Monday, February 29, 2016

Another "Seth Jaffee Development"

I remember back in 2008 having aspirations of becoming a professional game developer. I enjoyed designing games, and wanted to have some published, but I felt my real strength was in development.

I should clarify... in the video game world, the term "developer" is often synonymous with "designer" and "programmer". That is an unfortunate fact of language and jargon, as in the board game world it means something different. The best way I've found to describe it is to liken games to books:

Books have an author, who comes up with the idea for the story, writes a rough draft, and refines it into a finished book.

Books have an editor, who cleans up the language, revising the story as needed, and puts on finishing touches for publication.

And books have a publisher, who chooses which books to publish, employs editors and printers, and brings the book to market.

Games draw a distinct parallel to books in many ways, and production is no different:

Games have an author, who comes up with an idea for the game, writes a preliminary rule set, playtests and iterates to refine it into a finished game. In the board game world we often refer to the author as the "designer".

Games have an editor, who cleans up the balance, revises the mechanics as needed, and puts on finishing touches for publication. In the board game world we often refer to the editor as the "developer".

And of course games have a publisher, who chooses which games to publish, employs developers and manufacturers, and brings the game to market.

Ever since Michael started Tasty Minstrel Games back in 2009, My dream of becoming a professional developer has become more and more a reality... Indeed, today I can list Board Game Developer and Board Game Designer on my resume alongside Structural Engineer. Achievement unlocked!

A few years ago, Michael suggested that I launch a company to do game development, rather than doing it as an individual. I guess the idea there is to build a brand, and maybe position myself better down the road. I didn't mind the idea, but as someone who's usually quite comfortable with the status quo, I never got around to pursuing the idea. Recently Michael brought it up again, and I have finally started looking into it a bit.

I figure one major part of building a brand is to have a name and accompanying logo. I think a logo on game boxes will be much more recognizable than my name in small print on the back of the box or buried in the rulebook. I know a lot of great graphic designers, but before I shell out a couple hundred bucks to one of them for a professional quality logo, I thought I ought to have a good idea of what I want. As such, I started to think of (a) names for such an endeavor, and (b) concepts for a logo design.

As for a name, I'm fond of Seth Jaffee Development. It's straightforward, it includes my name, and it's even got a subtle bit of word play -- as in, anything I put the logo on could be considered a Seth Jaffee development. And if it's a game, hat probably means it was developed by Seth Jaffee.

As for a logo, I have two front-runner ideas that I kinda like. I'm open to suggestions for others as well.

Seth Jaffee Development logo idea #1

Possibly the better of the two ideas, Idea #1 is to make the logo look something like a professional stamp -- like a seal of approval. For reference, I pinned a few images I found online (I especially like this one). My quick not-an-artist mockup in MS Paint looks something like this:

In an effort to get a better idea of what this would look like, I went on and solicited a better version of this logo idea. I'm sorry Gavan, I know you hate that site, but my plan was to get concepts fleshed out, and maybe find a designer I could hire in the future for real work. 

To be honest, I didn't expect much for $5... and this is what I got (after 1 revision -- the first version looked almost exactly like my attempt above):

In general I think this does a better job of communicating my initial idea than my sketch did, but I would want something a lot better/cooler looking than this for a finished logo.

Seth Jaffee Development logo idea #2

The other thought I had was to do something that incorporated my signature, which appears in shiny foil ink on the covers of the Eminent Domain boxes for Kickstarter backers. I like that autograph, and I could see using it in the logo above as well (professional seals are always accompanied by a signature).

But the other idea I had was to just use the autograph itself, along with the word DEVELOPMENT, perhaps in a style like was used for the Eminent Domain tech card titles (like a shiny metallic look). My crappy sketch in MS Paint:

Attempt #1 from the fiverr guy (I'll note that the colors look wrong in this PNG):

In some ways I like this one... it's simple, kind of elegant, and I like the red highlight (again, the colors are all weird in that png). But I had asked for that to be my actual autograph, and I wanted some more texture to the letters, so after a revision request I got this:

To be quite honest, I feel like this is pretty half-assed. The first version of Idea #2 seemed like they put more thought and effort into it, this one looks like they just took files I sent them and dropped them on top of each other. As I said, I didn't expect much for $5, but the spacing is pretty poor, and the size of "development' seems pretty small compared to the rest. I suspect this would look a lot better if that bottom word were bigger and moved such that it were more centered, and with the top of "development" much closer o the bottom of the "eth" and "a" in my name. And maybe the autograph would look good in a dark red or burgundy?

