Friday, February 26, 2010

Red Colony... revisited

I've been revisiting my old idea for a game about colonizing Mars in a realistic way, according to the Mars Direct project or The Case For Mars. I would like to work on this game and see if I can't get a ruleset and maybe a prototype of it going.

Today in BGDF Chat I was talking about this idea, and Scott Slomiany had some suggestions on the topic. Some of his suggestions would really take the game in a different direction that I wanted to go, but one of them seemed very interesting. His main point was that the game should focus on the time involved getting things to and from Mars. Now, my vision for the game does not revolve around that, however it does include that aspect because in my game one of the major concerns is what resources you will be receiving from your rocket each turn, which automatically makes trips between Earth and Mars... these trips do take time, and a major aspect of the game is supposed to be configuring your ship so it brings you the right stuff, such that you have to change that configuration (and you will have to change more than once) as few times as possible. This is related to the time and effort it takes to get back and forth between the 2 planets, but it's fairly peripheral.

Scott suggested also that the game be about the political machinations involved in getting such a project going. Maybe you need a country's government to support your project, and over time that country's interest in it will wane, which would be bad - so you have to keep them interested over time. Now a variation of this idea I could see fitting nicely into my game as it comes together. Here's how I think it could work...

I mentioned resources that your rocket will cart up to Mars for you on a regular basis. I expect there will be several resources (7 or 8 maybe), and at any given time you'll only be able to bring up 3 or 4 different types (and some limited number of each). Perhaps those resources cost money, and you have investors who are funding your project. So your investors' interest in your project is directly related to your resource income. Over time, as the investors start to lose interest in the project, their investment lessens - either they give you less money with which to bu resources each round, or you simply get to take fewer units of resources (abstracting the money out) each round. In order to re-invigorate your investors' interest in the project, you have to hit certain milestones... Oh look! You've finished the Terraformer and have successfully started to warm the planet! Oh, now you've begun to grow crops on a Martian farm! Hey, you've successfully mined some Deuterium — an extremely expensive but essential fuel for the nuclear power industry! Whatever. When you achieve these milestones, whatever they are, then your investors reset to full value, allowing you to collect more resources each round to use.

To complicate matters for the player, to some extent I expect there to be something of a race to upgrade your operation and start hauling people up to the colony. However with the way the investors work, you may not really want to hit several milestones all in a row. Doing so may 'waste' the investors' interest, and later in the game you might take so long to hit another milestone that you will be resource starved for a while. So in order to maintain an efficient resource income, you might need to pace milestones - but at the same time, you might be racing your opponents.

Hmm, I just thought of something else to add to this - perhaps the Milestones are a first-come, first-served sort of thing, so you are literally racing your opponents to the Milestones, while also trying to pace them out to maintain your income.

One last piece of this puzzle that I think would fit well is this...
"Mars may be a profitable place... it may contain concentrated supplies of metals of equal or greater value to silver which have not been subjected to millennia of human scavenging and may be sold on Earth for profit"
That quote from the wikipedia article I linked earlier implies that perhaps a player could invest in mining these metals, which wouldn't otherwise help his position, but the profits from those metals would insulate that player from the ill effects of losing investors.

Ok, this just popped into my head, and might be worthwhile or might be garbage:
Suppose each player begins the game with maybe 4 investor tiles. Each investor allows a player to collect 1 type of resource, and their individual interest level indicates how much of that resource you can collect. I suspect the types would not be directly connected to the investors, just that each player can collect 1 type of resource per investor.

Let's say there are 7 or 8 different investors, and each player has 4 at random, so some will overlap. Each investor could have an Interest Meter track or dial, and over time it will slowly go down turn by turn. Each investor could have it's own preferred Milestones that will reset the track for that investor - therefore some but not all players will be interested in any given Milestone! Also, this ought to get players' incomes to be nicely differentiated. It also showcases the desires of 'interested parties' (Scott didn't want "investors" in his view of the game) as well as the main milestones it would take to actually build a martian colony.

I really like this idea, and will wrap it into my thoughts on this game - which I hope will materialize in physical form before too long!

Ground Floor - things for next test

Just to recap from my last post about Ground Floor, here are the things I'd like to try for next time...

7 round game, phase 1 lasting 2 rounds, phase 2 lasting 2 rounds, and phase 3 lasting 3 rounds.

I'm not sure about this, but maybe the "build-out" game end should be at your 6th total floor (5th add'l) rather than 7th (6th add'l). I don't know if that would be too easy to do too early - I wouldn't want people building out too often in round 5, but maybe once in a while, more often on round 6 or 7.

Cut the Economic Forecast deck down a little bit by removing the extra copies of the Boom and Depression cards - since there's max 1 of each, there's no worrying about seeing the first one and therefore knowing the second one. Keep the Recovery (Upturn?) and Recession cards the same.

Also, during a Recession I think the $16 Merchandising slot should be off limits, and in a Depression maybe the top 2 price brackets should be off limits.

And I think the low end values for Merchandising should bump up to 8/10/12/14/16. Mostly this is so you aren't LOSING money when you have to price at the lowest bracket.

And I wouldn't mind a "wholesale" consolation for when your product falls off the chart ($4 or maybe $6). I could probably live without that, but it might be nice to have. You'd get it at the END of the round, so you still couldn't use it that turn...

OR, maybe the chart should be adjusted right away so you don't have to revisit it at the end of the round, in which case you would get the consolation right away, which might be OK anyway since it's such a bad deal.

One last thing, I would like to phase the T.I.s as well - with the 3 obvious early game buys in Phase 1 (Network Admin, Internship, Human Resources), the other 3 in Phase 2 (Warehouse, Emergency Meeting, Customer Service (do we need a new name for that?)), and maybe add a phase 3 "Bonus T.I." - which is worth maybe 1pp per T.I. you've built. Could be interesting, would count toward Executive Bonus floor (Because it's called "Bonus T.I.") - might be fun. Plus it could be a good endgame play for someone who can't afford a Bonus Floor (which would be better). In fact, a normal Floor might be as good or better than the Bonus T.I. unless you concentrate on T.I.s anyway.

Oh, and I almost forgot, Conference Room seems bad, as Andrew pointed out to me (it's like the remodeled meeting room, only more limited). Maybe it should get better (i5?) or get cut.

Edit: And 1 last thing I also forgot, when Remodeling your Supply Closet, I think you should find some Supplies hidden away in there (+1 Supply when remodeling Supply Coloset) to make it equivalent to the Supply specialty.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

For the back burner - Role Selection mechanism

I was discussing something with Sebastian today, and the topic of role selection came up. I thought it would be cool if a game had Puerto Rico style Role selection, but with 2-sided role tiles.

Sebastian suggested that could be an alternate way to 'juice' the tiles, rather than Puerto Rico's "add 1 coin to the unchosen roles" - make the back side a more powerful version of the role, and if no one chooses that role in a round then flip it to the more powerful back side. If anyone does choose a role (front side or back side showing), reset it to the front side afterward. This could be a good way to modify the Role Selection mechanism seen in Puerto Rico, but it's not what I had in mind.

