One game we recently played in the Pug Pharm office was RoboRally, a game that bills itself as “A frenzied race filled with computer-driven chaos!" What is RoboRally? Think of Snakes-and-Ladders but with more strategy.
Each player operates a robot and has to be the first one to navigate it through all the checkpoints to win. The twist is that each round is comprised of basically a command line of five actions pre-selected by each player between rounds. These are simple actions, such as rotate right, advance 2, U-turn, etc. But where it gets tricky is that when everyone’s actions are executed at the same time, your plan might clash with another player’s! If you get knocked off course, there is no way to correct things until the round ends. You may be bumped onto a conveyor belt, shot by lasers, or worse, flung off the board altogether!
Since often times it’s already "too late” to respond to another player’s action, players learn quickly to plan ahead and balance their own strategy while keeping in mind a contingency plan if things go awry. We found this especially captivating because no matter how perfect your cards seemed, there was always a chance that your plans could be derailed! Hence why for some of the solutions we create for our clients at Pug Pharm, there’s a special surprise element like this but designed positively to reward our players.
What we’ve noticed is that while a game like RoboRally has a simple surface, it is actually quite a complex and nuanced game. Balancing games so that they are both challenging and accessible is the true art of game design.