Monday, July 20, 2015

Eminent Domain: Oblivion - a few more playtest thoughts

Yesterday at the RinCon Fundraiser game day I played two 3p games of Oblivion with John and Garrett. It was nice to see how the Agendas worked with 3 players.

AGENDA PRICES
Right before we started, I added an icon to each of the activation/dismissal prices (like I talked about in the last post), and almost immediately regretted it. Maybe that's the right way to go, but it seemed to stifle the Agendas coming into play. In the second game we reduced the costs back down. I'm not positive, but I'm leaning back toward 2/3/4/5/6 for the cost structure.

AGENDAS
I made a few more, such as "When dissenting a role, draw a Clout token." and "When dissenting a role, draw 1 additional card." When they came up in the Upcoming Agenda though, I immediately realized that those are Agendas that help everyone equally, and players don't have much incentive to put it into play. I have to remember to make sure the Agendas are more narrow, so they're likely to help some players and not others. Either that, or put an effect on them which occurs when you activate the Agenda. I did make one that says "When you activate this Agenda, return an Upcoming Agenda to the bottom of the deck and RECON the Agenda deck for any one Agenda." Therefore it allows you to put the Agenda you want into the upcoming row, and advance it a little bit while you're at it.

I suppose I could make a similar one that says something like "When you activate this Agenda, RECON the Agenda deck for any one Agenda and put it into play in the [4-cost] Active slot. Thereby making that Agenda sort of "wild" - but the new Agenda is more fragile/won't be around as long.

CLOUT TOKENS
So far I've been thinking that players would draw just 1 when following a Politics role, no matter how many Politics icons they play. In thinking about that though, it just encourages players who follow to only follow with one Politics symbol - there's not much reason to follow with more than that. The intention was that players might occasionally want to play more icons in order to help get a particular Agenda into or out of play, but that seems less and less likely helpful.

Furthermore, drawing 1 Clout token isn't necessarily better than dissenting and drawing one card - in fact, it might be worse, since the cards in your deck are more likely to have the symbols you want, and might have tech cards with 2 symbols.

Therefore, we played that you get to draw 1 Clout token per Politics symbol played when following a Politics role. I was worried that might be too much, but now I'm thinking it might be the way to go.

MARKET TILE
It occurred to me during play that I probably really want to add a Politics icon to Improved Market. And I likely need to change the title to something like "Political Influence" rather than "Market."

So far it hasn't seemed too good to upgrade to Improved Market. A Politics icon would probably help there.

It HAS seemed nice to be able to spend your action just drawing a Clout token. On those turns where you have nothing else to do, you can just draw a token for later, and even if you have an action you COULD do, sometimes it's worth drawing a Clout token instead.

So adding a Politics icon to the Market tile is a no brainer... and it seems like Agendas which jive with the upgraded side of the tile would be good.

Maybe I should remove the "trade resources" effect from the Market side and relegate it only to the Improved side - so initially you can just draw a Clout, but if you upgrade then you get a Politics icon, you get better at drawing Clout (draw 2, discard 1), and you gain the trade effect. I'm not sure if the trade effect should be usable more than once, but maybe the way to go is to just have it once, and also add that effect to some planets, an Agenda, and maybe a tech card ("Trade 1 resource for 2 other resources.")

I could probably ditch the "VP for trading 3 different resource types" from the Improved side.

PRESTIGE TECH?
I mentioned that I'm considering not having tech in the expansion, or keeping it minimal... one idea is to have many/all of the new planets be Prestige planets, and then have most/all of the new techs in the set be Prestige type - requiring a Prestige planet. It might be weird with the other expansions which allow you to start with a Prestige planet (and I may or may not want to add a new Prestige start planet or 2).

