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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

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

Ok, after my discussion with Seth, I got to thinking hypothetically as to how the game could be streamlined, if such a thing were desirable. The most likely edifice that could be taken down would probably be the system of diamond tokens/cities/markets. So let’s say those were removed. This would simplify things, but it would leave the problem of prefect abilities probably being weaker than what they’d need to be to make the game playable. So as an alternative, perhaps players are each given three tokens, numbered 1-3. When you choose a Prefect ability, you associate with it one of these numbers and that gives the degree of the ability that you can use. (So, for example, the Governor with a 3 token could reduce Unrest 3 levels).

This may be a good start, but Seth also worried that some of the actions themselves (e.g., production) were too complicated in and of themselves. With this system, I’d still be left with the problem of defining a meaningful set of actions that could vary in ability between 1-3 uses per turn. The two tricky ones appear to be “produce” and “add citizens”. Both could be connected to number of territories (ie, the number token would give the number of territories that could produce or the number of territories in which you could add citizens), but the reason that acitons aren’t currently based on such a scheme is because it makes those actions too weak...to have a sustainable income, for example, you need to be producing from all your territories, not just 1 or 2. So you’d almost always associate the “3” token with the production ability, which would be undesirable.

Just some thoughts. Nothing I’m ready to commit to yet, but just brainstorming how the game would be streamlined, if I wanted to do so...

-J

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

jhager wrote:

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.

To clarify my objectives a bit: I care not at all about making money off of this, or any other game -- that's all gravy. I would like to see this game published, if only to see a really "pretty" version of the game in existence, but also because I'd like people who like such games to have another game to enjoy.

I think that a 3 hour game of this scope wouldn't be unreasonable or off-putting, but obviously it's not entirely my call to make. Certainly folks who say "I only want to play a 60-90 minute game" wouldn't like this one, and I guess I'm not actively trying to appeal to that audience; it would just require cutting too much of what I consider interesting in the game. So, it will probably have to stand and fall as a "somewhat longish" game. Happily, it's not in the "done" stage yet, so there's still time for considering shortening changes!

Really, though, this is all conjecture until I actually playtest the latest version. I'm not all that worried about game length, to be honest. I don't think it will be that bad. I could be wrong, of course! But I do respect the concerns you guys are raising, and appreciate your bringing them up.

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

[edit] I see that while I was writing this, Jeff has posted about streamlining... I'll adress that post later, but I want to respond to this post in more detail as well.

jwarrend wrote:
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.

I agree. What I was saying is that your rules are more complex then they need to be to acheive what you want to acheive, I think.

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That said, it’s quite possible the game is overly complex for what it aims to be.

I don't think so. I think it could be just what you have described that you want it to be, and I think that to acheive it you might need to consider removing some of the "openess" (which I know you want) in order to streamline.

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I think part of the problem may be my verbosity moreso than the game itself, but it’s a valid concern.

As you say, the rulebook couild use some cleaning up... but my comments for the most part extend past the verbosity or confusion in the words of the rules. I've tried to respond to the rules themselves (and more importantly their purpose).

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Certainly, my opinion is not of much consequence,

Of course it is! Don't sell yourself short.

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but I don’t think it’s nearly as complex as you repeatedly allege.

I think it's important to note that I don't think the game is too complex... I just think the actions and systems are too complex. I think that's a big difference.

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The setup takes a little too long if you follow the algorithm, as as I mentioned, 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.

Unless you come in the box to set it up each time, players will have nothing but the algorithm to go by ;)

Just kidding, I think the table of setups is a decent idea. You could recommend a random selection or players could choose. You could actually create setups (Scenarios) and name them something, rather than random, which could include removing certain chronicles or structures or even Prefects from the game.

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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.

Yes, I know. My point is that I don't think it's over. When I think back on the original version of 8/7 Central or All For One, and look at their current incarnations, they look like alltogether different games. And they're STILL not done!

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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 see your point of view here, and I agree with it... but before you can playtest really, and GDW can probably be more constructive, if these kinds of 'loose ends' are tied up.

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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.

I don't think it's hard to remember, or an undue restriction either. I just wonder if it's necessary. If it doesn't matter weather you have the restriction or not, then better to omit the rule- that's my philosophy. Of course, if it is sort of important to make sure people aren't spread out all over the board from the start, then it's a fine rule.

Speaking of initial setup... 2 territories per player sounds good- you could go for 1 of each type of resource for example. What about 3? Might that jump start the game a little? Or would it be too much going on in the early turns? With 2 initial territories per player, does it take too long to fill up the board? Or with three would it fill up too quickly? These are some things you might think about when you playtest.

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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.

Starting at level 2 and advancing to level three is the same as starting at level 1 and advancing to 2, isn't it? Maybe each building should have it's cost associated with it (could still have Unrest involved- like 1 building might be (2*Unrest), another might be (Unrest+2), etc). Then you could add the discount for peasants present. This would break up that math- which I of course I can handle, but feels out of place.

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I think that the uncertainty of when an Historian will appear is an important element that gives tension to the process of recording Chronicles.

The biggest concern I have about this mechanic is just that... I see what you're trying to do, but I notice that in rounds 4-6 for example the uncertainty of scoring diminishes as the rounds go on. If you don't score in round 4, it's more likely you'll score in round 5. If you don't score in round 5, then round 6 will DEFINITELY produce an Historian.

The Evo-style die roll seems like it would keep the uncertainty a little more uncertain. Personally I think my suggestion of letting the players determine it by buying up N-1 scoring cards is very interesting for this game- as long as there are less scoring cards than players the end will definitely come as noone wants to be left out cold. And the scoring round will still be somewhat uncertain... but in a slightly different way. You'd have to consider not when the Historian might emerge, but when the thing your interested in might get chronicled. You also might have to work on multiple chronicles in case your first choice gets taken.

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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.

Hopefully my last paragraph explains my thoughts on that.

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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 total 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.

Not recently, but you have in the past (the algorithm for setting up historians in particular), and I could see it coming here ;)

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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.

This is the kind of thing that shouldn't need markers or counters, and as such I suspect there's a way to not only make the round/turn structure more intuitive, but reduce components as well!

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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.

I know you're a fan of 'continuous flow of turns'... is ther a way to eliminate the rounds alltogether? Maybe with my suggested scoring system to end the round (ratehr than a set number of turns), or some other system alltogether, it wouldn't matter which round it is or who's gone already.

Another thought, going back toward your current systems, is to have a flow of turns, but you cannot use a prefect more than once. A round could end when either a historian shows up (or the scoring cards are all used up, or whatever), OR when each player has used each prefect. Then for next round they're all available again... So there's a certain round end, and the possibility for a curtailed round based on player actions. What do you think of that?

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Going in some order of Prefects could be ok, perhaps even a random shuffling of the 4 Prefects.

Hmm... that might be interesting... 'roll' (or otherwise randomly determine) which prefect will be 'active' each round, and each player gets an action of their choice from that prefect. The 'roll' could really be a deck of cards with a particular number of each Prefect represented... some might even be more common than others.

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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.

You've mentioned that a couple times. Do you LIKE the diamonds? Are you looking to keep them, or ditch them? I think it's interesting to be able to upgrade your actions... I would think the Diamonds should be more scarce than it sounds like they are and so that upgraded actions are the exception and not the rule.

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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.

I think this needs evaluation, alon with all the abilities. Decide what the purpose of Settling is, then explain it... and best if it's understandable ;)

Sounds like the purpose is to move citizens around the board, to annex lands and attack territories. The Roads sound like an advance that gives you more flexibility in doing so, which sounds like a good ability to have. I don't know about the way it's implimented right now- might be fine, but is sort of confusing as written.

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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.

Yes, you've said this from the beginning, which is why I was suprised that there was some overlap. It's probably best to keep the strict seperation.

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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.

I like this aspect a lot.

... more later,
Seth

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

jwarrend wrote:
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.

You're right. I think the 2 resources is a good way to go.

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sedjtroll wrote:

There's some confusing language using pronouns in the rules, such as "A player may not attack a foreign player’s City if he has a Market in that City." It 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 must mean you can't attack a city with your own market in it- which doesn't make a lot of sense. 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”.

The question was "Can you attack a city with another player's market in it." I sort of figured that out eventually, but I like your succinct wording above much better than the wording in the rules. I don't like to have to guess at the meaning of a rule. Your "better rule" is exactly what I was thining would be better- let people annex cities, and if they had a market there then it's lost. The alternative is that you're allowed to have markets in your own cities, but they don't contribute a diamond to you.

OR... they DO contribute a diamond, and the city does not normally.

One MORE way to look at it is that cities have built in markets, so by annexing one your 'additional market' just becomes the built in market and by definition you've got markets in all your cities already.

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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.

That's not entirely true... you can still get MORE diamonds by building markets in other players' cities. Personally I think the 'Cities don't produce diamonds, markets do' idea best, so if you want your city to produce diamonds then you should build a market there.

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sedjtroll wrote:
Why the restricion of only 1 structure per turn per territory?

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.

I see your point. On the one hand, you want the peasants to reduce the cost of buildings, and they could move around as a group and decrease the cost of buildings in the next territory as well. On the other hand, it might be nice if there were an interesting choice as to weather to spread out your buildings or pile them all in one territory- maybe buildings up the value of a territory, and upping the values of multiple territories would be 'better' in some respects than upping the value of one territory a lot, but there could also be a benefit from having 1 territory that's stacked with structures.

Actually, 1 structure per territory per turn is probably an OK rule, and it makes some sense (they can only build one thing at a time) anyway. But this is one of those kinds of rules that I'd recommend making sure is necessary before adding a rule to deal with it.

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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.

What about not being allowed to build a level 2 structure? What about only building level 1 structures and then upgrading them to level 2 (by paying some cost, maybe their initial cost again, maybe some other cost)? The cost for each structure could be printed on the structure card, and could still rely on Unrest, and the cost for Upgrading could as well.

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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.

Is that really fair? I mean, it could be fair to the players, but I mean thematically. Also does it cause a problem if one player gets ahead inmoney and can afford 'better' buildings than other players?

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And the cost reduction for Peasants is meant to accomodate the fact that you’re giving up production to take that action.

I'm not sure I understand this. You give up production to build because you chose the Build action instead of the Produce action (this leads me to believe they should be on the same Prefect card- I forget if that's the case). But that's irrespective of how many Peasants you have.

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come on, Seth, you’re an engineer -- you can handle this little bit of math!

Of course I can :) But that doesn't mean others can too, or that I want to. It feels out of place to me.

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Let me equally apologize if I was too defensive.

Not at all, I think you were appropriately defensive for once :P

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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”.

I am certain this is a big step foreward from the earlier versions, but I think it's fair to say that it can still use a lot of streamlining- what game can't! Maybe Hansa or T&E... Those are about as streamlined as you can get.

