Thursday, June 26, 2008

Further thoughts on the "final" Terra Prime changes

Last week I posted some changes to Terra Prime, and Ben had a great idea (posted in the comments).

"Why not just take red cubes out? If people aren't using them... then maybe the cubes aren't worth having."

That's a great suggestion, and I think I'm going to try it that way this weekend with the publisher. Originally I figured the big late-game play for certain strategies would be to drop a colony on a red planet then cart a red cube home to TP and score big points from that delivery. The problem was that the costs in time and effort were so high in delivering Red cubes that it never happened. I shrunk the board, making it much easier to actually achieve this, and it still didn't happen. As I mentioned, at one point I actually upped the reward for delivering Red to $10 (which is 10 points... up from 6), and it still didn't happen. The game would end before people got around to it.

So I thought about Ben's suggestion. At first I was skeptical about losing the symmetry of the 2/3/6 point deliveries, and how all the planets work the same with respect to production. But then I realized that was all pretty arbitrary, and a long time ago I removed any Modules from red planets (because it didn't make sense - the modules help you get out to the red zone, no need to buy anything once you're out there). So the Red planets already aren't the same as Yellow/Green/Blue planets. How bad would it be if they didn't produce?

Thematically, the Red planets might be inhabited by aliens (not hostile ones) and that's why they're worth more points, but it wouldn't be right to rape their planets and ship off their resources. I like the sound of that.

With this change, the red cubes and red delivery tiles can all be cut from the game. The big late game play is now not delivering Red, but colonizing a Red planet in the first place. This is something that has been happening, especially since the change to the smaller board. To amplify that, as well as to fix a VP balance issue I've already been having with the game, I will also increase the value a planet adds to a colony.

Currently the colonies score 2vp per planet plus 1vp per distance from Terra Prime. I like that formula, but from the beginning the "2vp per planet" was really a placeholder. It was easy to remember and easy to calculate. I didn't want to commit anything to the tiles in case I wanted to change it later, so I went with that. Ideally, the planets could be worth different amounts of points, and they'd be printed on the tile - no remembering necessary. As for values, I believe what I'd like to do is have blue and green planets remain at 2vp, Yellow should be worth 3vp, and Red planets should be worth 4 or 5 vp. I'd long thought the distant colonies weren't really worth enough, as the nearby colonies get used a lot by players and therefore end up being worth more than the distant ones. I tried fiddling with the vp reward for distance, but I always liked the original formula best (1vp per sector from Terra Prime). Increasing the value of the planets will emphasize the reward for distance a little, as Yellow planets and Red planets by definition are further from Terra Prime.

I think this new structure will really reward exploration and colonizing far from Terra Prime, which was supposed to be one of the big strategies that I think wasn't strong enough to compete with Delivery or Alien Hunting. Losing the Red cubes sounds like it will just cut some of the unnecessary components from the game, making it feel more finished.

Combat Resolution
Combat resolution remains a sticky situation. The current rule is that you roll 1 die and if you roll a 6 then you hit an alien. You have to hit all alien symbols to wipe them out, and after your turn, if not wiped out the aliens will return to full strength. Each weapon module on your ship allows you to roll 1 additional die, AND confers a +1 modifier to all dice rolled. Thus, with 2 Weapons modules, you would roll 3 dice and add 2 to each, meaning any roll of 4, 5, or 6 would kill an alien. Shields currently work the same way - you roll 1 die and on a 6 your shields cancel a hit. Each Shield module allows an additional die AND gives +1 to all dice.

The purpose of this type of resolution is, I think, well thought out and relatively simple: I want aliens to be big and scary if you're not prepared for them, and easy to remove if you are, but I don't want it to be automatic - I want a feeling of tension and a chance of failure even if you're prepared to fight the aliens. For the most part, failure just means having to use one more action, and maybe lose a module by getting hit. I want a battle ready ship taking on three alien symbols to win, but not without taking a hit or 2. I want a ship that's been through a couple of battles to have to limp home damaged to resupply (re-purchase shields/guns). The Aliens are worth good points, and I want the 'cost' of that to include your ship getting F'ed up in combat - or at least the risk of damage.

