Wednesday, January 8, 2014


A recent playtest of the system discussed in the last post was a mixed result. 

On the one hand, the "tech trees", the idea of locked actions that become "unlocked" with advances, and the shorter number of turns were all received generally favorably.  On the other hand, the game was more difficult, and more complex. 

A particularly problematic source of complexity was the expanded role of caravans.  While in principle this seemed favorable, in practice the different meanings of the different trade good colors that your caravans touch was just too much; additionally, needing to combine sources (caravans +  heritage bonus) to see whether you advance or score a chronicle (but slightly different sources for each) was too taxing.  

We agreed that an improved system would be to have a single heritage track for each category (political, civil, and cultural), and you get to increase on a track when you (i) touch a trade good with a caravan, (ii) touch a city or capital with a trade good, or (iii) score a chronicle in that category.  Then, you just compare the heritage track to the chronicle value (if you're scoring) or your unrest (if you're advancing), so it's always easy to see whether you're allowed to do what you want to or not. 

One of the players suggested that the turns in a generation would be more engaging if there were more opportunities to create synergy between them, ie to invest in some sort of short-term boost that lets you be really effective in just one area for just this turn. This sparked an idea that I think I like.  In addition to the Action cards in your hand, you also have "emphasis" cards, probably one for each category.  An "emphasis" card costs a turn action to deploy, and it stays in place for the whole generation and does two things:  first, it "unlocks" all of the locked actions in that same category (eg, "political" emphasis lets you unlock aspects of the Raid, Conquer, and Muster actions that are otherwise locked); second, it gives you +1 on the Heritage track in the same category IF you complete a combination of 3 actions and/or buildings in that same category this generation. 

This makes you care more about generation length; ie a short generation in which you deployed an emphasis card would feel like a waste.  Long generations force you to reuse cards or produce, taking on Unrest, but there isn't currently a downside to short generations, so these "emphasis" cards would add one.  Although, since you don't really control generation length I'm not sure how much this matters.  

Maybe there should be, instead of the "generation" track, which is the same every time, a "lifespan" card, which has a generation track, and the numbers are different on each card.  That would give some variability to the expected generation length, and you may be more likely to invest an action in emphasis if it looks like you have a healthy ruler with a long life ahead of him.