Monday, September 26, 2016

General update to The List

About a year ago I revisited The List to take stock of the status of my game projects. I thought it might be nice to update that list a little bit, as some of the games on it have made some progress...

Published Games:
Terra Prime (BGG)
Eminent Domain (BGG)
Eminent Domain: Escalation (BGG) (expansion)
Eminent Domain: Exotica (BGG) (expansion)
Eminent Domain: Microcosm (BGG)
- Isle of Trains (BGG)
Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done (BGG)
- Isle of Trains: All Aboard (expansion)


Finished But Unpublished Games:
Exhibit (BGG link)
Eminent Domain: the Dice Game
Dice Works (BGG link)
Wizard's Tower (BGG link)
Now Boarding
Suburban Sprawl

Current Active Designs:
Deities and Demigods
Eminent Domain: Oblivion (expansion)
The Pony Express
Odysseus: Winds of Fate (BGG)
Alter Ego (BGG link)

Old Standbys - games which have been around, 1/2 done and untouched, for years:
8/7 Central
Hot & Fresh
Dynasty
Kilauea
Reading Railroad
All For One (BGG)

Old Ideas that Haven't gone Anywhere (Yet) - some of these have been getting stale as well:
Rondel Role Selection
Investigative/Tabloid Journalism
Red Colony
Clash of the Kingpins
Time = Money
Dating Game
Ticket Please
Moctezuma's Revenge
Scourge of the High Seas

Let's take a closer look at some of these:
Published games:
Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done (BGG)
I'm excited to say that Crusaders is moving forward at TMG! Adam McIver, now a full time TMG employee, has been spending some of his time working on the art and graphic design of the game (I shared the box cover recently), and it looks fantastic!
Isle of Trains: All Aboard (expansion)
Dan Keltner and I finished our expansion to Isle of Trains for Dice Hate Me/Greater Than Games almost a year ago, and we've recently been told that it will finally be on Kickstarter in the next week or so! The final title of the expansion is Isle of Trains: All Aboard.
Terra Prime (BGG)
In the near future (perhaps for TMG's 10th anniversary) we will be bringing back Terra Prime as a 2nd edition, with updated rules, expansion included, and set in the Eminent Domain universe. It'll be called Eminent Domain: Origins.

Finished But Unpublished Games:
Exhibit (BGG link)
I'm disappointed in the current status of Exhibit. A European publisher was very interested, but a difference of opinion between me an another designer on "IP rights" sort of nixed that deal. I checked with an IP lawyer to ensure that my understanding was correct, which it was, but the whole thing has left a sour taste in my mouth.
Now Boarding
I worked on this with Tim Fowers (Wok Star, Paperback, Burgle Bros, and most recently Fugitive). Since we made this game he has taken it in a bit of a different direction, and I think he might be making that version of Now Boarding his next project.
Suburban Sprawl
Based on another DHMG/GTG contest - this time a dexterity game (which uses 57 cards, plus score sheets)- I designed Suburban Sprawl with Matthew Dunstan. In Suburban Sprawl you toss cards into play to build Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Civic buildings. I was going for a light, quick game with a sort of SimCity feel that's easy to learn and play, and at that I think we succeeded. Unfortunately, we didn't win the contest :(
Current Active Designs:
Deities and Demigods
Another attempt at Deck Learning, Deities and Demigods is like a role selection game, but the game calls the roles, and in random order. Players will have some control over which roles are in the deck, and can upgrade their efficiency at each role. The effects of the roles will allow players to move armies around a map in an effort to complete quests and control cities. Matthew Dunstan has been working with me on this one, and it has taken shape quite well, dare I say it's nearing completion. I still would like to add some more interesting board elements (terrain, or at least water), and I have yet to try the "expansion module" featuring Hades, a deity that was cut from the base game.
Odysseus: Winds of Fate (BGG)
I keep circling and iterating on this one. I need to implement the mot recent change ideas and try it again.
Eminent Domain: Oblivion (expansion)
3rd expansion to Eminent Domain. I worked out how this would play several years ago, and once Exotica was in production I finally started prototyping and trying it. I've gone through an iteration or two so far, and I think I'm close to something I could call the final phases of development, but I've been concentrating on other games lately so this one hasn't been played in a while.
Alter Ego (BGG link)
Mike's always been a fan of this one. Alter Ego was finally shaping up, but it hasn't hit the table in a while now. I think with a little TMG Utah input and some nice art, this could potentially be ready for a GenCon 2017 release, but looking at the release schedule, that seems really ambitious (I don't think I can count on TMG development help on this one... too much going on over there).