Now that I have these (and actually, I should have another set coming from a different designer), I should be have a better idea of what I want, and maybe a better starting point to give a real graphic designer to work from. I was kind of hoping that the $5 "tryout" would impress enough that I'd want to hire the designer themselves... I feel like that's what fiverr is really good for. But so far, I'm not all that impressed. Maybe I'm just spoiled by being friends with so many great graphics people!

So, what do you think? Which of these ideas seems better to you? Do you have an idea you think would trump these? I'd love to read about it in the comments!

EDIT: My good friend, a professional graphic designer from Uruguay, read my comments about this on FaceBook and surprised me with a really good version of a logo! Check it out and let me know what you think:
 I really like it. but I'm not sure about the "Board Game" part, or the doubling up of my name -- I suppose that's because the autograph might not be legible. Any suggestions or comments on this?

One thing I noticed from the last one above (the on I called "half-assed") was that they took my signature and cleaned up the lines a bit or something... made them look bolder. Does anybody thing that looks better than the signature in the latest version?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Eminent Domain: Microcosm -- fan made scoring app (Android)

Microcosm Scoring App

BGG user Frank Roitzsch (shinkyo) contacted me through geekmail and asked for my blessing to share an Android based scoring app he'd made for Microcosm.

Of course, I was thrilled to see a fan creating accessories for a game I'd made, so I granted my blessing forthwith, and now that scoring app is available (just click this link)!

Here's what a screenshot looks like:

Please note: this is an app to help score the game, it does not aid in game play at all. And it's made for Android. I do not know if Frank has plans to create an iOS version or not. If people ask for that, I can see if he's able to do it, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that, he might not even know how (I know I don't)!

Many thanks to Frank Roitzschfor creating this. I look forward to installing it on my phone and giving it a try. Hopefully this app will give you a reason to break Microcosm back out and give it another go as well :)

How To Play

I know some people had trouble with the rules sheet, so here's an awesome instructional video starring Pep over at Watch It Played:

And what the heck, here's a Gameplay Runthrough and Final Thoughts from Richard Ham of Rahdo Runs Through as well:

Have fun storming the Galaxy!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Crusaders faction powers - some new, some tried and true. With commentary. And updates.

Since I'm bored at work waiting for 80,000 more files to download (freaking DropBox... like all technology, it's good while it works, and it's a pain in the butt when it doesn't), I figured I'd think a little bit about my games. Most recently I made some updates to Crusaders, modifying the board (2p, as well as 3-4p), and inventing 8 more faction powers to try out.

Yesterday I got a chance to play a 2p game, on the new version of the 2p board, and I took the opportunity to try 2 of the brand new, as-yet untested faction powers. I think that game went OK in general, but it'll take a lot more testing to check the balance of all these new faction powers...

Here's a current list of all the faction powers, both old (tested) and new (untested), with some of my thoughts on each:

After another playtest and some more thinking, I'm going to interject with red italic text. For production/art cost reasons I might want to stick to 10 Faction powers, in which case I'll be choosing the best/favorite 10 of the 18 I've currently got, so I'll mention here which ones might or might not make the final cut.

The Knights Teutonic
You may distribute Action cubes either clockwise or counterclockwise (as opposed to the usual clockwise).

This has proven to be a very popular faction power, especially among new players. I think it's a solid ability, and appropriately powerful. this kind of rondel control is what I originally had in mind when designing the game. This faction more than some of the others will interact strongly with the actual order of the Action bins on the rondel.

This is one of the original, staple abilities, and it will certainly make the final cut.

The Knights Hospitaller
Start with 11 Action cubes on your rondel. Once per turn when distributing Action cubes you may skip 1 Action bin.

I thought this would be a fun one, allowing a player to skip a bin in order to recharge another one faster, or to ignore a particular action altogether. Indeed, it's a useful ability, and proved to be strong enough that I nerfed it by removing a cube from the board. This faction has seen a lot of play, and I believe this version is appropriately powerful.

This is one of the original, staple abilities, and it will certainly make the final cut.

The Knights Templar
Start with 10 Action cubes on your rondel. Once per turn when distributing Action cubes you may place 2 cubes into the same Action bin.