The kinds of techs I probably want to include are things like:
* Draw 2 Clout tokens
* RECON the Clout token pile for any 1 token and take it.
* Discard a Clout token: RECON the Clout token pile for any 2 tokens and take them.
* Swap the position of 2 Upcoming Agendas or 2 Active Agendas (?)
* Swap an Upcoming Agenda with an Active Agenda (?)
* Annex a Planet in your Empire (paying the [POL]) <- annex="" as="" assuming="" normally="" of="" p="" part="" politics="" role.="" the="" you="">* Trade up to 3 Clout tokens for 1 Influence each (worse than Improved Trade at 1 token, but arguably better at 2+ tokens)
* Trade a resource for another resource (doesn't need a slot) and a Clout token
* Trade up to 2 resources for 2 other resources (new resources do not need slots)
* PERM: [POL] -> [Survey] or [Warfare] (or more like the ED:X translators) ?
* PERM: [POL] -> [Produce] or [Colonize] (or more like the ED:X translators) ?
* PERM: [POL] -> [Trade] or [Research] (or more like the ED:X translators) ?
* PERM: Take a standard role card from the stacks and tuck it under ~this. [POL] icons may be used as those icons. (maybe this is better - I don't want to have a bunch of permanent techs)
* PERM: [POL] (i.e. a permanent politics icon)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Run a game at RinCon

As you may (or may not) know, I am sort of in charge of RinCon, a local gaming convention here in Tucson, AZ.

RinCon is a 3 day convention held in October, a small, cozy con with all kinds of gaming available - open boardgaming, RPGs, minis games, CCGs, you name it. We have a great library run by our friends at Pulp Gamer, rolling raffles all weekend long, a schedule full of events, a ton of special guests, and plenty of open gaming as well.

We hold 3 fundraiser events each year leading up to the convention in October, and the 3rd fundraiser for 2015 is this weekend - Saturday, from 10am to 10pm. We're going to try and have a poker tournament (if enough people are interested).

At the event this weekend, pre-registration will open for the main RinCon event. In fact, if you pre-reg for RinCon at the fundraiser, you'll save $5 off your ticket! That's like getting into the fundraiser for free!

Speaking of discounts and free admissions, if you run games at RinCon then you can get a discount on you badge. Here's how that works:

Go to http://rincongames.com/games/run-a-game and enter the games that you would like to run. After you submit each game, you should receive the details from your submission. If you need to make any corrections, please email Tony at tcewing@gmail.com

If you run 16 hours of games that are submitted by August 1st, you will be able to register for RinCon for FREE. (8 hours is 50% off, etc.)

After you sign up to run your games, send Tony an email and he will manually create a coupon code for you to enter on our registration site.

The registration site will be open starting on July 18th at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rincon-2015-tickets-17741372924.
So spread the word! Come to this weekend's fundraiser event if you can, and make sure to schedule time for the main event, October 2-4, at the Clarion Hotel and Convention Center! It's really fun, I swear!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The List - July 2015

GenCon is coming up in two weeks, so it's probably a good time to revisit The List and take stock of my designs and prototypes. It's been a while since I've done this, and I'm interested to see just how much this list has changed over time!

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)

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

Current Active Designs:
- Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done (BGG)
- The Pony Express
Odysseus: Winds of Fate (BGG)
- Eminent Domain: Oblivion (expansion)
Alter Ego (BGG link)
- Isle of Trains More (expansion)
- Suburban Sprawl

Recent Designs That Are Not On The Front Burner:
- Deities and Demigods
- Rondel Role Selection

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:
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:
Terra Prime (BGG)
I'd love to bring back Terra Prime as a 2nd edition, with updated rules, expansion included, and set in the Eminent Domain universe. It'd be called Eminent Domain: Origins, and one of these days it may be possible.

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 on whether a certain person's IP rights were infringed has caused it to be delayed - maybe indefinitely. 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, who's recently finished a kickstarter for his co-op game Burgle Brothers. Maybe he'd like to print Now Boarding as his next project? Maybe I'll pitch that idea to him :)

Current Active Designs:
Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done (BGG)
I'm happy with this one as-is, but there's a desire from the TMG staff to add super-unique faction abilities (with unique upgrades and buildings, like the factions in Terra Mystica).
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 now that Exotica is in production I've finally started prototyping and trying it. So far, so good!
Alter Ego (BGG link)
Mike's always been a fan of this one. Back on the front burner, Alter Ego is finally shaping up. I think with a little TMG Utah input and some nice art, this could potentially be ready for a GenCon 2016 release!
- Isle of Trains More (expansion)
Dan Keltner and I are working on an expansion to Isle of Trains for Dice Hate Me/Greater Than Games to follow up our contest winning entry.
Suburban Sprawl
Working on the next DHMG/GTG contest - this time a dexterity game (which currently only uses 54 cards, plus 8 scoring cards) with Matthew Dunstan. In Suburban Sprawl you toss cards into play to build Residential, Commercial, industrial, and Civic buildings. I'm going for a light, quick game with a sort of SimCity feel that's easy to learn and play.

