Friday, October 30, 2009

Game Days

I'm going through a bit of withdraw.  I've missed a month of game days at the local meet up on Sundays.  Basically this means I haven't played an 90min+ gamer's game in that long of time.

I'm thinking it's definitely time to rectify that this weekend.  My first choice of game would be Endeavor.  That's one I just haven't gotten to the table since GenCon.  Bad me.

After that would be Imperial.  I've only played that Gem once and have been dying for a chance to go at it again.  And I still want to upgrade to Imperial 2030.  My wife is going to give me so much crap about that one.

I also think I'm going to re-instate the family game day once a month at my house.  It's true we end up playing mostly fluffy things, but some meaty things still pop up.  Most of my wife's family are big Acquire heads from way back and are always up for a game of that.  I also have some people that humor me with games of Ra.

But at the same time the family is always up for some Wits & Wagers or Say Anything!.  (Which on an odd note.  I went to a client's office building and saw workers walking around the hallways carrying a copy of Say Anything.  I don't know if it was team building or lunch fun; but either way it was awesome!)

Anyway, hopefully by Monday I'll have some actual gaming to talk about :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Sweet.  Just had a fire alarm in the office.  Best part of it?  The door at the bottom of the stair well was locked.  That's right.  We piled an office building into the stair well, went to the bottom, and couldn't get out.  We had to go back up a floor, out to an ESCALATOR, and then go out the front door.  Sweet job people.  Sweet job.  At least it appears it wasn't a real fire.

Anyway, Essen is over.  All hail mary, Essen is over.  Didn't really see too much come out that I just got to have.  I did see a whole lot of solid reporting though.  I'm always amazed at the number of people who take the time to write about all the games they tried.  It's no small thing to do so I'm very thankful to them all.  I know some people on BGG get tired of all the Essen geeklists.  But c'mon, my use of BGG is pretty much:

1. Shoot the shit with friends
2. Find new cool games I want to try

And essen geeklists completely fill in #2.

I also spent some time last night mocking up a player mat for the chip version of dominion.  Mainly just because I tend to lay my "hand" out on the table when playing with chips.  And without defined play areas I tend to mix up the action cards I've played with the chips still in my hand.  You can check out an ugly version of it HERE.

If I like playing with it after a few more tests then I'll probably add a little color and some logos to give it a little more polish.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dominion Seaside - I was wrong

I spent some time this weekend making a nice set of Chips for Dominion Seaside.

And then spent a couple games exploring just the Seaside action cards.

Okay, I was wrong.  It's actually quite the interesting expansion.  The duration cards add some flavor and uniqueness to the expansion.

The idea of a duration card is that it sticks around for one extra turn.  Most of them are worded something like:

Now and Next Turn: +$2

So you get $2 and $2 next turn.  Now, before someone goes, "that's better than a gold"!  No, no it's not by a long shot.  Why?  Because you want to have critical turns in Dominion.  You are unlikely to ever reach a point when you can draw $8 every turn.  In fact, you'll probably never hit a point you draw $7 every turn (although this stuff is possible with a tiny chapel deck.)

What you'll probably do is end averaging $6 per turn.  But $6 isn't enough to get a Province.  But you're only getting an AVERAGE $6 per turn.  In reality you're probably alternating having a $4 turn followed by a $8 turn.  You want that streak-ness.   And to get it, it's always better to have Gold.  Why?  Because that's going to clump $3 of buying power into a single turn.

So why all this rambling?  Because I'm trying to point out the weakness of duration cards.  Duration cards spread their power over a couple turns.  They help you have a couple *slightly* above average turns instead of an explosive turn followed by a boring turn.  Unfortunately that means you might be reaching $7 two turns in a row instead of $6 one turn and $8 the next.