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

jwarrend wrote:
The most likely edifice that could be taken down would probably be the system of diamond tokens/cities/markets. So let’s say those were removed.

This is just the kind of streamlining I was referring to. The whole Diamond business seemed like it was tacked on or left over from an earlier version (which I believe it was). The good thing about it was that it allowed a way to upgrade your actions, an idea which I liked, but that can probably be accomplished another way.

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This would simplify things, but it would leave the problem of prefect abilities probably being weaker than what they’d need to be to make the game playable.

Is this a problem you were experiencing, or a problem created by the removal of the diamonds?

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So as an alternative, perhaps players are each given three tokens, numbered 1-3. When you choose a Prefect ability, you associate with it one of these numbers and that gives the degree of the ability that you can use. (So, for example, the Governor with a 3 token could reduce Unrest 3 levels).

I think there's probably a better way to impliment the 'upgradable actions' idea. If I think of one I'll let you know. I don't much like the idea of the 1, 2, and 3 tokens.

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This may be a good start, but Seth also worried that some of the actions themselves were too complicated in and of themselves. With this system, I’d still be left with the problem of defining a meaningful set of actions that could vary in ability between 1-3 uses per turn.

Maybe that's it- maybe prefects could be allowed to be used more than once a turn, and their second use could be a 'higher level' use than the first. Thus you give up other types of actions to upgrade your actions in a particular Prefect.

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The two tricky ones appear to be “produce” and “add citizens”.

Like I said, I'm not a fan of the 1, 2, 3 tokens, and therefore I don't much like the sound of your proposed alternatives to Produce and Populate actions. Why does the Populate action need to be tied to territories? Perhaps the Populate action allows you to 'buy' citizens at a cost of Crops. and place them wherever you like (respecting whatever capacity limits exist on the board). Maybe additional citizens in a territory cost less so that you can populate 1 territory with three citizens for less crops than populating 3 territories with 1 each. Maybe 2 Crop for the first citizen placed in a territory and 1 crop for each additional citizen in that same territory.

The Produce action doesn't sound all that upgradable... unless you can produce a second time (paying an extra action in other words) to upgrade it somehow. Maybe the first production action is normal... your territories produce for whoever has peasants in it- while the second action produces again for just your peasants.

Just thinking out loud here...

- Seth

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

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Jeff:
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.
Seth:
I don't think it's hard to remember, or an undue restriction either. I just wonder if it's necessary. If it doesn't matter weather you have the restriction or not, then better to omit the rule- that's my philosophy.

Ah, but the flaw in your argument is the assumption that omitting the restriction would allow you to omit a rule. It wouldn’t -- people would still question “but do my starting provinces have to be adjacent, or can they be anywhere on the board?” A rule will still be needed to arbitrate this ambiguity. Many of the rules that I think you’re considering unnecessary are really meant to arbitrate these kinds of ambiguous questions. In fact, many are in there because of direct questions that people asked in playtests. If you leave them out, the rules may feel more streamlined, but there will be crucial questions that players won’t be able to find answers for. In this particular case, I made a decision in favor of the common-sense restriction one would expect. It would be weird to have an empire that has one Territory in Sarmatia and the other in Ethiopia, and none in between.

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Speaking of initial setup... 2 territories per player sounds good- you could go for 1 of each type of resource for example. What about 3? Might that jump start the game a little? Or would it be too much going on in the early turns? With 2 initial territories per player, does it take too long to fill up the board? Or with three would it fill up too quickly? These are some things you might think about when you playtest.

Yes, the initial setup is important to get right so that the game “ramps up” at an appropriate rate so that the game ends at a stage when players have had time to make some progress, but not do everything under the sun. It’s somewhat hard to test the initial setup since you’re testing the mechanics at the same time; you just have to make the best guesses you can.

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Starting at level 2 and advancing to level three is the same as starting at level 1 and advancing to 2, isn't it?

My point was that in a model where there are only 2 levels of structures, players could either start at “level 1”, where they can buy structures, or they could start at “level 0”, where they must advance one level to be able to buy structures (and there’s one additional level beyond that).

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Maybe each building should have it's cost associated with it (could still have Unrest involved- like 1 building might be (2*Unrest), another might be (Unrest+2), etc). Then you could add the discount for peasants present. This would break up that math- which I of course I can handle, but feels out of place.

But in your model, every building has its own math problem. Building-specific costs are undesirable from an elegant simplicity standpoint. I want to keep things systematic if possible.

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The biggest concern I have about this mechanic is just that... I see what you're trying to do, but I notice that in rounds 4-6 for example the uncertainty of scoring diminishes as the rounds go on. If you don't score in round 4, it's more likely you'll score in round 5. If you don't score in round 5, then round 6 will DEFINITELY produce an Historian.

Ok, I see your point.

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The Evo-style die roll seems like it would keep the uncertainty a little more uncertain.

I’ll look into this.

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Personally I think my suggestion of letting the players determine it by buying up N-1 scoring cards is very interesting for this game

It’s just not the way I want things to work; I want players to be able to pursue multiple VP routes, and to be able to have success in doing so. I don’t want you to lose the game because someone else claimed a card that you were going for. It’s a fine source of tension, but it’s inconsistent with the kind of competition I’m trying to set the players with. There are scarcity issues a player must navigate, but I don’t think I want this to be one of them. I appreciate the idea, but you have to understand that when someone says “I don’t want to implement that suggestion”, it’s not secret code for “please keep trying to convince me to make this change, despite my protestations to the contrary”.

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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.

This is the kind of thing that shouldn't need markers or counters, and as such I suspect there's a way to not only make the round/turn structure more intuitive, but reduce components as well!

Forgive me for getting annoyed here, but this feels like extreme nitpicking here. This really is not that bad. You get to take 3 Prefect actions each game turn. When you’ve used an ability, you place a marker on that space on your mat, to indicate that it’s been used. This has the simultaneous effect of reminding you how many actions you have left this game turn. Could it be done differently? Yes. Originally, I had cards, and you discarded a card upon using it. Alternatively, you could just remember what prefects you’ve used. But it’s probably important to know what prefects other players have used, as well; to know, for example, if Joe is going to be able to attack me this turn or if he’s already used his empire prefect. It may be possible to keep track of all this stuff mentally, but three markers per player is a small price to pay to keep track of who has done what. I don’t know how much more intuitive it can get than “place a marker on the prefect you just used.” This is really, really easy stuff.

Now, I don’t dispute that it might be better to have a model where the Prefect actions come in the same order for all players. But the argument for that isn’t that it’s more intuitive or reduces componentry; rather, it would have to be that the additional restriction makes decisions more interesting. I’m not convinced that it does. It’s also more obviously like Puerto Rico, and as you know, I hate borrowing...

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I know you're a fan of 'continuous flow of turns'... is ther a way to eliminate the rounds alltogether?

The more pertinent question would be whether there’s a compelling reason to do so. I’m not sure I am at all unhappy with the round-based nature of the game. It seems to allow several systems to coexist pretty happily.

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Another thought, going back toward your current systems, is to have a flow of turns, but you cannot use a prefect more than once. A round could end when either a historian shows up (or the scoring cards are all used up, or whatever), OR when each player has used each prefect. Then for next round they're all available again... So there's a certain round end, and the possibility for a curtailed round based on player actions. What do you think of that?

It’s a different way of doing things; seems like one of those ideas that I’ll keep in mind should the current system prove deficient in testing.

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Hmm... that might be interesting... 'roll' (or otherwise randomly determine) which prefect will be 'active' each round,

My thinking was that it would be more that each game turn, you’d shuffle the 4 prefect cards and then you’d lay them out, and that would be the order in which the Prefect actions would occur. So each time it was your turn, you’d use the active Prefect, or pass (since you could only take 3 actions per turn).

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You've mentioned that a couple times. Do you LIKE the diamonds? Are you looking to keep them, or ditch them? I think it's interesting to be able to upgrade your actions... I would think the Diamonds should be more scarce than it sounds like they are and so that upgraded actions are the exception and not the rule.

I think they are a good means to permit upgradable actions, and I think upgrading actions is crucial to the game working. Beyond that, I’m not committed to keeping them, but I like the market mechanic as a dual-purpose way to increase cooperation and to give upgradable actions.

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Sounds like the purpose is to move citizens around the board, to annex lands and attack territories.

The function of the “Settle” action is only movement, but the motivation of doing so is as you say, to annex and attack.

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I see your point. On the one hand, you want the peasants to reduce the cost of buildings, and they could move around as a group and decrease the cost of buildings in the next territory as well. On the other hand, it might be nice if there were an interesting choice as to weather to spread out your buildings or pile them all in one territory- maybe buildings up the value of a territory, and upping the values of multiple territories would be 'better' in some respects than upping the value of one territory a lot, but there could also be a benefit from having 1 territory that's stacked with structures.

Oh, I do think there’s this benefit, and indeed, there will probably be a scoring system to reward it. The restriction is simply that you can’t stock that one territory all in one turn, that’s all.

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But this is one of those kinds of rules that I'd recommend making sure is necessary before adding a rule to deal with it.

I’m pretty sure it’s necessary, for reasons previously stated.

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Jeff: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.
Seth:Is that really fair? I mean, it could be fair to the players, but I mean thematically. Also does it cause a problem if one player gets ahead inmoney and can afford 'better' buildings than other players?

It may be too weak an incentive to advancement; that’s my main concern. One player may be able to afford “better” buildings, but still must Advance to be able to build them.

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Jeff:And the cost reduction for Peasants is meant to accomodate the fact that you’re giving up production to take that action.
Seth:I'm not sure I understand this. You give up production to build because you chose the Build action instead of the Produce action (this leads me to believe they should be on the same Prefect card- I forget if that's the case). But that's irrespective of how many Peasants you have.

The point is, I think, that to have enough money, you need to produce every turn. If you give up production to build AND must spend all your resources to do so, I think it might make building too costly. The current system is meant to mitigate that somewhat.

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Of course I can :) But that doesn't mean others can too, or that I want to. It feels out of place to me.

Maybe this game isn’t for you then, because I just can’t bring myself to see this as tough. Your base cost for doing almost everything is the unrest level. When you’re building something, you multiply that cost by the structure’s level. Then, you get a discount based on the peasants you have in the Territory. It’s 6th grade math. You can do it in your head. Moreover, to be “out of place” it would have to be poorly thematically motivated. I think the cost of the more expensive structures is appropriately modeled by the multiplicative factor, and the discount models that the more guys you have working on something, the easier it will be to do it.

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I am certain this is a big step foreward from the earlier versions, but I think it's fair to say that it can still use a lot of streamlining- what game can't! Maybe Hansa or T&E... Those are about as streamlined as you can get.

Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t trying to be Hansa. This will always be a somewhat long, somewhat complicated game. You have to balance simplicity with depth. There are tons of ways to streamline -- go to 1 resource type, 1 citizen type, 1 goal category, etc -- but streamline too much, and you lose the richness and variety of the game experience (assuming that it even has that in the first place). It’s important to me to have very different strategies be possible and plausible, and there’s a certain amount of infrastruture required to make that work. So, streamlining for streamlining’s sake could be equally bad. But I grant your overall point, that it’s worth trying. We could quibble all night about how to quantify whether it really needs a “lot” of streamlining or not...

Thanks again,

Jeff

sedjtroll
sedjtroll's picture
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

jwarrend wrote:
Ah, but the flaw in your argument is the assumption that omitting the restriction would allow you to omit a rule. It wouldn’t -- people would still question “but do my starting provinces have to be adjacent, or can they be anywhere on the board?” A rule will still be needed to arbitrate this ambiguity.

Well, that depends on how the setup rule is phrased really. For what it's worth, I agree with you (now, if not before) that it makes the most sense to start with neighboring territories. The reason I questioned it was basically because someone else did, so I thought it might be worth looking into to see if it even mattered. It turns out that thematically (even if for no other reason) it DOES matter.
<br />
--------------------------- ASIDE ---------------------------<br />
As for the general case of omitting a restriction vs omitting a rule... I've had discussions of this with Scurra over details of A41. In my opinion, rules need to tell people what they are allowed to do and how to play the game, not all the things they're not allowed to do. Here's an analogy:</p>
<p>As you know, I'm a structural engineer. We prepare contract documents for people building buildings. Those documents go through a plancheck by building officials, who sometimes ask for more information. Sometimes the BO wants the plans to say that a particular thing cannot be done, or cannot be done a certain way. When this happens, my boss loves to tell the BO on the phone "They can't land a 747 on the roof either- do you want me to put THAT on the plans?"</p>
<p>The point is that you could go on forever listing off every little thing that cannot be done on the plans- or in our case, the rules. I prefer rules that state clearly what CAN be done, and if it CANNOT be done then it follows from not being listed as allowed by the rules.</p>
<p>As an example, in Tigris & Euphrates it says that a Leader may be placed only adjacent to a Red tile. It does not say "You cannot place a leader next to a Black, green, or Blue tile, unless also adjacent to a Red tile, and you cannot place a Leader adjacent to no tiles". Those rules also state that you cannot place any tiles on the rivers except the Blue tiles, but that's reiterating a specific exception to the rule that you can place the other tiles anywhere. I am all for pointing out exceptions, but I am against having exceptions when possible.<br />
--------------------------- END ASIDE ---------------------------<br />

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It’s somewhat hard to test the initial setup since you’re testing the mechanics at the same time; you just have to make the best guesses you can.

So I was asking... you've tested with two... do you think starting with three would make the board fill up too fast and give people too much freedom of action too early, or not? Alternatively, in your tests starting with 2 territories, have you found that the game drags a little until people make some conquest headway, or does it seem to feel right?

The observation was that perhaps (and I have no idea, which is why I was asking) starting with three territories instead of two might throw the game into interesting conflict sooner and basically condense the game down to the interesting part. Then again, it might just make the early turns longer as you have more things to deal with. I don't know.

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In a model where there are only 2 levels of structures, players could either start at “level 1”, where they can buy structures, or they could start at “level 0”, where they must advance one level to be able to buy structures (and there’s one additional level beyond that).

I think I mistook the levels entirely. Are the structures the things that have levels (you can buy a lvl 1 or a lvl 2 version of a structure)? Or are the Civs the things that have levels, and you have to be a 'level 2' civ in order to build the Road (or whatever might be a level 2 structure)? So like noone's building an Aquaduct until their civ reaches a particular level... not just when they have the correct resources.

I'm starting to understand now I think... That certainly sounds better than just having buildings that are upgradable.

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Building-specific costs are undesirable from an elegant simplicity standpoint. I want to keep things systematic if possible.

Well, the difference is the balance of the buildings I guess. If they all cost the same then they had better either be balanced, or will be used unevenly. This might be fine. Imagine if all the buildings in PR had the same cost, but you could only buy from a column if you had the appropriate number of Quarries. In that case the number of quarries is like the civ's level, and the buildings, which all have different powers, also have the same cost. In that case, would you be more or less likely to buy the University than you would in a normal game? What about the Factory?

After imagining that, if that's the way your buildings are supposed to work then that's fine. Now that I think of it, that might be a really interesting variant to PR...

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Seth wrote:

Personally I think my suggestion of letting the players determine it by buying up N-1 scoring cards is very interesting for this game

It’s just not the way I want things to work; I want players to be able to pursue multiple VP routes, and to be able to have success in doing so. I don’t want you to lose the game because someone else claimed a card that you were going for. It’s a fine source of tension, but it’s inconsistent with the kind of competition I’m trying to set the players with. There are scarcity issues a player must navigate, but I don’t think I want this to be one of them.
This is all well and good. I still thought it was interesting and thought I'd try and say why, since it sounded like I hadn't fully communicated it the first time.

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I appreciate the idea, but you have to understand that when someone says “I don’t want to implement that suggestion”, it’s not secret code for “please keep trying to convince me to make this change, despite my protestations to the contrary”.

I'm not trying to convince anybody to make any specific changes. I'm just looking for possibilities other than the ones you currently have that I think might be worth looking at. You said you wanted uncertainty in when the scoring occurs. In the past you've said you dislike random elements. I was examining an option which introduced uncertain scoring times at the behest of the players as opposed to a random or semi-random element. That's all.

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Forgive me for getting annoyed here, but this feels like extreme nitpicking here. This really is not that bad.

I didn't say it was bad, I asked if it was necessary, and suggested that if not, it might be removed. I agree it's not that bad to have 3 tokens which you place on the actions to let everyon know which you've taken this round, and consequently track the number of rounds/actions taken. In this way the answer to my original question ("is there a way to track the turns/rounds") is "yes."

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The more pertinent question would be whether there’s a compelling reason to [eliminate rounds and have a continuous flow of turns]. I’m not sure I am at all unhappy with the round-based nature of the game. It seems to allow several systems to coexist pretty happily.

There may be no compelling reason. Or maybe a good reason to not have rounds is so that you don't have to track them. Or so you don't have a PR style Governer/turn order effect. Or maybe so that the scoring rounds or game length can rely more on player actions than on a schedule (could be either good or bad).

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My thinking was that it would be more that each game turn, you’d shuffle the 4 prefect cards and then you’d lay them out, and that would be the order in which the Prefect actions would occur. So each time it was your turn, you’d use the active Prefect, or pass (since you could only take 3 actions per turn).

This is a decent idea. Similar to my other suggestion of having a deck of prefect cards (could be weighted toward some prefects more than others) and revealing them one at a time. However my suggestion means you can't necessarily do the action you want because it might not come up. The standard 'shuffling the 4' idea might be better for that reason, so you can always do the action you want, but you might do it before or after other things. I also like how your idea has all players acting in the same order, I think.

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Seth wrote:
weather to spread out your buildings or pile them all in one territory- maybe buildings up the value of a territory, and upping the values of multiple territories would be 'better' in some respects than upping the value of one territory a lot, but there could also be a benefit from having 1 territory that's stacked with structures.

Oh, I do think there’s this benefit, and indeed, there will probably be a scoring system to reward it. The restriction is simply that you can’t stock that one territory all in one turn, that’s all.

So the game is steering people away from stocking 1 territory by allowing multiple building in a turn but not in the same place. This is fine, if that's what you are trying to do. You said you like people to be able to impliment different strategies... I don't know if there are any strategies that can reasonably be furthered by stacking structures in one territory (over spreading them out), but if there is then limiting building to 1 structure/territory/turn doesn't much allow for that. If there is no such strategy than it deosn't matter.

The impression I get for the game is that likely a "1 structure per turn TOTAL" is the rule, and you can break that rule by 'upgrading' that action (was adding diamonds, may be something else instead). I also get the impression that upgraded actions should be the exception, not the rule, and therefore allowing the exception (an extra building) to be placed in the same territory OR in a different one would allow more different strategies to flourish without breaking the game.

The one thing that might be a problem, and maybe this is what you're worried about, is people building multple cheap structures in 1 territory, then moving all their peasants to the next territory and building a bunch more cheap structures. This may be a concern, or it may not since, as you say, people are giving up a lot of production to do that and resources should be tight. I think it is also mitigated if "a bunch" of structures is maybe 2 over the standard 1. It's more of a problem if you can spend a handful of Gold and Diamonds to throw down 6 structures in one turn. It seems to me that that scenario is undesireable even if they CAN'T all be in the same territory.

- Seth

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

Quote:

This is just the kind of streamlining I was referring to. The whole Diamond business seemed like it was tacked on or left over from an earlier version (which I believe it was).

Well, a lot of the game is ‘left over’ from an earlier version, in a sense. Really, the diamond tokens actually motivated my change from “Prefect Cards” to a Prefect “mat”, with every Prefect ability being a base of 1, but expandable with Diamonds. Originally, I added the diamonds/cities mechanics to solve a few different problems. Markets are new to this system. But let’s look for a moment at the “positives” of this subsystem:

-- Gives a way to upgrade actions
-- Enhances cooperation
-- Gives a scoring route (# structures in cities)
-- Gives a decision with respect to when to convert a Territory and which to convert

I can’t emphasize how interesting and agonizing this last decision will be. If you convert a Territory too early in the game, before you have a stable production machine going, it can be crippling. But if you wait too long, you won’t have enough flexibility to do the things you need to do in the game.

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Is [a need for upgradability] a problem you were experiencing, or a problem created by the removal of the diamonds?

Originally, you had 2 Prefect cards, and the abilities on them were numbered 1-3. In that case, the game was too loose -- things came too easily. So in a way, Diamonds were a way to actually reduce the looseness of the game. But if they’re removed entirely, the game will be too tight. The game depends on being able to do certain things more than once -- sometimes. I fear that if you couldn’t, I’m pretty sure the game would just move along too slowly, and you’d need more net turns.

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I think there's probably a better way to impliment the 'upgradable actions' idea. If I think of one I'll let you know. I don't much like the idea of the 1, 2, and 3 tokens.

The problem with the “1,2,3” tokens is primarily that it would make the game a little too easy; it’s the equivalent of giving you 3 diamond tokens every turn, from the start of the game. I think it might be too much. I don’t have a great alternative.

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Why does the Populate action need to be tied to territories?

The main reason is to encourage you to expand your empire, which is a costly thing to do, but necessary so you can grow your population at a faster rate. It’s meant to prevent the “isolationist” strategy from being the dominant strategy in the game (although I do still want it to be viable).

