Monday, March 30, 2009

GameStorm 2009 - Part IV

The last day of a convention is always pretty slow as people have either worn themselves out, or leave early to get home for work the next day. We still had Candy's copy of A Castle for All Seasons, but we couldn't find anyone to play with so we started setting up for a 1 on 1 game of it. As we were setting up, 2 guys walked up and wanted to play, so we got to play a 4 player game (which I prefer). We taught them the game and then played - I tried to use the Stonemason more this time and get some VPs from building. I built the Well (12 cost, 10 vp) early with the Stonemason, and I think I built the big 30 cost building with Bricklayer and hired a 17 cost worker there (planning on scoring 25 for leftover resources). At one point I was going to play Stonemason again, and was looking to see whether I could build the building I wanted, and I said something out loud like "oh wait, I can't do that yet - I have to do something else first," to which Jeremy replied "oh, in that case..." and picked up the card he was going to play. I figured he was going to play Master Builder, and thought better of it since I'd sort of indicated I wasn't able to build - but I WAS able to build, and I was playing the Stonemason anyway... I played up the "error" as best I could to try and coerce Jeremy into not playing the Master Builder after all, and in the end it worked! he chose to play a Worker. To make matters worse, another player also played Stonemason, and so Jeremy's Worker got raped for resources - he ended up with $2 and a wood instead of Wood, Stone, and Clay! I won that game by a landslide, pulling off a couple good Master Builder turns as well.

After that we ran into DJ again, and he had 2 friends with him. We looked in the Library for a 5 player game, but couldn't find anything we wanted to play. DJ had a list of games he wanted try, and we finally settled on Space Alert - which I'd been trying to convince Jeremy to try (even though honestly I didn't love it after BGG.con). I thought I'd remember how to play, but as it turned out I was struggling to remember any specifics about the game. We played the first training simulation (and didn't do very well), then we skipped to the first training mission, and did better but ended up dieing! I think if we tried again we probably could survive at least the training mission, but we decided that was enough of that. Jeremy was more intrigued than he thought he would be, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I think we needed to communicate a bit better, as we didn't seem to have a handle on who was doing what or when - and that's really the whole game.

Rick was running his prototype of Hammer & Spike with the 4 train gamers that had been recruited and scheduled for that time, so I started watching that. DJ and his friends wanted to play A Castle For All Seasons, so Jeremy played that with them while I went back and forth watching Hammer & Spike and Castle for All Seasons, and as soon as H&S was done Rick was going to play one of my prototypes. I wanted to test the new version of Winds of Fate, but I felt it would be more responsible to test Terra Prime at the moment, so I chose that.

It turned out both of those games finished at about the same time, and we couldn't find anyone else to play Terra Prime, so Jeremy, Rick, and I played it. It went pretty well - though Jeremy found a double alien, and instead of running away (as I advised), he moved alongside them and into an asteroid field. He ended up taking a ton of damage and losing all of his modules... this was a pretty big setback. Rick set up nicely (maybe too nicely) for delivering, buying 2 Cargo Holds, the Cargo Capacity upgrade, and the Government Contract upgrade. The problem was that the delivery tiles only had a few Blue spaces, and the first three colonies made were blue - no green. That was partially my fault, as I made the second colony and had the choice between blue and green after Jeremy had chosen blue already. So Rick couldn't deliver all of the blue cubes he was picking up - and he decided to do something else - he started exploring for another place to colonize. By this time Jeremy had made a green colony, and I picked up some green to deliver and finish off tiles. I also picked up a blue and a brown since it was clear I would be able to finish 1 if not both of the tiles needing green (noone else seemed to be trying to - I contend that Rick should have made a B-line to the green colony as soon as Jeremy founded it). I scored a lot of points (21 in total) off of delivery tiles and Government Contract bonuses, and I ended up wining by 20+ points. However, Rick did manage a 21 point turn at the last minute with a deep space colonization which could potentially have ended the game. It didn't, so I got another turn in which I made 16 points myself. If Rick's action had triggered the game end I still would have won, but it would have been by maybe 6 points, a very close game. As it was I won by a healthy amount.

I like the way the early colonies can shape the game... in this case no green colonies, and noone managed a yellow colonies until really late either (which means no yellow tiles for extra delivering, and no engines for extra movement).