My vision was of Role tiles with 2 different roles on either side of a tile. When a role is chosen and carried out, it's flipped to the other side, revealing the other role. Thus, a particular role could not be taken 2 times in a row, and depending on the game action, any particular role may not be available at any given time.

I like the notion, but I have no further thoughts on a role selection game such as this at the moment, so it's going on the back burner for now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Further Ground Floor thoughts

I don't like the term "Recovery" as it doesn't sound right, and also it means I can't abbreviate the different Economic phases of the game. I'd like to rename that one Upturn or Upswing, and as such they can be abbreviated:
D=Depression, R=Recession, U=Upturn (Upswing?), B=Boom

Game Length
My biggest concern about Ground Floor at the moment is that it takes too damn long to play. I definitely would like to cut he time involved down, but I'd also like to make sure players have enough game time to get useful and interesting things accomplished. As an example, Factory Manager is only 5 rounds long, and while you do end the game just as you've gotten to the point where you are over-stuffing your factory, it always seems like the game ends just when you're getting started. You've finally built up a good factory and you don't get to see it run very much. I don't want to cut Ground Floor too short because I don't want people to feel that way about their business. I want them to experience the ups and downs of the market, because building a business is about sustainability - you want to make a business that will prosper in the economic highs, but also survive the economic lows. That said, I wondered this morning if 9 rounds wasn't more than enough game time to do interesting things. I'd like to try 7 rounds, divided into phases I, II, and III like so: 2/3/2 or 2/2/3, probably not 3/2/2. This means that you have 2 rounds to set up before buying a new Floor on round 3. Then you have 4 rounds to make use of that floor, 3 if someone builds out (ends the game by building their 6th new floor) in the 2nd to last round (which I think should be possible). Though maybe building out isn't so necessary, and players can just play all 7 rounds every game. If Building out is to remain in the game while the length is reduced, perhaps it out to change to the 5th new floor, which should be possible in round 6, maybe even round 5 in a really good economy if someone tries really hard (though I'm not sure that's really possible).

In light of that, it might also be good to adjust the pricing on the Construction Co to (3,3) rather than (4,4). I'm wondering if in fact the Construction Co shouldn't cost (3,3) to get in, then Floors cost (3,3)+(3,3)/floor rather than (2,2)+(2,2)/floor. These are just stream of consciousness thoughts at the moment, and many of them aren't necessarily valid until the game is tried at 7 rounds.

With a 7 round game, of course the Economic Forecast deck would have to be modified. Currently it's pretty nicely laid out:
4 Depression cards, use 2 - #Consumers: 0/0/1/1
6 Recession cards, use 3 - #Consumers: 1/1/2/2/3/3
6 Upturn cards, use 3 - #Consumers: 3/3/4/4/5/5
4 Boom cards, use 2 - #Consumers: 5/5/6/6

(that number of consumers is for 3-4 players, and is modified a bit for 5-6 players I believe).
This makes for a nice way to keep players from knowing the number of consumers even if for example a Recession already came by with 3 consumers. You can't say "well, there will be at least 4 this time" because there could be 3 again! As you can see, a deck of 10 cards is used, and there are only 9 rounds, so 1 card will not show up each game (the last one). I like how that works.

In a shorter (7 round) game, the deck would have to be modified, probably lie so:
2 Depression cards, use 1 - #Consumers: 0/1
6 Recession cards, use 3 - #Consumers: 1/1/2/2/3/3
6 Upturn cards, use 3 - #Consumers: 3/3/4/4/5/5
2 Boom cards, use 1 - #Consumers: 5/6

Or potentially a more varied deck like this (though I think I like the above one better):
4 Depression cards, use 2 - #Consumers: 0/0/1/1
4 Recession cards, use 2 - #Consumers: 1/2/2/3
4 Upturn cards, use 2 - #Consumers: 3/4/4/5
4 Boom cards, use 2 - #Consumers: 5/5/6/6

Again, these numbers are for 3-4 players. They would be slightly higher for 5-6 players and lower for 2 players.

On a completely unrelated note, in Recession/Depression economies I think it might be a good idea to outlaw the top/top 2 price brackets (respectively). If fewer players than demand are in Production, they should still suffer the consequences of the Recession or Depression rather than scoring an easy $16 or $12. It makes sense thematically as well as mechanically.

Alternatively, it could be good to have more Consumers in general (still a range based on player count), but change the payout in each type of economy. In a Boom, people will pay more for stuff in general while in a Depression they won't. In addition to this, players are still fighting for a set number of Consumers which would range from maybe N-2 to N or N+1 (N = number of players in the game). This could be accomplished by changing the Merchandising space to look like this:


And then say that the payouts for each slot are:
Depression: x1 | Recession: x2 | Upturn: x3 | Boom: x4

One problem with this is that the numbers get way too low on the low end. I guess I don't like this idea in this exact form, but maybe some variation of it could be good.

Then again, maybe pricing something at the maximum ($16) and having that 1 consumer who's out shopping in a Depression go ahead and buy it is just fine.

Edit: After a little thought on the subject, I think it's clear that the bit above is total crap. But I think limiting the amount you get in a Depression/Recession might be good.

In the game as-is, I think the Merchandising chart should be modified from the current:
| . 8 . | . 8 . |
| 6 .|. 6 .|. 6 |

To this:
| 10 .|. 10 |
| 8 .|. 8 .|. 8 |

Because the total cost to get a product into Merchandising is (')+(2,2)+Supply or between 7 and 8 units, so selling at the lowest possible cost shouldn't be a loss. A loss is when you don't sell and the product falls off the chart.

Further, as mentioned before I might like to see a Wholesale price that you get if your product does fall off the chart, in the amount of $6, or maybe $4. Either way it's a loss, but doesn't screw you over as badly. Lessening the worst case loss might serve to promote more competition in production, as players' risk is reduced, and more competition in Merchandising is really good for the game. I've never really thought it was so important to have a bigger jump at the top of the pyramid anyway. Although looking at just the top values of each price bracket I see that it was nicely distributed already. Either way, it's the bottom end I was worried about, not the top end.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ground Floor - "buildings"

In Ground Floor, players purchase Room Remodels, Tenant Improvements, and Additional Floors in order to grow their business and earn Prestige Points. These behave like the generic "buildings" in other eurogames, such as Puerto Rico or Le Harve. Below I will list all of the current "buildings" in Ground Floor and discuss for each what the net effect is.

For starters, let's look at the currency in this game. There is Money: $, Info: i, and Time: ('). Each Employee costs $3 and gives you 3 Time, so it follows that (') = $1. Everyone's Ground Floor has a Meeting room which can convert 1 Time into 1 Info, so (') = i1. By the transitive property of mathematics, $1 = i1 - at least at the beginning of the game. Later in the game this changes for each player, because the whole point of the game is to upgrade your operation so that you can improve the relative values of these Units and make a profit, however at the outset I think it's fair to say...

(') = $1 = i1 = 1 "Unit"

That said, let's look at the buildings. Notation: (2,2) = $2 and i2

Ground Floor:
Each player has 6 rooms on their Ground Floor, each of which is resolved immediately during worker-placement ("Scheduling"), and each of which can be Remodeled at the end of a round for (5,5). A remodeled room flips over to the back side, which has an improved action and is worth 2 Prestige Points.

