Game Design

How to mitigate waiting in turn-based games

It's a commonly heard argument that real-time games are superior to turn-based games (or at least that they have this significant advantage) because you don't have to wait for your opponent's turn, which is boring. This is a valid point, but turn-based games have some recourses to mitigate this problem and even come close to eliminating it.

The best turn-based games give players something to do or think about on their opponent's turn. Go is a really good example. In the intensity of a battle for the life of a group, you try to "read" (play out possible variations in your mind to find the best move) during the opponent's turn as much as possible, and it's not any harder or less effective than reading during your own turn (except that you risk it being for naught if your opponent makes a move you didn't plan for). The effect is that it doesn't really feel like waiting. I was an avid player of Go for something like a year and I can't remember once feeling bored by this.

Prismata is similar, but not as good. In the first few turns of a Prismata match you need to look at the available units and come up with a strategy. It's the most important phase of the match, so players who are good at time management (and are tryharding) will usually spend a lot of time on it. But, as with Go, you can think on your opponent's turn, and so not only does this mitigate the waiting, it creates a really interesting metagame where you might pass your turn even though you're not done thinking - and only part of your time will store - because your big decision comes next turn and you want to stop your opponent from using your time. If the opponent takes a while and does something you didn't expect, then you've profited because now you also don't have to waste time planning for moves they didn't end up making. But if the opponent immediately does exactly what you expected and passes, you might find yourself profitless and forced to make a decision with less time than you wanted.

Prismata review

The reason I said "but not as good" is because in Prismata this usually only extends for the first few turns, since once you get into the meat of the game where math becomes involved it gets very hard and inefficient to read ahead. It's also not always hard to tell what the best strategy is. With randomly generated sets you inevitably get a few with an obviously correct opening and it comes down to mid-game execution.


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