Thursday, September 27, 2007

Red Colony

I've decided that until a better name comes along, the Mars thing will be called Red Colony.

I had had some ideas, lots of different ideas actually, about how different parts of the game might work. Then I was reminded of this blog post my friend Scott made back in July, and I realized that what I really ought to do is take the base concept of what I wanted to try (managing your income stream) and make the simplest game possible out of that. So after a little thought along those lines on my way to lunch, here's what I came up with:

Players should get 1 Ship action and 1 Pawn action each turn:
Ship actions are...
(a) Get a cube (number limited by total capacity of ship, and type limited by ship configuration)
(b) Move the ship from Earth to Mars or vice versa. Clearly you can't get a cube if the ship is at Mars, and I think the idea is that you can't change the configuration unless your pawn is at Earth.
Pawn actions are...
(a) Move to any explored tile connected to your 'base'
(b) Move to and explore any tile adjacent to an explored tile connected to your base
(c) Build a Building on an explored tile (probably have to connect back to your base)
(d) Update ship configuration (must be on Earth to do this)
(e) possibly Get a cube (if at Earth)
(f) Move people around (in the case that buildings require people to operate)

You can bring your pawn to Earth with you if it's at your base when the ship goes from Mars to Earth, and of course you can bring your pawn with you when the ship goes from Earth to Mars (and I imagine you would always do the latter, not necessarily the former)

Another option might be to allow players to simply do any 2 of those each turn, so if you wanted to you could get 2 cubes, at the expense of not exploring or building that turn... I'm not sure if that's better or worse.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More on this Mars idea

I was contemplating this "exploration and colonization of Mars" idea a bit, and here are some of the ideas floating around - starting to come together...

There could exist several different types of resources, we'll call them cubes, which can be gathered on Earth and sent to Mars to help you explore and build. Different actions on mars will require (cost) different cubes.

Each player will have a ship that travels back and forth between Earth and Mars, carrying these cubes. The ships can be configured to carry only 2 or 3 types of cubes at a time out of the 5 or more different types that exist. While on Earth, players will set the type and quantity of cubes they want their ship to carry. Then it will go on autopilot delivering those cubes to Mars as scheduled while the player does actions on Mars. Over the course of the game, players will need a different mix of resources, which means they have to take time to travel to Earth and adjust the configuration of their ship.

For example, in the mid game maybe a player will have constructed the means to mine one of the early game resources on Mars, so they will not need to collect it from Earth anymore. then they'd rather reconfigure the ship to bring more useful cubes.

One of the types of cubes will represent people, which will be used in 2 different ways - operating certain buildings (which will then produce some in-game bonus), and simply living in residential buildings (which will earn points). In order to have people living and working in the colony though, there needs to be enough living quarters and feeding capacity to support them.

Player Differentiation
What will differentiate the players so they won't all just do the same thing all the time? Well, this game is about Exploration as well as colonization, so I envisions a grid of face down square tiles, which a player can explore, some of which are better suited to certain types of buildings than others. For example, maybe a plot adjacent to a canal would make a desirable place to live, so it might add to the value of living quarters built on it. Other tiles might lend themselves better to certain types of production buildings. Maybe some tiles aren't suitable for building on.

I think it might be neat to have a building that allows you to peek at nearby plots to see if you want to explore them. I also like the idea of an Assay Office, like in the old video game M.U.L.E. - where you have to go to see how well suited your plot is for various types of production.

That's about all I've got so far. djnkirk from BGDF suggested a Moon board as well, where one could build a sort of substation, thus requiring less travel time then going all the way back to Earth. That's a neat idea, but I'm not sure it really works to well. I really like the idea of investing in a sub-base for potential future efficiency though.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New game idea, perhaps

I was looking at a post-it note on my desk on which I wrote some potential game themes people said they'd like to see in a thread either on BGDF or on BGG. One of them is "Colonizing Mars"...

Suppose a game about colonizing Mars were structured as follows... There's an Earth board on which players can adjust amounts of various resources which will be needed to explore mars and build he colony and there's a mars board where players oversee the exploration and colonization of Mars the crux of the game would be that based on what you find and what you want to build on Mars, you need different resources from earth, and to adjust your production on earth you need to travel there. Of course to supervise the Mars action you need to travel there. Traveling back and forth costs time.

So there'd be some actions you can do when your pawn is on the Earth board, mostly regarding income and preparation, and there'd be actions you can do when your pawn is on the Mars board, to do with exploring, assaying, and colonizing Mars.