Recent Designs That Are Not On The Front Burner:
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 and fleets around a map in an effort to complete quests/tasks and control cities.
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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eminent Domain: Oblivion progress

By way of update:

I have had the opportunity to play about a game and a half of EmDo with the new Oblivion stuff, and so far it's worked pretty well. Here's what I've made so far:

* Clout tokens: I have about 32 tokens with Politics icons on the back and a random role icon on the front. These are drawn randomly when following a Politics role, or as an action using the Market tile:

 * New Planets:
- 1 each of Fertile, Advanced, and Metallic with a Politics icon
- 2 Prestige planets with a replenishing Clout token

* Agenda board which goes "around" the Central Card Display (maybe easiest in the end to just replace the CCD with a new board that incorporates everything):
(I think I want to increase the costs by one, 3/4/5/6/7 rather than 2/3/4/5/6. Also, I'm not sure if I need 5 up at a time.)

* Agenda cards, with global effects which players can bring into and out of play:
- Gain +1vp when you trade at least 1 Food
- Gain +1vp when you trade at least 1 Water
- Gain +1vp when you trade at least 1 Iron
- Gain +1vp when you trade at least 1 Silicon
ACTION: Discard 1 Food and 1 Iron to collect 3vp
ACTION: Discard 1 Water and 1 Silicon to collect 3vp
ACTION: Discard 1 Iron and 1 Silicon to collect 3vp
ACTION: Discard 1 Food and 1 Water to collect 2vp and 1 Clout token
- Each player gets: Hand size +1 for each Permanent tech in their empire
- Each player gets: Hand size -1 for each Permanent tech in their empire (min 3 cards)
- Advanced planets are worth +1vp
- Fertile planets are worth +1vp
- Metallic planets are worth +1vp
- Warfare costs are reduced by 1
- Warfare costs are increased by 1
- Colonize costs are reduced by 1
- Colonize costs are increased by 1
- Research costs are reduced by 1
- Research costs are increased by 1
- Each player draws 1 more card per Survey role
- Each player draws 1 fewer card per Survey role
- When activated, return an Upcoming Agenda to the bottom of the deck. Agendas cost 1 less Politics icon to activate.


Additional ideas for Agendas:
** Whenever a player collects Influence, remove 2 Influence in the supply from the game as well.
** Players may spend Influence to boost or follow any role (return it to the supply)
** Player may trade Clout tokens as if they were resources.
** Each player draws 2 fewer cards per survey role. Each player may keep 1 additional planet per survey role.
** [POL] -> [SURVEY] 
** [POL] -> [WARFARE] 
** [POL] -> [PRODUCE] 
** [POL] -> [TRADE] 
** Discard [POL]: [POL]->[RESEARCH] this turn or ACTION: [POL]->[RESEARCH] this turn
** Discard [POL]: [POL]->[COLONIZE] this turn or ACTION: [POL]->[COLONIZE] this turn

* Market tile with the following abilities:
Market
ACTION: Draw 1 Clout token
ACTION: Trade 1 resource for another (the new resource does not need a resource slot)
Improved Market
* ACTION: Draw 2 Clout tokens then discard 1 Clout token
ACTION: Trade 1 resource for another (the new resource does not need a resource slot)
ACTION: Trade 2 resources for 3 other resources (the new resources do not need resource slots)
* Get +1vp when trading at least 3 different types of resources in one Trade role

Thoughts after playing with these:
* Some of the agendas need to be more potent. For example, instead of reducing research costs by 1, maybe it should reduce by 2... making research VERY hard to do while that Agenda is in play.
* I might have too many trade-centric or resource-centric, agendas. Do I really need the 4 that say "Gain +1vp if you trade any of ~this type of resource?"
* The Market tile could be simplified. Specifically, Improved market doesn't need to generate additional resources - it can just let you trade 1-for-1 twice, and it vacates the resource slots, which is handy.

