Friday, December 20, 2013

Rondel Role Selection: A theme emerges!

After a hearty discussion on social media, a theme has emerged for my latest game idea: the Rondel Role Selection thing.

Players are geneticists (or mad scientists), collecting samples of various species in order to splice them and create hybrid beasts of myth and legend...

For example, instead of combining Red, Yellow, and Blue resources into Orange, Green, and Purple resources, players will collect Human, Horse, and Bird DNA, and splice them to make Centaurs, Harpies, and Hippogriffs.

Rather than buying Buildings which confer benefits, players will consume their DNA samples researching the specimen to understand Traits. Mechanically this is the same thing, you exchange your resources for a card that gives you some benefit.

I currently have an even/symmetric distribution of abilities on buildings. I tend to start that way. Multiple different people suggested changing that to make each 'color' have some character - like one color gives you abilities which help you move around the rondel so you can take the action you want more often or at lower cost, another color helps you collect resources more efficiently, and maybe a third is generally worth more points. I could tie that in with actual traits of the beasts represented by the resources... like birds can fly, so the bird DNA could purchase traits that help you move around the rondel, while Humans have opposable thumbs, so maybe they're better at collecting resources (which in this game means getting samples of creatures).

As I mentioned in the previous post about designing Theme-first vs Mecahnics-first, as soon as you have a theme, it helps direct the rest of the mechanisms in the game. I had originally used just 3 basic resources and 3 secondary resources, because using the color wheel made it easy to remember which resources combine to make what. It's a pain to remember X+Y=A, but everyone knows Yellow and Blue make Green... But now that I have a theme, the color mnemonic is no longer necessary - it's relatively easy to remember that a Horse token and a Bird token combine to make the thing that looks like it's got horse parts and bird parts (even if you can't recall what a Hippogriff is called).

So now that I'm not constrained to 3 primary and 3 secondary resources, I am free to add additional resources to the mix... Snakes, Fish, and Lions for example. That gives a lot of possibilities for secondary "resources":

Man + Horse = Centaur
Man + Snake = Gorgon
Man + Bird = Harpy
Man + Lion = Sphynx
Man + Fish = Mermaid
Bird + Horse = Hippogriff
Bird + Snake = Wyvern
Bird + Lion = Griffin
Fish + Horse = Hippocamp (Sea Horse)
Fish + Lion = Merlion (Sea Lion)
Lion + Snake = Chimera (? usually part donky as well)

I don't have anything for the following combinations, but maybe not every combination is necessary...
Bird + Fish = ?
Horse + Snake = ?
Horse + Lion = ?
Fish + Snake = ?

I believe I want the hybrid creatures (the secondary resources) to be worth 1 vp apiece. I think I want to have some Contracts or something like that which translate some hybrid creatures (in some combination) into extra VPs - but some players didn't think that was necessary. 

Instead they wanted the collection of traits that you collect in front of you to be more meaningful - like maybe you turn sets of those in for extra vps - like you're cobbling together traits to create new creatures. This could work, but in my mind, combining basic resources into secondary resources wasn't supposed to be the final step in the process. I'm not sure why but it feels anticlimactic to me. I envisioned collecting basic resources, combining them into secondary resources, then combining those into VPs via "buildings." I'll have to give this part some more thought...

But first, I probably want to consider expanding the game to 6 basic resources. I think I can still do that with 7 action tiles - maybe each action allows you to do any 1 of three things (as a Privilege maybe you can do 2 of them)... Collect a basic resource, combine two different compatible basic resources, or research a trait based on a different basic resource. That may be a lot of info per action tile, but maybe not too much.

I'll be sure to post the progress of this game. Leave a comment with our thoughts - I'd love to see what you think about this theme, or the mechanics of this game!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Templar" Rules revisited

I just wanted to update the rules here, for my own benefit, for the Knights Templar Rond-cala game. With my new Rondel game showing promise, perhaps I'll have the impetus to revisit the prototype of this one as well...

Updated: 10/26/14 after first playtest

The Knights Templar

A game of influence and scandal for 2-4 Crusaders

  • 64 Building tiles (16 in each of 4 player colors)
    • 16 Churches
    • 16 Castles
    • 16 Farms
    • 16 Banks
  • 4 Player boards
  • 48 Action cubes (12 in each of 4 player colors)
  • 16 Knight figures (4 in each of 4 player colors)
  • 1 Game board
  • 30? Enemy tokens
    • 10? Slav
    • 10? Saracen
    • 10? Prussians
  • 28 Troop tiles (7 for each player)
  • 150? points worth of Influence tokens
  • Each player receives the following in their player color:
    • Player board
    • 4 Knight figures
    • 16 Building tiles (place them in the indicated spaces on the player board)
      • 4 Churches
      • 4 Castles
      • 4 Farms
      • 4 Banks
    • 12 Action cubes (place 2 in each Action bin on the Player board)
    • 7 Troop tokens (numbered 3 through 9)

  • Lay out the Game board and distribute the Enemy tokens to the regions indicated by icons. Each player takes their Level 1 Castle building and places it on their indicated starting region along with one of their Knight figures.
  • Place the Influence tokens in a supply pile. Choose a starting player at random and you are ready to begin!

