Sunday, December 30, 2012

EmDo: Exotica tech card goal clarification

Steve and I played a couple more games today with the latest tweaks (new L1 permanent techs - translators on one side, effects triggered by flipping Asteroids on the other), and I have solidified a thought I've been having recently...

In Escalation I really like how you can get tech cards into your deck without having to focus heavily on Research. I think that can be accomplished in Exotic as well, even though I don
t have an alternate cost for the techs this time. If a tech costs just 3 Research it is reasonable to get it into your deck even if you are not going heavily into Research. You can have just 3 or 4 Research in your deck and follow other players' roles for example. in the base game, doing this just gets you a L1 tech, which is not stellar, but can be worth doing.

It's important that 3-cost L1 techs not be too powerful, so the effectiveness of "splashing" some tech has been limited thus far. Escalation introduces the Diverse stack, which requires 3 planets (one of each standard type). All of the Diverse tech in Escalation is L2, costs 5, and is worth 2vp. However the effect of a card being in the diverse stack is that it won't come out until mid game, even if it's cost is low. So I can make L1 Diverse cards which are more powerful than the normal L1 cards - maybe as powerful as some of the (weaker) L2 cards - as long as they're in the Diverse stack, or if they are otherwise so conditional as to be mid-game cards. I can take the VP off of them and cost them at an inexpensive 3 Research, and players will more easily be able to splash them into their decks!

Of the 30-something new tech cards I'm considering for the expansion, a good 1/3 of them are for the Exotic stack, which will match the makeup of the standard tech stacks. outside of those, I am very much leaning toward limiting additional new tech to strictly focused on Exotic symbols/translators and Asteroids, and making almost all of it simply cost 3. This does 2 things for me - it keeps the amount of vp available in the tech stacks down, which will be welcome especially when combined with Escalation, which has a fair amount of L2 tech in it (probably too much now that I really think about it). Also, at 3-cost it makes for more tech-splashing possibilities, meaning players need not always go heavy tech every game.

I am allegedly done with Escalation, and I certainly do not intend to add any cards to it, but as the graphic design and layout has not begun yet, it might be a good idea to revisit the tech list (with Exotica in mind) and maybe trim a few cards out of the expansion (altogether, or move them to Exotica). It might also be cool to reduce the cost of a few of them, changing them from L2 to L1 (reducing the VP available) - especially in the Diverse stack. Offhand I can only really think of 1 of those Diverse cards I'd want to reduce, and that's Elevated Incentive - in order to make it more attractive. The cost isn't as big a deal in Escalation because of the alternate (Ship) cost, which allows you to get tech without having a ton of Research anyway.

I'll note that the tech in Escalation is varied and not particularly focused on any of the new features in the expansion. I think that's OK though, as one of the main features is simply that you can get the tech with ships. Exotica is much more about the 2 discrete things that have been added (the new planet type and its features, and Asteroids).

So for the next playtest I have reduced the cost (and removed the VP) from a handful of cards, and I've moved a couple to the Diverse stack. Also, I've cut the "Boostable" techs altogether, they seem boring, haven't been bought really, don't specifically focus on the new features, and frankly there's kinda too many tech cards in the set. I have moved the Exotic X cards (same as Improved X, but with +1 Action) to the Diverse stack at 3-cost for now, but I could see cutting them as well. I like them, but they're really the same effect as the Improved X techs, and how many of those do you really need? In Escalation I've already added the native Improved X techs anyway, so these may be simply redundant. I'll probably end up dropping them. Then Exotica would be about the same size as Escalation - minus the Scenario cards and 5p cards. I might be able to make a couple Scenarios for Exotica, mostly involving the Exotic Start planets and Exotic tech, but with the rest of the new tech being so focused, I don't know how many Scenarios I'll realistically be able to come up with. To be sure, I'll make some!

Alternate Win Condition promo cards
I also decided on some potential promo cards in the same vein as Elusive/Exclusive Victory. I'd like to have such a card for each set, and use it as a Kickstarter incentive (though I'd prefer not to make it entirely exclusive). Each one will have an alternate instant-win condition, each one will have "Victory" in the title, and each one will feature art with the character from Exclusive Victory (that's me!).

For Escalation I think it will be a  double sided tech card:
Military Victory
Pre-req: Not sure - maybe none (just a Kickstarter blob in that space)
Cost: 3 Battlecruisers
Effect: "You win the game."
You can only have 1 Battlecruiser mini in play, but there is a Battlecruiser on each of the L3 tech cards, so you'd have to get 2 of those, then draw them, and have a Battlecruiser in play. Thematically you roll into the equivalent of the U.N. with your unstoppable fleet and take over. And on the back...
Economic Victory
Pre-req: 3 Civilized planets (there are 6 in the deck)
Cost: 12 Influence (Discard 12 Influence tokens) - I'm guessing 12 here, maybe it could be more.
Effect: "You win the game."
Civilized planets are pretty crappy if you're going for Warfare, and they have Peace Treaties which help you get VPs. There are other cards which give  you VPs as Reparations as well, and at least 1 card that makes players discard Influence tokens. So this sounds like a really neat cost to me. Of course it doesn't matter that you are discarding your Influence, because you win the game when you buy this!

For Exotica I already knew what the alternate win promo would be as it was originally the Exotic stack level 3 tech...
Coalition Victory
Pre-req: 3 Exotic planets
Cost: 7 Research
Side A Effect: 2 players - If you have 3 each Advanced, Fertile, and Metallic planets in play (face up), you win the game.
Side B Effect: 3-5 players - If you have 2 each Advanced, Fertile, and Metallic planets in play (face up), you win the game.

With just 2 of each planet type, it seems too easy to get with 2 players, even after I upped it to L3 from L2. I expect with 3-5 it might be harder. I don't know, I might have to make Side A be 2-3 players. I haven't tried it with 3 planets of each type, but I suspect that's significantly harder, especially with the new rule that you remove 4 cards from each stack with 2 players.

I even have the image concept in mind for Coalition Victory. I imagine the people from the various planet types to be stereotypically big and husky like warriors (Metallic), down to earth farmer types (Fertile), and straight edged sciency/business types (Advanced). The Exotic planets are peopled with humanoid aliens. I imagine their clothes generally fitting the color scheme of their planet type, so reddish for Metallic, yelllowish for Advanced, etc.  So the image for Coalition Victory will be the character from Elusive Victory sitting on a sort of throne (probably with the scepter from EV), with a large group of people gathered around him - the group comprised of 1 section from each planet type (Metallic types dressed in their appropriate color/attire), etc.

I do not have an idea for an image for Military/Economic Victory. The other 2 have the same image front and back, but this one might not make sense. Maybe a similar image, like in one the character is forcibly taking control from the current leader with men bearing guns behind him, and on the back the same composition but instead of forcibly taking control it's a business deal, and the men behind the character are bearing goods rather than guns.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Eminent Domain: Exotic getting close...

Last week I posted some refined thoughts on Asteroids for EmDo: Exotica. I have played a couple of games with the Mining Tech tiles and new and improved "Lunar" techs, and I have refined them even further.

"Lunar" Techs

Actually, I think the "Lunar" techs are pretty solid at the moment.