New ideas: No tech cards, and annexing planets with political influence!
I am toying with the idea of not including any new tech cards in Oblivion... I feel like there are too many techs out there. But I have some effects I want in the game such as RECONing the Agenda deck, messing with Upcoming and Active Agendas, and interacting with Clout tokens. I was going to make just a couple of tech cards - maybe 2 of each type, to keep from bloating the tech stacks any more than necessary. 

But maybe I could do without adding any new techs at all. In Escalation I introduced Bustling planets, planets with Actions in their game text space... they all cost a Destroyer to attack, or 4 colonies to Settle. Perhaps I could put the effects I want in Oblivion onto Bustling planets!

However, I am designing each expansion to be usable with the base game only - I don't want people to be forced to use Escalation (and the Fleet tile) in order to play Oblivion. So I cannot have these new Bustling planets cost a Destroyer to attack. I could just give them "normal" warfare and colonize costs, but that seems boring. Thinking about it, I do have a new resource in Oblivion... maybe I could have these new Bustling planets cost Clout to flip! It'd be like you're annexing planets with your political influence!

So, how to do this? Here are some options that come to mind:
* Put POL icons in both the Colonize and Warfare costs, and explain in the rules that you flip these by doing an "attack" or a "settle," and boosting it with the correct number of POL icons (from Clout tokens, Politics cards, or planets in your empire)
* Replace the Colonize and Warfare costs with a new "Annex" cost (in POL icons), and explain in the rules that the way you flip these planets is by using the Politics role (use all Politics icons played to either: 1. activate an Upcoming agenda, 2. remove an Active agenda, or 3. Annex a planet)
* Like the previous bullet, but have the Annex cost in addition to the regular (higher than average) Warfare and Colonize costs - so they are expensive planets, but you could do better via Politics.
* Have an Annex cost (in Politics icons - either in addition to or instead of Warfare and Colonize costs), and then have the Market tile (change the name to Political Influence tile?) say "ACTION: Annex a planet" (explaining in the rules that that means splaying the required number of POL icons).
* On that note, have such an action, and explain in the rules that ANY planet may be Annexed, where the Annex cost is equal to the Warfare cost + the Colonize cost (in most cases this is 9). Then I wouldn't need to print a separate Annex cost on the planets (though I could still make new planets with an Annex cost that's either instead of or that's less than the normal Annex cost for the planet).
* I'm sure there are other ways to do it as well, but I will stop here.

Please let me know what you think, especially about the new idea for Annexing planets, and putting actions on them instead of making new tech cards!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Down with Autoplay audio and video content!

A decade ago, the internet was less sophisticated than it is now. At least, with respect to presentation. Sites like MySpace would auto play music when you loaded them up, and pop-up ads abounded.

Things have gotten a little better since then, and we've all been able to pretty much forget that awful past. But like the old saying goes - those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.

Not too long ago, news sites and even FaceBook started a new trend of about the worst type of advertising on the internet... auto-playing videos. News sites had auto-playing ads, and nobody liked it. Facebook turned out auto-play video in our streams, and nobody liked it.

Despite the complaints of millions of users, as well as the common sense obviousness of how awful they are, many sites bowed to the almighty advertising dollar, and shoved auto-play content down our throats anyway.

Twitter has started auto-playing gifs and vines, which is bad, though a little less bad as they t least mute it, and gifs and vines are generally small.

About a week ago, Kickstarter started auto-playing their project videos. On my browser, they play muted, and you have to click on them to hear the sound, but as Jamey Stegmaier notes, for some people they auto-play with audio, at full volume.

How could this possibly be? After all the experience people have had with auto-play content (and none of it good), how could Kickstarter POSSIBLY think this would be an OK move?

