Monday, December 1, 2008

Stage two


Hippodice wants to play test my game. This means Noblemen made it past the first hurdle. That means that my game is one of about 30 they want to play test for the next few months and determine a winner.

So I took my game to the UPS store and they wanted $176 to ship my 6lb game! Holey smokes. I left there without shipping my game, thinking that I was not going to get to enter the second stage of Hippodice.

A couple days later I decided to try USPS and wow they were only about $60 to ship it. So off it went. I tracked it and I think it made it there on time. Cross your fingers.

Now we have to wait for a few months for them to play all the games. Should I get my passport now? Huzah!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth and some time later he created me. Is that too far back? Three years ago, on 11/04/05 I decided that I wanted to try and make a game that I could submit to Hippodice in November ’06. The goal was to make a game as good as Puerto Rico. I picked a time period that my wife told me about that seemed interesting and Mark Galvez and I started brainstorming what we wanted to see in the game.

Hippodice is a game design contest a game club in Germany holds each year starting in November. There are no prizes. You submit your rules, an abstract of the game, and some pictures. The game has to be unpublished and not going to be published. They say they get from 100 to 150 of these from year to year. The members of the club review all the submissions and grade them. Then they contact the owners of the top 30 to 50 games and request they send a full working copy of the game for play testing. They play test these games for next few months and grade them. Then they pick about 10 games one is the winner, some more are runners up, and the rest are honorable mentions. A list of these games and descriptions is sent to several game publishers. Those publishers often then send representatives to the awards ceremony where the games are available to be played.

Well I didn’t make it in 2006 or in 2007; but this past October I sent Noblemen to Hippodice for the contest that begins November 2008!

I don’t think it’s as good as Puerto Rico but I like it and I need to move on. So the development of Noblemen is finally done, unless of course some publisher wants me to continue.

Here is my submission: Noblemen Hippodice

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hippodice is getting close

For the 100th time I think that I have finished my Noblemen game. Of course it is not officially done in my mind until I submit it to Hippodice. I have made a pact with myself not to “work” on the game after that, that the game will be done. In fact the most probable outcome of this submission is that I will have a done game and therefore happy.

Noblemen rules V0.8.6.5

In this latest version I have once again taken the advice of my friend Seth.

The problem was with the new Masquerade ball rules. In the new rules players take the highest title they can get each time. There is no need to remember what level you were at. So then there is no real need for the signs anymore. A ball might as well be an event where players vie for prestige, score their VPs and move on. Between balls you don’t need the title. So if I want to keep the new rules, and I do, the noble titles need to do something between Balls.

Couple that with, a pond strategy falls a bit behind a building strategy, and I have decided to use a Seth idea. It is also similar to an idea I tried a while back when the game was much different. Noble Titles will give a discount when buying buildings: Duke will give a $3 discount, Marquess a $2 discount, and the Earl will give a $1 discount.

I like this idea because I believe it will help with the balance of the emerging strategies.

There are three strategies from my playing:
  • Farms, money, building structures with enough prestige to not fall behind
  • Ponds, prestige, Duke, with enough structures to not fall behind
  • Woods and farms, Bribe royalty, Acquire lands redeeming the bribes, and then donating lands
Building structures is more valuable than most people think especially now (again) that churches score 2 points with a Palace. I am happy with this because I like building structures being a focus.

I plan on submitting to the Hippodice peoples rules very similar to these if not exactly these within a few days.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rule book finally revamped

While the rules are still changing a bit everyday I have finnaly revamped the rules book with the major changes since version seven and with the all the new art!

Noblemen rules V0.8.4.1

PLEASE tell me about any improvemnts I can make in presentation.

Also please tell me any thoughts you have about the new changes to the rules.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Family Fluff

Over the last few weeks I have been working on what I want to put on the outside of each of the five screens. To do this I started reading about the families. I have decided to focus on one person from the family during the time period of the game. What I found was some fairly interesting parts of 1600th century English history.

In most of the cases it was too bad that I had to reduce the history to a blurb. What will go on the game in some cases are even more condensed.

The high ranking Nobles sought power and money and killed each other to keep it:

Lady Jane Grey – Late 1536 to February 1554

She was also referred to as Queen Jane. She was the grandniece of Henry VIII of England.

Queen Jane ruled England for nine days in July 1553 is the shortest rule of England in its history.

Many high-ranking nobles proved themselves pliable to having Jane as Queen of England. Acting largely out of financial self-interest, they supported her even if only as part of a power struggle to keep Henry's first-born, the staunchly Catholic Mary, from ascending the throne. Jane's rule ended quickly when the nobles abandoned their support once they realized Mary had won the day. Mary pardoned Jane; however after a subsequent attempt by her supporters to seize the crown, Mary had her executed for high treason.

She was Consort to Lord Guilford Dudley.

Lady Jane had a reputation as one of the most learned women of her day.

Mary, Queen of Scots - Late 1542 – Early 1587

Mary Stuart was the first member of the royal House of Stuart to use the Gallicised spelling Stuart, rather than the earlier Stewart. Mary had adopted the French spelling Stuart during her time in France, and she and her descendants continued to use it.

