Sunday, 25 June 2017

Conquisitor Mages

Just doing a quick article about the important mages of the Conquisitor Republic for an RPG I'm running. Mostly just want to flesh it out in a more visual way for myself.

Signus - Dark Mage

Signus is the most influential person among the Conquisitors. While he not the most powerful in a fight, he has a hand in everything, and knows how to work the system (having written a good deal of the laws himself). Gunther is his right-hand man, though more on him later.

Signus is ambitious, and is plotting against Prague, with the aim to rule it, or somehow make it subservient to The Republic. He is also paranoid, and spies on others ceaselessly.

Stats: 6/6/6/D6+1

Spell List: Fireball, Ice Bolt (2D6 cold), Magic Missile, Summon Imp, Oath (the next promise the target makes cannot be willingly broken), Blizzard, Hold Person

Intrigue: Wants dirt on everyone, especially Sir Donnick, will pay in cash for it.

Gunther - Alterationist

Gunther is a very simple man, he views the world through the lens of Strength. His magic is mainly used to make himself tougher and stronger, his apparel and actions are intended to show off his considerable muscle, and he judges people mainly based on how strong they are.

His alliance with Signus is largely based on him losing a duel to him many years ago. He is happy with his place in The Republic, as it affords him lots of fights, and does not care very much about the politics involved.

He will respect anyone that is strong, either physically or mentally. He does not have strong morals, which is probably why his alliance with Signus has lasted as long as it has.

He has a rivalry with Sir William, who is another Conquisitor that does not use spells to fight.

Stats: 8/8/4/D8, D8
Gets +5 HD if given time to prepare for a fight.

Nox - Time Mage

Nox is an enigma. No one has seen the face behind his mask. He seeks out powerful sources of mana, for purposes he will not divulge. He is absurdly strong, and no one has an adequate counter to his magic. He would likely rule the town if he had any interest in doing so.

In his earlier years, he was a clockmaker. He is a skilled mechanic, and can create autonomous golems; he collaborated with Theo Riginator. His signature minion is a mechanical mosquito, about 8" in length that can drain the mana out of things. He wants to steal the energy from Cyclades and Volga, but does not have a strong enough advantage over them to actually do it.

He has an elaborate lair, where he can track his minions, and which protects him from any would-be assassins. It is self-defending.

Here are some facts about him, that no one knows:
  • He is about 200 years old, preserved by slowing his biological functions magically. 
  • He hates Leopold Lionheart III; he is the one that killed the Sixth of his line and ended it. He believes that Leopold could have saved his family, but did not.
  • His objective is to travel back in time to see his deceased family, using the mana he is gathering. This is a fool's errand, and he is rather mad to even try.
  • Theo's clanks run off of electricity and clockwork, and so are not a viable source of mana for him.
Stats: 6/6/6/D10
Spells: Stop Time (OP as shit, take 5 turns of frozen time), Blink, Haste, Slow, Hold Person
Uncanny awareness and reflex: Nox is absurdly difficult to sneak up on. He can use Blink to avoid otherwise unavoidable attacks.

Mosquito Mech: 1/0/0/D4 - Does an equal amount of MP damage on hit, Flying

Aeros Albian - Summoner

Aeros is a bully. He is strong through his minions and wealth, but he is a coward.

He was abused as a child. He stole a spellbook, used it to summon a dire wolf, and killed his parents with it. He took over their estate, and is the principle producer of Albian spice.

He is married, although it is not a healthy relationship. He is abusive towards his wife, Mary Albian, and the two have an unspoken agreement to see each other as little as possible. She runs most of the household, while he meddles in politics, and experiments with magic. He also cheats, and his powerful position makes him popular with women.

Like most bullies, he overcompensates. He is full of bravado, and prone to outbursts if challenged. He will usually have a menagerie of summoned creatures with him whenever he is in public.

His appearance is worth noting as well. He is relatively young, in his mid-thirties, but looks a lot older. He has white hair, and usually dresses in white robes, with white wrappings on most of his exposed skin. It is rumoured that he has tattoos that he uses for his magic, or that he is heavily scarred. Both are true; he keeps the tattoos hidden to protect his magical secrets, and is deeply ashamed of his scars.