Even so, the Duration cards are fairly priced.  The Caravan is a Laboratory spread over two turns, and it costs $4 to the Laboratory's $5.  The jump form $4 to $5 is quite large in cost (See the rational for the "Feast" card) so you can see that the Laboratory isn't nearly as powerful when it's spread over two turns.  But then again, the Caravan doesn't cost as much.

And then the obvious glitch, that if you hit a reshuffle with the Caravan in play then it's going to sit out on one cycle of your deck.

Anyway, if you get a chance to try Seaside, I highly recommend it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Essen 2009 Craze

Yea, it's smack in the middle of the Essen game fair.  Lots of good reporting going on around the intertubes.  Probably my favorite report each year goes on over at the G@mebox:

Kulkmann's G@mebox

So everyone is going to pound on the big releases.  I thought I'd mention a couple without much fanfare:

Priests of Ra

Supposedly pretty much Ra with two sided tiles.  When you draw them, you choose the side.  Pretty cool really.  I *think* it would add a little more room for strategy.  More likely it would just add an extra decision every turn.  Beyond "Auction or Draw".  Still, I'm a sucker for Ra related.


I really wanted a copy when it was released last year.  But the import premium was just too much.  I still believe that if a game is good enough it will eventually get a domestic release.  Well, it hasn't hit domestic YET, but it did get picked up by a big publisher and has really been making the rounds this time.


This one has been available for a little while.  You can order it on the cheap from the company's website.  It's a definite "Deck Building" spinoff.  It's auction driven, and some worry about a runaway leader.  Meh.  It does it Ra style where you keep going until everyone has run out of resources, so everyone will probably get something.

Anyway, busy day at work so back to the grindstone for me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lunch Gaming

So I've been playing cards at lunch for over 4 years now.  I only started logging my plays this year.  I felt bad about inflating them in the past, but then I decided that was silly.

We have a stockpile of just plain decks of playing cards.  We go through them on a semi-regular basis since we play them right after eating on a sometimes grimy table.

So, what games are hits and misses for us?


This is the one we can most agree upon.  It's not quite bridge, but it's still an advanced trick taking game.  It requires accurate bidding and careful play.  It can be hard for newbies to pick up because it is hard to differentiate when you should try to set the other team or when you should just dodge bags.  It's that lovely grey area that makes it such a great game.


This one has really only taken off this year.  I introduced it a little after Christmas.  I had to do it in bits since the whole rules are rather intimidating.  We play without the special cards, but it doesn't lose much IMHO.  It also works passably well as a three player game.

My fellow actuaries still have niggles with bomb priority. We've mostly switched to "bomb on your turn".


Probably the best 5 player game we've come up with.  I'm so-so about it.  There is some strategy.  The bluff on figuring out who the partner is makes up most of the game.  The card play isn't *that* complicated.  It is interesting that some hands you just are going to have high point value cards that can't take any tricks.  For those hands the whole play for you is just figuring out who to give the points to.


No.  Not the 4-player version.  That one's just too simple for our tastes.  The double deck 6-player bidding monstrosity of Euchre.  3 Player teams and whole lots of bluff.  You pretty much have to bid more than you can take and count on your partners for 1 (or 2 or 3).  It's quite a bit of fun.

Oh Hell

Haven't played much of this one in awhile.  Mainly because it's everyone for themselves.  Much more fun to be on teams like all of the above games.  (Even with shifting teams like sheepshead.)  Still, it is a challenge and always fun when you play down to 1 card.

We've played a few more in our day.  Such as Big Three, Cribbage etc.  The only one we haven't tried that I'd like to give a go would be:


A game firmly in the "fishing" family of card games.  But this one is tailored for a standard deck of playing cards.  It also works well with partners.  Hrm hrm hrm.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fins Circling Dominion

Well, they finally released the rules for Dominion Seaside.  You can download them HERE.

So... what do I think?  Meh.  Pretty much Meh.

Biggest disappointment?  Additional components.  Each player now gets 3 player mats.  Additionally, there are a bunch of cardboard "coins" and cardboard "embargo" tokens.  This was a card game right?  What happened to sticking with cards?

