Tuesday, March 12, 2013

EmDice - the adventure continues...

The other day, after posting about Eminent Domain: the Dice Game, I put together a draft of the tech board, added costs to the planet tiles*, and gave the game another spin with my roommate. Of course, there's still no end game trigger, but I got to see how well the tech board idea (and the new Survey system) would work. And frankly, they worked pretty well.

* A loooong time ago I had considered making Eminent Domain more of a board game, where you would have an array of face down tiles with the planets on the fronts. You would move your ship among them and use Survey roles to see what's underneath. Or something. Of course, that's not the way I decided to go with EmDo (thank goodness), but the up-side is that I had made tiles with planets on them. They have the prototype planet image as well as an icon for a role symbol (or a +1 vp or +1 hand size). Since i started thinking of a dice game version of EmDo, I felt like tiles might be more appropriate than cards for the planets, and when I went to make a prototype of EmDice to try, I was happy to still have these tiles lying around. Serendipitous!

Planet Tiles

As I just mentioned, there are Planet tiles with planet type (Advanced, Fertile, Metallic) and Cost on the back and type, ability (and a small indicator of the cost) on the front. The costs for these tiles range from 4 to 6, and unlike the card game, most planets specifically cost Warfare or Colonize. The breakdown is something like this:

Adv - T: 3C
Adv - T: 3W
Adv - T: 4C/W
Adv - R: 4C
Adv - R: 4W
Adv - R: 5C/W
Adv - VP: 5C
Adv - VP: 5W
Adv - VP: 6C/W

Fert - P: 3C
Fert - P: 3W
Fert - P: 4C/W
Fert - C: 4C
Fert - C: 4W
Fert - C: 5C/W
Fert - VP: 5C
Fert - VP: 5W
Fert - VP: 6C/W

Met - S: 3C
Met - S: 3W
Met - S: 4C/W
Met - W: 4C
Met - W: 4W
Met - W: 5C/W
Met - VP: 5C
Met - VP: 5W
Met - VP: 6C/W

The idea being that the better effects cost more, and you either must Settle or Attack a planet, or if you get to choose, it costs a little more. I believe each planet will be worth either 1vp or 2vp, with the "VP" planets being worth 1 additional VP.

Tech Board

Across the top of the tech board I put 5 slots with Survey costs (2/3/4/5/6). Above these will be a row of planet tiles - FACE UP so you can see exactly what you'll get (and you can see the cost as well). When taking a Survey role, you can choose the planet in the slot corresponding to the number of Survey symbols you have, or anything cheaper than that. The chosen planet goes FACE DOWN in your Empire, and the planet display is replenished Stone Age style (slide everything to the left and add a new tile from the draw bag to the most expensive slot). Each player of course may Follow and take a planet of their choice that they can afford.

Unlike other roles, I believe I want the Leader to get +2 symbols when choosing Survey instead of the normal +1. This is so that the minimum cost can remain 2 (opponents need to have 2 Survey symbols to Follow and take a planet), while still allowing a player with 0 Survey symbols to call the role and take the 1st planet. I think this maintains the dynamic where the leader basically has a +2 bonus over opponents from the card game. I've always liked that dynamic.

The rest of the tech board contains 4 columns of tech advances - one for each planet type (Advanced, Fertile, Metallic), and one for Diverse (requiring 1 of each planet type). There will be Diverse tech in Escalation and Exotica, by the way. The way this tech board works is that you advance up each track, buying the techs in order. You can have a marker on each track if you like, but you cannot jump straight to a 5-cost Level 2 tech.

My first draft was OK, but needed improvement. It looked like this:
L1 (3-cost / 0vp): [blank]
L1 (3-cost / 0vp): Improved Trade: +Trade symbol
L2 (5-cost / 2vp): Data Network: +Research symbol
L2 (5-cost / 2vp): Specialization: +1vp per Trade role
L3 (7-cost / 5vp): Adaptability: Research symbols are wild.

