Sunday, February 24, 2013

History In The Making the Board Game

More Streamlined Designing

I've settled on a new title for the board game: "History In The Making". It's a simple title, and think it quickly portrays the style of gameplay.

It's been a while since my last post and I've made a vast number of gameplay modifications, mostly streamlining for quicker learning. Design is slow but steady,

There are now only two victory conditions, military victory, and legacy victory. Players accumulate legacy points throughout the game and if the end of history is reached before anyone claims military victory, the player with the most legacy points wins.

I've also settle on new attributes of the empire: infrastructure, identity, ingenuity, and defense. It took a while to come up with good icons to represent them (since they're so abstract). Also I've grouped the types of cards in the deck into three categories: events, leaders, and construction projects. Nearly every event card will advance the player closer to the next era. I also grouped the detriment cards into blight (physical detriments; resisted by infrastructure) and corruption (man-made detriments; resisted by identity).

I get together regularly with friends to play board games; I end up learning a new game about once a month. It has become increasingly more apparent that if you don't hook in the players within thirty seconds the learning process is going to be tedious.


Also important is being able to answer the first question I always get: 'what's you game like?'. Here's the elevator pitch/box flavor text I've developed:
Step through the ages of history! Harness great moments in human achievement to build a vast and fruitful empire. Conquer your enemies or outpace them in technological progress.
Harvest the resources of your land to strengthen your cities and fill your treasury. Dedicate your work force to build armies and wonders, or to invest in the prosperity of your people. Expand your territory by colonizing unsettled lands or by invading your enemies!


And here is a draft of the first few pages in the instruction book (Hopefully succinct enough to grab interest).


Players progress through four eras: Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Industrial. There are four decks of cards, one for each era. The cards include
 Your Cards

BuildingsCheap to build, they increase your empire’s attributes.
WondersExpensive to build, they benefit your empire and grant 1 legacy point.
PoliciesShifts in ideology which may benefit or harm your empire. Some policies progress you close to the next era.

TechnologyAdvancements in science which are sure to benefit your empire. Some technologies progress you to the next era. 

BlightSmite your opponents will disease, famine, and natural catastrophes.

CorruptionSpur unrest and internal conflict in your enemies.


LeadersUtilize great people from history, granting your empire a special bonus.

Your Empire 
CitiesPlaced on the board, they guard surrounding territory from enemy pillagers and house up to 6 population.
TerritoryIndividual hexagon pieces of land owned by you empire. Each territory is capable of harvesting 1 food (from a green hex), 1 coin (from a yellow hex), or 1 hammer (from a red hex).
WarriorsMembers of your army; they can attack enemy units on land, conquer cities, and pillage enemy territory. They can move across land and water, but are vulnerable to warships.
WarshipsMembers of your navy; they can attack on enemy units on water. They can only move across water and are effective against warriors and colonists crossing in water. They cannot attack cities and cannot pillage.
ColonistsA traveling group of non-military explorers; they cannot fight enemy units. Move colonist to a spot where you want to found a new city.
City ExpansionsThese grow the size of a city. A city expansion adds a new city piece next to an existing city.
Your Empire’s Attributes
PopulationPopulation is the size of your workforce that harvest resources and contribute to your economy each turn. Population also determines the maximum military size your empire can sustain.
UnrestAccumulating unrest reduces the maximum military size you empire can sustain (this represents internal strife and crime among your citizens which requires extra policing to maintain order and prevent revolt). Empires with too much unrest cannot adopt a leader and cannot build new military units.
FoodWhen enough food is harvested your population increases by 1.


TreasuryCoins are used to upgrade existing troops to the next era of warfare, heal wounded troops, and purchase more territory. Coins can also be used to expedite construction projects.
IngenuityThe level of innovation and creativity in your people. Ingenuity determines how many cards you can hold in your hand.

DefenseDetermines how difficult your cities are to conquer and how difficult your land is to pillage.

InfrastructureRepresents civil preparedness and the capabilities to support a thriving society. Infrastructure determines your empire’s resilience to effects of blight cards.
IdentityRepresents integrity, cultural values, and national pride. Identity determines your empire’s resilience to effects of corruption cards.