Auto-play is the worst. The WORST! It slows down or hangs up browsers, it eats up bandwidth, and it attempts to get your attention in the worst possible way - by literally waving its arms and shouting at you.

Never mind the folks who pay for bandwidth - for whom auto-play content is akin to stealing from them especially when muted so you don't know it's loading video in the background). Even with unlimited internet access, that doesn't make it OK to clog up the bandwidth of every user in the area by constantly shoving video content down people's throats. By way of comparison, it doesn't cost anything to drive trucks down the road, but it would be uncool to drive 500 of them up and down Broadway during rush hour. It would make people not want to drive anywhere. Similarly, auto-play content makes people not want to load up websites.

A commenter on Jamey's post (Julius Besser) contacted Kickstarter about this, and was kind enough to share the reply he got:

Sorry to hear you’re not a fan of autoplay. This is something we’re testing out on the site, so any feedback from our community is extremely helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts – I’ll be sure to share them with our team. Unfortunately, at this time, there is not a way to turn it off for repeat visits to the page. However, as I mentioned, we are testing this feature and I will be sure to pass your thoughts along to the team here. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Best,
Noah

According to that, this is just an experiment, and they're taking feedback from the community. I find it hard to believe they thought the feedback would be anything but overwhelmingly negative, but maybe there's some subset of people that are really into wasting time and bandwidth to auto-play every video on every web page they open - who knows.

So here's what I'd like you to do. I'd like you each to contact Kickstarter (support@kickstarter.com), in a civil and polite manner, and let them know that you are absolutely unhappy with the experiment and would strongly prefer they went back to not auto-playing their videos. Then I'd like you to tell 5 friends to do the same.

This can not stand!

Last call for Exotica/Battlecruisers Kickstarter!

We're into the final hour of the kickstarter project for Exotica and Battlecruisers, and as of this writing we've raised $109,205! That's pretty good - surpassing the $103,479 raised for Escalation in April 2013 (oh, my... has it been that long already?)

This EmDo expansion was combined with a standalone game by another designer - Battlecruisers by Philip duBarry. I might have expected Exotica alone to raise about as much as Escalation did, so I might have expected a combined kickstarter to post somewhat higher numbers...

Not that I'm not happy about the funding as it is. In fact, I've been so excited about it that I went ahead and started prototyping the next expansion, Eminent Domain: Oblivion (finally)!

There are plenty of factors that might have led to Exotica not raising as much as Escalation did, and based on the comment threads I suspect people will put these at the top of the list:

* Lack of Exotica-centered stretch goals (Escalation had a series of Scenario and other stretch goals)
* Less dedicated community involvement (I feel like the comment threads were more active all around in the Escalation project)
* Combined project with Battlecruisers (Some backers didn't seem to like the combined project)
* Number and quality of competing KS projects (There are a large number of high profile projects on lately)
* Kickstarter fatigue (it's been 2 years after all...)

So what do you think? Which of these factors do you think affected the funding the most? What other factors do you think applied? What do you think would have benefited this campaign in particular? Let me know in the comments below.

Dexterity / City Building

I saw an image on twitter of a city building game someone (someone named Steve Caires) is making, and it looked kinda like the cards had been thrown onto the table, in the same manner as Maximum Throwdown or the upcoming Monstrous.

When I asked if that was the case, the designer said no... but I thought it was funny and so joked that I should make a dexterity based city building game where you toss the cards into play. He joked back: "That would be about as much urban planning as a lot of older cities got..."

A day later I found myself thinking about tossing building cards into play, and the fact that Dice Hate Me Games has a Dexterity Challenge on right now - and wouldn't you know it, now I want to enter the contest... with a Rabbit eligible (I co-designed a 54-card game that was published as a result of Dice Hate Me's last design challenge) dexterity game based on the likes of Sim City, where you toss residential, commercial, industrial, and civic buildings into play, and gain points or card draws based on which buildings you have in play and their relative proximity to other types of buildings.

Keeping it to 54 cards is a low priority, and I already think each player should have a starting card that should maybe be oversized (though could still fit in the Rabbit sized box, I suppose). Here are my current thoughts on how the game could go. These are recent thoughts, only germinated since this morning, so I don't know if (a) I'll really pursue this as a contest entry, or (b) what will change by the end if I do.

