Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Crusaders final tweaks

I'm happy with the status of Crusaders: the rules are solid, the flow is great, and the game is fun. I've even come to terms with the game end trigger.

The final tweaks I've been wanting to make have to do with the game board. I currently have a 2-sided board, one side is smaller (fewer hexes), and the other is larger. The larger board feels somewhat solitaire-y, as there's a lot of space, so players aren't bumping heads as much - though there does seem to be a good number of Enemies (10 of each color), and players tend to get through most of them by the end of the game*. Players also tend to build about the right number of buildings by the end of the game.

(*so I don't forget, I need to tweak the Enemy Strength Tracks for Prussians and Slavs - I think they're too valuable at the high end.)

The smaller board was an attempt to force players into conflict sooner and more often by reducing the number of spaces available. I removed most of the empty spaces, and reduced the enemy spaces as well. While this succeeds in making the board a little more crowded, it brings along a few issues I'm not happy about:

* The lack of open building spaces means that a "build heavy" strategy needs to do a lot of crusading, just like a "crusade heavy" strategy does. This makes those two extremes not really different enough, all players need to concentrate on building up their crusade strength and fighting enemies, even if just to make space to build.
* Majority scoring for Prussians and Slavs is kinda lame when there are so few of each of those enemies in play each game.

I've been unhappy with the small board for those reasons, but I recently had an epiphany that might help me fix everything!

In case you're not familiar with the game, there are 3 types of enemies... Prussians, Slavs, and Saracens. The Prussians and the Slavs each have a majority bonus for defeating the most enemies of that type. The Saracens have no such bonus, but instead give you a free building (or troop) when you defeat them - so they help you get the Level IV building bonuses. Prussians and Slavs are generic, but there are 2 Saracen tiles for each type of building (and 2 for troops). When I created the smaller map and needed to reduce the number of enemies on the board, I removed 3 each of Prussians and Slavs because I wanted to maintain 2 Saracen for each free thing you can get - I thought this was important so that players could use the Saracens to pursue whichever strategy they wanted to.

However, perhaps that's not necessary. Perhaps it's actually MORE interesting if NOT all 10 Saracen tiles are available each game. Maybe players would have to adjust their strategy if for example there are no Saracens that will give them a free Church. Or if there's only 1 place to get a free Castle this game. That could make for more interaction in the game when players want to go after the same Saracen, and it could help with a previous "issue" I had where there wasn't enough incentive to go to particular locations on the board.

My first thought when I had this epiphany is that I could go back to using all 10 Prussians and all 10 Slavs, and reduce the number of Saracens used in a game instead. Like from the pool of 10 Saracens, you use 5 or 6 each game. But then I thought it might be even more interesting if I simply had 25 or 26 Enemy spaces, and used that many enemies at random (from a pool of 10 of each). That way, in some games Prussians may be in short supply, making that majority bonus more interesting.

I think what I need to do is try this out, but first I need to know how many total spaces to have on the board...

* 25 or 26 enemy spaces,
* 4 Starting spaces
* 1 Paris space
* ?? Empty building spaces

I need enough empty spaces to support players attempting a heavy building strategy, but not so many that the board feels too open.

And finally, once I get the correct number of spaces, I might shift the map over a bit so that the Crusades are being fought more in the Middle East than in Europe, which may be a bit more historically accurate.

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