonus tile for themselves.

Tikal: Each player scores the value shown on the top of each temple where they have the most workers. If there is a tie, no one scores it. Each player gets a full turn to use their 10 action points before scoring.

Taj Mahal: A player can withdraw from the card playing at any point. If they currently have the most in any of the 6 types of cards, they "score" for all of these categories. If a player wishes to continue to fight for certain majorities, they must stay in and keep playing cards.

This mechanic appears in so many games--sometimes blatantly, sometimes subtly. Its implementation is so varied that it's possible to play several different games with no two feeling quite the same. The one thing all the games share, however, is counting. You always find yourself counting to see how you will score.

[China image by chuckles2000]


At 10:41 AM, Blogger Ryan Walberg said...

Hi Jim, nice post as always.

Maharaja: Palace Building in India (Kramer & Kiesling) uses the Shared Area Influence mechanic.

In a 3-player game, the player with the most points in a city gets 11 gold, the second-most gets 7 gold and the least gets 3. If only one player has points in a city, he gets a 5 gold bonus. In 2, 4- and 5-player games, these scales are adjusted.

It works remarkably well, especially because there are different things you can have in a city and different situations that score you different numbers of points.

Maharaja also features Simultaneous Action Selection, a favourite of yours, am I correct? :)

Speaking of points, my point is that Maharaja is a perfect example of area influence.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger ekted said...

Sure. I like Maharaja. I'd like to play it more, but it is a little heavy for my current gaming opponents.

I never said I disliked SAS or Randomness in games; I was just equating the two. In fact for me, a certain amount of Randomness can make an otherwise boring game very fun.

At 7:29 PM, Blogger Rick said...

Area influence = Zzzzzzz... Ok, unless it's all or nothing. Then it's a bit more interesting.

Just wanted to note the Die Macher, being an election game, is by default an area influence game of the all-or-nothing variety. Which is why I really enjoy it.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger Fellonmyhead said...

Would you classify the following as area-influence games?

Euphrates & Tigris

It just seems to me it's a difficult mechanism to pin down, there are so many variations on it. Perhaps that might be a reason they missed it on their list at BGG?

I personally think it's about time they put it on.

At 8:05 AM, Blogger ekted said...

Go/Risk/Monopoly definitely not. Diplomacy I suppose, for the purposes of conflict resolution. E&T is close. It's similar to Alhambra in that it's not about how many tiles of the same color you have in a "location", but just about how many you have total. Of course with E&T there IS a spatial element to it. If I was forced to choose, I would have to say it is not specifically AI.


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