Other disappointment?  Way too many cards that "+1 Action, +1 Card, Small Side Bonus".  I just don't find these "cycling" cards all that interesting.  All too often you would have just been better off buying a dang Silver instead of them.  (What, you'd rather play the cycle card and draw another Copper... good for you.)

Duration is the new big card type.  What does that mean?  It's a PITA card the remains in play until your next turn.  Kind of a "quasi-permanent".  That just sucks the simplicity of "dump everything into your discard".

Also, how many questions some up about the dang Throne Room?  Every new set has a mess of interactions that confuse even the seasoned gamer.  Who let that dang card get into the base set?

So, what cards actually look like fun?

Ambassador -
"Reveal a card from your hand.
Return up to 2 copies of it from
yourhand to the Supply.
Then each other player
gains a copy of it."

I would buy the Ambassador just to clear out coppers and shove coppers into my opponents.  That's just being very harsh on their efficiency.

Discard 3 cards."

Very nice card.  With 3 extra cards in hand, I know I'll have 3 I'd like to discard.  Only costs 3 even.  Sucks that it takes your hand size down to 4, but it does leave you an out for when you draw action cards with it.

"You may reveal a Province card
from your hand. If you do, gain a
Gold card, putting it into your
hand. Otherwise, gain a Silver
card, putting it into your hand."

Probably a win more card.  But it does make sure that you keep your deck full of big money.  The more I think on it though, it's definitely a "win more".  (In that if you are fulfilling it's requirements, you're probably already winning, so you should have spent the resources on something that would get you into a winning positions.)

Anyway, I'll still probably mock up a few to put on my chip version.

I'm very sad there's only one more VP/Action card.  Those were my favorite.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Secret Santa 2009

It's that time of year for board gamers:

  BGG Secret Santa 2009

And yes, I'm already signed up.  I suppose more than a few people might pass this year with a tough economy, but I've always found that BGG-SS has saved me money.  From the moment I sign up I try very hard not to purchase any games.  That means almost 3 months of not spending any dough on games except the one I purchase my target.  I think that's a fair deal.

I did concede to shipping to the USA only this year.  I've done a couple overseas ships in the last couple years.  It's really not too bad, usually I just buy from an internet store over there.  The money conversion rate and the VAT when shipping over boarders is a little rough.

Anyway, one of the fun sides is setting up your own wish list so people can get you something.  I can't really highlight Essen releases since they won't be available over here.  Instead, you get to go through what's available and pick from that.  Also, your selections should be "Ticket to Ride"ish in value.  So here's what I've got listed:

Fairy Tale

I love this game.  I just included it in a trade as filler, so I need another copy back now :)

Steam Barons

I haven't gotten to play much Steam.  But this has a really cool USA map and sweet train meeples.  Yea, it also has the whole 18xx style investment rules, but I really don't think I'm going to go there.  I just want to see Indianapolis back on the map :)


I got to try this game out at GenCon.  The actual game play is pretty darn sweet.  The components are complete crap.  Still, it's not too expensive.  If I did get it, I can see myself making a hobby out of generating a replacement set of bits.  It wouldn't be too hard :)

Burger Joint

It doesn't look quite as deep as I was hoping, but there are still a couple different strategies to try.  And it is a focused two player economic game.  So... yea, I'll give it a nod.  Besides, Joe Huber is a nice guy.

Villa Paletti

I realize it's only a little above Jenga, but dang it, it does still sound fun.  It's one I could get the family to play. Although really I just want to spend the dough and snag the full sized PitchCar.

I'm not actually going to put Dominion Seaside on the list.  I like my chip version of the base two sets, and frankly the preview cards have sucked a lot of ass.  It seems like most RioGrande games are jumping the shark after a single expansion these days.

