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)


Josh 'Dagar' said...

New blog post about EmDo means new comment from me ;)

Hey Seth,


- If I were to design this (and I fully understand that I am not), I'd aim for player interaction as much as possible, otherwise a politics system might just seem like an unnecessary thing added for complexity, but not for an enhancement of the base game. As such, I'd aim for a fierce struggle about the agendas in play, including debates of silicon magnates vs. diversity traders, researchers vs. traditionalists (or one might say: non-researchers), settlers vs. warmongers etc. In my mind for this to happen, there are several things to keep in mind:

* In politics, there are always votes for or against an agenda (not counting some of todays so-called democratic systems where every politician just is a sheep following its shepherd...). If a politics role is played, I'd allow to follow IN FAVOUR OF the agenda, adding your politics symbols, AGAINST it (maybe limiting the amount of symbols you can play here - Political Influence Tile (PIT) can be your friend here), or to REFRAIN from voting (known as dissenting in EmDo)

* The incentive to follow a politics role should not come from a reward you get other than helping or preventing an agenda coming into play. As such, the agendas have to be impactful enough on the gameplay. Intuitively, I'd try to expand options via agendas than limit them, i.e. if one side gets an advantage it is normally more satisfying to everyone than one side getting a disadvantage (E.g. it is worse to prohibit the researcher from choosing research role than allowing produce symbols to count as research symbols for the prod/traders)
Maybe these two ideas are colliding, one'd have to figure that out.

* It should hurt not taking the politics route, but it has to be possible to
win without it. For parallels, one can win base EmDo with research or completely without (though this is hard in my experience), but not researching makes you feel like you fall behind in terms of efficiency.

* As such, I'd not increase Agenda costs staticly by 1. It should be cheap to just shove the oldest active one over the cliff, but costly to bring that one cool Agenda that could really oil your war machine into play (that just was displayed). What about costs 1-2-4-7-11 or this +1? It is meant to be a group effort after all, and since you get politics symbols from clout tokens, you might be able to get high amounts fairly fast.

* It should also be possible to reposition active agendas and upcoming ones in their respective group, but not too easy to do it all the time (to keep one agenda alive infinitely). Maybe swap two adjacent agendas for 2 politics, do as often as you like? A possible option for the PIT...

* For balancing, you have to watch that it is not possible to completely lock one player from the game via politics by totally destroying his card engine (making things too costly to practically pay or prohibiting too many options). As such, maybe Agendas should have types (or subjects), and only one Agenda for each subject may be in play at a time? E.g. having military Agendas that care for the balance of warfare and colonize, and making it impossible to play 'raise the colonization costs' and 'limit the number of colonies you can play to 3' at the same time.

* I'd see that politics symbols cannot be too useful in other ways. I fear a second 'Versatility', that we decided to house-rule to make research less strong and survey stronger (which really could have had more techs in its favour imho, but that's another story).

As such, maybe you should really drop the Market Tile and make the whole expansion about politics. The Prestige Planets having additional actions similar to the T1 tech action cards, maybe a bit weaker, could be cool.

Part 2 incoming.

Josh 'Dagar' said...

Part 2:

As summary, my draft of the PIT would be:

PI (side 1):

WHEN FOLLOWING A POLITICS ROLE: you may spend up to two politics symbols to increase the costs of the announced Agenda by one each.
ACTION: draw 1 clout token
ACTION: spend 3 politics symbols and have a prestige planet. Turn the PI to the Advanced side (API)

API (side 2):

WHEN FOLLOWING A POLITICS ROLE: you may spend up to three politics symbols to increase the costs of the announced Agenda by 1+one each.
ACTION: draw two clout tokens, discard one.
WHEN CHOOSING THE POLITICS ROLE: you may instead spend two Politics symbols to swap two adjacent Agendas. Repeat as often as you like.

I have a couple of more ideas, but I'm out of time right now. Maybe on the next blog post ;)


Josh 'Dagar'

Ralp said...

When leading or following a Politics role, the player who contributes the most Politics icon draws 1 Clout token per Politics icon. Everyone else draws one. Optionally: after everyone has announced follow/dissent, all players reveal their Politics icons simultaneously.

Seth Jaffee said...

