Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Deities & Demigods -- quick update

I just tweeted about Deities & Demigods with a link to this blog tag, so it seems prudent to post a quick update on the latest few plays of Deities & Demigods.

The Deities

In short, I deleted Hera, Poseidon, and boats altogether so there are only 5 deities now:

No longer a turn order track per se... turn order is clockwise from a start player, and the leader on the Zeus track at the end of the cycle becomes the new start player and choose a deity to resolve and add to the deck.

There are now triggered benefits every couple of steps along the Zeus track (devotion bump, God card for scoring, a Favor token, and a minimum Devotion bump), and everyone resets at the end of each cycle.

No change here, Hermes continues to deliver gold which you use to show your devotion to the deities.

With the removal of boats, Ares is the deity in charge of moving your units (just "troops" now) around the board. I upped the values at each level, and I've been liking the recent update tot he board: 4 board pieces at all player counts, and you move around the hex nodes, and into the hexes at cities and quest locations.

Buildings, artifacts, and monuments haven't changed (still using a separate deck for buildings and artifacts), but the level 1 reward has changed. Instead of 1 favor token (1vp), you now get 1 gold per building you have in play (minimum 1). Having removed Hera, it's nice to have some additional income opportunities, and I like the idea of building just a couple of buildings in the early game and then ignoring Hephaestus and just taking 3 gold whenever he comes up (juxtaposed with concentrating on Hephaestus and scoring off a lot of buildings and artifacts).

I like the existence of Hades, who brings troops back from the underworld. After removing combat from the game it was questionable whether this would be relevant though. I think I've found a way to keep Hades relevant...

Currently you start with just 2 troops in play, 4 more in your personal supply, and 4 more in the Underworld. Hades moves troops from the Underworld to your personal supply, or from your supply to play. So you can use Hades from the outset to get more troops into play. Whenever you build a building, one of your troops goes back to your supply, so Hades will help you get them back into play. When completing a quest, one of your troops goes to the UNDERWORLD, so you can either consider them lost forever, or you can show some devotion to Hades to get them back into circulation. Considering that you only have a total of 10 troops to work with, this could be a big deal.

The Demigods

Since I've changed the game so dramatically, my sample player powers kind of fell apart. I tweaked a fe of them, but rather than worry about that too much I made some standard player boards (same for all players). In the end I'd like to have A-side and B-side player boards like you see in Kings of Air and Steam for example, with more interesting, unique B-sides

Obviously Herekles should have some benefit when doing quests, or some small incentive to pursue a Quest strategy. I've been using "whenever you complete a quest, increase devotion to any deity by 1" which seems like a good reward. I might offer a few extra points for having done quests, but that might be too heavy handed.

Perseus had the ability to put units directly into play during Hades, but now that's the standard so I need to figure out something better for him. Perhaps allowing Hades to add troops to play wherever you have a troop (as opposed to wherever you have a building) for example. I'm not sure that would be good enough, but it might be interesting. I could also give a small benefit such as a gold whenever you take control of a city, or whenever another player takes control of a city away from you, to make city control more of a thing during play.

Nike used to have a benefit on the turn order track. After the changes I think his ability has to change to something like "when resolving Zeus, move 1 extra space on the Zeus track". I'm not sure if that's good or bad though. In any case, I'd like Nike's ability to have something to do with the Zeus track.

As captain of the Argos, Jason's original ability had to do with Poseidon and boat movement. Of course after removing that whole section of the game, this ability will have to change! Currently the board is just an array of spaces, I have been ignoring any kind of terrain (such as water). However in the end I would like the board to have some more texture, and I would like to see water being a thing. Probably I will just say something like "water costs extra to move over", and then Jason's ability will counteract or lessen that movement penalty. Until that's added though, I think there just isn't an ability for this player board.

I'm open to suggestions as to other demigods to use, and types of abilities they might have!