Side blurb on Equilibrium

So I did get a set of public score cards made up and printed last night.  I went with "9 VP for 8+ Red" style.  So really, in 2-player, it becomes "9VP if you have 8+ and your opponent doesn't" which still seems reasonable to me.

If it works out, I'll have to rebalance the different strategies again.  In particular I'll probably have to make the bonus for 5+ of 3 colors much larger.

I also tried just adding the new cards instead of replacing something, bringing the deck size up to 60 cards.  I'm hoping the extra cards will squeeze out a couple more turns in each game.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Honeymoon Equilibrium

Got in some playtesting of Equilibrium tonight with the wife.  Things went really well I think.

The biggest change?  We brought in the "honeymoon" rules.  What that means is:

Originally, at the end of each turn you trashed one card and cycled one card to the bottom of your deck.

Now at the end, you show the top card to your opponent without seeing it yourself.  They say "Trash" or "Cycle".  You do what they say, and then you do the opposite for the next card without revealing it to anyone.

So, what does this do?  It makes you *have* to pay very close attention to what your opponent is doing.  It can be quite the conundrum.  Sometimes it's easy when they're going all one color and you really want to deny them that color.  You just trash any of that color and have them cycle the others hoping to trash the sweet color.  Othertimes it's a lot trickier.  Do you trash off a card that could be a big score card for them if it cycles back, or do you cycling and hope to hit something better?

Anyway, I think it added a lot of interaction.  My wife even said "You mean I have to pay attention to what you're doing now?"  From now on, I'm definitely leaving in this rule.

For multiplayer, I'd do:

Show to the opponent on your right.
Guess Score Cards look to the opponent on your left.

That way the guess cards work on the same person you are making the trash/cycle decision for.

I personally still have a lot of fun recording guesses when played, but I could see making guesses just in real time right during scoring.

Other cards:

Attachment - 3 VP if Next Score Card is Fulfilled

This was a lot of fun.  It was efficient so you wanted to play it.  But then it bent all your decisions on what card you played next.  You really didn't want to throw down the big point risky ones next, but yet you did so you could win...

Single Use - Others Trash 3 - Cost 2

Was used.  And was nice.  I think the cost was rough though.  I'm thinking it would get played more as "Others Trash 2" with "Cost 1".  But then wouldn't it be just almost identical to the "Pay +2" card?  I mean, my wife and I found reason to play it as the "Trash 3" version, so maybe I shouldn't mess with it.

Other Ideas:

For public score cards, I'm just having a rough time.  To play a public card, you'd have to have a very real expectation of only you scoring it.  Otherwise why would you bother investing resources in something that didn't give any return.  (If everyone scores it, than you basically paid for crap)

A way around it might be for the public score cards to give more variable points.  Sort of a "Everyone may discard Red Cards from their deck for scoring".  Ohhh, well, maybe not public, but that's a cool private one.

Heh, dang it.

Maybe a public be "He who plays the most of this card scores 3 vp per copy of this card played by all".  Still seems a little odd.

Gah.  I'll keep thinking on the public score cards.  Maybe I'm just missing something.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Equilibrium - Risk, Reward and Cost

So just vetting out some more design thoughts for Equilibrium.

I'm working on adding some more cards to the game.  I sketched out some over the weekend, but didn't spend too long on the game theory of them.  I thought I'd spend some time today to logic out the exact cards.  Of course, playtesting will always show I screwed up something.

So, what needs balanced:

Risk - Just how likely are you to get the reward?
Reward - Just how big is the reward?
Cost - How much does each card cost?  (Need to count the card itself and the card you trash.)

So let's start with some of the base ones that have already been balanced:

4 VP if 5+ Yellow - Cost 2

So really, this card costs 4.  (2 discarded, 1 trashed and itself)  It has a small reward, but it's not very risky since it's easy to maintain 5+ Yellow in your deck.  And the cost is what I would like to be "average".

7 VP if 9+ Yellow - Cost 2

So, from the first card we've increased the risk and the reward but kept the cost constant.  That seems nice and fair to me.