Like the Hospitallers, I thought it would be fun to be able to recharge certain actions more quickly, to get people away from having to just use every action on their rondel about the same amount over the course of the game. I was correct, it is fun to do so, and this particular effect proved so strong I nerfed it by removing *2* cubes, and it still seems to hold its own.

This is one of the original, staple abilities, and it will certainly make the final cut.

The Order of Santiago
Begin with 1 rondel upgrade of your choice. When distributing cubes, you may begin with the original Action bin.

Originally this effect was "you can leave unused cubes behind" but for some reason that wasn't as clear, and really only worked if you "overpaid" for an action -- in other words, with normal "good play" you would avoid your ability altogether! So I changed it to allow you to start distributing in the original bin, which means you can recharge it faster. This didn't seem to be as strong as the other rondel control abilities, so I combined it with a rondel upgrade. This one isn't as fun as those first few, but I think it's fair and reasonable.

This one is nice because it has another way to control the rondel distribution, so at least 1 faction should have that. I'll have to figure out whether it should come with an extra cube, or a rondel upgrade, or what. I might cut the rest.

The Knights of St Lazarus
Begin the game with 2 rondel upgrades of your choice.

I thought it would be fun for a player to sort of choose their strategic path by allowing them a few upgrades. this only saves them 2 turns over the course of the game, but they get to use those upgraded bins immediately as well which is a big plus. I suspect most players will choose Travel/Build as at least one of their upgrades, as that's immediately useful, but I suppose its usefulness wears off fairly quickly if you're not pursuing a heavy building strategy.

So far this one seems to be the weakest of the original set of 10 factions. So much so that I'm considering upping it to 3 upgrades. At one point I considered simply upgrading the entire rondel, but a player suggested it would be more fun to sort of pick your upgrades to suit your strategy or play style (and I agree, though of course it'd be simpler and better to start with an entirely upgrade rondel).

Since this one seems so weak, it might not make the final cut. Or else I might give it 1 more upgrade and see if that feels any better.

The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre
-1 Travel. Begin the game with 14 Action cubes on your rondel -- place 1 additional Action cube into each Travel action bin.

Originally this faction simply started with 1 extra cube, and while that's obviously benefitial, it didn't FEEL like an ability. So I quickly made it 2 extra cubes which you could place into any 2 bins you want. Eventually I specified that the extra cubes go into the Travel bins, mostly because a new player could have a hard time deciding where to put them, but partly because this faction seemed to be a bit too strong. I played that way for quite some time, and while the Holy Sepulchre didn't win every game, it certainly seemed like the strongest faction. I wasn't sure if it was really too strong, or if it was just more straightforward. Having extra cubes on your rondel makes all of your actions a little stronger on the average, it doesn't require any further decisions to gain that benefit. On the other hand, a player with a trickier ability might not gain its full benefit due to poor play.

I have recently decided that this faction is likely too strong, so I added the "-1 Travel" drawback. Now the faction is on the average better at ll of the actions, except travel. I haven't tried it with this drawback, but I suspect it'll be OK.

This is something of a staple, so it will probably make the final cut unless it proves too strong (I haven't tried it with the -1 Travel nerf yet).

The Knights Calatrava
Start with 6 Action cubes on your rondel (1 in each Action bin). +1 Travel, +1 Muster, +1 Build, +1 Crusade, +1 Influence.

This faction is possibly my favorite. It's very tricky and hard to use well, but can be very powerful when used correctly. As such, I tend to not use it with new players, and I describe it as a sort of "advanced" faction, which shouldn't be used until you're familiar with the game.

That might be an indictment, I'm not sure I want to include a faction that could cause a bad first play (I highly suspect that many players would ignore any warning not to use it in their first game).

As my favorite, this one will probably make the final cut, though if it's truly difficult to play then maybe I ought to cut it.

The Order of Aviz
Begin with 13 Action cubes instead of 12 -- place 1 additional Action cube into the Action bin of your choice. When distributing Action cubes, you may begin with the original bin.

Similar to the Order of Santiago above, but with an extra cube instead of an upgraded rondel tile. I suspect an extra cube might be better than an upgrade, but maybe not by enough to matter.

See the Order of Santiago, above.

