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.

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