11 VP if 5+ of 3 Colors - Cost 3

Hrmph.  Well this one can be trickier.  So the risk is definitely elevated.  And by all means the reward is boosted.  But then so is the cost.  Really though, the cost only went from 4 to 5, not a huge increase.  I think it's okay enough since the risk isn't that high.

8 VP if 7+ of 2 Colors - Cost 3

And here's the toughy.  The reward isn't really that hot.  And the risk is reasonable.  But the cost is up.  And yet playtesting and modeling has shown this one to be about balanced.  Why?  Mainly because it compliments having two colors scoring their "6 for Most" and "7 for 9+" cards, which is the bomb.

So what about the new fangled ones?

12 VP for First Pair - Cost 2

Well, 12 VP is a lot, but not really when spread over 2 cards.  The risk is about right.  You may never draw a second or your opponent may beat you to the pair.  The cost is 8 cards for 12 VP.  I think it's all around fair. Heck if I really know.  I need to be careful about putting in too many cards that don't depend on what you have left if your deck though.  I was a little uncertain of this card at first, but the first play with it still seemed pretty solid.

5+3 VP For Guess - Cost 1

Yea, this one is hella-risky.  It's not easy to figure out how many of each color you have left yourself, let alone your opponent.  And realistically, you're just going to get the 5 VP.  And the cost is very small.  BUT it's just a fun card.  So I want people to use it.  That's why I think I'll keep the cost suppressed.  And it's still pretty darn risky.  I don't think I need to change it.

3 VP for First - Cost 2

I just don't think this one belongs.  There is NO risk.  None.  You can't not score for this when you play it.  So why would it be a decision?  I suppose just because I make it horribly inefficient.  3 VP for 4 cards.  Still doesn't seem inefficient enough.  The "4 VP for 5+" still has some risk and it only nets you 1 more VP.  Of course, it's not *much* more risk.  Hrmph, it's a toughy.  I think people will think this is a no-brainer to play.  I'm pretty convinced it's not that awesome.  Probably a bad idea overall.  Probably needs to be tossed.

+3 VP if Next Score - Cost 1?

This was going to be an "Attachment" card.  It automatically attaches to the next score card you play.  It then takes on the riskiness of that card.  Should the cost/reward be the same as the 4VP/4Card base score cards?  I'm thinking so, thus the 3VP for 3 Cards.  Of course, that whole "VP for First" card looks really good with this one :(  Still, I rather like it.

Unplayable "Double Card"

I also had the idea of a card that can't be played, but is worth double if left in your deck for scoring.  I'm worried everyone would just forget it though, so I need to do something fancy with it's coloring to make it stand out.  But really, would it be that cool?  I mean, it would let you play a little longer.  But it would make deciding to pay with the non-collected doublers really obvious.  So it actually wouldn't add any decisions and would make scoring trickier.  Gah, suppose it really needs to be cut too.

Permanents vs Single Use

Originally each color had a perfect balance of Permanents vs Single Use cards.  I think I'm tossing that out the window.  In particular, I think the "attack" cards work better as single use so your opponents don't have to keep remembering to suffer each turn.  I also like the yellow bonus cards to always stick around.  In fact I rather like the "attachment" idea up above.

And lastly, I really wanted to bump the deck size up to 60 cards to see if I could get another couple turns out of the game.  I'll have to think hard on what cards to duplicate.  Hrmph.

Polishing off designs is hard work.  Dang Mondays.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Passing on Wargaming

Wargaming.  Where the grognards live.

So I've played a fair share of "entry" wargames in my time.  I've played:

Memoir 44
Combat Commander: Europe
Conflict of Heroes
and numerous little post card games.

And pretty much all of them have failed to hold my interest.  Why?

1. Way too much comes down to rolling dice.

Yes, you do need combat resolution.  And yes, some randomness helps.  But I don't want to read and learn that many rules just to see if I can roll 2 higher than you.  That's drab.