The Order of Alcantara
Begin with 1 rondel upgrade of your choice, and 13 Action cubes instead of 12 -- place 1 additional Action cube into the Action bin of your choice.

This faction rounded out the set of combinations of +1 cube, 1 rondel upgrade, and the "start distributing in original bin" ability. It does feel better than just 1 extra cube (of course), and so it's probably about right -- if a little boring.

This was originally a sort of filler, and now that I've invented more powers this one might not make the cut. It's somewhat boring after all.

The Knights ________ (could use more titles!)
+1 Travel. Begin with 1 additional Knight in play.

I came up with this one a while ago, and originally it just started with the extra Knight. It occurred to me that additional knights aren't that great without extra travel as well, so I added +1 Travel as well. Ever since I did that, I actually like this one quite a bit. Most players will find that they need to build at least 1 Castle in the early to mid game in order to be efficient enough with their actions. Once that happens, there's a strong desire to build a 2nd Castle as well to get the extra travel. Once you're 2 castles in, you're well on your way down that "tech tree" -- no matter what your chosen strategy.

This faction frees players up to sort of ignore castles and concentrate on other things if they want to.

I like this one a lot, so it will probably make the final cut.

The following factions are brand new and have not really been tested. They are less about rondel control than some of the original faction powers, and more about allowing ways to pursue particular strategies in interesting ways:

The Knights ________ (could use more titles!)
Begin with 1 rondel upgrade of your choice. You may treat the Influence action as if it were Build.

The Knights ________ (could use more titles!)
Begin with 1 rondel upgrade of your choice. You may treat the Influence action as if it were Crusade.

The Knights ________ (could use more titles!)
Begin with 1 rondel upgrade of your choice. You may treat the Build action as if it were Crusade.

These three factions are my response to requests from players to be able to build 2 buildings in 1 action, or crusade against 2 enemies in 1 action. I couldn't put a reason to it for a while, but I suspected that would be too powerful. I think I've figured out why... the game is largely about using your rondel efficiently -- ordering your actions so as to minimize waste cubes. Allowing players to build 2 buildings in 1 action means they need worry less about overfilling their build bin, which is counter to the sort of central puzzle of the rondel.

However, I thought that if it were really powerful, maybe it could be a faction ability. but to avoid rules questions, I addressed it by allowing the player to use one action as if it were another. Each of these three factions can do one of the following, respectively:

* Build+Build
* Muster+Crusade
* Crusade+Crusade

Because simply being able to substitute the actions like that might not be strong enough, I added a rondel upgrade, which means these players could utilize these fancy action combos right out of the gate, which I think could be pretty cool. In the 2p game I played yesterday, I had the Influence=>Crusade faction, and it was pretty fun. Hard to say about balance though.

After playing another game, I'm thinking these three could be combined into 1 Faction: "You may treat the Influence action as either Build or Crusade". I might try that next, and if it seems good then it might make the final cut.

The Knights ________ (could use more titles!)
Gain 1 Influence token for each unused Action cube.

This was suggested by a player. Basically, it makes up for bad logistics by paying a player 1vp per excess cube. This is similar to, but different from, just adding "/INFLUENCE" to each rondel tile -- in that case you could get a lot of bonuses from having built churches!

It could be that those bonuses would be OK, but it sounds like too much to me. If the current wording proves disappointing (because playing "well"' means dodging your ability), then I could try wording it the other way, or I could try adding a cube to the rondel or something.

I haven't tried this one yet, and it's hard to tell if it's good or bad, fun or not.

The Knights ________ (could use more titles!)
Choose one enemy (Prussians, Slavs, or Saracens) and mark it on this card with one of your Action cubes.
+1 Crusade against that enemy.
+1 of that Enemy toward end game bonus scoring.

This was originally going to be 3 different factions, one for each Enemy. However, I didn't want too many factions that promoted Crusade strategies, so I smooshed them together into a single card. That worked out, because I suspect the ability is pretty darn good, so losing a cube (using it to mark which enemy you "hate") is probably appropriate. Of course, that's just conjecture at the moment, I haven't played with this faction yet.

I tried this one, and it seemed interesting. More testing is needed to see if it's appropriately powerful, but I could see this making the cut.

The Knights ________ (could use more titles!)
You may Build where an opponent has built at a cost of +1 cube.

