Trying to make Torpedoes work in a Board Game.

Torpedos track their targets. It’s one of the most quintesential things about them. Torpedos are homing weapons.

Space battles involve torpedos. This, too, is an immutable fact of space battles. In fact, if a space battle does not involve torpedos, or at least the potential for torpedos, can it even be said to have occurred?

I mean… obviously it didn’t occur. Space battles are, for now, still in the realm of pure fiction, but fictionally speaking, what is a space battle without torpedos?

See it would be quite easy to say to the players of your game “the torpedo moves towards its target”, but that is likely to lead to very unrepeatable results. Different players will interperet that very differently. The rules must be formalised. They need to be an algorithm. Moreso they need to be an algorithm that is both swift and easy to perform for a human player, with very little in the way of thought or room for interpretation.

This presents a challange, for a board game designer. Cardboard chits do not support target tracking and, on the face of it, it seems that tracking targets is maybe dauntingly complex to add to the rule set as a function of the rules themselves.

The first few iterations of the “torpedo tracking algorithm” were abysmal in this respect. My instincts as a programmer led me down all the wrong paths. I’ll tell you now that the correct way to do something like this is not to attempt to find the minimal set of rules which results in emergent target tracking. I thought I had found that like so: “for each step in the torpedos movement, if the target is left, turn left. If the target is right, turn right. Otherwise, go straight.”

Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? In practice it’s horribly tedious to perform, and after a torpedo has passed by it’s likely that the hands guiding it have accidentally knocked every nearby token askew. Not to mention the caveats that you need to add if you aim to have repeatable rules. What happens when the target is directly behind the torpedo, for example? What PART of the target constitutes its location?

I scrapped that method early on. So far the new torpedo algorithm has gone over pretty well with playtesters. The only people who had any trouble with it were those who had already played a considerably number of games with the old algorithm, and everyone else picked it up just fine. But nevertheless, how torpedos home in remains my biggest concern out of everything in the design.

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