I'll mull this over a bit and see if anything comes of it. I envision some private information, like maybe you can take a land tile to the "assayers office" (like in M.U.L.E.) and see what type of building that plot would be suited for, then you can build a building on it that would produce some resource - or you can build without assaying first just to get whatever building you want in play.

I also envision a variety of buildings, perhaps production buildings which can start producing some of the resources needed, to save you trips to Earth, buildings which support population (this is a colonization effort after all), and who knows what else.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

So how is this Lost Adventures game anyway?

Well, over the course of the last week I've played Lost Adventures 6 times. I tried a few variations on a couple rules to see how they worked, and I've been fervently reporting my findings and opinions to the game's designers Jeff and Steve. Personally, I really like the game. I can't get over the cool theme and the novel concept of looking up clues. I think the game does a few things really, really well - the information gathering, the race against the other players as well as the Nazis, and the Temple Phase endgame is pretty neat too.

The down sides...
(a) the Indiana Jones license is probably unobtainable or prohibitively expensive to actually ever publish the game. Hopefully that's not the case, and it's not really my problem to begin with, but it's certainly an obstacle. Retheming the game would take away much of the appeal, though I'm sure a generic Indiana Jones characterization would work well enough.

(b) There are a lot of intricate little rules that are not very easy to remember. I think before the game could be considered "finished," they're going to have to streamline/simplify the rules so that they're easier to learn/teach/remember. For the most part I think that can probably be done, but it might mean losing little bits of the game that are nicely thematic, but just don't come up often enough to be worth having rules for them. I have had a similar problem with All For One, and I'm having a hard time letting go of certain parts of that game that probably don't need to be there.

(c) The Map phase of the game, where you run around talking top characters to gather information then look up clues is pretty cool, and it's the meat of the game, but the endgame Temple phase is played on a separate board, with slightly different rules, and a different feel. Now it makes sense, the information gathering allows players to prepare for the Temple phase, which is the main point of the game. And exploring the temple really does feel like you're exploring and looking for the grail room. The only problem is that it feels like a different game. I don't know if there's much that can be done about that, but there is a saving grace for players who either don't like that part of the game, don't like the length of the game, or don't want to learn all the little details about the temple phase right off the bat - and that's the possibility of a"short game" or "introductory game" which is in every way the same as the normal game, but without the Temple phase. The game would simply end as soon as the Temple is found (either by a player or the Enemy).

So there you have it... a very cool game, but I think it would benefit from some simplification of the rules and a few other minor details here and there, like what information is in the clues, and exactly when and how many Nazis are added to the board.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lost Adventures playtest report

I received the files for Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk’s Indiana Jones themed Lost Adventures last week, and I’d been excited to play it. So Friday evening and Saturday morning I printed, cut, and cobbled together all the pieces so that Sunday morning we could play. Tyler and Aric came over yesterday and we worked our way through a 3 player game.

In Lost Adventures, players play adventurers a la Indiana Jones, visiting Theme cards (such as Sallah, Henry Jones Sr, and the Grail Diary) to gather information on 3 hidden Relics, the Lost Temple and how to navigate it, and the Holy Grail. Meanwhile, a relentless enemy is searching for the Temple as well (“Nazis… I hate these guys.”)! The more information the players get, the more Enemies are added to the board and the faster they approach the Temple. Once the Temple is found (either by a player or by the Enemy), the game moves to the Temple phase where players navigate the Lost Temple in search of the Grail Room (to find the Holy Grail), and then a font to test the Grail in. Again, the Enemy is also searching for the grail, and the game ends as soon as either a player tests the True Grail in a font, or the enemy finds the Grail. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins. Points are earned by finding and delivering the Relics, finding the Temple and the Grail Room, testing the True Grail in a font, and beating up the most Nazis.

I have been excited about this game ever since it was described to me on the BGDF a few years ago. The way the game handles hidden information is very clever. The game "knows" the location of the hidden items and some other information, and by visiting the Theme cards and then looking up clues you learn that information. The more Theme cards you visit before looking up a clue, the better the information you receive. There is a time pressure from the Enemy's relentless search for the Temple and then the Grail, and as the players gain information, the Enemy (game clock) accelerates toward its goal. Every part of the game is highly thematic, as it feels just like the Indiana Jones movies.

I've got a long list of playtest comments (I played again tonight with Ben and John) which I'll be sharing with Jeff and Steve. I hope they continue to tune this game as I'd love to see it someday published!