Thursday, March 29, 2012

EmDo Expansion - Detailed update

I need to finalize the EmDo expansion pretty soon and get the thing into production, so to that end I thought I'd list all the new tech cards and other aspects out and comment on them here... hopefully this will help identify what needs to be done before this expansion can go to print!

I've been calling this expansion "Warmonger," but have recently been leaning away from that so as not to raise inaccurate expectations. Currently considering "Escalation," which seems to fit the feel of the expansion a little better (even if the word is not as cool).

End Game Dynamic
I mentioned in a previous post that I was considering a new game end dynamic - when the game end is triggered, you finish out the round and then play 1 full round (rather than just finishing the round and being done right there). I have been liking this more and more, so I'm leaning toward making that the rule for the expansion (and an approved variant for the base game).

Fleet Tile
I do like the fleet tile, but I'm not positive this is exactly how it'll work. It's close though:

Action: Discard 3 Fighters to collect a Destroyer.
Action: Discard 2 Destroyers to put your Dreadnaught into play.
While your Dreadnaught is in play, your Warfare costs are -1.
Research Role: Pay 5 Research or 5 Fighters to flip Fleet to Improved Fleet

Improved Fleet
Action: Discard Fighters, collect 1 Destroyer for every 2 Fighters discarded.
Action: Discard 2 Destroyers to put your Dreadnaught into play.

While your Dreadnaught is in play, your Warfare costs are -2.
During an Attack, you may discard a Dreadnaught to satisfy the Warfare Cost of any planet.

5 players
I have been planning to expand the game to accommodate a 5th player. The following changes will be required to support that:

  • Add 4 cards to each stack. These cards will be marked as "For 5p only"
  • Include a 5th Politics card
  • Add the 8 blue Influence tokens to the supply
  • When the game end trigger occurs, finish the current round and then play 1 final round
I do not believe any further changes need to be made. I added the new end game dynamic discussed above - probably even more important with more players.

New Tech Cards
I am fairly happy with most of the new tech cards, but I've still got some decisions to make. For example, I like the idea of L1 tech cards costing 3 fighters, L2 costing 5 fighters, and L3 costing 7 fighters - it mirrors the Research cost and is therefore easily internalized and remembered. However, I also like the idea of L2 techs costing a Destroyer and L3 techs costing a Dreadnaught. Currently the Advanced/Fertile/Metallic tech cards follow the first format - 3/5/7 fighters (or 3/5/7 Research), and the Diverse tech cards (requiring A+F+M) follow the latter format - 3Fighters/Destroyer/Dreadnaught (or 3/5/7 Research, of course).
  • Should all new L2 costs be the same (either 5F or 1D)? Or is it acceptable to have some cost 5F while others cost 1D? I think the consistency is good to have.
  • Which should it be? 3F/5F/7F, or 3F/1D/1Dn?
  • If Tech cards cost 1 Destroyer or 1 Dreadnaught, does that make it too easy to, say, obtain Annex 1 turn, then immediately use Annex to pay for Well Oiled Machine? I currently have them at 3vp (not 5), but does that make up for it?
L1 Double Time (2 in each stack): Action: Play 2 additional Actions during this Action phase.
I'm very happy with the effect of this card, and the number of copies in the game. I'm not sure about the Exotic icon - should I include that for integration with the Exotic expansion? Or should I just leave that off altogether? I think I am happy with these cards having a Resource on them as well.
L1 Peace Treaty (P) (1 in each stack): Collect 1 Influence when Dissenting a Warfare role.
I am happy with this card. I have decided that the power of Warfare Tech is more appropriate at Level 2, and that the power of Peace Treaty by itself is appropriate for Level 1. I fully expect to hear complaints from both sides - those who complain the card is too weak, since their opponents simply stopped taking Warfare roles and then it wasn't worth any points, and those who complain the card is too strong, because their opponent scored a lot of points off of it. In either case, that's a fairly high level of interaction that some say is missing from the game, and I'll note that the purpose of the Peace Treaty is not to be a big point scorer - it's to slow down a Warmongering opponent! In that respect, if your Peace Treaty scores no points because you're opponent stopped calling Warfare, then it did its job!

