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.

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