I think the Asteroids were too good and too cheap, so I think I'll try this next:

* Asteroids will be worth 0-1 VP. The better icons (Hand Size, Research, Colonize, and possibly the replenishing resource slot) will be worth 0vp, the weaker icons (Survey, Trade, Produce, Warfare) will be worth 1vp.
* Mining Tech will allow you to Settle/Attack as if the Asteroids had Colonize/Warfare costs of 3.
* Improved Mining will allow you to Settle/Attack as if the Asteroids had Colonize/Warfare costs of 2, Will give you the option of "Action: Discard your hand, flip 1 Asteroid," and will allow you to keep 1 additional Asteroid each Survey phase.

This way I think the Asteroids will be appropriately bad unless you upgrade to Improved Mining, in which case they will be mostly harmless, and if you decide to start flipping them, then you can pursue some decent tech.

Exotic symbols and Translators

I was thinking a little more about the Exotic symbols and translators, and I like how they work, but I've always kinda thought there should be a way to purchase a translator (i.e. via Research). Therefore I'm considering the following 2 options:

Option 1: Add a L1 permanent tech to each of the basic research stacks (Adv/Fert/Met) which is a translator for the native icons for that planet type. For example, the one in the Metallic stack would have [Exo]=>[Survey] on one side, and [Exo]=>[Warfare] on the other.

Option 2: In case that's not useful enough, I could put both native translators on the same side of the card... [Exo]=>[Warfare OR Survey]. Then I'd have to come up with some other tech for the back side of the card. It could relate to Asteroids perhaps.

In this case I would like to put Alien Artifact (L1 perm tech which provides an Exo symbol) back into the Exotic stack. Currently it's backed with a Peace Treaty, which should exist in the Exo-Esc subset, but probably shouldn't exist in just Exotic... so I'll need 2 more L1 perm techs for the Exotic stack (one to back Alien Artifact, the other to back Peace Treaty).

Potential permanent L1 tech that relates to Asteroids (brainstorming - these might be terrible):

* Fertile stack: Face up Asteroids in your Empire gain [Produce icon]
* Advanced stack: Face up Asteroids in your Empire gain [Trade icon]
* Metallic stack: Face up Asteroids in your Empire gain [Survey icon]

These seem OK - I'm not too worried about getting those symbols in play - Research and Colonize icons are the troublesome ones. However, I am a little weary of getting too many Symbols in play in general, so this isn't great. Also, the Advanced one is pretty similar to Freedom of Trade from Escalation.

* Fertile stack: Whenever you flip an Asteroid: Settle 1 Planet and Produce 2 Resources
* Advanced stack: Whenever you flip an Asteroid: Collect 1 VP and remove up to 2 cards in hand or discard pile from the game.
* Metallic stack: Whenever you flip an Asteroid: Draw 2 cards and collect 2 Fighters

These aren't bad. They may need some tweaking, but effectively they give you an extra fancy action once every time you flip an Asteroid. So you would get it if you have some face down Asteroids (or plan to take them). You'll only get the effect like 3-5 times most likely, so hopefully it won't be out of control. Maybe I'll try this type of thing first.

Give me your suggestions in the comments below!

Reverse side of Alien Artifact (and Peace Treaty)

As I mentioned, I'd like to move Alien Artifact into the Exo stack as well, which means it needs something on the back of it as well. For now I have one of the previous ideas... "If you have at least 1 Asteroid in your Empire... +1 Hand Size." Hand Size bonuses are really good, I have a L2 card in Escalation which gave Hand Size +2, which I decided was a little too good, so now it gives Hand Size +1 and another smaller benefit. An L1 card that gives Hand Size +1 is pretty powerful, but having to take an Asteroid before it works does add some cost to it. I might have to up that to 2 Asteroids or something like that, but it might be OK.

I could do something like the above, a triggered effect when you flip an Asteroid... but what? Something weird or goofy, like "Whenever you flip an Asteroid, you may return a Tech card to the supply and take another tech card of the same level from the supply into your hand," or maybe more useful "...another tech card of the next level" (i.e. upgrade a tech card).

Or perhaps some deck fixing (without messing with stuff that scores points): "When you flip an Asteroid, you may return any number of standard role cards from your hand to the stacks, and then take up to 1 role card from the stacks to your hand." Of course, that doesn't work well if you discard your hand to flip the Asteroid :/

An option for helping with Translators could be something like this: "When THIS comes into play, tuck a Standard Role card from your hand under it (or from the stacks?). You may treat [Exo icons] as if they were that Role symbol." So a way to choose a translator... either from what you've got in hand, or choose from any. Mechanically I kinda like having to place a card from your hand.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Captains of Industry - devlog and components

It's been about 6 months since I posted anything substantive about Captains of Industry, though I have played the game at least once or twice since then!

I have been meaning to get it back into regular rotation and work out the final details I've been meaning to get to. The game is scheduled to come out next year, so the time for finishing touches is now!

I played a game on Thursday, and afterwards put some work into finalizing the couple of things I have always been meaning to finalize...

Techs and Tech Trees

Michael Keller and I went through the techs themselves and I'm pretty happy with the ones I've been using - though I think there may be some discrepancy between my versions and his which will need to be reconciled before this process is through. However, the structure of the tech trees has never sat well with me. It's almost as if no matter what L1 techs you get, you can get almost all the L3 techs later - sometimes without even getting a L2 tech in between. I thought the tree branches should be more specific.

Now I've constructed a slightly more regimented version which I think will feel better, where each branch supports a particular strategy or player profile, yet there's plenty of reason to advance in multiple branches:

Research branch:
L1: +1vp per Research you sell
L2: ??? (see below, maybe none)
L3: At the end of the game, +1vp for each Advancement that at least 1 other player has bought

Steel branch:
L1: +1vp per Steel you sell
L2: Unlock secondary Steel market
L3: Before determining demand, you may sell up to 2 (1?) goods from each market

Lumber branch:
L1: +1vp per Lumber you sell
L2: Unlock secondary Lumber market
L3: Before determining demand, you may sell up to 2 (1?) goods from each market

Stone branch:
L1: +1vp per Stone you sell
L2: Unlock secondary Stone market
L3: Before determining demand, you may sell up to 2 (1?) goods from each market

Facility branch:
L1: At the end of each Age, +1vp per Facility you own
L2: Your Facilities each produce 1 additional good when they produce goods
L3: Expand each of your Facilities once (they do not produce)
Money branch:
L1: $5 discount on Overtime Production (is this too good in Age 1?)
L2: $1 discount on buying goods (maybe swap with L1?) (Or maybe +1vp per Oil/Machine parts/Corn you sell?)
L3: Collect $50
Real Estate branch:
L1: At the end of each Age, +2vp for each Real Estate you own
L2: Swap a Real Estate in play with an unused Real Estate of the same level
L3: Build 1 Real Estate without paying for it

As you can see, several questions remain, but this is what I'll try for the next session. I have been wondering if it might be cool to say that buying a tech that has already been bought by someone cost a little more (1 additional Research) than if you're the first player to get that tech. If that's true, then a L2 tech in the Research branch could be "You need not pay the additional Research to buy tech that's already been bought by another player" or something like that. I don't know if that additional cost is a good rule in the first place, but it might be a good thing to try out (along with that tech).

