Thursday, January 5, 2012

Math Bad!

I am going to go out on a limb and say that for any game designer you will have a much better success at designing games if you have a strong background in math.  It helps with more than you will ever know.  Take it from a guy who struggles with math, I waste a lot of time trying to solve problems that can almost always be handed by a moderately difficult math equation.  I end up doing more iteration because I don't do a great job of figuring out the math issues early on.  This leads to some wasted time and frustration.  Learn from me and get a healthy does of advanced math skills before you leave high school or college.

I bring this up because I played Automobile last night and fought myself to pay attention and understand what I needed to do all night.  It's a deep and complex game with lots of statistical and analytical thingking.  Players are trying to build their Auto Manufacturing company by building factories, manufacturing cars, managing Car Sales Men, using the Characters Special abilities (which can change every turn) to their maximum effect.
Bryan (center) teaching the Rules of the game.
You have money that is a lot in the first and second rounds but is gone after that and is near impossible to get back. I made several big mistakes but they were all based on assumptions about how the game worked and how stiff the penalties were.
An unknowing Me, about to get my ass handed to me! 
Late in the first round I used a special phase of the game to shut down my factories and avoiding the penalties I would have got for having the lowest technology Car Factories.  But I didn't do the math to calculate how much money the factories would be making for me and that I could have waited to sell the factories until turn two, making a lot more money.
In the end it came down to math.  The two guys who did the best were the math experts, correctly calculating how many cars they could manufacture and effectively sell, gaining the highest profits, allowing them to buy more factories and sell more cars.
Apparently Bryan doesn't know how to take a non-blurry picture of me.
Automobile is a cool game and I would play it again, but I don't think I would go back to it often.  It is the start contrast to my game, Taipan, which has a fair bit of hidden and random elements.  Speaking of which, I am having a hard time getting the new Data Sheets set up properly.  I have made so many changes that the Cards for Taipan have become so significantly changed on the Data side, that I have to clean up the Photoshop files before they will read properly.

As a bonus, check out this insane pistol that shoots shotgun shells.  This is Ben (Bryan's son) holding the monster of a gun.  That thing is almost as big as he is!
Heres me, a 6'4 reasonably muscled guy having a hard time even holding the thing.  Aiming it causes my hand to wobble from the weight.  Maybe I should have cheated like Ben and used both hands!  ;p


  1. Sounds like that game could use some iPad support or something. I love a complex game but I don't necessarily want to have to bust out an abacus.

  2. Hehe....yeah, we were making the same comments last night. Ben had said they should ship the game with an abacus for each player. =P

  3. I guess for a game about running a business, it makes sense that you have to play it like an accountant...
    I can think of a lot of games that require you to do a fair bit of mental math, weighing the values of various elements in selecting strategies, but they're not too bad, and if you play them enough, you start to get a feeling for them that doesn't require you to actually keep a balance sheet when you play. I take it this isn't one of those games.

    So the gun is on its way to becoming Hellboy's "Big Baby" (aka "ow, my wrist is broken!") ? Though it's a pretty good facsimile of "The Samaritan."

  4. Hehe....I couldn't remember the name of Hellboy's gun. Yeah I would fully expect to break my wrist if I fired that monster.

    I think that if I played the gaem a few times I would get a better sense of how it works. There was just so much to know and learn and not knowing how much you should make at first caused all the players to be very conservative early on. We were also very worried about the Debt Tokens. You get them for every car you done sell and for Salesmen who dont sell cars. Yo also get them at the end of a round for having car factories that are out of date in terms of technology. The debt is very bad at the end of the game but not bad in the beginning. We should have been bold early on and then started being more conservative as the game progressed.