Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Treat the problem, not the symptom

Things go wrong in playtests all the time. When something goes wrong in a playtest, it may just be an anomaly of that particular game -- but if the same thing comes up in multiple plays, then it's probably indicative of some kind of problem with the design. As designers, it's our job to identify these problems and fix them.

This may be harder than it sounds though. Sometimes the issue experienced in a playtest is merely a symptom of a deeper problem. While it may be worthwhile to fix the symptom, what we really want to do is determine the underlying problem and fix that, or else another symptom is likely to rear its ugly head before long.

By way of example I'll illustrate what I mean:

When I was originally testing Eminent Domain, instead of the 5 different role cards in the game there were 6. Produce and Trade were separate cards, not combined into one card. Produce/Trade cycles had the potential to be more lucrative than other scoring paths, but the logistics behind having to take the two separate roles, and having cards for each in your deck, were supposed to balance that out. However, in practice I found that Produce/Trade strategies were frustrating to pursue because it was hard to score well off of the cycle. So hard in fact that players would ignore that strategy altogether.

At first I tried doubling the value of a Produce/Trade cycle, thinking that with higher rewards, players would pursue the strategy. In theory that worked, I could keep increasing the value of trading until it was worth going for. But that solution treated the symptom, not the problem. The more valuable I made trading, the more variable and swingy that strategy (and the game) would become... a player trying to produce and trade might never get their cards in the right order, and when they did they'd get a disproportionately high reward, like a slot machine. The real problem here was that it sucked to have to fill your deck with 2 different cards that were terrible on their own just so that MAYBE you can use them to collect lots of points.

Fortunately one of my players (thanks Wystan!) suggested putting both roles on the same card so that whenever you draw that card, it'd work for either the Produce role or the Trade role - whichever you need at the time. This solution ignored the symptom and went straight for the throat of the underlying problem. As soon as I tried it I immediately knew it was the right solution. And as a result of solving the problem, it eliminated the symptom as well.

So let that be a lesson to you. When something goes wrong in your playtests, don't take it at face value. Make sure to look and see if the issue is merely a symptom of a bigger problem, then do what you can to fix the underlying problem.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Deities & Demigods revisited (Game Design Attack #4)

I've been happy with the structure and most of the rules for Deities and Demigods, but there have been some issues with it. By and large, the biggest issues seem to be that the game takes too long, or takes too long to get interesting. This may be largely because the board is too big for players to really interact until the very end of the game. I've wanted to shrink the board to address that, but I wasn't sure how to do so while still maintaining enough cities and quest locations. Here are some changes I made to the prototype after a playtest at Game Design Attack #4:

* Use only 4 boards (at all player counts).
* Put 2 cities and 1 quest on each city board (2 quests and 1 city on the back).
* Rather than interacting with cities and quests from adjacent nodes, have players travel into cities or onto quest locations.
* At the suggestion that a victory point for level 1 Hephaestus might be too much, I might try changing that to 1 gold (or, 1 gold per city controlled to help incentivize controlling cities in the early and mid game.)
* I'm contemplating changing Hera's income to "1 gold + 1 gold per city controlled" to help incentivize controlling cities in the early and mid game.
* I've had combat in the game from the outset because I figured it went with the theme, and I'd hoped it wouldn't be much different than area majority such as El Grande. However, I'm not a player who really likes direct confrontation in games, and I think this is not the type of game that would really go along with that kind of interaction. So I will try removing combat altogether, or at least make it expensive and rare like I did in Escalation.
* I'm considering removing the deck of building cards, and instead allowing building tokens to count toward control of a city... it would be easy and intuitive to count control that way, just count up all of your wooden pieces in the hex. I'm not sure if I like that idea or not though, and I suppose if I didn't want buildings to count toward control, they could be punchboard tokens rather than wooden discs in the final game. It would reduce components and clutter to just cut the building deck though.
* If I cut the building deck, I'd have to adjust the scoring icons... instead of 4 each of 6 icons, I'd probably do 3 each of 4 icons. I could also consolidate the 12 best card effects I currently have between artifacts and buildings.
* I keep going back and forth on the turn order track and what happens if you gain initiative and land on another player's marker. Currently you always go on the bottom of the stack, no matter which direction you were moving your counter. I might change that to top of stack if advancing and bottom of stack when losing initiative and see how that goes. I think I was trying to be consistent, and I liked always going to the bottom of the stack vs always going to the top, but maybe that consistency isn't necessary.
* I don't know if this will be necessary, but if I decide I need a fail-safe way to hard cap the game at 6 cycles, I could try this... take all the Hera cards out of the deck, and instead have a supply of 6 Hera cards. At the end of each cycle, add a Hera to the deck. When that stack of 6 runs out, that's the last cycle (6 total). The game end may trigger before that, but it would keep the max length to 6 cycles. This would make Hera come up less often in the first 2 cycles, and more often in cycles 4-6, which might actually be good to facilitate more opportunities to earn the favor of the god cards.
* With a smaller board it's possible that 4 cycles would no longer be too few, so I could even change the above idea to 5 Hera cards instead of 6 (for a maximum of 5 cycles).