Captain Cards

I redesigned the Captain cards with certain things in mind, and I'm pretty happy with the new format. They used to be fairly all-or-nothing, and now most of them are more incremental in nature. I didn't like punishing a player for doing ALMOST enough work to get the max score for the card, but scoring nothing for it. Now you get partial credit. Here's an example card or two:

Unnamed Captain Card #X:
Score 1vp for each level of your Foundry.
Score the following bonuses (individually) as well if your Foundry is...
Your largest Facility... 1vp
The largest Foundry in play... 2vp
The largest Facility in play... 3vp
 The LEVEL of a Facility, as well as its size, is the number of goods it produces.

Unnamed Captain Card #Y:
Score the following bonus if you end the game with...
1 Residential Real Estate... 3vp
2 Residential Real Estate... 6vp
3 Residential Real Estate... 10vp
4 Residential Real Estate... 15vp

(I need names for the Captain cards!)

Age/Game End Trigger

I like the current Age End trigger, but there have been some lingering questions about it. Here's how it works:
There's a Progress deck with 3 City cards, 3 Rural cards, and 3 Recycling Rural cards. At the end of a round, if at least 1 Real Estate was purchased that round, a Progress chip is added to the board (max 3 chips), then a card is drawn for each Progress chip. Any City or Rural cards stay face up, while Recycling cards are shuffled back into the deck. When all three City cards have come up, the Age is over.

I like that mechanism, and it's specifically designed so that you never know for sure if any given turn will be your last. Originally you would know that for sure, and there were problems with that - this system fixes those problems, but has some issues that need to be resolved.

1. Suppose all the Real Estate is built in Age 2 (the game lasts 3 Ages)... I think this is very unlikely to happen, but I think it is possible and the rules need to cover it.

2. Again, very unlikely to happen, but it's technically possible for the game to never end (or more realistically just to feel drawn out at the end), if you constantly shuffle the last City card to the bottom of the stack of 4.

As the tagline to my blog implies, I like to kill the maximum number of birds with the minimum number of stones... here's a solution that could fix both of the above issues:
When the last Real Estate is bought, the game ends at the end of the round.

I feel like that has to have come up before, and I wonder if it isn't already a rule that I've simply forgotten.

In addition to that, I think the granularity of the Progress mechanism may be helped out if the deck were modified a little bit to this:
4x City cards, 4x Recycling Countryside cards - use 4 Progress chips. Age ends when any 3 City cards are drawn.


I have given a little thought to the components for this game:

Board: This could be TMG's first 6-fold board, to encompass a square-ish playing area as well as the tech tree. Or it could be more like Belfort with sections of board that fit together (preferably with jigsaw technology to keep the sections together). I have been thinking that an image of a large, industrial gear could be good, with the spaces for markets and Real Estate divided by spokes of the gear.

Price Markers and Goods:
* The goods should be small, round cardboard coin-like chits (with player/company logo!) so that they stack and don't take up too much space.
* Price Markers should be wooden bits, approximately 10mm deep x 16mm wide x 24mm tall, in the shape of a $ - with the line down the middle being about 8mm wide, so the base that it stands on is 8mmx10mm). I think little $'s would be perfect price markers, and that shape should be easy to do.
* Money could be 1/2 size cards. People don't like paper money, and mini-cards are easy to pass back and forth (happens a lot in this game). Money could also be cardboard coins, but I think that's not as good, personally. However, if it were cardboard, then there would be no need for extra Dominance vp tracking - just put a $5 token in your score bin.

Score Bins:
When someone buys a resource from you, you score 1vp, and the easiest way I've found to track this is to simply take the goods marker that was just bought and drop it right into a scoring bin. I'm currently using little plastic cups, but obviously something cooler and more thematic would be preferable. I would like to make a sort of piggy bank out of punchboard material, something along thee lines of Merchants and Marauders' treasure chest or Cleopatra and the Society of Architects' corruption banks. In this case perhaps a piggy bank look would be good - but failing that (since a pig is a very organic shape which may be impossible to do well), perhaps an actual bank would work (and one like that picture would probably work easily, similar to the treasure chest above).

Real Estate Cards:
I think the RE cards could be 1/2 size cards - they'd fit better on the board that way, and all they convey is 3-5 demand icons.

Facility Cards:
Facilities could be full size (poker size) cards - these cards have a Build cost, an Expand cost, a production icon (or 2), and an Overtime Production Cost icon.

Captain Cards:
Captain cards could be full size cards as well, preferably with the image and name of one of the famous (or more obscure) Captains of Industry on it - thematically linked to the benefit of the card if at all possible.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Asteroid tech refined

The other day I posted some thoughts on Mining Technology and Asteroids in EmDo: Exotica (trying that name out for a while, let me know what you think). Last night I got a chance to play with this new version of the expansion, and I definitely think it's a step in the right direction. The only thing I have changed for the next playtest after playing with it is this...

I'm testing a run of Level 1 tech cards that grow in value with the number of Asteroids you have in play. They were going to apply to Moons before, so they're called "Lunar Colonies" and "Lunar Production," etc - I'll have to rename them... but they basically give you the effect of "Improved [X]" for each Asteroid you have in play. So with no asteroids, you wouldn't bother. With 1 Asteroid, you could choose this or an Improved tech, depending on other factors. With 2 or more Asteroids in play, this becomes a much stronger card than the Improved [X] counterpart.

I think these cards scale up in power way too quickly, especially in a 2 player game, where I suspect it's much easier to get several Asteroids in play. But I definitely want them to be...
* Worse than L1 tech with 0 Asteroids
* On par with L1 tech with 1 Asteroid
* Incrementally better than L1 tech with each Asteroid past the first.

So... I thought of a way to implement that. I changed these to the following format:

Lunar Production
Action: Produce 1 resource. Repeat for each face up Asteroid in your Empire.

Ta-da! Now the card is not completely useless with no Asteroids in play, but it's close - on par with a standard Role card. With each Asteroid you flip, the card gets incrementally better.

Here's the rest of them. Some have slightly weird formats to make them work right...

Lunar Trade
Action: Trade 1 resource for 1 Influence from the supply. Repeat for each face up Asteroid in your Empire.

Lunar Research
Action: Draw 1 card then remove 1 card in hand from the game. Repeat for each face up Asteroid in your Empire. (Or was it "Draw 1 card, then remove 1 card in hand from the game for each face up Asteroid in your Empire"?)

Lunar Colonize
Action: Each face up Asteroid in your Empire gains [Colonize icon] until end of turn. Settle 1 planet.

Lunar Survey
Action: Draw 2 cards. Draw 1 additional card for each face up Asteroid in your Empire.

Lunar Warfare
Action: Collect 1 Fighter OR Attack 1 planet. Repeat for each face up Asteroid in your Empire.
(This one might need to be altered to disallow multiple attacks... not sure about that. Could be something like "Attack 1 planet OR collect 1 fighter, plus 1 fighter for each face up Asteroid in your Empire")

Small tweaks aside, I think I'll be happy with this format. I have put these cards back into their respective tech stacks as well, as opposed to the Diverse stack (where I tried them) because I don't like the thought of 1 player gaining access to all of them at once.

