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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

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jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008

It’s been a while since I’ve put up a game in the GDW, and since I’ve been working pretty aggressively on my Civ lite game lately, and since there was an open slot, I figured I’d take a turn. This is a game that I’ve been working on for about 2 years or so, and it’s undergone a fair bit of testing and a lot of changes. Ordinarily, I wouldn't put up a well-tested game, but most of those changes have been quite dramatic, and the latest iteration is untested and fundamentally different from the last version of the game that I did test.

You can use these links to find the

rulebook and

game board;

I’ve also put up images of a few supporting materials to give a little more info:

advances,

player mat, and

sample chronicle cards.

Some unnecessary history for those who may be interested:

I started work on this game when I first heard Bruno Faidutti’s description of Serge Laget's Mare Nostrum. The things he was talking about -- a Civ-like game, playable in <3 hours, with simple rules -- seemed like a fun challenge. The main project goals were that activities other than territorial conquest should be rewarded, that the map shouldn’t be yet another plan view of the Mediterranean, etc.

My initial attempt resulted in a 5+ hour game that featured everything and the kitchen sink in every turn: production, building, combat, expansion, population growth, etc. The game was just too long, and while fun to play, seemed deficient to me in two main ways: first, the turn sequence was just too “obvious” (more on this in an upcoming TiGD, I hope). Second, the scoring system never seemed satisfactory; I could never get a good set of VP categories, and the rank-based scoring didn’t really allow for extreme specialization or for huge come-from-behind wins. My hope is that with the current set of buildings, advances, and scoring cards, one can carve out a unique strategy every time, either following the path of a real-world empire, or creating your own "style". In that sense, the random setup is very much by design: I want players to, if they desire, make choices to be like Rome or Babylon or whatever; I don’t want the design to force them to emulate one of those empires by saying “You are Rome, you are Greece, etc”. Just a design decision.

There are some known bugs in the rules. A main one is in the setup stage 2, preparation of the Event deck. Look at it like this: in turn 1, there’s a special event -- “receive 1 Achievement token”. In turns 3 and 4, the event will be Attrition or Unrest. In one of turns 4, 5 or 6, a Historian will emerge. Ditto for turns 7,8, or 9, and 10, 11, or 12. Thus, the game will last between 10 and 12 turns, and will have 3 scoring rounds.

Ok, enough for the preamble; check the game out and let me know what you think!

Thanks so much,

Jeff

Anonymous
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

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I don’t want the design to force them to emulate one of those empires by saying “You are Rome, you are Greece, etc”. Just a design decision.

I appreciate this.

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Players then go back around in reverse order and place markers in a second territory, which must be adjacent to the first.

What happens if no adjacent territories are unoccupied?

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Throughout the rulebook, the symbol n will refer to the number of times an “upgradable” action will be used. Without the use of Diamond tokens, n will equal 1, but n can be as large as the number of Diamond tokens the player wishes to spend to enhance the action in question.

Maybe you should use a little symbol that looks like a diamond instead of n.

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In the event of a tie, the player who scored the most points during the final Historian phase is the winner.

And in case of a tie in for most points during the final Historian phase . . . ?

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Rules version 9.0

It shows. This game is well-thought and well-described. I can't say much for balance without having playtested it, but I certainly think it would be fun to play. Have you playtested it yet? I wonder whether

You may want to talk about rules for adjacency of islands and things. I could intuitively gather that the red lines connect isthmuses, but there's no mention of boats (or other terrain features such as mountains or rivers.)

I like the mechanic of the market placed in other players' cities. This makes economic cooperation important to economic competition.

Do you have picture of the other components, like the Structure boards and such?

Anonymous
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

The game looks interesting. I like how the theme and play are well tied together.

I think the rules need to have more of an emphasis on why a player is doing a particular action. My game group stops reading after the "Game End" section. After stopping it would still be unclear how the Historian grants a player victory points.

After reading some more rules, I discovered that you gain victory points by having a scribe record your "chronicles". It is unclear what chronicles cards a player will get, when they will get them. This means that the first couple of turns may feel aimless to a player.

The game still looks like it may be a long game. I might create a "beginner variation" that allows players to play the game without the random setup and with less ramp up. That would include 1) Printing capacity/territory markers on the board, 2) creating a faster initial placement strategy, and 3) seeding the players with history cards.

Finally there were a couple of things that were confusing in the rules. For example:

On a player's mat there is a crown with numbers 1-7. I think this is either the "victory laurels" or "combat laurels" depending on if you are looking at chronicles or the rules. Do you place a marker at 1 at the start of the game? Also, the rule that says a player "receives one combat laurel" may result in a player looking for a combat laurel token.

I would suggest blind testing your prototype to eliminate this type of confusion.

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Clarissimus wrote:
Quote:

I don’t want the design to force them to emulate one of those empires by saying “You are Rome, you are Greece, etc”. Just a design decision.

I appreciate this.

Glad to hear it. I think that some folks will probably want the game to guide them in a historical direction a bit more than it does, but to me, the extra flexibility is worth feeling a little directionless the first couple of times you play.

Quote:
Quote:

Players then go back around in reverse order and place markers in a second territory, which must be adjacent to the first.

What happens if no adjacent territories are unoccupied?

Technically, this is a legitimate concern, but since there are 26 territories, there really shouldn’t be a problem finding an open territory next to one you already hold (even if I go up to 3 territories to start, which is probably likely to happen). There isn’t really a big incentive to everyone clustering together, and that’s pretty much what it would require to close off a territory--each has, typically, about 4 or 5 neighbors. Some have 3, some have 8 or 9.

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Maybe you should use a little symbol that looks like a diamond instead of n.

Not a bad thought; the use of “n” is kind of an anachronism from the original design in which you received Prefect cards, and the abilities of each prefect were variable. Now, the base ability is 1, and Diamonds let you upgrade that; “n” is meant to reflect the variable nature of this number. Maybe I took too many math courses in college...

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And in case of a tie in for most points during the final Historian phase . . .

Haven’t worried about it yet, until I see it actually happen. I assume that they’ll just share victory. We’ll have to see how common it is.

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It shows. This game is well-thought and well-described. I can't say much for balance without having playtested it, but I certainly think it would be fun to play. Have you playtested it yet?

Thanks, I’m glad you were able to follow everything. I’ve tested the first 7 iterations of the game, and the game pretty much contained much of the same stuff -- 2 resource types, 2 citizen types, buildings, production, combat, etc -- but the recent changes have fundamentally changed the structure of the gameplay and scoring, and I haven’t tested those yet.

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You may want to talk about rules for adjacency of islands and things. I could intuitively gather that the red lines connect isthmuses, but there's no mention of boats (or other terrain features such as mountains or rivers.)

The 3 sea spaces (Cyprus, Rhodes, Sicilia) are functionally equivalent to the land spaces -- the only difference between them and the "typical" land spaces is that each has more adjacencies compared to a normal land territory. The mountains and rivers are purely cosmetic. I suppose a few brief remarks of what is adjacent to what would be worthwhile, although hopefully a better-drawn map would also solve that problem.

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I like the mechanic of the market placed in other players' cities. This makes economic cooperation important to economic competition.

There was originally a scoring system that rewarded “peaceful coexistence”. I thought it might be nice to tie the diamond token mechanism to this idea instead (or maybe in addition). The original Civ game, and games like Mare Nostrum, have trade as an important mechanic, but I think that for trade to be interesting, there needs to be more resource types than I have. But trade is really just cooperation, so I hoped that with elements like Markets, that cooperative feel could be preserved even without a resource-trading mechanic.

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Do you have picture of the other components, like the Structure boards and such?

Sure, I may try to upload some things, but really, the Structure board and Advance board are really just sets of boxes with icons in the middle indicating what pile of cards goes on each box. They’re pretty crude (and may end up being unnecessary in the actual production of the game...)

Thanks for your thoughts!

-Jeff

jwarrend
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

jhager wrote:
The game looks interesting. I like how the theme and play are well tied together.

Thanks; glad to hear it!

Quote:

I think the rules need to have more of an emphasis on why a player is doing a particular action. My game group stops reading after the "Game End" section. After stopping it would still be unclear how the Historian grants a player victory points.

No offense to your group, but this appears to be a problem with your rulebook reading style rather than with the rules themselves. And in the rules, several different areas reference the “Chronicles” section of the rules; I chose to put that after the Game End rules, but sure, one could reorder the various sections, for sure.

Quote:

After reading some more rules, I discovered that you gain victory points by having a scribe record your "chronicles". It is unclear what chronicles cards a player will get, when they will get them. This means that the first couple of turns may feel aimless to a player.

This is a flaw in terminology on my part, I think: the “Chronicles” are one side of the “History cards”, which are drawn using the “Scribe” prefect ability. The other side of the “History” cards are called “achievements”, which give you ways to gain achievement tokens. This dual-use aspect of the History cards caused me to coin an entirely different term for the scoring aspect, namely, the “Chronicles”, which may have been confusing.

They are drawn randomly, so it’s accurate to say that you don’t know exactly what you’ll get, but there will probably only be 2 or 3 different kinds of Chronicles in each category (Political, Cultural, and Civic), so once you’ve played the game once, you’ll probably have a good sense for what kinds of things the game rewards.

That said, there may be some aimlessness in the first couple of turns, but that may not a terrible thing necessarily, and anyway, I think there will be enough to do to ramp up your society to a certain level of stability that probably you won’t really be thinking about strategy all that much in, say, the first and maybe even the second turn. But you may!

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The game still looks like it may be a long game.

It may. I’m guesstimating about 3 hours for a 6 player game, but that may be a little conservative. It will depend a lot on the players. The actions are pretty short and punchy, so in principle it should be possible to play quickly. But it will probably never be, say, a 1 hour game, and maybe not ever less than 2. I think the length is justified by the depth it provides, but obviously that will be the call of the players to make as to whether they think the game is worth the investment of time.

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I might create a "beginner variation" that allows players to play the game without the random setup and with less ramp up. That would include 1) Printing capacity/territory markers on the board, 2) creating a faster initial placement strategy, and 3) seeding the players with history cards.

Yes, I’ve thought at some point that it would be fun to try to make a “fair” or “historical” setup. I haven’t sought to do that yet simply because it then adds another variable to testing the game -- if Joe lost, was it because the game is broken, or because the “fair” setup is broken? Also, as pertains to the issue of “ramp up” -- this is a key consideration in balancing the game: giving players enough that the game gives 10-12 turns of substance, and that it’s not either a case where the game is so brutal that you can never do anything (it may be leaning a little in that direction at this point) or so loose that you can do everything you want.

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On a player's mat there is a crown with numbers 1-7. I think this is either the "victory laurels" or "combat laurels" depending on if you are looking at chronicles or the rules.

Yes, there isn’t a consistent terminology for that yet; I have to make that uniform. Thanks!

Quote:

Do you place a marker at 1 at the start of the game? Also, the rule that says a player "receives one combat laurel" may result in a player looking for a combat laurel token.

I haven’t actually decided whether it will be recorded with tokens or a track on the player mat. You start with 0 combat laurels

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I would suggest blind testing your prototype to eliminate this type of confusion.

I agree, and in reading the rules myself, I myself was able to find a few points that seemed like a good rules lawyer could find ambiguous. I’ll need to tighten a few things up a bit. But really, at this point, the game is pretty much only going to be played in my presence until the game itself is “done”, so while rulebook concerns are important, the game itself isn’t something I’d subject to blind testers until I’m sure the game works.

Thanks much for your thoughts!

-Jeff

Johan
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Hello

I just love those Avalon Hill Civilization styled game (as Advanced Civ, History of the world, Republic of Rome and several others). I did feel that this game also could also be a favorite of mine.

I have read the rules a couple of times (and will read them at least two more times to understand them) but I have some small comments and questions.

- The rules need more examples (or an example turn walk threw).

- I do not understand the connection between advancement cards, achievements and chronicles. To win you have victory points. To get victory points you have to have a written Chronicle, that are initiated by achievements. On the other hand I have Unrest level that can take away advancement cards. I do not see the connection.

- How do I control a territory? I can initiate a combat, but the rule says that several players can be in the same territory at the same time.
Can I still be in control of a terratory if I have no units in that area.