I decided to limit a city's population to 6 for a few reasons. For one fitting 12 small plastic pieces isn't easy to manipulate with the tips of your fingers. My estimations about average end game population (15) made me rethink the large capacity and small cities would encourage more colonizing (rather than each player turtling in their capitol city).

Also the exact placement of the city building will play a tactical role in defense for the city. Attackers will have a tougher time fighting sides of the city with buildings. This will make for some interesting lines of buildings and leaves room for sneaky back door siege tactics.

As already said legacy points are gained from building wonders and from end of era bonuses (which will occur at 4 time during the game). In this respect I'm borrowing from the 7 wonders style of victory progression.

Though I have yet to settle on the exact bonuses (this will come out in play testing), the following is a list of potential end of era bonuses.


  • Who ever has the most treasury at the end of an era gains 1 legacy points
  • Who ever built the most building at the end of an era gains 1 legacy points
  • Who ever implemented the most policies at the end of an era gains 1 legacy points
  • Who ever has the most territory at the end of an era gains 1 legacy points
  • Who ever has the least unrest, 1 legacy point
  • Who ever has the most population, 1 legacy point
  • Who ever has the most resilience circles, 1 legacy point (see playmat).

This approach will give player a way to gauge mid-game progress and to identify the real threats.
or rather

Playmat

Each player will have a playmat to organize their empire's attributes. Everything will use pegs (expect for the build tokens which will be placed on the individual cards. Moving away from tokens was mandatory after finally playing the civilization board game (handling so many tokens is tedious).


Here's the prototype, it's still not happy with the size of it, I need to reduce it more. Each will be colored the same as their empire's color.


What's crucial to the design of this is that most of the elements are self explanatory. Again it helps capture the attention of new players. Making the layout intuitive will prevent the need for those silly cheat sheets that so many games rely on. Again I'm looking at you civilization the board game as a really bad offender of this (it's double sided with paragraphs and paragraphs of text...).

Notice the resilience circle contains Identity, Infrastructure and Defense. Players will add pegs a starting in the center and moving out. Completing a circle or layer represents a well rounded nation. This idea came up as I was experimenting with way to shape the data and thought it looked neat (as well as added incentives not to fully min-max an economy.

There are also a few missing features in the current printout namely build prices.

Economy Simulations

I've been doing a fair amount of economy prediction/balancing for the design. First off I made another resource flow chart.

Again the black lines show benefit and the red lines (hard to see...) indicate an adverse relationship. One important realization here is the role of revenue in military.

I've done a ton of work in excel and python simulation optimal values of things. I'll post those at the values converge, but we're still looking at a 40 turn game and sort of risk style dice rolling to resolve battles (a player will either roll 2 or 3 dice in a battle, with increasing sized dice through the eras; d6->d8->d10->d12).

Card Details

More details on the specific mechanic of the cards. Again this is text that will be in the instruction book; it's a lot of text but it's very readable, and organized for quick reference for later rule clarification.


Building
These cards are placed on a build slot on the playmat and have a build cost. The card’s effects are applied when the build cost is fully paid, and then the card is discarded.


The effects of these cards adjust the empire’s attributes (i.e. -1 unrest, +1 infrastructure).

After the card’s effects are applied, it is discarded and frees up the build slot for the player to use the slot’s default construction or for a new construction card to be placed.

Wonders
Wonder cards are placed on a player’s own playmat at one of the four contruction spots. Players can only have one wonder card on their playmat at a time.


Wonder cards have a build cost and the card’s effects are applied when the build cost is fully paid. Note that the build cost of wonders are much more expensive than buildings. The effects of wonder cards will benefit an empire’s attributes and award the player with one legacy point.

After the wonder’s effects have been applied the wonder card is discarded (and all build tokens removed). A player may choose to discard an incomplete wonder (and all build tokens removed) without triggering any of its effects.

When a construction spot is covered by a wonder card, that spot’s default construction is no longer available (until the wonder card is discarded). A wonder card can only be placed on a currently inactive construction spot. A wonder card cannot be placed if it would exceed the player’s maximum number of active constructions.