The next thing I will try is to expand the starting Olympus deck to 2 of each deity, rather than just 1.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

London, Paris, Deities, Demigods, Stained Glass, and Rock & Roll


I just returned from a 12 day trip to Europe. An old online friend, Sebastian Bleasdale, got married in London, and he was kind enough to send me an invite. I suspect he didn't think I would come, but I called his bluff! I had a really good time at his wedding, and though I didn't get too much time to catch up with the busy groom, I was able to get some quality time in with a number of UK designers that I rarely see such as Matthew Dunstan, Tony Boydell, Brett Gilbert, Ian Vincent, and even caught a glimpse of big names such as Reiner Knizia and Richard Breese!

A gathering with so many designers would be nothing without a little playtesting and prototypes. I was able to play upcoming TMG title Pioneer Days (something like an Oregon Trail themed board game) with one of the designers (Matthew Dunstan), as well as test a drafting game by Tony Boydell, play an excellent mancala-rondel game by Sebastian and Ian based on my Crusaders rondel mechanism, see an interesting deck building (ish) game by Matthew, and even get my latest Deities & Demigods to the table.


I had some good discussion about Deities & Demigods with Matthew, who has expressed interest in co-designing that one with me, and I decided on some BIG changes -- some of which have been hanging around waiting to be tried, and some new ideas that came u in those conversations. The big changes include cutting out Hera, Poseidon, and boats altogether, and attaching the the manipulation of the Olympus deck to the initiative track itself. The original initiative track was intended to be for turn order, and there was supposed to be incentive to care about turn order. We decided that it may be easier to just have clockwise turn order from a start player, and we could reassign start player at the end of each cycle based on the initiative track. The new version has a few rewards that you get as you advance up the initiative track, and then the markers reset for the next cycle. Without Poseidon, there are simply troops that navigate the board. When we get the game working better we can add texture by saying things like "moving over water costs extra" or something. These changes worked out pretty well, as you'll see if you read on...


After the wedding, I headed to Paris where I saw a number of touristy things including Notre Dame, the exterior of the Louvre, Ferris Wheel, Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower, and even Euro Disney. I enjoyed each (well, the Eiffel Tower was disappointing), even Disneyland was more fun than I expected. But I enjoyed Notre Dame most of all. In fact, looking at the stained glass windows, I came up with a new game idea... and in the following days I have pieced together a new game design, ready to be prototyped and tested! The game is a simple set collection game about building attractive stained glass windows. Watch for a future blog post about that one.


When I found out that Bruno Faidutti was having a gathering during the time I'd be in France, I was excited at the prospect of attending. Bruno was kind enough to invite me, so I took a quick trip by train and got to see people like Ignacy Trzewiczek, Bruno Faidutti, Bruno Cathala, as well as other French gamers and industry folk. At the event I got a chance to play Crusaders with some folks, as well as Deities & Demigods with all the new changes. The players were great sports as I stumbled through the playtest with brand new rules, and they said they enjoyed the game a lot. The changes worked out alright, but were a little wonky, so when I got home I made a few adjustments, and managed to get two 2-player tests in on Tuesday which went very well.


In Etourvy I also played a pirate themed press-your-luck dice game which someone thought TMG might be interested in, and then I pulled out my press-your-luck dice game, Rock & Roll. The latest version of Rock & Roll (with changes based on Game Design Attack #4) has players rolling dice to play songs and satisfy the crowd. I had been allowing players to lock in more than 1 die at a time where possible, but there was something unsatisfying about that... after this test comments implied that a better format might be to allow players to lock in only 1 die at a time. So every time you roll the dice, you first lock all Gaffes, then you must be able to lock the next die in the song or else you bust. Even if you have more matching dice, you can only lock 1 into the song, then you must either stop and score, or roll again.

This new format makes a lot more sense, and if the songs are designed such that they start fairly flexibly then they'll naturally get harder and harder as dice get locked. Players may press their lock going for more crowd tokens, completion bonuses, and making it harder for opponents to "outperform" the song. Or they can play it safe and stop early, risking that another player outperform their song and take the card away from them.

I suspect this is the correct format for the game. All that remains now is to tweak the cards to fit the new format, redesign the songs, and see if it's really any fun :)