With the current resolution, the more prepared you are to fight aliens, the more likely you'll win easily. The more guns/shields you have, the more effective each gun/shield is. Thus without any guns or shields, your chances of surviving an alien encounter, let alone destroying the aliens, are astronomically low. With a couple guns (or a couple shields and a couple extra actions) your chances are much better. But to be truly prepared for battle a player should have to invest in 2 guns and a shield (or 2 shields and a gun) as well as one or both of the Combat upgrades - re-rolling missed rolls or a built in extra Gun and Shield.

So with respect to the intended result, the current rules work properly. However, they may be too complicated. I've noticed that they are awkward to explain, and that's a symptom that could mean there's something fundamentally wrong with the rule I'm also not sure I'm happy with the reciprocal rule for Aliens attacking players. The current rule there is that they simply roll 1 die per symbol, hitting on 4, 5, or 6. Of course then players get a chance to use their shields. I don't know if I like that it's different, though the Asteroids work the same way, and I do like that it's simpler. I tried using the same rule for aliens - the more symbols present, the worse the aliens were... but then the single aliens weren't very scary at all, and it seemed more complicated than it was worth.

It's been suggested in the past that the combat should be reduced to 1 roll, not 1 roll for guns then another for shields. To facilitate that, shields would have to change into just a negative modifier on the roll to see if you're hit. that's a possibility, but I don't really see an advantage to that over the current system, except maybe that it's 1 fewer die rolls.

So long story short, I'm still hemming and hawing over whether or not I like the combat resolution as is.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ticket, please!

I spent about an hour last night drawing a schematic-type proto board for "Ticket, Please" - the airport game. I probably could have done that better on the computer, but oh well... I have a full board in mind, this draft is just to test out some mechanics.

This first draft of the board has 9 airports in a 3x3 array. The center is the "hub" - none of the tickets originate or terminate there. There are 2 "gates" (player cube queues) at the Hub (and perhaps a third for later in the game).

The corners are smaller airports... they have 1 Gate, and another which appears later in the game. All tickets originate from one of the corners. The last 4 'cities' are just destinations, and they have only 1 gate.

There are "1" routes between orthogonally adjacent cities, "2" routes between diagonally adjacent cities as well as from 1 corner to each 'adjacent' corner, and "3" routes from each corner to the 2 'destination' locations which aren't right next to them. Corner to corner is the longest trip, and there's no direct flight there... though there are tickets which go from one to the other.

EDIT: I drew a schematic that describes the board!

There are 2 of each ticket at the moment from each corner to each other location except the hub in the center. I think the game will have 3 phases, in the first phase only the "1" routes can be used, so there will be more stops and layovers. In the 2nd phase, technology has advanced, so "1" and "2" routes can be used. Finally in the 3rd phase technology has advanced again, so any route may be used.

Now I just have to decide which mechanics to test out... I think I'm going to try the following first:

Begin by giving each player the 10 cubes in their color - one goes on the income track (which will be modeled after Brass' income track for the time being). Deal 3(?) Ticket cards to each player, then turn up 3 Ticket cards to form a draw pool. Each player should start with a couple of bucks - probably 10 or so.

On your turn you first collect income according to the Income track, then you choose a Ticket from the face up pool or play one from your hand. Finally, you turn a new card up to refill the draw pool.

You have 3 options of how to play this Ticket:
1. Place/advance a cube in the gates in each of the cities listed on the Ticket card.
2. Place/advance a cube in any 1 gate on the board.
3. Complete the ticket.