Assembly: (')(')('): 1 Supply
Remodeled: (')('): 1 Supply
It is difficult to explain or justify the actual value of 1 Supply. On one hand, you can get a supply for 3 units via the starting Assembly. On the other hand, you can buy a Supply at the Outlets for $2/i1 fir the first one. However the first Outlet slot is meant to be better than average, so a more realistic price for 1 Supply is $3/i2. Since info is hard to come by in the early game and money isn't, you might say that the $3 is the limiting number there. We should also look at Research and Testing, which allows you to trade a Supply plus 1 (') for i3, meaning a supply in that case is worth 2 units. Also, once Assembly is remodeled (and 1 player starts with Assembly remodeled), you can easily say that a Supply is worth 2 units. So it seems to me like 1 Supply is worth between 2 and 3 units, so let's just call it 2.5 units.

That said, Assembly (base) allows you to exchange 3 units for 2.5 units - not a great deal, but it's the most basic ability, and if you can't get Supply otherwise then that's OK. Upgraded Assembly is a slightly better deal, trading 2 units for 2.5 units. this seems weaker than some of the other remodeled Ground Floor rooms.

Suppose though that you assume a Supply is worth 2 in the early game and 3 in the late game (because the outlets dry up). In that case the basic Assembly is a bad deal (3 for 2) and the remodeled Assembly is a 2-for-2 trade. I think this seems fair. Does the gu who starts with the Assembly specialty get shafted? I don't think so.

Over the course of the game, you will use the Assembly some number of times, and if it's been upgraded then you net 1 unit each time you do it. It's probably safe enough to assume you'll use the Assembly about 6 or 7 times on the average, so flipping the Assembly nets you 6 or 7 (let's call it 6.5) plus 2pp (12 units worth per endgame scoring). So you're paying 10 units for stuff worth 18.5, netting 8.5 units total. Let's see how that compares to the rest of the Ground Floor rooms.

Storage Closet: 1 space to hold Supply
Remodeled: 2 spaces to hold Supply
The value of a storage space is pretty much nil. You could play the whole game with just the 1 space on your starting Storage Closet. Paying to flip your Storage Closet is probably not worth it, ever. This is not great.

Starting with the Storage Specialty however is good, as it means you start with an extra Supply, which can go directly into Production or into Testing for 3 info. One might say this is TOO good, but considering how bad the extra storage is after that, I don't think that's too good.

Perhaps this is fine, and many players will never remodel their Storage, but that's kinda boring. My only thought to improve it though is to offer some kind of other benefit when remodeling the Storage Closet... like maybe the remodeled side comes with 1 Storage. This makes it equivalent to having started with a remodeled Storage Closet, and gives some added incentive to do that upgrade. It's still expensive - (5,5) for 2pp and 1 Supply. According to end-game scoring, 1 PP should cost 6 units, and if a supply is 2.5 units then that means you'd be paying 10 units for stuff worth 14.5 units, so remodeling the Storage Closet nets you 4.5 units total. About 1/2 as much as remodeling Assembly.

Training: (')('): Train 1 Employee
Remodeled: ('): Train 1 Employee
This is a tricky one to evaluate, because in addition to the units netted, it allows you access to more units faster, which is a significant thing in the early game when you have only 4 Time.

Flipping Training saves you 1 Time for each Employee hired. You'll probably hire 3 employees most of the time, so that's 3 units saved (plus the benefit of being able to use that saved guy in the early game). When flipping this room you effectively pay 10 units for stuff worth 15 or 16 units, netting 5 or 6 units. That;s a little better than Storage (WITH a new Supply), but not quite as good as Assembly. Not sure how much value to assign the accelerated early game though. I suppose if it lets you get and train an employee 1 round before you would have otherwise, then it actually nets you a whole 3 units... so maybe that adds about 2 units of value to the total, bringing it up to 8ish, on par with Assembly.

Research & Testing: (')+Supply: (0,3)
Remodeled: (')+Supply: (2,2) or (')+Supply: (0,3)
The base room allows you to exchange a Supply for (0,3) - a pretty fair trade: 3.5 (because you have to use a Time as well) units for 3. Often times it's easier to get info than suppl, so you wouldn't need this ability, but in the early game the reverse might be true.

The upgraded R&T lets you trade 3.5 units for 4, and it also gives you a way to get $ on your ground floor, which is otherwise impossible (at least until very late game), so there's some unmeasured benefit there as well.

I don't think I can really calculate a benefit for this room, but in practice it certainly gets used, and it feels like it's on par with other rooms. It's possible the Remodeled version could be the base version, and then the upgraded version could be made a little better, but part of he point is that it's not easy to get money and info, and since this does both it shouldn't be too good.

Meeting: ('): (0,1)
Remodeled: ('): (0,2)
Meeting is a basic room which is helping to set the value of the whole game balance (the (')=$=i thing). Allowing a 1-for-1 trade is important, but really not a spectacular deal, you want to be upgrading our operation such that you can do better.

One way to do that is to flip the Meeting so you can trade 1 unit for 2. In order for this to be the same value as Assembly, you need to use it 6 times, which is you pay to remodel the room, you probably will. The fact that you can keep using it means it's probably better then Assembly. Let's compare it to other ways to get info...

Base R&T lets you trade 3.5 units for i3, so Remodeled Meeting is clearly better than that at getting info (as well it should be). Meeting also nets you more than the remodeled R&T, but not money, so maybe that's ok too. Consulting Firm allows you to pay money to get info. The first spot is intended to be a little worse deal than average, and that one is 6 units for 10. With 6 Time and an upgraded Meeting you could do better (i12). But if you look at the 2nd and 3rd Consulting Firm slots, you net the same (5 units gets you i10) as the meetings, but they only cost 1 of your limited placements - which is a better and better deal the fewer and fewer Time you have to work with. Later spots in the consulting fir of course get even better as you net 6 or 7 units as long as you can make it happen.

So compared to other GF rooms, it seems the Meeting upgrade is better - but maybe that's only true if you've hired many employees and have a lot of time to work with. Otherwise your limited by your Time capacity, and therefore it's not really too strong. It's also not very flexible, it only gets you info. Late game more info isn't necessarily what you need.

The upgrade on Meeting used to be 2 units for 3 info (and you could of course still do 1-for-1), but that seemed too weak. I'm thinking that the current version is OK, but if it starts to seem too strong, then we could go back to 2 units for 3 info.

Advertising: ('): 1 Networking
Remodeled: (')('): 1 Print or ('): 1 Networking
Advertising allows you to get 1 Networking without paying (1,1) to get into Marketing, however Marketing would get you 2 Networking cards. So to really compare you probably have to look at spending 2 time to save (1,1) - so each time is worth 1 for the base room. Compare to R&T and Meeting, I think that's exactly right.

Remodeled Advertising allows you to continue to do the same thing... I don't think should give you 2 cards because that would make each time spent there worth 2 units which might be too good (although, remodeled Meeting does that). So possibly that should be made better.