Stats: 3/6/6/D6
He has a variety of summoning magic, and is accompanied by several beasts of varying stats; probably Bruiser and Beast level.

Sir Donnick - Duelist

Sir Donnick is an anarchist. He believes that government is an innately corrupt institution, and seeks to undermine them at all turns.

He is a cultured gentleman, who oversees a large plot of farmland. He lives in a spiraling wizard's tower, and wears a white wooden mask whenever he is in public, along with a gentleman's suit and top hat.

The nature of his magic is largely unknown; he has no close associates, and no one has ever seen him cast a spell. Despite this, no one doubts that he is a mage. What is apparent though, is that no magic seems to affect him, and he is a preternaturally skilled duellist. Speculation on the matter is a favourite pastime of Signus, and likely this unknown factor is what prevents him from taking direct action against Sir Donnick.

Stats: 3/10/10/D8, D8
Immune to magic, including indirect effects (ignores your buffs, invisibility, etc). Does double damage against anyone who has magically enhanced toughness.

Intrigue: Sir Donnick is actually a persona, and there are a host of Sir Donnicks living in the basement of his tower. They are a circle of monks, who conspire to maintain the illusion of being a single person, and refer to each other by number (currently between four and thirteen). They collaborate regularly to ensure that they all know everything they need to to play the part. If a Donnick is killed, they will conspire to recover the body, and keep the illusion alive.

Tobias - Sonic Mage

Tobias is a newcomer to the Conquisitor Republic, and is making name for himself by conducting raids against the Clockwork City.

He is ambitious, eager, and somewhat naive. He believes in the Republic's stated goals, and has not realized yet that there is more to it than that. He is new to money, and while rich, is not great at managing it yet.

He is young and handsome, and a desirable prospect for women. He is inexperienced with women, and is being taken advantage of by his suitor, Jezebel. She inherited some money from her late parents, and has spent most of it already; she is looking for an attractive sugar daddy.

Stats: 2/4/4/D8
Spells: Sonic Burst (2D6 sonic damage), Deafen, Auditory Illusion,
Can communicate signals to Clanks.
Usually carries smoke grenades, as a blinded foe is basically helpless against him.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Axior's Gnomes

The defining characteristic of Gnomes is their desire to learn.

They are typically about 3 feet tall, very curious, and can live to about 60 years old. Male Gnomes do grow facial hair. Female Gnomes can grow mustaches, although it is not typically fashionable for them to do so.

Gnomes revel in secrets, although they are lousy at keeping them. To them, secrets and knowledge are the most valuable currency, but when they are excited about something, they will usually drop hints and teases until they give it away.

The other thing that Gnomes really love is food; specifically the variety and quality of their food. Gnomish cuisine is famous for its quality, and because of their small size and therefore appetites, they can use exotic and expensive ingredients (because they only need to buy small amounts of it). They also love alcohol; good alcohol is worth more than gold to them. Alcohol affects them normally (unlike their Dwarven relatives).

Gnomes dabble with other intoxicants and hallucinogens. Magic mushrooms are strongly associated with Gnomes.

Gnomes are also known for having weird potions. This is mostly stereotyping, due to a popular series of stories involving a Gnomish alchemist (as a supporting character), who always has just the right potion for a situation; this varies from the mundane (healing potion), to the ridiculous (shark repellant).

There are two other famous stories involving Gnomes; in one they are basically Santa's elves (depending on who is telling the story, they may be happy working for him, or may be his slaves), and the in the other they are evil creatures that kidnap children.

The combination of their loves of food and secrets means that recipies are one of the most exchanged secrets among Gnomes.

Because of their size and nature, they are sometimes employed as spies. They typically do not last long, as they will often give themselves away. This means that a savvy employer will replace them before they know enough to give away anything important.

Gnomes, being small and not inclined to combat, are often treated badly. They are frequently abused or enslaved, occasionally kept as a stand-in for a lost child, or put to work doing industrial tasks. They do not typically earn any sort of title (as they make lousy knights), and are often just looked down upon by other races.

In order to be in a good place in society, Gnomes have learned to adapt. They tend to form tight-knit communities in cities, travel in groups, and carry knives. They typically distrust strangers, and are generally cowardly in unfamiliar situations, and so prefer to have strength of numbers wherever possible.