As I mentioned in the last paragraph, I was worried that too many factions were crusade-centric, and I wanted something to help a build-heavy strategy out. One of the issues with heavy building is that the building spaces dry up pretty quickly, and by the end of the game you need to do some relatively healthy crusades in order to open up a building space. To address this, I actually tweaked the board to add a couple of spaces without enemies in them toward the right end of the board.

This faction allows you to build where another player has built -- not yourself, that seemed too easy. This way you could follow a opponents' knights around and build where they built. I thought about requiring you to build the same building that the opponent had built, or requiring it to be different, but eventually decided that the flexibility to build whatever you want would be best.

However, I didn't want to simply say "this player can build with abandon!" so I added that building over another player's building costs an extra cube. I wonder if it shouldn't cost *2* extra cubes! This faction also raises the question of whether the bonus tiles apply to the 2nd building. Historically, I've removed the tiles once a building is built in order to reduce clutter. During yesterday's game my opponent had this faction, and we decided to leave the tiles in place (and allowed the printed discounts to apply as well, like in Paris). After the game though, we both thought the tiles should in fact be removed from the board. that way there's still something of a race to get to the juicy spaces. If they are removed, then +1 cube is probably enough of a cost for overbuilding. I suppose for the same reason, maybe the discounts printed on the board shouldn't count for the overbuilder either?

Need more testing, but I like promoting a Build strategy.

Side note: I've been thinking that maybe the bonus tiles aren't potent enough... I think the 1 cube discount is probably good enough, but +1vp isn't terribly exciting. After the last game I thought maybe I'd up all the +1vps to +2 (and the +2s to +3). However I just had a potentially better idea... maybe when you build in a hex, you TAKE the tile, and count it as 1vp at the end of the game! Maybe I'll try that next time I play.

Regarding this note, I tried it and I think it might be good. Need more testing.

The Knights ________ (could use more titles!)
Begin with 13 Action cubes instead of 12 -- place 1 additional Action cube into the Action bin of your choice.
Leave a region containing an Enemy for 1 Travel instead of the usual 2.

I'm not sure how useful this faction really is, but it allows you the freedom to rush to the right side of the board and get the juicy building spaces very quickly. As the easier travel seems somewhat limited and not necessarily powerful I threw in an extra cube.

This one might not make the cut, but who knows -- maybe it's fun.

Haven't tried it. I suspect it's not going to make the final cut.

The Knights ________ (could use more titles!)
When you begin a crusade action, you may swap an enemy token where your knight is with an enemy token from an adjacent region.

This one sounds interesting to me. It can allow you to pursue end game majority bonuses, particular Saracen buildings, and potentially even inter-player interaction by swapping an enemy out from under them. I'm not certain how strong that is, but it seems like it's probably worth a try.

This one sounds interesting, and I'd really like to give it a try.

And now I'm down to 66,000 files downloading, and it's 6:00 pm. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to finish my work!

Friday, February 19, 2016

I found a mini-review of Terra Prime, by BGG user Rachel Schnoor (tartujik) -- Thanks for playing!

 I came across this mini-review on BGG of my first published game, Terra Prime. It was buried in a geeklist by user Rachel Schnoor (tartujik). It warmed my heart a little bit to see such a positive review, even now... 7 years after the game came out:

This is also a pick-up-and-deliver space game, but it plays with more people than the last one I listed (up to 5 players), is longer, incorporates fighting as well, and has little cubes for goods (and sometimes you just want to play with little cubes). The goods are names brownian, greenium, bluim which gives you an idea of how seriously this game takes itself. The art is really fun too. You have to watch out for asteroids, fight aliens, explore new areas of space, set up mining colonies for the different resources, etc. To help you combat the hardships of space and to give you an extra edge - you can buy upgrades, but to do so you'd have to use cubes you can get victory points for, so it's a trade off. I guess this game hints at 4x type stuff, but really it feels more pick up and delivery to me - the rest of your options are there, but are less of a focus. For example - in order to fight aliens effectively you have to upgrade your ship, in order to upgrade your ship you have to pick up little cubes required to purchase upgrades, in order to pick up little cubes you got to lark around space a bit - you get the point. Most of the baddies are out in deeper space anyway, so you have the option to avoid (the super bad ones anyway) by avoiding deep space... on the other hand, you get extra victory points for exploring the most dangerous depths of the unknown. Anyway, this game is colorful and light-hearted, but don't let it's image fool you - it's got a lot of strategic options - AND is just a real good time. Fair warning though - there were many print run problems with this game so if you pick up a copy make sure to ask plenty of questions about the status of the components.

