Monday, June 13, 2016

R.I.P. Hades?

For a while now there was some question as to whether Hades has been pulling his weight. It's been a bit of a struggle to keep him relevant. Initially I was OK with Hades being a sort of support deity, enabling players to pursue building, quests, and city control. However, as Matthew Dunstan pointed out, you could pursue scoring from each of the other deities, but not Hades:

Zeus: Collect deity cards for end game scoring.

Hermes: Collect gold to spend on favor when showing devotion to deities.

Ares: Score points for controlling cities (Matthew would like to see even more in the way of scoring for Ares)

Hephaestus: Score points for buildings (I am strongly considering ditching the set collection scoring and going with something simpler, but still worth points in some way)

Hades does not provide any path to victory, and as a result, there's often no reason to add him to the deck. As yet he's served only as a way to get more troops into play, and then recycle them after doing quests or building. For me that was working, but it's become more and more apparent that it's not ideal.

I've got a couple of friends who tend to think that in a game like this, with 5 deities, a player should just be able to pick one, concentrate on it, and be competitive with another player who picked a different deity. I've never subscribed to that personally - I believe it's fine for games to have early game actions and late game actions, and I don't think it's too much to ask of a player to consider the benefit of the choices they make, and whether they make sense at this point in the game. For example, buying a big building early in a game of Puerto Rico is not the best choice, though I'll concede that they did make those too expensive for players to build right away.

But in the case of Deities & Demigods it does make sense that there be reasons to add any of the deities to the deck, so I was interested in Matthews suggestion to add a scoring avenue to Hades. He suggested adding Trial spaces to the Underworld that you could spend Hades points to occupy with troops, gaining some kind of end game bonus at the cost of permanently losing those troops. That scoring could even be interactive, like majority scoring for devoting the most troops to the trials for example.

While that does sound interesting to me, I can't help but wonder if it's really necessary. Maybe it's just too much... the explanation of this game tends to take longer than it should (EmDo is similar), so anything to reduce that would be welcome. So if Hades isn't really necessary, then it maybe better to just excise him from the game altogether like I did Poseidon.

So next game I'll try that -- no Hades at all, and no Underworld per se. Your troops will either be on your player board or in play. 2 Ares points will bring a new troop into play, and of course 1 Ares point will move troops around the board as normal.

But to stay true to theme, rather than just leave Hades on the cutting room floor, I think he could become a sort of expansion module. It actually seems like adding Hades as a module would be fairly simple...

* Devotion track for each player
* Underworld board (with Trial spaces)
* Hades starting Olympus card and a stack of 6 Hades cards
* Hades monument, talisman, and shrine (maybe other artifact/building cards that deal with Hades)
* Potentially a couple more troops per player
* Rules indicating how Trial scoring and Hades points work

If playing Hades-less works out, then I'd like to give this expansion module a shot. If it works, then maybe I can find a way to add other deities (such as Poseidon) back in as modules too!

Side note on controlling cities:
I've been struggling with city control scoring, and how it's sort of all-or-nothing. I'm beginning to think that perhaps you should only count troops, not buildings, for control of cities. Furthermore, I think the scoring should be 1 per city you have troops in, and an additional 2 or 3 if you have the MOST troops in that city. That way you can pursue some scoring by running your troops around the board, and you can score better if you make sure to outdo your opponents. I've been thinking of adding a couple of troops per player for this reason as well, so you can reasonably fight for a couple of cities.

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