Gnomes often form gangs, initially to defend themselves, but they often just evolve into normal gangs given a few generations. Note that Gnomish gangs tend to be big fish in small ponds; against more cutthroat gangs in big cities, they don't usually cut it.

Knives carry some cultural significance to Gnomes, most notably, a marriage ritual among Gnomes is for spouses to exchange knives. This is mostly symbolic, but losing your spouse's knife is a big faux-pas. Losing knives in general is embarassing for a Gnome, though this doesn't extend to having them stolen from you or getting mugged, which is just unfortunate.

Gnomes in general get along well with Dwarves, Halflings, and Children. Dwarves tend to stick up for them, and their curious and intellectual nature makes them good compliments to the Dwarves. Gnomes are often employed by Dwarves to help figure out problems, or brainstorm solutions that they could not otherwise come up with.

Gnomes (being half-Dwarf) can be called on to continue a Line, although it does not fit their nature, and so it is often said that only a Dwarf can continue a line, and Gnomes are happy to let them.

Gnomes give birth normally, but have a short gestation period, only about 5 months. Twins are seen as being lucky; all Gnomish deities are twins, who usually represent opposites.

There are a few different places you might find Gnomes:
  • Gnomish Villages – these generally are backed by a Gnomish Mage or gang. They do well for themselves, as much as any other village.
  • As a minority in cities – typically downtrodden, but communities of Gnomes have been known to do well in some places.
  • In Dwarven towns – they fit in well with Dwarves, and they generally do not have to worry about themselves among Dwarves, so are free to pursue their own interests.
  • In the wild – these are often referred to as feral Gnomes; they live in the wild, and forage for food, or make mushroom patches in remote forests. They are masters of hiding, as the world is full of dangers. They typically only speak Gnomish
  • As travellers: Gnomes tend to travel in groups, or with other groups of travellers. A lone Gnome is either a madman, an outcast, or a Mage powerful enough to fend for himself.

Another point about Gnomes is that they love games. Their natural curiosity lends itself well to learning rules, figuring out interactions, and devising strategies. Most Gnomish communities have a handful of locally developed games, in addition to the ones found throughout the realm. Being the creator of a local, popular game makes you a local celebrity; expect gossip about possible rule changes and what you are planning to create next (Gnomes love even the possibility of secrets!).

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Axior's Dwarves

The following is a piece I wrote up about Dwarves. I'm doing some world-building for a D&D campaign, so there might be a few more posts about the land of Axior. Without further ado, here are my notes about Dwarven culture:

The defining trait of Dwarves is their single-mindedness. A given Dwarf will choose a profession (called a “Line”), and work without deviation towards it for their entire lives. The oldest Dwarven child of each gender will inherit the Line of the correspondingly gendered parent, although all others are free to choose their own Lines.

As the name implies, a Line continues through generations, and a strong Lineage is a great honour among Dwarves. Due to the oldest-child-only inheritance though, Lines tend to be fairly short, and even a 4th generation Lineage is respectable.

Dwarves are typically humourless, emotionally flat, and lack sex-drive. They care little for appearances (other than beards), and lack creativity. The two great exceptions to these are:
  • If any of these traits are required for their Line. Because of their dedication, they will seemingly instinctively develop any required personality traits.
    • As a subnote, if a Dwarf does not think they will be able to complete their life's work in their lifetime, they will develop an incredible urge to procreate so that their heir may finish it. If their same-gendered first-born dies and their Line is broken without completing their life's work, they will fall into despair, or work madly with such a looming and literal deadline.
  • Or, if they are drunk. Intoxicated Dwarves are generally quite uproarious, horny, emotional, and free-thinking. This boost to creativity is what drives many Dwarves to drink, although alcohol often causes as many problems as it enables them to solve.

Alcohol is prevalent in Dwarven society; because of the aforementioned lack of sex-drive, Dwarven populations only dwindle without alcohol, so they have “evolved” to include some form of alcohol in all Dwarven societies.