I also made 2 similar cards for the Exotic stack:
Lunar ???
Action: Each face up Asteroid in your Empire gains [Exotic icon] until end of turn.

Lunar Base
Action: Each face up Asteroid in your Empire gains [Fighter icon] until end of turn.

That last one has some problems - for one thing,  it absolutely needs "+1 Action" or "Attack 1 planet" on it! Also, the rules for Fighter icons probably won't be in the Exotica rulebook, so I might have to use more text...
"Put 1 Fighter on each face up Asteroid in your Empire. You may spend these Fighters as normal. At the end of your turn, return any Fighters on Asteroids in your Empire to the supply."

Looking forward to playing again!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

EmDo:Exo... Mining Technology

I may have mentioned that I liked the idea of Moons and Asteroids, but I think maybe having both is too much... I also think I was trying to devote too much tech to those features, and at the same time, if someone beats you to the Asteroid flipping tech, then you're kinda out of luck...

The obvious solution to that, which I have considered and which I am finally going to try, is to cut Moons altogether, and to give each player a reference tile (like Escalations Fleet tile) which offers the ability to "mine" Asteroids (flip them). Like Fleet, I figure it'll offer a sort of bad deal way to flip asteroids, and during a Research role a player could upgrade to Improved Mining Tech, which offers a much better deal, and perhaps some other benefit from mining asteroids.

Here's the first draft, which I will probably try out tomorrow:

You may Settle an Asteroid as if it were a planet with Colonize cost 2.
You may Attack an Asteroid as if it were a planet with Warfare cost 2.
[During a Research Role] Cost 3: Upgrade to Improved Mining Tech (flip this tile over)

You may keep 1 additional Planet card each Survey role, as long as it is an Asteroid.
Action: Discard your hand. Flip 1 Asteroid.

The theory here is that Asteroids are basically on par with the Start planets, with a Crystal resource slot, a Role Symbol, and worth maybe 2vp.

Yes, I could print Colonize and Warfare costs on them rather than on the Mining Tech tile, Or I could think of a different cost to flip them.

So, all players will have the ability to flip Asteroids, albeit not a terribly attractive one. So for example if you saved 2 Survey cards to Follow, and there was an Asteroid on top you COULD flip it without having to get any special tech, but it would be inefficient.

Yes, maybe 2/2 is not the correct cost for this inefficient flipping (maybe 3/3 would be better), or maybe Asteroids shouldn't have resource slots AND Role Symbols AND points on them.

After upgrading to Improved Mining Tech (which is a Level 1 tech with no planet requirements, just like Improved Fleet is), then you get to flip Asteroids much more efficiently. Currently I have it as an Action, but you don't have to have any particular card in your hand. I think discarding your hand is an interesting cost, and after playing with that I'll see if it seems too high a cost for "Improved" Mining. Perhaps the starting Mining tech should be that, and Improved Mining could flip Asteroids automatically when they enter your Empire (for example).

The point is, after investing in Improved Mining, actually choosing to keep Asteroids should be more attractive - and in fact I've used the Moon rule here: With Improved Mining, you get to keep 1 Asteroid along with whatever you choose to keep with your Survey role (of course, you do have to draw an Asteroid for that to work). I think this will be an important difference - an Asteroid is not something you'll want to take over a Planet in a Survey role, but if you get to keep it for free then you'll be happy to take them, and maybe more likely to want to flip them and pursue tech that helps with them. So if you're going to go for an Asteroid strategy, you'll really want to upgrade to Improved Mining, and if you aren't, then you probably don't want to bother. Either way I think the Survey role will be more interesting a lot of the time.

I am testing a couple of different cards that Recon the Planet deck. In case I failed to mention it, "Recon" is a keyword from Escalation. "Recon the Planet deck for 1 card" means "Search the Planet deck and discard pile and set aside 1 card. Shuffle the deck and discard pile to make a new deck, and put the set aside card on top." Here are the Recon cards I have put together to try out:

Tractor Beam
Action: Recon the Planet deck for 1 Asteroid and put that card into your Empire face down.

Tractor Beam helps a player find an asteroid that will help them (one with the Role Symbol they want). They will still have to flip it, which probably means upgrading to Improved Mining (if they plan to Tractor Beam more than once).

Thorough Probing
Action: Discard any number of cards from your hand. Recon the Planet deck for that number of cards. Play an additional action during this Action phase.

Thorough Probing allows a player to stack the top couple of cards in the Planet deck. For a player with Improved Mining, this could mean putting the planet you want as well as the Asteroid you want on top of the deck, and possibly another Asteroid to discourage your opponents from following your Survey role. Alternatively, this card could approximate Deep Space Probes (which will be in Escalation) - which simply Recons the planet deck for 1 card.

Junk Diver (temporary name!)
Recon the planet deck for 1 Asteroid. After your Role phase, flip 1 Asteroid.

Junk Diver puts an Asteroid on top of the Planet deck, which you could then Survey up if you like, or you could leave there to discourage other players who haven't invested in Mining from Surveying. In either case, the card also flips an Asteroid, so you could skip Improved Mining and instead get this card for a half decent way to approach a Mining strategy.

The reason I want at least 1-2 cards that Recon the Planet deck is not just for Asteroids... in fact the original reason was because of the way the Exotic icons and Translators work. I want players with a Translator to be able to go dig up a planet with an Exotic icon, or players with Exotic icons in their deck or Empire to go dig up the Translator that would help them the most. Between that and Asteroid dynamics I think Recon is going to be a very useful ability in this set.

Finally, I'm testing a run of Level 1 tech cards that grow in value with the number of Asteroids you have in play. They were going to apply to Moons before, so they're called "Lunar Colonies" and "Lunar Production," etc - I'll have to rename them... but they basically give you the effect of "Improved [X]" for each Asteroid you have in play. So with no asteroids, you wouldn't bother. With 1 Asteroid, you could choose this or an Improved tech, depending on other factors. With 2 or more Asteroids in play, this becomes a much stronger card than the Improved [X] counterpart.

I'm hoping that all this will add an interesting layer to Eminent Domain. The Exotic expansion will have the new Exotic planet type, with Exotic icons and Translators, it will have Asteroids, which offers a new strategic course to try, and it will have a few other new tech cards to spice things up a little bit.

I also intend to include a small set of additional cards for use when playing Exotic along with Escalation. These will include some tech which has alternate Research costs (ships), including a Peace Treaty and 2 Double Time cards for the Exotic stack as well as some directly interactive techs (with Reparations), A Hostile Exotic planet (costing a Destroyer and providing a Replenishing Fighter slot), and an Asteroid that provides a replenishing Fighter as well.

I've been enjoying working on this expansion again, and I think I'm zeroing in on the general set of cards that I want to start testing heavily.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eminent Domain: Exotic Expansion - current status

Here's an update on the Exotic expansion. Would it be acceptable to call it "Exotica"? Or does that sound too much like something naughty?
plural noun
exotic things or objects. 


I have been thinking about this expansion a lot, and have mocked up some cards and played a few games. In addition to adding 1 planet type, I have been toying with adding another type of card to the Planet deck. I think this makes Survey choices more interesting and I hope it will encourage players to care more about which cards they keep when surveying, care more about which sets they get in their Empire.