- If I attack a territory with just a peasant and the other territory only have a warrior. We both will lose a unit, but will he also lose the territory?

- If you have no Diamonds on a Prefect, you can do one action. If you have one diamond you can do one action? Shouldn’t the Prefects have one build in diamond?

- If I build a market in an area and another player take over the area, will I still own the market?

// Johan

(More will come).

jwarrend
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Johan wrote:

I just love those Avalon Hill Civilization styled game (as Advanced Civ, History of the world, Republic of Rome and several others). I did feel that this game also could also be a favorite of mine.

Thanks so much for your kind words!

Quote:

- The rules need more examples (or an example turn walk threw).

Yes, I agree, the rules aren't exactly "user friendly" just yet; I'd like to add some more pictures at some point, and more concrete examples. I don't tend to like "detailed turn examples" myself, so that's why I didn't write one, but I could try to whip something up. Part of the problem with the rules is mainly that the rulebook was written on a PC but all of my images and such are on a Mac, and I don't really have a way to connect the two, so it wasn't easy to get a lot of the images from one to the other. I'll try to at least post a turn example sometime this week.

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- I do not understand the connection between advancement cards, achievements and chronicles. To win you have victory points. To get victory points you have to have a written Chronicle, that are initiated by achievements. On the other hand I have Unrest level that can take away advancement cards. I do not see the connection.

Let me try to explain this aspect a bit more, because it's important. First, there are "achievement tokens". These can be received in two different ways: one is building Structures. When you build a Structure that has "Achievement Icons" on it (with the number of icons corresponding to the level of the structure), you receive the number of tokens depicted on the structure. Alternatively, one side of the "History Cards" provides a way to get achievement tokens (e.g., "Initiate 2 battles to receive 2 Political tokens"). (And remember, History Cards are drawn using the Scribe prefect ability).

Ok, so you have these "achievement tokens". What can you do with them? One option is to use them to pay for Advances using the Philosopher ability. Another option is to use them to record Chronicles, which are printed on the other side of the History cards. Chronicles are the VP mechanism of the game. A Chronicle might say, for example, "Total number of Territories in your Empire:", and would have a row of boxes each of which has a possible number of Territories. When you record that Chronicle (which you do as a free action at the end of any of your turns), you pay Achievement tokens in the appropriate category (in this case, Political) in an amount equal to your current Unrest; then, you place the card on the table and place your marker in the box corresponding to the actual size of your empire. And below that box, is a VP payout. When a Historian Event occurs, you'll receive that many VPs.

The idea I'm going for here is that scoring is a two-step process. Instead of just giving everyone points for the size of their empire (to continue this example), you have to invest some work to get achievement tokens, to "establish a heritage" in political accomplishments, which you can then "cash in" to declare yourself to have accomplished something -- you're making a record that a historian will then hear about and write down. But that heritage could alternatively be used to gain you advances; you have to choose what the best use of the tokens is.

The loss of advances is related to Unrest "boiling over" during Unrest events. Basically, as you know, Unrest sets your cost for just about everything you'll buy during the game, but I wanted some more serious effect for players who choose to ignore their Unrest level. The first try at this was "lose advances", the idea being that your citizens "rebel" and your overall society diminishes as a result. But this could change with testing.

Hope this makes things more clear!

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- How do I control a territory? I can initiate a combat, but the rule says that several players can be in the same territory at the same time.
Can I still be in control of a terratory if I have no units in that area.

Control of a territory comes from "Annexation", which is one of the actions allowed by the "General" prefect ability. Like Chronicles, control is a 2-step process. To annex an unowned Territory, you must have the majority of peasants; to annex an owned Territory, you must clear out all of the other player's citizens. You must win a combat in that territory to do that. (you can also use combat to gain resources as "spoils"). Yes, you still control a Territory if you have no units, but doing so puts you in danger of another player moving Peasants into the Territory and annexing the Territory.

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- If I attack a territory with just a peasant and the other territory only have a warrior. We both will lose a unit, but will he also lose the territory?

No, he'd keep control of the Territory; only having a Territory annexed by another player causes you to lose control of a Territory, and it's only possible to annex another player's territory if none of that player's citizens are present in the territory (and the annexing player must have the majority of peasants).

The idea here is that it's possible for 2 players (or more) to peacefully coexist in a Territory. This is mainly an economic arrangement, since when you choose the "Produce" prefect ability, all players with Peasants in your territories produce based on the number of peasants they have. So by spreading your peasants into foreign territories, you can produce without having to choose the "produce" action, freeing you to do other things. Of course, the standard way of doing things is to only allow one player per territory. This certainly would remove some ambiguity, but I liked the opportunity for cooperation that the system I used permits. So, I think it's justified.

So, to summarize, to gain control of Territories you don't already own, you use the General prefect ability to annex the Territory. If the Territory is unowned, you simply need a plurality of peasants in the Territory. If it's owned, you must use combat to clear the owner out of the Territory before annexing.

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- If you have no Diamonds on a Prefect, you can do one action. If you have one diamond you can do one action? Shouldn’t the Prefects have one build in diamond?

In effect, they do. Let's say, for example, I want to use the "General" ability. With no Diamond tokens, I could initiate 1 battle (or annex 1 Territory). If I add a Diamond token, I could initiate 2 battles. It's a bit confusing because the "upgradable" abilities aren't uniform in scope across the different Prefects. I'll also note that the use of the term "Diamond tokens" is motivated mainly by me having some leftover tokens from an earlier iteration of the game which had Diamonds on them, so I chose them to take on this function. But a better term might be more appropriate.

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- If I build a market in an area and another player take over the area, will I still own the market?

Yes. The only restriction is that you yourself couldn't take over the city (you can only build a market in a city) unless you removed your market prior to combat.

Quote:
(More will come).

Looking forward to it! Please let me know if anything is still unclear!

Thanks again,

Jeff

onew0rd
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Jeff,

Game sounds very fun. A couple of comments.

I don't understand the turn order card trading thing at end of turn. It seems like you will always have a turn order card thus never trading.

The scoring is a bit confusing. I like it alot because the cards you score will also determine your strategy in playing the game, but you need to clarify it in the same manner you did in your previous post.

a suggestion:
For added suspense, you might want to consider adding some random element. Something like a catastrophe token that is randomly placed on 1 territory and is randomly moved each turn. This could represent the earthquakes, plagues, droughts, etc that undoubtedly affected civilization. This token could affect unrest, combat, etc in that territory.

jwarrend
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

onew0rd wrote:
Jeff,
I don't understand the turn order card trading thing at end of turn. It seems like you will always have a turn order card thus never trading.

The idea there was meant to shake up the turn order a bit, rather than always following clockwise order around the table. The reasoning was that if you're always going after the same person, for example, mounting a military campaign against them could become difficult. But it may not actually end up mattering, and I may just use a standard clockwise order.

The way it works, though, is that starting with the player who currently holds position 1, each player gives his position card to one other player, and can't keep it for himself. So let's say I'm player 1, you're player 2, and Joe is player 3. So perhaps I give the "player 1" card to Joe, you give "player 2" card to me, and Joe would have to give his "player 3" card to you. And that would be the turn order for the next turn: Joe, me, you.

[qquote]
The scoring is a bit confusing. I like it alot because the cards you score will also determine your strategy in playing the game, but you need to clarify it in the same manner you did in your previous post.

I'm not sure I completely understand the question; could you be more specific about what is confusing? I'm not skeptical that confusion exists, just unsure what aspect I've explained poorly.

I do agree that the cards you draw will shape your strategy to some extent, and I think it will be a legitimate strategic question as to whether you'll try to play to the cards you draw, or keep drawing cards until you get ones that fit the strategy you're following; the latter will cost more turn actions, so it may be a tough choice.

Quote:

For added suspense, you might want to consider adding some random element. Something like a catastrophe token that is randomly placed on 1 territory and is randomly moved each turn. This could represent the earthquakes, plagues, droughts, etc that undoubtedly affected civilization. This token could affect unrest, combat, etc in that territory.

Not a bad idea at all, and in the original version, instead of 3 types of events (Attrition, Unrest, Historian), there were a bunch, with some being good and some being bad. In the long run, it just added a minor dose of chaos but didn't make the game more interesting, so I tossed it. It would be nice to have something like this because it would add a lot more historical flavor, and something like this could be a nice way of bringing back a runaway leader, but I'd have to think more about how to implement it. I do like the idea of a moving catastrophe token; kind of like the Robber in Settlers. Nice!

Thanks again for your thoughts!

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

jwarrend wrote:
Part of the problem with the rules is mainly that the rulebook was written on a PC but all of my images and such are on a Mac, and I don't really have a way to connect the two, so it wasn't easy to get a lot of the images from one to the other.

Actually, I thought a lot of the programs were cross platform now (word, excel), or could decipher between the two platforms anyway. Is that not the case?

- Seth

jwarrend
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

sedjtroll wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
Part of the problem with the rules is mainly that the rulebook was written on a PC but all of my images and such are on a Mac, and I don't really have a way to connect the two, so it wasn't easy to get a lot of the images from one to the other.

Actually, I thought a lot of the programs were cross platform now (word, excel), or could decipher between the two platforms anyway. Is that not the case?

They are, but I don't have Word on the Mac, and I use "AppleWorks" for all my artwork on the Mac, and that can't really talk to any of the PC progams. I also don't have the two connected. The moral of the story is, it's best to pick a single computer to do all one's design work on!

-J

Anonymous
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Hello and thanks for sharing your game. I am amazed at the economy of the rule set, so much being packed in to relatively few pages, yet the game play and theme really come through well.

I have not played any civ games, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt. My comments will deal mainly with the understandability of the rule set more than game play. Without a frame of reference, I'm afraid any such comments wouldn't be very useful. I have only briefly read through the posts here, so some comments may have already been addressed.

There are a few areas that were clear to me, but only after some scrutiny. Nothing that couldn't be fixed with some fine tuning. You mentioned one already with the History cards:

jwarrend wrote:
Quote:
After reading some more rules, I discovered that you gain victory points by having a scribe record your "chronicles". It is unclear what chronicles cards a player will get, when they will get them. This means that the first couple of turns may feel aimless to a player.

This is a flaw in terminology on my part, I think: the "Chronicles" are one side of the "History cards", which are drawn using the "Scribe" prefect ability. The other side of the "History" cards are called "achievements", which give you ways to gain achievement tokens. This dual-use aspect of the History cards caused me to coin an entirely different term for the scoring aspect, namely, the "Chronicles", which may have been confusing.

This aspect confused me a little as well. Maybe some simple explanation in the manifest of components. For example:

24 History Cards, each usable as either a Chronicle or an Achievement

The dual terminology is very important to keeping the functions discreet, but the terms should be mentioned early on in conjunction with the History Cards so that players draw a clear connection. It may be that the actual playing cards make that clear enough, but it never hurts to state to the first time player what is obvious to the experienced player.

There were a few aspects where a little more explanation could benefit the first time reader of the rules. The first is in the "Set up the board" section of GAME PLAY. As I understand the rules, the distribution of resources is carefully controlled based on the capacity of a territory. Of the 5 territories with a capacity of 6, exactly 3 will produce Crops and 2 will produce Gold. Very elegant device for controlling the environment of the game, but perhaps a line to state what is obvious to you but may not be clear to a newcomer to civ games. Something like, "For example, take 3 Crop markers and 2 Gold markers and shuffle them face down. Randomly distribute these 5 markers among the territories with Capacity markers worth 6. Repeat for other capacities using the following table..."

The 4 player set up seems a little confusing as well. As I read the rules, players ignore 4 territories in the game. Because of the lower number of territories, fewer resources are to be used. One thing that isn't clear, should players also remove 1 Capacity marker of each number (3, 4, 5, and 6) to also balance the capacities, or do the capacities get distributed at random with 4 random markers left over (returned to the game box)? Either case should be stated in the rules to avoid confusion.