L1 (3-cost / 0vp): [blank]
L1 (3-cost / 0vp): Improved Production: +Produce symbol
L2 (5-cost / 2vp): Fertile Ground: +Colonize symbol
L2 (5-cost / 2vp): Genetic Engineering: +1vp per Produce role
L3 (7-cost / 5vp): Dissension: When Dissenting, Dissent twice

L1 (3-cost / 0vp): Improved Survey: +Survey Symbol
L1 (3-cost / 0vp): Imperialism: +Warfare symbol
L2 (5-cost / 2vp): Survey Team: When leading Survey, draw a planet out of the bag as well.
L2 (5-cost / 2vp): Scorched Earth Policy: -1 to your Warfare costs
L3 (7-cost / 5vp): Mobilization: After your Role, Attack 1 planet

L1 (3-cost / 0vp): Streamlining: At the end of your turn, you may Dissent
L2 (5-cost / 2vp): I don't remember offhand!
L2 (5-cost / 2vp): Oversight Committee: +1 Die
L3 (7-cost / 5vp): Well Oiled Machine: You may choose a 2nd Role each turn.

I tried to model the techs after those in the card game, and I tried to sort them properly by what part of the game they'd be useful in. It turns out that Researcha nd Colonize are the best symbols, so I made them more expensive, later game techs. By comparison, Survey and Warfare are generally weaker, so I made those both L1 techs. After playing though, it appears that in this version Survey symbols are a bit stronger than in the card game!

I have blank tech spaces on some of the tracks, like the first space on that bottom Favor track in Caylus - it's sort of an investment. You have to research twice before getting to use some cool ability. However, I don't care for that. I would prefer to have the first upgrade in each track be some sort of dice manipulation (I felt that was lacking). So I'll probably get rid of "Survey Team" altogether, pus the Survey and Warfare symbols back a level (maybe even swap them), and repeat that Streamlining one in the first space of each track.

I also realized that things like Dissension are not very strong, so I'll be re-organizing the chart a bit. Currently I'm not sure it's really even possible to get to the high end of the Research tracks before the game ought to be over anyway, so I might have to do something about that.

So I'll be updating that tech board, and I'll need a game end trigger. Those seem to be my bane in every game!

Call for Help

If anybody out there with a little photoshop chops would like to help me out by creating some files for me, then I should be able to get a print and play version of this for people interested in testing it out. It should be pretty easy. For starters I'd like some files people can use as stickers to make dice. It'd just be the role icons in squares of various sizes:
10mm (to fit on a 12mm die)
12mm (to fit on a 14mm die)
14mm (to fit on a 16mm die)

If I can get my old Pagemaker program to make PDFs again, then I could post the tech board once I've updated it. I'm not sure how to do that though - for a while now it's simply refused to export to PDF!


Peter Schott said...

Seth, have you tried one of those "Print to PDF" type printers that can be installed? I know that PrimoPDF and NitroPDF both have drivers for Windows. I can't speak for a Mac, but if you can print at all, you may be able to use one of these drivers to generate the files.

The concept sounds really interesting. I'm intrigued by the dice mechanic so looking forward to more news on this as it develops. (Hopefully try it out, though I don't have a ready supply of blank dice at the moment, I'm seriously considering getting some.)

Also looking forward to the Eminent Domain expansions when they're ready. They sound like they'll be a lot of fun.

Seth Jaffee said...

Strictly speaking, you don't really need fancy dice to try this out. Though that would look nicer, and if there's ever a published version it will certainly have custom dice.

But you can use standard D6's:

I even put post-it notes on my EmDo Central Card Display board to help people who might try it with me.

Seth Jaffee said...

Oh, and about the PDF printer thing - I'll look into that. I definitely need it!

Peter Schott said...

True, wouldn't need custom dice, but the labels would make more sense thematically instead of looking at a chart to remember which number represents each role. Besides, I keep thinking that having a small supply of blank dice might be a good idea. There have been a handful of games I've wanted to test out or print and play that use custom dice.

Seth Jaffee said...

It looks like someone has already made some files for dice stickers! He's going to send them to me, and when I get them I'll post them for people who are interested.

I've never tried it, but I bet you could stick stickers on non-blank dice just fine as well (this may be what I do, since I don't have any blank dice).