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Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.

Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!

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Friday, October 22, 2010

One More Turn...The Importance of Goals

Civilization is a very addictive game, in a sense. The "One More Turn Syndrome" is a commonly reported phenomenon among players. Civ is one of those games that manages to keep you hooked, coming back again and again and again and again...


A Very Common Technique
Cliffhangers. Humans can't stand them. Whenever a piece of plot is left over, unresolved, unended, we dislike it. We don't want there to be loose threads. So we read on, to go further. We "have to" find out what happens to the hero in the next chapter, how the mortally-wounded sidekick will fare, if the villain has truly escaped for good, if the Doomsday Device will go off...

It works.

Most people do keep on reading, as long as they know there will be a conclusion, and as long as the story has engaged them so far. So how does Civ do it?

Plot, Plot, Plot...
Personal investment. The reason that I come back to the game again and again is that I have plans. I can mouse over a city, and see how many turns it will take for me to complete the smashing wonder that will let me start a campaign of massive war against my foe, how many turns it will take for a Great Person to emerge from the shadows of obscurity, how many turns it will take for my country's influence to spread over the map, stifling my rival. As I come closer to these milestones, I set up more plans.

All of those plans can be seen on their way to completion. I know how long it will take for me to research a critical piece of technology, or how many turns it will take for me to gain access to a valuable natural resource. My plans hinge on it. And I like to see my plans complete. My personal investment is literally playing out in front of my eyes, and it's not easy to leave it for later.

One More Session!
These tips can easily be applied to running an RPG campaign, because the point is to keep the players wanting to know what will happen next, to want to play the next session. Cliffhangers are a given, but this more subtle method that Civ uses is worth noting. Make character advancement transparent, and block out player plans in a visible way.

Are they mustering up support in political spheres for their cause? Use a chart to track their progress, and let them know a rough timeline for when success will happen. Or, if not success, maybe track effort spent towards a special check, which determines how they're swayed. Are they raising an army? Add tokens to a counter of military forces, increasing it at a regular interval. Make it predictable, and they'll get the sense that they can depend on it showing up.

And they'll come back for it.


  1. Very true!

    I really like the suggestions you offer in the end~ particularly the idea of graphing out the political or social progress of their plans visually. Nice!

  2. Thanks! Having visual reinforcement is something that really struck me as being central to any sort of game.


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