Thursday, June 30, 2016

Deities & Demigods: It's been a while... I've made some tweaks but haven't tested them yet.

The last time I posted about Deities & Demigods I mentioned that Hades didn't make the cut... at least not for the base game. I intend to keep him round as an expansion module (maybe on of those so-called "in-spansions").

After that post I did excise Hades, and I've played a few games without him... and I'm happy to report that it works just fine. Great! Now the game is easier to teach and learn, and is still interesting to play.

I have created all the stuff needed to try out the Hades module, but I have yet to try it out. As I was updating my prototype I made some other changes that I've also yet to try out, but I think will be pretty good...

* Buildings and artifacts no longer have set collection scoring.
I kinda liked the idea of set collection scoring on buildings and artifacts, like the Exploration cards have in Goa for example. However, it may have been a little out of control (or not), and more importantly, it was annoying to have to count up so many things at the end of the game. The more interesting rewards were the ones that gave you gold, favor tokens, devotion bumps, or advances on the Zeus track. So I just replaced all the set collection icons with those, and added another: 2 Troop movement.

* Building costs vs incentive to spread out and build in different cities.
Originally, each player was allowed only 1 building per city, so if you wanted to build another building, you had to move to another city before you could do that. There was some bonus for being the first player to build in each city, to give you some incentive to race to build in the cities before anyone else did.

More recently I've tried instead allowing multiple builds in a single city, with the rule being that you pay 1 gold per building already in the city... so if you stay put and build, it'll cost you more and more. Then the incentive to spread out is cheaper building. That was OK, but I wasn't sure I liked it.

My new tweak is this... each city now has 6 spaces for buildings. 5 of them each have one of the standard icons, the ones you find on the building and artifact cards:
- Advance x2 on the Zeus track
- 2 Troop movement
- 1 Gold
- 1 Favor token
- 1 Devotion bump

The 6th space has a better version of one of those:
- 3 Zeus track
- 3 Troop movement
- 2 Gold
- 2 Favor token
- 2 Devotion bump

The idea is that the FIRST time you build a building in a city, you may choose any remaining space to build in and collect the bonus. Any further building you build in that city is placed on top of your first building marker, and earns you no additional bonus. I had intended to also keep the cost of 1 gold for each building already built, but maybe with this tweak that's unnecessary... instead of paying more, you're giving up opportunity cost of getting those bonuses.

There's incentive to spread out so you can collect more bonuses, and there's incentive to act fast as the first player to build in each city has first dibs on the better-than-usual space.

One of those icons will be marked, and when players choose their starting city they will get the marked bonus (which will be the weaker version of whichever powered up bonus is in that town).

* Virtual Zeus phase in cycle #1.
I was thinking that Zeus was kind of boring in the first cycle or two of the game, so in the last couple of games I have tried starting the game with a Zeus round before drawing any cards. This way Zeus would come up twice in cycle 1, but only once in cycle 2 (unless someone added a Zeus card). I've enjoyed this, but I don't know if it's necessary or not. Especially with the possibility of starting with extra Zeus track advances from your starting city this might not be important anymore.

* Simplifying the board to a simple hex board.
I've always enjoyed the movement rules where you move on the vertices of the hexes rather than from hex to hex. But since I made the Quests and Cities reside inside hexes, that line has blurred. Some players get a little confused by the movement rules. It's possible the troops should just move from hex to hex and NOT reside on the hex nodes after all.

This dramatically reduces the size of the board, but if I similarly reduce the amount of troop movement you get from Ares then everything should still work similarly... so instead if 3/7/11/15 troop movement, you'll only get 1/3/5/8, and instead of costing 2 troop movement to bring a troop from your supply into play, it'll only cost 1. This simplifies Ares a bit, and the lower numbers might make movement turns easier and faster to execute.

I hope to get a chance to try these changes, as well as perhaps adding the Hades module back in with experienced players!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Shameless promotion - a couple of non-TMG kickstarters (plus Yokohama Deluxe!)

I'm not big into promoting other people's kickstarters, and as such I don't ask people to promote the projects I'm involved in either.

But tonight I played a game that a couple of local guys have up for crowdfunding right now called Martial Art. The project is funded, so this isn't a plea to help them reach their goal. It's a pretty fun little game of double-think. A 54 card deck supports 2 players for $12, and apparently you can play with up to 4 if you have 2 copies. I didn't play with more than 2, and I suspect I'd prefer 2 players anyway. However I also suspect that with 2 decks you could play a variant where each player has their own deck, which could cut down on any luck of the draw (or perceived luck of the draw) if you like.

I usually don't love the "let's both play a card at the same time" type of games, but this one was kinda fun. If you like that sort of thing then maybe give this one a shot.

Speaking of kickstarter projects, another local guy who made 3D models of the genetic component pieces for the upcoming TMG game Chimera Station is running a project for some software to help design 3D models for things like D&D characters. The software is called Desktop Hero, and you can follow the link to see what that's all about. I don't know much about the project or the software, but Andrew was a really nice guy and did a great job on our Chimera Station pieces.

So if you are in the mood to do some shopping on Kickstarter (perhaps you're backing Yokohama Deluxe from TMG...), maybe give those projects a look and see if they interest you at all.

And for those interested in Yokohama Deluxe, I'm going to be involved in fixing up the graphic design for the English edition, which is something that's definitely needed - the game is great, but the graphics make it a lot less accessible than it could be. So if you trust me, then you can be sure the game will look awesome (and I've played a handful of times, the game really is a lot of fun!)

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.