I'm glad people are still playing Terra Prime here and there. It'll be awesome to see those that enjoyed the game come out of the woodwork when the game gets rebooted as Eminent Domain Origins (probably next year)!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Crusaders (maybe) final version - PnP for blind testing

3/7/16 EDIT: Updated PnP Files - some minor changes:
* Upped bonus for Level IV Bank to 4vp/"IV" Building
* Changed the end game bonus for enemy majorities to 5vp for 1st and 2vp for 2nd
* Made end game bonus scoring tokens to hand out for those
* In a 2p game you can still get 2nd place in those, but you have to have at least 1 token to qualify
* Updated a few of the Faction powers

Playtest feedback form:

Previous post follows:

Today I spent some time updating my prototype for Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done, and now I've got Print and Play files ready for blind testing!

I also threw together 8 more faction powers (first draft) which could use some testing, I'm sure some will be cut, but maybe some are good and fun enough to include in the game.

So... who would like to do some blind testing? I will post links to the PnP files below, I only ask that if you do print and play with them, that you email me with feedback -- especially on the balance of the faction powers (which are too strong, which are too weak, which are no fun, which you like best).

Crusaders files:
Page 1: Building and troop tokens for 4 players (21 tokens per player) -- you have to sort of tape together the bottom row, they wouldn't quite fit on the page.

Pages 2 and 3: Player boards in 4 player colors

Pages 4 and 5: Rondel tiles, front and back. Make sure the correct fronts and backs are lined up... MUSTER (INFLUENCE) should go with (MUSTER / INFLUENCE) for example.

Pages 6 and 7 (OPTIONAL): Backing for the player boards. You could skip these.

Pages 8 and 9: Faction cards which bestow a special power.

Page 10 (OPTIONAL): Faction card backs. You could skip these.

Crusaders Map Board:
Page 1: 4-sectional board for 3-4 players (print each section on a separate letter sheet and tape together)
Page 2: 4-sectional board for 2 players. Could go on the back of the 3-4p board. If not playing with 2 player, could skip this.
Page 3: Enemy Strength Track and Saracen tiles

Crusaders rules:

Monday, February 15, 2016

Skye Frontier: An Isle of Skye / King of Frontier mashup -- updated rules

 For those following along, here's an updated rule set:

Skye Frontier: An Isle of Skye/King of Frontier mashup


* Give each player a player board with a 4x5 grid of spaces (the exterior of the grid has pre-printed landscape types).
* Give each player a Castle tile, which they will pace on any space on their board (landscapes must match, roads need not).
* Shuffle the tiles in the bag, then draw 4 into a face up display on the table.
* Place 15 coins per player into a supply pile and return the rest to the box.
* Place a supply of green, black, and blue cubes nearby.
* Randomly choose a starting player and give the Starting Player tile to that player.
* Draw 4 Scoring Conditions and display them for end game scoring.

You are ready to begin!

Each round, the start player will choose a role from the list below and each player in turn will resolve that role. For choosing the role, you'll get a privilege. Then the Start Player marker will pass to the left, and the new start player will choose a role.


(a) Draw 2 tiles from the bag, place one into your storage, and place the other face up into the supply.
(b) Take 1 tile from the face up supply and place it into your storage.

Privilege: Repeat this action after all other players have gone.
Ideas to try: Allow the option to Build the tile just taken instead of taking a 2nd tile. Or always allow building the tile immediately upon taking it -- this was the original rule, but Explore seemed to be the most popular action by far. 

Choose a landscape region and add 1 cube from the supply onto each tile in that region. Fields get green cubes, Mountains get black cubes, and Water gets blue cubes.

Privilege: Produce in a 2nd region.

Note: When completing a region, immediately produce resources in that region.

Choose a landscape region.

For Fields and Mountain regions: Take 1 coin from the supply for each tile in that region that has cubes, and connects back to your castle via roads. Then discard 1 cube from each of those tiles.

For Water regions:  For each boat in that region, you may discard a cube from that region. Take 1 coin from the supply for each cube discarded that way

These coins will be worth 1 point each at the end of the game.

Privilege: Trade in a 2nd region.

