Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eminent Domain

I really like the name Eminent Domain, and think it would be a great name for a game. It may not be a great name for THIS GAME, but nonetheless I found myself without a name when I started making card files for the game, and today I decided Eminent Domain, while thematically not really correct, sounded cool and would do for a name for now.

On that note, I thought it would be good to NOT use all the same terminology as Race for the Galaxy. Sure, thematically Eminent Domain is similar to Race for the Galaxy - but I think it will make for a VERY different game. So to dissuade the obvious comments about RftG, I think I should use my own terminology. Considering the name Eminent Domain, I think the Settle action could be changed to Expropriate. The Explore action could be called Survey. I'll note here that the Explore action in my game (get a planet card to score later) is NOT the same as the Explore action in Race for the Galaxy (draw cards)!

As I mentioned, I've created some card files for the game, but I'm not quite done with that. I'm going to need a list of static abilities for the planets, and card effects for the technology cards. Here's what I have so far...

First off I'll outline the turn order, then I'll describe the card distributions. Each player's turn will have the following structure:

1. Play a card for its effect (optional). Basic Role cards might not have an effect.
2. Choose a Role card and execute the action (mandatory - each player in turn can Follow and also take the action, or draw 1 card). Only the active player gets a Role card to boost their action. The Role card will stay in that player's deck.
3. Refill hand to current hand limit.

I am going to have 3 types of planets in each of 3 categories: Fertile, Advanced, and [need a name] indicate what type of actions the planet helps out with:

Fertile: Harvest/Expropriate
Advanced: Trade/Research
[other]: Survey/Warfare

The other attribute a Planet card will have indicates how you go about Expropriating it. There are again 3 types: Uninhabited, Civilized, and Hostile. Each can be Expropriated in a different way:

Uninhabited: Requires a certain number of Expropriate icons
Hostile: Requires a certain number of Armies (which are gained via Warfare)
Civilized: Requires some combination of Expropriate icons, Armies, or Resources
(Actually I think it will be that a certain number of Expropriate icons is required, but you can spend Armies and Resources instead)

I'm looking at 27 Planet cards, 3 of each combination, each with a "cost" (in Armies or Expropriation icons), a VP value, and an ability. Here are some of the static abilities I've got so far:

+1 Research [ADV]
+1 Trade [ADV]
+1 Expropriate [FERT]
+1 Harvest [FERT]
+1 Survey [___]
+1 Warfare [___]
+1/+2/-1 Hand Size (-1 for a Planet worth good VPs)
Play 1 add'l card each turn
Take an add'l Role card when performing an action (even if Following)

I'll need some more of course.

Each of the three categories of planets (ADV, FERT, [___]) will have an associated Technology deck, and via the Research action players can add those Research cards to their own decks. The Research cards are strictly better than the base action cards in that they each have 2 Action icons, and they each have some effect which can be used in the first part of the turn. Here are some of the effects I have so far:

Remove any 1 card in your deck from the game [ADV]
Collect any 1 Resource from the Supply [ADV]
Collect any 1 Resource from the Supply [FERT]
Use any combination of Resources to Expropriate (or otherwise make it easier to Expropriate with Resources this turn) [FERT]
Peek at drawn Planet cards before choosing which to Survey [___]

I obviously need some more. All decks will also have a couple cards which do not have an ability but are instead worth some Victory Points.

If anyone has an idea for some good static effects for planets or card effects for technology cards, please feel free to post them in a comment!


Seth Jaffee said...

I think I might simplify things a tad and say that Hostile planets require Armies, Uninhabited Planets require Expropriate icons, and Civilized planets require any combination of the two.

A tech card will allow a player to pay resources instead of icons/armies when Expropriating.

Also, I'm not thrilled with "uninhabited" as a name for that type of planet, especially after changing the action to 'expropriate." Any ideas for better nomenclature?

Rick Holzgrafe said...

I'd suggest "open" rather than "uninhabited." This helps with another problem, which is how an uninhabited planet can be "advanced". "Open" suggests that there's enough room to move in without having to subdue, bribe, or placate the natives.

Your Survey/Warfare type this sounds like a "metal-rich" or "mining" planet: someplace with lots of metals that could be mined and used for weapons or other equipment.

Seth Jaffee said...

Thanks for the suggestions! I like the mining idea, maybe something along those lines.

I like your logic on "Open", but I don't know if the word sounds right. I'll think about alternatives along those lines. Thanks again!

Isamoor said...

Man, I know you were trying to avoid RftG, but I'm having a real hard time to follow along with a game that uses "expropriate" as a game term. I mean, most of my design ideas are abstract as a cube, but I really think you need to stick to some kind of space theme here.