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Perhaps the Populate action allows you to 'buy' citizens at a cost of Crops. and place them wherever you like (respecting whatever capacity limits exist on the board). Maybe additional citizens in a territory cost less so that you can populate 1 territory with three citizens for less crops than populating 3 territories with 1 each. Maybe 2 Crop for the first citizen placed in a territory and 1 crop for each additional citizen in that same territory.

It would have to work the other way around, but it’s an ok idea.

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The Produce action doesn't sound all that upgradable... unless you can produce a second time (paying an extra action in other words) to upgrade it somehow.

The economy is funny in this way; if you can’t produce in every territory, you’ll be tight on cash, but if you can double-produce in every territory, it will be too easy. There’s always the possibility of shifting the economy, I suppose; perhaps, for example, the numbers on the unrest track could simply be bumped up (the track could start at 4, for example), and then double-production wouldn’t be a bad thing. But there are undoubtably unintended consequences to doing that.

The bottom line is that it’s possible that removing the diamonds/cities/markets construct could work, but this subsystem has a lot of nice effects and it’s hard to imagine you could replace those effects with just one simpler system. It may be possible to live without some or all of those effects, however...

-Jeff

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

sedjtroll wrote:

As for the general case of omitting a restriction vs omitting a rule...

The problem is, though, that people come into a game not with a blank slate but with some preconceived ideas of how things are going to work based on games they’ve played before. A rulebook needs to answer the most obvious questions that players might have based on this past experience, and if you’re deliberately disallowing something that players might otherwise be inclined to think they could do, you should say so if only to eliminate the confusion. I fully agree that if you write well, you can cover a lot of these loopholes and ambiguities in a compact way. Personally, I just like my rules to be thorough and as airtight as I can make them, even if they’re a little more wordy as a result. It’s just the side I prefer to err on, that’s all.

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It’s somewhat hard to test the initial setup since you’re testing the mechanics at the same time; you just have to make the best guesses you can.

So I was asking... you've tested with two... do you think starting with three would make the board fill up too fast and give people too much freedom of action too early, or not? Alternatively, in your tests starting with 2 territories, have you found that the game drags a little until people make some conquest headway, or does it seem to feel right?

There are really three aspects to the starting ramp up -- how many territories you have (affects how quickly you can ramp up population), the number of guys you’re given (affects how quickly you can ramp up production) and the number of resources you’re given (affects how much you can pay for before you’ve started producing). We’ve iterated over various permutations of these variables. I think that in the 6 player game, 2 territories per player is ok, but with 4 or 5, it might make impingement between players a little too slow. There’s a good chance I’ll go up to 3. I do worry a bit that doing so would basically mean that a common strategy would be to keep 2 production territories and convert the 3rd to a city. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but I think it would be better if you had to work a little harder to get that city territory...I think so, anyway.

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The observation was that perhaps (and I have no idea, which is why I was asking) starting with three territories instead of two might throw the game into interesting conflict sooner and basically condense the game down to the interesting part. Then again, it might just make the early turns longer as you have more things to deal with. I don't know.

I think the “ramp up” is interesting in its own right, but you don’t want it to last forever. It’s definitely something I’ve had on the radar for a long time, and it’s still a strong possibility that you’ll start with 3 territories. Your arguments are valid.

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I think I mistook the levels entirely. Are the structures the things that have levels (you can buy a lvl 1 or a lvl 2 version of a structure)?

Each category (political, civic, cultural) has 3 structures -- a level 1, level 2, and level 3. To be able to build level 2 structures, you have to advance in the appropriate category, and again to buy level 3. Each structure has 2 attributes, and you choose one to build -- either you get an immediate payout in achievement tokens, or you get the structure’s special ability. All of the special abilities are listed at the end of the rulebook, if you’re interested in checking them out.

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Or are the Civs the things that have levels, and you have to be a 'level 2' civ in order to build the Road (or whatever might be a level 2 structure)? So like noone's building an Aquaduct until their civ reaches a particular level... not just when they have the correct resources.

Yes, this is the right way to see it.

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Well, the difference is the balance of the buildings I guess. If they all cost the same then they had better either be balanced, or will be used unevenly.

I completely agree, they will hopefully be balanced, to the extent that it will be possible given the variety of effects that they have. Each level 2 structure should be “better” than all level 1 structures, and roughly “as good” as the level 2 structures in the other 2 categories.

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I appreciate the idea, but you have to understand that when someone says “I don’t want to implement that suggestion”, it’s not secret code for “please keep trying to convince me to make this change, despite my protestations to the contrary”.

I'm not trying to convince anybody to make any specific changes. I'm just looking for possibilities other than the ones you currently have that I think might be worth looking at. You said you wanted uncertainty in when the scoring occurs. In the past you've said you dislike random elements. I was examining an option which introduced uncertain scoring times at the behest of the players as opposed to a random or semi-random element. That's all.

Very well, I appreciate the thoughtful idea, and agree that it has merit. But I don’t think that some general statement of preference I may have made at some point in the past is helpful in making me more interested in this particular idea (moreover, saying that I don’t like random elements is belied by almost every one of my games, each of which has some random element of some sort!) I really think that a player-triggered scoring round, while reducing “randomness”, has enough aspects that I don’t like that it doesn’t work for this game.

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Or maybe a good reason to not have rounds is so that you don't have to track them.

That’s not a good enough reason, to me. Moreover, if there’s a restriction to which Prefects you can use (e.g., in your suggested model, where you have to use all Prefects once before you can reuse another), there’s always going to be some tracking to keep track of which you’ve used.

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Or so you don't have a PR style Governer/turn order effect.

Again, though, I think that “use any prefect you want” mitigates this better than a model like I proposed where the Prefects would occur for all players in a fixed order.

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Or maybe so that the scoring rounds or game length can rely more on player actions than on a schedule (could be either good or bad).

I do want the game length to rely on a schedule -- this is a design primitive in this case, and is non-negotiable. I see your point about how a more “uncertain” method of Historian distribution could work better. Really, the most random way would just be to shuffle them all into the deck, but then you run the risk of the game ending much too soon. My “smart shuffle” is meant to ensure the game is the right length.

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So the game is steering people away from stocking 1 territory by allowing multiple building in a turn but not in the same place. This is fine, if that's what you are trying to do. You said you like people to be able to impliment different strategies... I don't know if there are any strategies that can reasonably be furthered by stacking structures in one territory (over spreading them out), but if there is then limiting building to 1 structure/territory/turn doesn't much allow for that. If there is no such strategy than it deosn't matter.

It does allow for that, but it simply means you must do it over time rather than at the moment that you happen to have a preponderence of peasants in your territory. The game lasts 12 turns, and no territory can have more buildings than its capacity (max 6), so there’s plenty of time to fully stock a territory, if it’s desirable to do so.

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I think it is also mitigated if "a bunch" of structures is maybe 2 over the standard 1. It's more of a problem if you can spend a handful of Gold and Diamonds to throw down 6 structures in one turn. It seems to me that that scenario is undesireable even if they CAN'T all be in the same territory.

Ok, I see your point. I’ll think about it some more; perhaps the restriction is unnecessary. Interestingly, I have one or two more restrictions up my sleeve that weren’t in this rulebook but may be. I think I’m going to add a rule whereby you’re only allowed to build one of a given type of strucure (category and level) per turn. The reason being that if you’re pursuing an all-out military strategy, and you’ve advanced to level 3 political structures, perhaps all you want to do is drop multiple level 3 structures when you build, but this could give you more political tokens than I think you should be able to get; in other words, there’s nothing you give up by specializing. I want specialization -- “extreme” strategies -- to be viable but also somewhat more challenging than a certain amount of diversification, I think. I think this little rule change pulls that off well.

-Jeff

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

Jeff,

I think it is great that you workshop this game. It's obvious that you already put a huge amount of thought, time and effort into this project. I have read the rulebook only a couple of times and I'm sure that I have missed many of the finer points, but there are some things I would like to comment on anyway.

First some minor things. You mention "prefect cards" somewhere, but there aren't any prefect cards mentioned on the component list. It took me a while to figure out that the prefects are spaces on your mat.

I was also confused by the term "settle", because when you choose that action your people move somewhere else. To me the term "settle" means something along the lines of settling down somewhere, staying put and cultivating the land. I think I would prefer the term "migrate" here. It probably just depends on your point of view and it's just a minor issue anyway.

Overall the game reminds me a bit of "Goa". Like in "Goa" there's a rigid turn structure where players take 3 actions per turn, followed by an event (in Goa: an auction). Also, on the surface there isn't much player interaction, you mostly take your turns in isolation and try the optimize the use of your resources within a limited number of actions.

In "Goa" most of the player interaction takes place during an auction, which is one the greatest tension points in the game. There seems to be a bit more player interaction in "Sands of Time", through the combat, the shared resource production, the markets, and the "draft/auction" mechanic of the advance cards. Another point of tension in your game is the more or less unpredictable appearance of the scoring cards, which introduces a bit of a "push-your-luck" mechanics, not unlike the founding of colonies in "Goa".

Mind you, I'm not saying this game is too similar to "Goa", because it certainly isn't, but there are some similarities in where the points of tension are (player interaction, luck and the formulation of a strategic plan).

You seem to be fond of choices where a player has to choose between taking action A OR action B. There are lots of pairs in the game: two main types or resources, two types of units, the back and front of several cards have different functions, the two functions of the prefects and so forth. This forces a player to make a choice, but I wonder if you didn't go overboard here and there a little. Is it really necessary to have two different resources? Two types of units? I wonder how much you would lose if there were only one resources type. During playtesting I would keep a close eye on whether having two types of resources does really add anything to the game other than complexity.

I like the idea of the base mechanic of this game; the prefects. It forces the players to make a choice, because taking action 1 of prefect A means you cannot do action 2 of the same prefect later on in the same round. This could make for a nice, agonizing decision. However, the use of diamonds for a "better" action comes accross as fiddly. I can see why you want it, but it makes the actions much less "short and snappy".

Perhaps it is an idea to let a player choose a prefect more than once during a turn, if he wants, but he pays one diamond for each marker that is already on that prefect. You probably want to add an extra round to each turn, to restore the balance to the game. Maybe that would add length to the game. On the other hand each individual action will probably take less time, so perhaps it balances out.

I don't like the idea of the turn order cards. I tried something similar in my area-majority game, but it was a disaster. It destroyed the flow of the game, because players are used to turn order simply going in clockwise direction ("Whose turn is it again? Oh, my turn?"). It works in games like El Grande and Maharaja, because in those games it is basically the whole focus of the game, not just a by product to balance a possible problem. I'm not even convinced that turn order will be much of a problem in your game, if you make sure that each indivual action is short and snappy.

