Monday, July 20, 2015

Eminent Domain: Oblivion - a few more playtest thoughts

Yesterday at the RinCon Fundraiser game day I played two 3p games of Oblivion with John and Garrett. It was nice to see how the Agendas worked with 3 players.

Right before we started, I added an icon to each of the activation/dismissal prices (like I talked about in the last post), and almost immediately regretted it. Maybe that's the right way to go, but it seemed to stifle the Agendas coming into play. In the second game we reduced the costs back down. I'm not positive, but I'm leaning back toward 2/3/4/5/6 for the cost structure.

I made a few more, such as "When dissenting a role, draw a Clout token." and "When dissenting a role, draw 1 additional card." When they came up in the Upcoming Agenda though, I immediately realized that those are Agendas that help everyone equally, and players don't have much incentive to put it into play. I have to remember to make sure the Agendas are more narrow, so they're likely to help some players and not others. Either that, or put an effect on them which occurs when you activate the Agenda. I did make one that says "When you activate this Agenda, return an Upcoming Agenda to the bottom of the deck and RECON the Agenda deck for any one Agenda." Therefore it allows you to put the Agenda you want into the upcoming row, and advance it a little bit while you're at it.

I suppose I could make a similar one that says something like "When you activate this Agenda, RECON the Agenda deck for any one Agenda and put it into play in the [4-cost] Active slot. Thereby making that Agenda sort of "wild" - but the new Agenda is more fragile/won't be around as long.

So far I've been thinking that players would draw just 1 when following a Politics role, no matter how many Politics icons they play. In thinking about that though, it just encourages players who follow to only follow with one Politics symbol - there's not much reason to follow with more than that. The intention was that players might occasionally want to play more icons in order to help get a particular Agenda into or out of play, but that seems less and less likely helpful.

Furthermore, drawing 1 Clout token isn't necessarily better than dissenting and drawing one card - in fact, it might be worse, since the cards in your deck are more likely to have the symbols you want, and might have tech cards with 2 symbols.

Therefore, we played that you get to draw 1 Clout token per Politics symbol played when following a Politics role. I was worried that might be too much, but now I'm thinking it might be the way to go.

It occurred to me during play that I probably really want to add a Politics icon to Improved Market. And I likely need to change the title to something like "Political Influence" rather than "Market."

So far it hasn't seemed too good to upgrade to Improved Market. A Politics icon would probably help there.

It HAS seemed nice to be able to spend your action just drawing a Clout token. On those turns where you have nothing else to do, you can just draw a token for later, and even if you have an action you COULD do, sometimes it's worth drawing a Clout token instead.

So adding a Politics icon to the Market tile is a no brainer... and it seems like Agendas which jive with the upgraded side of the tile would be good.

Maybe I should remove the "trade resources" effect from the Market side and relegate it only to the Improved side - so initially you can just draw a Clout, but if you upgrade then you get a Politics icon, you get better at drawing Clout (draw 2, discard 1), and you gain the trade effect. I'm not sure if the trade effect should be usable more than once, but maybe the way to go is to just have it once, and also add that effect to some planets, an Agenda, and maybe a tech card ("Trade 1 resource for 2 other resources.")

I could probably ditch the "VP for trading 3 different resource types" from the Improved side.

I mentioned that I'm considering not having tech in the expansion, or keeping it minimal... one idea is to have many/all of the new planets be Prestige planets, and then have most/all of the new techs in the set be Prestige type - requiring a Prestige planet. It might be weird with the other expansions which allow you to start with a Prestige planet (and I may or may not want to add a new Prestige start planet or 2).

The kinds of techs I probably want to include are things like:
* Draw 2 Clout tokens
* RECON the Clout token pile for any 1 token and take it.
* Discard a Clout token: RECON the Clout token pile for any 2 tokens and take them.
* Swap the position of 2 Upcoming Agendas or 2 Active Agendas (?)
* Swap an Upcoming Agenda with an Active Agenda (?)
* Annex a Planet in your Empire (paying the [POL])
* Trade up to 3 Clout tokens for 1 Influence each (worse than Improved Trade at 1 token, but arguably better at 2+ tokens)
* Trade a resource for another resource (doesn't need a slot) and a Clout token
* Trade up to 2 resources for 2 other resources (new resources do not need slots)
* PERM: [POL] -> [Survey] or [Warfare] (or more like the ED:X translators) ?
* PERM: [POL] -> [Produce] or [Colonize] (or more like the ED:X translators) ?
* PERM: [POL] -> [Trade] or [Research] (or more like the ED:X translators) ?
* PERM: Take a standard role card from the stacks and tuck it under ~this. [POL] icons may be used as those icons. (maybe this is better - I don't want to have a bunch of permanent techs)
* PERM: [POL] (i.e. a permanent politics icon)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Run a game at RinCon

As you may (or may not) know, I am sort of in charge of RinCon, a local gaming convention here in Tucson, AZ.