The six- or seven-day-old Mary became Queen of Scotland when her father died at the age of 30. She was Queen for 25 years. Five-year-old Mary was sent to France to spend the next thirteen years at the French court. For about one year she was also the queen consort of France at age of 17.

Under the ordinary laws of succession, Mary was next in line to the English throne after her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, who was childless. In the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, thus making Mary the true heir.

After a long period of custody in England, she was tried and executed for treason following her alleged involvement in three plots to assassinate Elizabeth I of England and place herself on the English throne.

Saint Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel – Mid 1557 to late 1595

Philip was an English nobleman.

Howard, and much of his family, remained Catholics during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when it was very dangerous to do so. They also attempted to leave England without permission. While some might have been able to do this quietly, Howard was second cousin of the Queen. He was committed to the Tower of London on 25 April 1585. While charges of high treason were never proved, he was to spend ten years in the Tower, until his death of dysentery. He had petitioned the Queen as he lay dying to allow him to see his beloved wife and his son, who had been born after his imprisonment. The Queen responded that if he would return to Protestantism his request would be granted. He refused and died alone in the Tower. He was immediately acclaimed as a Catholic Martyr.

The Howard family is called England’s second family.

Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester – Mid 1532 to late 1588

Robert was the long standing favourite of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Robert Dudley was temporarily imprisoned, along with his father and brothers in the Tower of London, where his stay coincided with the imprisonment of his childhood friend, Lady Elizabeth Tudor, who had been sent there on the orders of her estranged elder sister, Queen Mary I of England.

He was executed in 1553 for his part in the attempt to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne of England. (Lady Jane was married to Robert's youngest brother, Guilford Dudley.)

He is said to have poisoned his first wife Amy Robsart, and then later killed the Earl of Essex in order to marry his widow. Several leading aristocrats became suspicious of his machinations, perceived as motivated to place him at the seat of power, and moved to thwart him.

Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley - 1508 to Early 1549

The Seymour family's power grew during Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, to whom his Thomas’ sister Jane became a lady in waiting. Anne failed to give King Henry a son, which gave the Seymour brothers an opportunity to push their sister in the King's direction. In fact, Henry married Jane eleven days after Anne's execution.

Eventually King Henry moved on to Catherine Parr. When Henry VIII died he left Catherine one of the wealthiest women in England.

Though Thomas Seymour's name had been linked to Mary Howard he schemed to marry either Princess Mary or Princess Elizabeth, Henry VIII's daughters. He was unsuccessful, though his secret marriage to Catherine Parr, Elizabeth's guardian, was viewed as an attempt to become close to the young princess.

When Princess Elizabeth had gone to live with Catherine, Thomas therefore acquired the guardianship of Elizabeth and also of Lady Jane Grey, another young member of the household. The overly-ambitious Thomas started to make advances toward Elizabeth.

Thomas developed a plan to kidnap King Edward VI. Guards arrested Thomas, and he was sent to the Tower of London. The council sent agents to question everyone associated with Thomas, including Princess Elizabeth, who by now was suspected of a sexual relationship with him and even of being pregnant with his child, and possibly of being involved with him in a plot to seize the throne from her half-brother, Edward VI. Later, the council officially accused him of thirty-three charges of treason.

After nearly being seduced by Thomas Seymour, Elizabeth learned to be considerably more wary in her interactions with men.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

new land tiles!

An artist friend of mine agreed to help me with the art of the land tiles:
What is ingenious about this is he has added a quarter of a geometric shape to the one of the corners so that when you have a 2X2 set of like lands its clear how many you have and what type they are!

Friday, September 5, 2008

More Noblemen thoughts. Can you have too many?

I recently audited (Watched) a live 4 player game of Noblemen. I am pretty pleased with it although there were a handful of exceptions.

The rules they played were mostly what I played solo here:

I am pleased with how balanced the game is scoring-wise. Even though players took different tracks and sometimes switched tracks in mid-game 3 of the 4 scores ended up almost identical. The game ended with two players at 75 points, one at 74, and one at 66. The 66 player played a bribe strategy mostly. He never took the queen and for most of the game did poorly in the Balls.

Right off the bat we had some awkwardness with Scott and Andy not sure how to get more land. I believe they did not receive any more woods than the default two. After the game we discussed this and I believe this can be fixed by simply changing the initial lands a player gets. The problem is players that do not start with 4 woods are at a disadvantage. Scotts idea was that players can just put back some of their lands and draw new ones once at the start of the game.

The bag ran out of lands! Even though Tim seemed to be fine with this I was not. I added one rule at the start of this game that players could draw 3 lands as their action whenever they wanted. They only did this twice I believe. I will need to review the game log and figure out how many lands I need for a 5 player game. I will have to have a rule about the bag running out just in case.