Neat idea, Ralp!

How would you suggest ties are handled?

Ralp said...

Hm, good question, I have two ideas there. I've only thought about it in the context of the simultaneous blind bid suggestion, because that's a mechanic I really like, and it seems like a neat thematic "political" twist to the boost/follow mechanic without being a big departure from the way it already works.

The first and simpler idea is just something like, "Leader Bonus: You resolve any ties". In the two-player game, in practice this would just mean the leader wins ties. With 3+ players it becomes politically interesting when the leader gets to decide whom to favor in a tie he/she's not part of. You could go a little further and let the leader divvy up the tokens among the tied players, but I can see that causing analysis paralysis and much wordier rules for something that I imagine won't happen often anyway.

My other pie-in-the-sky idea is something like, "When two or more players tie for most Politics icons, they each draw Clout equal to the Politics icons minus the number of tied players (minimum zero)." This way, when everyone cooperates and bids the same, everyone gets to cash in on Clout. The diminishing returns with the number of tied players is intended to actually be an incentive to "backstab" the group and boost/follow for one more than what everyone agreed on. So, kind of a Prisoner's Dilemma sort of payoff. I am fond of this idea but I think it might be putting too much depth into this niche situation which isn't the main focus of the game. I don't know how Politics roles or ED:O play out so I can't say, but that's the hunch I get.

Going back to my original post, I think even the blind boost/follow suggestion often wouldn't address the behavior of "just follow for one to get the Clout" that you've noticed. I don't have a good grasp of how Politics roles and Agenda manipulation play out BUT in my understanding often you'll know "well, my opponent just led Politics and the five-point Agenda really hurts his strategy so I figure he's trying to dislodge that, so he'll probably boost for a lot. I know I have no chance of playing the most so there's no point in following for 2 or 3." And that's fine I think; thinking about what benefits your opponent most and predicting his or her plays is great behavior to reward. But an additional twist might be "If two or more players followed the role, the player who followed for the least draws no Clout." so then there's the incentive to follow for more than just one (but maybe the third opponent is thinking that too... so maybe you better play three just to be safe!) But at that point players might just say, man forget it, I'll just dissent and get my card! Again I feel like this is might be over-engineering a niche situation, but I figured I would mention it anyway.

Finally, just a cosmetic idea for the "Market" tile naming, how about something like "Senate Actions". Or maybe even print the tiles with different flavor names, "Imperial Senate", "Federation Council", "Interstellar Parliament".

Well, thanks for entertaining my half-baked brainstorms. Looking forward to playing this, keep up the good work!

Seth Jaffee said...

Thanks for the thoughts!

I think you're right, some of these ideas might be a little too much effort for a niche mechanism.

Easier might be that tied players both get Clout per symbol they played (friendly ties).

I feel like players will have low numbers of Politics icons to be following with for the most part anyway, so it might be best to just say "everyone gets 1 Clout per Politics icon used to follow."

Note that you get NO Clout for boosting your on role! Instead, you get to spend the Clout!

Ralp said...

> Note that you get NO Clout for boosting your on role! Instead, you get to spend the Clout!

Ah ha, yes I obviously had misunderstood that. That means that any sort of competition to be the "top bidder" could only come into play in a 3+ player game, and I guess I wouldn't like the idea of Eminent Domain having different rules if you're playing two-player or not.

Seth Jaffee said...

Well, in 2p, your opponent (if they follow) would automatically have the most :)

Eorl Osborne said...

I'm not sure tech that requires prestige planets is a great idea, but also your previous post that suggested possibly no new tech and just having all your new "tech" style abilities on planets will do any better. Both will rely on either a mass of survey cards or lucky draws from the planet deck. Personally one of the things about EmDo that I both love and hate is that I can't just play the exact same way every time. A different start planet type and then the first few new planets I can acquire direct me towards certain tech and certain paths. But quite often once I've committed to something like warfare I draw a hand of colonise planets (or similar). There are many fun sounding tech combos I have never explored just because random draw of planets pointed me to something else. I guess that's why I love the scenario cards, as they tell you right to start with -you have a head start at A and B - don't waste your time on C.