By this time people were pretty much all gone, so Jeremy an I left to convention. It was time for dinner, and we met up at Old Chicago with a frisbee friend of mine that just moved to Portland. I had a really good time all weekend, and tomorrow at noon I'm on my way home. I'm sure Evie will be happy to see me!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

GameStorm 2009 - Part III

Planning on getting up early-ish to get to the convention and start gaming is all well and good, but when you go to sleep at like 5 or 6 in the morning, it's not surprising that you wake up at 10:30 :/ When I got out of the shower and was ready to face the world, I found that Jeremy had also just barely rolled out of bed.

We got to the convention in time to secure a copy of Battlestar Galactica and meet Julie and Peter (and a friend of theirs) at the prearrange 1:00. Sadly, it was probably close to 2:00 before we started with the rules explanation, and then a very slow game which finally ended after 6:00! That was the longest game of BSG I've ever played, and that includes the 6 player learning game at BGG.con!

After BSG we went upstairs to the video game room because Jeremy wanted to play in the Rock Band tournament. I played a few rounds of Street Fighter 4 (man it's been a long time!), then headed down to play Jeff's prototype Rune Wars. It's a combat game like Nexus Ops or maybe the Warcraft board game with a cool system of unit building and resources, heavily influenced by Magic: the Gathering.

In Rune Wars you start each turn by collecting a VP for each City you control, then you get to draw a card and can choose which color from the 5 different decks. Each color can let you make units of that color/type, give your armies containing that color unit a special ability, and contains cards which have effects that are in tune with that color's theme. Then you get a chance to play a card or else draw another one, move your units around the board, resolve any conflicts, play another card if you like, and then recruit and promote units. You also gain 1vp for defeating an army with at least 3 units in it, and for gaining control of a city (?), and the game ends when someone scores their 11th vp. I liked the mechanics for card drawing, card playing, card duration (the cards sort of age over time and go away), and unit creation, but the game itself isn't really my kind of game.

After the playtest I called Candy to see where she was, and if she wanted to play Castle For All Seasons... she was in her room getting ready for bed, but she said we could borrow the game, which was awesome of her. Jeremy and I wanted to play that again all day but hadn't been able to.

While looking for someone to play CfaS with I found Jennifer, and she was on her way to play Times Up! Title Recall. They had room for more players, so Jeremy and I jumped into that. I had hoped we could be on the same team, but I ended up on a team with a girl from Romania - that was a challenge because she wasn't as familiar with American pop culture... but we did well, tied for 2nd, only 5 points behind Jeremy's team in the end.

Finally, after the Times Up game we found someone to play Castle For All Seasons with us. It was Lynette, who had played Lost Adventures at BGG.con a year ago. We played a 3 player game, and I tried a Trader/Master Builder/Trader opening, and immediately wished I'd played Messenger or a worker in round 2 and then Master Builder in round 3 instead because I realized I didn't want to trader again in turn 3 (which was the reason I played MB round 2, obviously). It was a bad start, but I managed to time a Master builder or 2 well and got some free points that way. I ended up 2nd (barely) to Lynette, who won by 10 points over me.

I'm starting to worry that CfaS mostly comes down to luck - if someone plays or doesn't play a Master builder, or if people build anyway when 1 player plays Master Builder, then they seem to get a really big advantage. I'm wondering if there's a winning strategy that involves simply Master Buildering almost every turn... if so, that would be lame. Of course you probably wouldn't do it EVERY turn, and you'd probably want to build a building here or there so you could get a helper in the castle (probably on the 'unbuilt buildings' space, since your MB might discourage players from building a lot). These are the things I think about when I play a new game...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

GameStorm 2009 - Part II

Slept in a little this morning, and then Jeremy and I headed back to the convention. We both wanted to play Castle For All Seasons again, and maybe Battlestar Galactica if we could. We didn't end up playing either.

Today (Friday) we played the following:

Hammer & Spike, Rick's new train game, with Rick and his mother in law Joan. I'd heard a little about this at BGDF and on his blog, and I was excited to try it. Hammer & Spike (affectionately known as Rickety Rails) is a train game where you build connections and deliver resource cubes, like Railroad Tycoon (and in fact inspired by RRT). The cool bits are that your deliveries are limited by "fuel." Your train can only go 3 cities before having to refuel. Players can build fueling depots, and you can use fuel from your own station for free, or pay an opponent $2 to fuel up at their depot, in order to move another three cities. The other neat thing about the game is that the cities (of which there are 6, the rest are towns) have a variable demand. There are 4 colors of resources, and when you deliver one to a city, the city decides it now wants a different color. On top of that, a big point-getter is a "switchyard," which can be built at a city, but not until you've delivered 1 of each colored resource to that city. The effect this has on the game is very big, and very good.