The other part of remodeled Advertising is paying 2 units for a free card in Print. Is that worth it? Well, 1 card in Print via Marketing costs a total of (2,2), or 4 units. So by giving this free card for 2 Time means your Time are being exchanged for 2 units each. that seems appropriate. Every time you use the space you net 2 units, so if you use the space 4 times then you're doing pretty well compared to other rooms. However the only benefit gained by Advertising is turn order, no tangible or fungible benefit. Also, since you resolve the action immediately, you have to telegraph your intent compared to players who go into Marketing. I think that's fair.

In light of that, I'm really wondering if the upgraded Advertising should give you 2 in networking rather than just 1. But if you think about it, if you spend 2 Time on Advertising, you should get the same thing you'd get if you spent 1 time in marketing... 1 print, or 2 networking. So never mind, the flipped Advertising should not get any better with respect to Networking.

Tenant Improvements (3pp):
T.I.s each cost (3,3) in addition to the (4,4) it costs to get into the Construction Company. That's a steep cost, but it's proven imminently doable. It's the main way to get points, so it's supposed to be kind of hard to do. So the full cost of a T.I. is (7,7) or 14 units. For that 14 units you get 3pp, which is 18 units worth of stuff (according to endgame scoring), so you net 4 units PLUS whatever benefit you gain from the T.I.

All of the T.I/s are available in Phase 1, though 3 of them are clearly better first choices than the other 3. This makes me think that perhaps those 3 should be Phase 1 and the other three should be Phase 2. We could even add a Phase 3 T.I. that was like a Bonus Floor (or simply make one of the Bonus Floors into a T.I.).

Network Admin: Income: +(0,3)
Assuming you buy this in the first round, you get 7 or 8 rounds of income out of it, which is 21 or 24 units of info. Certainly a good buy.

Human Resources: Hiring discount: (3,3)
HR saves you (3,3) for each hire, and you'll probably hire 3 or 4 employees if you buy this one... which means you save a total of 18 or 24 units over the course of the game. That's on par with the info, has the added advantage of getting you an employee a turn before you could otherwise afford it, but has the disadvantage of running you out of cash quickly as you hire people. So a player buying this should plan accordingly.

Internship Program: +(')(') each round
2 (') per round is less than the 3 info from Network, but it's very flexible where the info from Network Admin is not. Also, later in the game you've upgraded your operation such that 1 (') can net more than 1 Info, so you can catch up to the sheer amount of units gained pretty easily.

I think these 3 T.I.s are all nicely and similarly powered. They are the first picks in most (probably every) game.

Customer Service: +(2,0) per product sold
This nets you 2 units every time you sell, and you can probably use it about 6 or 7 times if you try, so it nets you maybe 14 units... not as much as network Admin, but (a) it's money, and therefore harder to come by and (b) it lets you worry less about turn order when setting prices, or gives you the ability to consistently undercut people, forcing them to lower price points, without giving up money.

It's possible this could be increased to $3, which should put it on par with the net gains of the other T.I.s, but I'm hesitant because I think it's still pretty good as is.

This T.I. could certainly use a new name!

Warehouse: 4 spaces to hold Supply
Arguably useless, except when going for Production Bonus - which is an easy bonus as nobody else ever wants it. Also potentially useful with Assembly Line or remodeled Assembly in order to store up supply during a down economy in order to sell a lot during a Boom. The benefit of the Warehouse is not really quantifiable.

If it turns out that people aren't buying this T.I. I have an idea... I might like to attach it to the Empty Floor such that instead of choosing your T.I., the Empty Floor comes with the Warehouse built in, and space for 1 more T.I. If both the Empty Floor and the Warehouse don't get a lot of play, I might try that change.

Emergency Meeting: ('): Move to the front of Consulting Firm
This is difficult to quantify as well, but if you assume that it allows you to bu into the first slot of the Consulting firm for $3 or $4 and an extra (') instead of $6, then it effectively turns 1 (') into 2$ or possibly 3$, probably no more than once per round. Maybe you use this 4 or 5 times over the course of the game, netting let's say 1.5 units each time and you're looking at about 7 unit profit from the building, not to mention being able to ensure a constant flow of Information (so long as you save the money and (') to use this T.I.).

This one is subtle, and seems weak to a lot of players, but most players are playing for the first time. I suspect this is stronger than it looks, and I intend to try it some more before giving up on it.

Phase I Floor (2pp):
Empty Floor: Comes with any T.I. and space for another T.I.
The intention here is a floor which gives you space to put T.I. without having to cover up your Ground Floor rooms. The first time I tried it it didn't come with a T.I. and so that was it's only benefit... that seemed poor considering it costs (1,1) more and more importantly, increases the cost of future Floors by (2,2). So the effective additional cost is (3,3), which means the benefit needs to be better.

Well, it's a floor, so it should be worth 5pp instead of 3. You might notice it says 2pp on there, but that's because you get a free T.I. (3pp) along with it. So it's still worth 5. and now for the extra (3,3) cost you get an additional space to put a T.I. without covering your GF rooms. Is that worth it? I don't know - I hope so because I like the way it sounds. I think it could go well with a strategy in which you build fewer floors and do a lot of remodeling, and aim for the Improvement Bonus floor.

It might seem too good to get your choice of T.I. - so I might decide to attach a particular T.I. to the Empty Floor. Specifically the Warehouse. Basically, those 2 T.I.s seem like they might be weak, so if they're not purchased then I might try combining them into 1 so you get both at the same time and see if that's any more attractive to people.

Phase II Floors (5pp):
Factory: (')(')+Supply: Place (') in Production
This effectively turns (')(') into (2,2), letting you trade 1 unit for 2. It has the added benefit of allowing you to go into Production even if you didn't save any cash from last round. This turns out to be important once you've hired 3 employees and are at 0 income.

(') for 2 units seems like a fair trade, and therefore a good power level for Phase 2 floors.

If you use this once a turn then you basically net 2 units a turn or 8-10 units total.

Investor: Income: +(3,0)
If you buy this in turn 4, then you net 12 or 15 units over the course of the game. A little more than the Factory gives, and it's cash which is good, but you could potentially use the factory more, and doing so leads to a bigger money gain from Merchandising.

This floor used to yield $2 income, but that seemed too weak. I think it seems good at $3.

I.T. Department: Income: +(0,5)
This one could net a whole lot of info (20-25) over the course of the game! However, it's very limited as there's no way to turn info into money. I think this could be reduced to 4 and it would still be good, as it is you net a whole lot of units.

Assembly Line: ('): 1 Supply (max: 2 uses/round)
Assembly Line used to be usable 3 times a round, and it turned out to be empirically the best building out there. Doing the math, it's no surprise, as we discussed the value (especially late game) of a Supply is 2.5 maybe 3, trading 1 unit for 3 is a super good deal compared to other things. Limiting it to 2 uses seems to have made it harder to abuse but still a decent buy. You're going to use it as much as possible (and here's where Warehouse or remodeled Storage might come in handy), which is as much as 4 or 5 rounds, 2x/round, netting 1.5 units per use... 15 units is reasonable. Before it was more like 22 units!

