Hello fellow adventurers,

In today’s episode, we are discussing Turn Order and Initiative in Cooperative Card and Board Games.

My goal for this episode is to identify the different aspects of various turn order mechanics in order to enrich our game designer mindset. Hopefully, this will help all of us to create the best possible turn order mechanics for our games.

Questions to ask yourself when designing a Turn Order Mechanic:

  • Which tasks do you want your turn order mechanic to take care off?
  • How do you want to determine the turn order? Which metric do you want to use?
    • Depending on the used metric you also have to ask yourself how to handle multiple identical initiative values?
  • How can players manipulate the turn order?
  • How do you want to keep track of the initiative values? How do you visualize the turn order?  

Potential Tasks Initiative can take care off

  • In summary, it can be said that the initiative can take on the following tasks for us game designers:
  • Structure turn-based play (sequence of combatants)
  • Manage Pace of actions (fast dagger vs. slow warhammer)
  • Manage number actions (if combined with a resource system)
  • Balance power of actions (depending on your game fast actions could be cheaper but less powerful or they could be more expansive because it is very valuable to act earlier in the turn order)
  • The availability of these decisions will add a tactical element to combat and increases its depth
  • Creates a possibility of character specialization by allowing different playstyles

Factors influencing the Initiative Value

  • Character action (attack, spell, skill, movement, etc.)
  • Character equipment (weapons, armor)
  • Character’s values (agility, dexterity, movement speed)
  • The weight of Equipment (load)
  • Any resource (such as action points, etc.)

Ways to manipulate the turn order

  • Spells (e.g. Haste, Slow)
  • Unforeseen Environmental Effects (e.g. A player is stuck in Quicksand)
  • Spending Resources that are typically used for other aspects of the game. Such as:
  • Discarding cards from your hand
  • Spending  Actions points / Mana / Life
  • Hold Action (increase risk of getting hit) to consciously act one after another (e.g. Strength Buff before an Attack is performed)
  • Borrowing initiative from your next turn as an O-Shit-Button
  • Joker Card (Use one result of a dice roll or one card of a turn order deck as a joker, which allows a player to act whenever he wants during this turn)

Exemplary Initiative Mechanics:

  • Bidding for initiative
  • First person to talk
  • Players chose initiative
  • When and How often
  • Predefined Slots
  • Random Order
  • Time instead of rounds (Tix-based-System)
  • Passing initiative with each action
  • Anti-initiative system

Important Links:
Nerdlab Website 
Nerdlab Facebook Page
Nerdlab on Twitter
Nerdlab on Instagram

Music by Mathew Pablo
Turns,_rounds_and_time-keeping_systems_in_games (Wikipedia Article)