Tim ran out of actions. Tim was also fine with this. He is an easy to please guy! To solve this I, unfortunately, think I need an action were players can take 1 VP if they don’t want to or can’t do anything else. This seems like a crutch to a bad design but in my defense other games do this too. I also don’t like it being one of the actions increasing the number of actions to 10.

Should the prestige track cap? During the last Ball Andy was ready to take the Duke from Scott with his hidden but trackable 12 bribe chits. But since Scott had the crown Scott pegged the track and stayed Duke. After giving this some thought I think that I could solve this by making the prestige track double in length and go to 36. Scott still would have been Duke because he had 22 prestige. So I am not sure if any change is needed.

Do players need the guaranteed turn at the end before a scoring round? To solve Andy’s inconsistency problem I could just describe a Scoring round as “At the beginning of a scoring round all players take one more turn then …”

I really like 9 turns per decade (before subtracting for the queen moving) and since everyone gets 1 turn at the end I have to start the decade marker on 2. If players didn’t need the guaranteed turn then I could start the marker on 1 which is a bit cleaner.

I think players do need this turn. You have a plan to do two things but then because of events the Ball is here and you didn’t even get one turn. That sucks.

I am not sure I liked the displaced castles from new palaces filling in the Castle queue. I t never seemed urgent to buy a castle or they might run out. Castles were always there.

The final thought is that its clear to me that I have not achieved the $1 = 1 land = 1 prestige = 1 VP. Its close. but its more like this 1 presitge > 1 land > $1 = 1 VP.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Version 8 solidifying

Recently I played what I am now calling version 8 which is a bit misleading because it’s technically version 0.8.3.

I played a 4 player game where each player had a specific goal. One player’s main focus was land, one was money, one was prestige, and one was all three. Here are the rules I played:

Play Land – I really like the new rule of you collect land and money as you go. You can play up to 3 lands on your turn and you collect random lands for wood played and money for farms played.

Acquire Land – Each player gets one Acquire land token per decade. They can spend it to receive 1 land per wood and 2 per forest. This worked pretty good once we got past the first few turns. The game still starts the same. All players play wood. I am not sure if this is a bad thing.

I think I will change the rule slightly adding: If you have spent your token you may draw 3 lands from the bag. Or “You may draw three lands from the bag instead of using your Token” Then players could do it early if needed and not use their tokens until later.

Taxes – This is a lot like Acquire Land. Each player gets one Taxes token per decade. They can spend it to receive 1 pound per farm and 2 per forest. This worked pretty well. Its takes work to get lots of money. Players used to get two tokens per decade but one is better. Now with the clock you often don’t have time to do taxes. Which is good.

Donate Land – the rule was each decade the area was cleared and players could take an action to add land at the rate of 1 VP for each. They could add as much as they wanted but once it was full it stayed full until the next decade. This worked ok. It was a bit too lucrative for the land player. I am guessing that real players will not let one player do that as much. As it was this player came in second even though he managed to oten be 2nd in the Ball.

Bribe Royalty – They are 2 pounds each. You immediately get 1VP for each. You can then later redeem them for land during Acquire Land, money during Taxes, or prestige during a Ball. I still love this rule but the money focused player came in last place when it was all done. I think he should have concentrated on castles and palaces first and Bribe tokens second.

Masquerade Ball – This worked pretty well. All players return their current titles to the pool. Then in turn players place their prestige markers starting with the player with the crown, deciding right then how much bribe chits or scandal cards to add, if any. Once all have done this they go in order of high prestige to low taking from the pool the highest title they can take that is still available. Finally all players score victory points based on the title.

Castles – These now increase in cost as they decrease in quantity. They were 3/4/5/6/7 pounds each. I started each decade with the number of castle equal to the number of players minus one (N-1). Three castles per decade in this game. As it turned out someone bought a Palace before a castle was bought and I decided to try putting the displaced castle on the board reducing how much the next castle would cost. I liked this. Of course if there is no room then the castle would have to go back to the supply. Of course Castles have nothing give you once again and I need to think about that.

Palaces – I am starting to think that Palaces should be N-1 too. I think 2 will be too few in a five player game. I would not have minded 3 in my 4 player game. Now that moving the crown as extra meaning of also moving the clock Palaces are more fun than they were.

Church – These worked fine with no new changes. N churches and they get more expensive as they disappear. They give one scandal card and points during the scoring round.

Follies – These are also fairly unchanged. You need two forest to build one, two plantations to build one, two gardens two build one, and one of each to build the 4th one. They immediately pay victory points; 12 for the 1st one built, 10 for the 2nd, 8 for the 3rd, and 6 for the 4th one built.

Decade Clock – Year marker started on 2 and the first ball started as soon as the marker reached 6 and 10. After the second ball each player got one more turn and then a scoring round occurred. This worked pretty well. One decade a player played the new Outmaneuver scandal card moving the year marker back one. This gave all players an extra turn and it really felt like a luxury. I am removing the Outmaneuver card again.

Men at Arms – I started with them near each player ready to be deployed. When a castle was built they would get a turn. There were no castles played for a long time. With the clock ticking down quickly I was often absorbed into my own machinations of each of the 4 players and thought if someone disrupted this now that would really suck. So I took them back out before the first castle was played.