I started with 2 additional types of cards: Asteroids and Moons. Asteroids are supposed to be sub-par unless you get the right tech, then they should be on par or above average. Moons on the other hand were supposed to be different - they would attach to planets in your Empire, and effectively just add to their VP value. I toyed around with some techs that made it good to have moons (such as Lunar Laboratory (Level 1 permanent tech: if you have at least 1 Moon in your Empire, Research Symbol). After playing with this stuff, I do like the idea of it, but I did not like how Moons were working (both mechanically and thematically), and I'm not sure there really need to be 2 types of "junk" in the Planet deck. 1 type of "junk" might be cool though. And remember, this is junk that, with the right techs, could become good to have in play.

I'm currently leaning toward removing the Moons and re-working the techs that applied to them to apply to Asteroids only (or cut them). The Asteroids are currently 2vp apiece, have 1 icon (W/S/R/T/P/C/Exo/Hand Size), and 1 resource slot which produces Crystal (the new resource which comes on Exotic planets). You currently cannot flip them by normal means, but there is a tech in each stack which allows you to Attack or Colonize Asteroids as if they were planets:
Settle as if it were a planet with Colonize cost 1
Settle as if it were a planet with Colonize cost 2 or Attack as if it were a planet with Warfare cost 2
Attack as if it were a planet with Warfare cost 1
Discard your hand, flip 1 Asteroid.
And I made a Level 2 Exotic tech as well (though this might fit better in a Diverse stack, if I decide to make one for Exotic): 
Recon the planet deck for 1 Asteroid. After your role phase, Flip 1 Asteroid. 

I have made an organizational decision as well. I want the Exotic stack to be on par with the Standard tech stacks (Base game + Exotic expansion), and then I want to make a few additional cards which are for use only when also playing with Escalation. I have relegated the 2 Double Time cards to that stack, since Escalation has Double Times in each stack. Those cards can also have alternate Research costs (Fighters/Destroyers/Battlecruisers). I am happy with that decision, and I have started to fill out and zero in on which techs I want to have in each of those piles.

I developed some fun interactive and "escalated" type techs for the EXO+ESC stack, my favorite is probably this one:
That's No Moon!
Level 3 (3vp): Cost 7R/B
Battlecruiser icon
Action: Remove a Planet in any player's Empire from the game. Reparations: That player may Recon the Planet deck for 1 Asteroid, then put that card into play face up.

So you blow up a planet and it becomes an asteroid :) Originally I thought Asteroids would not be worth any points, and so was going to make this card turn a planet into *2* asteroids... but then I decide they should probably be worth 2vp, and therefore it should only be 1. Note that the victim of the card gets to choose which Asteroid (and therefore which Role symbol) they get.

I like the idea of Level 1 tech cards that say, for example:
Action: For each Asteroid in your Empire, draw 3 cards.  
So with no Asteroids it's useless. With 1 Asteroid it's an Improved Survey. With more than 1 Asteroid it's multiple Improved Surveys! That sounds like fun to me, like a player could put together an Asteroid "strategy" so to speak.

In the near future, once I've decided which cards I think I'll want to keep, I'll post a list of techs for anybody following along at home.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nothing much to report

I feel like I haven't been posting enough, but then again I haven't had much to report. I wonder if those two phenomenon aren't related to some extent...

I went to BGG.con a couple weeks ago, and I had a pretty good time, but on the down side I got kinda sick on day 2, and was coughing all week. I even threw up one night. :( I hope I didn't infect anyboy else.

I didn't get to all of the things I wanted to play at BGG.con, but I did manage to play my number 1 priority: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar. It was awesome, just as I expected it to be. People make a big deal about the gears, or about how they thought the gears would just be a gimmick... but if they've read anything about how the game works, then there's no reason they should not see that the gears are not a gimmick, but an integral part of the game. It could have been a plain board with 5 tracks to place workers on and a round counter, and a fiddly accounting phase where you advance all markers on each of those tracks - which would have worked just as well, but may have simply been too much physical work, and distract from the game itself. The gears simply make that a reality - automatically updating each of those tracks with a quick turn of the gear. I like the game a lot, and cannot wait to play it again.

Looking at that board makes me think that maybe gears are a way to make possible the changing streetlights for Hot & Fresh.

I did get to spend some quality some of my good friends that I hardy ever see. There are people I missed or would have liked to spend more time with of course, but such is life.

I didn't play any of my prototypes that I brought with me, though I did teach EmDo: Escalation to 1 group, and played Venice and 8 Minute Empire once each.

Now that I've sent the completed rules and everything for Escalation to Gavan and Michael (I hope they have coordinated a schedule on that), I have started looking at EmDo: Exotic again. I haven't looked at it since before I was done with Escalation, so I would like to update my thoughts on it and bring in line with the other expansion (which will precede it). For example, I've introduced new concepts in Escalation such as paying Fighters for Tech cards, Fighters/Resource icons on Tech cards, Recon, Reparations, and Replenishing slots... I might like to expand on those concepts in Exotic. Of course, I would also like to ensure that Exotic is playable without Escalation as well...

I'm also considering all kinds of new types of things for Tech cards. For example, I would like to create a run of tech cards who's action is, in effect, boost-able. For example:

Unnamed Metallic L2 Warfare Tech Action
Action: Collect 1 Fighter for each [Warfare icon] in your empire (you may play [Warfare icons] from your hand).

In effect, an Action that acts like a Warfare role. I can see this for each of the standard Actions:

Unnamed Metallic L2 Survey Tech Action
Action: Recon the Planet deck for "X" where "X" is the number of [Survey icons] in your empire (you may play [Survey icons] from your hand). Take the top Planet card and put it into your Empire, face down.

Unnamed Advanced L2 Research Tech Action
Action: Choose 1 Technology card who's Prereqs you satisfy. If you pay its cost with [Research icons] in your empire, put it in your hand (you may play [Research icons] from your hand).

Unnamed Advanced L2 Trade Tech Action
Action: Trade 1 Resource for each [Trade icon] in your empire (you may play [Trade icons] from your hand). Collect 1 Influence from the supply for each Resource traded.

Unnamed Fertile L2 Produce Tech Action
Action: Produce 1 Resource for each [Produce icon] in your empire (you may play [Produce icons] from your hand).

Unnamed Fertile L2 Colonize Tech Action
Action: +1 Colony. You may place [Colonize icons] from your hand under Planets in your empire as Colonies.

The impetus for this was new wording on a tech card I had in mind for Exotic:

Exotic Efficiency:
Action: For each [Exotic icon] in your Empire, Draw 1 card or remove 1 card in hand from the game.

There's an open question as to how big this expansion should be. I believe the original plan was to have mini-expansions, which wouldn't cost terribly much, and would fit in a box the size of The Resistance (about 4"x6"). In that respect, a couple of tiles and a small handful of cards would be enough. but will that significantly impact game play enough to warrant having it? I am very happy with the effect on game play that Escalation provides. I would be disappointed if Exotic didn't deliver on that front as well.

On the other hand, perhaps Exotic could be a smaller mini-expansion to tide things over while I work on the next more significant Agenda expansion I've had in mind all along. I'll keep that in mind as I revisit Exotic.

