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!