    Game Play

  • Starting with the Start player, play will progress clockwise throughout the game. A player's turn consists of the following sequence:

    1. Choose any one Action bin on your player board.
    2. Resolve the action associated with that Action bin.
    3. Distribute the Action cubes from the chosen bin.

    1. Choose an Action
    Select any one of the six Actions on the Rondel that has at least 1 Action cube in its bin.

    2. Resolve the Action
    There are six Action spaces on the Rondel, though 2 of them are the same. Each of the Actions resolves differently. In each of the following descriptions, "X" refers to the number of Action cubes in the Action bin.
    • TRAVEL: There are 2 different TRAVEL spaces on the Rondel. The travel action allows you to move your Knights on the game board.
      • Distribute X movement points between your Knight figure(s).
      • Entering any region costs 1 movement point.
      • Leaving a region occupied by an enemy token costs 1 additional movement point.
    • MUSTER: The muster action allows you to muster troops to take crusading with your knights. 
      • Each Farm you have erected adds 1 to the number of action cubes in the Muster bin. 
      • Collect the next Troop token from your supply - its cost must be less than or equal to X.
      • Your board has 2 spaces to hold Troops. Each Farm you have erected confers an additional space to hold a Troop token. [might reduce this to 1]
    • CRUSADE: The crusade action allows you to fight Enemies, scoring influence and clearing regions to make space for more buildings.
      • Choose 1 region containing one of your Knight figures and an Enemy token.
      • Determine the Enemy Strength by checking the Enemy Strength track for the appropriate enemy type.
      • Each Troop token adds 1 to the number of action cubes in the Crusade bin. If the Enemy Strength is less than or equal to X, you have won the Crusade. Otherwise you have not.
      • When you win a Crusade, collect Influence tokens equal to the Enemy Strength and then move the Enemy token to the appropriate Enemy Strength track. 
      • When you lose a Crusade, do nothing.
    • INFLUENCE: The influence action allows you to gain Influence tokens by spreading the word of the Order.
      • Each Church you have erected adds 1 to the number of action cubes in the Influence bin.
      • Collect X Influence tokens from the supply.
    • BUILD: The build action allows you to erect buildings that confer influence and benefits when resolving the various actions in the game.
      • Each Bank you have erected adds 1 to the number of action cubes in the Build bin. 
      • Erect a Building tile costing X or less from your player board onto a region on the board occupied by one of your Knights. (Buildings of level 1/2/3/4 cost 3/5/7/9)
      • A building cannot be erected in a region with an Enemy tile.
      • Each region may only contain 1 building.
      • Only the lowest un-built level of each building may be erected.
      • Collect influence equal to the level of the building erected (1, 2, 3, or 4)
        • Building Types:
          • Bank: Add 1 to the action cubes in the Build action bin.
          • Farm: Add 1 to the action cubes in the Muster action bin. You may house 1 additional Troop tile.
          • Castle: Place an additional Knight token into play at the new Castle.
          • Church: Add 1 to the action cubes in the Influence action bin.
    3. Distribute Action cubes
    Take all Action cubes from the bin associated with the chosen Action and distribute them, 1 at a time, clockwise around the Rondel. See example diagram.

    Game End
    "God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom"
    When the last Influence token is taken from the supply, finish out the round so that each player has had the same number of turns*. At this point, the Order of the Temple has become so powerful that King Philip, threatened by the Order and deeply in debt to it, issues an arrest order for all Templar Knights and begins to have the Order disbanded.

    * Players may still collect influence after the supply runs out. Keep track of this influence using some other token.

    After all players have finished their turn in the round in which the Influence supply runs out, the End Game phase begins. Flip the starting Castle buildings (in the Paris region) face down - they are considered destroyed. Whenever a building (or knight) is destroyed, each player collects 1 Influence for each building of that type they still have in play.

    Then destroy all buildings (and knights) in regions adjacent to a region that's already been destroyed. Flip the destroyed buildings face down (simultaneously) and collect influence for like buildings (and knights) each time.

    Continue this wave of destruction until all buildings and knights have been destroyed. The player with the most Influence is the winner.

    Theme-first vs Mechanics-first design (also Yet Another New Game Idea (YANGI)... Rondel Role Selection)

    Theme-first vs Mechanics-first Game Design

    Frequently in game design forums, the topic of "Theme-first vs Mechanics-first" comes up. It's a common question asked of designers in interviews as well. In game design circles, this is the Chicken/Egg discussion all over again.