This further supports that the I.T. department should only give +i4 income.

Research Lab: (')+Supply: (3,3) (max: 3 uses/round)
Trading 4 for 6 nets 2 units. Maybe 2.5, depending on how you value Supply. Another way to look at it is that the Supply and (') could get i3 from the R&T room, so using this nets $3 over that. Or it nets (1,1) over the upgraded R&T. If you use it to capacity then you make out pretty well, but it's difficult to acquire all that Supply.

Basically you net 2 units per use, 3 uses per turn, for 4 turns, you could net 24 or so out of this, but it's really hard. In that light maybe it should be limited to 2 uses to bring it in line with the other floors.

Construction Administration: (')(')('): Place (') in Construction Co.
Trading 3 units for 8, nets you 3 units. Or you could say turns (') into 2.67 units. A better deal than the Factory for sure, so maybe it should cost 4... problem is that you run into (') limits, such a high cost in (') means it's difficult to use. It might need to go back to 4 (') if it turns out to be too good.

Public Relations: Do not drop in Popularity
No quantifiable benefit here, but you'll basically go first for the rest of the game, be stronger in the Merchandising aspect of the game, win the final tiebreak if it comes to that, and have an easy time scoring off of the Marketing Bonus floor. Seems fair in practice.

Conference Room: (')('): (0,4) (max: 2 uses/round)
This turns (') into 2 units, like the Factory. It's allowed 2x/round, so at a maximum you can net 16-20 units over the course of the game, which seems fine.

Does the game really need another source of Info? This floor might get cut if it isn't bought much.

Phase III Floors:
Accounting Department: (')(')('): (6,0) (max: 3 uses/round)
Getting large amounts of cash is very difficult during the game. This is a Phase 3 floor, meaning you get it very late in the game, You only get 1 or 2 rounds to use it, and even if you max out it's use you net 9 units for 2 rounds so 18 units, all money. If you're getting this, it's instead of a Bonus Floor, so that money will have to be pretty important as it's costing you about 3 points in opportunity cost. I like how this works here.

Marketing: (')('): 1 Broadcast
I haven't seen this used, but it seems like a decent buy... compared to Marketing on the street, this turns 1 (') into (3,3) - a REALLY good deal. But the benefit only helps turn order. If it never gets used then maybe it would need to become a Phase 2 floor and cost (')(')(') to use or something.

Marketing Bonus: +2pp per Popularity Level
Retention Bonus: +1pp per Employee
Improvement Bonus: +1pp per Remodeled Room
Production Bonus: +1pp per Supply
Executive Bonus: +1pp per "Bonus" Floor
Corporate Merger Bonus: +3pp
Corner Office Bonus: +3pp

All of these Bonus floors seem about right - they give you 2pp if you do badly, 3 to 6 if you do well. They reward various different positions, and they all seem doable. I like them as they are. Is there one that could become a Small T.I.? That might be neat.

2/22/10 playtest: Ground Floor

Last night I had a planned playtest night for Ground Floor. I liked the format and will continue to do this when possible - just a FaceBook invite, specifically to play Ground Floor. I'll set up another one for next week for Belfort, seeing as how that one is 'on the docket' so to speak (that is to say it's being published this year, and is therefore more pressing than other games).

Hopefully it'll go more smoothly next time. This time David (the designer), myself, and Wystan all confirmed, and we were all present at the scheduled time. Eric called to say he "might" come but would be late, which I took as confirmation. Mandy had been a "maybe," but had called at 3:30 to tell me she would definitely be there. That would make a good 5 player game.

Nate showed up (on time), but hadn't told me he was coming. This was OK because the game plays 6, but he couldn't stay long enough for the whole game and therefore was going to just listen to the rules and watch for a bit. Then Doug showed up, who I also didn't know was coming - again OK because the game plays 6. Eric showed up a little later than he said he'd be, but that was fine because we were still waiting on Mandy. After a while we decided to start without Mandy. Nate suggested he begin, and when Mandy showed up ("any minute now") then she could take over for him.

Mandy never did show up, and Nate had to leave after about round 2, so we dropped to a 5 player game. Further, Doug had to leave after about round 6, so we dropped to a 4 player game. Fortunately, the game is resilient enough to actually accept someone leaving in the middle, though it does screw the players up a little bit, for example if a player gets jacked by another player, then that other player leaves, it leaves a bad taste in the jacked player's mouth.

Next time I will make an effort to get more confident responses, and to start on time. Monday night is a rough time to try and do this kind of thing, especially when it starts 90 minutes later than the already lat 6:30 start time.


The game itself went really well. Wystan, who is always skeptical of prototypes, said he liked it a lot more than he thought he would. He hamstrung himself in the early game, buying a Blank Floor (new addition - place to put TIs without covering GF rooms) rather than something that gave him a direct benefit. He also misunderstood employees and opted not to hire any at first, but he did purchase an Internship Program (which is 2/3 of an employee which you don't have to pay). This left him with a lot of $ income and a reasonable amount of Time to spend on actions, and is generally not a bad position to be in, but somehow he was not able to translate that into Prestige Points very well.

Eric's reaction wasn't bad either. I expected him to complain a bit about the "random" number of consumers that come each round to purchase goods. Since one of the main ways to get $ in the game is through the competitive merchandising market, it matters a lot whether there are 2 consumers or 4. You know the range (in a Recovery maybe it's 2-4), but 2 is VERY different than 4. As a result, you have to make hard choices such as "do I price my product at 8 to ensure a sale, or do I price it at 12 with a 2/3 chance I'll get the sale and a 1/3 chance I'll get nothing?" Eric made this exact choice one turn, opting for the 2/3 chance of more money, and he got burned. his situation was such that he could not afford to get burned, therefore I would argue that he should have gone with the safe bet and accepted less money for a sure sale rather than gambling on more money. He didn't like this as it really crippled him that round, and his comments after the game were to the effect of "if you get shut out of sales, you should be able to wholesale your product if you want for less money than the other people made." While it's not a terrible idea, I think that option is already in the game - you just have to choose to whole sale your goods BEFORE you find out if they would have sold at a higher price, not AFTER. Kinda like in real life. Eric prefers games where he can perfectly calculate whether he will sell his good or not, and price accordingly.

A thought I've had before that is along the lines of being able to wholesale goods if they don't sell is this: Currently, if you don't sell, then your product drops to the next lowest price bracket. If it drops off the lowest price bracket, then you get nothing. I wouldn't mind seeing a rule wherein you get $4 when you drop off the bottom of the chart, which is $2 less than you would have got if selling for the lowest price. I happen to have had more goods fall off the bottom of the chart (over the course of all my games played) than anyone else, and so I have most often been affected by this, and I've been able to win or place despite those setbacks, but I still wouldn't mind seeing a small wholesale option in that case. However in all other cases when you don't sell, it's because you didn't price right or you weren't popular enough, two things which you have direct control over.

Eric and Wystan both had some other good comments about specifics of the floors, which I will ponder and incorporate where necessary.