All in all the game worked really well. I spent three hours playing this 4 player game and often was proud of just how fun and well it was going. Until the end. Near the end of the game it was becoming clear that players were going to run out of things to do or at least run out of “useful” things to do. Interestingly the first player to run out of stuff to do also won.

So to fix this I think I will add a rule where players can trade their turn / Action for 1 victory point. This will allow them to do something meaningful at the end. Also I will slightly change the Acquire land rule to allow players to draw 3 lands when they want without using their token.

The final scores were: Prestige-Guy 79 playing land and owning the Duke from the 3 Ball on, the Lands-Guy 76 Donating land 3 times for 12, 7, and 9 points, the All-Three-Guy with 72 points had the crown most of the game, and the finally the Money-Guy with 67 points.

Other thoughts:
Maybe I will make the free draw 2 random lands or one of their choice?

Maybe Taxes can work similar. Players can Tax when they want to for 2 or 3 pounds?

There are not enough Scandal cards. I think I will try you get one with a castle. Maybe.

There are not enough lands for a 5 player game. The bag gets close to empty with a 4 player game. It seems like there should be plenty. Players play about 25 to 30 lands plus can have 10 or so behind the screen. So that’s 40 x 4 = 160. I think I have 210. I must not have 210. Anyway Scott showed me his tiles which were made of Illustration board that were thinner. They are about 60% as thick as mine, I believe. So I could have 40% more and have the same volume? I could have more.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Seth was right. Again.

WOO! Played a great three player game last night. We actually played 2/3rds of a game and then reset the game, changed some of the rules and played 2/3rds of another game.

I learned several things about the new modifications and it was mostly good. In fact it was from good to great. Unfortunately I think one part of the game was too good. Meaning that it randomly worked out well last night and gave us all warm fuzzies about the game but after sleeping on it I realized that the random element could have not been so great and will need some more thought.

Game Clock –
In the first game we played with the game clock looking like:

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 /
5 BALL /
6 / 7 / 8 / 9 /
10 BALL -> everyone gets one more turn -> SCORING ROUND

This is Seth’s idea and once again he was right. Sorta. We started the time marker on 1 and when we first got to the crown the marker moved to 2 so it was really 9 turns plus the guaranteed turn at the end. It was fun but the decade played a little long as I thought it would.

In the second game we tried this

1 / 2 / 3 /
4 BALL /
5 / 6 / 7 /
8 BALL -> everyone gets one more turn -> SCORING ROUND

Here we started the Marker on ZERO and therefore the game was 8 turns plus the guaranteed turn at the end. This felt like a good length.

When all was done I asked the others if it was good that the Balls happened on schedule and they both thought it was good. It was something you could plan for. Also they said that there were so many other events in the game that were hard to predict it was good to have one that was not. Seth was right.

Masquerade Ball –
This is probably where the biggest breakthrough occurred. During the first game, during a Ball, Cameron expressed dislike toward the game when I took his title and he took mine. To make matters worse neither of us moved up the ladder and the 3rd player was able to zoom away from us with no hope of us catching him. Over the years that I have been developing this game several have had this same feeling about this rule.

Cameron said he thought the rule was different: that each Ball players in order of highest prestige players took the highest title they were qualified for.

For example in the second game we tried this new idea. I had 8 prestige, Cameron had 7 and Bill had 5. So I took the Marquess which is worth 8 VP, Cameron then could only take the Earl which is worth 5, and Bill took the Viscount for 2 VP.

To do this you would need to score the titles during the ball which may get out of hand. Or maybe only have one Ball per decade. The Titles could all be even valued VPs and you could get half in the first Ball and then half after the second. Another idea is that Titles could have two values on them; one to qualify it and one to score it and then they would score at the end of the Ball.

I liked this new idea because it felt like we were wrestling for over the titles more. The original idea was to try and abstract playing king of the hill. This felt more like that to me.

Acquire Lands –
In the first game we tried the juice lands rule. We started with 3 of each type and as people selected a stack they the remaining stacks were “juiced” with one more land each. Up to stacks of five. We kept a surplus set of stacks of five to do the juicing from. Each stack in the surplus was replenished up to 5 at the start of the decade. As it worked out, we always had enough lands from the surplus to do the juicing. This way worked ok. Not as well as I thought it would.

In the second game we tried the Acquire Land tokens and no lands on the board. This worked pretty good except all players started by playing wood to get more lands.

Both games we started with 2 of each plus 4 random lands.

When we were all done I asked the guys which way they liked more and they both said the random lands from the bag was better, meaning the Acquire Land tokens. I agreed. But it didn’t occur to me until later that it worked out because we randomly got enough woods to start playing forest and if we didn’t our experience might not have been as good. I need to play it more to see.

Men-at-Arms / Castles –
We played without Men-at-Arms. This was fine except I want something to do when playing a castle. One player suggested there should be more scandal cards. He wanted an action where he could buy them.

