Board Game Tactics: Timers

One area of board game design is the user of a timer.

A limited number of turns to complete the game, to determine who the winner is.

Timers force the players to make decision and keep the game moving. They also limit power building and grinding since you don’t have infinite turns to level up.

Timers are also a great way to make sure the game gets completed with an outcome in a set time.

Examples of simple timers and complex timers, followed by some tactica on how to use them as a player?

Dark Souls as an example of simple board game timer: The players in the game each control a hero battling minions and bosses while exploring a dungeon. They have a set number of “sparks”, depending on the number of players, and when the sparks run out, they lose the game.

Each time a player dies a spark is used, same with resting to get abilities and power back.

A simple timer to keep the game moving, and force the players to make decisions as they have to defeat the boss monster at the end of the dungeon before running out of sparks,

Example of a more complex timer?


Runebound has a track timer of 24 turns before the boss monster awakens for a final battle, *but* at certain points along the timer story cards activate causing events to happen or other parts of the board to open up.

Good board game designs hides the timer in the narrative.

As a player what tactica do we need to look out for?

Not all players enjoy a timer based game since it forces often less vs. optimal decisions- one has to be OK with that and make the best choices.


Back to Runebound.

Your hero is at the top of the map and at the bottom of the map in one of the city markets is a powerful magic sword. Do you want this sword? You will be burning two aspects of the timer- the first is spending game turns getting the gold to buy it- fighting monsters, and the second is burning game turn moving to the bottom of the board.

I could combine them- as I move down the board, find monsters to fight along the way- but that means I might not be able to return to the top of the board later on- just won’t have the time.

We also find that some of the *quests* given in Runebound- that are discovered by the players are not worth the time. Two gold reward for a back and forth on the map? Can get that by beating down some cave spiders in one turn.

The meta to keep in mind with a timer is location and speed.

In a board game- the literal board of the game is the limit of how time is spent.

Hanging out in the center/middle of the board means that as opportunities come up- quests, items, combat, one can radiate out with the least amount of turns and resources to get them.

Likewise, effects of abilities that get you another turn, or allow you to move quicker, teleport, etc. give a huge advantage.

More tactica on board game timers- check out my vlog below.

See you in the game!

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