Once that is settled, the players also remove 4 Resource markers and distribute the rest under controlled distribution. The explanation of the distribution made sense to me, but only after careful re-reading. Have you considered altering the chart to have the values for the 5-6 player distributions AND the 4 player distributions? For example:

Cap. 5-6 Player Resource Dist. 4 Player Resource Dist.
6 3 Crops, 2 Gold 2 Crops, 2 Gold
5 4 Crops, 4 Gold 4 Crops, 3 Gold
4 4 Crops, 4 Gold 3 Crops, 4 Gold
3 3 Crops, 2 Gold 2 Crops, 2 Gold

Another section that could be clearer is the "Prepare the Event Card Deck" section. Your explanation in this thread really helped, but had I read the rules without that information, I would have had to re-read a few times to grasp what was being done. Since there are 12 Event cards, and only 10 make it into the event pile, then 2 unused Event cards will be returned to the game box and not used, is that correct? Could you add something to that effect to the rules?

The actual description of the creation of the Event card draw pile was also a little confusing. It may just be the result of my lack of knowledge of civ games. Could I suggest something a little more linear? Something like, "Take out the "first turn" (No Event) card and all three Historian cards from the Event cards. The remaining 8 Event cards are shuffled face down (I would assume that it is important that they are randomized before using them to create the draw pile). Of these 8 Event cards, the top two are taken face down and shuffled with 1 face down Historian card. These 3 cards are placed on the table as the bottom 3 cards of the Event card draw pile. This is repeated again with 2 more Event cards and another Historian for the next 3 cards in the draw pile. Then 1 Event and 1 Historian are shuffled and placed on the draw pile. Then another event is placed face down on the draw pile and finally the first turn (No Event) Event card. The remaining 2 Event cards are returned to the game box."

Some other minor notes:
In the manifest, you refer to Corn markers, but elsewhere call them Crop markers. I assume that these are the same marker. Also, you may want to refer to the Crop and Gold markers collectively as Resource markers as follows:

26 Resource markers, 12 Crop and 14 Gold

...that would help player understanding when later you refer to resources and resource distribution.

In "Set up the Structures Board" you ask each player to place one pawn on Level 1 of each category. Do you mean place 1 marker?

Is the Start Player pawn still used (especially since you now have turn order cards)?

In the Turn Sequence section (first paragraph), players are instructed to perform a prefect ability and then discard a card. What card is to be discarded at this point? Is this a hold over from rules pertaining to an earlier version of the game? Being that each player takes a turn using one prefect ability, do you have a method of tracking which prefect abilities have been used? It may be confusing trying to keep track of them without some visual aid (or did I miss something in the rules).

In "Phase 2: Reveal Event," you mention "After each player has taken 3 Actions..." Do you mean, "After each player has had 3 rounds of Prefect use..."? This would be more consistent with the earlier terminology of the rules.

The "Turn End" rules seems a little confusing. I like that there is some control over who gets what turn order card, but the mechanic as stated in the rules seems broken. If each player may only give their turn order card to a player with no turn order card, to whom does the first player give their card? I may have missed something in the reading (a discard or other game action by which some players may be deprived of their turn order card).

You mention playing Chronicle cards (the History cards, using the Chronicle function of them) from a hand of cards, but I don't remember reading in the rules where players draw a hand of cards.

Is there a VP track on one of the various boards? If not, how are VP tracked? If so, you will want to mention its set up in the rules.

You mention 2 methods of resolving combat, are you leaving that open for players to decide, or will that be narrowed down in a later version of the rules?

I assume that the laurel wreath track is for tracking total numbers of combat victories, but you also make it clear that total number of combats initiated must be tracked. Are those tracked separately? Is the laurel wreath track for both total victories AND total combats initiated?

I think that sums up my comments regarding the rules. Sorry that I went on for so long. I enjoyed reading the rules and have a new appreciation for an otherwise overlooked (in my valuation) genre of games. You have succeeded in providing a vast number of good choices for players. The game looks as though it would provide great depth over a large number of plays.

Lastly I wanted to echo the concern of game length. Just form the numbers alone (minimum of 8 turns, max. of 10, each turn consisting of 3 rounds of prefect use and another round of event affects plus tallying historian effects totaling from 32-40 game actions for each of 4-6 players PLUS deal making and other game options) this would appear to be a longer game than you may envision. I think your guess of 3 hours may be a more conservative average. Granted, actual game play will be the final arbiter of game length and more experienced players may in fact offset the greater learning curve of beginners.

Still, there are plenty of gamers who would eagerly embrace a well thought out and executed 3-4 hour civ game.

I look forward to reading more about this game. Thanks for sharing it!

Anonymous
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Quote:
onew0rd wrote:
Jeff,
I don't understand the turn order card trading thing at end of turn. It seems like you will always have a turn order card thus never trading.

The idea there was meant to shake up the turn order a bit, rather than always following clockwise order around the table. The reasoning was that if you're always going after the same person, for example, mounting a military campaign against them could become difficult. But it may not actually end up mattering, and I may just use a standard clockwise order.

The way it works, though, is that starting with the player who currently holds position 1, each player gives his position card to one other player, and can't keep it for himself. So let's say I'm player 1, you're player 2, and Joe is player 3. So perhaps I give the "player 1" card to Joe, you give "player 2" card to me, and Joe would have to give his "player 3" card to you. And that would be the turn order for the next turn: Joe, me, you.

Ahhh, I should have read all the posts before replying! This clears up my question about the turn order distribution. A description like this one should go in the rules to help clarify that the first palyer will give his card to anyong, thereafter players may only give a card to another player without a card.

Thinking more about it, the order will always be fairly predictable. The player with the "1" card will determine who will go first in the next round of turns. The player that went first will always go second in the next round (since they will be the only player to whow the player with the "2" card can give a card). Depending on the player who gets the "1" card, the order is predictable for every turn. Assuming the "1" player always gives their card to the last player (which they won't, but for argument's sake), the order will be as follows:

"1" -> 6 (the "1" card will go to the player that went 6th)
"2" -> 1 (since the player who had the "1" card is the only player without a card)
"3" -> 2
"4" -> 3
"5" -> 4
"6" -> 5

The only change would be determined by the player that recieves the "1" card. You will still have some degree of the same problem of going clockwise around the board, but not in clocwise orientation.

Also, this could lead to severe play hindrance. If 2 players favorable to each other (euphemism for a couple) are in possession of the "1" and "2" turn order cards, then they could essentially switch them back and forth all game and leave the remaining players eternally stuck in their position. That may not be an issue if there isn't an inherent benefit to going first, but it may cause player dissatisfaction. What if the players give their turn order cards to players in reverse order starting with the palyer who went last?

Another solution would be to allow the player that went last to take a card from any other palyer (the card taken could not then be taken by another player until the next round of turn order assignment). This done in reverse order (last player goes first) would allow players to strategize to some degree while allowing more random distributions of player order.

Hamumu
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

I think you've also misinterpreted this rule, SiskNY (another indication that it's just not very clear yet!). It seems to me that the rule is: each person in turn gives their original card to another player of their choice that has not yet received a new card (as opposed to "does not hold a card"). So you are not stuck giving card #2 to the guy who was #1. You can give it to anybody except whoever player 1 gave his card to. I think it sounds like a good mechanism, more interesting than random, but it apparently needs a good solid example and very clear language!

Anonymous
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Hamumu wrote:
I think you've also misinterpreted this rule, SiskNY (another indication that it's just not very clear yet!). It seems to me that the rule is: each person in turn gives their original card to another player of their choice that has not yet received a new card (as opposed to "does not hold a card"). So you are not stuck giving card #2 to the guy who was #1. You can give it to anybody except whoever player 1 gave his card to. I think it sounds like a good mechanism, more interesting than random, but it apparently needs a good solid example and very clear language!

So then this would be a valid new order:

1 -> 1
2 -> 2
3 -> 3
4 -> 4
5 -> 5
6 -> 6

I assume that going first is a disadvantage, so 1 would not want to keep their card.

Hamumu
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Except I would imagine "besides yourself" would be in there (kind of implied by the verb "give" though).

Anonymous
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Assuming that there is a strategic benefit to going first, the mechanic would work better if players took turn order cards for themselves in reverse order. That would give a benefit in going last since you would get the first pick of turn order cards for the next round. Therefore, once the first few turn order cards are taken (the 1, 2 and possibly 3 values), a midle player may move to take the LAST turn order card so that they get first pick in the next round. That would make the order more random. Therefore:

6 -> 1
5 -> 2
4 -> 3
3 -> 6
2 -> 5
1 -> 4

Tactical decision could cause the player who went last to pick a low card without taking the "1" card (thinking along the lines that they may want to let another player go first to see what that player will do).

sedjtroll
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Turn order

I'm a fan of turn orders that change throughout the game... one of the worst things about Puerto Rico (indeed, THE worst thing) is the turn order effect.

However, I think giving the choice tothe players independant of the rest of the game is unlikely to work well. Without thinking about it much, I have to believe it would be "more trouble than it's worth", even if it's better than simply going clockwise.

Is there a game-related way to determine who should go first, or go next? Letting the game determine just who plays first each round is nice, and a good way to balance advantages or disadvantages to going first or last. But you still have the issue of always going after so-and-so.

Is there a way to determine turn order all the way down tht line based on board position or game state? That way people can either play their game and go when they go, or they can tailor their game to try and go when they want to in the turn order.

- Seth

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Steve,

Quote:
I am amazed at the economy of the rule set, so much being packed in to relatively few pages, yet the game play and theme really come through well.

Thanks for the compliment! It’s taken a lot to get to this point, but I do feel I’ve finally incorporated all of the elements I wanted to include (production, combat, trading, unrest, road-building, etc) but in a system that hangs together tightly. Of course, if a need arises to hack stuff out, I'm in trouble...

Quote:

I have not played any civ games, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt.

Not at all, your comments are perfectly valid and much appreciated. Ironically, I’m not a hard core fan of games like Civ or History of the World either. Mainly due to lack of exposure (and that due to lack of time, as they all require a big time investment). So I undertook this project more to see if I could do it than out of a deep love for games in this genre.

Quote:

Maybe some simple explanation in the manifest of components. For example:

24 History Cards, each usable as either a Chronicle or an Achievement

The dual terminology is very important to keeping the functions discreet, but the terms should be mentioned early on in conjunction with the History Cards so that players draw a clear connection. It may be that the actual playing cards make that clear enough, but it never hurts to state to the first time player what is obvious to the experienced player.

Good suggestion, thanks. Part of the trick of writing a rules set, as you know, is putting yourself in the position of the first-time player. It’s harder than it seems! Clearly I’ve failed on some counts, and I thank you guys for catching them!

Quote:

There were a few aspects where a little more explanation could benefit the first time reader of the rules. The first is in the "Set up the board" section of GAME PLAY.

Yes, this is an algorithm that sounds complicated but makes sense to me when I perform it. Your proposed explanation was a good one. The other thing I realized recently is that there’s really no reason for the number and Resource tokens to be separate; you could have 3 tokens that say “6 Crops” and 2 that say “6 Gold”, rather than 5 tokens that say “6”, 3 that say “crops” and 2 that say “gold”.

Additionally, for the setup, I’ve written a little computer program that generates as many random setups for the game as you’d want, pretty much in the blink of an eye; you can then open it up with a spreadsheet program. So instead of describing the setup algorithm in the rules, it may just be better to provide a lookup table with 20 random setups (and probably put up the application online so people can get their own setups as well). Then it’s just a matter of putting the tokens where the table says.

Quote:

The 4 player set up seems a little confusing as well. As I read the rules, players ignore 4 territories in the game.

Yes, but it isn’t just any 4 -- basically, you close off most of Asia for the game. This is untested, but I suspect that 26 Territories would make the game too “loose” with 4 players, and I think there need to be “impingements” between empires from a pretty early stage for the game to work well. But it’s a new addition, and I probably didn’t describe it well. The idea is basically, that you pull from the distribution a 6 Crops, 5 Gold, 4 Crops, and 3 Crops from the tileset prior to commencing the setup algorithm.

Quote:

Have you considered altering the chart to have the values for the 5-6 player distributions AND the 4 player distributions?

That’s a fine idea, thanks!

Quote:

Another section that could be clearer is the "Prepare the Event Card Deck" section.