Also we played with N-1 Castles per decade. This frustrated one player. It was suggested that I; 1 – go back to N Castles, or 2 – Let the castle that a Palace replaces go back on the board, or 3 – Do #1 but let the castles go up in value as you buy them like the churches.

I think I will try number 3. Castles will go cost something like 3/4/5/6/7 AND maybe you will also get a Scandal Card with one. Not sure about that last part but I do wish they would give something.

All the other parts of the game worked pretty well. I really like that when you played a land you get got something right away if a wood or farm. I still wish you would get a prestige when you played a pond.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

second 4 player decade

I played another four-player decade. It went a little faster. It still needs to be faster. I want players to barely be able to surround a castle and do a 3 or four other things and be done. If that.

Game Clock - I started the game with the first player having the crown. “Hand the Crown to a random player and they go first”. The rule was at the end of your turn if you had the crown the marker moved one. But it was weird that the marker would move after the first turn or there would have to be a exception to the rule or something. I didn’t like it. So I moved the crown to the first players right. Giving it to the player that would go last. This made more sense to me after all players went the clock moves one. Plus it gave a benefit to the player that went last making up for going last.

So now the game take 10 turns minus partial turns each time the crown changes hands. It was much closer to being a good speed. So my new idea is to also move the clock when someone builds a church. I will try this and see how it goes. I really think that erring on the side of too fast is much better than too slow.

Acquire Land - Also this game I started everyone with one with Acquire Land token. The idea is twofold I wanted players to be able to reap lots of lands sometimes if they have been working hard at playing forest. Two players have more to loose from Men-at-arms now.

Players now get one Acquire land token and one taxes token per decade.

I started the Acquire Land area of the board with 3 of each land type. In the previous game it seemed too low to be the first to Acquire land and only get 2 while you are then paving the way for all the other players to get more. 3 felt good.

In general I still have a problem with the new Acquire land action. I don’t like having an extra pool ready to add to the lands. There is more that bothers me too I just cannot quite word it. I think next game I will try each player gets two AL tokens per decade and can take that action when they want with no face up lands.

Masquerade Ball / Scandal cads - The last thing I added was during Masquerade Ball players get one scandal card only if they have prestige (if they attend the ball). I like this for many reasons but its more clear now that the Scandal cards need some balancing and maybe just need to be more interesting. I also need to add some cards to reflect some of the new rules.

I have been doing some more research and much of the scandals were on a social level. In this game the Ball represents using your social skills. I think that it makes sense that in addition to the church scandals would be generated at Balls. The other half of it is you could then turn around and use your newly acquired scandal card to gain prestige at the ball.

More coming.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The game is back and theres gonna be trouble

Woo I have the game back in great shape from Seth! I played a four player game trying some of the newly face-lifted rules. Some worked and some the jury is still out.

The biggest problem was the game clock. At first I tried my idea that clock would not start running until someone earned the crown. When a player first earns the crown the clock marker was placed on 1. Then when a player starts his turn with the crown the clock moves one. This enables the players to prolong the game because you could steal the crown in the middle of your turn and all players would have one more turn before the clock moved again. Which I thought was a good thing. It had another effect too but I will talk about that in a minute.

Quickly it was clear this was going to make the first round too long. Players don’t play ponds in the beginning but farms and wood. So people didn’t create gardens as right away and no crown.

So then I moved the clock to where it would have been and adjusted the scoring for the player that would have had it from the beginning. The decade still moved too slowly.

The other idea I started with was that after the first Ball the marker only move when the player with the crown started his turn. The decade track would look like this:

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / BALL / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / BALL + SCORING ROUND

The idea was that a decade would last a little longer. Silly me. I only played one decade but it felt like I had played a whole game. Players were running out of things to do, three of the follies were bought, players played about 21 lands each, most had 2 castles surrounded, all the churches were gone. It wasn’t a race. There was no urgency.

The other effect I didn’t like was you did not have enough control over when the Ball would start. If the player to your left had the crown when a ball started you may get screwed on the Prestige placement which doesn’t make sense to me. If I am working toward being Duke I want more control to race the other players to be the one to start a Ball.

Next game I will try someone gets the crown from the beginning. Then I will try players receive a VP and the clock moves at the end of their turn. Also I will use a decade track that doesn’t have a BALL. I will go back to the old way where players will have two opportunities to Throw a Ball per decade but will have to use a turn to do so.

If I need a little more time per decade I can allow the players to place the marker on the one on the first crown instead of starting there. Also I can make the 10 be the end where a scoring round would start immediately or I could make it happen the next time the players turn ends with a crown potentially giving players more time.

I feel Seth was right about more subtleties than I have wanted to admit. For example I now agree the Noble title ladder needs to be narrower. We had discussed this and I think he feels it should be N / N-2 / N - 3 / 1 / 1 for the Baron, Viscount, Earl, Marquess, and Duke respectively. Where N is equal to the number of players. So in a 5 player game it would be 5/3/2/1/1. In a 4 player game it would be 4/2/1/1/1 and in a three player game it would be 3/1/1/1/1.