L1 Improved Research: Action: Draw 1 card, then remove up to 3 cards in hand from the game.
Originally I had made these purchasable only with Fighters. More recently I standardized the costs for all of the new tech cards, because it's a PITA when each card has some individual cost - I much prefer the ease of play when the costs are easily internalized and remembered. I am fairly happy with these incarnations, and I like having L1 cards with Fighters on them.
L1 Improved Trade: Action: Collect 1 Influence from the supply.
See Improved Research, above.
L1 Freedom of Trade (P): [2 Trade icons] You may follow Trade roles as if they were Produce, and you can Follow Produce roles as if they were Trade.
Since adding 2 trade symbols to this card, I have been happy with it. It's difficult to make good use out of it in the early game, but that's OK with me. I think it has potential to be good later, but that means you either have to take it early and then pursue making it good, or you have to consider taking it later in the game, when you might be able to get a L2 tech instead. With only 1 Trade symbol I don't think it would be attractive enough, so I think I like it as-is. Does it really need TWO trade icons? Is 1 good enough?
L2 Scientific Discovery: Action: Take any tech card costing 3 or less into your hand. Play another action.
This is significantly different than the original version, but it accomplishes what I wanted to accomplish - it lets players get more L1 techs into their decks. I like the "Play another Action" part because I don't think it would be too desirable to just get some Improved tech into your hand to maybe use next turn - instead the card acts as if it IS the new card you just got (by giving you the chance to play it). This card lets you get tech you don't have access to due to your planets, maybe most importantly Double Times. I am fond of this card, and I think I will keep this version of it.
L2 Soldiers of Fortune: Action: Trade a destroyer for 3vp.
I have yet to see this one work very well, but I recently took steps to make Destroyers more important in the game, so I think this card will be reasonable. 3vp is nothing to scoff at.
L2 Scientific Method (P): [Research icon] You may buy 1 additional tech card during a Research role. Costs and prerequisites must be paid for each tech card separately.
Being able to purchase 2 tech cards at a time isn't amazing by itself, but as an ancillary benefit on a card that gives you a Research icon it's not so bad. Especially when you consider that you can purchase 1 card with Research symbols and another with Fighters... I'm pretty happy with this card as-is.
L2 Defense Contract (P): Once per turn: Trade 1 Resource or Fighter for 1 Influence.
A play tester insisted that this card was too powerful. I am not sure I've ever seen it in play in its current incarnation. It definitely seems like a decent enough card, and I think I'm happy with it, but I suppose I should force myself to get it into play more often and see how it feels.

L1 Improved Colonization: Action: Settle 1 planet. Then Settle another planet or +1 Colony.
See Improved Research, above.
L1 Improved Production: Action: Produce 2 Resources.
See Improved Research, above.

L1 Utility (P): You may spend Resources as if they were symbols to Boost or Follow any role.
I had added a Produce icon to this, but then decided that was way too powerful for a L1 tech. This card is good enough without the icon, and has actually seen some good use in my test games. I'm happy with it.
L2 Specialized Production: Action: +1 Influence for each resource of a particular type.
Seems like a no-brainer. Parallel with Specialization. I'm happy with this one.
L2 Spoils of War: Action: Discard any number of Fighters. Produce 2 Resources for each Fighter discarded this way.
This one I'm not so sure about. I upgraded it to be "get 2 resources per Fighter you discard" - and the fact that you can produce a handful of resources as an action (which could be followed by a Trade role) seems like it should be decent. Yet I have not really seen this card used well. I would think it could combo well with Freedom of Trade and Utility. Does this card seem more like a Metallic tech? My thought was that it would be Fertile because it's effect produces Resources, and that's kind of a Fertile thing to do.
L2 Biosphere (P): [Produce icon] [Any Resource Slot] [Any Resource Slot]
I changed the resource slots on this to "Any Resource," which makes it combo well with either Specialized Production/Specialization OR Genetic Engineering/Diverse Markets. That made it a little bit stronger. That and a Production icon and I think I'm happy with this one.
L2 Colony Ship (P): Once per turn and during Colonize actions and roles: You may tuck cards under Colony Ship as if it were a planet. During a Colonize role you may rearrange all Colonies in your Empire.
This card never seemed to get used, until I added "Once per turn..." - allowing you to slowly 'streamline' Colonize cards out of your deck, and then in a Colonize role, use them to flip a planet. Now I think this card is really cool and I'm happy with it. Not sure about the wording though. My intent was that players could tuck colonies under it just as if it were a planet, including during a Colonize Action or Role. Should that be the case? Or should you ONLY get to tuck colonies once per turn, then get them all off at once with a colonize role? In either case, what's the best wording for this, and how will it fit on the card?