In more detail...
A "Gate" is a column of boxes located at an airport in which players place their cubes. No player may have more than 1 cube in any given Gate, but some airports have multiple gates, so a player could have more than cube at an airport (1 in each Gate). Whenever a player places a cube in a gate, they pay $2 and place their cube in the first available space (from the top of the gate down). If a player already has a cube at that gate, they can pay $1/3/6/10 to advance 1/2/3/4 spaces at that gate. Their cube is moved up the appropriate number of spaces, bumping other players' cubes down 1 space as they go.

Completing a ticket is how points are scored and income is advanced. I explained it a bit in a previous post, each card has a Base Income and a Point value. The Point value is a number of points you get for having completed the ticket. To determine how much Income is earned, you take the Base Income on the card and subtract off the Cost of the trip. The Cost is the sum off all Route numbers used on the trip as well as the numbers in the Gates occupied by that player's cubes (Gates are numbered 1/2/3/4/5 from top to bottom). The minimum Cost for a trip occurs when the player's cubes are at the top of 2 airports and those are the only 2 airports used (i.e. they are both listed on the Ticket card). If the route is a "1" route, then the minimum Cost would be 3. I'd love to post a graphical example of this, because it's hard to explain properly.

When Completing a ticket, players also receive points for being "on top" at each Gate used. this may or may not be the player who's turn it is.

Also when completing a ticket, the active player must move his cube to the first available space at each Gate used, with other cubes in line sliding up. thus, when you complete a ticket, you move to the end of the line in each of the gates used.

There needs to be a score track as well, to count the points you get for being on top when a gate is used. I'm not sure if it would be better to add the points from Tickets to the score track and shuffle them back in for later rounds, or to simply keep the tickets out of the game and count their points later. The latter might be interesting as it would change the distribution of cities in the deck, and would also make later phases (which are more profitable) a bit shorter. I'll go with that for now.

Each phase will end when the deck is exhausted, and the game will end after the third phase. The cards dealt to players during setup are each 1-use cards which do not get replenished. they can be used at any time during the game, but only once each. The winner will be the player with the most points. If tied, the player who completed more tickets should probably win, with 2nd tiebreaker going to the Income track.

I think I've kept the game simple, yet interesting. I'm curious if it'll play out the way I expect - I guess I'll have to try it and see!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Final" (?) Terra Prime changes... yeah, right!

Terra Prime has gotten steadily closer to "done" over time, and I have been pretty happy with the progress I've made on it. As has been mentioned, a publisher is reviewing the game and planning on publishing it. I'll be visiting them when I go to Seattle next week to meet them in person and play Terra Prime with them.

One of the things I intend to talk about with them is what still needs tweaking in the game. Here are some items that I think they're not satisfied with (and frankly, they are things I'm not completely satisfied with either):

1. Red cubes/planets - not interesting enough. Since I shrunk the board and added a VP reward for exploring red tiles there has been more action in the 'red zone' - but it's still rare that a player ever carts a Red cube home to Terra Prime for delivery. At one point I tried bumping up their VP value from 6 to 10, which I thought was way too much, but even that didn't seem to help. I definitely think 6 is the right value (60 credits), but there's something about red that just makes it too unattractive to deliver.

Solution: It was suggested (by Mohan mostly, though I think I've heard it elsewhere as well) that Red cubes be sort of wild, in that they can be used to deliver in place of any colored cube on a demand tile. I am beginning to really like the sound of that, as it means a player carting a red cube all the way back to Terra Prime not only gets their 60 credits, but now also likely gets to complete one of the demand tile (irrespective of what's required), scoring bonus points for that.

In addition, I am considering allowing red cubes, because they are wild, to be carried in any hold - i.e. you could carry them in your initial, built in cargo hold. This would allow a player to carry Red cubes even without an additional cargo hold (either because they invested in 2 additional thrusters, or because they lost their Cargo Hold in combat with aliens). The down side is that it also means said player can carry 2 red cubes at a time, and if they satisfy any slot on the demand tiles at Terra Prime, then it might be too uninteresting. Then again, maybe the time you spend waiting around for that 2nd red cube to generate is cost enough for being able to deliver 2 red cubes for 12 points plus probably completing the tile... OR, and I don't really like the sound of this, there could be an arbitrary rule that you can only carry 1 red cube at a time on your ship.