Here's a question... would it be acceptable to have a subset of cards in Exotic that are for use only if you also use Escalation, and if you don't have ESC (or don't care to use it) then you just leave those cards out? Leave a comment and let me know what you think, and any other thoughts you have on integrating one expansion with another (in addition to integrating with the base game, obviously).

As a sort of recap, I'll briefly mention that the main thrust of the Exotic expansion is a new planet type. Thematically, the players have finally left the recognizable portion of the universe and are running into exotic planets with alien life and technology. So far all of the "characters" we've seen have been human, the aliens will likely be humanoid but decidedly foreign and not human.

The thing about exotic planets is that they provide benefits, but without the ability to translate or understand it, it's not useful. I.e. there's a new role symbol, but all by itself it doesn't do anything. While some planets in Exotic will provide this new, useless symbol, many other planets will proved "translators" which allow a player to use an Alien symbol as another type of symbol. This sounds like a lot of work, but when you consider that multiple different translators work on the same Alien icon they become very flexible. The idea is that if you collect a lot of effects from this expansion, they build on each other. And of course all tech cards in the Exotic stack will have Alien icons on them...

Another thing about exotic planets is that they produce a different type of resource: Crystal. Which could be interesting in certain deck builds.
Now that Escalation has introduced Civilized, Hostile, and Bustling planets, I could add Exotic planets of these types. I am hesitant to add TOO many new planets though, and I'm already planning on 9 Exotic planets and 6 new planets of the basic types. I could see NOT adding Civilized planets, because thematically that doesn't make a lot of sense, and mechanically there are plenty of those already. I could see adding a Hostile planet, but unless I change the Warfare cost (which I suppose I could do), then without a Fleet tile from Escalation, how do you attack it? Adding Bustling planets (that is to say planets with Actions on them) would be the easiest, but of course I'd have to decide which actions to add.

In other news, I haven't done too much in the way of gaming lately. Since returning from BGG.con I have only played Robinson Crusoe (this week) - which was highly thematic, but other than that had little-to-nothing really going for it as far as I was concerned. Seemed long and fiddly, it felt like we were probably forgetting rules or playing wrong, it seemed pretty darn easy, and even if not, it just didn't feel like fun to me. 
Other than that, I've only been playing Glory to Rome - best of 3 with my roommate John almost every evening. I probably win 60+% of our 2p games, but he was beating me pretty bad last week. Maybe it was because I was under the weather, I don't know. but I'm happy to say that while he beat me 2 days in a row, I have been beating him the last few - so I'm getting back to true form :) I have been experimenting with trying to control the game end a little better, and for the most part it was working. I will also say that in the past 4 sessions or so I have seen way more successful Colosseum action than I ever had before, as well as a Forum victory. Almost every game we've played, John has been able to go first and many of them he was able to hire a Craftsman (I got anything from a Merchant in the best case, to a laborer in the worst case). ONCE I got to hire a Craftsman turn 1, and that game I barely used him! :)

Glory to Rome is really a great game, and anyone who doesn't think so is just wrong - that's all there is to it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let's get it started... Let's get Kickstarted in here!

I don't care for marketing, and I don't usually shill for products, but I think it's appropriate to make a post about a game that's currently on Kickstarter. It's not a TMG game, but I am developing a different game - Captains of Industry - from the same designer, which TMG is publishing next year.

The game in question is City Hall. I got a chance to play City Hall at BGGcon last week, and while I'd say it's a bit lighter than Captains of Industry, I'd also say it's a great, solid, polished design. I have pledged for a copy, and I would like to see the campaign fund so that I will eventually get it! Here's a little bit about the game:

City Hall is like Goa: On your turn you select an action, and somebody is going to take that action. There is a once-around bid of Influence (one of the games two currencies), and then you may choose to either accept (one of) the highest bid(s), collecting the influence from that player and allowing them to take the action, or you can pay that amount of influence to the bank and take the action yourself.

For starters, let me remind everyone that Goa is a great game, and that this mechanism worked very well in it. But in City Hall it plays out much differently...

Like in Goa, you often want to be selling off the action you choose and collecting Influence, not paying Influence to the bank: that's your income. A player who always chooses the action they want and then pays the bank for it will run into trouble because they will be Influence-poor. However, in City Hall there's no guarantee that another player will choose the action you are interested in - or more importantly, there's no guarantee that the other players will choose actions in the order you want them to happen - so sometimes it's better to choose the action you want after all, and be prepared to pay for it, just to make sure your plans aren't ruined! In some ways this amps up the mechanism from Goa a little bit.

Of course, the rest of the game is nothing like Goa - just that main mechanism. In Goa you're collecting various resources in order to upgrade tracks as efficiently as possible... in City Hall you are trying to garner enough votes to become Mayor by increasing two different tracks: Population and Approval Rating. Your standing on each of those tracks will be multiplied together at the end of the game to determine your score, so it is important to advance both of them.

The way that you advance on those tracks involves buying land spaces and building Houses, Offices, Factories, and Parks. Each of those can gain "stars" based on their location relative to other buildings:

  • Houses like to be next to other Houses, Offices, and Parks, but hate being next to Factories. 
  • Factories like being next to Offices, but don't care about Houses. 
  • Offices like being next to Houses and Parks... etc. 
One of the actions creates a mini-scoring round in which players score Population (increase their marker on the Population track) for "star" majority. The more/better they've contributed to the city, the more population they bring in. Parks are interesting as well because they allow you to advance on the other track, your Approval Rating. The more parks you've built (and the more stuff built next to your parks), the more Approval you gain.

The other way to advance Approval Rating is by paying money during one of the other available actions (Campaigning). Money is used for that purpose, as well as buying land, and there's another action that allows you to exchange Money for Influence and vice versa.

City Hall felt like a tight wrestling match with players fighting to advance on both the Population track and the Approval Rating track. But that's not all there is too it - there are also a handful of bonus rewards, each of which are handed out at the end of the game. These reward things like Most Money, Most Influence, Most Houses on the board, Most Factories, Most Land purchased, things like that. The points available from those are not insignificant, so keeping them in mind is definitely worthwhile.

I really enjoyed my play of City Hall, and I sincerely hope Michael reaches his funding goal on Kickstarter so that I can get my copy and play it some more! So take a look, and even if it's not your thing, consider sharing it with your gaming friends. There's about a week left to pledge, and a long way to the finish line.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Trick Taking - redux

Apparently it's been two years since I made this post about trick taking. I guess I haven't given it too much more thought since then. This morning I was thinking about the new Eight Minute Empire by Ryan Laukat - a really great idea for a quick card drafting game that plays like a real game. Many fillers really don't offer satisfying decision making, where this one packs more of a punch for the time investment. Anyway, I was thinking about Eight Minute Empire, sorry that I didn't think of it myself, and somehow the trick taking ideas came back to mind. This time it wasn't so much about cards from tricks staying in play (though I guess that could still happen) so much as each card in the trick giving you a small action. Here's how I thought it might work:

* Leader plays a card. I'm thinking that other players need not follow suit, but the highest card in the leader's suit wins the trick. Then again, following suit is a quintessential part of trick taking, so maybe it's necessary.
* When a player wins a trick, that player resolves all of the actions on the cards in that trick.
* The larger the value of the card, the weaker the effect. The smaller the value, the larger the effect. In this way, when sloughing a card (because you cannot follow suit), you must balance strong actions with ability to win a trick..

