Race games

13 Jun 2016

A race has distinct and yet equivalent representations. In a linear race of a fixed distance between two people, there will generally be three spans of distance.

  1. The span from the finish line to the leader.
  2. The gap between the leader and the follower.
  3. The span from the follower to the starting line.

These three spans have an algebraic relationship - they sum to the length of the course. This means that there are only two degrees of freedom.

Alternatively, we could measure the distance of each player from the starting line - which would be two degrees of freedom again. Or we could measure the distance of each player from the finish line.

In a fighting game, players are depicted as each having a health bar or hit points, and in many fighting games such as Mortal Kombat, the primary way to win is to wear your opponents health bar down to zero (before your opponent wears your health bar down to zero).

There is a correspondence between hit points and distance-remaining, with a flip of possession. Your distance-remaining corresponds to your opponent’s remaining hit points.

Race games have a long history; you can google it, but Parcheesi (Pachisi) and Backgammon-like games are really, really old.

How are racing board games different than foot races? One is that the human player controls multiple pieces.

How are racing board games different than footraces between teams? Well, relay races are won by the team who gets to the end of the race first, with the relay baton essentially forcing the “team” to act like a single individual, performing like the sum of the various individuals.

Racing board games are won when all of the pieces are at the finish line. So if we were announcing “team times”, we would say that the team had a time equal to the slowest member of the team - which would be an interesting variant.

Furthermore, racing board games generally have positional interference - two friendly tokens can often coexist on the same discrete location, but often two unfriendly tokens cannot coexist on the same position, or some similar “tokens from different teams interfere with one another at the same position” rule.

What do these three differences correspond to, in the other world of fighting games?

  1. Teams. Well, teams of fighters can certainly fight other teams of fighters.
  2. The race is won when all of the your pieces are at the finish line. Flipping possession, the fight is won when all of your opponents have zero hit points. Sure, sounds reasonable.
  3. Interference. Unfriendly tokens cannot have the same number of hit points? Not quite, because it’s not their own hit points, it is their opponents’ hit points.

Let’s think about the interference a little more. On your turn, you roll some dice, and, in one world, choose to damage some of your opponents, choosing where the damage goes, focusing it on one target or splitting it among several. In the other world, you move some of your own team forward, choosing whether to move one piece quickly or several pieces more slowly.

By doing so, you might tie with one or more of your opponents. Let’s imagine a bike race. Pulling neck and neck with another racer, or barely passing them, might have a psychological effect. If we instead imagine a chariot race or a car race which often are depicted as having grinding wheels, it might instead be a physical effect.

In racing games, the consequence is often “go back to start”. What would that correspond to? Flipping possession, instead of your opponent’s distance-to-finish going to maximum, it is your piece’s hit points going to maximum. That is, in a fighting game, this corresponds to a full heal.

To be more explicit, the rule would be: if by doing damage to one or more of your opponents, you can bring them down to the same number of hitpoints-remaining as one of your players, that player gets a full heal.

I can imagine a vaguely JRPG-like game. Maybe encounters are generally between teams of 8 (pieces in a Parcheesi game) to 15 (pieces in a Backgammon board), and max hit points are somewhere around 68 (squares on a Parcheesi board) or 24 (points on a Backgammon board), and damage on each turn is (long-tailed but) something like 2D6?

Rolling damage and only then choosing to which opponent you want to apply it to is a bit unusual.

The various games, Parcheesi and Backgammon, don’t have everyone starting at the same location. They start separated and move toward separate finish lines; in Backgammon, it’s reversed.

So the rule in Backgammon is really more like: if by doing damage to one or more of your opponents, you can bring them down such that their damage-taken is equal to one of your players life bars, then your player gets a full heal.

That’s kindof abstract.

Imagine that characters in the JRPG-ish thing always assort themselves aggressively, with the healthiest matching up against the worst-off of the other side. If the player is on the left, then they could have their team sorted from healthiest to worst off from top to bottom.

The circumstance that the full-heal rule applies is when you do JUST enough damage, that the sort order would change; of course, the sort order also changes because of the effect of the full-heal rule as well.