I liked the N-1 castles to start a decade.

I didn’t play with them but I think maybe the Outmaneuver Scandal cards are too powerful. I have no fix for them yet. The Tariff Scandal card is potentially too valuable. I will change it to be a fixed amount of 4 or 5 pounds collected.

I didn’t like the new Men-at-Arms rule. Their strength is greatly reduced. I like the timing of them but since they are much less frequent they need to do more. I think I will try letting players play both of their men-at-arms when they play a castle. Even then I need to think of a reason to play one on a Forest.

Since there was not enough urgency to decade I don’t have a good feeling for the new Acquire Land ideas of Seth’s. What I am hoping is that there will not be a need to limit how many times the lands are “juiced”. That since time will go by faster players will spend their time doing other things.

I played where each player got one TAXES token per decade and that seemed to work pretty well.

I was encouraged by the scores at the end. Three of the players were within 2 points of each other. One player was about 7 points behind 3rd place.

That’s all for now.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Revised costings

Ok seth was right. Castles and Palaces can score more than once. So using my experience of how often someting scores, I have now adjusted the cost of things:
$ Other cost VPs scoring times Other benefits VP per $ $s per VP
Castle $6 Clearing 3 2 Men at Arms Action 1 $1.00
Palace $8 Castle 5 1.5 crown / prestige 0.94 $1.07
Church $3.5 Clearing 1.5 2 Scandal Card 0.857 $1.17
Folly $10 Clearing 9 1 0.9 $1.11
Bribe $2 1 1 favor 0.5 $2.00

Castle – You are guaranteed 1 castle will score 3 times. On average you may buy one in the second decade that will score twice and one in the 3rd that will score once (If you get it surrounded). This averages to 2 scoring opportunities per Castle.

A Castle used to cost $5. But if it now cost $6 you will get one VP per $1. Which is the goal.

Palace – Typically you will get 2 Palaces. One in the second decade and one in the 3rd. This averages to 1.5 scoring opportunities per Palace.

So as I guessed before a Palace should cost $8 to get about one VP per $1. This does not account for the fact that you are replacing a Castle. But you do get the crown and extra prestige which could easily make up for it.

Church – Churches follow castles closely. You will often get 3 churches per game and they will average 2 scoring opportunities.

This shows that Churches currently cost too much. So I lowered the value from 2/3/4/5/6 to 1/2/3/4/5. Brining them closer in range of one VP per $1.

Folly – These of course only score once and therefore the math is easier. To keep the price at $10 I needed to raise the VPs from 8/7/6/5 to 12/10/8/6.

The Goal has been to get the following $1 = 1 land = 1 prestige = 1 VP. So the next question is how much should the Noble titles be worth to achieve this? When I play-test the game next I will keep an eye on how much prestige does it take to get say 20 VPs?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

VP table

There has been some discussion about the balance of the game So made this table:

$sOther costVPsOther benefitsVP per $$s per VP
Castle$5Clearing3M@A action0.6$1.67
Palace$8Castle5crown / prestige0.625$1.60
Church$4.5Clearing1.5Scandal Card0.333$3.00

Unless I am not thinking of this correctly you can see that Follies giving 8/7/6/5 VPs for $10 are the cheapest in the game and Palaces and Castles are close behind.

Now it might make sense to increase the value of the follies to simply make them more sought after. I could only do this alittle because what I do not want is to make getting a Folly a requirement for winning.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Seth reviews the game and then some!

Sending the game to Seth has been very useful. He has now played the game 3 times expermenting with a few ideas. Here are some of his blog post:
Noblemen First playtest
Noblemen 2nd and 3rd playtest

From all of this and several conversations about the game has me thinking about the game allot again.

The latest set of talks have spawned ideas about how to end a round. These ideas are largely Seths:

Each round would now be called a decade and the game would end after 3 decades. The last 3 decades of Queen Elizabeths reign starting about 1570.

Churches would no longer end a round. There would be no more scoring beads and no more scoreing round actions / tokens. Instead there would be a new track on the board with a marker that counts off the years. The track would look like something like this:

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / BALL / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / BALL + SCORE ROUND

At the start of the game one player would recieve the Queens Crown and the player to his left would go first. Place a year marker on the 1 of the decade track.

At the start of your turn; if you have the Queen's Crown you recieve one VP and the year marker moves one year on the track.

When the marker reaches the BALL the Queen throws a Giant Ball giving you a chance to upgrade your Noble titles.

When the marker reaces the BALL + SCORE ROUND players do another BALL and then do a scoreing round ending the decade.  After the 3rd Decade the game would end.

Players would be able to prolong the end by keeping the crown hopping but that would come to an end eventualy. You would never be sure exatly when it was comming but most of the time it would be predictable.

I am concerned that there are too many tracks on the board now. Personaly I find tracks to be a bit boring.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New momentum! (version 0.8 in the making!)

Recently we played Noblemen at the local board game design meeting the guys of the group and I discussed the game a bit.