A Dwarf will follow their line to all ends of the earth; it is not uncommon for Dwarves to:
  • Become hermits, producing whatever masterful works they have dedicated themselves to for its own sake
  • Leave Dwarven society to pursue their craft; this is most common for anything artistic, as they will find little audience or market for art and performances there
  • Create a single masterpiece in some obscure location; this may be a giant statue in the desert, an intricate dungeon beneath a wine-cellar, an epic mansion in the middle of a forest, or whatever
  • Create an enormous number of the same thing, far beyond any market's demand for them.
  • Beggar themselves when their Line is not profitable, or amass an unspent fortune when it is
  • Choose a life of crime for their Line. Almost every famous pirate whose name ends in “beard” is a Dwarf. Remember that Dwarves will aim to be the best at what they do.
Stereotypes about Dwarves mostly come from a few famous Dwarves and their Lines. This is mainly miners and warriors.

Dwarves who do not inherit a Line are referred to as Progenitors, Firsts, Primes, Forebearers, or Bears. Firsts is the most casual, and most commonly used, as Dwarves care little for formality (Dwarves often address each other based on their Lineage number, so calling someone a Second or Fifth is common). They typically spend most of their childhood trying a bit of everything, and seeing what sticks with them. If a Dwarf cannot find their Line, they will often fall into alcoholism, and such Dwarves are referred to as Lost (collectively, The Lost), but this is less common than you'd think. A Dwarf typically irons out what his Line will be throughout puberty.

If a Dwarf refuses to inherit their rightful Line, they are typically shunned, and often become Lost or outcasts, even if the take up another Line. This is quite rare, due to the social stigma.

Some Dwarves will try and continue a Line with someone other than the first-born (either a later sibling or an adopted child); this is most common when the first-born dies, especially for miscarriages. This is generally accepted, although their Lineage is spoken with some disdain, as it is not been truly “earned” in public opinion.

It is difficult to find a Line, and many Dwarves end up helping out other Dwarves (i.e. being assistants, apprentices, salesmen, etc.). This can create the awkward position where a Dwarf's Line has become obsolete, or cannot be done anymore due to the death of their master Dwarf. They may get another Dwarf to take up their master's mantle (occasionally forcefully), they may take it up themselves in some cases, or they may end up going insane; sweeping the floor of a long abandoned shop, or selling wares that do not exist.

Dwarven debts are carried through a Line, although note that any Firsts are free from these debts. This includes financial debts, debts of honour or other obligations, and prison sentences.

Dwarves are very proud, although the only two things they typically care about are their Beard, and their Line. Various styles of beard exist, and this is the one area where Dwarves will care about fashion. Both genders of Dwarf have beards, although there are different styles associated with each gender, although this can differ geographically and temporarily. In many cases, an exposed chin is a sign of femininity, although there are several distinctly masculine styles with a naked chin. In general, simpler Dwarves like simpler styles, and more urban Dwarves have more elaborate tastes.

A shaved face is a sign of shame or repentance for a Dwarf, depending if they were shaved by themselves or someone else. Many feuds were started by cutting a Dwarf's beard, and several peace treaties were signed because of a clean shaven one. Such feuds typically only last as long as it takes to grow the beard back, but if further cuts are made during that time, then things can get messy.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Dominion: Enterprise

Dominion: Enterprise is a Dominion expansion, which is not mine. I have had a long standing interesting in making new Dominion cards, and this is the only one of the many I have seen that caught (and held!) my interest.

I'm including the card text at the time of this review, just in case the images get lost or revised.

Clerk - $2 Action
+1 Card
+1 Action
Look through your discard pile. You may reveal a Copper from it and put it into your hand.

Really cool, very powerful for a 2 cost card. Potentially just a cantrip, but generally a Peddler for $2, that you can't stack very well. My gut says it should be a 3 cost card.

4 Stars
Jubilee - $2 Action
+2 Actions
You may pay a trade token; if you don't, return this to the supply.
When you gain this, take a Trade token.

Solid card. My only complaint is that it returns to the supply instead of being trashed, which makes it nigh-impossible to deplete as a pile.

4 Stars
Redistrict - $2 Action
Choose a card in your hand. Trash it, and gain a card costing exactly $1 more than it.
You may trash this, If you do, gain a card costing exactly $2 more than the chosen card.