Disregard that section completely, I’m pretty sure the algorithm is incorrectly described. Basically, just read the introductory post in this thread to read what the Event Deck will look like. I haven’t yet written the actual, correct algorithm to do it, but trust me to be able to...Your proposal for improving the algorithm description was a good one, thanks!

Bottom line: The game lasts 10-12 turns. In Turn 1, the Event will be a special 1st turn event. In turns 2 and 3, the event will be either Attrition or Unrest. For the remaining turns, it may be one of those two, but once in each of the following sets of turns: 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12, one of the Events will be a Historian. The 3rd Historian ends the game.

Quote:

In the manifest, you refer to Corn markers, but elsewhere call them Crop markers.

Correct.

Quote:

In "Set up the Structures Board" you ask each player to place one pawn on Level 1 of each category. Do you mean place 1 marker?

Yes; there’s something of a componentry question as to whether “pawns” and “markers” will be the same objects or whether there will be different types of pieces for these; probably depends whether the published version of the game (should that ever happen!) uses miniatures or wooden pieces for the Citizens.

Quote:

Is the Start Player pawn still used (especially since you now have turn order cards)?

No, not currently.

Quote:

In the Turn Sequence section (first paragraph), players are instructed to perform a prefect ability and then discard a card. What card is to be discarded at this point? Is this a hold over from rules pertaining to an earlier version of the game?

Exactly right; originally, the players were dealt Prefect Cards at the start of the turn. Since there’s no longer any variability in the Prefects, this is now unnecessary. That sentence is an anachronism in the rules. Although, one thing that was nice about the cards is that they could be traded between players. (so, it was possible to Produce twice, for example, if you could make a deal for a duplicate “Population” prefect). It may be something I’ll go back to.

Quote:
Being that each player takes a turn using one prefect ability, do you have a method of tracking which prefect abilities have been used?

Yes, you will have 3 markers, which you place on the Prefects on your player mat as you use them.

Quote:

In "Phase 2: Reveal Event," you mention "After each player has taken 3 Actions..." Do you mean, "After each player has had 3 rounds of Prefect use..."? This would be more consistent with the earlier terminology of the rules.

Correct, good catch.

Quote:

You mention playing Chronicle cards (the History cards, using the Chronicle function of them) from a hand of cards, but I don't remember reading in the rules where players draw a hand of cards.

You draw the History cards using the “Scribe” prefect ability. They stay in your hand till you use the Achievement side, or record the Chronicle side.

Quote:

Is there a VP track on one of the various boards? If not, how are VP tracked? If so, you will want to mention its set up in the rules.

Currently, there’s a separate board. Because of the way I’ve implemented the board and structures (structures are cards placed under the territories’ information boxes at the edge of the board), I couldn’t have a VP track going around the outside of the board like most games do.

Quote:

You mention 2 methods of resolving combat, are you leaving that open for players to decide, or will that be narrowed down in a later version of the rules?

In the end, I’ll pick just one. I am going to start with the “almost fully deterministic” option and see how it goes, but if a little uncertainty is desired I may go to the die-rolling variant. Ideally, I sort of like the “cube tower” variant at the end of the rules, but since it adds a big, expensive component, I doubt it would be feasible publication-wise, unless I could get Queen games to publish it.

Quote:

I assume that the laurel wreath track is for tracking total numbers of combat victories, but you also make it clear that total number of combats initiated must be tracked.

No, not the total initiated; the only aspect that would look at combats initiated would be the Achievement cards, and those you’d use on the same turn you initiated the combats, presumably making tracking unnecessary -- you have to assume a little short term memory sometimes, I think...

Quote:
Sorry that I went on for so long. I enjoyed reading the rules and have a new appreciation for an otherwise overlooked (in my valuation) genre of games. You have succeeded in providing a vast number of good choices for players. The game looks as though it would provide great depth over a large number of plays.

Glad to hear it’s opened you up to a new genre! Big, epic games aren’t for everyone but I hope this one has enough meat that it is worth the investment of time. I think that once it’s balanced, and doesn’t have a single “best” strategy, it should have a lot of replay value. And I hope that there are plenty of tough decisions; that’s what I look for in a game! This game is meant to be, for the most part, a study in dichotomies. With almost every aspect of the game, you can choose between “this” or “that”: do you choose Prefect Ability X, or Y -- you can’t use both! Do you cash in the History card for Achievement tokens, or keep it to use as a Chronicle for VPs? Do you use achievement tokens for Advances or to pay to record Chronicles? If you choose to Advance, do you choose an enhancement, or to improve your rating in one category of Structures? These decisions are all simple, but hopefully none will be easy!

Quote:

Lastly I wanted to echo the concern of game length. Just form the numbers alone...

It’s a legitimate concern, but not one I’m worried about yet without more testing. The old game, which featured every action (all of the Prefects, basically) in every turn lasted about 5 hours with 6 players. I’m positive this will be shorter, and I hope about 3 hours but we’ll see. From the numbers, each game turn will include 3 Prefect actions per player for
18 actions in a 6-player game. Assuming each player turn took 1 minute, a 10-turn game would last 180 minutes. Some turns may take more than 1 minute, but many should take less -- drawing a History card, or choosing an Advance, or reducing Unrest, e.g. Most of the actions are short and punchy, and can be done quickly. Some length due to decision-making is inevitable, but in most cases, you should be able to plan your actions during the other player’s turns. Moreover, with each round, your choices become more restricted since each Prefect you choose really closes off 2 abilities for the rest of the game turn. With a game of 4-5 heads-up players, I really wouldn’t be surprised if the game could be played in 2 hours, but I wouldn’t quote that as typical, necessarily. It remains to be seen...

Quote:

Still, there are plenty of gamers who would eagerly embrace a well thought out and executed 3-4 hour civ game.

There’s no question about this: a playable Civ is the holy grail of game design, the one game that a large chorus of gamers wish existed.
Many games have attempted to fill this goal -- Vinci, Mare Nostrum, e.g. -- with varying levels of success. This game is my attempt at this “holy grail”, but we’ll see whether it’s what people are looking for or not! At this point, I’m happy with where the game is heading, and even if it never gets picked up, I’ll be happy that I worked on it and have it to play.

Thanks so much for your detailed comments and opinions!

-Jeff

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: Turn order

I'd like to address the remarks about the turn order distribution mechanic and hopefully clear things up. I appreciate the attention you guys have paid to this -- to me, it's quite a minor element of the game but you've all made good observations. First, let's look at what the rules actually say:

SoT rulebook wrote:
Players now redistribute the Turn Order cards. Starting with the player who holds the “Player 1” card, each player, in number order, gives his Turn Order card to another player of his choosing, who does not already hold a card. It is possible that the player who holds the highest number will be forced to keep his card.

Now, Steve's confusion came from the poor wording: where it says "who does not already hold a card", it should read "who has not already received a card". But the order jhager presented would nevertheless be invalid, because you must give your card to another player; you can't keep it.

Hope that clears that up. Now, Steve raised a valid concern:

SiskNY wrote:

Also, this could lead to severe play hindrance. If 2 players favorable to each other (euphemism for a couple) are in possession of the "1" and "2" turn order cards, then they could essentially switch them back and forth all game and leave the remaining players eternally stuck in their position.

I hadn’t thought of this, and it’s a good point. One solution would be to give out cards in reverse order, which of course gives the same problem if there’s an advantage to going last. Starting in the middle and moving out would work, but would be too fiddly to explain.

You made an alternative suggestion, a model based on "picking" cards rather than "giving" cards. I initially chose the "giving" model because I think it blunts the problem of a "best position" more effectively; if you can choose to go first, you'll do so. But your point is valid, that if choosing happens in reverse order, then typically the "first shall be last and the last shall be first". Moreover, it's a little more straightforward to decide when in the turn sequence you want to go rather than identifying who you want to go 4th, for example. And, it appears to solve the "2 player cabal" issue better. So, I think you may have convinced me to your way of thinking. Except that...

sedjtroll wrote:
I'm a fan of turn orders that change throughout the game... one of the worst things about Puerto Rico (indeed, THE worst thing) is the turn order effect.

I agree.

Quote:

However, I think giving the choice tothe players independant of the rest of the game is unlikely to work well. Without thinking about it much, I have to believe it would be "more trouble than it's worth", even if it's better than simply going clockwise.

I don't agree that it's unlikely to work well, but I do agree that it's quite possible it will be more trouble than its worth. In a sense, it jars the elegance of the rest of the game by adding an element that's pretty extraneous. Having said that, I will pat myself on the back a little and say that I think it's a cute mechanic, and one that I've been wanting to use for a while as a way to shake up turn order effects. But it may not be needed here. Probably, I'll just start playtesting with "clockwise order" and keep a choice-oriented mechanic in the wings if it turns out something more random is needed. I don't like "fully random" because there aren't enough turns for statistics to even out.

Quote:

Is there a game-related way to determine who should go first, or go next?

Interesting; your question suggests to me a model where everyone gets 3 actions per round, but these might not happen in serial order three times; one player could go twice (or even three times) before another player goes once. An interesting possibility! There's a game called Chariot Lords that has something like this, I believe. I'm not sure how it would work here.

But let's say there was a game-state determined player order that was fixed across all three rounds. What would such a thing be based on? I'm not sure. Unrest level, maybe? Empire size? Reverse order of current VP score? I may hold off until I potentially found that some strategic aspect of the game was slightly weak (a gentle runaway leader problem, eg) and then use the turn order as a way to correct this (assuming there was an advantage to going last or first).

Quote:

Letting the game determine just who plays first each round is nice, and a good way to balance advantages or disadvantages to going first or last. But you still have the issue of always going after so-and-so.

The main thing I want to avoid is that you don't want to go after so-and-so for the entire game. We had one playing where I was impacted with the player to my right for most of the game, and I couldn't really mount a viable military strategy against him since he always attacked before me. Granted, this was an earlier iteration of the rules, and such a problem may not be present here -- particularly due to the "3 step" nature of conquest (one prefect action to move guys in, and a second to initiate combat, plus a diamond token to annex the territory). So, if I get all set up to attack you in Gallia, you still have an action to move guys in before I can actually initiate the attack...

Good thoughts, all. Thanks!

Just to steer the discussion in a different direction, if anyone's interested in going there. The newest aspect of the game is the scoring system, where you draw History cards and must pay tokens to implement them (but the amount of VPs you get is connected to the actual status of your empire). Does anyone see anything potentially good or bad with such a system? Particularly in comparison to the "old" model in which there were 4 different categories and you just compared rank in each every Historian (eg, the player with the biggest empire got X points, 2nd biggest got X-2, etc)?

Thanks again!

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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Re: Turn order

jwarrend wrote:
Quote:

However, I think giving the choice to the players independant of the rest of the game is unlikely to work well. Without thinking about it much, I have to believe it would be "more trouble than it's worth", even if it's better than simply going clockwise.

I don't agree that it's unlikely to work well, but I do agree that it's quite possible it will be more trouble than its worth.
I think that's what I meant by not working well.

Quote:
In a sense, it jars the elegance of the rest of the game by adding an element that's pretty extraneous.

Yes, that's exactly what I was referring to.

Quote:
Quote:

Is there a game-related way to determine who should go first, or go next?

Interesting; your question suggests to me a model where everyone gets 3 actions per round, but these might not happen in serial order three times; one player could go twice (or even three times) before another player goes once.
That might be interesting as well, but I was just thinking the turns would be normal, but the turn order is defined by the game state- like whoever has the most VPs goes 1st, then the next most VPs goes second, etc. Or the reverse.

Quote:
But let's say there was a game-state determined player order that was fixed across all three rounds. What would such a thing be based on?... I may hold off until I potentially found that some strategic aspect of the game was slightly weak (a gentle runaway leader problem, eg) and then use the turn order as a way to correct this (assuming there was an advantage to going last or first).

That sounds like the way to go.

Quote:
The main thing I want to avoid is that you don't want to go after so-and-so for the entire game.

I see your concern. On the other hand, maybe part of the game is knowing where to concentrate your military might (i.e. not at the guy to your right)... but then that's not very thematic.

