Board Game Mechanics Table Top

Board Game Mechanics – Real Time

We’re back with another mechanic for a board game, not one that you see all that often, but one that covers what is really quite a breath of board games. If you are looking for fast paced tension, real time games are going to give you that in spades.

As the name of the mechanic suggests, real time games are about doing stuff in real time. That can be moving pieces, rolling dice, solving puzzles, really anything, but you have a time limit that you are working against. Now, it can be that one person needs to do something, then the next, then, the next and you are trying to get it done as quickly as possible while still taking turns. Other times it might be that everyone is doing stuff at once.

Let’s give an example of a game like this, I actually talked about one in my Board Game Mechanics for Variable Player Powers, which you can find here, Magic Maze. In this game you have a group of fantasy heroes who are going shopping at the mall. A silly premise, but each player has a direction that the character can move, north, south, east, west, up some stairs, into new rooms, etc. The game has a timer that is running and you can move to spots which allow you to flip the sand timer, plus you need to move to spots where you can get the items, plus you need to get out as well. This is all done in real time with players moving the pawns, and it’s done cooperatively. The trick is that no one can speak, the only form of communication that you can do is put a pawn in front of someone to let them know you need them to move one of the characters. So it’s very tricky to coordinate because everyone is having to keep track of 4 heroes and where they are moving.

Probably the biggest thing that real time adds to games is tension. There is a clock, a timer, something that is counting down. And it isn’t like in something like Scattergories where you have a limited amount of time to come up with as many answers as possible and then compare the answers, in that, the comparing the answers is really part of the game. In most real time games, when you hit the end, the game is over and you either in or lose. There is no tallying up points, there is no checking to see if you did well enough, and while that can show up in some games that offer some real time, for the most part, it’s pretty obvious how well you did in the game. So it’s a constant pressure to make sure you are getting the right thing.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

For that reason, I think that these games are going to generally be fairly polarizing. Even for myself, real time games are not something I want to pull out all that often because they can be stressful. And it requires people to make split second decisions, and for a lot of people, that can be too much pressure to work on. There are some games that help with that a little bit, but even those, because there is a real time element are going to be more stressful than your average game. These types of games are definitely not ideal games for people with analysis paralysis.

So, if these games sound interesting to you, what are some that work well?

Gateway Game

Fuse – In this game it’s a race against time as you try and defuse as many bombs as possible. The trick to this is that you are trying to roll dice to do that. Each player will take a turn as fast as possible to roll some dice, and then each player takes one and adds it to a bomb they need to defuse. But, there are rules as to what dice are needed to defuse a bomb. One might need to dice that add up to the value of a third die. So you need to pick numbers that work for that, or it might be that the numbers need to increase. If you can’t take a die to help defuse a bomb, you have to take one off of your current bombs and put it back into the bag of dice. So you need the luck to work out in your favor. All of this while an app counts down time and everyone is trying to make sure everyone can get a die but also not take too much time discussing.

Medium Weight

Captain Sonar – This one is interesting because it’s actually one that has less tension, which is odd considering you are on two teams of subs who are trying to figure out where the other is and sink them. Each player has a different role on the submarine. One person is the Captain who is giving orders, telling players what direction to move, conferring with the First Officer who is readying systems like mines and torpedoes, the Radar Technician who is listening to the other teams Captain and trying to figure out by mapping their path where the other team is, and working with the Engineer to keep systems up that the Officer will want to use. Now, that seems like there is a lot going on, and there is, it’s a fairly lengthy game to teach, but what each role does is quite simple. The reason that this game is less stressful is that while it is real time, there is no complete this before time runs out. It’s just tracking down the other ship, that means as the Captain I can announce which direction we’re moving as quickly or slowly as I’d want. This is definitely a different feel than a lot of other real time games.

Image Source: CGE

Heavy Weight

Galaxy Trucker – Now this almost falls into the Scattergories category of “real time” games. The reason I say that is because about half the game isn’t in real time. Instead you are dealing with complications that are coming your way. This can be pirates or asteroids, or picking up supplies for your ship. But where it is real time is the building of the ship. You are fighting with your opponents over tiles that are all face down to start. So you are frantically trying to get the ship put together with enough engines, cannons, crew, cargo room, and power so that can make the best run possible and have as little of your ship blow up as possible. The issue is you need to connect the pieces right. If there’s a two prong connector keeping it together, it better connect to a two prong and more things like that. And some parts just deadend, so it might be a nice cargo area, but do you want it if you can’t protect it with space cannons or shields? I’m not sure how much more complex this is than Captain Sonar, but there are more decisions that need to be made in this game about building your ship and more things to keep track of when doing that.

I will say that out of all of the games I’ve mentioned, Magic Maze, Fuse, Captain Sonar, and Galaxy Trucker, I’m fans of two of them, the other two I’d play but they’re just okay. Magic Maze and Fuse have a much higher stress level and I like playing board games to relax so stressful board games won’t cause me to freeze up, but they aren’t high on my list. With Captain Sonar, it is real time but it’s not as rushed feeling. And with Galaxy Trucker, the game is goofy, you poorly put together space truck will fall apart some and that’s fine, because it’s supposed to, you’re just hoping it’s better than everyone else’s. One final real time type of game I want to mention are Unlock and Exit, both of those score you against how long it took you to solve them. These are good gateway style real time games, I just didn’t mention them because I just talked about them with Escape Room games.

Do you like the tension of real time games or are they too stressful? What are some of your favorites?

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