    Every designer has their own answer to whether they start with a theme or a mechanism, and many of them would probably agree that both methods are feasible. I've personally done it both ways, but I think my preference is probably theme-first, which tends to make for a more thematically consistent game.

    But in reality, I think it's an iterative process. Whether you begin with "I want to make a Civ game" or "I want to make a game with just 16 cards, where each card has an Action, an Icon (supporting one of those actions), and a Color"... either one can end up in the same place. In the case of my recent game MicroCiv, I started with that mechanism, and I needed a theme that could support 4 different aspects. I decided pretty quickly that a Civ game could support that with actions such as Conquer, Explore, Discover (technologies), and Culture. Once I had that theme, I was able to more specifically define each of the actions in my game, and it informed the other components necessary (territories and technologies).

    I think most of the time I start with a theme, but even in those cases I might have a main mechanism in mind. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that I often have a main mechanism in mind, I look for a theme to use it with, and then I let the theme direct how the rest of the game shapes up. So even when starting with a mechanism, I pretty much approach a design "theme-first."

    That said, I have a new game idea, now fully prototyped and played, and this one has no theme as yet. It's been completely mechanics first, and as a result, the game feels very much like a Eurogame to me... which was kind of my goal, so I guess that's a good thing. However, it's possible the game is lacking due to a missing theme.

    TL;DR Summary:
    Even if you start with a main mechanism, it's best to find a theme early and let that drive later design decisions - it makes for a lot more thematic consonance and therefore a stronger game.

    YANGI: Rodel Role Selection

    Here's the current status of this new game, which has no title or theme at all, so for now I'll call it "Rondel Role Selection":

    I have always really liked the idea of the Rondel mechanism. Mac Gerdts has built several games around this mechanism, and several of those have been excellent - I've liked Antike, Hamburgum, and the best one, Navegador. I didn't as much care for Imperial, but the Rondel works well there as well.

    Stefan Feld used a variant of the Rondel in his recent hit Trajan, combined with a Mancala mechanism. When I read about that, I had an idea how that "Rond-cala" mechanism might work (as it turns out, I was wrong), so I have some designs on using my incorrect assumption for the Rond-cala. One of these days I'd like to get back to that. Somehow the idea of a Rondel came back to me the other day, and I started to devise another game...

    In this new idea there is a rondel, made up of 7 Action tiles laid out in a circle. There's an 8th spot in the circle which does not have an action tile, in that space a pawn is placed. Unlike other Rondel games, this game just uses 1 pawn, not 1 pawn per player.

    On your turn, you will advance the pawn clockwise around the Rondel - the 1st space is free. If you want to move further you can, but you must leave a coin on each space you pass over. Whichever action tile you land on, you pick up... you get to keep any coins that are on that tile, and this is the action you will do. After the action is completed, that tile will be replaced in the open space left by the pawn. So the order of the tiles will change over the course of the game, as players decide to jump ahead on the Rondel.

    The actions on the Rondel are actually a Role Selection game. Like Puerto Rico, there's a privilege for the player taking the action, and then there's an action that all players get to participate in. In all cases, players may choose to take a coin instead of the action or the privilege.

    The actions in the game are:
    * Buy Red cubes for $1 OR Sell Green cubes for money (Privilege = Collect Red cube)
    * Buy Blue cubes for $1 OR Sell Orange cubes for money  (Privilege = Collect Blue cube)
    * Buy Yellow cubes for $1 OR Sell Purple cubes for money  (Privilege = Collect Yellow cube)
    * Buy any cube for $2 OR Build any building (Privilege = Buy any cube for $1)
    * Combine Red and Yellow cubes into Orange for $1 OR Buy a Blue building (Privilege = Combine Red and Yellow cubes into Orange)
    * Combine Red and Blue cubes into Purple for $1 OR Buy a Yellow building (Privilege = Combine Red and Blue cubes into Purple)
    * Combine Blue and Yellow cubes into Green for $1 OR Buy a Red building (Privilege = Combine Blue and Yellow cubes into Green)

    Then there are buildings of each color that give you some points and abilities/benefits which I hope will encourage players to want different actions or specific actions, which will make them want to jump ahead on the Rondel.

    The game will end when one of the Building stacks runs out, and at that time players will count the score from all of their buildings, plus 1 point for each Green, Orange, and Purple cubes (no points for Red, Yellow, or Blue cubes)

    So far the game definitely works, and while it definitely needs some tweaks to the buildings (and a theme!), I think it's well on the way to being a proper "Mediocre Euro."

    One small step for games, One giant leap for game kind!