Policies
These cards are placed on the event section of the playmat and its effects are applied immediately and only for this turn.


They have a primary effect and a side effect. The results of a die roll determines which of the three side effects occur (“corrupted”, “imperfect”, “ideal”). The type of die used is determine by the era. Some die rolls may have a modifier; one of your empire’s attributes added to dice roll for the final result. The primary effect will always occur regardless of the outcome of the roll. The primary effect will be a text description and involves special bonuses (e.g. double production input, heal one extra unit). The side effects will adjust the empire’s attributes (e.g. +1 unrest, +2 food, -1 identity). The side effects are a mix of potentially beneficial and harmful effects (as determined by the dice roll) and may include an era advancement (either military or civil advancement).

After the card’s effects are applied, it remains on the event card pile (for purposes of keeping track of end of era bonuses). Policy cards cannot be reused.

Technology
These cards are placed on the event section of the playmat and its effects are applied immediately and only for this turn. Players cannot lay down a technology card if they do not match at least one of the requirements listed on the card.


Players can chose from one of two effects listed on the card. Each effect has a requirement; the sum of two of the empire’s attributes must be equal to or greater than a number. The effect will be a text description and may involves special bonuses (e.g. double production input, heal one extra unit), may include adjustments to the empire’s attributes (e.g. +1 unrest, +2 food, -1 identity), and may include an era advancement (either military or civil advancement).

After the card’s effects are applied, it remains on the event card pile (for purposes of keeping track of end of era bonuses). Technology cards cannot be reused.

Blight
These cards are placed on the event section of an enemy player’s playmat (or on a player’s own playmat if they so choose). If a player lays the card on themselves its effects are applied immediately and only for this turn. If a player lays the card on another player its effects are applied at the start of their next turn; and its effects apply only for that turn. Players affected by another player’s blight card can still lay down an event card on their turn after the blight card’s effects are applied.


There are two possible effects for the blight card; one more harmful than the other. The results of a die roll determines which of the two effects occur. The type of die used is determine by the card’s era. Some die rolls may have a modifier; one of your empire’s attributes added to dice roll for the final result. The effect will be a text description and involves special detriments (e.g. no production this turn, wound a military unit), may include adjustments to the empire’s attributes (e.g. -1 population), and may include an era advancement (either military or civil advancement).

After the card’s effects are applied, it remains on the event card pile (for purposes of keeping track of end of era bonuses). Blight cards cannot be reused.

Corruption
Corruption cards are placed on the event section of an enemy player’s playmat (or on a player’s own playmat if they so choose). If a player plays a corruption card on themselves its effects are applied immediately and only for this turn. If a player placed the card on another player its effects are applied at the start of their next turn; and its effects apply only for that turn. Players affected by another player’s corruption card can still lay down an event card on their turn after the blight card’s effects are applied.


There are two possible effects for the blight card; one more harmful than the other. The results of a die roll determines which of the two effects occur. The type of die used is determine by the card’s era. Some die rolls may have a modifier; one of your empire’s attributes added to dice roll for the final result. The effect will be a text description and involves special detriments (e.g. no production this turn, wound a military unit), may include adjustments to the empire’s attributes (e.g. -1 population), and may include an era advancement (either military or civil advancement).

After the card’s effects are applied, it remains on the event card pile (for purposes of keeping track of end of era bonuses). Corruption cards cannot be reused.

Leaders

Leader cards are placed on the leader section of the placemat. Only one leader card can be used at a time. If a leader card is placed on top of an existing leader it becomes the new leader.

Leader cards have bonus effects that are effective every round (until it is replaced by another leader).
 
Default Construction Spot
All players have four default construction spots on their playmat. They are warrior, warship, colonize, and expand. If a wonder or building card is placed on a construction spot, that spot’s default construction is no longer available (until the card is removed).

Inactive Construction Spot
A construction spot is considered inactive if the spot’s default construction is showing and there are no build tokens on the spot.

Maximum Number of Active Constructions
A player’s maximum number of active constructions is equal to the number of cities the player owns.

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