Quote:
... the "3 step" nature of conquest (one prefect action to move guys in, and a second to initiate combat, plus a diamond token to annex the territory). So, if I get all set up to attack you in Gallia, you still have an action to move guys in before I can actually initiate the attack...

This brings up a question in my mind. The game lasts 10-12 turns. I forget how many actions you get in a turn (3?), but I might worry that a 3-step process for taking a territory is too great a portion of the game. If it takes all game to take 1 territory, is it really a viable option? Obviously it doesn't take all game, but there's a point at which it will take too long. Have your tests been with this three step process? or is that new?

Quote:
The newest aspect of the game is the scoring system, where you draw History cards and must pay tokens to implement them (but the amount of VPs you get is connected to the actual status of your empire).

If I understand this right, and my understanding comes predominantly from the discussion and not the rulebook, you earn acheivement tokens then you either spend them to furher your position or trade them in for VPs. I like that basis a lot. It sounds like the way that you trade in for VPs is that you take an action, spend some acheivement tokens, and use up a card that would otherwise be used for something else. As long as that's how everybody scores then I think it's ok to have to pay an action in addition to the tokens. I'm not sure about the card bit though...

So there are cards, with one thing on one side and scoring opportunities on the other? Does this mean the things you score for are unknwn until you draw them? This is not a terrible mechanic in itself, as the cards you get help to drive your civ... not the same game every time, etc. But I don't know if I like the presentation.

In a previous thread someone had suggested that you spend the acheivment tokens to purchase 'vps' from a common menu. That might lead to the same game every time, or a dominant strategy emerging...

What if some (say, n-1, where n=number of players) vp conditions are available at random each 'round' or 'scoring round' or whatever, and those are available for purchase. So if there's a 'most territories' condition and a 'most structures' condition and a 'biggest harvest' condition, you could go for any one of them, and you could choose to either try and beat someone else out for one, or go the other route and chase the one there's no competition for. If there's n-1 then they should all have potential competition... and if each player can only buy 1 (and each one can be bought by only 1 player) then you might have to choose weather to 'cash in' now or wait until you are stronger in that area (worth more VPs).

Just a thought.

- Seth

jwarrend
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Quote:
Quote:

I don't agree that it's unlikely to work well, but I do agree that it's quite possible it will be more trouble than its worth.

I think that's what I meant by not working well.

Ok. To me they seemed like slightly different thoughts -- the mechanic may work in the sense that it plays just fine, but it may be unnecessary to the overall game. I’m splitting hairs now, time to move on!

Quote:

This brings up a question in my mind. The game lasts 10-12 turns. I forget how many actions you get in a turn (3?), but I might worry that a 3-step process for taking a territory is too great a portion of the game.

It takes three steps, but only two prefect actions (though you’d need a diamond token to annex on the same turn that you expel a foreigner).

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If it takes all game to take 1 territory, is it really a viable option? Obviously it doesn't take all game, but there's a point at which it will take too long. Have your tests been with this three step process? or is that new?

It’s been like this all along, the idea being that you can’t annex a territory with military might alone; you must have peasants on the ground to actually take control. I expect it to be difficult to steal another territory from another player. But then, I expect to have the VP systems reward such things in a way that there’s an incentive to try doing it. Your concern is certainly legitimate, though. I’m concerned that even with the 30 or so turns you’ll get during the game, that only lets you take each Prefect ability less than 4 times during the game. Maybe not enough, or maybe just right; we’ll see!

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If I understand this right, and my understanding comes predominantly from the discussion and not the rulebook, you earn acheivement tokens then you either spend them to furher your position or trade them in for VPs.

Yes, where “further your position” means acquiring an Advance, which gives you a special ability of some sort.

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I like that basis a lot. It sounds like the way that you trade in for VPs is that you take an action, spend some acheivement tokens, and use up a card that would otherwise be used for something else. As long as that's how everybody scores then I think it's ok to have to pay an action in addition to the tokens. I'm not sure about the card bit though...

You take the action to draw the card, currently; acquiring the card for VPs is currently a “once per turn” action that has no cost (other than the achievement token cost, of course).

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So there are cards, with one thing on one side and scoring opportunities on the other? Does this mean the things you score for are unknwn until you draw them? This is not a terrible mechanic in itself, as the cards you get help to drive your civ... not the same game every time, etc. But I don't know if I like the presentation.

Yes and no. Currently, the “chronicle” side of the card will be face up, so you’ll know what you’re getting. Also, there will only be a limited number of Chronicles in the game (I think 2-3 per category, for a total of 6-9), so you’ll know roughly what’s available early on. Also, if you don’t like the Chronicle you get, you can always use the other side of the card as a way to get Achievement tokens.

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In a previous thread someone had suggested that you spend the acheivment tokens to purchase 'vps' from a common menu. That might lead to the same game every time, or a dominant strategy emerging...
What if some (say, n-1, where n=number of players) vp conditions are available at random each 'round' or 'scoring round' or whatever, and those are available for purchase.

The idea of buying a card from a display is a valid one, and indeed, may be a model I’ll end up adopting. My concern, though, is that if the choices are too limited (to n-1, say) and you get closed out of the one you were working towards (but waited too long to get), you could get stuck having to choose a VP category in which you really haven’t achieved anything of note, and thus you wouldn’t really get many VPs. It may also present a turn order effect. It may work, but these are some of the landmines I see. Perhaps if there was a “VP card draft” after each Historian, so you knew what you were playing for and could hopefully get the one you wanted but could redirect if necessary.

Alternatively, maybe several cards are available and instead of a draft, all players vote on which ones will be the scoring cards to score in the next round. Or maybe, there is a display of VP cards available and you pay a turn action to place your marker on that card, with the catch being that only cards with a certain threshold of markers will actually score -- adds another “cooperative” element, which is cute, plus also has a psychology factor; do I claim my huge empire now, when all the other smaller-empire players will see they’re getting fewer points than me and not put markers on this card, risking the card not having enough markers to “trigger”? Hmm...this mechanic could have legs, possibly for a different game even (I can hear the wheels turning in Seth’s brain already!)

Alternatively, maybe there’s just a display of all the possible scoring cards and you can pay to take any one you want, but once someone takes one, it’s not available for anyone else, so you don’t want to wait too long but there should be valid alternatives for any given strategy.

The bottom line is, I want a certain amount of openness in the game where you can pursue different strategies and be rewarded for them. There will certainly be some “press your luck” moments, but currently, there’s ample opportunity to score for whatever chronicle you want to pursue (and can draw using the Scribe ability, which may give a slight luck-of-the-draw effect but since you can keep using the Scribe if you have Diamond tokens, in principle you can get what you want for certain). I think I want to preserve this, but I’m open to other ideas and your is a perfectly valid one. Thanks!

Speaking of scoring cards, what should the game reward? Here are some of my ideas:

Political:
Empire size
# of victory laurels
# territories in which you coexist with another player

Civic:
Number of structures built
Total # of levels of structures in your cities
Total population

Cultural:
Number of advances
Number of markets you built AND that were built in your cities

Any other thoughts on things that the game could reward?

Thanks again,

Jeff

sedjtroll
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

jwarrend wrote:
Currently, the “chronicle” side of the card will be face up, so you’ll know what you’re getting.

Do you mean that you know what's on the top of the deck, so you can choose to Scribe for it or not..? Or do you choose the Chronicle you want each time you Scribe? I think it's the altter, but I want to clarify.

I'm not a big fan of a face-up draw deck. The intention seems to be to lessen "luck of the draw", but to me it doesn't- in fact it just combines luck of the draw with a turn order effect. If I don't know what I'm drawing and I draw a card, clearly there's a chance it will be great and a chance it will not help at all. If however I KNOW what's on top, and it DEFINITELY doesn't help me, but is great for an opponent... do I draw it to keep it away from him? If I do, then we're back to luck of the draw that the next card is good for my opponent, and even if it's not, I've hindered my game just so that he didn't help his. If I don't draw the card then my opponent gets the good card and I am SOL. Maybe I'll be lucky and have a good card come up for me later.

On the other hand, if there is a card that's great for me on the top of the deck, then wonderful. It's still luck of the draw, I'm just get a hint ahead of time. If that card is also good for an opponent, then it's lucky for me if I get a crack at it before he does. There's that turn order effect I mentioned.

For me, a face down draw deck is the lesser of 2 evils. Princes of Florence has some very diverse cards to draw, and the designer built in a different system to lessen the luck factor (which I'm not sure I like either, but is probably necessary)- draw many, choose 1. But what people don't seem to notice in that game, and I think it holds true here as well, is that you can plan your game by drawing those cards early and letting them direct which items to buy during the game.

The best case, in my mind, would be a face down draw deck with rules that make it so a single card draw isn't so big a deal that a lousy draw kills your whole game. That might mean making the cards less diverse in application, or making the game long enough (or the draw action 'cheap' enough*) that a bad draw can be worked around.

* In PoF a draw action is 1/14 of your game. A late draw of a Prestige card might be completely worthless, and that's like 7% of your actions for the whole game. That's not very cheap.

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there will only be a limited number of Chronicles in the game (I think 2-3 per category, for a total of 6-9), so you’ll know roughly what’s available early on. Also, if you don’t like the Chronicle you get, you can always use the other side of the card as a way to get Achievement tokens.

If there are only 9, then do they run out? If people get one they don't like, then draw again, will you run out of Chronicles before long? Or are there multiples of each?

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My concern is that if the choices are too limited and you get closed out of the one you were working towards (but waited too long to get), you could get stuck having to choose a VP category in which you really haven’t achieved anything of note, and thus you wouldn’t really get many VPs.

The question becomes... is that OK? Maybe that's what the game is about- working your civ toward one of the available rewards, and balancing when to go for it. If you go too early to make sure you get it (and screw anyone else that was going for it), then you won't score as much.

Ooo... I just had another idea... rather than the rounds as you have them, what if there were N cards available to score with (these could be at random from the Chronicle deck, and there could even be duplicates maybe), and the 'scoring round' occurs when the second to last one is taken. This leaves 1 player out cold, and it supplies tension regarding building up more or cashing in what you've got so far.

I imagine each player would only be allowed to buy 1, and there might be some other scoring, or some reason to keep playing once you've bought your Chronicle. As in your model, once you buy it, your score is set based on your current position. You could still build up your position,, maybe build more structures so that the player who gets the 'built the most structures' chronicle scores less or something.

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Perhaps if there was a “VP card draft” after each Historian, so you knew what you were playing for and could hopefully get the one you wanted but could redirect if necessary.

Distributing Chronicls to work on after a Historian seems like a good idea, either by draft, auction, or random deal (face down?). That way you'd have something to work towards. Drafts have turn order effects, but since it's right after a scoring round you could remedy that by having the low scorer draw first.

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Alternatively, maybe several cards are available and instead of a draft, all players vote on which ones will be the scoring cards to score in the next round.

I'm not a fan of voting on chronicles in your game for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is theme... "let's vote on what future event future people will be interested in :)"

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Or maybe, there is a display of VP cards available and you pay a turn action to place your marker on that card, with the catch being that only cards with a certain threshold of markers will actually score...(I can hear the wheels turning in Seth’s brain already!)

LOL!

That is a really interesting idea. The balance would be that (a) you could contribute to one, narrow scoring avenue by yourself (noone else contributes) and score some base number, or you could spread out and 'invest' in other scoring avenues and share points with others who do the same. The avenues would be connected to board position, of course. This could be pretty interesting. Maybe Darke could use it to spark ideas for Wreck Ashore or something.

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Alternatively, maybe there’s just a display of all the possible scoring cards and you can pay to take any one you want, but once someone takes one, it’s not available for anyone else, so you don’t want to wait too long but there should be valid alternatives for any given strategy.

This is the impression I got from the previous thread about acheivement tokens. I think limiting the number available to less than the number of players, then there will be more competition and tension to get them. In that case there should be other scoring avenues and/or enough rounds such that a player getting left out once doesn't automatically lose.

Note that ALL the cards could be available, and the round could still end when the (N-1)th is taken. So you have complete freedom in what you want to work towards, but there's always the threat of competition for it.

What do you think? Have I given you food for thought on your scoring mechanic?