Another pretty cool $2 card. The wording is slightly unclear, whether "the chosen card" is the one from your hand, or the one you chose to gain. I think it is worded like that so that you can gain a card costing $2 more without gaining one costing $1 more (probably most relevant trashing Gold into Province).

4 Stars
Auction - $3 Treasure
+1 Buy
When you play this, discard your hand. Worth $1 per card discarded.

Essentially a Secret Chamber turned into a treasure. It seems like it would be worse than Silver most of the time. I don't see any reason this couldn't cost $2. Also, the "When you play this" is entirely unnecessary, as is the word "Worth".

3 Stars
Convoy - $3 Action
+2 Cards
Look at the top 3 cards of your deck. Discard one, and put the rest back in any order. You may pay a Trade token to play this again.
When you gain this, take a Trade token.

Designed to be a self-synergy card. Decent for $3, though it seems difficult to get excited about. It probably works well with engines, as discarding a card and rearranging the other two is probably about as helpful as drawing an extra card, so it compares favourably with Smithy.

3 Stars
Floodgate - $3 Victory
2 VP
When you gain this, set it aside along with up to 4 cards from your hand. At the start of your next turn, put all the set-aside cards into your hand.

Pretty neat. Its use isn't immediately apparent, but it is probably amazing for late game. Instead of buying a Duchy, get a Floodgate instead, keep the $2-4 extra for next turn.

3 Stars
Gambler - $3 Action
+1 Card
+1 Action
Look at the top card of your deck and choose one: Trash that card; or put that card into your hand and trash this.

Gambler seems like the type of card you almost always want to open with. It is like a much better Lookout, and is probably a lot more fun to play with. You can even use it as a one-shot Laboratory, which can make for some interesting strategies.

5 Stars
Mill Town - $3 Action
+1 Card
+2 Actions
You may reveal your hand and gain a card costing up to $1 per Copper you revealed.

The village of the set. Pretty neat ability, it is a workshop-village hybrid. I imagine it is pretty powerful for kickstarting your deck, but falls off. Seems like it should be fun.

5 Stars
Refurbish - $3 Action
Trash a card from your hand. Gain a Silver.
While this is in play, Silvers produce an extra $1

Interesting. I can't say I like it that much, as I have no idea what kind of deck wants it. That being said, I've never played with it, so what do I know?

2 Stars
Committee - $4 Action
Reveal cards from your deck until you reveal 2 differently named cards. If you did, the player to your left chooses one of the revealed cards. Either trash it, or gain a copy of it. Discard the untrashed cards.

Interesting. I'm not entirely sure why the "If you did" is necessary, and some of the other wording is a bit clunky. The effect itself seems interesting enough to pique my curiosity,

3 Stars.
Craftsman - $4 Action
You may pay a Trade token to gain a card costing up to $5. Otherwise, +1 Card, +1 Action, and take  a Trade token.

The only card that can generate trade tokens not on buy/gain. I feel like it is probably a little bit weak by itself (for reasons similar to university), but much more powerful in combination with other Trade token cards.

3 Stars.
Dignitary - 4 Action Reaction
Look at the top 2 cards of your deck. Put any number of them into your hand, +$1 for each card you put back.
When another player plays an Attack card, you may reveal this from your hand. If you do, trash all but 4 cards from your hand.

Having followed this set for some time, I'm aware of the struggle of wording the bottom section. The current incarnation isn't bad, but presents some odd interactions with Rats and Cultist. I like the above-the-line ability, although I think there isn't any reason this couldn't cost $3.

3 Stars.
Recruiter - $4 Action Reaction
Gain a Conscripts from the Conscripts pile, putting it on top of your deck.
When another player plays an Attack card, you may discard this. If you do, gain a Conscripts from the Conscripts pile, putting it into your hand.

Interesting reaction, fairly bland action. This is difficult to judge, because it is tied in so closely to Conscripts. This feels very similar to Marauder, except that the card you get stays around (some of the time).