Doug had to leave early, but said he really enjoyed the game and would like to play it again, especially in a game which wasn't a learning game. I'm not sure what Nate thought, but since he had to leave so early, I'm not sure he knows what he thought of the game either.

I will make a new blog post with each of the Ground Floor rooms, TIs and Floors listed to analyze their effectiveness and costs, in an effort to weed out the bad and tune the good.


MaBiWeb is a really awesome website where you can play board games on line. It's turn based, with a super sweet interface. The system emails you when it's your turn, you log in, make your move, click done, and that's it. They have a handful of really great games on there, including but not limited to In the Year of the Dragon, In the Shadow of the Emperor, and Mykerinos.

About 6 weeks ago I joined a game of each of those, and somehow I lost track of them. I forgot that I was in those games, and I never received emails telling me it was my turn. I just remembered about them today! I logged in to find that the games were gone. I feel terrible about this, as they probably all stalled out on my turn (because I didn't know to log in and play) and the admins probably just deleted the games. I hate when other people aren't attentive to their games, and so I feel extra terrible that I caused all three of those games to stall. I remember thinking they were all really interesting games too, and was having a lot of fun playing them.

So I deserve an "Epic Fail!" for F'ing up 3 games on MaBiWeb. If you were in those games and are reading this, then I sincerely apologize! I suspect the MaBiWeb emails were going straight to my spam folder (thank you Yahoo filtering!) - a situation I'm trying to fix right now.

Again, apologies all around. Please don't think I'm one of those jerks who starts online games and doesn't finish them!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Eminent Domain - Trade and Harvest roles

I took a little walk today and on that walk I thought about how the Trade and Harvest roles could be represented differently in Eminent Domain. So far I've been unhappy with how they work, and the current "fix" is not perfect either.

A thought I had while walking was this: what if I combined the Trade and Harvest cards into 1 card... the Action on the card could be:

"Produce 1 resource."

And the Role and Follow could be:

"Produce 1 Resource per Harvest icon OR trade 1 resource per Trade symbol."

I'm not sure whether the icons would be shared or not actually - I could make just 1 icon for both... this would affect the technology cards - should a tech card help harvesting but not trading? Does that even make sense? Does it make sense to have "+1 Trade" or "+1 Harvest" anymore in this case? I think it could be nice to have the icons separate, but the card count for both.

It's worth thinking about anyway.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

OrcCon playtests

I had a fun weekend at OrcCon in Los Angeles, hanging out with several friends from California, playing lots of games, and I even got a chance to playtest some of the games I'm working on.

Eminent Domain
I played a 2 player game of Eminent Domain with Andrew, using the new and improved Trade rule (2vp/resource). It seemed to work ok, and it warrants more testing. I probably need to adjust the number of VPs in the pool for it to work properly.

In the game we played, Andrew concentrated on Harvesting and Trading, and I concentrated on Research - trying to get to a level 3 Research card. While I did manage to get 4 Level 2 research cards into my deck, I did not reach that level 3 card. Further, the way they are organized now, the level 3 cards really needs to be in play for a while before they really pay off...

Maybe the Level *2* Techs need to be the stay-in-play ones... and the level 3 could be bonus scoring conditions I'd like to add such as "2vp per Fertile planet" for example.

Ground Floor
Later I played a 4 player game of Ground Floor with Andrew, Eric, and Grant. Grant had to leave before the game was over, so it turned into a 3 player game near the end. The game went pretty long, owing to rules, newbies, and the convention atmosphere - one of the things about the game I'd really like to tune better is the timeframe, but I feel like there are some game related issues that need work first.

I enjoyed how the game went, though I inadvertently messed up part of the setup. I did not properly set up the Economic Forecast deck, so our economy was not entirely realistic. However, it wasn't that bad and probably didn't make all that much difference to the game.

Eric and I were close in points, while Andrew was behind - owing largely to misunderstanding some strategy in the early game. Andrew had the Meeting specialty, and he spent a LOT of actions paying 2 Time units for 3 info. He also did a LOT of Marketing, and it didn't do him as much good as it could have because he wasn't also producing goods. We all observed that the Meeting specialty seemed like a pretty bad deal - the Meeting room seems bad, and getting it for free therefore isn't anything to write home about. We thought maybe it should be improved to what is currently the Teaming Room TI.

Anyway, after the game we discussed each of the Floors and Tenant Improvements. There were some that we all agreed were either too good, too lousy, or didn't come out at a useful time. I made some notes and will try some of those changes the next time I play.

Train of Thought
I played 2 games of Train of Thought over the weekend, and I still love that game! I saw a little more of the "give the required word, then an unrelated 2 word clue" dynamic than I'm used to, and that's a little disappointing. One guy who did that scored 10 destinations in 1 turn, which is pretty high. A "good" round is usually more like 7 or 8. I'm not sure there's any way to fix the rule, but maybe a simple thing like phrasing the rule as "3 related words, 1 of which is the starting word or a prior guess" - so the words could be related by being part of a sentence, or by free association even, but the unrelated 2-word clue would be clearly outside the spirit of the rule.

I wonder if the game should be tested with merely 2 word clues - one of which has to be the starting word. That would certainly eliminate this issue!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eminent Domain - Trade role and Planet deck

I'm liking the way Eminent Domain is shaping up as a game. I've enjoyed my 2p games of it thus far, but I've only played a couple multiplayer games. The other night I played a 4 player game, and I liked how the game played in general, but I found Harvest/Trade mechanism underwhelming, as did other players. In 2 player games I have managed to do well with a trading strategy, but for some reason this time it didn't seem even possible.

I will note that it may well have seemed impossible because nobody was going for it, and if someone had gone for it then it might have panned out for them after all. However, I had the most face up planets out of the 4 of us, and I seemed to have very few available resource slots. This may be because when I revamped the planets I tried to make them more interesting and I removed some of the resource slots, especially from the Metallic planets. However I happened to have the 1 Fertile planet with no resource slots. I went through and added a few slots back in (in pencil), so I'll see if that helps.

I don't think more slots will fix the issue on its own, because I was already unsure if I liked the Harvest/Trade dynamic as it stood. On David's suggestion I would like to try changing the Trade Role effect to be "For each Trade icon, trade 1 resource for 2vp." The Trade Action would continue to be "Get 1vp."

I had what I thought was a new idea in the car this morning: What if the Trade Role were "trade in ALL of your Resources. Get 1vp per resource traded, PLUS 1vp per trade icon played." Thus, you could get decent rewards for specializing in Harvest, as 1 Trade role could cash in a bunch of resources for 1vp apiece, which you could get all at once with a single Harvest role; and you could get decent rewards for specializing in Trade, as 1 Trade role could cash in a bunch of Trade cards for 1vp apiece, so long as you have at least 1 Resource. If you specialize in both Harvest and Trade you could Harvest several resources at once, then trade them all for an effective 2vp apiece.

Come to think of it though that's not very different from getting 2vp per resource and trading 1 resource per trade icon. The latter case just puts a limit on the number of resources/trade icons you can score for because for each 2vp you need to have one of each (a resource and a trade card). So maybe the "Trade 1 resource per trade icon for 2vp" idea proposed above is a better idea. I'll try that next time I play. Now to update the player aid (again)!