RinCon is a 3 day convention held in October, a small, cozy con with all kinds of gaming available - open boardgaming, RPGs, minis games, CCGs, you name it. We have a great library run by our friends at Pulp Gamer, rolling raffles all weekend long, a schedule full of events, a ton of special guests, and plenty of open gaming as well.

We hold 3 fundraiser events each year leading up to the convention in October, and the 3rd fundraiser for 2015 is this weekend - Saturday, from 10am to 10pm. We're going to try and have a poker tournament (if enough people are interested).

At the event this weekend, pre-registration will open for the main RinCon event. In fact, if you pre-reg for RinCon at the fundraiser, you'll save $5 off your ticket! That's like getting into the fundraiser for free!

Speaking of discounts and free admissions, if you run games at RinCon then you can get a discount on you badge. Here's how that works:

Go to and enter the games that you would like to run. After you submit each game, you should receive the details from your submission. If you need to make any corrections, please email Tony at

If you run 16 hours of games that are submitted by August 1st, you will be able to register for RinCon for FREE. (8 hours is 50% off, etc.)

After you sign up to run your games, send Tony an email and he will manually create a coupon code for you to enter on our registration site.

The registration site will be open starting on July 18th at
So spread the word! Come to this weekend's fundraiser event if you can, and make sure to schedule time for the main event, October 2-4, at the Clarion Hotel and Convention Center! It's really fun, I swear!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The List - July 2015

GenCon is coming up in two weeks, so it's probably a good time to revisit The List and take stock of my designs and prototypes. It's been a while since I've done this, and I'm interested to see just how much this list has changed over time!

Published Games:
Terra Prime (BGG)
Eminent Domain (BGG)
Eminent Domain: Escalation (BGG) (expansion)
Eminent Domain: Exotica (BGG) (expansion)
Eminent Domain: Microcosm (BGG)
- Isle of Trains (BGG)

Finished But Unpublished Games:
Exhibit (BGG link)
Eminent Domain: the Dice Game
Dice Works (BGG link)
Wizard's Tower (BGG link)
- Now Boarding

Current Active Designs:
- Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done (BGG)
- The Pony Express
Odysseus: Winds of Fate (BGG)
- Eminent Domain: Oblivion (expansion)
Alter Ego (BGG link)
- Isle of Trains More (expansion)
- Suburban Sprawl

Recent Designs That Are Not On The Front Burner:
- Deities and Demigods
- Rondel Role Selection

Old Standbys - games which have been around, 1/2 done and untouched, for years:
8/7 Central
Hot & Fresh
Reading Railroad
- All For One (BGG)

Old Ideas that Haven't gone Anywhere (Yet) - some of these have been getting stale as well:
Investigative/Tabloid Journalism
Red Colony
Clash of the Kingpins
Time = Money
Dating Game
Ticket Please
Moctezuma's Revenge
- Scourge of the High Seas

Let's take a closer look at some of these:
Published games:
Terra Prime (BGG)
I'd love to bring back Terra Prime as a 2nd edition, with updated rules, expansion included, and set in the Eminent Domain universe. It'd be called Eminent Domain: Origins, and one of these days it may be possible.

Finished But Unpublished Games:
Exhibit (BGG link)
I'm disappointed in the current status of Exhibit. A European publisher was very interested, but a difference of opinion on whether a certain person's IP rights were infringed has caused it to be delayed - maybe indefinitely. I checked with an IP lawyer to ensure that my understanding was correct, which it was, but the whole thing has left a sour taste in my mouth.
Now Boarding
I worked on this with Tim Fowers, who's recently finished a kickstarter for his co-op game Burgle Brothers. Maybe he'd like to print Now Boarding as his next project? Maybe I'll pitch that idea to him :)

