Well, almost done. I have been playing around with "option 2" from the last post: for action selection, each player now has a deck of cards representing the 10 actions in the game (Conquer, Raid, Populate, Produce, Chronicle, Govern, Build, Advance, Migrate, and Caravan), and all players select two simultaneously, face-down, then execute in turn order. I've solo tested this a few times, and while it does explode the decision matrix, it also gives you tremendous flexibility, and has been a solid success. It still needs to be tried with a live test group to see whether it actually helps with game length. But if we allow, say, 3 minutes for players to select their actions, 2 minutes total to resolve them, and one minute for bureaucratic stuff, then that's 6 minutes per turn, and the game's ~30 turns should take about 180 minutes for any player count, and probably much less for quicker players or smaller groups. So, the finish line of this being a 3 hour game is definitely in sight!
I've added a few new advances, and pruned one or two out, and made some other minor tweaks, and as long as the next couple of live playtests go well, I think I'm ready to call the game done. There are a couple of little things I'm still looking at:
- Setup: Currently players start with 2 peasants and 1 warrior in each territory. This was mostly for convenience -- ie, take a decision out of the setup, and it speeds it up -- but because everyone started with 4 production in each category, it also didn't matter much. Now that production is calculated on the fly at the start of the turn, starting out with 2 in each territory means that if you have 2 territories producing one resource and one producing the other, then you'll only start the game with 2 of that other resource, which isn't enough to do anything. So to give you more flexibility, I was thinking of changing the setup to placing your peasants 3/2/1 in your territories instead of 2/2/2. It adds a decision, and some people will agonize over it, so maybe it's not worth the trouble -- just let players get into the game and get them playing. The low production is only a "problem" in the first turn anyway; after that, you can easily move your peasants around, add new ones, etc. So this is something I'm thinking about but am unlikely to change.
- Length: The game currently lasts a minimum of 28 turns and an average (statistically, anyway) of 31.2 turns. That may be a bit too long, and may lead to scoring that's a bit too "high". I want it to be a real struggle to get to the highest value Chronicle cards, ie if you're going to go for the biggest card, you're almost certainly going to have to eschew just about anything else. A longer game makes it a bit easier to get those high value cards, so clipping off a couple of turns might balance this out.
- Token glut: In some situations (esp when there are a few short Generations in a row), players can end up with more achievement tokens than they can realistically spend. This is good in one sense: tokens can be used in combat, so extras may promote more combat. But too many tokens could lead to "turtling", and anyway, it's supposed to be a hard decision to commit tokens in battle, since you need them to advance and to score Chronicles. I can find more uses for tokens, or perhaps clip out a couple of the sources for tokens. But it just needs more tests to see whether this is actually a problem or not.
- Events: There's a good mix of Events that work very well, and going to only one Event per turn, drawn from a deck of Event cards, has been a great way to reduce the complexity of the Event system. But the game may need one or two more events per Epoch to really make the players struggle a bit more, but without the game becoming too punitive. I have a couple of ideas for how to accomplish this if the game needs it.