Just of personal note too: I really disliked the "round the table: lead / follow" stuff from G2R. It just added a big delay between choosing an action and getting to do it. Maybe I'm just spoiled from simultaneous play, but that was like playing Dominion where everyone had to decide *if* they were going to buy before anyone could choose *what* they would buy.

Now, as for planets, I personally think of planets as:

Organic / Fertile
Dense / Mineral
Gas / Nebulous

And of course for us, only the Organic/fertile would ever be civilized.

Now if you wanted to limit to civilized, you could maybe do:

Primitive Barbarians (Big War/Low Tech)
Advanced Pacifists
Young/Average Colonies

If I get a chance I'll go back and try and map across what abilities you are going for to try and come up with what tech bonuses might be fun :)

Seth Jaffee said...

Isamoor said: "Just of personal note too: I really disliked the "round the table: lead / follow" stuff from G2R. It just added a big delay between choosing an action and getting to do it. Maybe I'm just spoiled from simultaneous play, but that was like playing Dominion where everyone had to decide *if* they were going to buy before anyone could choose *what* they would buy."

I know what you mean about following, only in this case I was thining you would do your whole action, then everyone else in turn would do the action (or draw 1 card instead) - not decide to follow, then resolve (like GtR). So more like Puerto Rico than Glory to Rome in that case.

Like Puerto Rico where, except if you didn't want to build a building on someone's Builder phase you could collect $1.

Jeff said...

Some random thoughts about theme, possibly that won't actually work in this game:

Right now, it sounds like you are viewing the different worlds simply in terms of what level of difficulty they present to you to initially secure a foothold in that world, but once you have it, you can start mining the world for all it's worth.

What if instead, there are degrees of settling a planet:

- A Trade Outpost gives you access to the planet's resource via trade with the locals

- A Spaceport lets you land spaceships there, and refuel them

- A Colony gives you access to the planet's resources without trade

- A Full Settlement means you're basically setting up a full-blown civilization on the planet.

Which of these approaches you take with each world might depend on (a) how important the planet's resources are to your strategy, and (b) how your initial negotiations with the local aliens proceed, and whether they're peaceful, warlike, etc.

Additionally, it could reflect the fact that colonizing and mining a gas giant will require an entirely different kind of technology compared to a molten planet. So maybe you need to invest in technology to be able to colonize different kinds of planets.

Probably this is more complex than what you're looking for in a straightforward card game.

Seth Jaffee said...

Jeff - neat idea! That's very similar to an idea a friend (Michael) had for his 'version' of the game. Right now I think it might be 'too much work' for the game - I'd like to see if it works as is, and if I think more complication is warranted then I might reconsider this type of thing.

Another thing to consider is a theme change. Eminent Domain is currently set in space because Mike specifically asked for a "TI3 card game." We now have been talking about a re-theme to a more general civ game type of thing. Not sure how that will work, I think I still want to finish the proto and try it as is before changing anything just to see if it indeed works and is fun!

One neat thing we discussed though was the idea of using just 1 resource called Food, which pays for various things (maybe Technology upgrades for example), and when Food is used to pay for things, another resource (Seed) is left behind. Seed would be used to "colonize" new land (i.e. flip up a planet). Trade could send Food off in exchange for victory points, but would not leave Seed behind. It's a neat idea that I don't recall seeing before - a resource that, once spent, leaves you with another resource...

Jeff said...

Agreed, it might not be a good fit for this game, I think it's just an example of a possible thematic extension that might be needed to differentiate the game from the many other "space conquest" games that are out there.

Actually, a simple way to implement the idea would just be to reenvision how your deck-building mechanic works. Instead of having you get better at certain *actions* as you take them more frequently, you could get better at dealing with certain kinds of *planets* the more time you invest in working them.

One-resource economies can be tough in a game that involves trade and conquest, because you then need some basis other than resources for deal-making and for militarism. (This is true even in a 2-resource economy like Sands of Time). I do like the idea of a resource that, after being used in certain ways, results in creation of another resource.

Seth Jaffee said...

Indeed, interesting thoughts!

As for "one-resource" economy: In that game there's also the action icons that come up on cards, which could be considered a resource (as you pay costs with them, in a way). And with a resource (Food) that replaces itself with another (Seed), there might be plenty to work with there.

As I mentioned, I'd like to see if it works as-is, but I definitely will consider a re-theme if it's good for at least this reason - I'm not sure I want all of my published games to be set in space!

Although, Michael had previously suggested I set this card game in the Terra Prime universe... so that might not be too bad thematically. Heh - Terra Prime: the Card Game (which is nothing like the board game mechanically)... coming soon to a game store near you! :)