I'll probably post again when I get a chance to try all this stuff. My prototype is all updated and ready to go!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rock & Roll revisited (Game Design Attack #4)

I played Rock & Roll at Game Design Attack #4 this weekend, and Tim had a really neat idea of a slightly different sort of structure, making it a bit more like a standard Yahtzee-style press your luck game. I thought of a related way to make sure there was some interaction so the game didn't feel solitary, and after a prototype update I was able to try the new version a couple of times and I think it might be a step in the right direction. The new version is highly thematic as well -- now there are song cards, so instead of scoring individual crowd tokens for as many points as possible, you play a song in order to please as many crowd members as possible. The songs have specific die results in a specific order.

Three of these songs are dealt out in a supply, and you start your turn by rolling 6 dice bearing symbols for Vocals, Drums, Guitar, Bass, Solo, and Gaffe. Gaffes are mistakes, and you are forced to lock those in when they come up. After rolling, you must lock in at least 1 symbol required for the song, and those symbols must be done in order from left to right as you play through the song. At this point if you fail to lock in a symbol required by the song, you must end your turn, and you get a small scoring penalty. However, as long as you did lock in a symbol, you can choose to stop and score, or roll any number of the unlocked dice trying to get the next required symbol.

Of course, you can also use cards to help you. You will start with just 1 card, but you can get more: at the end of your turn, you'll draw a new card for every 2 Gaffes you had. Also, if you are able to complete the entire song, you'll collect a completion bonus, which may be extra points, or perhaps a card.

As long as you don't fail, then you score some points based on the number of dice you were able to lock in, and you take the song and place it in front of you. Any player may either choose to play a new song from the center, or attempt to outperform you on your song. In order to do so, they must lock in more dice than you were able to, and if you were able to complete the song then they must also lock in 1 additional Solo -- if they are to outperform you then they must perform the song with more gusto and flair than you did! At the beginning of your next turn, if nobody has outperformed you on your song, then you place it into your "set list" and save it for potential end game bonus scoring.

A suggestion was made to add something -- I'd call them Record Labels perhaps -- which could act like the nobles in Splendor: an in-game scoring opportunity based on the genres of songs in your set list.

When the supply of crowd tokens (VPs) is exhausted and all players have had an equal number of turns, the game ends and there will be some set collection scoring based on genres of songs in your set list.

I'm excited about this new version, and I hope to play it with a few more groups to see how it goes over.

Game Design Attack #4 -- brief recap

Over the last few years, I've hosted a game design retreat here in Tucson which I call Game Design Attack:

This year Tim Fowers and Ryan Lauket came down from Utah, and Rob came in from California again. Gil Hova and J.R. Honeycutt had to cancel, but maybe next year they'll be able to join us. Dan Keltner and David Short are locals and they stopped in for a bit as well.

The guys showed up Thursday evening, and we started out the design talk by taking turns basically describing one of the games we'd brought to work on, and discussing it. Right out of the gate there was some great discussion -- even before the games were on the table!

Over the course of the weekend, each of us got at least one game to the table

Ryan brought two upcoming Red Raven titles (or potential titles, I'm not actually sure what the full story is on them).

The first one which I saw a few weeks ago at SaltCon, a euro style game with storytelling elements that's a follow up to Above and Below. I liked it a lot, though the scoring tended to snowball a bit. After Friday night's play, Ryan made a significant change and it then on Saturday we tried it again and it was much better. I think with a few more tweaks that game will be ready for prime time!