Idea: I could add a built-in Red-Specific hold on the ship, like I did with Brown, such that a ship with no additional Cargo Holds could carry 1 Red, and a player who has invested in an additional hold could carry more than 1. I don't hate the sound of that...

2. Combat resolution is annoying. It's annoyingly random, and since my last rules changes I now find it annoyingly hard to communicate. Currently the guns and shields work as follows: The more you have of each, the better they each work. I like that. It means that if you prepare to fight aliens, then they're not too terribly difficult to kill - it just takes time, and you should take some damage when fighting them, so you can't just wipe out alien after alien with no risk. It also means if you don't prepare for them, the aliens are terribly scary and a huge deterrent - which they're supposed to be.

Solution: I'm not sure what to do about this one. With regard to the "luck factor" of winning or losing because you (or someone else) "rolled well" - I'm not sure I care about that. I think as long as the chances of success are really good once you've prepared, and really bad if you haven't, then that's good enough. this is why I like guns and shields that each work better the more of them you have.

To make it easier to explain again I was thinking of going back to a simpler model for combat, but that detracts from what I just mentioned, making luck a bigger factor again. I don't want people complaining that they lost because they didn't roll well enough, or that they lost because so-and-so got lucky with the aliens.

I'll have to keep thinking about this one, and talk to the playtesters about it. I'm not sure if the mechanism is OK as is, or needs to be changed. Maybe it just needs to be better represented.

3. Combat upgrades (and modules) seem unbalanced. This is a comment from the playtesters which I don't particularly agree with. It does go hand in hand with combat resolution though, and so depends on that somewhat. One thing to note is that upgrades are expensive - they cost cubes which would otherwise be points, and they use a marker which could have been a colony or delivery tile (and therefore worth points). Admittedly that last only matters if you're the player that triggers game end, and therefore is probably not a concern - but the point is if you spend too much time and resources pimping out your ship, then you won't get the value back. This happened to a player at KublaCon - she complained that the game ended too early because she had attained a good level of infrastructure, but didn't have time to make good use of it. She had over-invested in her ship. The playtesters also made a comment that 1/2 the modules were combat oriented (I believe they were referring to Shields and Guns)... but my view is that Shields aren't just for combat, they're also for exploration - to defend against asteroids.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Recent Gaming: Merchants of Amsterdam

At KublaCon last month I played a game called Merchants of Amsterdam, an auction game by Reiner Knizia (who'd have though..?) which is also an Area Majority game - with 12 different areas to gain majority in! When you gain influence, you get it in 2 of the 12 areas, and there are bonuses for spreading out your influence as well.

In Merchants of Amsterdam players take turns drawing 3 cards off the deck. One they'll keep, using the action themselves, one they'll discard, and one they'll auction off. The auction used in this game is a Dutch Auction - an Auction Clock is started which counts down from 200 to 0 (by 10s), the first player to speak up with a bid wins the auction, and their bid must be the amount indicated by the Auction Clock at the time of the bid. It's a neat, different system which is a little more tense than a regular turn order auction. A similar method could be to use a blind bid, but then there would have to be some system to break ties. I guess one could argue that in the Dutch Auction system there could be ties as well, but it hasn't come up in the couple games I've played so far.

The 12 areas where you can gain influence are divided into 3 sets of 4 areas - Colonies, Districts in Amsterdam, and Commodities. Scoring of a set of areas occurs on occasion, and when it does, the areas in the set are first ordered highest to lowest with regard to total amount of player influence. Then in each area, the players with the 1st and 2nd majority score some points - more for the 'largest' overall area and fewer for the 'smallest'.