Something just occurred to me - a player with a hand full of low cards could be severely hamstrung by never getting any actions. Perhaps players could get the effect of the card when played, and then the winner of the trick could get a mini-version of the action on each card as well - or a listed supplemental action which is like a weak form of the main action. For example:
Main action - Put X units into play (where "X" depends on the value of the card)
Supplemental action - Put 1 unit into play

* Actions could be anything, really. Perhaps the same sorts of thing as in an Empire Building game - movement around a map, harvesting resources, fighting battles, etc. I like the idea of having a board, in much the same way that I like how Eight Minute Empire uses a board.
* Action types could be grouped by suit, so for example Spades actions allow a player to add units to the board or move them, while Hearts actions revolve around resources, Diamonds actions are like technology, and Clubs actions are like warfare.

Somehow I feel like this sounds better than the cards-stay-in-play idea I had before (I'm not sure why). Maybe I'll think on it some more and see if I can come up with some useful actions for this.

Dallas bound! BGG.con 2012

Seven years ago I heard that the people who run - the premier source for user generated info on just about every board game out there - decided to host a game convention in Texas. On a whim, I decided to go... and I've been back every year since.

Next week will be the 8th year I'll be making the trek (not much of a trek, really - just a 2 hour plane trip) to Dallas FOR BGG.con 2012, and I'm really looking forward to it!

Over the years the convention has gotten bigger and bigger, longer and longer- from a little 300+ person 3-day weekend, to a 1400+ week long affair. Even with a whole week, there's still not enough time to do all of the things I want to do each year. This year I don't have too many specific things I want to do, but I'm sure I'll still figure out a way to miss something :) Here are a few things I'm looking forward to doing over the next week:


* Reading Railroad - Unsatisfied with the state of Reading Railroad, I have finally gotten around to prototyping an alternate version. Actually, this is much closer to my original vision of the idea. For now it'll use the board, track tiles, and cubes from Railroad Tycoon. Since I don't want to lug all that around I am just taking the new stuff (Factory tiles, Player aids, Letter tiles, etc) and I plan to check Railroad Tycoon out of the library.

* Venice: City of Trade - a TMG submission which I enjoyed on first play. I would like to see how it holds up to repeat plays, and how players react to it. Maybe this will be a TMG release in the near future!

* Moctezuma's Revenge - an old prototype I've revived and plan to bring to Proto Alley. I recall thinking this one worked, but was lacking. I hope to see whether it has any potential.

* Winds of Fate - same story as Moctezuma's Revenge, only this one was further along, and I feel like it's got a lot more potential.

* Eminent Domain: Escalation - I'll have my expansion prototype on hand, I'm certain people will be interested in playing it!

* 8 Minute Empire - I might bring my PnP copy of 8 minute Empire, which just funded on Kickstarter. It's a great idea for a game, I'm kinda sorry I didn't think of it myself! I bet it'll be a big hit, even if i have my own ideas about how I'd have done it...

* Kings of Air and Steam - I'll likely have my Kings of Air and Steam prototype with me. If we're lucky, there MAY be a copy in the Hot Games Room!

* Captains of Industry - I'll have my Captains of Industry (TMG 2013 release) prototype with me as well.

Essen titles

* Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - I've been looking forward to this one ever since I heard about it around last April. The gear thing sounds like a great twist (...literally!) on the Worker Placement mechanism.

* Terra Mystica - In researching Essen I read about this game, and it sounds pretty cool. I look forward to trying it out.

* Urbanization - I played this at Essen once, and I'm pretty sure I liked it. I want to play it some more to be sure. I do not know if there will be a copy at BGG.con or not though.

* Suburbia - I played this once at Gen Con, and I enjoyed it... I look forward to playing it again, probably this week.

* Clash of Cultures - I like the idea of civilization games, but in practice they're usually too long, or too busy - I end up not enjoying them like I'd like to. I read a little bit about Clash of Cultures a while ago and it sounded like it had some neat mechanisms in it. I don't know if I'll fall in love with it, but I'd like to take the opportunity to play it at BGG.con.

Special Events

* Puzzle Hunt - one of my favorite events at the con is the Puzzle Hunt. I hope they put it on again this year!

* Disc Golf - last year I went on a Disc Golf outing. It's being arranged again this year, and I was planning on going... but on further thought I think it might be too much hassle and too early in the morning to bother. I can disc golf anytime, I might take a pass in Dallas.

* Game Show - sometimes they have a Game Show event which, depending on the format, can be pretty fun.

I've probably missed a few things, but this was not intended to be a comprehensive To-Do list anyway :)

Michael prefers that we enjoy the convention, so there will not be a TMG booth at BGG.con. Instead,  TMG products will be sold in the Funagain store, and Michael has sponsored the convention with some product. After Gen Con and BGG.con 2010 I think we both like it better this way :)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Moctezuma's Railroad of Fate

I mentioned on Twitter/FB recently that I'm revisiting some of my old designs - finally! In about 2 weeks I'm going to BGG.con, and I hope to bring 3 prototypes with me. I hope to utilize Proto Alley to test these out again and see if they're as promising as I remember - and to find out what each one needs to move forward. Here are the three games I'm bringing, in no particular order:

Moctezuma's Revenge

At the height of the Aztec empire, great temples were built for the Kings. When their time had come, the Kings were entombed in their temples to be revered forever, surrounded by great treasures of the Aztec people! While researching the temples it’s easy to make off with Aztec treasure, but some of the kings are cursed!

Research the temples and collect treasure, but beware of cursed treasure – it’ll count against you! Also, some temples contain clues to the whereabouts of the fabled lost City of Gold! Find all the clues and lead the way to El Dorado!

Odysseus: Winds of Fate

Play as the Sisters of Fate, who observe Odysseus on his voyage from Troy to Ithaca. Not entirely interested in whether he makes it home safe or not, you will bet on the outcome of Odysseus' journey, and then use your influence to make sure your bets pay off.

Reading Railroad 

Use Resource Letters to form words and earn Coins for each letter used. Spend Coins to build connections between cities and collect City Tiles. At the end of the game score points by spelling out words using collected City Tiles.

Hmm... I usually have more colorful descriptions than those above for Winds of Fate and Reading Railroad. Weird. In any case, I think all three of these games have some potential. Let me know which you think sounds the most promising, and what ideas you have for any or all of them. I look forward to your comments!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Heading to Essen, and some "spring" cleaning

Tomorrow I leave for Essen.

I've been waiting several years to say that, and I'm really excited to go to Germany and see the spectacle that is the Essen Game Fair! I'm not sure I'm prepared for the enormity of the show, but that's OK - I count this first trip as a sort of scouting mission to see how Essen goes. I am not sure if or when it'll happen, but I suspect in the future TMG might have a booth there, and it'll be nice to know what to expect before having to do the show "for real."