    In 2012, Lover Letter and Coup came out and grabbed the attention of the hobby game world. These two games have basically defined a new genre of gaming - a genre that's always existed, but until now hasn't really been "a thing." These two games have started a "microgame" revolution, and over the last year more and more people have jumped on board.

    What is a "microgame?" Simply put, a microgame is a game with minimal components and a minimal footprint. Love Letter and Coup consist of just 15 or 16 cards and some tokens, they are highly portable, don't take very long, but still provide a fun and interesting game experience.  As such, these types of games make excellent fillers - they fit in nicely while waiting for people to arrive, or while another game wraps up. They're also great to take on the go, so you can always have a game on hand. Most of these microgames can be played almost anywhere, not taking up much table space.

    Over the last year or so, the whole idea of microgames has become very popular. Many games have been promoted with portability as a selling point, and people are excited to get a lot of bang for just a little buck. As it happens, these low component games tend to come with a lower price tag as well, and when the prices of board games have been climbing, I'm sure the lower cost of entry is a factor. Right this minute I'm listening to Dice Hate Me's State of Games podcast which is all about mini, micro, and portable games, in which Chris, Darrell, and TC each list off their favorite portable games.

    Michael is a fan of this format, and to take it a step further he's happy to have found a way to deliver such a game in an affordable manner. So long as a game does not exceed 1/4" in thickness and 3 ounces in weight, the USPS considers it a letter with a non-machinable surcharge rather than a parcel, which makes a huge difference in shipping cost. He's already leveraged this discovery in 2 Kickstarter projects: Dungeon Roll Winter Promo had 5 cards and a punchboard, and Michael's own Werewolf style game, Templar Intrigue, had just 10 cards. Due to the inexpensive shipping and minimal components of these games, Michael has been able to use a Kickstarter format he's been wanting to use for a long time: Pay what you want. He's included a minimum just to cover delivery, but he's allowed backers to pay whatever they want beyond that. Those 2 projects were successful, so TMG is at it again with Coin Age, by Adam McIver. Coin Age is currently on Kickstarter, and it has caught fire - the game consists of merely a map card and pocket change.

    Edit: Due to the overwhelming success of the Kickstarter project so far, an additional map has been added, and we're likely to reach another stretch goal to add a 3rd!

    This format is beginning to catch on, and mini- or microgames have been seen on Kickstarter from several publishers. Games such as Council of Verona, from Crash Games, for example. Or their 5 card so called "nanogame" Where Art Thou Romeo in the same universe (currently on Kickstarter as well). Patrick Nickell has embraced the Pay What You Want format for WATR as well.

    As I've posted before, I've thrown my hat in the microgame ring... MicroCiv is a 2 player (maybe 3 player) civ game with just 18 cards and 16 tiles, which I will eventually re-theme to the Eminent Domain universe. In addition to that, I designed a free game for my Twitter followers called Quick Change, which uses nothing but 10 coins and 3 dice per player. I'm playing around with a card game similar to Quick Change which is playable with a standard playing card deck.

    TMG has some more portable games lined up from some of our favorite designers that I'm not at liberty to talk about yet. It's interesting to see the breadth of design space with such strict component limits. At we have a Game Design Showdown each month which similarly challenges designers to come up with a game based on some arbitrary theme, mechanics, or component restrictions. This reminds me of those challenges.

    On one hand, it's exciting to see the enthusiasm people have for these small games. On the other hand, for the pessimistic lover of deeper games, it's worrisome that people may gravitate away from the 1-2 hour long strategy games in favor of these 15-30 minute games which are, almost by definition, not as deep or complex. I'm pretty sure that concern is for nothing, but it would be a shame to see my favorite types of games go by the wayside because they're just not as profitable as microgames - they take a lot more time and work to create, they cost a lot more to produce, and they cannot be delivered in any logistically efficient manner.

    So when looking at these small games, I try to keep an eye out for that "bang for the buck" metric. I'm personally most interested in games with as much depth, complexity, and replayability as can be packed into these tiny packages. As a player of economic, resource management eurogames, I'm especially excited by one of the TMG submissions we've got right now... it's a small game, just 30 or so cards and some markers, but it plays like a full-on worker placement, resource management, economic strategy game. I'm looking forward to that one, and I'm hoping I can pack as much punch into MicroCiv as possible. On the down side, complexity tends to make a game less accessible, but on the up side, it makes the game more replayable and in my opinion it makes for a much more worthwhile game experience.

    One more thing about these PWYW kickstarter projects... I'm happy to find that with such a small component cost, people seem to be willing to pay more than the minimum. That seems to indicate that, so long as the component cost isn't too high, people really do value game content after all! I wonder if that would work for a bigger, more expensive game, or if a "Pay What You Want, minimum $30" would effectively translate into "this game costs $30." At < $5 it's easier to throw in an extra buck or two, but at $30 I'm not sure people will be so willing.