I could go on about this game, I liked it very much. I couldn't think of much to make it better - I did suggest a small change to how replenishing cubes works - (since it helps all other players, it hurts to have to pay money to do it), and we all agreed the game does not end soon enough (you play for 20 turns, when it should probably end after 15 or 16). I would happily play this again, but I don't know if I will this weekend or not. I hope Rick will send me a copy to play with Michael - who knows, maybe Tasty Minstrel Games* will want to publish it!

* more on Tasty Minstrel Games later

We went to the hospitality room and got some hot dogs for lunch, then Jeremy and I found Jennifer and we decided to play Brass. Just as I was finishing up explaining the rules to Jeremy, Rick returned from showing his prototype to some group of industry people, and he jumped in as well.

I noticed in this game that while 2 people were building Cotton Mills for early income, both of them were also building ports to ship them through instead of using the external market. For the record, the players doing so were Rick and Jennifer, each of whom had played at least once before. I shat out Coal mines like it was going out of style (Developed the first one away turn 1, then built 2 level 2 coal on turn 2). Jeremy did the same, sadly trumping one of my placements positionally. Due to this, I did not get to flip either mine before the Canal phase ended. Jeremy built a boat, and I built 3 level 2 Cotton Mills and shipped them all through the foreign market.

In the second half of the game, I got all the boat building cards, and Jeremy didn't... so we sort of swapped strategies. I ended up building *2* boats in the Rail era, and he built 1. I also built a lot of Coal and Iron, doubling up my action 2 or 3 times during the game. I don't think I built even 1 level 3 Cotton Mill, which was originally going to be my strategy - this is mostly because Rick ate up the foreign demand.

In the end, I scored 157 points while 2nd place (Jennifer) had 98. Jeremy was close behind her, and Rick was not too far back from them. I'll note that every tile Rick built in the Canal era came off the board - he didn't build any level 2 tiles at all in the first half of the game.

I continue to really like Brass. I am more experienced than my opponents were, so it follows that I was able to win, but I didn't think I was going to have that many points!

To pass some time, Jeremy and I played a little Magic variant called Magic War. It's sort of like a cross between Magic: the Gathering and War - the object is to get all of the cards from a common deck, and you don't need to pay the casting cost for anything (there are no land cards, you just assume you have infinite lands). It's fun, and not a little ridiculous :)

Finally, Rick and company invited us to play a 6 player game of Railroad Tycoon with his wife, her mom, and Candy. I had an excellent start, taking 3 or 4 shares on the first turn to secure the first delivery along with a service bounty, then soon after scoring the first 3-link delivery (3 more shares to upgrade my train). I got up to $10k and was ready to upgrade to level 4 for the 4 point bonus as soon as anyone challenged for that, and then something kinda bad happened. Rick's wife Helen built into Chicago when I didn't expect her to, but it was 4/5ths of a long rout to another city. I really wanted to build there, and worse if she finished the route I would have been cut off from a lot of stuff I thought I'd need, so I built to her destination to block her and help myself. So she used her next action to finish her track, but it cost her an extra $4k... this was just the beginning of a Big Mess in the Midwest, as Helen's mom really wanted to build into Chicago as well, and Candy was already sharing the Midwest with me. Thousands of dollars later, all that remained was a tangled mass of track. I had made Helen pay out the nose for her Boston-Toledo connection, and though I thought she might have been going for New York-Chicago (that card didn't come up) or New York-Kansas (which did), she ended up getting neither. It's possible hat my aggressive play lost me the game, though I think another major contributor was when I looked at the number of empty city markers left and saw a decent sized pile (maybe 7), so I thought the game had a couple turns to go, and I used an action to make a New City, only to find out immediately after that there were 3 or 4 empty cities on the board which hadn't been marked yet! This meant the game end was likely to trigger THIS round, and that being the case I would definitely not have wasted my time with the New City - I would have built track to some deliverable cubes, and I would have scored my 6-point Tycoon card in the process. Instead I lost by 10 points :/

I hate when that happens - when I make a significant game decision based on misinformation... especially when I specifically check on that information. I need to learn to be more careful - I should have looked at the board to see that the leftover empty city markers were accurate... those things get missed all the time.