- Seth

GeminiWeb
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Jeff,

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on your game. I enjoy ‘civ’ games, despite barely finding the time to play then anymore – Vinci is achievable as it can be done in a night, Advanced Civilization is another matter altogether …

Overall, I think you’ve got a nice game there which draws on lots of nice concepts:
- VP scoring from the historian’s viewpoint
- Resource production (gold & crops)
- Unrest
- A version of role selection with the prefects
- ‘War’
- Technical advances
- Special structures
- And has a nifty looking board

If it all works, this could be a great game (and put me down for a copy)!

My main question is whether there might be some redundant complexity. (Complexity is fine, but redundant complexity isn’t). Also, as noted elsewhere, I think the rules need to be clarified a bit.

Well, here are my ideas, noting that good playtesting feedback will probably be more relevant as playtesters would have a better feel for the feel of the mechanics .

Set-up

I (like some others who have commented) found this a bit confusing. In particular, I think the table would read a lot better if the first column was the number of territories, so it would read something like 5 territories get a 6 capacity market. 3 of these territories will get a crop marker, while 2 would get a gold marker .

The Event Card preparation description might be clearer if you didn’t bother stacking the piles of cards, and calling each stack a different ‘age’.

Resources

I’d like a summary of what the resources are useful for. For example:

- Gold
o Foreman
- Crops
o Populate
o General (combat & annexing)
- Achievement tokens (civic, culture, politics)
o Philosophy (buy advance & claiming chronicle

The prefect actions

I really like this mechanic, but I keep feeling a need to streamline a couple of things …

Passing for diamonds

These feel very much like hoarding extra actions for the future, for the cost of an action now. In addition, it means giving up some flexibility in terms of being able to do 3 different actions in a round to get the ability to ignore the restriction of one action per round and each type of action only once per turn … which could lead to empire ‘surges’.

As diamonds are also earned from producing cities, I wonder whether the ‘pass action’ is really required.

General and Settler

Is it really necessary to separate out initiating settle/combat and annexing territories? A much simpler process would be for annexing to occur automatically once:
- an unoccupied areas is settled
- the owner no longer has any citizens in the area, in which case it passes to the empire with the most peasants in the area, unless they decline (e.g. they don’t want to lose it and gain unrest), in which case it goes to the empire with the next number of peasants. If no own else in the area claims it, the original empires keeps it. In case of a tie, it might (say) go the he empire who’s turn is next.

Note however, that this might have issues with turn order effects, both in terms of finding vacant lands to settle, and in terms of resolving ties for number of peasants.

Is it necessary to keep ramping up the costs of attack? I suppose this means that the blitzkrieg would require significant stores of crops. I also think I would get very nervous if my well-armed neighbour was working hard at reducing their unrest!

Presumably when an area is annexed, the new owner gets to keep all the structures there?

Markets

I didn’t see a market card. How many markets can there be in a given city, and if it is more than one, how is the diamond allocation handled (1 for all empires concerned, or 1 for all market owners and 1 per market for the city owner)?

Cities

Would it work to just call ‘city’ a type of structure so it doesn’t require any special rules. I also assume a region can only have one type of each structure?

Auctioning advances

Nice idea, but note that this action could take a bit longer as they might keep trying to auction different advances if there were no takers. Also, what does ‘he is not considered to have taken an action mean exactly?
- He is still limited to auctions
- He could acquire an advance instead
- He is limited to the philosophy prefect
- He could chose another prefect altogether (and therefore try an auction every turn just in case a reasonable offer comes)

Limit of one card for each Advance, regardless of the side of the card implemented

Is this rule necessary? Are you worried about people hoarding a type of advance?

Special ways to get achievement tokens

To clarify, achievement tokens are received using history cards or through building structures? I think it would be simpler if the actions directly gave the achievement tokens rather than the cards (e.g. initiating one battle gets a political achievement token). I recognize though that this has its own issues.

That’s about as far as I’ve gotten so far – I’ll add more later if appropriate …

Thanks again for sharing your game and I look forward to playing it one day!

-Bill

sedjtroll
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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Well, I finally got a chance to read through (most of) the rules. I think you've got the beginnings of a decent structure here. As I've said, I really like the scoring mechanism (take a photo of your civ for when the Historians show up, which is not entirely predicatable- so you have to choose at what point you 'cash in' on your work to that point) and the whole Acheivement Token thing as a sort of VP currency.

My first reaction to the rulebook is that it needs to be simplified and streamlined. Every single rule seems to have a complex system of qualifications, exceptions, and algorithms to it. The setup sounds like it will take almost as long as the game. As Gemini said, there are layers upon layers of complexity which begs the question... is it all necessary?

I know it's hard to take something that you are familiar with and look at it through a new light, but believe me, even when you think a system can't get much better, along comes an idea to streamline it and the whole game benefits greatly. I can' count how many times that exact thing has happened to Scurra and I with All For One. Every time I think that's 'done', we stumble on a way to streamline it even more, and the resulting rules are usually many times better. If it doesn't work out, you've always got the original system to go back to.

That said, if I were you I'd start right from the beginning and see what could be simplified. For example, the setup is a mess of complex algorithms, much of it could probably be accomplished in a much quicker and easier way without hurting the game at all. Off the top of my head...

Do players really need to start with 2 neighboring territories? Do they really need to consult a chart to see how many dudres they get to start? Is it really so important to choose that over say, starting with 1 peasant and 1 warrior in each Territory?

The "three piles of three types of cards, 3 in each of three levels" bit... could that not be accomplished with a stack (or 3) of double sided cards- would 2 levels of structures be enough? Also, the Event deck algorithm, although I realize it's "a little complicated, but not that bad," is a bit confusing and over the top. Might it be easier to have some other way to check if a Historian arrives? Maybe an Evo-esque die roll with increasing frquncy (on particular turns)? Or simply haveing a set order of events (like Knizia's Lord of the Rings) might actually be worth considering.

I think a lot of the systems in the game are defensible with "It's a little complex but really not that bad," so many that the sum otal IS that bad.

Regarding the round structure, having three rounds then an event draw makes sense- basically 3 actions per turn, but split up so one player doesn't have to wait for the next. Is there a way to track which round it is? Or is it up to the players to remember who's the start player and how many actions they've taken? Probably not too hard to remember, but not necessarily the cleanest rule. Especially considering players can use any prefect on their turn, but each only once per round.

I imagine you've tried (or thought about) having the rounds structured so that there's a "Population" round in which each player gets one of their population actions, then an "Empire" round, etc. I realize that would lose the "choose which 3 of the 4 actions will be used this round" aspect, so it may not be ideal, but I the turn order and round structure might benefit from a little more... structure.

Most of the actions make sense- things you would want to do in your turn... expand your empire, increase your population, reduce Unrest, etc. It seems like they're more complex than they need to be though. You can pay a crop to add a citizen... you can add MORE citizens, but it doesnt cost crops, but you can ony do it as many times as you spend diamonds. n = 1 without diamonds, so does that mean for 1 crop you get 1 citizen, or 2? There's a capacity for each territory but you can exceed it (don't find out what that means until much later). That's all just 1 action of 8 to choose from, and it's one of the simpler ones. For what it's worth it could probably be phrased a little simpler without even chaging it:
"Populate: Pay 1 crop to add 1 citizen to a territory you own. Additional citizens may be added to that territory at the cost of 1 diamond each. You may Populate as many territories as you can afford."

Settle is also sort of hard to understand... you choose 1 territory (additional territories at the cost of 1 Diamond each) and move each citizen in it up to 1 space (to an any adjacent territory) each. If there are Roads, then you may also move citizens from neighboring territories into the chosen territory. It's not clear if the first territory costs a diamond or not. It's implied that each citizen may only be moved once per action (though you say per turn... does this mean if I have 2 neighboring territories with Roads I can't move a citizen into one, then with another action move the same citizen into the other- even if I have all the diamonds needed to Settle in 2 different territories?)

When using the Governer, it says you pay resouurces of one type... that soundslike it doesn't matter if it's gold or crops, as long as it's ALL gold or ALL crops. Is that intended? Why the restriction? Why does it cost wheat to wage war and not gold? (probably because it costs gold to build stuff and you want to have tension when deciding which resources to go for- which is nice). If you don't control the right territories, wil you not be able to do the stuff you want to do due to lack of appropriate resources? Have you considered each territory being able to produce either resourec, and you choose which either at the time, or by outfitting the territory appropriately. Maybe just saying that Peasants produce Wheat and Soldiers produce Gold, or even having 2 types of Peasants to choose from... farmers and miners, which are interchangeable as far as the game's concerned except that one produces wheat while the other produces gold. Just some thoughts- that might be a lousy idea because then it wouldn't matter what territories you control.

The last thing I want to say before I go to bed is that there's some confusing language using pronouns in the ruls, such as "A player may not attack a foreign player’s City if he has a Market in that City." sounds like the foreign player can defend a city by putting a market in it. Although you're not allowed to build markets in your own city, so that robably means you can't attack a city with your own market in it- which doesn't make a lot of sence. What happens if another player has a market in a city?

Regarding building markets in other cities... I like the idea a lot, but hy the restrictions of only building them in other players cities (I think I actually know that one), and why can't you take over a city where you have a market?

When producing with the Foreman ability, do Cities also produce gold/crops, or ONLY diamonds?

Why the restricion of only 1 structure per turn per territory? Is all that math really necessary to determine the cost of a structure (Unrest * Structure Level - Peasants)?

Interesting mechanic there on the Structure cards. So you either get an ability (a la PR buildings), or you get acheivement tokens, not both.

Why would you ever close a market (except to attack, which begs the question, why can't you attack where you have a market)?

That's about all for right now, as it's 4am. I may post more later as time permits. I hope this didn't come off as too entirely critical, because there are lots of great bases ofr systems here, but I thinik they're all a little too complex at the moment. I'm suprised you could play this game in three hours as is.

- Seth

Anonymous
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

jwarrend wrote:
...there’s really no reason for the number and Resource tokens to be separate; you could have 3 tokens that say “6 Crops” and 2 that say “6 Gold”, rather than 5 tokens that say “6”, 3 that say “crops” and 2 that say “gold”.

Quite a lot of new posts to this thread!! I haven't read through all of them, but this idea really struck me as being a great solution and a way to further streamline the game and its rules.

jwarrend
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reply to Bill

Quote:

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on your game. I enjoy ‘civ’ games, despite barely finding the time to play then anymore – Vinci is achievable as it can be done in a night, Advanced Civilization is another matter altogether …

Yes, this game is meant to live in between the rather avstract Vinci and the too-long-for-one-session Advanced Civ. Ironically, despite being more complex, I think this game might actually be of comparable length to Vinci. Vinci, I find, has a huge Analysis Paralysis issue because you can optimize every turn (and it’s important to do so!) I think the actions in Sands should be punchier and mayber shorter. We’ll see if it works out. Regardless, Vinci is a great game.

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If it all works, this could be a great game (and put me down for a copy)!

Hey, I'm going to hold you to that!

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My main question is whether there might be some redundant complexity. (Complexity is fine, but redundant complexity isn’t). Also, as noted elsewhere, I think the rules need to be clarified a bit.

Yes, this is certainly the big question. From my perspective, this is the “stripped down” version of the game but I wouldn’t be surprised if more whittling is needed! One comment, though. Lack of clarity in the rules is my fault, and I apologize, but just ask that people keep in mind that it’s a separate issue from the quality and complexity of the game itself.

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I (like some others who have commented) found this a bit confusing.

Pretty understandable. I think, in hindsight, that it would have been better for the GDW if I just described what the board, event deck, etc. would look like after the setup, rather than explaining how you get there, since I obviously botched the latter and it has kept people from understanding the former, which is what’s really of interest.

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The Event Card preparation description might be clearer if you didn’t bother stacking the piles of cards, and calling each stack a different ‘age’.

Cute idea! The only thing that would be weird is that a Historian could emerge “mid age” and you’d think a scoring round would “end an age”. Probably a semantic issue.

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I’d like a summary of what the resources are useful for.