Which brings me to Planets... this is really a different thing altogether, but I didn't want to make 2 separate posts.

I had considered reorganizing the planet deck in the same way I did the Tech cards - 3 piles by type, Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 planets... The cost of getting a planet in play in front of you would be 3/5/7 Survey symbols (mirroring the Research role). However, in that scheme there's nothing to stop someone with a ton of Survey cards from just grabbing all the high end planets, skipping the low ones. here are a few ideas about that, in no particular order:

* When Surveying a Level 2 or 3 planet, remove 1 or 3 Survey cards from the game (of the ones you're paying). This was something I though was neat when I considered it for Research - if you build up and grab an expensive item, it thins some Survey cards out of your deck. If you want another high end planet you'll have to build back up. If you don't care for another expensive planet, then you can be happy about thinning those Surveys out of your deck. However, thematically it doesn't make a tone of sense that you get worse at Surveying after you do a big Survey action. I'm not sure that matters though - there are probably plenty of thematic oddities in the game already.

* I could force players to go in order - you cannot Survey a Level 2 planet until you have a face up Level 1 planet of that type. Similarly, you cannot Survey a Level 3 planet until you have a face up Level 2 planet of that type.

* A variation of the last idea - there could be an additional attribute on some (or all) planets - some symbol, let's call it an X. In order to Survey a level 2 planet, maybe you need XX in play. In order to Survey a Level 3 planet, maybe you need XXX in play. In this way, planets could cross pollinate, imagine X is for Fertile, Y is for Advanced and Z is for Metallic... while some Metallic planets have Z's on them, maybe one Metallic planet has an X and one has a Y (since Metallic is the Survey type). Fertile planets would only have X's (or nothing). This would be in addition to potentially Action icons, Hand Size increases, or Resource slots.

Is that last idea too complicated? Maybe the "go in order" idea is the beast idea because it's simple. I kinda like the removing cards from the game idea as well though.

Is there another way to do it? Feel free to leave a comment if you think of something!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

2/8/10 playtest: Terra Prime expansion

I mentioned putting together an expansion for Terra Prime the other day. Yesterday I got a chance to try it out! David, John, and Wystan came over, and after a game of Eminent Domain they agreed to give the TP expansion a go. John has played quite a few games of Terra Prime, but not since last April or so when I was putting the finishing touches on it. Wystan had played my prototype once before, and I don't think David had ever played the game before. So for half the players the expansion wouldn't be really different than the base game, since they didn't know or wouldn't remember the base game! but I would at least be able to see how the new elements worked, and that was the main point.

Almost all of the new features were accessed in the game, and for the most part I liked how everything worked:

2 new Upgrades: a Matter Converter which makes your resource cubes interchangeable, and Additional Module Slots ("Extra Deck"?) which gives you 2 new slots for modules - one Engine/Cargo slot and one Weapon/Shield slot.

David had a lousy start, but once he figured things out he collected some resources and bought himself a Matter Converter. I believe his thought was that it would make buying other upgrades easier. It was too late in the game to really take advantage of that, but I could see how it could work. I could also see the Matter Converter being huge in a delivery strategy - buy a Delivery Optimizer and a Matter Converter and suddenly quick trips for resources will rack up cash and points in a hurry!

Nobody bought Additional Module Slots, but I wanted to! I think a contributing factor was that there weren't convenient asteroids to colonize, so Brownium wasn't easy to come by. The "Brownium + 10 Credits" reward tile happened to be the one removed from the game as well. I could see this inexpensive upgrade being used either by someone who wants to carry a lot of stuff without having to pass up extra actions from an engine, or by someone who wants to have more alien fighting power - especially with the new modules which use Energy (you might want more Shields to store more energy).

I'm happy with these upgrades so far.

3 new Modules: a Pulse Cannon, which lets you roll 2 dice, but costs 1 energy to use; a Cryo-Chamber, which lets you carry a Colony marker but no cubes (upgrades to a standard 2-door module); and an Afterburner, which I've got two possible rules for...
1. 2 actions at the cost of 1 Energy, once per turn
2. 2 actions per turn, but only one non-move action can be taken that turn

I decided to go with option #1 for the Afterburner - spend an energy to activate the Afterburner for the turn and it gives you 2 actions. It worked great! I picked one up and fueled it with several Shield modules. John and Wystan also bought this version to try it out. I really like the Energy economy introduced!

Nobody bought the Pulse cannon, but I could see it being good for someone who wants to fight aliens without dicking around building up an arsenal. It could be tricky though, since heading into an Alien ambush means you'll lose energy, which you'll need to power the Pulse Cannon in combat - so it's still worth getting a Cloaking Device before taking on the big boys.

I was skeptical about the Cryo-Chamber - I didn't think anyone would ever want it. I took to an Explore strategy, and at one point I thought "hmm... I could collect Blue/Blue/Brown and upgrade my Carrying Capacity so I can carry 2 Colony markers - or I could save a lot of actions and just bu the Cryo-chamber for 1 action and 20 credits!" So I did. I was able to carry 2 colonies out to the boonies and drop them off for good points. I think that module will be underused, as using it well seems pretty subtle. You'd pretty much have to eschew delivering much or upgrading - but maybe a NavComp/Exploration/Colonization strategy could really use that well. Especially if utilizing the Additional Module Slots!

The energy economy worked especially well with the known planet locations, because it was much easier to find and colonize a Red planet (where you can refuel shields).

27 Exploration tiles: The setup for the expansion is to place the Space hexes face up, and these Exploration tiles are placed face down in the center of each in lieu of what's printed on the tile. In addition to Hostile Aliens and Stray Asteroids

As I set up the board for our game, I made sure the setup was "legal" under the base game placement rules (the ones I wish I'd done without). I don't know if that's so necessary. I think the only rule needs to be "don't place anything (not even an Asteroid Field) adjacent to Terra Prime" for setup. I think I'll try that next time.

I added a couple new features...
* Sunstar: makes planets on the tile uninhabitable. Thus you cannot place a colony on a planet or asteroid on a tile with a Sunstar. I'm considering making that "cannot place a colony in any sector adjacent to the Sunstar."
* Wormhole: there are several Wormhole tiles. With 1 move action a player can move their command ship into an adjacent wormhole, and with 1 more move action a player can move from the wormhole to any sector adjacent to any wormhole tile on the board.

John did NOT like the Sunstar at all - he was en route to colonize in a sector, but when he got there he discovered a Sunstar on that tile, making that particular Asteroid Field uninhabitable. Further, since it could not be colonized, it served as a severe roadblock, as anyone moving through that sector would have to take 2 dice worth of Asteroid damage! Because this ruined John's plans, he didn't like it - I on the other hand thought it was pretty cool.