The next day I went to lunch with Mark a board game friend / colleague and we discussed different thoughts about the Noblemen. Some good ideas came out of this discussion.

Soon after this I boxed up my one prototype up and sent it to an acquaintance of mine from the Board Game Designers Forum. Seth. Before I sent Seth the game I sent him a PDF of the rules. He read them and I was amazed at how well he understood the game. He had a good understanding of the games strengths, weaknesses and most importantly he knew what I am trying to do with the game.

He has played the game and we have been able to talk about the game fairly intelligently. We have discussed many ways to improve some of the games short-comings.

All these talks have made me do LOTS of thinking about the game. So much so, it has even stopped me from falling asleep some nights and I even wake up thinking about the game. Most of the new ideas for the game have come from discussions with Seth. They are ideas that he and I have tossed around. To be honest most of the ideas I had thought of at one point or another he helped me see which of the ideas were better and why.

Noblemen at its core is about simultaneous races that the players have to choose which to concentrate on. It has three different commodities; lands, pounds, and prestige. Players divide their time between building their estate to collect these three and using them after they have been collected.

The last set of rules did all of this adequately. Sure there were a couple things that needed to be improved and or balanced. Once that was done the game would have been complete. Done. Finished. I could then put it on the shelve and move on.

Finished is no longer the goal anymore. I think that with all these new ideas I could change the game to be a really good game.

First idea I really loved was the new Bribe Royalty idea. Of course I have not played it yet. This idea though changes a fundamental part of the game. In the old rules, yesterday, you had one main action to make use each of the three different commodities. Each of those actions were of the type where all players participate. The new Bribe Royalty idea wasn’t like this so maybe none should be? If all actions were single player actions this would support and promote the simultaneous racing motif.

So to this end the Donate land and Masquerade Ball actions may also change.

Donate Land would now work like this: Players on their turn could take a Donate action and donate as much land as they want as long as there was still room in the donate land area of the board. Donated lands stay in the donate land area until there are 5 lands of each type. Players receive one victory point for each land donated. There would no longer be Donate land tokens.

This is a fairly subtle change.

Masquerade Ball would now work like this: At all times players prestige markers would be on the prestige track. They would start at zero. Each time a player played a pond they would move up one. Each time they created a garden they would move up three. When they build a Palace they would move up two on the track. Also during a turn when players moved on the track they could also use scandal cards to add to their prestige, redeem the queens crown, or redeem bribe chits.

A Masquerade Ball would begin when any player reached the end of the track. Balls also happen at the start of any scoring round.

During a Ball players with high prestige would advance in noble peerage.

Then players would score their rank.

After the Ball all markers would move back to match the level of their title. For example if after a ball you were now an Earl and scored 8 Victory Points you would move your prestige marker to 8 on the prestige track.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How I made the plastic parts

I have been asked to explain how I made some of the parts for Noblemen. It is not really a long story. I saw this in my local hobby store: Mini casting kit

And I thought COOL! With this you could take some small 3D trinket and make copies of it.

The process is simple:

  1. You first have to have a positive mould. This is the item you want to copy. Affix the item to something flat on the bottom like a floor tile.
  2. You use this to make a negative mould.
  3. Pour quick setting resin into the negative mould and wait 3 minutes.

It was $30. I could not justify just making something I didn't need just to play with a cool kit. BUT if I rolled the $30 in to the cost a hobby! Everyone knows that hobbies cost money.

Around this time I was thinking about making a board game where players build estates out of squares of lands and castles, palaces, and stuff. If you wanted to make copies of something new you first had to have the new thing for the positive mould. So I read stuff and started asking my friends what they knew about making clay moulds and one showed me a product called Sculpey.

Sculpey is pretty neat stuff. You shape it like clay but then bake it and you have something solid. I do not recommend the Original type. It is too pliable.

Anyway I made parts I thought I would need for the game out of Sculpey. I made two castles, two sheep, and one palace, glued them to a 6” floor tile, built cardboard walls around the sides, and used the blue clay that game with the kit to seal the seam between the cardboard and the tile. This completed my positive mould. I only made one Palace because I knew I would not need as many for the game.

The kit comes with a powder that when mixed with water makes a thick liquid that becomes this rubbery stuff. They call it RTV or room temperature vulcanizing. So you mix it and poor it over the positive mould up to the edge of your cardboard walls and wait for eight hours.

When it was done I pulled off the clay and cardboard but the rubber didn’t want to come away from the floor tile! The problem was my sculpey pieces were not completely flat on the bottom and I only glued them in the center of each one. The rubbery liquid got under them. So when I figured this I carefully had to tear away the mould from the pieces that were super-glued to the floor tile. It was a bit scary and I had to trim away the excess on the bottom but it worked. Now I had a negative mould!

The next step was the most exciting.

Plastic resin begins life as two liquids that you measure out and mix together. Once you are done mixing you have about 5 minutes total before your liquid will be rock solid. So you pour a little fast into the negative mould and wait.