L1 Improved Warfare: Action: Collect 2 Fighters or Attack 1 Planet.
See Improved Research, above.

L1 Improved Survey: Action: Draw 3 cards.
See Improved Research, above.

L1 Thorough Scanning (P): You may draw 2 fewer cards during a Survey role. If you do, you may keep 1 additional Planet.
I've been happy with this all along, and still am.
L2 Deep Space Probes: Action: Search the Planet deck and discard pile for any 1 planet. Shuffle the planet deck and discard and place the chosen planet on top. Play another action.
This one is a little tricky to use well, which is why I added the "play another action" clause. It would work nicely with Survey Team or Mobilization, but that's not the point... is it useful on it's own? I think it's useful enough. It's one of those cards where you have to really know what you're doing to use it well, and will therefore probably not see a lot of use, but I think it's OK to have some cards like that.
L2 Dreadnaught Technology: Action: Collect your Dreadnaught.
I think I like this one as-is. I'm considering improving it by not making you trade in a Destroyer. Frankly, if you have Improved Fleet, then you can already change Dreadnaught Tech and another Destroyer into a Dreadnaught - but this card is still a discount if you haven't flipped your Fleet tile. I don't know if that's good enough, and most of the time this is purchased I think it's just for the Destroyer icon. Yeah, maybe I'll just make it "Get a Dreadnaught" - you can only have 1 at a time anyway. A lot of the time that will translate to "Action: get 2VP, once." which is probably fair.

Edit: I have decided to change this to "Collect your Dreadnaught."

L2 Warfare Technology (P): You may spend Fighters as if they were research symbols during Research roles.
I have seen this in play, when it was combined with Peace Treaty. It can be really good. The effect is definitely L2 in power, so I've made it a L2 tech. I think I'm happy with that.
L2 Wealth of Knowledge (P): You may use standard Survey cards to Boost (not Follow) any role.
I continue to like this one a lot as-is.
L2 Synthesize: Action: Search your deck and discard pile for any card and put it into your hand. Shuffle your deck and discard pile to create a new deck. Play another action.
I continue to like this a lot as-is. Currently it has "Any Resource" in the corner - should I add a Fighter as well? I suspect people will use it for the action more than anything else anyway.
L2 Destroyer Technology: Action: Collect 2 Destroyers.
After upping this to 2 Destroyers rather than just 1, I really like it.
L2 Midnight Oil: Action: Choose a Role. Opponents may Follow or Dissent as normal.
This is a new one, and hasn't been in play too much yet, but it seems cool. I currently have 2 Exotic icons on the card, but that's probably not too good. Maybe I should put a resource and a Fighter instead?
L2 Oversight Committee (P): Hand Size +2
I like this card. I moved it tot he Diverse stack to make room for Warfare Tech, which struck me as a Metallic tech (while Oversight Committee strikes me as a Diverse tech).
L2 Military Campaign (P): You may attack FACE UP planets in opponents' Empires. Spend 1 Dreadnaught and Fighters equal to the Influence value of the Planet. Opponent may discard a Dreadnaught to cancel this attack. If they don't, they collect 2 Influence ("Reparations") from the supply.
This has proven to be a fairly interesting dynamic in some of our 2p games. I haven't really seen it in 3 or 4 player games, but the Reparations seems to make it good and fair. I recently added that a player can discard a Dreadnaught to cancel the attack, and I'm not sure if I like that or not. I may remove it.
L3 Annex: Action: Attack a FACE DOWN planet in an opponent's Empire and put it face up in yours. They collect 2 Influence ("Reparations") from the supply.
I think this is good and fair as well. I like it. And I like that it's a Dreadnaught that you can hold in your hand.
L3 Well Oiled Machine (P):You may take an additional Role during your Role phase.
I like this one. That the opponents can follow or dissent keeps it from being broken at all.
L3 Wingman (P): [Destroyer icon]
I like the idea of a Destroyer you can spend every turn, but I haven't really seen this in play yet. Is it good enough for a L3 tech?