Bonuses are earned when a player has presence in each of the 4 areas in a set. This influence is put on the board as a result of the cards you are drawing and auctioning for. Each card allows you to place an influence marker in either a colony or a district in Amsterdam, and then advance one of the commodity tracks. Each card either tells you specifically which track to move (and gives you more flexibility as to where to put the influence marker), or lets you choose (and gives you less flexibility in where to place the marker).

I find the game very clever, and I'm glad I traded for it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Holy progress, Batman!

Last December I wrote some new years resolutions, and one of them was:

Game Publication/Submission
I'm trying to get a game published. I have 3 that are at the point where they need to be shown to publishers, and I've finally started that process. I'm learning about it as I go, so it's taking a long time because I'm not sure what I'm doing. In order to stay on track, I resolve to submit Wizard's Tower, All For One, and Terra Prime to as many publishers as possible/necessary in an attempt to get one/some/all of them published. I further resolve to enter a game in at least 2 game design contests: KublaCon in May and Hippodice in November.

To that end, I did enter a game (Reading Railroad) in the KublaCon design contest - though it didn't do very well. In addition, I handed All For One off to Zev Shlasinger of Z-Man games last November - but he has been so busy he's not had a chance to look at it.

Terra Prime is currently being reviewed by a potential publisher, and when I go to Seattle in 2 weeks I'll be meeting with them and probably playing a few games of TP with them.

Wizard's Tower really impressed the judges at the KublaCon design contest last year, and I gave a copy to Julie Haehn (who runs the contest). This year at the convention she informed me that a new publisher is cropping up in the Seattle area, and asked if she could show them Wizard's Tower. I sent her the latest and greatest rulebook and player aids for that purpose, and I guess she's given the game to them.

And finally, last March at Gamestorm Jay Tummelson asked for a copy of Homesteaders to take to the Gathering and try out. I have not heard peep from him, not even in reply to my emails checking in (which I've kept to one every 5 weeks or so), but I do know that the game was played a couple of times at the Gathering and I've talked to a couple of the people who played it.

So I guess that means I'm making progress, even if it's slow going.

Then today I got an interesting geekmail on BGG from a Dutch publisher - they said "I saw your proto of "Terra Prime" on the BGG, which looked to me. I was wondering if you are interested in sending/email us some proto games so we can take a look at them. We are busy with our 2009 program and are searching for new great games."

That sounds like really good news to me, so I'm composing a reply. I'm not entirely sure what to say, so far I've thanked them for contacting me, I've asked what kinds of games they're interested in, and I've given a short list of games with short descriptions including A41, TP, WT, Homesteaders, Reading Railroad, and Ariel's Tennis card game Love Means Nothing. I've mentioned that TP and Homesteaders are currently under review by publishers - perhaps I should not mention them at all...

I realize that Homesteaders and Love Means Nothing are not technically my games, but I feel that they are great games, I'd like to see them published, and I've been helpful in the development of both... to the point where the designer of each has said that if I help get the game published, I could have my name on the box in addition to theirs.

Maybe this is"no big deal" - but for me it seems pretty exciting. The publisher that contacted me seems like a quality operation, so I think they'd do a good job... I hope they like the sound of All For One, as that's my oldest project (that's any good) and was always sort of my flagship design (though perhaps Terra Prime has replaced that by now).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Board for Airport game

I was thinking about what the board would look like today, so I printed out something and started sketching it out.

Also, with regard to theme, perhaps this ought to really be a game about Travel Agents. Players are Travel Agents who can get access to seats on planes (doesn't matter what airline) - and they do so to satisfy the "tickets" representing trips passengers wish to take.

In this case it doesn't make sense for players to pay to upgrade their planes to fly farther, so maybe the game would be in 3 rounds... in the first, all planes can only use the "1 distance" routes, in the 2nd phase of the game, plans can use the 1 and 2 distance routes, and in the final phase players can move passengers across any route. Each round/phase might end once all tickets have been exhausted?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Airline game

I've given some more thought to the ideas I'd had about an airline game, and I think I've come up with a basic structure of a game themed on the airline industry - specifically routing passengers from Origin to Destination in an efficient manner. On the down side, it doesn't incorporate my favorite part of the initial thoughts: the Rush and Cheap passenger types... but on the up side I think it could be simple and elegant.