    Sunday, December 08, 2013

    Almost 1000 Twitter followers - time to celebrate!

    At the time of this posting, I have 990 Twitter followers. That's not a whole lot, all told, but it seems like a lot to me... so I feel like it's something worth celebrating.

    I don't tweet as much as I'd like, and I don't always have something interesting to say... but whenever I ask, the followers who reply invariably mention that they're interested in game news and game design stuff.

    So what better way to celebrate this milestone than with a game to play?

    When I hit 1000 Twitter followers, I will share with them a new, fun little game that I have designed just for this occasion!

    I just played this game a bunch and refined the rules, and my roommate and I had a good time with it. It uses components you have lying around the house, so you can create a copy of the game with no trouble or cost at all (approx. $0.64 per player - $1.39 per player if you go out and buy dice). So if you want to get the rules to this game, then follow @sedjtroll on Twitter!

    Sunday, December 01, 2013

    The Lesser of Two Evils, Winds of Fate v5.0 and MicroCiv v3.0 - More testing and Further updates

    Josh Tempkin is a guy from Maryland who comes into Tucson once a year for Thanksgiving. A few years ago he contacted me out of the blue saying he would be in town and asking if there happened to be a chance to do some gaming while he was here. So every year since then Josh will come over for an evening or two for some games, and since he's a designer type, we'll often play some prototypes. So there you go, when going to a new place, sometimes you can contact the gaming community there and make a new friend, just like that! As a side note, last night I found out that I went to high school with his cousin (small world, I guess).

    Friday and Saturday Josh came over and we played a few games, including a dice game of his called Lesser Evil, Odysseus: Winds of Fate, and my attempt at a deeper-than-average microgame: MicroCiv.

    Lesser Evil

    Since this is Josh's game, I don't want to say too much about it (I don't know how public it is). As a dice game, it wasn't my favorite type of game to begin with, and in this case I didn't feel like I had the flexibility I would have liked in using the tools I was given to deal with my die rolls.

    There's a dynamic that I dislike in games wherein you are forced to make a choice, then find out later (based on a die roll) if you chose correctly. This dynamic exists in some well respected games such as Stefan Feld titles Macao and Bruges - so it's obviously not a "bad" dynamic... just one I don't care for. Lesser Evil had a bit of that in it.

    Finally, as the title suggests, it seems like when presented with a meaningful decision in the game, it's often trying to decide between 2 bad options... which is a feeling I also don't care for.

    So all in all, while Lesser Evil was a solid game mechanically, it was really not my style of game, and it served to reinforce in my mind how I don't care for that "insufficient info" dynamic.

    Odysseus: Winds of Fate

    After the recent playtests of WoF at BGGcon, and the revamping of the game that followed, I was really excited to play the latest version of the game. I spent much of Thanksgiving day updating the prototype, and I was all ready to see a great leap of progress when it hit the table, as I was finally incorporating some of the comments from several years ago that have been percolating but have never been tried.

    While some of the additions did feel good, unfortunately the playtest was pretty much a "crash and burn." This was pretty disappointing, because I expected it to work at least as well as last weeks games... though to be honest I did have some reservations about some of it.

    Some designers will tell you that you shouldn't change more than 1 variable test-to-test, so that if the game stops working you'll know what broke it. I don't subscribe to that. Not to pat my own back or anything, but I feel like most of the time I can compartmentalize how a given change will (or has) affected the game, and so I don't mind changing multiple variables, and if/when that does screw the game up, I don't mind (I actually kind of enjoy) figuring out which thing (or combination of things) caused the problem. I find that progress is far too slow if I only change 1 aspect or variable at a time. Testing time is a commodity in short supply, and there just isn't time to play a whole game just to make sure one small tweak does what I thought it would do.

    In this case, I made several big changes. Some of those did not work like I wanted them to, while others did seem promising. Here are some of the things I tried, based on old ideas from years past, as well as recent comments from BGGcon playtests:

    * Change payout for Timeline and Destiny bets.
    I had most recently been using 30vp divided evenly between players who bet correctly. Some of last weeks players didn't like how that didn't work the same way a bet on a horse race would work, and they suggested making the payoff based on the total number of bets. So instead of 30vp, make it Xvp divided evenly between players making the correct Destiny bet, where X is some multiple of the total number of Destiny bets placed (correct or incorrect). That way, when placing a bet, you're adding to the prize pool, rather than further subdividing a static number.