New Planets
Hostile Planets: Cost- 1 Destroyer, effect- 1 Fighter icon. I really like these. Thus far I've been saying you can only use them once per turn - that's sort of how the other icons work (but admittedly only because you never had the opportunity to count them more than once in a turn). But I'm beginning to think that's too fiddly. It would certainly make them more powerful, but would it be TOO powerful to use them more than once in a turn (for example if you attack 2 different planets in a turn, via War Path, or one in your Action phase and another in your Role phase)? Also, I believe I only have 3 of these (one of each type). Should I make another 3 (so 6 total)? Or is 3 enough?

Civilized Planets: Each of the Civilized planets has the Peace treaty effect on it. I like these. I believe I have 6 of them (2 of each type). I might like to decrease the cost of at least half of them - I think I've increased the average planet costs a little too much. So maybe 3 of them are worth fewer points and only cost 3, while the other three are worth more points and cost 5?

"Action" Planets: There are 6 planets which each have one of the basic actions on it:
  • Draw 2 cards
  • Attack 1 Planet
  • Settle 1 planet
  • Produce 1 Resource
  • Trade 1 Resource for 1 Influence
  • Remove up to 2 cards in hand from the game
I like these, and have been able to make good use of them, especially in combination with Double Time. But I wonder if their effect shouldn't be amplified a little bit - why not make them the Improved versions..? At least some of them, like the Survey and the Produce action seem so weak on their own. However, every time I have this thought, I decide in the end to keep them as-is.


jbmoby said...

Great minds think alike?

Whatever it is eventually called, this is an automatic purchase.

Sean McCarthy said...

Eminent Domain: Uncivil Procedure. You know you want to. :)

Anonymous said...

We've been trying the extra turn at game end variant, and we like it so much we're making it a permanent house rule. I hope it's made 'official'. It brings the game to a less jolting end.

Expansion names:

a) Eminent Domain: Conquest
b) Eminent Domain: Armed Conquest
c) Eminent Domain: Fleets
d) Eminent Domain: Fleets of Conquest
e) Eminent Domain: Arms for Conquest

The last two if you're not into the whole brevity thing. (Yes, a quote from a movie that quotes itself.)

The name doesn't matter though: a 5-player expansion, fleet stuff, and those new techs--I'll buy it even if you call it "Eminent Domain: Hello Kitty".

Seth Jaffee said...

Thanks for the title suggestions, they got me thinking...

I still kinda like "Escalation," but I'm not married to it. I kinda still like "Warmonger," though admittedly mostly due to being used to it.

I definitely plan to use that game end dynamic in the expansion, and probably support it as a recommended variant for the base game as well.

Today I played a couple of games where my friend and I each started with one Permanent tech card in play. In the first game John started with Oversight Committee and I started with Abundance. He won by a landslide (like 75-45), mostly because I did a bad job trying to flip planets in the early game, and also made some ridiculously bad Research choices. In the 2nd game John had Industrialism and I had Fertile Ground. I won that one by 8 (66-58), which was probably to be expected since Fertile Ground is probably stronger than Imperialism. I combo'ed it with Utility and Biosphere for more Production icons and storage slots.

Seth Jaffee said...

I am pretty sure that "Wingman" is not worth anything.

I think I might try adding 2 Fighters to it. I also think it could use a different name, so for the time being I think I'll call it "Red Squadron."

I also think that to clarify how Fighter icons (and the Destroyer icon) work, I'll phrase it something like this:

When [~this] comes into play, and at the start of each turn, place a Fighter token on the Fighter icon on this card. You may spend this token as if it were a Fighter in your Empire.

Clive said...

I like the direction this Warmonger expansion is headed. I also like Warmonger as the name. Escalation is too random for me...but to each their own. Warmonger suggests a build up of vessels - 'rattling the sabres'.

Look forward to more updates and for the release :)