* The game would need to be easy, not a hassle to play. As a result, I can't have players checking every card in play every turn in the manner Suburbia does.
* However, each card could have a "comes into play" type of effect (i.e. it's acceptable to have players always check the card they just played.)
* Cards could reference or score for other cards touching it, as well as maybe the first card in each direction, or in certain directions. This should include opponents' cards.
* Any sort of measurement should be relative, players shouldn't need any sort of equipment to figure out if a card is "within range" of another card. The only measurements I should require should be "touching" and "nearest."
* The game needs to deal with the interdependence and interactions between building types - such as the obvious "residential doesn't like to be near factories."
* Each player should probably have their own deck of cards, which reduces luck of the draw, and also helps identify which buildings belong to which player once in play.
* There could be (at most) 1 type of card which is checked every turn. Maybe this should just be the Starting card.
* There could be (at most) 1 type of card which is checked at game end for bonus scoring (such as "1vp per Residential building")
* Players must ALWAYS have a card to toss on their turn.
* Cards could have prerequisites, making them harder to play, and therefore be worth more.
* Cards should never be unplayable - every card should be playable no matter what.
* Cards could be double sided, potentially with a "harder to play" card (with prerequisites) on one side, and a basic (can always toss it) card on the other.
* Perhaps I could use the idea of Zoning to create legal places to play cards (if you miss the legal zone, the card is discarded?)
* I'd like there to be strategies based on concentrating on particular building types.
* I'd like there to also be cross-type synergies.

As I mentioned, I think there ought to be 4 suits or types of building: Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Civic. Each of those should have something it's good at... 2 obvious things would be gaining cards, and gaining points. I think cards could represent population, and maybe points represent Approval. But what else could there be? I was going to have a 5th category for the endgame bonus points (Landmarks?) - probably just a "1vp per card of this type" for each type. I suppose I could make those the "Civic" buildings though.

I figure the better cards could have a 'cost' associated with playing them - a prerequisite number of specific types in play. For example, maybe a Landmark requires 2 buildings of each type in play before you can play it.

I like the sound of this stuff, and I've always wanted to do a Sim City style game... I think I'll give this some more thought.

What do you think about city building? What aspects do you feel are "must haves" for a city building game? What about for a dexterity game along the lines of Monstrous, Maximum Throwdown, or Flower Fall?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Eminent Domain Origins: Terra Prime

Those following this blog may recall my first published game: Terra Prime. You may also recall the production issues that plagued the print run. Only 2,000 copies of Terra Prime were printed, and some of those were thrown away due to extremely poor alignment and die cutting, and potential for mold inside the box.

Needless to say, that was a disappointing start to my game design career. It was also a disappointing start to TMG's publishing career. Thankfully, Michael persevered, and TMG has grown into a well established, well known, and well loved board game publisher, and along the way I've grown as a designer and a developer as well.

But when it comes to Terra Prime, I've always wanted a sort of "do-over." The game is now almost 10 years old, but I played it again recently and I still think it's a solid, fun game. Over the years I have romanticized doing a re-print, updating the rules, using a high quality manufacturer, and including the expansion I already designed. Occasionally Michael has mentioned that it's not out of the question to do a reprint, but the priority is never high, and he's very concerned that the fact it's a reprint of a game that (automatically) didn't sell well will hurt it's chances in the marketplace. I've even toyed with the idea of kickstarting it myself so Michael and TMG wouldn't have to worry about that part of it.

Since Terra Prime was published in 2009, I (and TMG) have enjoyed a little more success with my next game, Eminent Domain. In 2010 we successfully kickstarterted that deck-learning game, raising over $48,000. Since then we've reprinted that game twice, successfully funded an expansion for over $100,000, and are currently funding a 2nd expansion as well as another game by Philip duBarry in the EmDo universe.

EmDo is a franchise that's done well for TMG, and Michael likes the idea of setting other games in that universe. Battlecruisers is the first, but may not be the last. Recently Michael mentioned the possibility of setting a Terra Prime reprint in the EmDo universe, and I think that would be a fine way to go.