2. Game moves too slow to feel the theme.

Sure it's like playing a war movie.  In SUPER SLOW MO.  When someone shoots, it shouldn't take upwards of 2-3 minutes to figure out if they hit anything.  Snooze.  Yes, even Memoir is annoying in figuring out dice and applying hits and accounting for terrain.

3. Games take too dang long

I like 40 minute games.  I enjoy 90 minute games.  I like good 120 minute games.  I just don't generally like games over 120 minutes.  There are exceptions, but they just aren't there.  Of the above games... Memoir fits in the 60 minute slot.  In that 60 minutes... just not a lot happens.  Probably because 10 minutes of that is setup and tear down.

4. Exceptions are the norm

Wargames seem to be built on chrome.  Every rule pretty much translates into a dice modifier.  When I'm doing: 1d6 + if(x,2) - if(y,1) etc etc I'm not having fun.  And I'm cool playing math games.  Not "Let's see who remembers the modifier" games.

So... what "wargames" have I enjoyed?


Is it abstract?  Yes.  Is it the best wargame I've ever played?  Yes.

If you can't see the two armies fighting over blood soaked terrain then you are not looking at the same game.  I haven't played nearly enough Go.  Mainly just because it's not that inviting to the casual player.  But man do I respect it.


Yes it's longer than 2 hours.  But dang it, it does all the rest right.

There are basically no exceptions.

The combat is far more than "Compare two dice rolls"

The map is *Fascinating*

It does other things wrong still, but I forgive most of them.

What wargames should I still try?

Napoleon's Triumph

If the combat rules weren't so damn confusing, I'd be on this in a heart beat.  An awesome map and diceless combat with alternate victory conditions.  Yes please!

Up Front

If only because it promises to be mercifully short.  Too bad the rules look like a bitch...  And of course that MMP hasn't gotten off their asses and published this cash cow.

Anyway, so that encompasses my path to and through wargaming.  I'm pretty much done with it.  I'm probably missing some great gaming moments, but I'm not crying over it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Revisiting Some Old Favorites

Over the past week I've played some "old" favorites with the wife.  I thought I'd take a post to say how they've held up.

Fairy Tale

I can't really say why this hadn't been played in such a long time.  After breaking it out I realized just what a fun game it was again.  There's plenty of double think and the decisions come fast and furious.  And enough of the cards feel and score differently that it's not the same game every time.

I actually forgot to play with the better 2-player variant.  Deal 10 cards to each player.  Draft 1 and trash 1 each time until you end up with 5 cards.  You can downsize it to 7 cards and just trash the first two passes.  It adds more hating ability and lets you see more of the deck (Like you would with more players.)

Anyway, it's a real winner you should try.

Blue Moon City

The first of the 2007 "Super Fillers".  How'd did it go?  Just fine actually.  This one has always been an odd beast though.  It's just so danged hard to figure out how to play optimally.  Is it worth sneaking one cube in to finish another player's building?  You get great return for your investment, but they might not be able to complete it without you for quite some time.  So you're giving them their return now instead of later.  Gah.  It's just a mess.

I agressively cycle my cards.  I try to never use a "1" card to help on a building.  It's just too inefficient.  I also really like the "Extra Scoring Stone for +1 Crystal" and will clog up my hand with one I'm not willing to let go.

We didn't play with the PnP expansion buildings this time.  They actually are  alot of fun, but one of them does feel a little broken.  The one that gives you +2 cards just for ending your turn there.  We decided last time that we would play it as "+2 cards if you do NOTHING else and end your turn there".  Otherwise you can just bulk your hand up for 2-3 turns and then go dominate the board playing all 3s to build buildings.

Oh, and we played the original dragon scales rules.  When they run out, ALL scales are returned, even if you only had 1-2 and didn't get anything for it.

Anyway, I think it's held up well.  shame about having so many variants and gotchas sometimes though :)

Notre Dame

And for another 2007 "Super Filler".  I think this one holds up well enough.