I got a little lucky with this trip, as I didn't really expect to go and I didn't prepare in advance at all. When it looked possible, I posted online that I was thinking of going, and I got an email from someone offering me a place to stay. I'm pretty sure finding a hotel would have been problematic, so I was happy to get that offer! In exchange for putting me up for the week, my host has asked me to spend some time in his booth, signing copies of Eminent Domain... sounds like a win-win to me!

So if you are at Essen, swing by LocWorks booth (4-230) and say hello! I'll probably be helping demo Ground Floor, and if you buy a copy of Eminent Domain, I'll sign it for you :)

In addition to spending some time in the LocWorks booth, I look forward to seeing what the rest of the con has to offer. I'm not sure I plan to do much in the way of shopping - I know a lot of people rush to buy their most anticipated games, but frankly I'm not sure how I'd get them home, and the one's I'm interested in will be available in the US before too long (specifically T'zolkin: the Mayan Calendar, which will be released by Rio Grande Games before too long). I do have a short list of games I'm interested in checking out though. I hope to see a few of those at the show.

One game I might actually pick up is the new version of Hanabi. I love that game, and have not got a proper copy of it. I like the cards in the new version - the first version is unavailable, and the 2nd edition - even if available - has square cards that are a pain to use. From what I've seen this new version should be easier to read and use.

In other news... 

I've been doing a little bit of "spring cleaning" (only a couple months out of season). I cleaned out a shelf where I kept some of my unpublished prototypes. Some of those are prototypes of my own design, some are prototypes of other people's games. Like an archeologist uncovering an exciting find I came across a wealth of interesting things!

8/7 Central - I came across 2 different prototypes of this card game about running a TV network by my friend Mohan which I worked on with him for a summer several years ago. This game always seemed like a good idea to me, but it also always suffered from the same problem. I think that problem boils down to information overload - it's difficult and cumbersome to try and track each player's schedule of shows, even if you've only got one 1-hour time slot, 5 days a week. I do think the core concept worked, and I remember having fun playing the game though, and if I had infinite time I would definitely like to make this game work.

Moctezuma's Revenge - A game about collecting treasure and avoiding curses. I liked the idea of this one too, and I recall playing the prototype... not sure what stopped me moving forward with it. I think I'm not a big fan of push-your-luck mechanisms, and this game had quite a bit of that in it. This is another one I'd like to revisit sometime.

Blockade Runner - Originally designed for a card game design contest (never entered), then co-developed with another designer, this game was intended to be published by a publisher at one point but that fell through. Then later it was intended to be published by another publisher, and I sold my rights to it in order to facilitate that. I notice the game is not out, which means I believe the rights have reverted, but I'm not sure what good that does me. This quick game of bluffing and double think seems destined to live on the shelf :/

Nursing coop game - I came across a prototype I made of a game my friend Brian wanted to make. He's a nurse, and he had an idea for a cooperative game set in an ER. I thought it sounded cool and I liked the main mechanism he had in mind, so I went home and made a prototype. We played through it once or twice, but then kind of forgot about it.

Reading Railroad - Originally to be titled Conjunction Junction (and I submit that could be a good name for an expansion), Reading Railroad was an idea I had with an online BGDF friend Scott Slomiany. I maintain that it's a fabulous idea, combining a word game with a connection/railroad game. You gain money by spelling words with Scrabble-style letter tiles, and you spend that money to buy track to connect cities. Connecting cities allows you to collect a different type of letter tile (I would actually like them to be little tiny alphabet blocks, with 3 different letters on each). Your final score will be based on words you can spell using those Alphabet blocks. But this game is intended to be one that wordsmiths can play along with their vocabulary-challenged friends, so the end game scoring words are actually found on reference cards - so really you are just collecting specific sets of cubes. You see, a wordsmith could do well making larger words with their Income tiles, leading to more income for buying track, but a player who is not good at word games could still do well with strategic connections and set collection without needing to make big or complicated words.

I entered Reading Railroad into a game design contest once, and it didn't go over very well - even though I actually had people playing and enjoying it at game night. The judges thought it was some underhanded ruse to sell the game to 2 different demographics (word gamers and strategy gamers) - which in a way could be true, but really it was an attempt to make a game that players from both of those genres could enjoy together. I really want to get back to this one some day, as I think it has real potential.

Odysseus: Winds of Fate - A game about making bets on outcomes (of encounters as well as the entire game), then trying to make sure your bets pay off. I tried pretty hard to make this game work, and I was never really happy with it. I think it's got potential, and I'd like to revisit it again sometime.

All For One - One of the oldest designs I ever worked on that was worthy of being published. I'm actually not sure why this one never did get published! David Brain's original design, which I worked on with him for years, was very well received at conventions I brought it to, but never found a publisher. Now I feel like it might be a little old fashioned and in need of an overhaul. One day I'd really like to see this game in print!

Templar - I've been putting some thought into this, my most recent project. Based on what I thought Trajan's mechanism would be, Templar is about a year old at this point... and while I have a prototype made up, I've not tried a playtest yet!

I even found prototypes of published games, such as Gil Hova's Prolix, Alex Rockwell's Homesteaders, Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim's Belfort, and my own Terra Prime! And amongst all that, I found prototypes of other people's games as well:

Smoothie King -When in London 7 years ago, I met Ian Vincent, and played his game based on Power Grid. It was about making Smoothies, and I liked it quite a lot. He sent a prototype home with me, and I frequently wonder why I don't play it again.

Roman Emperors - Another BGDF member Juan Carballal had a game I found very interesting in which players take turns running the Roman Empire. It's not a cooperative game, you want your stint as Emperor to be remembered as the greatest time in Roman history - but since players take turns controlling the Empire, the resources are largely shared. I think the game has a ton of potential, but I don't think the designer and I were seeing eye-to-eye on some of the specifics of how it should work. I'm also not sure what the designer did (if anything) with it since I saw it. I think it would be fun to one day take a stab at making "my version" of that game, and then send that to the designer and seeing what he thinks of it.

Admirals of the Spanish Main - Another game by Juan, we were trying to make a "dice building" game which did a better job than Quarriors, and he came up with a game about hunting pirates in the Spanish Main. It was a good start to what I was looking for, but it was too random, and my friend Andy Van Zandt and I worked on trying to mold it into what I was really looking for... in the end though, many playtesters said that if they're playing a pirate game, they want to BE the pirates, not hunt them, so we eventually gave up on it. I think the game had some good things going for it, but for whatever reason it just wasn't all the way there.

Equilibrium - Shea Parks had a game that I thought was really interesting called Equilibrium. It was like a response to the Deckbuilding craze... each player starts with the same deck, and over time you remove cards from it. Quit when you want, each card in your deck is worth -1vp, and cards played are worth positive vps (most of them based on which cards remain in your deck). I like this game, and think maybe it deserves another look...

Lost Adventure - More friends from BGDF, Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk, made a deduction game with an Indiana Jones theme which I think is fantastic. The only real problem with it might be that the end game phase seems too different from the majority of the game. Also, originally it was "too Euro" and could use a lot more theme to immerse players in the Indiana Jones action. I fear the designers may be overdoing it with the changes they've been making along those lines, but I haven't really been keeping up with their blog about the game as much as I'd like.

It was fun running across and thinking about all these games. Makes me want to spend more time working on them!