The second game Ryan brought was a co-design with Alf Seegert called Haven. We had some suggestions about that one, and tried implementing some of them... I think that one needs a bit more work, but could become a nice light 2p game.

Rob had come up with an idea for a game, and spent some of this weekend putting together a prototype and we gave it a try. The game was about crafting weapons for knights to use in a tournament, and it involved drafting sets of cards (some known and some unknown), refining your set, and finally resolving fights with a knight and your set of cards.

Originally there was an auction for the lots of cards, as well as a low-bid auction for the knights, and much of the action was fiddly and awkward -- not surprising for a first draft! But we made some adjustments on the fly which made things better. After the game we discussed a few potential improvements such as removing gold and auctions, and instead just drafting piles of cards, and later we played again with some modifications and the whole thing worked much better.

This was definitely a game where the designer's vision did not match up with how I would have done it, so when I got home I put together a similar prototype that I might try my version of Rob's game.

Tim's latest project is Fugitive, a 2 player deduction game where one player is a fugitive on the run, and the other is a U.S. Marshall trying to catch him. I played the game at SaltCon a few weeks ago, and he's made some improvements since then. At SaltCon it seemed like the Marshall couldn't won, but now it seemed like they coudn't lose... so Tim made another tweak to try and get the balance right, and the next few games were won by some mix of fugitive and marshall - so I think it's almost there.

Tim also has a new version of Now Boarding, the game he and I came up with, prototyped, tested, and updated at Game Design Attack #1 back in 2013. The new version is quite different than the original, but has some key aspects in common of course. It's still a real time cooperative game, and the new version addresses feedback from players of the previous version that it didn't feel cooperative enough.

Tim had a 3rd game with him, one that I think he's got on his back burner. Flowchart Fighter is a 2 player fighting game, like a Street Fighter card game so to speak.

David wasn't there very long, but he was able to get his micro deckbuilder, Another Man's Treasure, to the table. It has some interesting ideas in it, but David seems to be struggling to get it to work the way he wants it to.

Dan had a new version of his puzzle game, and a new single deck card game inspired by my comments about the book track in Mombasa. I didn't play the former, but I liked the latter quite a bit. We ran out of cards, so apparently more are needed, and I thought maybe another suite of resource types might help as well, but it certainly seems like a good start.

I was able to get 2 different games to the table this weekend. Rock & Roll is a light dice rolling / resource management type of game which was intended to be a sort of follow up to Dungeon Roll -- not related to that game, but to appeal to the same type of player perhaps. I've gone through a few iterations on that game, and got it to a point where it technically worked, but I had trouble knowing whether it was good enough or fun enough for the target audience since I'm not really in the target audience.

Tim had a really neat idea of a slightly different sort of structure, making it a bit more like a standard Yahtzee-style press your luck game. I thought of a related way to make sure there was some interaction so the game didn't feel solitary, and after a prototype update I was able to try the new version a couple of times and I think it might be a step in the right direction. The new version is highly thematic as well -- now there are song cards, so instead of scoring individual crowd tokens for as many points as possible, you play a song in order to please as many crowd members as possible. I'll go into more detail about this new version in a separate post.

Finally, I also got Deities& Demigods to the table. This game has worked in a general sense so far, but I've had problems with a lack of interaction, some hesitation about combat rules, and game length. I haven't thought about this game much since last November, but after re-familiarizing myself with it and playing a game, I got to formalize the issues and get some feedback on how to address them. I had been thinking that the board needed to be smaller, but I didn't know how to reduce the size while still having enough cities and quest locations. I got some good suggestions to address those problems which I'll elaborate on in a separate post. I stayed up until 3am updating my prototype, but sadly was unable to get it back to the table this weekend, so I'm antsy to get another playtest in soon!

All in all I think it was a highly successful and very fun weekend!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Oblivion playtest -- with the new planets and techs and stuff! Big update with lots of details!

I played a 4p game of Eminent Domain: Oblivion today. If you've only just happened upon this blog, or if you've been living under a rock or something, Oblivion is the 3rd expansion to my card game Eminent Domain. The first expansion, Escalation, has been out for just over a year, and the second one, Exotica, is going to hit store shelves in about 2 weeks. Oblivion will likely be the final expansion for the game.

