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.

1 comment:

Seth Jaffee said...

Heh, glad to see you agree with some of the conclusions I drew ;-)

Game clock
I don't know if I like the "everyone gets an extra turn" after the 2nd Ball. I think I see why you put that in there, but I suspect it's not necessary. I guess it's not bad, but it's not as elegant as I'd like, and since I don't think it's necessary I'd probably leave it out. But then - how did your players like it?

Additionally, I'm surprised you think 10 game turns in a round is too many... when some of them are 'skipped' due to Crown-taking. How many times did the crown change hands? Were you moving the crown at the beginning of the turn or the end?

Masquerade Ball
I'm not sure I followed you here. Have you removed the restriction of only advancing 1 level at a time? We rather thought the Ball worked well, but then I may have misunderstood your rule for taking titles... we played that in Prestige order (most to least) you upgrade your title, taking it from the supply if possible, then from a player behind you in line. You can't take a title from a player in front of you in line, you can only upgrade 1 Title at a time, and you have to have at least enough Prestige as the VP value on the Title.

One note is that it was seldom the case that someone couldn't upgrade for lack of prestige (i.e. not enough), nor was maxing out prestige an issue, so I wonder if the rules about those 2 things are superfluous. However on the high end, I think maybe the prerequisite Prestige threshold is probably good to make people actually invest in Prestige to attain the high vp titles.

I liked that the fight for titles was a little back and forth, and that you could take titles from other players. I thought it worked very well.

I don't like scoring the titles after the Ball, though that's sort of a balance issue - I'm not against the idea, I just thought it seemed nice and tidy to only score things during Scoring. We thought an interesting incentive to win a title, even in the mid-decade Ball was (a) to pre-qualify you for an even better title in the later Ball, and (b) to gain some ability. We used a simple building discount, which seemed fine to me. The higher the title, the bigger the discount:
* Viscount = $1 discount,
* Earl = $2 discount,
* Marquess = $3 discount,
* Duke = $3 discount +1VP for building.

I liked that pretty well. Scoring the titles at each Ball wouldn't be bad either I suppose.

Acquire Land
I really recommend not starting the piles at 3 land. That just gives people too much land in 1 action, it's too good to pass up as a first action. The juicing mechanic works really well if the piles start at 2. As for the max of 5 per pile, that's fine... but in general the max takes care of itself most of the time. I once got a stack of 6 Clearings or something, which is useful if I just want to surround a Castle, or to Donate to the Church.

With the juicing mechanic, players can't run out of things to do. If they have nothing to do and the rounds not over, they can always just take some land, then play it. This will get them the money they need to build something, or else it will gain them some other benefit after a couple turns. I had suggested a limited number of 'juices' before the juicing tiles run out and the piles get juiced with $1 instead, because in the late game you need money, not tiles, so near the end of the game when the tiles run out you can start taking Acquire Land actions to get some money and use that to buy things.

I also think it might be good to start with just 1 of each land and 4 randoms, rather than 2 of each +4 random, but that's just a guess.

I really liked the Men-at-Arms action when it was attached to a castle. Castles are fortifications, sort of military establishments, so it stands to reason that playing one gives you an aggressive, combat-like action. The M@A seemed a perfect fit. They steal a little something (Crown/$2/2 tiles), and they stop bonuses, maybe even steal the bonus for you, and they can't be displaced by anyone but the owner of the land you're 'attacking'.

Scandal Cards
There is a way to purchase more Scandal Cards - it's called buying another Church! I wouldn't like to see too many Scandal Cards getting into the game, as they have a pretty big effect. It seemed like there were a good number currently. Buying an extra Scandal Card seems like it might work, but that would make Churches less cool. I'd bea weary of changing the Scandal Cards at this point.

I think I like the N-1 castles thing, and I think I like the increasing cost thing - not sure I care which you use there.Palace building putting the Castle back into stock seems fine as well, so maybe use N-1 castles and that rule.

I would definitely not give a Scandal card with a Castle purchase. That's what Churches are for! I would stick with the Men @ Arms action.

Finally, I'll note that you DO get Prestige immediately for placing a pond, it just doesn't matter because you don't tally up the Prestige until the Masquerade Ball.