I would just do away with the whole turn order card system. Just add a start player card to the game and give that card at the end of a turn to a player based on something in the game state. Perhaps whenever you choose prefect X you receive the start player card. This would have the effect that the last player to choose prefect X is the starting player for the next turn.

Auctioning advance cards. This is abusable. If there's an advance card I already have it always makes sense to auction it, see how much others are willing to pay, and if I don't like the offer I can take another action for free anyway. Perhaps you could change this so that whenever you auction an advance you have to take the highest offer. That would certainly make it a very exciting action to select. However, it seems that this is intended as a minor action, not as a major point of tension, so perhaps you want a different solution.

Double sided cards. I don't like the idea of double sided cards. I think it will be weird and fiddly, turning around cards to see what's on the other side. Isn't it much simpler to print both effects of the card on one side?

Updating chronicles. What happens if I update a chronicle card, for example because my empire has grown, and later my empire shrinks again? Is my chronicle card automatically updated? Or do I keep my bonus, because history has already been recorded? I assume the latter, but I think the former could introduce a great source of tension.

Trade. The trading mechanic seems tacked on. Imagine Puerto Rico with trading, that's how it feels to me. You name a few things that may not be traded, but it is not clear what can be traded. When may trading between players happen? During their turn, or...? If I were you I would either integrate the trading more into the game, perhaps as a prefect ability, or I would just cut it out altogether. Also, trading can be a huge timesink.

This is a big game and there's much you can streamline, if you are willing to. I would advise you to rethink the use of each little rules and see if they are really necessary. Sometimes a rule is needed to ensure the integrity and balance of the game system, sometimes a rule introduces a nice dillema. Sometimes a rule just adds complexity without necessarily making the game better.

For example: "The player may close his Market at any time during the game; he removes the Peasant token from the Market and returns it to his supply". Is this rule really necessary? Perhaps there's a very good reason why this rule is there. Or maybe you can do without the rule, streamlineing the game a bit more and make the decision to build a market somewhere a bit more important in the process.

Well, that's all that came to mind right now. I hope it has given you some food for thought.

Good luck with the design!

- René Wiersma

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

zaiga wrote:

First some minor things. You mention "prefect cards" somewhere, but there aren't any prefect cards mentioned on the component list. It took me a while to figure out that the prefects are spaces on your mat.

Sorry about that! Originally there were “prefect cards”, but I’ve done away with that for this iteration. I thought I had removed all reference of them from the rules, but I missed one or two, I guess...

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I was also confused by the term "settle"... I think I would prefer the term "migrate" here.

I agree, “migrate” is a much more accurate term. I’ll make the change, thanks!

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Overall the game reminds me a bit of "Goa"... I'm not saying this game is too similar to "Goa", because it certainly isn't, but there are some similarities in where the points of tension are (player interaction, luck and the formulation of a strategic plan).

Interesting; I haven’t played Goa or read much about it. I’ll have to check it out.

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You seem to be fond of choices where a player has to choose between taking action A OR action B.

Not in all designs, but yes, this one definitely has “dichotomy” as a foundational principal.

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This forces a player to make a choice, but I wonder if you didn't go overboard here and there a little. Is it really necessary to have two different resources? Two types of units? I wonder how much you would lose if there were only one resources type. During playtesting I would keep a close eye on whether having two types of resources does really add anything to the game other than complexity.

It’s true, I may have gotten a bit too self-indulgent. I elsewhere justified the two different resource types by the asymmetry between them: crops lead to “expansion”-oriented actions, whereas gold leads to “enhancement” oriented actions. I think you need a blend of the two in the game, but extreme strategies built around one or the other could also work.

I confess that I don’t have quite as good a justification for the two types of Citizens; indeed, unless one is feeling pretty military, warriors are probably less important in the game than Peasants. It may be a perfectly seamless change to go to one citizen type. I’ll have to think about.

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I like the idea of the base mechanic of this game; the prefects. It forces the players to make a choice, because taking action 1 of prefect A means you cannot do action 2 of the same prefect later on in the same round. This could make for a nice, agonizing decision. However, the use of diamonds for a "better" action comes accross as fiddly. I can see why you want it, but it makes the actions much less "short and snappy".

I think that what I’m going for here is to give you the flexibility to sometimes do more in a given turn, but not in every turn. The idea is that sometimes, you’ll really want/need to attack twice in one turn, for example. The diamonds are a simple way to facilitate that. The actions and turns should still be short and snappy, but the added flexibility may lead to AP. I’m concerned that without the flexibility to “upgrade” actions, the game will just plod along a bit too slowly.

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Perhaps it is an idea to let a player choose a prefect more than once during a turn, if he wants, but he pays one diamond for each marker that is already on that prefect.

I like this idea, actually, but the sticky wicket continues to be the “Production” action; if you let players produce twice in a turn, I think that it will just be too easy to afford things. I just haven’t come up with a great variation for this action to make something like your proposed mechanic work, though I agree it has merit.

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I don't like the idea of the turn order cards...
I would just do away with the whole turn order card system. Just add a start player card to the game and give that card at the end of a turn to a player based on something in the game state. Perhaps whenever you choose prefect X you receive the start player card. This would have the effect that the last player to choose prefect X is the starting player for the next turn.

I agree, a clockwise order is best for now. An idea, like yours, to rotate start player around the table based on game state is a good thing to consider. One could even have an auction for the privelege, but I don’t really like that kind of mechanic in general...

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Auctioning advance cards. This is abusable.

A valid concern. When I first came up with the idea, I liked it and immediately put it in the game. It adds some complexity, but also a fair bit of cooperation, which I liked. I may not have found the best implementation of the idea yet. I do think a player needs to be able to choose which offer he takes and not just the highest, since players may not necessarily be offering resources, and a player may prefer to share advances with his friend rather than his enemy. I grant that being forced to share with your enemy if he makes the highest offer could be cute. Mainly, it would just be a question of finding a means of quantifying the offers and ensuring that a player doesn’t get hosed if only one player makes an offer, and it’s a piddly one (although maybe that’s the risk associated with the action).

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Double sided cards. I don't like the idea of double sided cards. I think it will be weird and fiddly, turning around cards to see what's on the other side. Isn't it much simpler to print both effects of the card on one side?

For some cards, the double-sided cards are actually a very nice solution; I’m thinking of the “advance” cards specifically -- the side you leave face-up in front of you tells which advance that you’ve chosen to implement. It works there because the backs on all of the cards are the same (“Advance in [category] structures”). For the Chronicles/Achievements, yeah, they should probably be single-sided. This would also permit face-down drawing, which Seth advocated.

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Updating chronicles. What happens if I update a chronicle card, for example because my empire has grown, and later my empire shrinks again? Is my chronicle card automatically updated? Or do I keep my bonus, because history has already been recorded? I assume the latter, but I think the former could introduce a great source of tension.

Currently, it’s the latter. I agree that the former could work, but it seems like it should also be possible to update “for free” if your empire grows. I wanted the “press your luck” factor, so I chose that you must pay to update your cronicle. Maybe you could pay to update someone else’s Chronicle in a case where, say, their empire shrunk...hmm...

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Trade. The trading mechanic seems tacked on. Imagine Puerto Rico with trading, that's how it feels to me. ... If I were you I would either integrate the trading more into the game, perhaps as a prefect ability, or I would just cut it out altogether. Also, trading can be a huge timesink.

Hey, any comparison between one of my games and PR is fine by me! Kidding aside, originally,
trade was the primary means of interaction between players. But as you noted, there are actually several systems that give interaction, so maybe unstructured deal-making is unnecessary.

I don’t think I want to add a 9th Prefect ability, so adding trade would require restructuring some of the other Prefects, which may be a valid choice. One idea I’ve toyed with a few times is allowing trade only between players who coexisted in at least one territory, or maybe alternatively, building a market in another player’s city gives you the right to trade with that player. But yeah, for now, trade may be something I’ll “turn off”, keeping it as an option if the game isn’t interactive enough. It seems that having only 2 resources, the impetus for trade would be low, yet there have been times in tests where you just can’t get enough of whatever resource you need and will trade the other resource for it -- this is enhanced by the loss of production of cities. There may be other things you’ll want to trade, so it may be necessary.

I agree with the “timesink” concern. Originally, deal-making was a huge source of the game length problem. Getting rid of it can only help!

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This is a big game and there's much you can streamline, if you are willing to.

Well, sure, but then I’d be left with “Gheos”, and that’s already been done! In all seriousness, I see your point and agree there may be room to whittle some stuff out.

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I would advise you to rethink the use of each little rules and see if they are really necessary. Sometimes a rule is needed to ensure the integrity and balance of the game system, sometimes a rule introduces a nice dillema. Sometimes a rule just adds complexity without necessarily making the game better.

Yes, this GDW session has been most helpful to help me clarify the motivation for certain rules. Some I can justify easily, some have been more questionable. But as I said to Seth (I think), I’m going for a pretty rich and varied game experience here; I want that to be built on a simple engine, but still have enough substance that a wide variety of empires can emerge. And a certain amount of complexity is necessary to make that possible, so it becomes hard to identify what constitutes “complexity without making the game better”, but that, I suppose, is the art of designing games!

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Well, that's all that came to mind right now. I hope it has given you some food for thought.

Very helpful! Thanks again!

-Jeff

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

jwarrend wrote:
I agree, “migrate” is a much more accurate term. I’ll make the change, thanks!

I thought the same thing about the term "settle", but really settling a new territory is more accurate to migrating, since migrating implies leaving the previous territory behind. But you don't leave it behind, it's still in your empire. It's just that some of your citizens moved out of it.

Maybe a better term would be "expand", at least in the cast that you are annexing new territory into your empire. That may or may not be accuratein the case where you're moving citizens into other players' territories. That's not much TO call that, except maybe "move" or "relocate". To tell you the truth, moving "your citizens" into other players' territories so they can farm crops is pretty strange thematically.

This is all very peripheral to the game and is a very minor point, which is why I didn't bring it up before, but eventually it will be worth addressing.

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Not in all designs, but yes, this one definitely has “dichotomy” as a foundational principal.

I really like the dichotomy aspect of this game, and I'm not sure I agree that you've gone overboard with it. Reducing down to 1 citizen type might not be a bad idea, but it does make some of your structures (that deal with combat) obsolete, or it might make combat too powerful- you'll have to have citizens anyway for production, if they can all fight then the more citizens the better at Wartime. If you have to 'invest' in getting warriors then it means you give up production. I thought that was one of the games strong points.

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unless one is feeling pretty military, warriors are probably less important in the game than Peasants. It may be a perfectly seamless change to go to one citizen type.