I've posted quite a bit about this expansion over the several years I've been working on it, so I'll assume you have read that, or will go read it if you haven't and are interested (go ahead, I'll wait...)

Yesterday I finally got around to making more planets for the expansion, and while I'd discussed not including any tech in this set (I feel like there's kind of already too many techs, and too many points in the tech stacks), there are some fairly obvious types of effects that would make sense to have. So I decided to make a couple of Diverse techs (requiring Metallic, Fertile, and Advanced planets), and more importantly a small stack of Prestige tech. This is because I also decided to make most of the new planets Prestige types, the idea being that Prestige planets are all about the politics.

Originally I'd made 5 planets... 1 each of metallic, advanced, and fertile with a Politics icon, and 2 Prestige planets with a replenishing Clout token. I had talked about making more planets of the Bustling variety (ones that give you actions -- there were a handful of those in Escalation), and I decided to make them all Prestige planets. Since I make prototypes on 8.5x11 sheets of paper and can fit 9 cards on a sheet, I made 9 new planets... which seemed like a good number actually, since there are 9 of each planet type in the base game. So in Oblivion, if I remove one of the replenishing clout planets, there'll be 10 of each planet type total. That means there'll be enough to go around that I can make a Prestige tech stack without worrying too much about people not being able to access it. In fact, I should probably make that stack more robust, but if I don't make prestige starting planets then it's not as big a deal.


Anyway, I made the following planets:
Advanced -- Politics icon, Silicon (3vp)
Fertile -- Politics icon, Food, Water (2vp)
Metallic -- Politics icon , Iron (3vp)
Prestige -- Replenishing Clout (2vp)
Prestige -- Action: Draw 2 Clout tokens (2vp)
Prestige -- Action: Recon the Agenda deck (4vp)
Prestige -- Action: Recon your deck (2vp)
Prestige -- Action: Swap 2 upcoming or Active Agendas (3vp)
Prestige -- Action: Dismiss up to 2 Upcoming Agendas (4vp)
Prestige -- Action: Discard a Clout token to collect 1vp (2vp)
Prestige -- Action: Annex a Planet (pay [POL] equal to its Annex cost) (3vp)
Prestige -- Action: Trade 1 Resource for 1vp and a Clout token (2vp)
Prestige -- Your planets gain Annex Cost: 6[POL] (3vp)

Having now played with these planets, I think some of them might need tweaks. The two 4vp planets' actions are pretty weak or narrow, but that's why I made them 4vp. I could potentially add resource slots to some of them, but historically, Prestige planet resource slots can hold "any resource", and that might interact too strongly with some of the Agendas (then again, maybe that's a good thing).


I mentioned an Annex cost in the previous section. All of the new Prestige planets have an Annex cost listed on them (they're all Annex Cost: 4[POL]). There are a few effects which give you ACTION: Annex a planet (pay [POL] equal to its Annex cost). In addition, as an option when doing a Politics role, instead of activating or dismissing an Agenda, you may Annex a planet (which of course means flip it over by paying it's annex cost).

John suggested that the Politics cards could have "ACTION: Annex a planet" on them, but for one thing, the Politics cards already have an action printed on them, and for another I wouldn't want to have to reprint all the politics cards! Also, it might be too easy to flip the Prestige planets that way.

The Improved Political Influence tile (hmm, maybe I should just call that the "Politics tile" -- "Political Influence is a very long term!) now has All planets gain Annex Cost: 7[POL] instead of the extra vp for trading at least 3 different resources at a time.

I'm not sure those costs are perfect, they may need some tweaking. I settled on 7 for the Politics tile because Improved Politics also gives you a Politics icon, so you really only need 6 other ones, and that's on par with one of the more expensive Agenda costs (and so shouldn't be impossible). It might be too high though, and I could see bringing that down to 6. 5 seems awfully low, though it's still higher than the standard Annex cost of 4 printed on the Prestige planets.


As I mentioned, I made just a couple of Diverse tech cards:
Diverse Lobbyist (Diverse perm L1): [POL] (a permanent politics icon)
Diverse Clout (Diverse perm L1): Whenever you draw Clout tokens, draw 1 more and then discard a Clout token.

Filibuster (Diverse perm L1): When dissenting a role, draw 1 clout token.
Party Whip (Diverse perm L1): When another player follows your role, draw 1 clout token.