After that game it was getting close to midnight. Jeremy and I found the Werewolf room and were waiting for that to start, but then decided we should head home and get something to eat. I had hoped to get to bed early-ish and then return to the con earlier tomorrow, but here I am now - 2 hours of Magic War and 2 more hours of Internet later... oh well - best laid plans and all that. Before we left I saw Julie and Peter and made plans with them to play Battlestar Galactica at 1:00 tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully we will play A Castle For All Seasons before that, and my prototypes afterwards - we'll see how that goes.

Friday, March 27, 2009

GameStorm 2009

I got to Portland yesterday to hang out with my friends Jeremy and Amelia, and to go to GameStorm. Today we played some Dominion and Rock Band then Jeremy and I headed over to the convention. I was bummed that there wouldn't be a Protospiel this time, but when we got there I found out there was a different, related thing called Game Lab. I hadn't heard of this, but evidently there will be some demo-ing and playtesting going on. I brought Winds of Fate, Terra Prime, Homesteaders, and Brain Freeze, and I think I'll try and get some of them played. In particular TP and WoF.

Today (Thursday) we played the following:

A Castle For All Seasons, with Rick and Candy from the bay area. I've been wanting to play this game for a while now, especially since my friend mike got it in the mail - but he's never available anymore and so hasn't brought it over yet. We finally got to play it today, and it was pretty cool. A little less intuitive to play than I'd hoped, but seemed pretty good... Jeremy and I both wanted to play it some more, but couldn't find another copy all day!

Afterward Rick showed me his new rail game, which looks cool. I hope to play it tomorrow. Then he and Helen went to get dinner and go to bed.

Agricola with Jeff (who we met last year at this convention). Jeremy had played once before, and Jeff had never played. It was an interesting game, and in the end Jeff finished with 36 points, maxing out his fields, grain, and vegetables. He didn't get a third family member until round 13 (another round 14 for the 3 points). I've never seen anyone score so well only having 2 people for that long! Jeremy finished with 39 points. I pulled out the win with just over 40 owing mostly to the Wet Nurse. I baked a ton of bread, finishing with 10 grain and 12 food leftover!

Street Fighter 4 on PS3. We went upstairs and checked out the video game room. Some guy was playing Super Mario Brothers 3 on an old school NES - I couldn't believe hos ghetto it looked! I remember it looking better than that, but I guess that's because nothing at the time looked a lot better. now it looks old and terrible. I played a couple rounds of Street Fighter 4 against some guy - I got crushed the first game, then owned him the second. Then we went to get some dinner.

On a related note, it sounds so funny when they say a value meal is on sale for $4, and then when you order it they say "$4 please." Not $5.34, but $4... no sales tax!

Hamburgum with DJ (a nice guy we met tonight). I'm really not all that good at this game, but I continue to like it. Jeremy boxed me out of most of the board by building - I could have avoided that, but didn't notice. In order to build more buildings I then had to complete a church, which took a lot of work and a lot of money. I ended up dead last, while Jeremy had a good game and crushed us with 109 vps - 15 points ahead of me. I was dead last.

Homesteaders with Jennifer, a woman who's played some of my prototypes at BGG.con and liked them. I narrowly beat out Jeremy 58-52. We were all a little Action light, I spend many of my Actions selling cubes for money and VPs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Oops, forgot! (Re: WoF)

I forgot something when posting last night that I was unhappy with the bet chip format (specific locations, drawn randomly)...

For one thing, the bet chips themselves are worth VPs, so if you take a reward tile that says "get a bet chip" you at least get the base VPs for the chip. Maybe you get to make a bet with it (will reach that location in such-and-such round) that will payoff decently, maybe not. In any case - and here's what I forgot - you can use ANY bet chip to add to your Destiny Bet (bet on which game end condition will trigger). So you can keep a 'useless' bet chip for the base VPs, or bet it on the Destiny bet for a potential gain. Therefore they're not completely useless, and maybe the idea is fine as is.

