Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Exotica is underway, and how about this new Start planet?

Over the last few months, artist Eric J. Carter has been cranking on Tech Card illustrations for Eminent Domain: Exotica, and I'm loving the images he's been coming up with. You can see some of them on his facebook page, and I'll share one of my favorites here:

This illustration is for a tech card called Space Station, which is a permanent tech you could get that acts like a copy of any Asteroid in play.

Speaking of Asteroids, I was looking at the number of components that will be in Exotica. Based on the size of the box and punchboard, there will be 8 tiles in the game. 5 of those will be mining tiles, and the rest can be Start planets. I had 2 Exotic start planets, and I had also come up with a couple of promo-style Start planets (a Utopian planet and a Prestige planet). Having 1 slot left for a Start planet, I was going to just use one of those promo style planets. but the other day I had a better idea...

Exotica is all about 2 things: Exotic planets (with civilized aliens), and Asteroids. I had Exotic Start planets... why not try an Asteroid start planet? That could be interesting, but what does it mean exactly?

Well, Asteroids are kinda like low-value prestige planets in that they don't count toward technology pre-req's. So I could make an Asteroid start planet, it could cost 2/2 like all the standard Start planets, and it could have a Crystal resource slot (Crystal is a new resource that can be found on Asteroids and Exotic planets). But a standard Start planet would count toward one of the tech stacks, so an Asteroid Start planet would be at a bit of a disadvantage... the same was true for the prestige Start planets in Escalation. For the Prestige planets I added Role icons -- what could be added to an Asteroid start planet?

The solution presented itself fairly quickly: "Ignore planet requirements on Asteroidal technology."

The whole point of Asteroids, and the thing that makes them different than Prestige planets, is that they count as "Asteroids." There are a couple of cards in each tech stack with the word "Asteroidal" in the title, and they get better the more Asteroids you have in your empire. So it makes sense to me, both thematically and mechanically, that starting with an Asteroid as a Start Planet that you could access those technologies.

I'm getting excited about this one again, as graphic designer Ariel Seoane got to work this week on putting the package together. If you're interested in where the game is out, or want to give the Print & Play files a try, check out this forum on BGG.


SuperioR said...

Eric J. Carter does an amazing work on the art! Man I wish I could do something even remotely as good looking...

Thanks for the link to the P&P files, it's nice to take a sneak peek even if I probably wont have time to print it out and test it.

I really like the concept of Asteroids, and love the idea of the Asteroid starting planet. It gives me the feeling of the Scenario cards introduced in Escalation with an asymmetric start (more so than other starting planets).

A side note; I do not like the idea of having to keep one asteroid if you draw one or more during the survey, since it basically means the players good at surveying (lots of survey cards) risk getting the "worst" cards. Unless they of course do not play all their survey cards, but then they aren't better at surveying then the other one with less survey cards...

I read somewhere that you do not recommend playing with both escalation and exotica at the start, but what's your experience combining both?

The only downside with EmDo in my experience is the fact that the players I've played with aren't familiar enough with the tech decks and are prone to AP when researching. This problem is going to be worse when expansions throw more tech cards to the decks. Is there a good remedy to this? An updated tech chart perhaps?

Seth Jaffee said...

My experience with using both expansions at once, when not super-familiar with the base game tech and Escalation tech, just makes the whole idea of what to do sort of overwhelming. There are so many ways to go.

I highly recommend playing the base game a lot before playing with ANY expansion, and by the time Exotica comes out, some players will have played enough Escalation that they know the cards very well, and could probably jump into both expansions - but I still recommend playing with just the base game plus Exotica for a while first, to explore what the new expansion has to offer.

Once you're very familiar with that, THEN you can throw both expansions together (and there's a small set of cards for use when you do combine expansions) and explore EVEN MORE game space :)

For players who are not familiar with the tech, I don't know what to tell you. In my experience, you can BECOME familiar with the tech very quickly (especially if only playing with the base game). If players are jumping into Escalation before they even know what the tech cards in the base game do, then I submit they're not spending enough time with the base game, and any AP that produces... well, they sort of have that coming. :)

Seriously though, maybe only how them the cards they qualify for? Or recommend that they peruse the reference or the card stacks when it's not their turn?

SuperioR said...

Sadly I don't get to play the same games with the exact same group of people too many times. So there's often at least one new guy in the game, which to be honest isn't a problem except some AP with the tech deck. But the other players do not have the luxury of drooling over all the tech cards when not playing, since I'm the one who actually own the game.

I also think that you can learn most of the tech cards rather quickly (I'll have to try to play with the same group more often), and even if it might cause AP every now and then, it's still a really fast game for the punch it packs! :)

Also noticed that there's (on bgg) a fan made version of tech reference sheets which include the Escalation techs. Got to print these out and try to see if they help newer players.

All this talk about EmDo really makes me want to get it back onto the table, been hard to get anything except new (gencon/essen) releases for a while... ;)

Nushura said...

The new starting planet looks a bit too strong for us. In essence, the drawback of not counting for other techs is so small...that does not cover for all the goodness that it brings.

First of all, the very first action of the game can be already used to flip it. Then you still have a role to survey for the second planet for example. That is a great fast start and very hard (if not impossible to do with the other colors)

After the first turn you will already have a flipped asteroid, so all asteroidal tech is is available to you, and is as good as the usual one (and will get better if you further get more asteroids).

This gives you access to lots of tech cards with the alien icon. Then you get a translator (depending on which other planets you get), and have a great engine with only lvl 1 techs.