Recent Designs That Are Not On The Front Burner:
Rondel Role Selection
Another variation on role selection, this one got off to an OK start, but hasn't gotten any attention in a while.

Old Standbys:
Hot & Fresh
I'm a little disappointed I never finished this one, but the most recent changes (several years ago now) seemed like a big step in the right direction. I'm just not sure how excited I am about a press your luck pickup/deliver game anymore.
Dynasty
This is my shelved design that I'm probably most interested in, or at least the one I think might have the most promise as a "mediocre euro."
Reading Railroad
I always think that Reading Railroad would be a fun word-building / connection game, but the truth is that people who like word games probably don't want to play a connection game, and people who like connection games probably don't want to play a word game. Still, I'd like to finish this one day.
All For One (BGG)
All For One might be my single biggest disappointment. It is the game that really got me into the design hobby, and I thought it was good - really good - but it never got any publisher interest. It's suffered some setbacks, and now, almost 10 years later, I feel like it might be a bit old fashioned and in need of an overhaul, but I don't have the impetus to overhaul it.

Old Ideas that Haven't gone Anywhere (Yet):
Investigative/Tabloid Journalism
I think a game where you put together parts of stories and embellish them to make them work would be a cute and fun game, but the theme may not really be very desirable, so I never revisited this idea, even though I think I had the main mechanism completely thought out.
Ticket Please
A game about controlling gates in airports and moving people to their destinations, in the same scope as a Ticket to Ride seems like it could be really successful, I'm not sure why I haven't revisited this yet.
Moctezuma's Revenge
Maybe it's because I don't really like press your luck games or deduction games much, but I never got back around to Moctezuma's Revenge, even though it sounds like a system that could make for a solid game.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

No fun blog post title, just a Board Games Insider interview, and some fancy art for Crusaders.

 A couple of weeks ago I recorded a quick interview with Ignacy Trzewik for Board Games Insider's new special interview episode series. That interview went live yesterday, so check it out and let me know what you think. (Is there an easy way to embed audio from someone else's web page here? Or is that like stealing or something?)

At the end of that interview I mentioned that I was giddy for another Seth Jaffee title (Crusaders) to be moving forward. Adam McIver has started on the art for it, and has been knocking it out of the park (as per usual).

 
I'll just leave this right here...

Yes, I used the word "giddy" (Michelle made fun of me for that), and it's true. I didn't realize how excited I would be to have another designer credit under my belt. I figured with Terra Prime (watch for the re-release as Eminent Domain Origins, coming soon!), Eminent Domain, Escalation, Exotica, Microcosm, and Isle of Trains (watch for Isle of Trains: All Aboard, coming to Kickstarter soon!), as well as all my developer credits (don't worry, I won't inundate you with those here), that the novelty would have worn off a bit.

But no. Maybe because it's been a while, or maybe because most of my design credits are for the same line of games... for whatever reason, I'm finding a feeling of excitement and yes, giddiness, at the thought of my next game coming out.

And it might help that I really like Crusaders. I think it's good. "Good" like I enjoy playing it over and over, but also "good" like I think it has a good chance of going over really well with players, leading to commercial success, and all the riches and popularity that accompanies being a "big name" game designer :)

Yeah, right. Someone on BGG the other day said they were buying Exotica and contributing toward my Lamborghini... I was like "Lamborghini? I am just hoping I can pay my bills this month!" :)

But wouldn't it be cool? Every time I have a game come out, there's a small part of me that thinks it would be so cool if that game somehow blew up, and really did lead to fame and fortune! Realistically though, the best I can hope for is that players do like the game, and that it sells enough to warrant reprints and becomes an evergreen title for TMG. Note that most games DON'T do that, many games don't get a reprint, and those that do may not get a 2nd reprint. If Crusaders warrants a reprint and an expansion, I'll count that as a success!

