RogerBW's Blog

The perils of Off-Table State 01 July 2015

What is off-table state, and why do I complain about it?

It is state, information about a game in progress, that is not represented on the table, that is in physical components. (These need not be literally on the table: they could be cards in somebody's hand.)

For example, in Firefly, if a Full Burn move gets interrupted (e.g. you have to decide whether to Full Stop and get a benefit or Keep Flying) it's not always clear where you started and how far you can still go. For this reason I tend to leave the nav cards face up on the table, so that there's an easy visual indicator of my progress. A trail on the board would be even better, or a remaining range dial, but that would probably take too long to use on each move.

The Second Story expansion to Flash Point: Fire Rescue comes with action tracker tokens, which one can flip or move from one pile to another as one takes one's move. This isn't always necessary, but it does make life easier when one's getting into the last few turns and time is getting tight.

I'm very fond of Quantum. But on a typical turn you have three ships and three actions: each action can be used to move a ship (though a ship can't move more than once), but each ship can also use its special power once, and you can do all these things in any order. Sometimes you can plan what you're going to do well in advance, and that's fine. But if you get interrupted in the middle of a turn, or you need to change your mind because a battle went the wrong way, you have no way of seeing what you've already moved, or activated, and what you haven't.

Off-table state is a bad thing because it increases the cognitive burden on the player (in a way that doesn't aid enjoyment of the game), and makes it more likely that mistakes will be made.

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