Right... so one strategy might be more militaristic, expanding into other players' territories or taking unclaimed ones (maybe that shuold require 1 warrior minimum), while another strategy might be more peaceful where you get some Warriors for defense, but rather than picking fights you advance your civ a lot.

Maybe I was wrong, but I thought that was basically the point of your game from the start.

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I think that what I’m going for here is to give you the flexibility to sometimes do more in a given turn, but not in every turn. The idea is that sometimes, you’ll really want/need to attack twice in one turn, for example. The diamonds are a simple way to facilitate that.

Yes, I think upgrading actions is key to the game. It sounds to me like your current Diamond mechanic allows too much upgrading. It sounds like for most of the game Diamonds will be commonplace, so much so that you'd never do the 'base' actions, you'd always be 'upgrading' (which in it's current state often means doing the action more than once).

It also seems to my like the game as-is will be primarily about getting Diamonds, so that your actions are all better (or you get more of them). This might even outweigh what I thought your main design goals were... If you concentrate on a good diamond economy then you will outperform and outscore your opponents simply by performing more or better actions. This will probably lead to better scoring.

So if you want the game to be about the diamond economy, then that's great, but it sounded to me like that was supposed to be a secondary thing. Really it could be a whole different game. I could see 2 seperate games starting from what you already have- one is your civ game, and the other is the diamond economy game where everyone wants to be in on other players cities in order to get more diamonds, and the diamonds let you do more (or better) actions.

The way I see it working well in your civ game would be if the diamonds were not very plentiful- where you only use 1 every couple turns, so that it's important when you use it, and it's very valuable when you get it.

zaiga wrote:
Perhaps it is an idea to let a player choose a prefect more than once during a turn, if he wants, but he pays one diamond for each marker that is already on that prefect.

Yeah, like that... but with the diamonds in short supply.

jwarrend wrote:
I like this idea, actually, but the sticky wicket continues to be the “Production” action; if you let players produce twice in a turn, I think that it will just be too easy to afford things.

With the diamonds so plentiful that you could double-produce every turn, I completely agree.

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An idea, like yours, to rotate start player around the table based on game state is a good thing to consider. One could even have an auction for the privelege, but I don’t really like that kind of mechanic in general...

I'm not a fan of auctions in general. They have a place in some games, but in this type of game I'm not sure auctions really fit. I wasn't too enthralled by the (possibly broken, as zaiga pointed out) auction mechanic you already have. Adding another doesn't seem like it would help any either. I think the best bet for determining start player is simply to determine wether it's better to go first or last, then let the scoring round determine who is start player next.

If there really is no difference from going last or first, then just pass the start player marker clockwise, or counterclockwise or something.

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zaiga wrote:
Auctioning advance cards. This is abusable.

I agree. I didn't really like it but didn't thinkabout why not. Zaiga's concern is a good one. I don't see much what it accomplishes in the game, and one could argue that it's 'luck of the draw' if you even get to do it at all (if you have the right advance already). It's a little interesting to say "you can get this 'free (action-wise)' upgrade if you pay me money", which I guess is the point of the mechanic and what you're calling cooperation, but I don't think this particular implimentation is the right way to do it.

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For the Chronicles/Achievements, yeah, they should probably be single-sided. This would also permit face-down drawing, which Seth advocated.

Yeah, the cards could have one "side" on the left and the other on the right or something. That would eliminate face up draw piles, if that's what you decide to do.

Quote:
zaiga wrote:
Updating chronicles. What happens if I update a chronicle card, for example because my empire has grown, and later my empire shrinks again? Is my chronicle card automatically updated? Or do I keep my bonus, because history has already been recorded? I assume the latter, but I think the former could introduce a great source of tension.

Currently, it’s the latter. I agree that the former could work, but it seems like it should also be possible to update “for free” if your empire grows. I wanted the “press your luck” factor, so I chose that you must pay to update your cronicle. Maybe you could pay to update someone else’s Chronicle in a case where, say, their empire shrunk...hmm...
OK, This is the whole reason I replied to this message in the first place.

It was my impression that the whole point of your chronicle scoring was that you had to choose when to do it. Factors in your choice are 1. whether your civ will continue to advance in that area or if it's plateaued; and 2. when the Historian is likely to come... do you record your chronicles now? Or risk losing the scoring opportunity? I think that will be emphasised if you use a more uncertain method of determining scoring rounds (a la Evo like has been discussed).

I think that 'updating' your Chronicles isn't a terrible idea. I almost said it was, but it could work IF the cost of recording/updating is high enough. Otherwise everyone can record at a low score and update when they get higher and just not worry about when the historian might emerge. BUT, if recording and updating your Chronicle is costly in time and resources, then it would end up being wasteful to keep doing it... except in the case where you got fortunate or got an opportunity to improve your position more than you thought you'd be able to, and therefore could take the time/resource hit to update because it's worth it. I see this happeneing even more in the case where the historian might be coming this round, so you record so as not to lose out... then the historian doesn't come and you manage to improvbe your position a lot and the scoring round is iminent again.

I do really think that Libel (heh, or recording someone else's chronicles for them) is a terrible idea for the game... paying to reduce another player's score seems very out of place in this game, especially with all the talk of cooperation. That said, it would be incentive to keep up on your civ even after recording your chronicles. I don't know if that's the design intention, or if you're supposed to be able to move on to something else after recording one thing.

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trade was the primary means of interaction between players. But as you noted, there are actually several systems that give interaction, so maybe unstructured deal-making is unnecessary.

I think trade is out of place here. Especially with only 2 resource types. And I fully agree with the timesink comments (see Settlers).

- Seth

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
reply to Steve

SiskNY wrote:

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.

Yes, as you've seen with the Disciples board as well, using the edges of the board to correlate cards with board spaces is something I've been using a lot in my designs lately. No clue if such an idea would make it into the "published" version; that would be their call to make.

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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.

It's a fine thought. The board is currently about 23" x 23", so it could probably be a little bit bigger. The spaces shouldn't be too much smaller. Basically, for my prototype, having the extra boards isn't a problem, as long as there's always enough table space. Even a pad of paper would be ok for scoring; it only happens 3 times during the game.

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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.

Ah, now I understand your question! The counter for this resets each time you use the General; so, the first battle initiated in a turn is 1xunrest, the second battle is 2x unrest, but the next time you use the General, it starts over. More likely than not, I'll do away with this altogether, and just have each battle cost your Unrest level. Thanks for the question, and sorry for the confusion on my part!

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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!

As we've previously discussed, it's all about the decisions! I hope this game will give the player some interesting ones. Here's a fun excercise I've sometimes undertaken to convince myself that the game works. In your first turn, what 3 Prefect abilities should you use? The answer is, I'm not sure there's a single answer. I'm pretty sure that all 8 Prefect abilities could be used in the first turn as part of a valid strategy. That's one of the things I like about the game; there really should be multiple strategies available to you throughout the game (once it's balanced, anyway...)

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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.

Yes, I'm hoping there won't be very much downtime at all to speak of. I do think the game will be long, as I've said, but I'm also hoping that once it's done, it will really give you the feel of developing with time. As I've said before, I really like the game Vinci, but one of my complaints about the game is that in the times I've played, it really feels like you're basically having the same turn over and over. There's some board changes that make each turn different, but the game doesn't have a narrative "arc" to it. I hope that Sands will have a true beginning, middle, and end; maybe not precisely defined as such, but just that the game will feel like it presents you with new options and new challenges with each passing turn. We'll see if it really does this, though!

Thanks again for your comments,

-Jeff

GeminiWeb
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Joined: 07/31/2008
Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

Jeff,

Precursor to real comments

I finished reading the rules. Then I started writing a reply and scrapped it. I did this about 2 or 3 times. The reason is that I’m tempted to streamline parts of the game, but at the same time, the systems hangs well together and I can see that streamlining some things could hurt other parts of the game. For example, combining some actions would impact on the usefulness and power of the prefects.

As such, the real trick is to pick the right areas to change. No surprises there for you no doubt, with many of your comments reflecting this.

Anyway, my idea is to streamline some things (e.g. combat) and just describe other things slightly different (set up, names of prefect actions).

Things I like about the game and should be kept:

• random set-up regarding capacities and commodities
o related to this I do think that 2 commodities (crops [food?] and gold) are important, as well as the extra resource ‘diamonds’.

• Coexistence in areas, where the majority occupant isn’t necessarily the owner

• The choose of which prefect to use, and which role within prefect to sue

• The ability to upgrade actions

• The role of unrest is acting as a cost to actions, with reducing it being more expensive for larger empires

• Markets and diamonds (trade goods?)

• Using achievement tokens to improve in technology or to be chronicled (not surprising given it came from one of my comments!)

Things I would be tempted to change:

• In building a structure, you either get the achievement tokens or the ability – this doesn’t fit well thematically with me

• Changing the combat system (i.e. how to work out you wins). For example,
o treat like overpopulation rules under attrition (and war in Avalon Hill’s Civilisation), with warriors coming off first. If one side has no warriors, they remove 2 peasants for each warrior to the other player removes. City/metalworking/engineering might count for first ‘dummy’ tokens removed.
o Remove warriors altogether

• Consider whether annexing a land should just require
o Winning a war against the owner player in that area (if they have any units)
o Having more citizens in the area than the owning player

• Making it a standard 2xUnrest level for battles after the first since it will still cost a lot [/b] of the same resource type [/b] to annex the territory as well.

• Consider making it possible to sell gold and crops for diamonds. (Not sure of exchange rate or whether this is a good idea though …). Actually, on second thoughts, I think I was forgetting how many diamonds a well set-up trading empire might have …

• What happens when an overpopulated area produces? As I read it, the area will also overproduce? I’d prefer a system where the capacity was a real limit, although I recognize that with a lot of areas to potentially cover, you want the process to be streamlined. Maybe something like the empires with the most number of citizens in the area have priority (which could mean that the owner ends up missing out!)

• Turn order. If turn order is important enough to not keep going clockwise, maybe consider something like History of the World – shuffle the turn order cards. Person who went last (say) picks a card and can either keep it or give it to someone else. Then the person on their right can do the same, although you can’t keep it if you already have a card and you can’t give it to someone who already has a card.

Things I would be tempted to describe differently:

• Change settle to migrate

• Reword the General ability for war to be a 2 step process (where the number of wars cannot exceed n):
o Combat
o Conquest (Annexation) (if defeated owner) or Spoils (if not owner of land)

Shameless thanks for putting game up for GDW

Thanks again for sharing your game with us.

Bill

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
reply to Seth

Quote:
To tell you the truth, moving "your citizens" into other players' territories so they can farm crops is pretty strange thematically.

Think of it maybe as a “gypsy empire” mechanic, where you can spread out all over the world but not have political control of the territories in which you have a presence, yet you still have an effect on them.

