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Strategic Allocation: Unpacking Action Points in Board Games

Welcome back to another dive into The Game Mechanics. Today we are looking at action points and what they are and how they are used. First up lets define an action point. Action points are points that can be used to take actions in board games (Great job using the words in the definition).


Some games have set amounts of action points for example Bark Avanue allows players to choose one action to perform after they move. In Bark Avenue after you move you may then do one of the following pickup a dog to walk, drop off a dog or a neighborhood action. This example Illustrates how action points give players agency in their turn.


What happens when we give players more action points and more actions? Well this opens up what we will call the "action economy". Action economies are especially prevelant in CO-Op games like Horrified or Pandemic. Players will have have a more diverse decision space to make iinteresting choices if a designer puts in a menus of actions to choose from, then constricts it by implementing action points. Action Points and worker placement can be very similar. For example placing one of your workers on the board to preform a specific action and only having so many worker is basically the same thing with the exception of the visual representation you get by placing a worker on the board.

Horrified Characters with Action Points
Horrified Characters with Action Points
Design Idea💡

An implementation of action points that I would find interesting is a more of a true economy. Say you have one action that costs 2 points to do and one that costs only 1 point. By taking the 1 point action that increases the same action to 2 points. Also not taking the 2 point action could decrease the cost of the 2 point action to 1. in this basic form it can be clearly manipulated by the player so there would have to be some sort of limit on how you would manipulate the market and when the market would adjust. for example the market would only adjust at the end of a players turn thus not letting the player reap benifits immediately. The cost fluctuation would be passed on from player to player not just the player taking their tun Its basic supply and demand economics applied to action points to creat meaningful decisions for the player.


Conclusion

Action points are a system to allow players to make choices within a framework of an action economy. Action points are a way of restricting players to choosing the best action to take at the time with the limited information the game has given them. By restricting players ability to take all the actions they want on their turn you present them with interesting decisions that will keep players engaged in the game. Action points are less of a single mechanism but rather an underlying philosophy of game design that is utilized in many popular hobby games.

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