There are a couple glitches though.  There are some things you *must* do to win.  I usually don't like that, but I can handle it here.  Here's a list:

1. You almost must get all your cubes from the supply.  Passing on getting your cube space full is almost suicide.

2. You must have money to bribe a character every turn.  That means you need at least 6 more money than you started the game with.  If you fail to bribe a character even twice, you are probably going to lose.

3. You really should keep your rats in check.  It's not that hard and there are very few ways to make up for letting them wreck you.  (It is possible to go a message heavy strategy and ignore the rats.  They keep pulling cubes from your carriage space, but that's okay since you only need 2-3 cubes there to keep working.)

4. You really need to know what fancy score cards come out when.  In particular:

A. The person who gives VP for messages comes out in the middle 3 rounds, so if you do messages you want to do them early.
B. The person who gives 2 VP for each 2+ Cube region is in the middle 3 rounds.  He can be a lot of points.
C. The person who gives 3 VP for each 3+ Cube region is in the last 3 rounds.  He can be a big windfall of points.

So, these are all things you *MUST* do.  Now how about things you can do to earn points.  Well let's hit on some of them:

1. Notre Dame is okay.  It's not great.  If you get the chance to score it on your own, then take it.  Also, do NOT leave yourself without money by paying more than you can afford.

2. The Park is okay, IF you can get two cubes in there during the first 3 rounds.  If you only get two in there towards the middle of the game, it's just not good enough return.  But if you get them in early it can be a big boon over the course of the game.

3. The VP space really only has one good way to use it.  And that's the "Move 3 Cubes" character.  After you bank up on money or cubes, just use that character to move all those cubes over to the VP location.  And hey, if you stack it deep enough then that "VP for each cube in region with most" character in the last 3 rounds is huge.

4. Messages.  These are generally the bomb.  I don't go out of my way for them, but I do value them as dang dang solid.  You can snag the resource you need, or just go pure points.  And if you go early you can get a big payoff from the message reward character.  This is also about the only path that can still earn VP with rats running rampant.

5. Rats.  I should just mention that keeping your rats under control is a huge boon.  It's not so much the 2vp loss as it is the cube loss.  Rats have a better return than almost anything above.

Anyway, it's fun to play with options 1-4 above, but that's only 4 options.  You might hybridize a *little* bit, but Notre Dame is a game that rewards specialization instead.  So really there are only so many things to try and do.

But still, it plays darn fast and there is some thinking to be done still.

And that's it.  I wonder what oldies but goodies we'll yank out next...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gear Probabilities

So Seth Jaffee from over on Cumbersome Blog gave Gear Burn a try last night.  I really appreciate him trying it out, and he had some great feedback on it.

One of the big things he mentioned was how rough the gear probabilities were.  Right now, I just have a player roll a number of d6's (Six-Sided Dice) equal to their gear.  So 2d6 in second, 3d6 in third etc.

Then a player looks at the largest value showing on a single die; that is their speed.
Then a player looks at the smallest value showing on a single die; that is their maneuver.

This works out really well on the margin.  Each time you shift into a higher gear your speed will increase and your maneuver will decrease on average.  But the question is of course are there enough dice rolls to average out?  The answer is.. kind of.

The biggest glitch is probably first gear.  A uniform distribution from 1-6 has a dang high variance for a race game.  It can really suck to be 5 spaces behind after the first turn :(

I'm going to define a new stat too, the difference between the average speed and maneuver in a given gear shall be the "drift".  This is how much closer to the wall a car will veer.  It doesn't need to appear in the rules, but it does need to be addressed when designing the math behind them.  Anyway, the drift is always zero for a single die.  But that drift jumps fast when moving from 1d6 to 2d6.  The drift goes up 2 units for only 1 unit increase in speed.