To avoid tech cards completely or new abilities relying so heavily on planets drawn, would it be possible to place them on starting planets or with scenario cards so that they direct your strategy rather than just boosting it,
Or my favourite idea using some of them as shared/common starting planets - so whoever can afford them first can get them (this is probably a bad analogy but similar to the nobles, and even the expensive cards, in Splendor where only some are available in any game but because they are there you purposely can direct your strategy toward them)- it would also add tough decisions if they always cost clout as to get them in your empire, you may want to allow opponents to enact unfriendly agendas helping them in the short term so that you can gain the clout for a planet that with assist you all game long!

Just pondering this starts making me question all manner of things
- do players need to nominate which agenda they plan to enact before I decide to support or dissent? (I do like the idea that players vote for or against or can spend politics symbols to make agendas harder to enact - you may need to reduce the costs though - lowest cost needs only a majority of votes, each other card starts with an effective additional no vote. And obviously no clout would be earned for voting against an agenda - however maybe the leader gets clout if he has enough politics but other players interfere - although now clout becomes an inaccurate label that would be better seen as political favours)
- do your current agenda costs scale based on player number (less people to get to assist you)
- how do you see agendas working in a 2 player game? I worry that they are likely to mostly get ignored as the cost to dig through for one that really suits you would be better spent just burning though one of the other role piles.
- if you keep adding technology cards are we going to need more research cards in the deck? (equally applies to exotica which I'm eagerly awaiting atm)


Seth Jaffee said...

Thanks fort he comment Eorl, I'll respond as best I can within the 4,096 character limit:

Funny, I made a MARS promo (to commemorate them finding water on Mars) and handed them out like business cards at Essen. They had my contact info on the back, so the rules say they're just available, and anyone can claim it (already face up) if they have 6 Survey symbols in a Survey phase.

I hadn't intended to do any planets like that, but I suppose it's a possibility (and now there's even precedent!)

Note however that my intent for Oblivion if I have no tech is to relegate those abilities to some planets (like Bustling planets from Escalation) but mostly to the Agendas - of which 5 are available at a time in the Upcoming Agendas row.

I do like the idea of planets being sort of always available for the first player to satisfy their condition... like goals in RftG. Maybe I can do something with that and Political planets for Oblivion...

Just pondering this starts making me question all manner of things
- do players need to nominate which agenda they plan to enact before I decide to support or dissent?

Currently the answer is no... I announce that I'm doing a Politics role (asking for your support). You either support me with your politics icons (gaining clout), or you dissent. Then I spend all the politics icon I have been given, along with those I have of my own, to do whatever I want with.

That won't stop you from saying things like "I'll follow if you are going to do THIS Agenda..." which in turn won't stop me from agreeing and then doing something different (i.e. such negotiation isn't binding -- you get your clout for following, nothing else is guaranteed).

I do like the idea that players vote for or against or can spend politics symbols to make agendas harder to enact...

I tried several different versions of the mechanism in which players could effectively vote AGAINST what the current player wanted to do... none of it worked to my satisfaction. The best model I came up with was that you need a specific amount of support to pass an Agenda, and either you accumulate that support, or you don't.

- do your current agenda costs scale based on player number (less people to get to assist you)

My current version has a set of costs for 2-3 players, and a set of casts for 4-5 players (the 4-5p costs are 1 more than the 2-3p costs).

- how do you see agendas working in a 2 player game? I worry that they are likely to mostly get ignored as the cost to dig through for one that really suits you would be better spent just burning though one of the other role piles.

The Upcoming Agendas are available in a row, kind of like the cards in Stone Age. The rightmost one is the cheapest to enact, the left most is the most expensive. So rather than digging through the deck looking for a specific Agenda, I expect players to react to the available Agendas -- though I intend the deck to be kind of small so one COULD put some effort into finding a particular Agenda, especially with RECON abilities, which will probably exist.

- if you keep adding technology cards are we going to need more research cards in the deck? (equally applies to exotica which I'm eagerly awaiting atm)

That's part of why I don't want to add any more technology - I don't want the only way to play to be to do research, or all players will do research and run that deck out quickly. I don't want to have to add cards to the stacks if I can help it. I added cards for a 5th player, but that was mostly to cover their deck and the fact that an extra person is calling roles.