And I made one of each Advanced, Fertile, and Metallic tech:
Farming Subsidy (Fertile perm L1): ACTION: Discard any number of Clout tokens. produce 2 resource for each clout discarded this way.
Grassroots Movement (Fertile perm L1): Your [COL] icons can be used as [POL].

Free Trade Agreement (Advanced perm L1): Once per turn: You may discard a Clout token to collect 1vp.
Scientific Community (Advanced perm L1): Your [RES] icons can be used as [POL].

Political Climate (Metallic perm L1): ACTION: Recon the Planet deck for a Prestige planet.
Police State (Metallic perm L1): You may attack planets by paying [F] equal to the Annex cost.

And of course, a handful of Prestige tech:
Political Annexation (Prestige L1):ACTION: Annex a planet (pay [POL] equal to it's Annex cost).

Campaign Trail (Prestige L1): ACTION: Target planet gains Annex cost: 4[POL] until end of turn.

Targeted Lobbying (Prestige L1):ACTION: Recon the Clout tokens for any one token and take it.

Call in a Favor (Prestige L1): ACTION: Trade up to 3 Clout tokens for 1vp each.

Wheel & Deal (Prestige L1): ACTION: Trade a resource for a Clout token and another different resource (doesn't need a slot).

Executive Order (Prestige L2):  ACTION: Activate the rightmost Upcoming Agenda, or Dismiss the rightmost Active Agenda. (2vp)

Prestige Clout (Prestige perm L2): Whenever you draw Clout tokens, draw 1 more and then discard a Clout token. (2vp)
Prestige Lobbyist (Prestige perm L2): [POL] (2vp)

Many of these techs are permanent because I have a few Agendas that refer to permanent techs, and I thought it would be interesting to have several in the game even when not playing with Escalation or Exotica. I feel like some might be too strong at L1, but who knows. I'm not sure if I want to keep the Diverse tech or not, I could just delete Diverse Lobbyist and Diverse Clout and make Party Whip and Filibuster into Prestige techs. Then I wouldn't have to explain Diverse Tech in the Oblivion rulebook for just 2 cards.

I currently just have a [POL] icon on each of the Prestige tech (2 icons on the L2 tech). I suppose I could make sure there are at least 6 L1 prestige techs, and put a role symbol on each (in addition to the [POL] icon).


The current Agendas look like this:
* When activated or removed: Recon the Agenda deck for any 1 Agenda and put it into the center active slot.
* Return any one Upcoming Agenda to the bottom of the deck, then Recon the Agenda deck for any 1 Agenda.
* Attacking a planet requires 2 more [F]. When activated: Settle a planet.
* Attacking requires 2 fewer [F]. When activated: collect 2 [F].
* After your turn, if you have at least 1 Adv, Fert, & Met planet in play (face up), collect 1vp.
* After your turn, if you have the most Advanced planets in play (face up), collect 1vp.
* After your turn, if you have the most Fertile planets in play (face up), collect 1vp.
* After your turn, if you have the most Metallic planets in play (face up), collect 1vp.
* After your turn, if you have the most permanent techs in play, collect 1vp.
* Collect 1vp each time you play a L1 tech card for its action. When activated: Take an L1 tech.
* Colonize costs are increased by 2. When activated, Attack a planet.
* Colonize costs are decreased by 1. When activated, Settle a planet.
* Research costs are increased by 2. When activated: Take an L1 tech (ignore pre-reqs).
* Research costs are decreased by 1. When activated: You may spend [RES] to buy a tech card.
* Agenda Activation costs are increased by 1. When activated: Remove 1 Active Agenda from play.
* Agenda Activation costs are decreased by 1. When activated: Return an Upcoming Agenda to the bottom of the deck.
* +2 Produce symbols per Produce role. When activated: Produce any 2 resources (no slot required).
* -2 Produce symbols per Produce role. When activated: Produce any 2 resources (no slot required).
* +2 Survey symbols per Survey role. When activated: Take the top Planet card (face down).
* -2 Survey symbols per Survey role. You may keep 1 additional Planet per Survey role. 
* Hand size +1 for each permanent tech in your empire. When activated: Draw 3 cards & play another action.
* Hand size +-1 for each permanent tech in your empire. When activated: Draw 5 cards & ignore hand limit this turn.
* Annex costs are increased by 2. When activated, Improve Politics tile.
* Annex costs are decreased by 2. When activated, All other players downgrade Politics tile.
* Tech cards may not be played as actions. When activated: Take an L1 tech.
* You may trade Clout tokens as if they were resources. When activated: Draw 2 Clout tokens.
* [POL] icons can be used as [WAR] or [PRO] icons.
* [POL] icons can be used as [WAR] or [TRA] icons.
* [POL] icons can be used as [SUR] or [PRO] icons.
* [POL] icons can be used as [SUR] or [TRA] icons.
* Choose a resource type. +1vp when trading if you trade at least 1 resource of that type.
* Choose a resource type. ACTION: Discard that resource to collect 1vp + any other resource.
* Choose a resource type. ACTION: Discard that resource + Water to collect 3vp and a Clout token.
* Choose a resource type. ACTION: Discard that resource + Food to collect 3vp and a Clout token.
* Choose a resource type. ACTION: Discard that resource + Iron to collect 3vp and a Clout token.
* Choose a resource type. ACTION: Discard that resource + Silicon to collect 3vp and a Clout token.