Take a tile from your storage and place it onto your board, paying cube costs (see below).

When building results in completion of a region, immediately produce resources in that region (see Produce, above).

Note: When a tile is placed such that landscape edges do not match, neither of the non-matching regions will ever be considered "complete".

Privilege: Pay only for non-matching landscape edges -- ignore other costs.
Ideas to try: Allow a 2nd build as privilege (at full cost).

Costs of placing a tile on your board:
Pay 1 green cube for each Sheep, Yak, or Farm on the tile,
Pay 1 black cube for each Tower or Barrel on the tile,
Pay 1 blue cube for each Boat or Lighthouse on the tile,
Pay 1 cube of any color for each non-matching landscape edge,
Pay 1 cube of EACH color for each scroll on the tile.

Game End:

The game is over at the end of a turn in which any player fills their board with tiles, when the supply of coins is exhausted, or when the tile bag is empty. At that time, each player should calculate their score to see who wins. Points come from:
* 1 point per coin collected via trade
* points based on scrolls on your player board
* points based on the end game scoring conditions

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Crusaders final tweaks - tested!

Last week I posted about some final tweaks I'd like to make to Crusaders. I updated my prototype and tonight I got a 3 player game in to test those tweaks.

They went well! I liked the size of the board, the number of open building spaces, and the feeling that we were running into each other by the end.

I also liked the random distribution of 26 out of the 30 enemy tokens. This game it turned out that 3 of the 4 enemies left out of the game were Saracens, which meant that several of the free buildings couldn't be had by more than 1 player, and I think that scarcity will be good for the feeling of interaction in the game.

I left the Crusade VP the way it was, but I continued to scale the enemy strength up rather than taper it off like the score... this did not really make any difference though because we didn't get to the point where it mattered.

I did a heavy building strategy, building to level 4 Castle and Church, and influencing for a fair amount. I only crusaded 3 times (one of each enemy type). Danielle did a lot more crusading (8 enemies total), so she got a lot more points from that, as well as 18 points in endgame bonus, but she didn't get any level 4 buildings down. I ended up winning by about 3 points over her.

Here are a few things I think I'd like to do a little differently:
* Score majority bonus for Saracens - I haven't been doing that since in theory the Saracens help you score the level 4 building bonuses, but maybe it'd be better to reward it. If nothing else it gets rid of an exception.

Edit: I have started doing this, and I think I like it.

* Score 2nd place in a 3p game - currently the 2nd place majority bonus says "4p-only", but I'm not sure why. I think I'll try awarding it in a 2 player game.

Edit: First off, I meant in a 3p game (at the end there). In a 2p game I could just award the 2nd place tiles (Gold West does that), or I could award both -- with the caveat that you need at least 1 to qualify for 2nd place. I guess the latter would be more consistent.

* Try building/crusading in 2 spaces at once - This is something several players have asked to do, and I've been afraid it would be too powerful. I should give it a try though... if it does turn out to be too powerful, maybe I could make that a player power -- no rondel control, but the ability to Build in 2 hexes at a time, or to Crusade against 2 enemies at a time, given you have enough cubes.

Edit: I tried this, and it's too powerful. I think I figured out by I don't like it... This game is about efficiently managing your rondel, and if you can use the overage to just build more, then you don't have incentive to efficiently manage your rondel as much. I don't like the way that out of undermines the main mechanism of the game.

I have made new faction powers and tried to incorporate this power into one of them. It allows you to use the Influence action (an oft overlooked action, unless you're perusing that strategy) as if it were Crusade or Build. it turns out this is a really good ability, so I may need to nerf it, but I do like how an upgraded rondel could allow you to Muster + Crusade in the same turn, or Build + Build.

* Maybe try final lap again - I have never been 100% satisfied with the end game just sort of happening. I don't like when it sneaks up on you. In EmDo I changed so once the end game trigger happens, you finish out the round and then play 1 final round (a "final lap"), like in Railroad Tycoon. Maybe the same thing would be good here. I tried it before and didn't love it, but maybe I should try it again.

Edit: I have not tried this, and I'm not likely to do so. I think the end game will do as-is -- even if it's not my favorite part of the game.

And as a side note, the player power that simply starts with 2 additional cubes on the rondel MIGHT be a little overpowered, but not by a lot. Maybe it needs some kind of drawback... maybe something like "when upgrading, you may not distribute any cubes" or something small like that. Or maybe "-1 Travel".

