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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

small world contest: giant spiders!

Our burgeoning civilization started slowly, only laying claim to three regions. Thanks to our heros, we were able to concentrate most of our forces in one region. We were prepared to defend ourselves from any large scale attack. Suddenly, a great web descended on us, immobilizing our troops. We were ready for battle, but could not expand our glorious civilization into further territories! Instead, we could only watch as the Giant Spiders spread their influence throughout the surrounding regions.

Oh, that's sounds like a ... sticky situation! :P

I apologize for that. On to the description!
Giant Spiders - At the end of their turn, active Giant Spiders may place the web token in any adjacent region occupied by an active race. The race tokens in this region are stuck in this region and cannot be used in conquest. They may decline normally, in which case the web token is removed from the board.

I started this one at 6 thinking that since it does not add a conquest or direct defense bonus, the start number would have to be on the high end of the spectrum to make up for this. So far this feels about right, but it's really hard to judge. The web can be incredibly crippling to the player affected by it. The spiders do tend to score less points in the beginning, but they can also affect the other players' ability to score as well.

In my two-player game, this was especially significant. I didn't take notes, but if I remember right, it caused the other player to decline sooner than they may have otherwise.

It was also effective in three-player. What surprised me here is that it did not grant a significant advantage the the unaffected player. I would think that it would continue to be affective in games with more players, but it's difficult to say for sure.

One web token was enough without any limitations on placement (other than the adjacency requirement). I could tweak this by giving the Spiders multiple web tokens, but limiting the number of race tokens one web token could be used on. For example, I could give the Spiders two web tokens, and each web token could control up to 2 race tokens. Therefore, the web tokens could be placed on two regions with up to 2 race tokens on them, or both on one region with up to 4 race tokens on it. I would prefer to keep it simple with only the one token, but if playtesting shows that it needs improvement, this would be a way to do it.

Right now it's a bit of a toss up which I like better between the Spiders and Stealthy, but I think since Spiders introduces a completely different mechanic, I'm placing it above Stealthy.

  1. Instigating

  2. Giant Spiders

  3. Stealthy

  4. Necromancers

Monday, June 15, 2009

small world contest: instigating!

Sorry, no narrative intro for this one, yet...
Instigating - At the end of their turn, Instigating races place the four reward tokens any four separate occupied regions on the map that are occupied by a player's race (active or in decline). If any other player conquers that region, the conquering player receives one coin, and the reward token is removed from the board If the race occupying that region abandons the region, the Instigating player receives one coin and the reward is removed from the board. Any reward tokens that are still on the board at the start of the Instigating player's next turn are removed from the board, and the Instigating player receives one coin for each of those reward tokens. This happens before the Instigating race starts conquest or goes into decline. This process starts again after every turn the Instigating race is active. Note: In two-player games, the Instigating player cannot place reward tokens in a region occupied by his opponent's active race.

First, I have to mention that I'm not married to the name. I tried "persuasive", "conniving", "rewarding", but nothing seems right. Is there a term for someone who places a reward or bounty?

I started this one at 3. Comparing it to Alchemist, it has the potential of generating more points per turn (up to 4), but not all 4 points are guaranteed. As I've only played games where I'm controlling each player, it is a bit difficult to judge the effectiveness of this power. In general, it seems to work. 3 is a pretty decent number consider the race's ability to generate points without conquering anything. It could be tweaked up, especially if the number of rewards are reduced. 3 might play okay with 5 rewards as well.

It also swayed my decisions for the other players quite a bit. By conquering a space with a reward, you gain 2 points while denying the Instigating player one point as well as causing the same or another player to lose a region. It creates a tension of doing what gains you the most points, but knowing that you are also doing it in a way that may be in the instigating player's best interest.

I like this one a lot, but it will require much more playtesting. Because of it's flexibility in numbers (can add or remove more tokens as well as rewards), this one is jumping to the top of the list.

  1. Instigating

  2. Stealthy

  3. Necromancers

Thursday, June 11, 2009

small world contest: necromancers!

Sure, the initial confrontation had shaken us. After all, they did out number us. We were not, however, prepared for the terrifying site of our fallen brethren reanimated, bloodthirsty, and turned against us. Who were these warriors, and what dark magic did they command?

Necromancers, clearly! (and the reanimating-the-dead type of dark magic, of course)

Necromancers are able to raise their fallen enemy to use in future conquests. A token can only be raised if there are more Necromancers than raised tokens in the region. In general, there must be one Necromancer for each raised token in any given situation. Specifically:

  • During redeployment, the raised tokens may be redeployed with the Necromancers as long as each region has at least as many Necromancers as raised tokens.

  • While readying your troops, you may leave as many raised tokens in a region as you want, as long as you also leave at least as many Necromancer tokens in that region.

  • During conquest, you may use the raised tokens to complete a conquest as long as you use at least as many Necromancer tokens in that conquest.

  • When a region occupied by Necromancers and raised tokens is conquered, the Necromancers must return a Necromancer token to the try. If before the conquest, the region contained an equal number of Necromancer and raised tokens, a raised token must be returned to the try along with the Necromancer token.

Note: As Elves do not return any tokens to the tray when active, Necromancers may never raise any active Elves. When Elves are in decline, they are subject to the Necromancers' power.

I really like this idea, but it is a pain to balance. Some comparisons:

  • Trolls(5): They both gain defense, but the Necromancers must conquer an occupied region to gain defense (in the form of raised tokens). However, upon successive conquers, the Necromancer's defense stacks, whereas the Trolls only receive +1 per region regardless. Trolls keep their defense in decline; Necromancers do not.