I actually have a summary card that shows the costs of actions, maybe I can upload it. In it, you see what the different resources are for. It breaks down like this:

Crops:
--Add a citizen
--Annex a Territory
--Initiate combat
--Reduce unrest

Gold:
--Pay for structures, cities, or markets
--Reduce Unrest

I’m actually toying with the idea of making Unrest reduction payable by Gold-only. This would nicely separate Crops and Gold strategically -- Crops would be more for “expansion”-oriented activities, and gold would be more for “enhancement” oriented activities. I considered a one-resource economy, but I think this asymmetry between Crops and Gold is important to the overall strategic depth of the game, despite coming in a pretty simple package.

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Passing for diamonds
These feel very much like hoarding extra actions for the future, for the cost of an action now.

It may be unnecessary; it was mainly meant to give a way to get diamonds without having to build cities. Since there’s a structure that can do that, and since you can now build markets in other player’s cities to get diamonds, it’s probably superfluous as an option for now, and I may do away with it in initial playtesting. Good call!

Quote:

General and Settler
Is it really necessary to separate out initiating settle/combat and annexing territories?

The short answer is that in the tests of the old version of the game, the answer was definitely yes. The “annex” action, as you know, brings a cost with it, which is meant to reflect the idea that as your empire gets bigger, expanding it further becomes more difficult. However, since this effect is also captured in the escalating cost of Unrest reduction, it may be unnecessary. I’m trying to avoid a situation where military might rules the day, and making annexation more difficult seems to be a way to achieve this. (Plus, it also lets you use combat for other purposes -- currently, “looting” resources is the other option).

As for allowing annexation immediately upon settlement, the answer there is, yes, it must be a two-step process. Otherwise, the first person into the territory can claim it, and that may create too-strong of a turn order effect.

But your concern is legitimate and I’ll consider it some more.

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Is it necessary to keep ramping up the costs of attack?

Maybe not. This is another case of trying to make the all-out military route difficult (yet still feasible!). Originally, combat happened for all players in the same phase, so you’d go around the table and if you wanted to fight, you paid the current round number in resources. This meant that you could pass in an early round to wait and see before attacking, but that this would cost you more if you chose to attack in a later round. That reasoning doesn’t apply here, and it may be unnecessary to have this. Maybe I’ll do away with it for now; any reduction in number of rules is almost always a good thing!

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Presumably when an area is annexed, the new owner gets to keep all the structures there?

Yes.

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I didn’t see a market card. How many markets can there be in a given city, and if it is more than one, how is the diamond allocation handled (1 for all empires concerned, or 1 for all market owners and 1 per market for the city owner)?

Each player can have one market per city, so there can be 5 markets per city in a 6 player game. (I toyed with the idea of having the number of markets restricted by the territory’s capacity. This would actually be nicely symmetric and be a nice tension point -- low capacity cities are cheaper to build, but could be less powerful as a result; might be nice). When the city owner produces, he gets 1 diamond token for the city itself, plus one per market. Each player with a market in the city gets 1 diamond token.

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Cities
Would it work to just call ‘city’ a type of structure so it doesn’t require any special rules. I also assume a region can only have one type of each structure?

Maybe, but a city is distinct in that its territory no longer produces Resources; it only produces Diamond tokens. You’re giving up production for enhanced flexibility (and a couple of other things). I’m not sure how much to restrict what can be built in a Territory. It’s an open question.

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Auctioning advances
Nice idea, but note that this action could take a bit longer as they might keep trying to auction different advances if there were no takers.

Keep in mind, though, that there are only 3 face up advances at a time and you can only auction advances you already own. It’s mainly meant to be a way to (a) create “technology sharing”, which introduces cooperation, and (b) to give you a way to “parse” the pile without having to invoke something like “draw the top X cards, choose 1”, which I don’t like.

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Also, what does ‘he is not considered to have taken an action mean exactly?

Good question. I think that I originally meant “he can take any other prefect action”, but I see your point, so he should probably be limited to the philosohpy prefect, and probably to the Philosopher specifically. Moreover, if he couldn’t initiate another auction with the Philosopher, that would solve your other concern. So how about “if he does not receive an acceptable offer, he may use the Philosopher to purchase one of the other available advances, if it’s possible to do so; he may not initiate another auction”.

Quote:

Limit of one card for each Advance, regardless of the side of the card implemented
Is this rule necessary? Are you worried about people hoarding a type of advance?

Think of it like this; there are 3 advances in each category. You need 2 advances to get to level 3 structures. So you have to decide whether to choose special abilities or advanced structures, but not both. It’s a dichotomous choice, and that’s what this game is all about. It’s a restriction, which is the soul of decision making, which is the source of strategic play. The advance-hoarding wasn't a primary concern, but it's probably part of the reason for the current rule.

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Special ways to get achievement tokens
To clarify, achievement tokens are received using history cards or through building structures? I think it would be simpler if the actions directly gave the achievement tokens rather than the cards (e.g. initiating one battle gets a political achievement token). I recognize though that this has its own issues.

It’s possible that your way would be a better way of doing things, and really, the history card source of achievement tokens is mainly to set up a dual use for the history cards. But I would worry that if every action gave Achievement tokens to boot, that would just give WAY too much to learn and to think about. If I adopt a scoring model like what Seth proposes (with cards chosen from a display rather than drawn and played), I may need an alternative “achievement token” mechanism, so I’ll keep your ideas in mind!

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Thanks again for sharing your game and I look forward to playing it one day!

I hope you’ll get the chance! Thanks for the great comments, I appreciate your feedback!

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
Scoring thoughts

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Do you mean that you know what's on the top of the deck, so you can choose to Scribe for it or not..? Or do you choose the Chronicle you want each time you Scribe? I think it's the altter, but I want to clarify.

The former, but there are 3 decks, one for each category.

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I'm not a big fan of a face-up draw deck. The intention seems to be to lessen "luck of the draw", but to me it doesn't- in fact it just combines luck of the draw with a turn order effect.

Actually, it’s mainly an artifact of the two-sided nature of the cards; I had to choose one side to be face up, and that’s the side I’ve chosen currently. They don’t have to be two-sided, of course, it’s just the way I’m implenting the dual-use nature of the cards currently.

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For me, a face down draw deck is the lesser of 2 evils. Princes of Florence has some very diverse cards to draw, and the designer built in a different system to lessen the luck factor (which I'm not sure I like either, but is probably necessary)- draw many, choose 1.

It works in that game, but I’m not a fan of the mechanic in my own designs. Particularly in this game, which is already long; I worry that a “choice” mechanic could add analysis time. I suppose analysis is a lesser evil than randomness, and it remains to be seen if luck of the draw is a big problem with the scoring cards. I think that since you can use diamonds to draw more cards, it’s always theoretically possible to get whatever you “want”, but I agree that there’s probably a sense in which you want to shape your strategy based on the cards you draw.

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The best case, in my mind, would be a face down draw deck with rules that make it so a single card draw isn't so big a deal that a lousy draw kills your whole game. That might mean making the cards less diverse in application, or making the game long enough (or the draw action 'cheap' enough*) that a bad draw can be worked around.

I agree with this idea. Keep in mind that each card can also be used to receive achievement tokens, so there’s no card that’s “useless”. And every chronicle is worth some VPs, even if there are others that would be worth more...

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If there are only 9, then do they run out? If people get one they don't like, then draw again, will you run out of Chronicles before long? Or are there multiples of each?

There will be several of each type in the decks.

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The question becomes... is that OK? Maybe that's what the game is about- working your civ toward one of the available rewards, and balancing when to go for it. If you go too early to make sure you get it (and screw anyone else that was going for it), then you won't score as much.

It’s not what I want the game to be about, though; at least I don’t think so.

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Ooo... I just had another idea... rather than the rounds as you have them, what if there were N cards available to score with (these could be at random from the Chronicle deck, and there could even be duplicates maybe), and the 'scoring round' occurs when the second to last one is taken. This leaves 1 player out cold, and it supplies tension regarding building up more or cashing in what you've got so far.

I sort of prefer the “uncertain, but fixed” nature of the scoring rounds currently. Too many Civ games only end when the players do thus-and-such, and that gives potential for the game to be open-ended. I want a fixed-ending game. I think that’s the main reason I’d be opposed to this kind of a model. It could work in another game, probably.

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I'm not a fan of voting on chronicles in your game for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is theme... "let's vote on what future event future people will be interested in :)"

Ha! That’s a great point...

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That is a really interesting idea. The balance would be that (a) you could contribute to one, narrow scoring avenue by yourself (noone else contributes) and score some base number, or you could spread out and 'invest' in other scoring avenues and share points with others who do the same. The avenues would be connected to board position, of course. This could be pretty interesting. Maybe Darke could use it to spark ideas for Wreck Ashore or something.

Yes, I think it has some legs beyond this idea. It’s sort of like the system in “Age of Mythology”, in which players allocate cubes to the various scoring mechanisms, and when those trigger, they pay out VPs based on the number of cubes. This is nicer in that the payouts are more rigid, but there’s some cooperation required to ensure that a mechanism triggers.

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This is the impression I got from the previous thread about acheivement tokens. I think limiting the number available to less than the number of players, then there will be more competition and tension to get them. In that case there should be other scoring avenues and/or enough rounds such that a player getting left out once doesn't automatically lose.

But here’s the catch -- I really want there to be only one scoring system in the game (if at all possible).

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What do you think? Have I given you food for thought on your scoring mechanic?

Definitely! Thanks again!

-Jeff

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Seth,

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My first reaction to the rulebook is that it needs to be simplified and streamlined. Every single rule seems to have a complex system of qualifications, exceptions, and algorithms to it.

Separating the setup algorithms which I grant sound bad (though they really aren’t that bad in practice, however ham-handedly I’ve explained them!), I don’t agree with this claim. What you’re calling a “complex system of qualifications, etc”, I just call, rules. Every game has rules. You need to have restrictions and definitions of what players are allowed to do. The presence of rules doesn’t in and of itself equate to the presence of complexity.

That said, it’s quite possible the game is overly complex for what it aims to be. I think part of the problem may be my verbosity moreso than the game itself, but it’s a valid concern. It may be an “eye of the beholder” thing. Certainly, my opinion is not of much consequence, but I don’t think it’s nearly as complex as you repeatedly allege. We’ll see what others say, and more importantly, how it plays.

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The setup sounds like it will take almost as long as the game. As Gemini said, there are layers upon layers of complexity which begs the question... is it all necessary?

The setup takes a little too long if you follow the algorithm, as as I mentioned to ... Steve, I think, I’ve created a lookup table of randomized territory setups that will make that much faster. Other than that, you shuffle the decks, give out pieces, prepare the Event deck, then players seed the board, Settlers-style. It’s not that bad.

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I know it's hard to take something that you are familiar with and look at it through a new light, but believe me, even when you think a system can't get much better, along comes an idea to streamline it and the whole game benefits greatly.

What you’re seeing now is the product of just such a process. It may not be the terminus of the process, but believe me, the game is greatly streamlined from what it once was.

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That said, if I were you I'd start right from the beginning and see what could be simplified. For example, the setup is a mess of complex algorithms, much of it could probably be accomplished in a much quicker and easier way without hurting the game at all.

Ironically, the setup is probably the last thing I wrote. To me, the part of the game I invest the most effort in is the game play. I haven’t yet settled on a great starting configuration for the game, nor have I explained the setup algorithms I’m using currently in the clearest language. I’m relatively unworried about this issue, actually, since I’m always the one setting up the game currently, although I grant that it’s something that’s worth worrying about at some point.

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Do players really need to start with 2 neighboring territories? Do they really need to consult a chart to see how many dudres they get to start? Is it really so important to choose that over say, starting with 1 peasant and 1 warrior in each Territory?

Sure, that might work. I think starting in adjacent territories is really just common sense more than anything else. It’s not a hard rule to remember, or an undue imposition on players’ strategic flexibility.

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The "three piles of three types of cards, 3 in each of three levels" bit... could that not be accomplished with a stack (or 3) of double sided cards- would 2 levels of structures be enough?

Quite possibly. One motivation for the 3rd level is that there are some abilities I wanted to have Structures confer that are just a little too “good” for what you could get with only 2 advances. Perhaps the structures could start at level 2 (ie, you must advance once to even be able to build structures). It’s not a bad thought.