So, Seth played once with the just Nd6 gears, but then tried replacing them with a more interesting distribution of dice.  I'll outline it below, but the most important differences were:

1. The drift and speed increased at about the same amount.
2. The speed kept increasing at at least +1 for each gear.

The downside to Seth's?  Not everyone has a d3.  Also, the jump from 1st to 2nd was weak compared to the rest of the gear jumps.

I thought I'd just go ahead and outline a lot of different gear possibilities and calc the math on them.  The results are in this chart:

So, what does the above chart say?

Original - Yea, it looks pretty crappy when shown in this light.  I'm definitely moving away from that.  1st gear was highly variable and 3rd vs 4th gear didn't matter at all.

Seth - Pretty solid really.  I'd like to see the margin smoothed out a little more.  The drift per speed is still pretty flat between 3rd and 4th.

Fixed Pairs - Rather oddly, the Drift doesn't increase nearly as fast as the speed.  I'm afraid this would come down to who could roll double 10s in 4th.  Also, the drift per speed is just flat.  Might as well run top gear.

Simple Additive - Here we start with what I call "additive" styles.  This is because each consecutive gear just adds one die to the prior gear.  Would be easy to make and hardly require any dice at all.  Simple additive actually has some very nice characteristics. Except for 4th gear, it keeps roughly the same absolute drift numbers from the original design.  The drift per speed is pretty close too; hopefully that means the maps wouldn't need much tweaking.

Big Base Additive - Starts with 2d4 and then builds.  Really harsh drift numbers, even drift per speed numbers.  Probably couldn't go very fast on this one.  The speed/drift margins don't look much better than the original :(

Slow Additive - Here is probably the most promising to me.  It's got steadily increasing marginal speed boosts.  3rd and 4th gear should still feel very different, and 4th should bring more danger.

Anyway, this is way too much information for a simple dice game.  But hey, the math is fun to some of us!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Stubborn Designer

This post will at least be partly musing about my game Equilibrium.  Tasty Minstrel Games are considering publishing it, but want some more interaction.  I already discussed forms of interaction in an earlier post, so I'm not going to re-hash that.  Instead, I'm going to try and reason out some more "communal score cards" since Seth over at TMG has had some luck playing with them.

What's the theory?

A score card that *you* play to the center of the table, but everyone could score.

What are some working examples?

You know those score tiles added in the first Race for the Galaxy expansion.  That's pretty much exactly what they are thinking.  Only the players get to choose them.

How are the RftG ones designed?

Some work on the "Most" principle.  Others work on the "First" principle.  The inverses would of course work (Least and Last).

What parts of Equilibrium could have "Most" / "Least"?

Well, the quantity of each color left.  This one was obvious and these score cards existed from the very beginning.  They work well.

Total quantity of cards left in the deck.  It'd have to be a reward for "Most" since a reward for "Least" would encourage someone to play until their deck was gone.

# Of Permanents? - Not really since there's only 3 permanents in the game.

# Of Fulfilled Personal Score Cards? - Don't want to award "most" since that would be a "win more" situation.  Could reward least, but that would maybe encourage someone to play out their deck...  Still, it could be worth it.

What Parts of Equilibrium Could have First / Last Goals?

Well, I went with the really simple "First to play a pair of these" cards so far.  They seemed to work well.
You could do something simple like "First to play one" cards too and just give a paltry 2-3 VP for them.

You could do "First" or "Last" to quit.  That would add a little more tension to who goes out when.

You could do "First after..." cards.  Such as "First to play a Public Score card after this..." sort of thing.  But resolving ties would be a biyotch.  Maybe "First person to be the only player to play..." would work.  That could be interesting.


So, after those musings, what types of cards could make the cut?

3+3 for Most Red/Blue/Yellow
3+3 if Most Cards
3+3 if Least Personal

3 VP for First
12 VP for First Pair
4 VP for Next Permanent
4 VP for Next Public Score Card
3+3 VP if Quit First

This design theory can be tough :P