It turns out I had all these thoughts before, but spaced them last night when I was reconsidering the idea. On the down side, I stopped worrying about this idea and therefore did not update the prototype accordingly (also, I broke my stupid circle punch thing because it was too weak to cut through 1 layer of Chipboard :( )

I might not be able to test the game (and I definitely won't be able to test that mechanism) this week at GameStorm (to which I'm on my way as I type this). I'll have to give it a shot when I get home. I also need to make a new board with 4 columns instead of 3 and a couple more Encounter tiles.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I have an issue with one of the ideas for WoF that I had been considering. Jeff Warrender suggested something I think is good... that players should bet on which round Odysseus will get to particular locations - not just when the game will end. I thought I might make the bet chips all specific to one of the locations and have them drawn randomly, however I'm now thinking that a player could get really screwed by simply drawing locations the boat has already visited or that are either really close or unlikely to be visited anymore, so I'm suddenly not liking that idea anymore.

My next thought is to give each player a set of bet chips - one for each location. I'm afraid this might lead to the same problem as before though with everyone having the same things to bet with and therefore making similar bets.

I guess I'll have to think about that some more. Hopefully the new deck and set collecting will help.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Terra Prime: New endgame trigger playtest

I got a chance to play Terra Prime again tonight (finally!), and try the new endgame trigger again. I tried the 'game timer tiles' 2 weeks ago, and they worked well, but I didn't like that the rewards on them were all various amounts of VPs. This time each tile had some 'stuff' - a free module, or some resource cube or other. I liked that a lot better!

However, I did uncover an issue... I was awarding these timer tiles whenever anyone killed an alien, Colonized a sector, or finished a delivery tile. The first two of those worked very well - you get a little something immediately upon doing the scoring action. The latter though caused problems both thematically and mechanically. You deliver resources and are rewarded with... more resources! Which you can immediately deliver again without doing any work? That's lame.

The fix is easy though. When completing a delivery tile, you already get the tile which comes with some bonus VPs. So I'm simply not going to award a timer tile for that. Instead you'll only take a timer tile (and thereby advance the game end) when defeating aliens (via combat or diplomacy) and when colonizing a sector. I might need to reduce the total number of timer tiles to ensure a good game length, but that's certainly easy to do. Oh, and since deliveries don't progress the game end, I think I might add one more game end condition as a failsafe - if the delivery deck runs out (either one) then the game will end. I don't think this will ever actually occur, but better safe than sorry.

I'll want to test the game some more with various numbers of players to make sure I get the right number of timer tiles, and to make sure there's no balance issues introduced by the early free stuff (in particular the potential free cargo hold).

The game went well... it was pretty strange actually. There were 3 Blue colonies made, and no Green ones, but the initial demand tiles required 2 blue and 4 green cubes. The only player that had never played before did the best, winning over me by a pretty good margin. One player did very poorly, not grasping what it was he could do to repair some early bad play. Every move he tried to make just happened to be overshadowed by another player's play, and he just didn't see it coming. One player got 3 different tech upgrades, another got 2 and I got 1. All but about 2 yellow and 3 or 4 red tiles ended up being explored, which was pretty good - the game ended before the whole board was explored but not too early.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Winds of Fate: backburner thoughts

I've been avoiding thinking about this game in order to think about Terra Prime, but I really can't do any more with that until I play it some more - so I guess I'm out of excuses. Here's how I think I'd like to see the cards work in Winds of Fate:

As I've mentioned, I think there ought to be 5 'suits' for the cards, each associated with a different deity. Athena/Poseidon would be sort of wild, Helping/Hindering in any Adventure. The other three deities would each be assigned to a different adventures, and they would Help in 'their' Adventure while in other Adventures they might Hinder, or just do nothing.

The deck of cards which players draw from will consist of cards that will either be Athena or Poseidon cards, which will work as they always have, or they will have some effect listed for each of the other three deities. That effect will be like a Help value or a Hinder value, and could be nothing.

So depending on which Adventure you are in, you could play either an Athena card or a card for the 'local' deity for that Adventure (identified by the current location) in order to Help Odysseus, or play a Poseidon card or any card that says "Hinder" in order to hinder Odysseus.

