Battle Royale / Hunger Games: The Game (of Battle)

Status

No content written, just a couple ideas I had after watching Catching Fire. It started out as a boardgame because I think about boardgames all the time these days, but computers have fewer practical issues.

Setting & Gameplay overview

Battle Royale, The Hunger Games and the like. A bunch of young adults are locked in a very large arena with various weapons. Only the last one standing will go free.

Key elements :

  • NPCs. Many more contestants than players, so a large number of roaming NPCs. A smart NPC AI that can handle all the points below, with different personalities. If it’s a board game, then the AI should also be easy to use, else players will spend too much time moving all the NPCs every turn.
  • Player elimination. NPCs open the possibility of a “reincarnation” mechanic, either as a genuine second chance to win or as an attempt to make the game a draw by killing every other PC.
  • Skills. Contestants vary in physical fitness, intelligence, military training etc. PCs are median in most aspects with perhaps a special talent or two. Some NPCs are pathetic. Some NPCs are scary.
  • Temporary collaboration, Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma-style. Coalitions beat loners, but are vulnerable to betrayal – and everyone knows there can only be one winner. This is the game’s selling point. This tension is what draws us to these stories. Though make sure it’s not friendship-destroying. Coalitions may include PCs and NPCs alike, so must be handled by the NPC AI.
  • Cat-and-mouse.  Every fight is risky. Better to attack only as an ambush or with overwhelming force. Better still to stay out of the way until everyone else is dead. As a video game, this can be implemented with fog-of-war.
  • Wilderness survival. You can hide for a while, but eventually the lack of food, water or medicine will force you to make supply runs in the more heavily contested parts of the arena. Or perhaps it’ll be the angry snakes and poisonous gas. The arena may even shrink over time to force an ending. (If you’re brave, you could take over a supply area from the start, fortify, and stand your ground against desperate challengers.)
  • The escape plan. There just might be a way for a coalition to “beat the game” by escaping the arena together. It’s very tempting because it’s a solution to the iterated prisoner’s dilemma that doesn’t require backstabbing allies. It’s uncertain and time-consuming though. Working on it (instead of gathering weapons and stalking enemies) will make you more vulnerable to other coalitions – and to betrayal.
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7 thoughts on “Battle Royale / Hunger Games: The Game (of Battle)

  1. Pingback: Mention for: Battle Royale / Hunger Games concept | Weaver Entertainment

  2. weaverproject

    I would be interested in particular how the NPC’s mechanic would work – would it be random dice roles or a set circuit. Allow the NPC’s would allow improvements to the scoring over multiple games i.e. you get additional points the less players you reincarnate through.

    Reply
    1. Roxolan Post author

      I would be interested in particular how the NPC’s mechanic would work

      If it’s a board game, then the AI is a tricky game design problem. It can’t be suicidally dumb, it can’t be too predictable, and it has to be very fast to run.

      Idea off the top of my head: there are, say, 5 different “personalities”, each represented by a deck of cards. Lone NPCs flip a card each turn, while coalition members follow the leader until they choose to betray. This is faster than dice rolls and lookup tables.

      Each card will have an If choice, like “if Food < 5, go for the nearest food supply. Else go for the nearest contestant/coalition with less Firepower than you." Perhaps even simpler than that, though it might make the NPC too dumb. The card could also have a COOPERATE/BETRAY section so that it doubles as a betrayal check for coalition members (and other sections if necessary for other queries).

      Decks would be designed such that they cause certain patterns of behaviours ("personalities"), e.g. a Cautious NPC tends to hoard food and rarely joins coalitions, but is unlikely to betray.

      Allow the NPC’s would allow improvements to the scoring over multiple games i.e. you get additional points the less players you reincarnate through.

      I don’t think there’s much of a public for “campaign” games. Maybe as an optional rule.

      One issue with reincarnation rules that give you a chance to win is that they encourage strategic suicide (“if I die now I can reincarnate into this girl, who’s in a position to shoot you”) which could really hurt suspension of disbelief. I’ll have to tread carefully.

      Reply
      1. weaverproject

        You do have an alternative, which is getting more and more popular – Ap support for a board game. A simple program to run on a smart phone device that acts as the NPC – all you do is click ‘Your go’ and it could provide a random action – as the program knows what turn number it is it could then run more complex actions (still randomly) as the game progresses. Or would you be against this concept as a whole?

        Reply
        1. Roxolan Post author

          I like the idea in theory, but it’s a good bit of work (+ maintenance) and it would lose quite a few customers. I’d probably want a physical alternative in the box anyway.

          (This is a hint that the game would work better as a computer game.)

          Reply
  3. dyne1319Dyne1319

    This could work very well, NPC’s action can be dictated to some degree by randomness through dice rolling, and forcing rolls during set changes IE, This NPC rolls for alliance whenever player contestant renaming is <X or when ever a contestant dies roll. Each NPC can have unique set parameters for scenarios based on personality. And take different actions accordantly, You could also you use a system of Tokens to represent Trust and use that as a way to Talk people out of betraying you at least on the NPC side of things. Sadly I don't think this concept could work well with out random rolling for NPC actions . which isn't a bad thing as it's going to make each game different.

    If you want it more generalized you can use a NPC deck that has different actions that have relevant text to situational things like a card that says betray that player with NPC would betray the alliance and attack another contestant. the cards could also have other general use info like attack and move information as sub items so that they would be used for all npc's and not just as a AI system for those in the group.

    I would love to see a game like this, would be great. would be fun.

    Reply
    1. Roxolan Post author

      Yeah, the deck idea is my current best guess (as discussed in the other comment thread). The really tricky part (as a board game) is the complexity, when you have a bunch of NPCs doing their own things that the players have to spend time simulating.

      Reply

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