    I wasn't in love with this idea, as the 30vp seemed to be working the way I wanted it to, and this new system seemed like it would likely be very similar, but more mathy and confusing to explain, but in principle it did seem stronger thematically, so I thought I'd give it a try. While explaining the game I immediately realized it was going to be a problem. The comment had come up late in the game at BGGcon, when there was already a number of bets out there, so there was something to be won by placing a bet. But when there are no bets out there, the incentive to put one out there is very small. There would need to be some starting prize pool, or there's no reason to bet. One solution is to force people to begin the game with some Destiny bets, which might be a good idea anyway. That would seed the prize pool with N bets worth of prize. Another solution to that is to remove the standard 2vp per bet in your inventory, so the ONLY way you can score is by placing that bet... but I don't like that for a few reasons. Another solution is to add a minimum payoff, which is just more pieces and more rules to govern this small piece of the game. A variation on that last solution is to make that minimum 30vp and then never increase it - that is to say go back to what I had that worked :)

    * Remove all in-game vp and make it all Bet cubes.
    I thought this sounded very elegant, but in combination with another change it caused a bit of a problem. I will see if I can salvage this idea, because if I can avoid a score track, or vp chits, then that would be nice. I'd love to just count up score at the end of the game.

    * Cube icon = Get cube OR place bet.
    This was a way to get more betting into the game, but in combination with the change above (get cubes instead of vp), there were an awful lot of these icons around, and as a result, players could place an awful lot of Timeline bets and Destiny bets, potentially more than 1 at a time. I didn't like that dynamic, especially if not restricted as to where you can place your Timeline bets. It led to a lot of last second betting on the obviously correct outcome.

    * Path bets are all free, and every turn.
    Something I tried at BGGcon (in the 2nd game, but not the first) was allowing players to place a 'free' Path bet (from the general supply) each round. This turned out to be a really good addition, and one I'd intended but forgot about. The idea is that path bets communicate your intent and allow for temporary collaboration or alliances between players. When you had to place earned bets as path bets, there were far fewer path bets out there, which was not as good.

    Path bets used to pay off 6vp divided between bets, and I liked that level of payoff. However, originally it cost you 2vp because you had to give up a bet chip, so the net payoff was 4vp if you were alone, or 1vp if another player shared your bet. When moving to an "all cubes" payoff/scoring system, the idea was that you would simply collect the cube off the board (which came from the general supply), netting you 2vp. If you were alone in the bet, you get an additional cube (net 4vp). This seems in line with my desired balance. I think I liked this change, so maybe possible to maintain the "score only at the end" format. I might restrict the Path bets to 2 cubes per path, to avoid all players piling on to the same path, further differentiating them, and maybe strengthening the temporary alliance aspect.

    * Timeline and Destiny bets are earned, you CAN place Timeline bets where other bets are.
    At BGGcon we played that you got a free Path bet each round, AND each round you could place one of your earned cubes onto either a Destiny card or the Timeline. However, I restricted Timeline bets to placing only where no other bet exists. There was some discussion about whether that was necessary. I think it's absolutely necessary at the outset (Troy Encounter) to create player differentiation, but I'm not sure it's really necessary for earned Timeline bets. I still like that restriction though, as it lends a lot of value to the "move Bet" reward tiles, which I even powered up to "move your bet up to 2 spaces" rather than just 1 space.

    In this new test I removed the restriction for earned bets, and it became a big problem, especially with the frequency players could earn bets. When it becomes obvious the game will end, you can pile 2-3 bets on the correct Timeline space fairly easily, which is a bit ridiculous - it's supposed to be a long-term, strategic bet. This will get better with more limited opportunity to bet, but I still think I prefer the restriction (especially with the beefed up Move Bet reward).

    Rather than giving each player the opportunity to place their cubes as Timeline/Destiny bets each round, I would like to go back to an "earned bet" format, where you have to get some reward allowing you to place those bets. So the main betting will be the free Path bets, and the initial Timeline (and Destiny) bets, and there are several opportunities to place more Destiny bets over the course of the game, just not every turn for all players.

    I like that the opportunity allows you to invest early in a particular outcome, but if it becomes clear that another outcome will occur, you can start investing in that one... but if you can get your early investment to come true then you will make out ahead. I don't like multiple Destiny bets at the last minute dropped on to the clearly correct outcome. This will likely fix itself when bet opportunities are reduced.

    * Adding God tiles to locations, and gods to the Olympus deck.
    A suggestion from the Spielbany group (circa 2009) was to add more gods to the game. They thought there wasn't enough reason to want Odysseus to go to one location over another (which really means my Encounter effects aren't pulling their weight - I've since amplified them, but they're still not enough), and one suggestion to make such incentives was to add god tiles to the locations, which players could collect and score as set collection. I would have preferred if the encounter effects offered players the incentives they needed to drive Odysseus around the board, but I did very much like the idea of adding more gods to the game. Over the last 4 years I'd considered many different ways to accomplish this - restructuring the Help/Hinder decks to include more gods than just Poseidon and Athena, etc.