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Revisiting a classic post: Balancing Game Elements

I've been working on Harvest lately, an upcoming TMG title in the Harbour universe (side note: watch for Harbour on TableTop with Wil Wheaton, season 4!).

Here's the description of Harvest from BGG:

Mind the fields of Gullsbottom! Plant and fertilize your seeds, tend your crops, and utilize the various buildings at your disposal. You'll need to work smarter, not harder, as harvest season is coming to an end! Who will have the best harvest this year? Will it be you?
Each round in Harvest, you first draft turn order (and the benefits that come with it), then send your two workers into town and into the fields. Plant seeds, tend fields, and harvest crops to make room to plant some more! Utilize buildings and magical elixir to amass a bigger and better harvest than your neighbors at the end of five rounds of play.
Harvest is a worker placement game where you first reveal worker cards (spaces that will only be available this round), then draft turn order (the later you go in turn order, the bigger the bonus you receive), then place your workers and take the associated actions. In developing this game I've been working with the designer to figure out the appropriate power level of the actions in the game -- both the standard spaces on the town board, as well as the value of the worker cards, and the buildings you can build. As that's mostly accomplished, lately we've been working on the power level and balance of various characters you can play in the game.

At several points during this process I've been reminded of an article I wrote back in January 2014 called Balancing Game Elements... re-reading it now I think that might be the best game design article I've ever written. It continues to hold true today, as I have been using the same process to balance the elements of Harvest.

You see, a major benefit of working this way, finding an average value for an element (say, the buildings in Harvest) which incorporates all the costs and benefits of that element including opportunity costs, is that it leaves you with only one variable when designing things that interact with that element. This makes it relatively easy to determine things like the value of an action which gives you that element.

By way of example

Without knowing anything about the game it may be difficult to give you a concrete example, but I'll try:

In Harvest, there's a town board that has 3 main areas that offer a variety of different effects or resources. Each of these areas has a "Choose 2" space (letting you get any 2 of the things on offer in that area) which is limited to 1 worker, and a "Choose 1" space (letting you get just 1 thing) which is unlimited. In addition, each round you'll turn up a number of worker cards which have more action spaces on them. The value each of these spaces confers is defined as follows:

Choose 1 space: 1-2 units
Choose 2 space: 2-3 units
Worker card space: 3-5 units

So ideally you'd prefer to take a worker card space first, a Choose 2 space next, and a Choose 1 space only if you had no other option, just based on the value of stuff you would get.

However, the game is not quite that straightforward. A space that's technically worth 5 value might only be worth 3 to you because you can't use all of it's benefits at the moment. So there are plenty of times that a Choose 2 space is just as good if not better for you than a worker card space. Very seldom do I want a player to choose a Choose 1 (default, fallback) space over a worker card space though.

Note that these values are sort of average values, and they may depend on your situation and whether or not you can make full use of the resources you get from these actions.

That said, there are buildings in the game which can confer abilities, one-shot resources, or an end game scoring bonus. There is a wide variety of buildings, with 6 face up to choose from at a time, each supporting various strategies. It's difficult to evaluate exactly how much each of these buildings is worth, which is where my Balancing Game Elements post comes in handy. If you read that post, you know that step 2 in the process involves choosing a desired power level for the elements and designing the elements to be worth about that much. I'm currently choosing to assign a value the buildings in Harvest at "4". This means that I'm targeting an average value of 4, some buildings will be worth a little more or a little less, depending on whether you can utilize them to full effect or not.

One of the things you can get from the town board, an action that's always available, is building a building. So, if the buildings are worth 4, and the default "choose 1" space is supposed to be worth 1-2, and you can use that default space to build a building... then it follows that there should be a cost of 2 to use the build action on the town board. Also, if the worker card spaces are supposed to be worth 3-5, then perhaps one that just allows you to build a building for no cost is appropriate. Simple math, which can be applied because I wrapped all the variables into the valuation of the buildings.

Now, I may be incorrect in that evaluation. If I've over- or under-valued the buildings then that should show up in playtesting a players recognize and either ignore or capitalize on the imbalance. If that turns out to be the case, then I can easily re-evaluate them and adjust the actions that allow you to build accordingly. Let's say I significantly overestimated the value of buildings, and that they should really be worth only 2. In that case the standard build action on the town board should not cost anything, and a worker card that allows you to build should also come with 1-3 value worth of more stuff. Similarly, if I'd under-valued buildings and they are really worth an average of 6, then the standard build action should cost more, and the worker cards that allow you to build might also need some kind of cost.

