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 …
Tag: Magic Maze
Let’s get under the hood of some board games again and talk about board game mechanics. These are the things that make the board game go. This time we’re talking about Real Time games.
Real Time games have been around for a little while, but there have been more of them coming out recently. In a Real Time game, you and everyone else at the table are taking your actions under the pressure of the clock or something along those lines, so you are moving as fast as you can. Some real time games have you work together all at the same time, while others are still going to use turn order to determine when you go, and some are actively pitting you against each other as fast as possible.
What Real Time is great for in games is ratcheting up the stress level. Now, instead of being able to plan and think about your turn, you are hoping to get it done fast enough that time doesn’t run out on you, you are able to sink the enemy sub before they find you, or you can make it to the check point to get more time. Some games can give you that tension by giving you difficult decisions to make, this one creates a similar tension by whatever constraint you are under. And often creates more of it than the difficult decisions, but you have all the time you need, do. I know for some people that it can create too much pressure for them, and so they won’t play them, which I feel like is a fair decision. So, know your crowd before you pull them out.
One area that Real Time games can be quite good, however, is dealing with analysis paralysis players. They need to make a decision immediately, so even if they want to figure it out, they can’t. If you are dealing with an issue with AP players, and they are up for it, a real time game would be a good way to cut down on that play in a game. Now, they also might be some of the people who get too stressed out by it though. You’ll have to see with their personalities, but they might not like the pressure keeping them from playing their optimal strategy. I know one AP player who wouldn’t ever play a real time game, but I also know a couple who own and play them just fine. Games that have an element of real time, which I’ll mention some below, those might be a better fit than a purely real time game as well.
What are some games that use this mechanic?
Image Source: Board Game Geek
One of my favorites that uses this is Captain Sonar. Now, in Captain Sonar, you and an opposing team face off against each other in a real time battle to sink the enemy sub. Each Captain is shouting out orders and their crew are responding. The sonar operator is trying to plot the enemies route so that the team can locate where they are, get close enough, and fire torpedoes upon them. All of this while getting the torpedoes online and keeping the systems in working order. This game is a lot of fun, and, while the concept seems stressful, I feel like it’s less stressful than some. The fact that there is no timer means that if you want to move very fast and keep the pace frenetic, you can, otherwise, you can let the other team move more than you do, but either way, it’s a fun game of cat and mouse with both of you trying to chase down the other.
Fuse is a much smaller real time game. In it you’re trying to defuse bombs. Sounds stressful, and it is as there is a timer that counts down and plays tense music. As a group you roll dice, and then you can discuss and each of you picks one of the dice to defuse one of the bombs in front of you. However, if you can’t use a die, everyone has to toss back a die of the same color or the same number. But, once you’ve defused a bomb, you put the dice back, grab another one and start defusing that one. This game is very stressful and short. I’ve had a good time playing it, and when I have played it, we’ve played multiple times. For a game that is stressful, that’s a good sign that they designed the game well. There are also levels of difficulty, basically how many bombs you have to defuse, so the stress level can be lowered if you want, though, it’ll still be stressful.
Image Source: Asmodee
One that uses it only in part of the game is Galaxy Trucker. In this game, you are building up a lousy looking truck from scrap and watching it get destroyed as it flies to pick up items and then drop them off over three rounds. What works well in this game, though, is the fact that you build your spaceship in a real time element. The first person to get their ship to where they want it to be then causes everyone else to feel a time crunch and rush to finish building their ship the best that they can. Then, you get a few seconds to relax before your ships start getting bombarded by asteroids, aliens, and whatever else might be out there. Then you go and do that again, two more times. Now, I might be messing up the rules slightly, it’s been a while since I played it, but the main idea is there. Galaxy Trucker does a good job with the real time as you hunt for that perfect piece to put into your ship, but doesn’t make itself too stressful because the game isn’t too serious.
Games like Unlock and Exit are also real time as your score is based off of how well you raced against the clock. In these games, you are basically in an escape room, but it’s a board game, or a card game. You look at these cards, use items together, and try and find a way out of the situation that you’re stuck in. I personally like Unlock better because it’s reusable, in Exit you might destroy everything. And I like that Unlock has an app that counts down, versus Exit where the pressure is just trying to get it done in as little time as possible, but it’s just counting up. The pressure is definitely there more so with Unlock as you can watch the clock count down. I also like Unlocks solution to check if you got it right better than Exit. But both options are a lot of fun.
There are a lot more real time games out there as well. Magic Maze is a difficult cooperative one, but unless you’re playing with a somewhat dedicated group, you’re not going to get the full depth of that game. Plus a large number of party games use a real time mechanic as well. A game like Scattergories, Catch Phrase, and many others have that timer limiting how long you can think about things or how long you get to guess. Though, with some of the other games like Magic Maze and Fuse, when that time runs out, it determines if you win or lose, which is something you don’t get from those party games.
I’ll be curious to see what interesting ways real time can be used in board games. It definitely has been used well a number of times, but there seems to be more design space out there for new games to come out that are challenging and real time. And I know that there are a number I’m interested in, that I haven’t gotten to play yet. What are your favorite real time games? Or as they too stressful?
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