    I finally figured out a way I thought would work better, and I finally updated the prototype to include those god tiles! First of all, the bonus for highest contribution to an adventure is that you get the god tile (rather than a bet chip, or some VP). At the end of the game, each god scores 0/1/3 cubes (which is to say 0/2/6vp) for having 1/2/3 of that god's tiles. In addition, I've added those 3 gods to the Olympus deck (which makes all kinds of sense), and when they come up they trigger an effect for players who hold their tiles: Hades allows the player to choose to have Odysseus lose crew, Dionysus allows the player to choose to have Odysseus gain crew, and Hermes allows the player to draw some Adventure cards.

    I like the way this worked, EXCEPT, as evidenced by the speed at which this particular game ended, there isn't enough time to collect these things and have them trigger. So I've got some revisions which I hope will help that out.

    There might have been some other details that probably didn't go as well as I would have liked, but that was the main stuff. So here's the new plan, which I already incorporated into the prototype:

    * God tiles and stuff...
    For one thing, I didn't have a god tile at Troy or Ithaca (and Ithaca is a double adventure), so I made 3 Zeus tiles. Zeus does not give any in-game benefits, but he'll act as a wild for end-game scoring. Maybe I'll limit it to 1 Zeus per 'set,' so you can't get 2 Zeus and 3 Hades and score a bajillion points off of that.

    I revised the Olympus deck so that each card has 2 Gods on it. Now each of the triggerable gods appears on 3 different Olympus cards, and therefore will trigger more often.

    I added "draw an Olympus card and resolve its effect" to one of the Encounter tiles (I should probably add it to another) to get more triggering in there.

    I added Reward tiles that you keep in front of you as a God tile (Hades, Hermes, and Dionysus). I also added Reward tiles that basically trigger your god tiles (i.e. "Lose 1 crew per Hades god tile") which will therefore have variable value for different players.

    I added cards to the Help/Hinder deck that you keep in front of you as God tiles as well, so it should be much easier to get God tiles (there are a total of 6 of each), as well as cards that trigger your god tiles (which you would play as a special action instead of contributing to the Help/Hinder total). Side note: I wanted those special actions to count against your personal contribution (toward the bonus, now a god tile), but not necessarily count against your overall contribution to the Help/Hinder total. So what I think I'll try is that if you play any card face up for the special action, you are simply disqualified from the bonus altogether, then there's no confusing negative numbers in there. And of course the value on the face up card becomes 0 as well.

    So in the end I think I'll reward 0/1/3/6 cubes (that's 0/2/6/12vp) for 1/2/3/4+ god tiles. I could maybe go on another step and reward 10 cubes (20vp) for 5+ god tiles of a type, but that seems like an awful lot, especially with how much access I've added now.

    * Reward tiles...
    As I mentioned, I added gods to the reward tiles. I am unsure which way I want to go, so I actually added 2 sets... 3 tiles with just the gods and 3 more with the triggers, and then another 3 tiles that act as both (take this as a god tile, then trigger your god tiles of that type). The latter seems really busy, so I'm leaning toward the former.

    A suggestion from a player came up that actually reverts back to one of the original ideas for determining crew loss... instead of all of the reward tiles contributing to crew loss, I could reveal N+2 reward tiles, and have only the unclaimed tiles contribute to crew loss. This does a couple of things...
    - It allows players to simply grab the tile they want (then deal with it and discard it back to the supply), which is an instinct that many players have had.
    - It allows for later turn order players to get more choice of reward, rather than being forced to take something that may not be useful. This may backfire - if there are enough "good" tiles to go around, then players may just pass early. I guess we'll see. This might be why I moved away from that mechanism.
    - It allows players to influence crew loss more directly, especially later turn order players. If you want Odysseus to die, maybe leave the reward tiles with larger numbers. If you want him to survive, maybe prioritize those. I expect this consideration to be secondary much of the time, but it could be really interesting, and it harkens back to one of the original mechanisms which got removed somewhere along the line.
    - It might also allow for simpler setup, as if there's always N+2 tiles, then there's a constant average crew loss over the different player counts, so there could be the same starting crew across all player counts.
    - With this sort of control over crew loss, maybe it would be wise to simplify the Crew Loss rules to say that no matter whether Odysseus wins or loses, he always loses crew according to the unclaimed Reward tiles... rather than "Lose 1 if he wins, X if he loses."

    Another thing I did was add an "Advance Round Marker" reward tile, and a "Place Timeline Bet" reward tile. I'm tempted to keep the restriction of placing where no other bet exists, but as this may be the only way to actually add timeline bets now, maybe it would be acceptable to allow placing where bets already are. Should it be disallowed to bet immediately in front of the round marker (like Path bets are disallowed immediately in front of the boat)?

