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.