As for drawing cards, I had an idea tonight about that. I thought it might be neat if there was some kind of dichotomy between drawing lots of cards and drawing high valued cards. So the idea I had was maybe something like Alhambra has - a face up pool of cards, and instead of drawing a particular number of cards you draw up to a particular value worth of cards from the display. That would create an organic method to allow a player to choose several low valued cards in various suits or else a single higher valued card in a particular suit.

The Athena/Poseidon cards, since they are equally useful in any adventure, should be lower valued in general. Other cards could be some combination of high and low values for the different suits perhaps. Not sure how that would factor into the card drawing thing I mentioned above.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

TP: Alien scoring

I wanted to up the VPs for aliens ever since I added the automatic damage... I think the way to do that is like this:

Each alien symbol you kill immediately gives you 1vp. Then, if you finish off the aliens, you get the usual 3vp/symbol. That way, if you kill 2 symbols and don't finish off the aliens, you get 2vp for your efforts. Also, this makes a triple alien worth 12vp rather than 9.

A fancier way to do it is to have Alien Warships and Alien Scouts... the Warships are the ones that do +1 damage. Therefore all single aliens would be scouts, double aliens would be 1 Scout and 1 Warship, and triple aliens would be 1 Scout and 2 Warships. In fact, that would allow for more variety in alien encounters - maybe you come across a pair of scouts - not as nasty as the 'normal' double alien, but worth 1 less vp as well. I don't know if that's really worth the effort.

Another thought is that instead of 3vp/symbol, the single alien is worth 3vp, double is worth 5, and triple is worth 10. The benefit here is that with scoring chits of denomination 1/3/5/10 there's the simplicity of 1 chit for each type of alien.

Oh, maybe I didn't mention - I think we're going to go with scoring chits of denomination 1/3/5/10 rather than a score track :)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Terra Prime (cont.)

Tonight I played Terra Prime with the new game end condition I discussed yesterday. In short, I liked it. Here's the longer story:

A couple of days ago I posted a few things that were bothering me about the game. I've addressed each and I'm feeling much better about them.

With the updated shield rules I don't mind the automatic damage from aliens. I was hoping that would be the case. The big issue though was the game end trigger. I did like the communal game length track. It did the job of coordinating all players efforts toward ending the game, which was the idea. Now each time any player takes a scoring action, they hasten the game end.

I decided instead of a simple track I would use rewards on tiles, like I talked about. In tonight's game I used the following rewards:

Green tiles: $10/Weapon/Cargo Hold/Shield (with 1 Energy)/Brownium
Yellow tiles: Variable VP (1-3)
Red tiles: nothing, but 3 of the 5 said "end" and 2 "end" tiles end the game.

Reflecting on the game and discussing it with my friend I think I would like to change some of that. Here's what I'll try next:
Green: $10+Brownium/$10+Brownium/Weapon/Cargo Hold/Shield (fully charged)
Yellow1: Bluium/Bluium/Greenium/Greenium/Cargo Hold
Yellow2: Thruster/Yellium/2 Greenium/2 Bluium/2 Brownium
Red: Yellium+Greenium/Yellium+Bluium/Greenium+Bluium/2 Yellium/3vp

With 3 of those Red tiles indicating "End" as I mentioned before, and 2 (maybe 3) "End" tiles means game over. This mix takes VPs off of the tiles and instead gives players "stuff" which is useful. I tried to arrange it so that the "stuff" is appropriately useful for the stage of the game in which you get it. I will be testing this some more, but so far I like it. I do worry a little that getting free stuff subverts the need to make money and bu stuff. I guess we'll see. If that turns out to be the case then I can just remove the rewards and just use a generic communal timing track for the game end.

Edit: I think I will go for all 3 of the "End" tiles coming up indicating game end. Also, while making the tiles I switched up some of them, I've updated the list above to match the prototype.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Terra Prime game end condition

I think I'm having an idea about the game end trigger in Terra Prime...

Instead of each player having a game end timer (the number of player tokens they have to put on the board), perhaps there should be an aggregate timer. Each time a player takes a scoring opportunity (completes a Demand tile, Kills an Alien, or places a Colony), they could draw a tile from a preset pool of face down tiles. there would be a set number of Green, Yellow, and Red tiles. The green tiles would be worth maybe 0-1 VP, yellow worth 1-3 or something, and red worth 3-5 maybe. In addition, maybe 3 of a total of 5 red tiles would say "End" on them, and the game is over when the 2nd "End" tile is drawn. This way there's a little uncertainty in exactly when the game will end, there's a race element for scoring opportunities, and whenever you make a scoring play, you literally hasten the game end.

