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.