  • Giants/Tritons(6): Giants gain a -1 conquest bonus when on mountains. Tritons have a -1 conquest bonus along coasts. Necromancers cannot gain a combat bonus (in the form of raised tokens) until their second turn, but their combat bonuses can stack, and it can be used anywhere.

Based on that point, I began playtesting the Necromancers at 6 because they do not have the decline bonus to make their defense bonus as effective, and they do not get the combat bonus out of the gate. At 6 they start very slowly -- in both games they only gained 3 and then 6 territories. However, it is cost prohibitive to attack them early on, which allows them to gain momentum. I think they would be a good "long-lasting" race to come in as a second race after "wide-spread" race like Amazons, Skeletons, or Ratmen.

I have not tested it, but they might work well at 5 with an added decline bonus:
When Necromancers go into decline, they can keep up to 1 raised token for each declined Necromancer token. When the declined Necromancer token must be returned to the tray, the raised token must also be returned to the tray.

This probably makes them better than Trolls, who are 5. For that reason, it seems that they are better without the decline bonus. Therefore, this needs to be added to the Necromancer description:
When the Necromancers go into decline, all raised tokens must be returned to the tray.

My biggest fear is that this race is too fiddily. It takes some sorting out to determine how to make sure that you can maintain your raised tokens, as well as capture new ones. Some might find that tactical thinking fun, while others may find it too difficult to want to bother with it. Also, the rules take a lot of explaining, even though they are quite simple. One must be quite verbose to cover all the bases and fill all the holes.

New rankings:

  1. Stealthy

  2. Necromancers

small world contest: stealthy!

It was quiet that night. Our scouts from the front lines reported no signs of activity from the enemy. After a day of traveling, we welcomed the cool wind that accompanied our warm dinners. It felt good to relax and actually enjoy each others' company. What didn't feel good was the Troll's club coming down on my head. The last thing I remember thinking was, "How did they get past our front line?"

Clearly these were no ordinary Trolls! No, these Trolls were something special. They were Stealthy Trolls!
Stealthy - Stealthy races can sneak past the enemy lines, using the element of surprise to gain an advantage on their opponent. You may attack any region that is adjacent to a region that is adjacent to a region occupied by your race. If the target region is not adjacent to your active race, you may conquer the region with one less token than normally required.

I need to check how some of the other abilities are worded to make sure that this make sense, but this basically allows your race to attack behind enemy lines for an attack bonus. I'm not sure if this is more or less powerful than Commando as it opens the number of regions you can attack, but does not give any bonus on normal attacks. I'd am playtesting this at 5, but might also try 4 to see what makes the most sense.

A couple of simulated games (i.e., I played against myself) seems to indicate that this is both a viable and interesting ability. I played one game with Amazons where I did not use the ability as much, but in the second game I used the ability quite often with Orcs. The condition that the attack bonus only comes when the target region is not adjacent to one of your regions caused me to abandon regions just to gain the advantage to maximize my point bonus from Orcs.

I feel that the rules for this ability are difficult to explain, as there are three regions involved: your region (A), a region adjacent to your region (B), and the target region (C). B must be adjacent to A and C, but in order to receive the combat bonus, C cannot be adjacent to any of your regions. Perhaps it would clearer to say:
Stealthy races can sneak through one region, using the element of surprise to gain an advantage on their opponent. You may conquer any region that is not adjacent to one of your regions if it is adjacent to a region that is adjacent to one of your regions. Such a conquest requires one less token.

The above also clarifies that the "middle" region does not need to be occupied by the same race that is being conquered, nor does it need to be occupied at all. Originally my thought was to make it so that the middle region did need to be occupied. However, it was difficult enough to position the Stealthy tokens so that they were not adjacent to the planned target region that I felt additional restrictions only dimished the value of the ability.

Although it's a bit silly to list it after only one ability/race, here's my current ranking for my ideas:

  1. Stealthy


Friday, June 5, 2009

quick update

Has it really been four months?

Even though my recently busy schedule has prevented me from blogging, it has not prevented my mind from wandering into the realms of game design.

A mini design contest was held on BGG. Although I completed some tiles for my design, I didn't follow through in writing up the rules or entering the design in the contest. In my game, each player starts with a set number of tokens. At the beginning of a player's turn, the player can make one change to the layout of the tiles. The layout of the tiles determines to which other player each player passes their tokens on that turn, and how many points they get for doing so. I never play-tested it, so I have no idea if it's even any fun.

Another mini contest started after that, but despite the fact that I'm a huge sports fan, I couldn't gear myself up to think of a good design for it. I do have a rough design that intended to give the feel of several seasons of fantasy sports, but I'm neither happy with it, nor do I feel that it was appropriate for this contest.

I've become rather obsessed with Race for the Galaxy. I've been kicking around ideas to put my blank cards to use. Right now I'm thinking of a set of cards around a Cybernetics theme, perhaps introducing a new keyword. I fear that the upcoming expansion may distract me from that, but I suppose I could avoid it by not purchasing it (yeah, right).

I was also impressed with the recently released Small World. While it's not much of a brain-burner, it does require enough thought and planning to make it interesting. I've only had a chance to play with two and three players, but I'm expecting that more players will increase the table banter, which is always good.

Days of Wonder has also started a contest to design new abilities and races for the game. The idea of getting my idea published is incentive enough for me to put in an entry, but DoW is sweetening the deal with an expenses paid trip to Essen Spiel 2009. That, my friends, would be unthinkably awesome.

I hope to continue this blog for my own good. Family, jobs, and other general grown-up activity has a way of putting a cramp on the blogging time, but I can't ignore the value of a creative outlet that this blog can be.