Then there was a problem. It was difficult to get the pieces out. These were not glued to anything so I had no way to get a hold of them. This meant I had to flex the rubber mould and squeeze my fingers into the gaps. Ultimately this caused rubber mould to start to crack and tear. I was only able to make about three sets before the mould was becoming unusable and I needed eight sets. Then I got the idea to wrap the mould with rubber bands before pouring in the resin. The mould continued to crack but it worked long enough and I got my eight sets.

I learned along the way to slightly over pour the resin this created a bubble on the bottom of the pieces making it easier to get a hold of them and pull them out. If you under poured the resin you the opposite was true. The pieces would have a concave bottom. This meant that I had pieces that would wobble a bit and not sit flat. This was easily fixed I held each one to a belt-sander and in a couple seconds they were flat.

Quick reminder list:

  • Make your positive moulds with flat bottoms
  • Glue them to the flat surface completely not just the center
  • Over pour the resin a bit to make it easier to remove
  • Remove the pieces carefully
  • Heat the rubber mould each time to make it more pliable
  • Sand off the bottoms to make them flat
  • The rubber mould will copy everything including your fingerprints

Then I painted them and presto I had parts for my game. As my game developed more I needed more parts but luckily I didn’t need large quantities of them. So I just made them out of Sculpey.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Recent Noblemen thoughts

We played Noblemen at the last BGDW meeting. Here are some thoughts about how it went.

For your viewing pleasure I have provided the latest rules PDF thus:
Noblemen v0.7.46

1 - The game starts the same each time:
The problem is , at the start of the game, you should never let anyone build a Forest (4 wood in a square) before doing an Acquire land action, unless of course it is you building the Forest. If you do they will get 6 random lands from the bag and you will only get 3. Because 3 is the minimum number of lands you will retrieve from the bag.

Plus it makes sense that if you are going to do it soon you might as well do it immediately so that after you get your lands you can more better plan what actions you will want to do.

It’s already true that most of the time if someone does an Acquire Lands action that all other players are prompted to do the same. If they don’t, they will likely miss out and get no land and someone else will get 2X the land. There are rare exceptions.

So if the players are savvy the game starts the same each time with everyone doing an Acquire Lands action. All players will get two face-up lands and 3 random lands. This favors the first player and hurts the last player.

I don’t like it.

Solution #1 – This is the easiest one. Change set-up so that there are no lands in the Acquire Lands area for the first round and give all player 5 more lands to start.

Solution #2 – Give players Acquire Land Tokens and remove the Acquire Lands action area from the main board. Then Like Men-At-Arms and Taxes players would do Acquire Lands whenever they wanted. Then players that wanted to wait till after they built a Forest could do so.

If I give two tokens per player per round then I would give less starting land. Just a smidgeon less because I think people need more land.

I like this solution.

Solution #3 – Come up with a new Acquire lands “game” where on triggered events lands show up in the Acquire Land area of the main board from the bag say 1 per player. These would then allow players to take 1 to 3 Acquire land actions per round. For example it could be triggered whenever the Queens crown changes hand. Lands would show up and people could then get some.

I do not much like this solution and I really do not like the example of triggering with the Queens Crown.

2 - Palaces should cost more:
The player that won did lots of Taxes actions which is a viable strategy. He did the most someone could do plus one. And therefore he had plenty of money to build two Follies and build 3 Palaces.

I was already on the fence thinking that Palaces should cost 8 pounds instead of 7. So I will increase the cost Palaces. Should I also increase the price of Follies from 10 to 12 pounds? Not yet.

3 - Should there be a scoring track:
Part of the fun of the game was sort of sucked away because we could always see that one player was going to win. If I went back to Victory Point chits instead of a scoring track, then if you didn’t want to keep track of your opponents you could be blissfully unaware of how badly you are losing. I am still thinking about this.

BUT! This did get me wondering what would happen to the Bribe Royalty marker. The easy solution is to just build a small scoring track of twelve spaces just for this action. Boring. Wouldn’t it be more fun if Bribe Royalty was a little game? For example; lose the Bribe Marker and in its place would be 12 (or some amount) of Bribe Royalty chits. On your turn, as your action, if there were any chits available, you could buy them for 3 pounds each. You would gain 1 Victory point for each one and they would go behind your screen. THEN During Acquire Lands, Taxes, or Masquerade Ball, you could return the chits to the board for bonus lands, pounds, or Prestige! I love this idea but it has two problems.

Problem 1 – This puts a lot more emphasis on collecting pounds. This may have already had too much emphasis. Maybe I don’t care. Maybe I just compensate in other places.

Problem 2 – This is a lot like royal favors from Caylus. Not sure how much I should care about this.

Maybe we could even lose the Bribes tokens.

Other thoughts not addressed:
· Are Follies needed? I like them so yes. But if someone is asking it then maybe they can be improved.
· People need more land. I pretty much only played the land I was given. I would not mind it if somehow we started with even more maybe?
· Should there be more or different end round conditions? I am nervous that inexperienced players will not end the round and instead run themselves out of actions and then be bored.

I guess I am not finished with Noblemen after all. But I am close damn it!