The game is something of an area control or area influence thing, where you gain influence in different airports in order to complete tickets. Tickets have an Origin airport and a Destination airport, and when you play one, you score some number of VPs and some amount of income. The VPs will probably be static and dependent on the ticket (i.e. printed on the card), while the income will be variable. There will be a maximum value, and the player will receive less for any extra stops or layovers the passenger would have to make.

The board would look like an airline Route Map, with a simple web of routes to and from a couple of 'hub' locations and several other airports. Each route would have a circled number along it relating to the 'distance' - 1/2/3 unit (roughly relating to hours of travel). There would also be an Income track like in Brass (or potentially a score track tied to it, as in Railroad Tycoon), and a Plane Level track indicating what size route your planes can use and how much it costs to improve them.

Turns would be pretty simple, along the lines of Ticket to Ride: Either you buy influence in an airport, you upgrade your planes, or you complete a ticket. Buying influence in an airport means placing a cube in a column of boxes by that airport on the game board, or if you already have a cube there, bumping it up a level relative to other cubes. This 'stack' of player cubes acts like a line where the player 'on top' of the stack has priority. It would probably cost a unit of money (or 2) to place a cube in an airport, and a unit of money to bump your cube up the line. Perhaps in one turn you are allowed to buy influence in 2 different airports, or three, or maybe you get 2 (3?) units of influence to spend wherever you like...

The upgrade action is simple - pay the indicated amount of money and move your marker to the next space in the Plane Level track.

Playing tickets is where the points are made. I imagine tickets with a printed value X on them. Income for playing the ticket would be equal to that value X, less the "cost" of the trip, where "cost" is the sum total of all Distances on routes used, as well as any Layovers (1 unit for your cube at the airport, and 1 unit for each cube ahead of yours in line). After a ticket is played, the player's cube at each airport used is either moved to the bottom of the queue, or removed from the board entirely.

I feel like the cost description wasn't clear, so here's an example or two:
I have a ticket which has origin LAX and Destination PHX. There is a route between L.A. and Phoenix which is distance 1 (has a 1 in the Distance circle). My cube is 2nd from the top at LAX and at the top in PHX. The "cost" is 2 (at LAX) + 1 (Dist) + 1 (at PHX) = 4. Perhaps the printed value (which I was calling X) on the ticket was 6... I'd earn income of 6-4=2, so I would move my marker 2 spaces on the income track. The minimum possible cost for that trip would be 3, if my cube were on top at both airports. In that case I'd increase my income by 3.

I'm not sure this is a complete game as is, but as a main mechanic I think it might be solid. I'd like to think about it some more and see what else could go into the game. I feel like there ought to be more to it, but then when I look at what games are popular coming out right now - Stone Age, Ming Dynasty, Aquaretto... I see simplistic games, not complicated ones. So I'm trying not to get too complicated with the design of this one. To me, Stone Age is a "light filler" type of game. To a lot of people it's a "meaty strategy" game. I have to remember to keep that in mind when considering a design...

Monday, June 09, 2008

I came across a website that might be useful in self publishing something like a board game. It is a service that takes care of "preorders" like GMT's P500 or whatever - you set a goal, people can "pledge" money (preorder), and if the goal is met by the deadline then the pledges turn into payments (the site charges people). if the goal is not met, everyone's pledges are canceled and nobody pays anything.

The fee for this service is 7% of the total, plus a flat $10 if you want a check (rather than paypal payment). I don't know if that fee is worth the service, but not knowing another way to really go about a preorder system this seems like it might be worth looking into for anyone who is thinking about self publishing a game.