I think I need to test more, but most of these seem alright. I'm not sure what a good Agenda deck size would be. I used to want the deck to be small enough that if an early Agenda got dismissed, there would be a chance to see it again later, but I think that's unlikely to matter in practice so I think I'll stop worrying about that.


I still need to come up with an Alternate Victory card for this set: Political Victory being an obvious title, but I'm not sure what to make it. All of the alternate victory cards so far have been double sided, so I might need something to go on the back. I think I had an idea for "Traditional Victory: Nobody can with with an Alternate Victory card." or something like that.

But there was also the idea that the Alternate Victory card be an Agenda, one that's always available and has a high Activation cost. Maybe that would be too easy to achieve... but maybe Traditional Victory could be such an Agenda, which means you couldn't win by an alternate victory while it's in play, but could be dismissed (for a high cost). Also, that way players wouldn't be afraid to follow your Politics role for fear of an instant win!

So what should Political Victory do? It could be a planet that's always available, need not be surveyed, cannot be attacked or settled, and can only be Annexed (with a high Annex cost), but that has a similar problem as an instant win agenda.

It would be neat if you didn't have to use the Research role to access it. The obvious thing would be to tie it to the Politics role somehow. Maybe have it cost some number of Clout tokens? Except you can just draw 1 for an action every turn and then win... Hmm. I'll have to give it some more thought. If you have any ideas, leave them in the comments!

Friday, March 11, 2016

What ever happened to that Mars themed game?

I've heard of a number of Mars themed games coming out soon, and I've even heard of a few other Mars themed prototypes in the design community. Some have said that 2016 is going to be the year of the Mars game, like 2010 was the year of the wine game.

Every time I see something about a new Mars game, it reminds me of the thoughts I've had in the past about my own game about colonizing mars. Makes me want to re-read my old blog posts on the topic and see where I left that one.

Maybe the recent popularity of Mars (combined with the discovery of water last fall?) will give me some impetus to actually prototype that game and try it out!

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

More Oblivion tests and thoughts

I got some really nice comments on my last post about Oblivion, but the game has been on the back burner ever since. But I did bring it with me to SaltCon last week, and I managed to play several games, with 2, 3, and 4 players. They were a good sample of games, and they reinforced for me that the structure is sound, and that what I need to do is flesh out the rest of the expansion.

Adding tech

I'd said that I don't want to add more tech to the stacks. But it seems natural to add at least an L1 tech to each stack that has to do with with the Agendas or the Clout tokens.

Perhaps I could add a couple Diverse techs, as that stack isn't terribly big so far.

Or as mentioned in that last post, I could make a new stack of Prestige tech... hopefully that won't throw off people who read the original rules for Prestige planets which say they don't help with research (I had meant that they don't qualify you for the techs that existed at the time).

As an example, I think it would be good to have a tech that gives you a permanent Politics icon.


I have edited many of the Agendas to try and make them all attractive to activate, but a few still need work. The key is that all Agendas have a benefit for the person activating them so that they don't just sit there being boring. Some of the really good ones are like "Increase all warfare costs by 2. When activating this agenda, settle a planet."