Game mechanically, this is a nice mechanic. It gives you the ability to produce without having to spend a “production” action, yet at the risk of being attacked, and at the penalty of not being able to build or populate in the territory. It’s just a different way to do things than the standard “only one player per territory”, which almost every other game has, but I think it works well.

Quote:

I really like the dichotomy aspect of this game, and I'm not sure I agree that you've gone overboard with it. Reducing down to 1 citizen type might not be a bad idea, but it does make some of your structures (that deal with combat) obsolete, or it might make combat too powerful- you'll have to have citizens anyway for production, if they can all fight then the more citizens the better at Wartime. If you have to 'invest' in getting warriors then it means you give up production. I thought that was one of the games strong points.

Fair enough. My personal preference is to keep warriors in for now. You are quite right; warriors primarily mean giving up production for improved ability to make war. Plus, two of the advances let you “upgrade” your warriors, but not your peasants. Of course, in a 1-citizen-type game, you could still have these advances, and then it would just be that if you wanted to be warlike, you’d invest in those advances.

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Right... so one strategy might be more militaristic, expanding into other players' territories or taking unclaimed ones (maybe that shuold require 1 warrior minimum), while another strategy might be more peaceful where you get some Warriors for defense, but rather than picking fights you advance your civ a lot.

This is a good point; Warriors do have a defensive function, as well as an offensive one.

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Maybe I was wrong, but I thought that was basically the point of your game from the start.

It was certainly where the design started from, to be sure.

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Yes, I think upgrading actions is key to the game. It sounds to me like your current Diamond mechanic allows too much upgrading. It sounds like for most of the game Diamonds will be commonplace, so much so that you'd never do the 'base' actions, you'd always be 'upgrading' (which in it's current state often means doing the action more than once).

I see the concern now. We’ll just have to see how it plays out in practice. The diamond tokens also have a function in combat (don’t ask me to justify that one thematically!), so they may deplete more towards the end as the game becomes more combative. But it’s possible they’ll flow a little too freely. We’ll just have to see how the playtests go. One change I mentioned to...Bill, I think, was to have the # of markets allowable in a city be restricted to the capacity of the city. So, if you build a city in a 3-territory, you can only have 3 markets (assuming other players build them there), for a max of 4 diamond tokens in that city. Maybe I’ll even adopt your rule that you have to build a market in your own city in order to get the diamond token.

Quote:

It also seems to my like the game as-is will be primarily about getting Diamonds, so that your actions are all better (or you get more of them). This might even outweigh what I thought your main design goals were... If you concentrate on a good diamond economy then you will outperform and outscore your opponents simply by performing more or better actions. This will probably lead to better scoring.

This is definitely something that will have to be seen. I think that the production hit you take in order to be able to get diamonds make it less cut and dried than you think, but it could be that they will indeed flow too freely. I could always go back to my earlier iteration, in which cities gave 1 diamond, period, and there were no markets.

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The way I see it working well in your civ game would be if the diamonds were not very plentiful- where you only use 1 every couple turns, so that it's important when you use it, and it's very valuable when you get it.

I think they can/should be more plentiful than that, but I do agree that they shouldn’t be too easy to come by.

Quote:

zaiga wrote:
Auctioning advance cards. This is abusable.

I agree. I didn't really like it but didn't thinkabout why not. Zaiga's concern is a good one. I don't see much what it accomplishes in the game, and one could argue that it's 'luck of the draw' if you even get to do it at all (if you have the right advance already). It's a little interesting to say "you can get this 'free (action-wise)' upgrade if you pay me money", which I guess is the point of the mechanic and what you're calling cooperation, but I don't think this particular implimentation is the right way to do it.

First, “auction” is perhaps the wrong word, since it isn’t really a matter of “high bidder gets it”; it’s more that each other player can make an offer and the active player can accept one, if he wants. The main motivation for the mechanic is to allow you to share advances you have in an easily implementable way given the current advance implementation, that cards display what advances you have. I’m not just “calling it cooperation” -- it is cooperation! One player gives up something (a turn action) and gives something to someone else in return for something he perceives to be of value (depending on what is offered, I suppose). It’s deal-making, which is the quintessential cooperation mechanic.

Quote:
I think that will be emphasised if you use a more uncertain method of determining scoring rounds (a la Evo like has been discussed).

I had a chance to look at the Evo mechanic earlier. Let me see if I’ve got it right. There’s a track on which a marker advances each round, and when it reaches the last few spaces of the track, you roll a die; if the result is above some threshold, the game ends. That threshold decreases each space the marker advances. If you reach the last space on the track, the game ends (the die automatically hits). Now, this really isn’t that different from what I have currently. Let’s say it’s turn 4. With each passing round, it becomes more likely that a Historian will emerge. Should turn 6 emerge without having had a Historian yet, then it’s a sure thing that this turn will be a scoring turn. Basically the same thing as Evo, except there are fewer turns over which the uncertainty is...uncertain; and the probabilities are different as a result.

Here’s a more complicated algorithm that would give more uncertainty. You shuffle a Historian in with 2 other Event cards: these 3 cards correspond to turns 4,5, and 6. Then, you take the card that corresponds to turn 6, and shuffle it in with the cards for turns 7,8, and 9 (of which one is a Historian). So now, from this shuffle, you have the cards for turns 6,7,8 and 9. Now you take turn 9’s card, and shuffle it in with the remaining events (of which one is a Historian). In this way, it isn’t actually a sure thing that turn 6 will be a scoring round if turn 4 and 5 weren’t. And since you’re always moving the cards towards the bottom of the pile, the overall game length still will be at least 9 turns. It’s more complicated to describe, but gives the higher level of uncertainty that I think you’re looking for.

Quote:

I think that 'updating' your Chronicles isn't a terrible idea. I almost said it was, but it could work IF the cost of recording/updating is high enough.
Otherwise everyone can record at a low score and update when they get higher and just not worry about when the historian might emerge.

Quite so. Currently, updating costs the same as recording, so the idea is that in most cases, you can probably get a better payout to record a new Chronicle (assuming you’ve achieved something noteworthy in that category) rather than bumping your marker up one or two clicks on an existing chronicle.

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BUT, if recording and updating your Chronicle is costly in time and resources, then it would end up being wasteful to keep doing it... except in the case where you got fortunate or got an opportunity to improve your position more than you thought you'd be able to, and therefore could take the time/resource hit to update because it's worth it. I see this happeneing even more in the case where the historian might be coming this round, so you record so as not to lose out... then the historian doesn't come and you manage to improvbe your position a lot and the scoring round is iminent again.

Right, you’ve correctly analyzed the thought process a player might go through with this kind of decision.

Quote:

I do really think that Libel (heh, or recording someone else's chronicles for them) is a terrible idea for the game... paying to reduce another player's score seems very out of place in this game, especially with all the talk of cooperation. That said, it would be incentive to keep up on your civ even after recording your chronicles. I don't know if that's the design intention, or if you're supposed to be able to move on to something else after recording one thing.

I don’t think I’ll really do it, but it did sound like a funny thing to be able to do.

-Jeff

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

GeminiWeb wrote:

I finished reading the rules. Then I started writing a reply and scrapped it. I did this about 2 or 3 times. The reason is that I’m tempted to streamline parts of the game, but at the same time, the systems hangs well together and I can see that streamlining some things could hurt other parts of the game. For example, combining some actions would impact on the usefulness and power of the prefects.

I appreciate that you’ve invested so much time in thinking over the rules. As you see, it’s hard to pinpoint areas of “superfluous” complexity, because the game as a whole is actually pretty tightly integrated, and almost everything is in there for a reason. The key is to find the systems with the flimsiest justifications, and edit those. But even that can be tricky...

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Things I like about the game and should be kept:

Not surprisingly, I agree with everything on this list! I’m also happy to note that it appears to be longer than the “dislikes” list. In all seriousness, I’m glad there are a number of things that appeal to you about the game.

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• The role of unrest is acting as a cost to actions, with reducing it being more expensive for larger empires

This was a fairly recent addition to the game. I wanted for some time to have some requirement of managing your empire politically, but didn’t want to resort to the “you must have enough food to feed all of your citizens”, which has been done well elsewhere. I decided to try to use the unrest concept as a way to fix action costs, which I think helped me to pull a lot of the game’s cost schedules together and to add in this political effect I wanted to incorporate. So far, I’m happy with it. Having said that, I'm quite open to suggestions for what kinds of things could result in Unrest increasing...anyone?

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Dislikes:
• In building a structure, you either get the achievement tokens or the ability – this doesn’t fit well thematically with me

A better way to look at it might be that there are really 2 different structures at each type and level, and you’re choosing which to build. The easiest one to support is Cultural. Think of the level 2 cultural structure that gives you achievement tokens as a “statue” -- it’s aesthetically pleasing, but it has no functionality beyond that. It’s just an achievement. In contrast, a “library” has a function. The flaw in this argument is that building a library also should count as an achievement, I suppose. I will grant, this system is an abstraction. Originally, I had that structures could confer basic powerups -- like increasing territorial capacity or giving bonus resources. But I didn’t like those. When you gave me the idea of “achievement tokens”, a nice function for structures came through. I think I like it, even if it’s one of the game’s thematic liberties...

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• Changing the combat system (i.e. how to work out you wins).

Could you explain more why you feel that such a change is needed? I’ve been through a lot of iterations with the combat mechanic. I settled on this “nearly deterministic” model because it just seemed easiest to implement -- you just compare the combat totals and assign a winner. I don’t know if the AH Civ combat mechanic would work as well here, since war is meant to play a somewhat bigger role in this game than I think it does in that game...

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• Consider whether annexing a land should just require
o Winning a war against the owner player in that area (if they have any units)
o Having more citizens in the area than the owning player

There’s no question in my mind that it’s the former. If you want to annex a territory, you have to take it by force. If I were to adopt the latter, I think that it would totally negate militarism -- and since I do want this game to be loosely historical in feel and scope, I want a military element in there.

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• Making it a standard 2xUnrest level for battles after the first since it will still cost a lot [/b] of the same resource type [/b] to annex the territory as well.

I’ll probably just make all battles cost 1xUnrest level and see how it works. (Maybe someday they’ll even be free, but I doubt it).

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• Consider making it possible to sell gold and crops for diamonds. (Not sure of exchange rate or whether this is a good idea though …). Actually, on second thoughts, I think I was forgetting how many diamonds a well set-up trading empire might have …

Possible, but fixing the exchange rate would be hard.

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• What happens when an overpopulated area produces? As I read it, the area will also overproduce? I’d prefer a system where the capacity was a real limit, although I recognize that with a lot of areas to potentially cover, you want the process to be streamlined. Maybe something like the empires with the most number of citizens in the area have priority (which could mean that the owner ends up missing out!)