    * Destiny.
    There are still 2 Reward tiles which offer a Destiny action, and I've added a special action in each deck which allows a Destiny action as well. I added Destiny actions to 3 of the encounter tiles (each player in turn order would take a Destiny action), and I hope that doesn't lead to players all piling onto the same Destiny card. I guess we'll see. I believe I will return to the 30vp prize pool for both the Timeline bet and the Destiny bet.

    * Stranded at Sea.
    There's always been a concern that it might be much harder to strand Odysseus than it is to kill him or get him home safe. There are several ways to advance the round counter: 1 card in each deck, 1 Encounter that advances it, one encounter that advances it twice, and 1 additional advance each time Odysseus revisits any number of face down encounter tiles in a row. I'm not sure why that isn't "for each" face down encounter tile - I probably thought that would be too much advancing of the round counter. Well, I thought I'd try changing that, and adding a Reward tile to advance the counter as well. Hopefully now the game end will be approximately evenly split between Stranded, Dead, and Home Safe.

    * The Death Spiral.
    The board includes a "death spiral" - a series of encounters that, once visited, create a loop, and if revisited (by definition taking a Stormy path) will result in the game end, as Odysseus will lose all his crew, 1 by 1. With the addition of an hourglass symbol (which advances the round marker) to the backs of the tiles, now that death spiral does not have an obvious effect. Sure, if he enters the loop the game will be over, and Odysseus will not make it home, but it's not clear on which round the game will end, nor whether it will end due to the crew dying, or due to the round counter flying off the track. I mean, it'll be calculable when it happens, but the point is that depending on the game state (what round it is and how much crew Odysseus has left), the Death Spiral could support either a Dead result or a Stranded result, and it could end the game on a variety of rounds.

    MicroCiv (v3.2 PnP PDF)

    Wow, that got long. I actually started this blog post to talk about the updates to MicroCiv! I played a few games of it with Josh and also Dave and John, and I like the direction it has gone. However, I still felt like certain things weren't right. After the latest games and discussion I have updated the prototype again (see link above for v3.0 PDF). Here's a summary of changes:

    * Territories.
    I like the mix of Territories, but I thought the 2-cost ones weren't good enough, and 2-cost is almost trivial, while 3 cost requires a little more investment. So I changed all the 2-cost Territories to 3-cost, added a Population (1vp) to each, and gave them colors as well.

    I like the 2 different 4-cost territories, one that gives +1 defense but no extra points, and one that gives a lot of scoring potential, but has relatively low defense. I thought it would be good to add a 3rd 4-cost into the mix, which gives a straight 2 Pop, and has 5 defense.

    * Techs.
    I'm pretty darn happy with the techs, but the +1 Pop tech seemed like something to be avoided, just not attractive enough to give up in-game benefit for. Josh suggested making it 2 pop, but I thought it would be much more interesting (and possibly better thematically) to make it a City instead. So now it's worth 0-2 points, depending on how many Politics cards you've got. Maybe it would be interesting to make it *2* cities... maybe that's a metropolis or something, worth 0, 2, or 4 Population. Too much?

    * Cards.
    For the most part I'm happy with the cards. I did think it was a little too easy to double up on the Discover action, especially with a Discover icon available in the tech, so I upped that to 4 icons required. I feel that puts it more on par with the big Explore and Conquer actions.

    The Politics card (Scout) that says "play another card" - I realized that what I really meant was "play another Action" (in other words, instead of playing a card, you could choose to pick up your discards). So I've made that change. I also added "play another action" to the Culture card that lets you swap with the supply. It seems like that card isn't as useful as I'd hoped, and now it allows you to grab a card that you want and then use it right away, maybe that'll make it useful enough.

    The other Politics card (Trade) that attempted to allow a player to trade Territories or Techs with another player or the supply just did not work right. I have redone that card, based on a suggestion from Josh... apparently there's some game which has a similar mechanism, and it has a card that allows you to swap the card with a card from your opponent's discard pile. So why not try that? I am not certain I like it, and I think it'll mostly be used at the last minute to grab up good scoring card (or snatch one away from the opponent), but maybe that's ok. As a Politics card, it also permanently reveals a Territory (owned or not).

    The Culture action that lets you sweep the supply just doesn't seem to get used. I beefed it up in the last update to add "play another card" (and of course by that I mean "action"), but I still don't see it being used much. As a complement to the "swap with someone's discard" card, I have tried adding this "While this card is in your discard pile, you get +1 Defense." I'll see how interesting that is (it seems like a really interesting dynamic). Note also that when picking up your discards, you'll lose that defense! Of course you can get it back the following turn.

    Finally, for potentially thematic and potentially logistical reasons, I swapped the Culture actions on the Yellow and Green cards. Probably not a big deal.

    New print and play files are available, if you are so inclined. I think the game is really shaping up, and is almost "done!"