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Also, the Event deck algorithm, although I realize it's "a little complicated, but not that bad," is a bit confusing and over the top. Might it be easier to have some other way to check if a Historian arrives? Maybe an Evo-esque die roll with increasing frquncy (on particular turns)? Or simply haveing a set order of events (like Knizia's Lord of the Rings) might actually be worth considering.

I think that the uncertainty of when an Historian will appear is an important element that gives tension to the process of recording Chronicles. That’s not the only justification for a random onset of Historians, but it’s a justification. I think the Event deck allows the Historians to be assimilated with the other principal kinds of events in a pretty seamless way. The algorithm sounds like a mess, but for the purposes of this discussion, just look at the outcome of the process, and assume that it’s possible to explain how to actually do it in a understandable way.

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I think a lot of the systems in the game are defensible with "It's a little complex but really not that bad," so many that the sum otal IS that bad.

A fair opinion. I don’t agree, and I don’t know that I’ve necessarily defended any of the systems that way, but probably I have.

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Regarding the round structure, having three rounds then an event draw makes sense- basically 3 actions per turn, but split up so one player doesn't have to wait for the next. Is there a way to track which round it is? Or is it up to the players to remember who's the start player and how many actions they've taken? Probably not too hard to remember, but not necessarily the cleanest rule. Especially considering players can use any prefect on their turn, but each only once per round.

I think it’s in the rules, but in case it isn’t, after you use a Prefect, you place a marker on that Prefect on your player mat. In that way, you know which round you’re in. As for player order, the “player order” cards currently handle this, although as a result of our discussion, I’ll probably just go with clockwise order for now, and there will be a “Start Player” token so you know which player starts and ends a round.

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I imagine you've tried (or thought about) having the rounds structured so that there's a "Population" round in which each player gets one of their population actions, then an "Empire" round, etc. I realize that would lose the "choose which 3 of the 4 actions will be used this round" aspect, so it may not be ideal, but I the turn order and round structure might benefit from a little more... structure.

I did have this initially, except that ALL prefect abilities were present every turn, and it just made the game too long. Going in some order of Prefects could be ok, perhaps even a random shuffling of the 4 Prefects. There’s probably more flexibility in the current system, and indeed, an ordered system would be a little too close to Wallenstein (which this game is already a bit too close to in some ways...), but I agree that in general, structure is a good thing. I’ll keep it in mind!

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Most of the actions make sense- things you would want to do in your turn... expand your empire, increase your population, reduce Unrest, etc. It seems like they're more complex than they need to be though. You can pay a crop to add a citizen... you can add MORE citizens, but it doesnt cost crops, but you can ony do it as many times as you spend diamonds. n = 1 without diamonds, so does that mean for 1 crop you get 1 citizen, or 2? There's a capacity for each territory but you can exceed it (don't find out what that means until much later). That's all just 1 action of 8 to choose from, and it's one of the simpler ones. For what it's worth it could probably be phrased a little simpler without even chaging it:
"Populate: Pay 1 crop to add 1 citizen to a territory you own. Additional citizens may be added to that territory at the cost of 1 diamond each. You may Populate as many territories as you can afford."

I agree, I tend to be pretty wordy and (try to be) pretty precise, but it could be said more succintly. The “add more citizens with Diamonds” is somewhat of a holdover from an older rule set, but the idea there is that there has to be some upgradable aspect of each ability for the Diamond tokens to have meaning. Could the game work without Diamond tokens at all? Yeah, maybe. The likely way would be to go back to an older model where you’d get Prefect cards and each ability would have a number beside it corresponding to the number of times you’d take that action. I liked the Diamond tokens as a way to remove luck-of-the-draw aspects, and I think they work well as a way of giving you extra flexibility at a cost, but it’s possibly unnecessary, I’ll grant that.

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Settle is also sort of hard to understand... you choose 1 territory (additional territories at the cost of 1 Diamond each) and move each citizen in it up to 1 space (to an any adjacent territory) each. If there are Roads, then you may also move citizens from neighboring territories into the chosen territory. It's not clear if the first territory costs a diamond or not.

No, the first territory is “free”. “Activating” other territories costs one Diamond token per territory.

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It's implied that each citizen may only be moved once per action (though you say per turn... does this mean if I have 2 neighboring territories with Roads I can't move a citizen into one, then with another action move the same citizen into the other- even if I have all the diamonds needed to Settle in 2 different territories?)

I think that’s accurate, but the bigger problem would be trying to move that same citizen into a 3rd territory, and that’s what I’m trying to avoid. Not sure the rules are airtight.

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When using the Governer, it says you pay resouurces of one type... that soundslike it doesn't matter if it's gold or crops, as long as it's ALL gold or ALL crops. Is that intended? Why the restriction?

You read the rule correctly. I think, though, that for now I’m going to change it to “you must use gold to reduce unrest”. The reasoning, you’ve already correctly figured out:

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Why does it cost wheat to wage war and not gold? (probably because it costs gold to build stuff and you want to have tension when deciding which resources to go for- which is nice).

Exactly right. As I just mentioned to Bill, I think the idea is that crops are more for “expansion-like” activities and gold are more for “enhancement-like” activities. It’s a restriction that should drive strategies.

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If you don't control the right territories, wil you not be able to do the stuff you want to do due to lack of appropriate resources?

Yes, I think you need to make sure you have a viable production of the types of resources you need to accomodate your strategy. It’s particularly important when deciding which territories to convert to cities, since doing so removes that territory’s production capability.

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Have you considered each territory being able to produce either resourec, and you choose which either at the time, or by outfitting the territory appropriately. Maybe just saying that Peasants produce Wheat and Soldiers produce Gold, or even having 2 types of Peasants to choose from... farmers and miners, which are interchangeable as far as the game's concerned except that one produces wheat while the other produces gold. Just some thoughts- that might be a lousy idea because then it wouldn't matter what territories you control.

I think if a territory could produce either resource, it would be just as valid to just go to one resource type. Which may not be a bad idea, but I like the asymmetry of the resources currently. 2 types of Peasants would be ok, but I don’t think much different thanthe current system of 2 types of resources. I did consider a system whereby all territories initially produce Crops and then you must “upgrade” a territory so that it produces Gold, but it seemed that it would lose some of what made the initial territory distribution so interesting (and it really is need to see how the initial board sets up and to try to plot a strategy based on what size and resource territories you can get access to...), and that it would add another ramp up effect that could make the game even longer.

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The last thing I want to say before I go to bed is that there's some confusing language using pronouns in the ruls, such as "A player may not attack a foreign player’s City if he has a Market in that City." sounds like the foreign player can defend a city by putting a market in it. Although you're not allowed to build markets in your own city, so that robably means you can't attack a city with your own market in it- which doesn't make a lot of sence. What happens if another player has a market in a city?

Not sure I understand the question. The rule is this: you can’t attack a city in which you have a market. (But, you can remove the market prior to attacking). Maybe it’s an unnecessary rule; maybe the better rule would simply be “if you annex a foreign player’s city in which you have a market, the market is lost; return the peasant pawn to your supply”.

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Regarding building markets in other cities... I like the idea a lot, but hy the restrictions of only building them in other players cities (I think I actually know that one), and why can't you take over a city where you have a market?

I answered the latter question above -- it’s a good point. The first question is easier; if you could build markets in your cities, and enhance your diamond production, there’s be no incentive to put markets in foreign cities, and this mechanic exists to motivate cooperation between players.

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When producing with the Foreman ability, do Cities also produce gold/crops, or ONLY diamonds?

Only diamonds.

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Why the restricion of only 1 structure per turn per territory? Is all that math really necessary to determine the cost of a structure (Unrest * Structure Level - Peasants)?

For the first question, I think the reason is to keep you from just overloading one Territory all at once. Since you get a cost reduction for building with Peasants, a fully-stocked Territory could then build a lot of buildings all at once inexpensively.

With respect to the latter question, first, keep in mind that Unrest is meant to set the cost for most actions in the game. Building a Level 2 structure should cost more than building a level 1 structure, and multiplying by the level seems like an easy way to achieve this . (The main advantage to building a level 2 over a level 1 is that you only need to use one action to get two levels-worth of building, rather than 2 separate actions). And the cost reduction for Peasants is meant to accomodate the fact that you’re giving up production to take that action. I don’t know if it’s necessary, but I think the game’s resources may be tight and so this is meant to give you a way to utilize your peasants either to produce or to build, and to reflect the fact that more peasants build more cheaply than fewer peasants, which is mainly thematic. But come on, Seth, you’re an engineer -- you can handle this little bit of math!

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Interesting mechanic there on the Structure cards. So you either get an ability (a la PR buildings), or you get acheivement tokens, not both.

Correct.

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Why would you ever close a market (except to attack, which begs the question, why can't you attack where you have a market)?

That’s probably the only reason, although perhaps you’d do so if there was a particular player you wanted to deprive of an extra diamond token (and could afford the loss of a diamond token for yourself).

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That's about all for right now, as it's 4am. I may post more later as time permits. I hope this didn't come off as too entirely critical, because there are lots of great bases ofr systems here, but I thinik they're all a little too complex at the moment. I'm suprised you could play this game in three hours as is.

It may take longer, but I don’t think so. We’ll see. Let me equally apologize if I was too defensive. If I was, I think it’s because I felt that your remarks appear to place the game at an earlier stage of development than I personally feel that it’s at. I think it’s way further along than “some good starting ideas but flawed execution”. Obviously, that’s just my opinion, and it’s pretty heavily biased! But I do thank you for your remarks and consideration!

-Jeff

Anonymous
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Jeff wrote:
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Is there a VP track on one of the various boards? If not, how are VP tracked? If so, you will want to mention its set up in the rules.

Currently, there’s a separate board. Because of the way I’ve implemented the board and structures (structures are cards placed under the territories’ information boxes at the edge of the board), I couldn’t have a VP track going around the outside of the board like most games do.

I really like the way structures and advancements are handled by placing the cards under the information box for that territory, very effective yet simple way of handling it. Have you thought about either making the board larger or the map of territories smaller and having a VP tack around the board between the map and the info boxes? Since there are already a good number of boards, that would be one less to worry about.

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I assume that the laurel wreath track is for tracking total numbers of combat victories, but you also make it clear that total number of combats initiated must be tracked.

No, not the total initiated; the only aspect that would look at combats initiated would be the Achievement cards, and those you’d use on the same turn you initiated the combats, presumably making tracking unnecessary -- you have to assume a little short term memory sometimes, I think...

In the "Empire Prefect" section, the cost to initiate combat is described as being that player's level of Unrest times the total number of combats initiated (including the one currently being initiated) — 1x Unrest for the first battle initiated, 2x Unrest for the second and so on.

Since the Unrest track is adjacent to the laurel wreath track on the player mat, I made the assumption that the laurel track was for tracking total combats initiated. That way a simple check of Unrest level times the value of the Laurel wreath track would result in the cost to initiate a combat. Later when I read the intended purpose of the laurel wreath track, I thought that maybe the one track could serve both purposes.

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This game is meant to be, for the most part, a study in dichotomies.

I like that most of the options presented to a player have multiple states that a player must choose between. Very nice decision making opportunities!

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Most of the actions are short and punchy, and can be done quickly.

I think this is the more important aspect to consider (moreso than game length). I don;'t mind longer games so long as the downtime is minimized, which it seems in this case that it will.

Anonymous
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

SiskNY wrote:
I think this is the more important aspect to consider (moreso than game length). I don;'t mind longer games so long as the downtime is minimized, which it seems in this case that it will.

I love Die Macher. However, the last time we played it, it lasted 5 hours and we were only half through the game. It is suppose to be a 3 hour game. Of course the reading (and understanding) of the rules took at least an hour. In general, since my gaming group only has 5 hours of playtime (7pm-midnight) we have decided that we have to play short games (60-90 minutes). For some reason a 90 minute game takes our group at least 3 hours. We finish the evening by playing a lighter game (20-30 minutes).

Your game length is VERY important. Longer games like Die Macher sell fewer quantities and there is less of a chance of getting it published. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with only publishing a couple of hundred copies of a game for more serious gamers.

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