An alternative to tweaking the actions is to make an editing pass at the buildings, either powering them up or down until they are more closely averaging the targeted value of 4, which would then justify the cost of the town board and the worker cards.

Hopefully that makes sense, and indicates the usefulness of incorporating all of the costs and benefits (including opportunity costs) into the value of the game element itself (in this case the buildings), rather than trying to think about things separately.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Deities & Demigods update

last time I listed some tweaks I'd made but hadn't necessarily tried yet. I'll revisit those here, and then explain the further tweaks I've made since the last post.

Let me begin by saying that I really feel like the game is working well and feeling solid. I'm happy with the progress thus far, and thinking back to the original versions, it definitely feels like a much improved game.

Here are the comments I made last time (in blue italics) as well as my comments on each:

* Buildings and artifacts no longer have set collection scoring.
I kinda liked the idea of set collection scoring on buildings and artifacts, like the Exploration cards have in Goa for example. However, it may have been a little out of control (or not), and more importantly, it was annoying to have to count up so many things at the end of the game. The more interesting rewards were the ones that gave you gold, favor tokens, devotion bumps, or advances on the Zeus track. So I just replaced all the set collection icons with those, and added another: 2 Troop movement.


This was a good idea, and last night I took it one step further... with the new icon-on-city-spaces thing (see below), I decided that buildings didn't need to have icons on them. They're strong action or end game scoring bonus is good enough, and you get the icon from the city (so long as you haven't built there before).

Also, removing the icon means I can revisit the balance of Building+Artifact vs Monument for level 4 Hephaestus, which was weighted too strongly in favor o B+A over M.

One player (the immutable T.C. Petty III) suggested that Artifacts were not attractive enough, and removing icons from buildings might help that situation as well.

* Building costs vs incentive to spread out and build in different cities.
Originally, each player was allowed only 1 building per city, so if you wanted to build another building, you had to move to another city before you could do that. There was some bonus for being the first player to build in each city, to give you some incentive to race to build in the cities before anyone else did.

More recently I've tried instead allowing multiple builds in a single city, with the rule being that you pay 1 gold per building already in the city... so if you stay put and build, it'll cost you more and more. Then the incentive to spread out is cheaper building. That was OK, but I wasn't sure I liked it.

My new tweak is this... each city now has 6 spaces for buildings. 5 of them each have one of the standard icons, the ones you find on the building and artifact cards:
- Advance x2 on the Zeus track
- 2 Troop movement
- 1 Gold
- 1 Favor token
- 1 Devotion bump

The 6th space has a better version of one of those:
- 3 Zeus track
- 3 Troop movement
- 2 Gold
- 2 Favor token
- 2 Devotion bump

The idea is that the FIRST time you build a building in a city, you may choose any remaining space to build in and collect the bonus. Any further building you build in that city is placed on top of your first building marker, and earns you no additional bonus. I had intended to also keep the cost of 1 gold for each building already built, but maybe with this tweak that's unnecessary... instead of paying more, you're giving up opportunity cost of getting those bonuses.

There's incentive to spread out so you can collect more bonuses, and there's incentive to act fast as the first player to build in each city has first dibs on the better-than-usual space.

One of those icons will be marked, and when players choose their starting city they will get the marked bonus (which will be the weaker version of whichever powered up bonus is in that town).


This seemed interesting, but I have since tried another version of the idea. Currently each city has a particular icon, and different spaces have a stronger version of it. For example, 3/2/1/1 Gold, 3/2/1/1 Favor, 3/2/1/1 different devotion track bumps... I made this change in hopes that (a) players may care more about which city they go to, and (b) there might be more of a race to build in cities because a 3 icon is much better than a 1 icon. I actually wonder if it should be 4/2/1/1, so that building first feels a lot stronger than building second.