Current Active Designs:
Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done (BGG)
I'm happy with this one as-is, but there's a desire from the TMG staff to add super-unique faction abilities (with unique upgrades and buildings, like the factions in Terra Mystica).
Odysseus: Winds of Fate (BGG)
I keep circling and iterating on this one. I need to implement the mot recent change ideas and try it again.
Eminent Domain: Oblivion (expansion)
3rd expansion to Eminent Domain. I worked out how this would play several years ago, and now that Exotica is in production I've finally started prototyping and trying it. So far, so good!
Alter Ego (BGG link)
Mike's always been a fan of this one. Back on the front burner, Alter Ego is finally shaping up. I think with a little TMG Utah input and some nice art, this could potentially be ready for a GenCon 2016 release!
- Isle of Trains More (expansion)
Dan Keltner and I are working on an expansion to Isle of Trains for Dice Hate Me/Greater Than Games to follow up our contest winning entry.
Suburban Sprawl
Working on the next DHMG/GTG contest - this time a dexterity game (which currently only uses 54 cards, plus 8 scoring cards) with Matthew Dunstan. In Suburban Sprawl you toss cards into play to build Residential, Commercial, industrial, and Civic buildings. I'm going for a light, quick game with a sort of SimCity feel that's easy to learn and play.

Recent Designs That Are Not On The Front Burner:
Deities and Demigods
Another attempt at Deck Learning, Deities and Demigods is like a role selection game, but the game calls the roles, and in random order. Players will have some control over which roles are in the deck, and can upgrade their efficiency at each role. The effects of the roles will allow players to move armies and fleets around a map in an effort to complete quests/tasks and control cities.
Rondel Role Selection
Another variation on role selection, this one got off to an OK start, but hasn't gotten any attention in a while.

Old Standbys:
Hot & Fresh
I'm a little disappointed I never finished this one, but the most recent changes (several years ago now) seemed like a big step in the right direction. I'm just not sure how excited i am about a press your luck pickup/deliver game anymore.
This is my shelved design that I'm probably most interested in, or at least the one I think might have the most promise as a "mediocre euro."
Reading Railroad
I always think that Reading Railroad would be a fun word-building / connection game, but the truth is that people who like word games probably don't want to play a connection game, and people who like connection games probably don't want to play a word game. Still, I'd like to finish this one day.
All For One (BGG)
All For One might be my single biggest disappointment. It is the game that really got me into the design hobby, and I thought it was good - really good - but it never got any publisher interest. It's suffered some setbacks, and now - almost 10 years later - I feel like it might be a bit old fashioned and in need of an overhaul, but I don't have the impetus to overhaul it.

Old Ideas that Haven't gone Anywhere (Yet):
Investigative/Tabloid Journalism
I think a game where you put together parts of stories and embellish them to make them work would be a cute and fun game, but the theme may not really be very desirable, so I never revisited this idea, even though I think I had the main mechanism completely thought out.
Ticket Please
A game about controlling gates in airports and moving people to their destinations, in the same scope as a Ticket to Ride seems like it could be really successful, I'm not sure why I haven't revisited this yet.
Moctezuma's Revenge
Maybe it's because I don't really like press your luck games or deduction games much, but I never got back around to Moctezuma's Revenge, even though it sounds like a system that could make for a solid game.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eminent Domain: Oblivion progress

By way of update:

I have had the opportunity to play about a game and a half of EmDo with the new Oblivion stuff, and so far it's worked pretty well. Here's what I've made so far:

* Clout tokens: I have about 32 tokens with Politics icons on the back and a random role icon on the front. These are drawn randomly when following a Politics role, or as an action using the Market tile:

 * New Planets:
- 1 each of Fertile, Advanced, and Metallic with a Politics icon
- 2 Prestige planets with a replenishing Clout token

* Agenda board which goes "around" the Central Card Display (maybe easiest in the end to just replace the CCD with a new board that incorporates everything):
(I think I want to increase the costs by one, 3/4/5/6/7 rather than 2/3/4/5/6. Also, I'm not sure if I need 5 up at a time.)

* Agenda cards, with global effects which players can bring into and out of play:
- Gain +1vp when you trade at least 1 Food
- Gain +1vp when you trade at least 1 Water
- Gain +1vp when you trade at least 1 Iron
- Gain +1vp when you trade at least 1 Silicon
ACTION: Discard 1 Food and 1 Iron to collect 3vp
ACTION: Discard 1 Water and 1 Silicon to collect 3vp
ACTION: Discard 1 Iron and 1 Silicon to collect 3vp
ACTION: Discard 1 Food and 1 Water to collect 2vp and 1 Clout token
- Each player gets: Hand size +1 for each Permanent tech in their empire
- Each player gets: Hand size -1 for each Permanent tech in their empire (min 3 cards)
- Advanced planets are worth +1vp
- Fertile planets are worth +1vp
- Metallic planets are worth +1vp
- Warfare costs are reduced by 1
- Warfare costs are increased by 1
- Colonize costs are reduced by 1
- Colonize costs are increased by 1
- Research costs are reduced by 1
- Research costs are increased by 1
- Each player draws 1 more card per Survey role
- Each player draws 1 fewer card per Survey role
- When activated, return an Upcoming Agenda to the bottom of the deck. Agendas cost 1 less Politics icon to activate.