I created a series of 6 agendas that give everyone the action "trade [Food] and [Iron] for 4vp and [Silicon]" or similar. There are 6 so that they cover every combination of food, water, iron, and silicon. The idea being that if you produce exactly those resources, then those agendas are really good for you, and if you don't, then you can use your Political Influence tile's action to trade what you do produce for the right stuff.

I like these, and it's kind of neat to chain them together, but I don't like that there are so many of them. It's a bit boring if multiples come up, and especially if nobody tries to take advantage of them. I thought about just having 1 or 2, and letting the activating player choose which resources get traded in ("When activating this agenda, place 2 different resources from the supply onto it. Action: Trade the two resources on this card for 4vp"). Michael suggested instead that I make 4 cards, each with 1 specific resource, and let the activating player choose the other ("When activating this agenda, place 1 resources from the supply onto it. Action: Trade Water and the resource on this card for 4vp" - maybe force the chosen resource to be different than the given one, maybe not). I don't mind that idea, but I wonder if 4 is still too many such cards.

I had originally made 4 different cards that gave +1vp when trading at least 1 resource of a particular type (one for each type), and I cut that down to 2 cards where the activating player chooses the type. I suppose just 1 of those could be enough? And maybe 4 of the "Action: Trade 1 X and 1 Y for 4vp" (where X is given, and Y is chosen by the activating player) might be OK too. Worth trying at least!

"When activating, put a resource on this card. ACTION: Trade that resource for vp + any other resource" might be a good Agenda to try as well.

I made 2 agendas that adjust people's hand size: one that increases your hand size by 1 for each permanent tech you have, and one that decreases your hand size for each permanent tech you have. These hand size adjusters should probably get "When activating, draw 3 cards" or something added onto them, to encourage people to activate them. Or maybe "...draw 3 cards and then play an Action" or "...draw 3 cards and ignore your hand limit this turn." Michael suggested that instead of "Hand size -1 for each permanent tech (min hand size 3)" that it should be "Hand size -1 for each permanent tech (max -3 hand size)" because he didn't like the idea of someone's hand getting completely obliterated such that they can't play... but that would only happen if they have a lot of permanent techs, and that's kind of the point of the card, so I don't think I would want to change it. I figure that agenda might be most useful in conjunction with Escalation, to combat things like Peace Treaties. It's inclusion however might help justify adding a few permanent techs to the game (maybe 1 in each stack, for example, plus 1 Diverse or Prestige type).
Agendas that give you an action upon activating them seem really cool. I really like the ones that let you attack or settle a planet for example, or take an L1 tech card.
Maybe an Agenda that says "Collect 1 Influence when you play a L1 (3-cost) tech for it's action." would be cool. Maybe you get to take an L1 tech (that you qualify for?) when activating it. That would benefit everyone, since most players would have a couple L1 techs, but it would really benefit a player that has many L1 techs, when most of the time you'd just want a couple, then you want to get to L2 techs asap. I could imagine a strategy where you get that in play, get a lot of L1s and thin other cards out of your deck so that you're gaining a vp each turn from playing an L1 tech :)


I've been saying that I would like to add some of the tech-style abilities onto Bustling planets instead, which means adding some number of planets to the deck. I don't mind adding planets to the deck -- the more I do that, the less bad it is to do big surveys.

What I've been strongly considering is giving each planet in this set an alternate "Annex" cost in addition to the Colonize and Warfare costs. This cost would likely be about 4 or 5 in all cases. Then, as a 3rd option during a politics role, you could use the politics icons to Annex a planet that has an Annex cost. Then the Improved Political Influence tile could have the ability (instead of a trade bonus) to give every planet an Annex cost of 6 or something like that.

Alternatively, maybe the standard PI tile gives everything an Annex cost of 8, and the improved side brings that down to 6.

Another idea is to have an action that says "ACTION: Reveal X Politics icons to Annex a planet", which would be sort of like a boostable action. This could be on the Improved Political Influence tile, or potentially on a new Bustling planet. I'm not sure if I want to add a boostable action to the game all by it's lonesome though.

An interesting comment on my last post suggested that the new planets be not shuffled into the deck, but permanently available to the first player to Annex them. This is an interesting idea which merits more thought... it's not what I had in mind, but it might be a good idea.