* Virtual Zeus phase in cycle #1.
I was thinking that Zeus was kind of boring in the first cycle or two of the game, so in the last couple of games I have tried starting the game with a Zeus round before drawing any cards. This way Zeus would come up twice in cycle 1, but only once in cycle 2 (unless someone added a Zeus card). I've enjoyed this, but I don't know if it's necessary or not. Especially with the possibility of starting with extra Zeus track advances from your starting city this might not be important anymore.


Yeah, this was an interesting idea, but ultimately unnecessary. I got rid of it. I think more of the Initiative track advances make initiative fights interesting enough.

* Simplifying the board to a simple hex board.
I've always enjoyed the movement rules where you move on the vertices of the hexes rather than from hex to hex. But since I made the Quests and Cities reside inside hexes, that line has blurred. Some players get a little confused by the movement rules. It's possible the troops should just move from hex to hex and NOT reside on the hex nodes after all.

This dramatically reduces the size of the board, but if I similarly reduce the amount of troop movement you get from Ares then everything should still work similarly... so instead if 3/7/11/15 troop movement, you'll only get 1/3/5/8, and instead of costing 2 troop movement to bring a troop from your supply into play, it'll only cost 1. This simplifies Ares a bit, and the lower numbers might make movement turns easier and faster to execute.


This has turned out to be a fine change. One of those "kill your darlings" moments. I had initially imagined a grand, epic scale, and moving around the nodes makes the board much larger... but in effect this is the same thing, and it's much simpler to describe and perform the actions.

Some other issues that have arisen are mostly to do with game balance  and the values of certain things such as the favor of the deities (scoring for the cards in your display). I've iterated through several versions of those. The current version is as follows, which makes the deities basically worth 1-4vp. In a couple cases if you go extreme you can get a little more out of them, but if you do then you'll be sacrificing in other scoring areas, so that's probably OK:

Zeus: 2vp per other unique deity
  ...encouraging you to get multiple different deities. This might ought to be just "per unique deity"
Hermes: 1vp for each level of devotion (cube level)
  ...encouraging you to save up devotion to Hermes, because hoarding cash wasn't really working right.
Ares: 1vp for each devotion track with increased minimum
  ...encouraging you to not only get min bumps, but to spread them out. Indirectly this rewards questing, because that's where a lot of min bumps come from.
Hephaestus: 2vp for each city where you have 2+ building markers
  ...encouraging you to build, but without necessarily moving a lot.

Another main thing I did (haven't tried it yet) was to add a cost to increasing minimum devotion. Bumping up the minimums is strong -- and I want it to be. But a double bump is proving to be VERY strong, potentially too strong. I had a few ideas to combat this, and the simplest to try is adding a cost to it. Your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd min bump on any devotion track will cost you 1, 2, and 3 Favor tokens. This means you lose a few points for specializing in a deity and taking advantage of the power that entails, and furthermore it may not be trivial to GET the favor tokens, thus increasing the demand for things that provide them (some of the artifacts for example).

I added a Favor token to the Monuments, mostly to make them compare better to Building + Artifact, but as a happy accident it means if you build a monument, you'll have a favor token to spend on the min devotion bump.

This might be awkward, and lead to things like a player doing a quest and not getting the min bump reward because he doesn't have enough tokens, but maybe that's OK. And if this cost turns out to be too high, I could try 0/1/2 tokens instead.

Other potential schemes to combat this dynamic (in case the cost doesn't pan out):
* Only allow 1 min bump per track total (I don't like this because there are plenty of min bumps to go around, and I feel like everyone will just "specialize" in everything)
* Increase the length of the tracks (to 5, probably). this might mean also changing the cost for showing devotion to 0/1/3/6 for 1/2/3/4 bumps, which could be OK, but I might miss the tension of being broke and therefore having to resolve a deity prematurely because you managed gold poorly. Maybe that's OK though, you'd still have the "increase devotion or cash it in" decision, which is the meat of the game.

The other main thing I've been concerned about is duration. Currently the game feels fine when it lasts 4 or 5 cycles, but if it goes on to 6 cycles, I feel like it's dragging and overstaying its welcome. So I need some way to ensure it ends after 5 cycles, but arbitrarily doing so is lame. I'm going to try ending after 5 cycles at most, and the game could end early if the triggers occur, and I've got some ideas to spice that up a bit perhaps, which involve re-introducing Hera as a sort of game timer.