Some potential problems with this is that it might create a game of chicken because taking the last tile of a color makes the next scoring opportunity worth more points. That suggests perhaps the VP value should be reversed, or that some other benefit should be awarded with the Green tiles... potentially a free module (gun or shield in Green, cargo in yellow perhaps) or coins.

On the up-side, this could facilitate some additional story arc in the game. Maybe when the Green pool runs out, all players get 1 additional action per turn, and then again when the Yellow pool runs out. This would basically mean that in the late game, when trips around the board are longer, all players would move farther each turn. Thematically, well I can't really think of a good thematic reason for that. maybe as time goes on, the Federation learns how to be more fuel efficient or something. Who knows.

An interesting afterthought - in the case where green tiles confer a free module, that could serve to differentiate players. I could see the game giving players 2/3/4 actions per turn in the Green/Yellow/Red phases (respectively), so long as during setup players begin with a Colony marker on their ship (which is basically the first action you take anyway). The Green pool could be 1 tile per player, and the rewards could be cost balanced: 1 Gun, 1 Shield (no energy, or maybe 1 energy), 1 Cargo hold, 1 Credit (or maybe 1 Brownium), 2vp (worth more than 1 Credit but less flexible). The Yellow pool could be 2 (3?) tiles per player (or maybe just 9 tiles) with rewards of 2-4 vp. Then there could be 5 Red tiles worth 4-6 VP, 3 of which say "End" on them. I'm not sure if the vps I've mentioned for yellow and red phases should be reversed or not. I keep going back and forth on it.

Anyway, this sounds good at first blush. I will mull it over and maybe make the tiles to try it out.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Terra Prime - final touches?

With Terra Prime on the verge of being published, it's time to put on the finishing touches and finalize all the aspects I've been iffy on or unhappy with.

For the most part I'm very happy with and very proud of the game. There are a couple aspects that I'm not 100% sold on though. The offending items are...

Shield purchase/recharge specifics:
Since changing the rules for shields (a change I like, by the way), I've been unhappy with the fiddliness of the purchasing. I had thought the best way to go would be to have 1 action be to buy a shield module for 10, or charge up all of your shields with energy for 10. That did everything that I wanted to do, except I don't like having to spend 2 actions to get 1 fully loaded shield. My newest idea is to give the shield purchase action two parts. First, you may bu a shield module for 10 (this is optional). Second, you may charge up all of your shields with energy for 10 (also optional, though if you're buying a shield it's likely you'll want to do it). This makes a lot of sense, I just hope it isn't too complicated to explain. One of my least favorite things about the game is that it takes so long to explain.

Automatic damage from Aliens:
A recent addition is automatic damage from aliens. Single aliens do 0-1 damage, double aliens do 1-3 damage, and triple aliens do 2-5 damage. The reason for this was because before, if you prepared for combat, you could cut through aliens and come out with out a scratch. The intention was that the triple aliens should be pretty easy to defeat if you prepare, but you should have to limp home having been damaged. The automatic damage seems to work, but it might be a little too harsh. The biggest question is whether the stray asteroids and asteroid fields should work the same way (automatic damage) or not. I think the asteroids could be less dangerous than the aliens.

Game End conditions and using player markers for Upgrades:
I've always had some trouble with the game end conditions for Terra Prime. the current rule is that when a player puts their last marker on the board, the game is over. The markers are placed on Colonies, Aliens, upgrades, and demand tiles. I kind of like how this works, but there are 2 problems... the biggest is what happens when you have 1 marker left, and on your turn you can kill an alien and also colonize? Somewhat less annoying is the fact that it just feels wrong to have an upgrade use up one of your markers. I think the markers should represent scoring opportunities, so using them for colonies, aliens, and demand tiles seems fine - but the upgrades don't directly relate to scoring.

One solution is to use a different type of player marker - one that doesn't relate to the game end trigger - for the upgrades. Another idea is to have tiles for the upgrades such that when you buy the upgrade, you take the tile and place it in front of you. This is similar to the modules, so maybe would fit the game. It would mean an additional 24 tiles or so, but that might not be so bad.

So I guess it's time to test these solutions and find something I like!