Additional ideas for Agendas:
** Whenever a player collects Influence, remove 2 Influence in the supply from the game as well.
** Players may spend Influence to boost or follow any role (return it to the supply)
** Player may trade Clout tokens as if they were resources.
** Each player draws 2 fewer cards per survey role. Each player may keep 1 additional planet per survey role.
** [POL] -> [SURVEY] 
** [POL] -> [WARFARE] 
** [POL] -> [PRODUCE] 
** [POL] -> [TRADE] 
** Discard [POL]: [POL]->[RESEARCH] this turn or ACTION: [POL]->[RESEARCH] this turn
** Discard [POL]: [POL]->[COLONIZE] this turn or ACTION: [POL]->[COLONIZE] this turn

* Market tile with the following abilities:
ACTION: Draw 1 Clout token
ACTION: Trade 1 resource for another (the new resource does not need a resource slot)
Improved Market
* ACTION: Draw 2 Clout tokens then discard 1 Clout token
ACTION: Trade 1 resource for another (the new resource does not need a resource slot)
ACTION: Trade 2 resources for 3 other resources (the new resources do not need resource slots)
* Get +1vp when trading at least 3 different types of resources in one Trade role

Thoughts after playing with these:
* Some of the agendas need to be more potent. For example, instead of reducing research costs by 1, maybe it should reduce by 2... making research VERY hard to do while that Agenda is in play.
* I might have too many trade-centric or resource-centric, agendas. Do I really need the 4 that say "Gain +1vp if you trade any of ~this type of resource?"
* The Market tile could be simplified. Specifically, Improved market doesn't need to generate additional resources - it can just let you trade 1-for-1 twice, and it vacates the resource slots, which is handy.

New ideas: No tech cards, and annexing planets with political influence!
I am toying with the idea of not including any new tech cards in Oblivion... I feel like there are too many techs out there. But I have some effects I want in the game such as RECONing the Agenda deck, messing with Upcoming and Active Agendas, and interacting with Clout tokens. I was going to make just a couple of tech cards - maybe 2 of each type, to keep from bloating the tech stacks any more than necessary. 

But maybe I could do without adding any new techs at all. In Escalation I introduced Bustling planets, planets with Actions in their game text space... they all cost a Destroyer to attack, or 4 colonies to Settle. Perhaps I could put the effects I want in Oblivion onto Bustling planets!

However, I am designing each expansion to be usable with the base game only - I don't want people to be forced to use Escalation (and the Fleet tile) in order to play Oblivion. So I cannot have these new Bustling planets cost a Destroyer to attack. I could just give them "normal" warfare and colonize costs, but that seems boring. Thinking about it, I do have a new resource in Oblivion... maybe I could have these new Bustling planets cost Clout to flip! It'd be like you're annexing planets with your political influence!

So, how to do this? Here are some options that come to mind:
* Put POL icons in both the Colonize and Warfare costs, and explain in the rules that you flip these by doing an "attack" or a "settle," and boosting it with the correct number of POL icons (from Clout tokens, Politics cards, or planets in your empire)
* Replace the Colonize and Warfare costs with a new "Annex" cost (in POL icons), and explain in the rules that the way you flip these planets is by using the Politics role (use all Politics icons played to either: 1. activate an Upcoming agenda, 2. remove an Active agenda, or 3. Annex a planet)
* Like the previous bullet, but have the Annex cost in addition to the regular (higher than average) Warfare and Colonize costs - so they are expensive planets, but you could do better via Politics.
* Have an Annex cost (in Politics icons - either in addition to or instead of Warfare and Colonize costs), and then have the Market tile (change the name to Political Influence tile?) say "ACTION: Annex a planet" (explaining in the rules that that means splaying the required number of POL icons).
* On that note, have such an action, and explain in the rules that ANY planet may be Annexed, where the Annex cost is equal to the Warfare cost + the Colonize cost (in most cases this is 9). Then I wouldn't need to print a separate Annex cost on the planets (though I could still make new planets with an Annex cost that's either instead of or that's less than the normal Annex cost for the planet).
* I'm sure there are other ways to do it as well, but I will stop here.

Please let me know what you think, especially about the new idea for Annexing planets, and putting actions on them instead of making new tech cards!