2 Stars
Conscripts - $0* Action Attack
+1 Action
You may reveal an Attack card from your hand. If you do, return this to the Conscripts pile and each other player gains a Curse.
(This is not in the Supply)

I might as well review Conscripts here as well; I like the idea of a one-shot attack, but I can't quite decide what it should do. Cursing seems too powerful, discarding seems too weak. Generating coins seems kind of odd, but I don't know what else I'd want it to do. I also know that this card has been through a lot of iterations, so presumably it is more reasonable than I realize, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

3 Stars
Terrace - $4 Action
+1 Card
+2 Actions
You may pay a Trade token to discard your hand and draw 5 cards.
When you gain this, take a Trade token.

This card seems pretty nuts. A village that lets you do a minion-esque redraw, but with 5 cards instead of 4. It seems crazy, but the more I think about it, it is probably not overpowered, as you can't abuse it in a treasure deck (Black Market excepted), or an engine (due to limited Trade tokens).

5 Stars
Vendor - $4 Action
+2 Cards
+1 Action
+1 Buy
You may discard a treasure. If you don't, trash this.

Pretty cool. Seems overpowered, but because you have to discard treasure, the net effect is pretty reasonable. Also adds skill in knowing when to trash them, and if you want to risk playing it in a hand with no treasure.

4 Stars
Axeman - $5 Action Attack
Each other player with 5 or more cards in hand trashes a card from his hand costing at least $3 (or reveals a hand with no such cards). He may gain a cheaper card, putting it on top of his deck.

By far my least favourite card of the set. Essentially a hybrid of Pillage and Saboteur, neither of which I am a fan of, it targets high-costing cards in your hand, and replaces them with cheaper cards.

There have been multiple versions of this card, and I've hated them all. It is an ugly concept; I'm not convinced it can be fixed.

1 Star.
Barracks - $5 Action
+1 Action
Choose one: Gain 2 Conscripts from the Conscripts pile; or reveal cards from your deck until you reveal an Attack card, put that Attack card into your hand, and discard the rest.

Having already reviewed Conscripts, here is Barracks, the other card that uses them. I like this card a lot more than Recruiter (my issues with Conscripts notwithstanding); its cool self-synergy of gaining and digging for attacks.

4 Stars
Barrister - $5 Action Attack
Each other player reveals the top 2 cards of his deck, trashes a revealed Treasure other than Copper, and discards the rest. Gain a Treasure from the trash, or a Silver, putting it into your hand.
Setup: Replace one of each player's starting Coppers with a Domain.

The art on Barrister may look familiar, but is entirely a different card from my Tariff. This card has been through some iterations, and I like its current form. It is a sort of thief-explorer hybrid, and it is unusual and interesting enough to rouse my interest.

4 Stars

Domain - $3 Treasure Victory
Worth 1 VP for every Domain in your deck.

While we're at it: Domain. Probably the best replace-a-copper-in-your-starting-deck variant I've seen. The increased cost makes it interesting for trash-for-benefit cards, and it has a neat interaction with Barrister, and its dual-type helps keep things interesting overall.

4 Stars
Barter - $5 Action
+1 Action
Trash a card from your hand. Gain a card costing up to $2 more than it. You may pay a Trade token to put the gained card into your hand.
When you buy this, take 2 Trade tokens.

A Remodel variant. Non-terminal, with the option to put the card into your hand. Not sure why it gives you 2 Trade tokens on the buy, though this was a deliberate buff (it used to only give 1). A solid card.

4 Stars
Cathedral - $5 Action
+3 Cards
+1 Buy
You may pay a Trade token to trash 2 cards from your hand.
While this is in play, when you buy a Victory card, take a Trade token.

Pretty cool. The Trade tokens seem like a pittance - being able to trash 2 cards in exchange for buying one; however, if you have multiple Cathedrals in play, you gain more than one token per buy. You can probably set up some really cool combos with this. Also, it seems kind of weird you have to trash exactly 2 instead of up to 2.

4 Stars.
Conclave - $5 Action
+1 Action
Reveal the top 3 cards of your deck. From the revealed cards, choose an Action card, a Treasure card, and a Victory card. Put those cards into your hand and discard the rest.

So freaking cool. A sort-of-Cornucopia Laboratory variant. Love it.

5 Stars.
Fund - $5 Treasure
When you play this, you may trash it. If you do, +1 Buy and gain a Silver, putting it into your hand.

