How to Build a Game #77 Mechanic Feature: Simultaneous Play

I wanted to take some posts and talk about the mechanics we like to use when building our games; talk about how we use them, when we use them and how we make small changes to make them more interesting. The first contestant is going to be simultaneous play. Since I am lazy and want to save myself the keystrokes so “Simultaneous Play” is going to be SP from now on.

I like SP for several reasons. SP saves on overall game time, reduces downtime, allows for interesting hidden movement, interesting initiative, keeps players engaged, doesn’t allow for players to check out (yes those are different things) and many more.

The first game we used SP was Priest of Olympus. The game is played one round at a time and each round has a lead player. Each player, starting with the lead player, will take a smaller action based on what phase of the round is active. As the priests (represented by dice) are moved around the modular board one by one, players need to pay attention because a combat phase and resource collection phase are greatly affected by what happens in the movement phase. Another phase will move random effects around the board and players need to know what could hurt or help them when this phase is active. You don’t need to know the particulars of all the actions, what I want to impart is the concept of constant action and regular engagement but still have a turn by turn structure and feel.

Another trick we use with this kind of turn structure is to apply hidden movement early in the round only to be revealed later. This is a great way to create tension. Lets say players need to choose their movement during the second phase of the round. During phase 3 and 4, there are other things happening to the board. In phase 5 hidden moves are revealed and resolved. How do players plan for possible outcomes of their movement? What are the small adjustments players can make when movement is revealed and they need to prevent something bad from happening. That is fun as a player and as a designer, we are allowed to give players mitigating factors like cards or player powers. Not only do the players have options in the game, but we have options during the design of the game. How many mitigating factors do we provide? How do we provide them? How strong do we make them? There are so many potential questions created by the use of SP.

I love SP because the number of benefits afforded to our designs by the use of this mechanic are numerous and versatile. SP acts as a hub for so many other areas of exploration that I feel a great sense of freedom. There are times when restriction in design are great to give a designer focus, but there are other times when the freedom to attached parts and explore is really fun.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

2 thoughts on “How to Build a Game #77 Mechanic Feature: Simultaneous Play

  1. SP is compelling. I think it does demand attention by all as long as the mechanic is usable. I don’t know if people remember or played Starfleet Battles by Amarillo Design Bureau Inc. It used an ‘impulse chart’ to structure SP. It worked pretty well.

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