Personally I don't want to spend the time and effort to get the game published, so i probably won't go this route.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Definitive list of Railroad Tycoon variants Id like to use

My friends and I all like Railroad Tycoon, and we play it relatively frequently. We adopted long ago a variant to make the card draw at the beginning of each round more interesting, and recently I've been considering and trying other variant rules to try and improve the experience. Here's the full list of variants I like and would like to use on a regular basis...

1. Remove Railroad Executive cards from the deck.
Those cards are ridiculous - most of the cards are desirable for some players at some times, Railroad Exec is strictly better than any other action for all players at all times. So while most auctions are kinda lame, suddenly this card comes up and people have to bid like crazy. We didn't like that dynamic.

2. Add Passenger Lines card from Rails of Europe as a starting card.
I like how this encourages/rewards making a variety of deliveries.

3. Instead of the 'official' 10 cards to start and 1 more per game turn, use a smaller number of cards (5, or #players) at the beginning of the game (in addition to the 3 Starting cards of course), and turn up 2 new cards each game turn.
Without this rule too often nobody cares what card came up, and the start player aucti8on is much less interesting. This way it's more frequent that people want to bid.

4. Reveal Major Lines. Like in Rails of Europe, make all Major Lines available from the beginning of the game. Just take them out of the deck and line them up beside the board. First person to complete each gets the points.
This removes some of the luck of the draw that can occur when one player randomly has a Major Line appear in the area he's building - especially early in the game, while another player builds in the vicinity of another Major Line which never happens to appear.

5. Display next cubes. There are several actions which require 2 random cubes to be taken from the bag and placed on the board. This variant takes 2 random cubes from the bag and puts them on display, and the next time 'random' cubes are needed, the displayed cubes are used. Then 2 more cubes are displayed for the next time cubes are needed.
This changes some of the conditional planning into precise planning. One friend is adamantly against it, but I much prefer this variant.

6. New turn order auction. Rails of Europe adopts a variant to the Age of Steam auction which I like, however I have an additional variation on it. Instead of 'around the table' the turn order is based on an auction. On your turn you bid or pass, first passer will go last, next passer will go 2nd to last, etc. Only the winner of the auction pays their bid. Next round bidding begins with the last player and goes up the turn order (as opposed to starting with 1st and going down).
There are often situations where you are in competition with another payer at the table, and there's no telling where they'll be sitting - if it's the player to your right, then you HAVE to win the "normal" auction to go before them, and if anyone else bids, they don't have to. This variant auction makes everyone bid for turn order relative to anyone they might be in competition with. I don't think it needs to be as harsh as Age of Steam where everyone pays 1/2 their bid except the 1st passer because most of the time going 5th isn't much different than going 3rd - you just want to go before a particular player.

7. One day I'd like to try some variant to make the Southwest more interesting. this is probably only good in a 6 (maybe 5) player game, but I've always wanted to see Dallas as a Red city. I might like to see a 6vp service bounty to one of the gray cities in that area like Little Rock. There could be a Major Line or 2, like a long one (Shreveport to Raleigh?) and a shorter one (Dallas to Louisville?). And maybe add a cube to each city down there. This isn't as high on the list because I think the game is fine without it - but it's silly to have that portion of the board and not use it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Precise planning vs Conditional planning - take 2

My last post about Precise Planning vs Conditional planning sparked some good discussion about Randomness/Chance vs Player-induced Chaos. It was my own clumsy wording that drove the conversation to that, and while I enjoyed the discussion, it didn't address what was the initial point of the thread: Precise vs Conditional planning.

I'll try again to (correctly this time?) define these terms the way I see them. Put simply:

Precise planning is planning based on known information.

Conditional planning is planning based on unknown information.

I began about this difference specifically in regard to the variant I mentioned for Railroad Tycoon in which the next 2 cubes to be "drawn out of the bag" are put on display. Also in mind was Ra and how to decide whether a lot is "good enough" to bid on.