One shot money. Neat, solid, but doesn't seem too exciting (though probably a cool combo with Barrister)

3 Stars
General - $5 Action
You may play an Action card from your hand twice; when you would trash or otherwise remove that card from play during your Action phase, don't. When you discard that card from play, you may put it on top of your deck.

I like the concept of play twice now, once later, but I firmly dislike the cannot be removed from play business, and am not 100% sold on the wording. I'd much prefer it as a simpler Throne room with automatic Scheming.

2 Stars with the potential to be 4.
Wheelwright - $5 Action
Discard any number of cards. Draw until you have 7 cards in hand. Each other player may gain a Copper, putting it into his hand.

I really like this card. Discard-and-Draw-Up-To is a concept I had been trying to do, but between this card and Archivist, I don't think I can come up with anything better. 

5 Stars.

Overall: 4 Stars
1 Star - 1
2 Star - 3
3 Star - 8
4 Star - 9
5 Star - 5

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Keeping Players in the Game

Keeping players in the game is a tricky task.

The first thing you need to avoid is player elimination. Knocking players out of the game is generally a bad thing, you can only really get away with this if it is both necessary to the game, and if the game is short enough that players don't mind waiting for the next round.

The next obstacle is logical elimination. This is where players can fall so far behind that they have no chance of winning. Even if they're technically in the game, if they have no hope of victory, they might as well not be playing. You need to allow players to have some method of catching up and making comebacks so that everyone can stay engaged. This is sometimes referred to as "rubberbanding"; where a player who gets too far away from the pack gets snapped back towards the median.

There are two forms of rubberbanding: you can either give people that have fallen behind an advantage, or you can impose a penalty on anyone who gets too far ahead. The latter method, I like to call "Blue Shelling" and I generally dislike it - it seems fundamentally wrong to punish the players for doing well.

Comeback Mechanisms should be a subtle thing, as you generally don't want to reward players for losing so much that they would prefer to be in last place. You generally want to avoid just handing them points, and instead give them small advantages that let them get their game plan back on track.

Once you have a game that allows all players to be strategically engaged (by not eliminating any players, logically or otherwise), you need to ensure that players can be engaged by the mechanics themselves. One of the worst offenders for this is long turns that only involve the current player. Players zone out, waiting for their own turn, and then take extra time to figure out what happened while they weren't paying attention.

There are a lot of different ways to combat this, such as:
  • The simplest method is to just have turns short enough to keep players from zoning out. If long turns are inevitable or unavoidable, consider reducing player count, so that it at least gets back around faster.
  • Having multiple players playing simultaneously. There are a variety of ways to do this; Scattergories, Bananagrams, and 7 Wonders are all good examples of simultaneous play.
  • Giving people things to do during their off-turns. 
    • In Risk, you roll defender dice when you are being attacked
    • Puerto Rico has everyone participate in whatever action is being taken
    • Kingdom Builder gives players enough information to start planning their next turn before it happens. 
    • Taboo has a player paying attention and buzzing out players who use any of the "taboo" words.
    • Even simple tasks can keep players engaged, giving players "busy work" can sometimes actually make it more engaging and fun.
  • Allowing player interaction such as Trade or other negotiations
  • Making whatever action the player is taking inherently interesting enough to keep players' attention. The most obvious example would be from games like Cranium or Charades, where players actually perform and do things. 
  • Making paying attention to the opponent's moves inherently important. A game like Mascarade is an excellent example, as if you don't pay attention, you'll have no idea what is going on.

All in all, there are a lot of things to consider to maximize player engagement. You not only have to keep them strategically engaged by letting everyone have a chance at victory, but also focussed on the game at hand, even when it isn't their turn.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Mad Science!

I have been working on a new project recently, a hybrid worker placement game themed around Mad Science with multiple victory conditions. It took me quite a few iterations to get a concept I was happy with, but I am reasonably happy with the current implementation.