Edit: I have tried adding "-1 travel" to this faction, which means they're a little better at all actions on the average because they have 2 more cubes (like 16% better), but they're always at -1 to travel. I think this might be a good nerf, though at times it seems really harsh. I know my friend John doesn't like it at all, and I have definitely felt like it was rough to deal with the -1 travel as well. I wonder if there's a slightly less harsh nerf for it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Idea for solitaire card game, made multiplayer by first drafting the cards you play solo with

To be frank, I don't care much for them, and I don't play them much. there have been a few I've found interesting or impressive - namely Friday, by Friedemann Friese, and Pocket Civ, by BGDF'er Scott Slomiany (for which I contributed a resource mechanism). But for the most part, they're just not my thing.

I worked on the solo variant for TMG's Harbour a bit, and I worked on development for Dungeon Roll as well, which is basically solitaire. Not being a fan or a player of solo games, I'm not sure if my work in those areas really went in the right direction or not.

I've never really been interested in making a 1-player only game, or working on solo modes for my multiplayer games. If a fan is interested in making a bot to play Eminent Domain against, or a solo variant that doesn't require a "dummy" player, then more power to them!

But for some reason I was thinking about solitaire game the other day. I was thinking about a deck of cards that you would shuffle and hold in one hand like Flip City, and like Flip City you would look at the information on the back of the top card and decide whether to play it or not. More specifically, you would decide HOW to play it.

Since it's apparently my thing, I decided to use planets, resources, and upgrades... though this time I sort of had Terra Prime in mind rather than Eminent Domain -- maybe because I've been thinking of Terra Prime's upcoming return as Eminent Domain Origins :)

So you would look at the top card of your deck and you would decide whether to play that card as an upgrade (to make use of the upgrade text), or load it as cargo onto your ship somehow to be delivered to another planet, or flip it over and place it planet-side up in your row or network of planets -- like exploring, only it would probably tell you what type of planet it is on the info side of the card.

The idea would be that you're building some kind of network, and then shipping cargo of some kind through that network. Originally I thought the network could grow like a lattice -- in many directions, making a sort of hex grid out of cards. But maybe a simpler version is that your network is simply a line of cards from left to right.

Rather than actually having a pawn that traverses the network, perhaps what you're doing is trying to set up a line that will score well, and what you score is the cards you've saved for cargo (rather than put into play). In a way this scoring lines in an array of cards is similar to Arboretum, which I played once, and was reminded of last night when I saw some folks playing it. In that respect maybe a lattice-style network would make more sense, and I could use a scoring system reminiscent to (but hopefully less byzantine than) Arboretum's.

I figure that the planets should have types that are important, rather than needing to take a delivery to a specific planet, thereby making things a bit more flexible. In addition, I figure some cards would have hostile aliens rather than planets, which you would fight in a way similar to Terra Prime. Rather than adding dice to the game however, I would simply put a die icon on each card with some value, so looking at the top card of the deck you'd see the current "roll" value, and if I wanted to generate a new value, I could instruct the player to cycle that card tot he bottom of the deck and reference the new roll value on the new top card. I tried to utilize this type of roll aspect in a different game I never got around to finishing, and I always liked the idea of it...

So as you play your cards, one at a time, you would choose whether to use them as upgrades, or cargo, or to build your network. Some cards may have a cost, which could be paid by removing the next card in your deck from the game - thus that card would never get played... so paying a lot of costs would reduce your potential score, as well as deny you access to those particular cards.

Maybe a simple way to score would be to do it all at the end (like Arboretum), so a player need not record timing or order of cards played. Maybe any cards remaining in your deck count as cargo, and each one scores based on how you've built your network.

I started off by saying that I'm not fond of solo games. If this idea turns out to work, and be a fun and relatively simple to play solo game, perhaps it could be made multiplayer simply by adding a drafting phase in front of the solo game play -- so 2-4 players draft cards from the entire stock into their personal, then run through their decks making their own decisions as to how to play their cards. Perhaps there's just 1 big draft and then players play out their cards until they're done, or perhaps it's an iterative thing, where cards not played are set aside than hen mixed in with the new cards obtained in the next draft phase.

It's an interesting idea, and I'll let you know if I put any more thought into it.

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.