The Wormholes worked beautifully. I'm not sure if there are too many, or too few, or a good number... but they were really neat. They did however bring up a rules question:
In the base game, it's simply not possible to use an action to move your ship into a sector with 2 face down tiles in it. However with the Wormholes it's not just possible, but easy to find a sector adjacent to a wormhole with both other tiles in it face down! So can players move out of a Wormhole to encounter 2 face down tiles? What happens if they do? Well, fortunately the way I worded it was airtight - it takes a MOVE action to exit a wormhole, not an EXPLORE action - therefore when exiting the wormhole you MAY ONLY move your ship to a fully explored sector. Now there's no question about moving where there are 2 face down tiles. David asked about moving where there's 1 face down tile, where an Explore action would normally be allowed. he suggested that allowing such a play but outlawing a move to 2 face down tiles would be consistent with the base rules because you are allowed to flip 1 tile per turn but not 2. But I don't agree that that's consistent, because the rule doesn't limit how many tiles you can flip, it limits the number of Explore actions you can take. So if you were allowed to take an Explore action from a wormhole, there would have to be an exception or special case allowing certain Explore actions (where there is 1 face down tile) and not others (where there are 2). I don't like that.

In the end, the purpose of the wormholes is supposed to be faster movement after things are explored, not faster exploration... so I am happier with the rule being that you may only take a Move action when in wormhole. Even if on occasion I really wanted to use a wormhole to explore a single tile. I'm happy with the rule we used, and I think it's thematically sound as well.

3 additional Reward tiles: I haven't made any new ones, for now I just grabbed 3 reward tiles from another copy of the game. I'm doubling up on the Greenium/Energy, the Bluium/Energy and the Yellium tiles from phase 3. Instead of the Yellium tile I think I'd rather add a Brown+Energy tile to Phase 2.

This seemed fine. The game dragged on a bit - lasting over 2 hours(!) I don't think it was just due to the extra reward tiles thought, I think that just let the game go about 2 rounds beyond what it would have (I'm not positive about that). I think a more accurate reason it took a while was because noone really geared up to fight aliens at the outset. Therefore aliens weren't dieing, and reward tiles weren't being handed out for them. When John finally did start attacking, he was a little underprepared and rolled very poorly, setting him back (and leaving the alien around). With no aliens dieing, there were also a number of sectors that could not be colonized. I believe this is what dragged the game out the most. The beginning was also slow as it was a learning game at first.

I'm happier with the idea of a slightly longer game, but I'm really not happy with 2+ hours. I'll have to watch that and see if I can figure out what is causing delays, and if it's to do with the expansion rules or some other phenomenon.

Now that I've made the prototype I'd really like to try it out!

I was really happy with the playtest. I had expected the expansion to be sort of Exploration-friendly, as I felt that strategy was weak in the base game, and I think in that respect it's successful. A longer game favors Exploration and Colonization as well as giving a boost to Delivery strategies. I think the foreknowledge of planet locations helps Explorers as well, giving them a target so to speak.

All in all I was happy with the playtest, and I look forward to doing it again. I did forget to award 2 points for exploring the red zone, and while I don't know if that's as necessary in the expansion I went ahead and updated my prototype to reflect that. I think perhaps though that with the face up planets you don't really need extra incentive to explore the red zone. It's also probably easier to get out there with wormholes facilitating movement, more certain Red colonies to teleport you back home, and a slightly longer game. I could go either way right now.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Terra Prime expansion

I've been considering what I'd want to put into a Terra Prime expansion for some time, and today I spent some time putting together a prototype of the expansion. Here's what it includes:

2 new Upgrades: a Matter Converter which makes your resource cubes interchangeable, and Additional Module Slots ("Extra Deck"?) which gives you 2 new slots for modules - one Engine/Cargo slot and one Weapon/Shield slot.

3 new Modules: a Pulse Cannon, which lets you roll 2 dice, but costs 1 energy to use; a Cryo-Chamber, which lets you carry a Colony marker but no cubes (upgrades to a standard 2-door module); and an Afterburner, which I've got two possible rules for...
1. 2 actions at the cost of 1 Energy, once per turn
2. 2 actions per turn, but only one non-move action can be taken that turn

27 Exploration tiles: The setup for the expansion is to place the Space hexes face up, and these Exploration tiles are placed face down in the center of each in lieu of what's printed on the tile. In addition to Hostile Aliens and Stray Asteroids, I added a couple new features...
* Sunstar: makes planets on the tile uninhabitable. Thus you cannot place a colony on a planet or asteroid on a tile with a Sunstar. I'm considering making that "cannot place a colony in any sector adjacent to the Sunstar."
* Wormhole: there are several Wormhole tiles. With 1 move action a player can move their command ship into an adjacent wormhole, and with 1 more move action a player can move from the wormhole to any sector adjacent to any wormhole tile on the board.

3 additional Reward tiles: I haven't made any new ones, for now I just grabbed 3 reward tiles from another copy of the game. I'm doubling up on the Greenium/Energy, te Bluium/Energy and the Yellium tiles from phase 3. Instead of the Yellium tile I think I'd rather add a Brown+Energy tile to Phase 2.

Now that I've made the prototype I'd really like to try it out!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Eminent Domain v2.1

I tried my last idea about the technologies, and didn't like it as much. I missed the interesting different abilities. But it is true that the Tech cards have to be better than the basic cards so I revamped them again. This time they look like this:

Each type (Fertile, Advanced, Metallic) still has 1 deck, of 13 cards now. 8 Level 1 cards which all cost 3 research symbols, require 1 planet of the appropriate type, and have 2 icons on them. Each of these has an action that is better than (basically twice) the normal action for one of the symbols. So for example, the Colonize/Survey card in the Fertile deck says "Action: Draw 3 cards" on it. On the other hand, the Survey/Colonize card in the Metallic deck says "Settle a planet, then Settle another planet or add this colony to a planet" on it. I've got a nagging suspicion that I should not have put "...Settle another planet..." on there and left it at Settle and add this colony, but we'll see if that turns out to be a problem.

There are also 4 Level 2 techs in each deck - they're the ones that have both symbols matching the deck type, so for example in the Metallic deck, the 4 level-2 cards are Warfare/Warfare, Warfare/Survey, Survey/Warfare, and Survey/Survey. Each of those cards cost 5 research icons, require 2 of the appropriate planets, and is worth 2vp. They also each have a unique action which I hope will be cool and useful.

Finally, each deck has 1 of the 3 Level 3 cards I'd mentioned before - a card that does not go into your deck, but instead sits on the table giving you a static ability. The Metallic one is "Play an additional card each turn," the Fertile one is "Draw an additional card when not following a role," and the Advanced one is "Remove a card in hand from the game before choosing a role each turn."

I have also been thinking of the Follow cost for the Survey Role - currently "Draw 1 planet card per 2 Survey icons, keep 1." It always seems like you get a maximum of 1 card to look at, which is kind of OK - if you're following the role you don't get choice of planets. However, I don't like it as much, so I'm going to try "Draw X-1 planet cards, keep 1" where X of course is the number of symbols played. So the player choosing the role has +2 symbols on a player following the role (assuming they have the same number of symbols in hand) - 1 from the Role card, and 1 from the Follow penalty. I updated this and the research role on the player aid to keep everything up to date.

I think that should prove better than prior incarnations. i just updated my prototype, now to find someone to play with me!