Here is a high level view of the game as it stands:

Game Components:

  • Resources:
    • Power - serves as the fuel for most cards; it is also used to upgrade your workers. Power is lost from round to round.
    • Chemicals - primarily used to create gadgets, but also fuels some. You keep Chemicals from round to round
  • Workers:
    • Minions - Level 1 workers
    • Scientists - Level 2 workers
    • Professors - Level 3 workers
    • Special Workers - Various levels and effects; these are gained by specific technologies
  • Gadgets -  these are the regular cards that do things in your deck. They may be played out of turn, as they do not require interaction with other players. They have a cost to play, and an effect. 
    • Components - these are specific "common" gadgets that are more freely available to players.
  • Inventions - Inventions are the bigger things in the game. They are made out of a combination of Gadgets, and give unique effects and abilities, usually in the form of new worker actions. In addition, each Invention has a potential win condition for the player. Note that these win conditions are the only way to win the game, there is no standard VP race or turn limit!
Board Locations:

These give an effect based on the worker's level that used them. In addition, you may use a location that has been previously used by another worker, but for every time it has been used this round, you suffer a -1 level penalty when using it.
  • Physics Department: Gain X power
  • Engineering Department: Gain X chemicals
  • Laboratory: Draw X+1 cards
  • Gadgeteer: Buy a gadget at listed cost - X (in chemicals)
    • 6 gadgets are laid out, with costs of 1/2/3/3/4/5. After a gadget is bought, they shift down and a new one is revealed.
  • Think Tank: Increase your Genius by 1, to a maximum of Base+X
    • Genius is the starting size of your hand each round.
  • University: This offers 2 different ways to upgrade workers
    • Upgrade a Minion to a Scientist for (3-X) power
    • Upgrade a Scientist to a Professor for (6-X) power
  • Workshop: Gain 1 copy of up to X different components

I won't go into too much detail about the specific Gadgets and Inventions, because they are changing quite regularly at this stage of development. 

In terms of rules and turn structure, it is fairly simple. In a round, each player draws until they have cards in hand equal to their genius (starts at 4, 3 in a 4+ player game), then they go around playing workers. They may play gadgets freely, even off-turn, just to keep everyone engaged. When players cannot play any more workers, the round ends. Players may play any remaining gadgets they wish, then may discard any cards they want. They lose all their power, then the round ends. The first player token is passed on, and a new round begins.

Until next time.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Fossil Updates

I've been doing some work lately to address the faults of Fossil. The basic concept was novel and fun, but the game was swingy, not deep enough, didn't scale well, and felt too short.

Here is a list of "patch notes" on the recent changes:

  • Increased the number of tiles. This has gone from 72 to 120. I have also rebalanced the tiles to include more monsters and rooms to keep things more interesting.

  • I have reworked the digging mechanic to scale better with more players. They now roll 1D6 per opponent, and take tiles equal to the lowest number rolled.

  • I have redone the monsters. I now use a deck of small monster cards that you can put on the tiles. This allows for a greater variety of monsters, as well as more detailed and interesting ones. It also solves the long-standing problem of how to represent monsters on the board (previously with ad-hoc dice or token representations). 

  • I have also rebalanced combat. The way it worked before was very all-or-nothing, and while fun, was not that interesting. I have changed it to a system I like calling "chip damage"; monsters now have an Attack stat that determines how much damage they deal, rather than the remainder of their health. This also opened up a lot of opportunity for more interesting monsters for the cards mentioned above.

  • The items have also been reworked quite heavily. They were very swingy before, cards like Mimic and Treasure Chest (which let you draw 2 and 3 treasure cards respectively) combined with high-value powerful-effect cards (like Boots of Travel, which gave +1 movement and was worth $3) could potentially give you $10 from a single lucky drop. All the most powerful items were reworked into "Abilities", which give powerful enhancements to your miners, but cannot be sold for money. In addition, the "draw extra treasure" cards have all been nerfed to give 1 fewer than before. In addition, many others have been reworked to be more useful. I still need to add more loot, but this has been a good start to the item reworks

  • I have also reworked the Miners, by adding Classes. You now start the game with 1 Scout, 2 Miners, and 1 Heavy. Scouts can move up to 5 spaces, but only have 2 Strength (which serves as HP/Carrying capacity). Miners can move 4, with 3 Strength. Heavies can only move 3, but have 4 Strengh, and get +1 damage in combat. On average, this has increased the speed of your workers by 1 space; which was also partially done to counteract the larger maps brought about by having more tiles.

I am quite happy with the rework thus far, and I look forward to continuing it, as these changes have been a huge step forward in addressing the issues facing the game.