Related, I'd like to see control of cities play a bigger role in the midgame, which could come into play via this Hera scheme. I've got a few ideas of how to implement her rolling around, and I'll let you know which I decide sounds best, or which I end up trying out.

That's about it for now. Looking forward to trying the game again!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Quick AMA on Reddit! Yokohama Deluxe and other stuff...

I'll be on Reddit for an AMA between now and 11:00am MST.

Yokohama is blowing up on Kickstarter, but it ends tonight! If you've got questions about that game or anything else, come ask them on Reddit!

Old news... a comment on Reddit about Eminent Domain (and a little Under The Hood about EmDo)

  About a year ago Eminent Domain was featured on Reddit as "game of the week", and I answered a bunch of questions there.

  I don't spend a lot of time on Reddit, but I logged in just now to set up an AMA about Yokohama (TODAY, 7/15, at 10am Mountain time!) and I noticed a reply in one of those threads that I never saw.

  That thread has been archived, and I don't think I can reply anymore, but it was a good question and I feel bad for not responding. Also, the person asking the question (Alex Churchill) is a friend and fellow game designer, with whom I worked developing Steam Works for TMG. Alex reads this blog sometimes, so I wanted to take a moment and respond to his old comment.


  In reference to my saying that Colonize and Warfare are early game actions in Eminent Domain, and that the point of the game is to hustle into the mid-game, Alex replied:

How can Survey and Colonize/Warfare be the early game? Getting points from planets is more effective than getting points from Produce/Trade 90% of the time, so people are doing it right up until the final round. I'm guessing the "mid/late" game you refer to must be Produce/Trade? But by the time you've got more than 1 or 2 symbols, your deck is full of Colonize/Warfare/Survey cards, diluting the Produce/Trade, which makes it much more natural to continue to focus on points for planets rather than try to switch focus and lose out on the follows.
  Alex has a point, if you invest (and especially if you over-invest) in Colonize or Warfare int he early game, then it looks like changing to a Produce/Trade or Research path mid-game would be inefficient, and so there's a temptation to just continue flipping planets. Indeed, this could be your strategy, and if you do a good enough job with it you might pull out a win. I'll note however that "doing a good enough job" against good players will likely involve targeting specific technologies to support your strategy (things like Survey Team, Fertile Ground, War Path, Improved Warfare...), as well as good timing of plays and correctly reading and reacting to your opponents' roles (as well it should).

  Therein lies the rub. That point of view is kind of a "n00b" outlook, and even if it sounds counter-intuitive, you can do better by minimizing the number of times you call Colonize or Warfare, making good use of following your opponents, and setting up a research or trade engine as quickly as possible. Level 1 technologies help you do this, as they have 2 different role symbols on them, which helps combat the dilution effect Alex mentioned. Using research to keep your deck slim is also a potential strategy there.

  The thing to note is that once you get 3 or 4 resource slots in play, a Produce/Trade cycle is actually more efficient than a Survey/Colonize/Settle or Survey Warfare/Attack cycle. Once you get a trade engine going, the longer the game goes on the more you'll outpace planet flippers. Mix in a well timed Genetic Engineering, Specialization, or Diverse Markets, and you can really pick up those Influence tokens in a hurry, possibly curtailing the game before your opponents get a chance to make their big endgame play (researching a level 3 tech, or flipping that last planet).

  Eminent Domain is not just a Role Selection game with Deck Building in it, it's a Deck Management game as well. The whole point is to find a way to make your deck perform better :)

  I hope that answers Alex's question, and I hope some players still find this kind of thing useful. It warms my heart to think that people are still playing Eminent Domain!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Big life changes! New house, and games for sale.

I've got a lot of big life changes coming up, the most immediate of which is that I'm buying a house. It's a nice, big house with a dedicated game room, across town from my current house. I'm pretty excited about the new house, especially the game room, for which I went in on one of those Duchess gaming tables :)

I'll talk more about my big changes later, but in packing up to move to this new house, I decided to catalog my games and maybe sell some of them. I didn't do it in the most efficient or effective manner, but long story short, if you're local and want to buy some of my games, take a look at this list:

Seth's Giant List of Games, Some Of Which Are For Sale At Good Prices

I intended this to make moving easier, so I don't want to be making trips to the post office or finding boxes to ship things in, and I don't want to be selling things and waiting until some future time to actually hand them off. Ideally we can make the transactions at the RinCon fundraiser game day this weekend.