I would absolutely love the opportunity to clean up the rules to Terra Prime, set it in the EmDo universe, and see it kickstarted and made into a reality. I imagine the title would be Eminent Domain Origins: Terra Prime, and the setting would be well in the past, before the players had carved out sections of the galaxy to rule over, they were all part of the same faction... vying to ascend to the Leadership of the Federation.

All the planets would get swapped out with Fertile, Metallic, Advanced, and Exotic planets. The resources too would be swapped out - no more Bluium, Greenium, Yellium, and Brownium - but instead Food, Water, Silicon, and Iron. The cartoony, retro sci-fi art (that wasn't too well received) would be replaced with the sleek EmDo art (that's gone over very well).

What do you think? Would you want to see Eminent Domain Origins: Terra Prime become a thing? Would you support such a kickstarter project? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Eminent Domain: Oblivion - prototyping

I've been doing some prototyping this week - in addition to updating all my Alter Ego files, I've finally gotten to work putting together a prototype for Eminent Domain: Oblivion!

Here are some pics to prove it:

 Clout Tokens

Agenda Display


In case you don't recall, the basic idea of the Oblivion expansion is that there are Agendas, which are global effects that apply to everyone. You can bring them into and out of play via the new Politics role.

When choosing the Politics role, you will reveal a new Upcoming Agenda from the deck, placing it in the leftmost (most expensive) slot in the Upcoming Agendas row (above the Central Card Display) - sliding other Upcoming Agendas down to make room. Return any Agenda sliding off the rightmost space to the bottom of the Agenda deck.

You may boost the role as normal with Politics icons, and other player may follow (playing Politics icons of their own), or Dissent (drawing a card as normal). After all players have Followed or Dissented, you may use ALL Politics icons played (by you and your opponents) in order to EITHER:

1. Activate one of the Upcoming Agendas, moving it to the leftmost (most expensive) slot in the Active Agendas row (below the Central Card Display) - sliding other Active Agendas down to make room. Return any Active Agenda sliding off the rightmost space returns to the bottom of the Agenda deck.

OR 

2. Remove one of the Active Agendas, returning it to the bottom of the Agenda deck.

In order to do either of these, you must have the required number of Politics icons, printed on the board in the Agenda's current slot. Again, you may count ALL Politics icons played by yourself and your opponents.

In return for offering their Politics icons, opponents who Follow your Politics role draw 1 Clout token from the supply. Clout tokens depict a Politics icon on the back side, and one of the other role icons on the front. These tokens may be kept until spent to boost or follow either a Politics role, or whichever role the other icon applies to. For example, a token with a Produce icon on the back may be spent to boost a Politics role or a Produce role.

I expect that sometimes players will Follow a Politics role because they want to hep the active player get a particular Agenda into or out of play, and I expect that other times players will Follow just to collect a Clout token. Still other times I expect players to Dissent, perhaps because they don't want to help the active player out, or perhaps because they need better cards for their own turn.

My current draft of Agendas might not be spectacular. I just wanted something to test out. I think many of them will need to be more impactful things that really stand to help or hinder someone's strategy.

In the lower right corner of that 2nd pic you might even be able to see the Market tile I mentioned before. For a first draft I went with the following version: 

Market:
Action: Draw 1 Clout token, then discard 1 Clout token.
Action: Exchange 1 resource for another (store it in the same slot the traded resource came from).
Research: Spend 3R to upgrade to Improved Market.

Improved Market:
Action: Draw 1 Clout token, then discard 1 Clout token.
Action: Exchange 1 resource for another (store it in the same slot the traded resource came from).
Action: Exchange 2 resources for up to 3 other resources.
+1vp whenever you Trade 3 different resource types in 1 Trade role.

I intend to make a few techs that interact with Clout tokens and Agendas, maybe swapping the locations of Upcoming or Active agendas (making them more/less expensive to activate/remove, or making them stick around longer) for example. I think I will keep the tech to a minimum though, since I've added so much in the other expansions. I think this one will be mainly about the Agendas.

Now, to playtest!