Email sedjtroll at gmail with "Games For Sale" in the subject line if you're interested in anything, are local, and can make the exchange with in the next week.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Deities & Demigods: It's been a while... I've made some tweaks but haven't tested them yet.

The last time I posted about Deities & Demigods I mentioned that Hades didn't make the cut... at least not for the base game. I intend to keep him round as an expansion module (maybe on of those so-called "in-spansions").

After that post I did excise Hades, and I've played a few games without him... and I'm happy to report that it works just fine. Great! Now the game is easier to teach and learn, and is still interesting to play.

I have created all the stuff needed to try out the Hades module, but I have yet to try it out. As I was updating my prototype I made some other changes that I've also yet to try out, but I think will be pretty good...

* Buildings and artifacts no longer have set collection scoring.
I kinda liked the idea of set collection scoring on buildings and artifacts, like the Exploration cards have in Goa for example. However, it may have been a little out of control (or not), and more importantly, it was annoying to have to count up so many things at the end of the game. The more interesting rewards were the ones that gave you gold, favor tokens, devotion bumps, or advances on the Zeus track. So I just replaced all the set collection icons with those, and added another: 2 Troop movement.

* Building costs vs incentive to spread out and build in different cities.
Originally, each player was allowed only 1 building per city, so if you wanted to build another building, you had to move to another city before you could do that. There was some bonus for being the first player to build in each city, to give you some incentive to race to build in the cities before anyone else did.

More recently I've tried instead allowing multiple builds in a single city, with the rule being that you pay 1 gold per building already in the city... so if you stay put and build, it'll cost you more and more. Then the incentive to spread out is cheaper building. That was OK, but I wasn't sure I liked it.

My new tweak is this... each city now has 6 spaces for buildings. 5 of them each have one of the standard icons, the ones you find on the building and artifact cards:
- Advance x2 on the Zeus track
- 2 Troop movement
- 1 Gold
- 1 Favor token
- 1 Devotion bump

The 6th space has a better version of one of those:
- 3 Zeus track
- 3 Troop movement
- 2 Gold
- 2 Favor token
- 2 Devotion bump

The idea is that the FIRST time you build a building in a city, you may choose any remaining space to build in and collect the bonus. Any further building you build in that city is placed on top of your first building marker, and earns you no additional bonus. I had intended to also keep the cost of 1 gold for each building already built, but maybe with this tweak that's unnecessary... instead of paying more, you're giving up opportunity cost of getting those bonuses.

There's incentive to spread out so you can collect more bonuses, and there's incentive to act fast as the first player to build in each city has first dibs on the better-than-usual space.

One of those icons will be marked, and when players choose their starting city they will get the marked bonus (which will be the weaker version of whichever powered up bonus is in that town).

* Virtual Zeus phase in cycle #1.
I was thinking that Zeus was kind of boring in the first cycle or two of the game, so in the last couple of games I have tried starting the game with a Zeus round before drawing any cards. This way Zeus would come up twice in cycle 1, but only once in cycle 2 (unless someone added a Zeus card). I've enjoyed this, but I don't know if it's necessary or not. Especially with the possibility of starting with extra Zeus track advances from your starting city this might not be important anymore.

* Simplifying the board to a simple hex board.
I've always enjoyed the movement rules where you move on the vertices of the hexes rather than from hex to hex. But since I made the Quests and Cities reside inside hexes, that line has blurred. Some players get a little confused by the movement rules. It's possible the troops should just move from hex to hex and NOT reside on the hex nodes after all.

This dramatically reduces the size of the board, but if I similarly reduce the amount of troop movement you get from Ares then everything should still work similarly... so instead if 3/7/11/15 troop movement, you'll only get 1/3/5/8, and instead of costing 2 troop movement to bring a troop from your supply into play, it'll only cost 1. This simplifies Ares a bit, and the lower numbers might make movement turns easier and faster to execute.

I hope to get a chance to try these changes, as well as perhaps adding the Hades module back in with experienced players!