I think that allowing overpopulation is essential for the “peaceful coexistence” model, because otherwise a player could close off a territory simply by filling it up. However, it isn’t exactly ideal for players to be able to overfill their territories, either. I think that this is penalized by the Unrest and Attrition events, which occur more than 2/3 of the turns in the game, so I really don’t think you’ll want to overpopulate if you can help it. But if it becomes a problem, a valid rule might be that, while the Territory can be overpopulated, each player can only have as many citizens as the territory’s capacity. (And the penalties of unrest and attrition are applied to the territory as a whole)

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• Turn order. If turn order is important enough to not keep going clockwise,

Yeah, we’ll just go with clockwise order for now.

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Things I would be tempted to describe differently:
• Reword the General ability for war to be a 2 step process (where the number of wars cannot exceed n):
o Combat
o Conquest (Annexation) (if defeated owner) or Spoils (if not owner of land)

I’m pretty sure that’s actually a rule change, not just a wording change. I think this kind of explanation would make more sense if perhaps the board was initially seeded with “neutral armies” in the unoccupied territories, so that in all cases, annexing a territory involved fighting a battle first. I confess to feeling like the dual-use of the General (combat AND annexation) is somewhat inelegant, but I do think it’s important that these be separate actions. There will be times when you’ll want to fight in a Territory where neither of you is the owner (or conversely, where you want to annex a Territory in which you and another player have citizens but neither is the owner). There will be times when you’ll want to fight to boot someone out of your territory. I assume that the main function of combat will be to then annex territories, but it may not always be that way. I think they need to be separate actions for now, but because they are the same prefect ability, they can occur serially (combat then annexation).

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Shameless thanks for putting game up for GDW
Thanks again for sharing your game with us.

Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of the game’s strengths and weaknesses!

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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Diamond economy

I think the diamond economy is a really neat thing and perhaps it should stay after all... but as I said before, I think it's only neat if people aren't swimming in diamonds all game long, you know what I mean? Also, though this doesn't affect the mechanic... they should probably be something other than Diamonds, no? ;)

Suppose you keep the cities and markets- with the caveat that your own cities have built in markets and therefore you don't build markets in your own cities*... but instead of the markets being the diamond farms and the citizens hanging out in opponents' territories bringing home crops or gold, suppose the markets were how you produce in other players' territories (and thereby benefit from when they use the Produce action).

* And when you take a city by force, any market you have there disappears as you'd have a built in market in the city.

The Produce action rule would be something like you get 1 crop or gold (depending on the territory) per peasant in your non-city territories, and you get a diamond for each of your cities. Opponents get 1 resource of the appropriate type for each market they have in your cities (and they get no diamonds).

Finally, structures could be buildable only in cities, not territories without cities- this would emphasize your "give up production to build more cheaply" idea. That might be the way it is already, I don't recall.

ALSO... Here's an idea I just thought of for an upgraded Produce action whithout making people get super rich super fast...
Regular production: you get a resource per Peasant.
Upgraded production: same, but you ALSO get 1 resource per Market.
So normally your markets produce when other people use the produce action, but if you upgrade your Produce action then they produce as well. The net effect is more resources for you, but since you'll have a lot fewer markets than peasants, it won't be a resource glut. And of course it shouldn't be happening all the time anyway.

- Seth

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

jwarrend wrote:
So far, I’m happy with [unrest]. Having said that, I'm quite open to suggestions for what kinds of things could result in Unrest increasing...anyone?

Going to war, or else winning/losing wars could decrease/increase unrest. Advancing a civ could decrease unrest. vacating or otherwise ignoring a territory too much could increase unrest (reward even attention across your territories). I'll have a look at the actions and prefects again and see if anything comes to mind.

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I’ve been through a lot of iterations with the combat mechanic. I settled on this “nearly deterministic” model because it just seemed easiest to implement -- you just compare the combat totals and assign a winner.

I think the combat model is fine, unless your playtests prove otherwise. You actually have 2 suggestions, either of which is probably fine- the one with the die roll might make attacking a little more exciting and a little less likely to cause AP because you can't exactly calculate the outcome, but you kow your chances.

In your rulebook you have an error in your detailed combat example, and it switches who wins. Also, if it were me I'd remove the second example, the detailed example of how to count using parts from a game that some people may have and some may not.

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I think that allowing overpopulation is essential for the “peaceful coexistence” model, because otherwise a player could close off a territory simply by filling it up.

I think there's a couple things you could try to mitigate this. In noparticular order, and not necessarily related to each other:
[*] Allow only the capacity worth of total citizens in a territory. Then people could decide to pick a fight in order to drive people out and then move their own people in.
[*] Allow overpopulation, but have each territory produce only it's capacity worth of crops/gold. Perhaps it could be divvied up like the colonists in Puerto Rico- the player with the most peasants present gets the first resource, then players take turns from that point, and as a result if there are 5 players and 7 resources, 2 players will get 2 each and 3 players will get 1 each.
[*] See my previous post for another idea- having peasants in a territory doesn't get you resources, but having a market in another city does.

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I think this kind of explanation would make more sense if perhaps the board was initially seeded with “neutral armies” in the unoccupied territories, so that in all cases, annexing a territory involved fighting a battle first.

I was thinking of suggesting this... is it something you're considering? Even if you don't have to fight, it mioght be nice to require at least 1 Warrior in order to take the territory fo your own- emphsizing the Warrior vs Peasant dichotomy.

- Seth

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

Hello

When I read the rules again I did not find anything that I think that needs to be fixed before a test is made... but we have not seen all components.

When a game feels ready I normally go threw all components several times and see if I can reduce the number or do things differently. I have done the same thing here, and tried to see if there are other ways to achieve the same effect (and normally I then have other ways to solve a problem if some of the don’t work out in the test). Just see these comments as an alternative way to do things. (The suggestions may not work together).

Game board
Do you need the game board?
An alternative solution is to have cards (around 4"x4") with each area. You can freely move units between areas (all units has access to boats). Two major advantage of this is that it would be possible to scale the game for the number of players, and it would be easy to do expansions. (You don’t need to mark the areas. If you control an area, then it's placed in front of you (easy to see who own what)).
The thing that talks against this its that the map rely give this game a certain feel and look.

Structures Advance Board - History Card/Advance Card Board
I have not seen those, but it should be possible to include those on the game board?

Scoring Track
Could be placed on the game board?

Player mats
I like to have playmates instead of markers, but:
Unrest level could be changed to markers and distributed on the areas that have unrest. Example, if you attack an area, you will get unrest in that area, if there are more of another players pieces, place unrest and so on. For each unrest in each area, your capacity (not other player that is just there with peasants) is reduced with one. This also includes battles.
The Prefects could be reduced to one line with prefects, which can do one type of actions. Then you make a deck of cards with prefect actions that you can (with diamonds), upgrade the prefects. This will open for a possible expansion.

12 Corn Markers, 14 Gold Markers
Could be included as structure cards?

26 Capacity tokens, numbered between 3-6
Have not seen any alternative to those.

Diamond tokens
Could be possible to take away and just have scales on the player's math.

Achievement tokens in 3 varieties
No alternative

Wooden units: 20 Peasants (cubes), 10 Warriors (cylinders)
One way is to just have peasants. Then you build armies. Armies are trained peasants. All trained peasants are placed on a Army marker (work as your warriors, but they have to stick together). This will give you a possibility, to create an advanced battle variant in the future.

10 markers (octagons)
Is needed, but you have limited the number of areas that a player can control.

Structures Cards/ Advance Cards / History Cards
Nothing to say about

Event Cards
If you go for the dice in the battles (I like the version with no dice), then the dice can also be used for this. Remove the cards and include a turn scale with the different card effects in an order (use 12 steps). If you roll a 1 you will remain on the same place (the same effects are used once more). If you roll a 2,3,4,5 move one step. If you roll a 6, move 2 steps. (You will never know how many history event that will come up).

Turn Order Cards
Needed?

Start Player Pawn
Needed?

// Johan

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

Jeff,

Some comments to rpely to your comments on my comments, but I'm doing it off my meomory f the rules here so I might say some things that don't make sense (unlike other times? :lol: )

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• Consider whether annexing a land should just require
o Winning a war against the owner player in that area (if they have any units)
o Having more citizens in the area than the owning player

There’s no question in my mind that it’s the former. If you want to annex a territory, you have to take it by force. If I were to adopt the latter, I think that it would totally negate militarism -- and since I do want this game to be loosely historical in feel and scope, I want a military element in there.

Sorry - I wasn't clear. I was suggesting both as necessary conditions for annexing.

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• What happens when an overpopulated area produces? As I read it, the area will also overproduce? I’d prefer a system where the capacity was a real limit, although I recognize that with a lot of areas to potentially cover, you want the process to be streamlined. Maybe something like the empires with the most number of citizens in the area have priority (which could mean that the owner ends up missing out!)

I think that allowing overpopulation is essential for the “peaceful coexistence” model, because otherwise a player could close off a territory simply by filling it up. However, it isn’t exactly ideal for players to be able to overfill their territories, either. I think that this is penalized by the Unrest and Attrition events, which occur more than 2/3 of the turns in the game, so I really don’t think you’ll want to overpopulate if you can help it. But if it becomes a problem, a valid rule might be that, while the Territory can be overpopulated, each player can only have as many citizens as the territory’s capacity. (And the penalties of unrest and attrition are applied to the territory as a whole)

I suppose I was thinking about reflecting the scenario where other people migrate into your areas to the point where the area cannot produce enough for all. This could lead to interesting tactics and might encourage wars due to overcrowding. However, as you say, the attrition and unrest effects may make this less of an issue anyway.

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Things I would be tempted to describe differently:
• Reword the General ability for war to be a 2 step process (where the number of wars cannot exceed n):
o Combat
o Conquest (Annexation) (if defeated owner) or Spoils (if not owner of land)

I’m pretty sure that’s actually a rule change, not just a wording change. I think this kind of explanation would make more sense if perhaps the board was initially seeded with “neutral armies” in the unoccupied territories, so that in all cases, annexing a territory involved fighting a battle first. I confess to feeling like the dual-use of the General (combat AND annexation) is somewhat inelegant, but I do think it’s important that these be separate actions. There will be times when you’ll want to fight in a Territory where neither of you is the owner (or conversely, where you want to annex a Territory in which you and another player have citizens but neither is the owner). There will be times when you’ll want to fight to boot someone out of your territory. I assume that the main function of combat will be to then annex territories, but it may not always be that way. I think they need to be separate actions for now, but because they are the same prefect ability, they can occur serially (combat then annexation).

I think I'm coming to understand this better. How about ...

• A General 'action' can either be
o Combat;
or following a successful combat against the owner of the land
o Conquest (Annexation); or
o Spoils

Diamonds are used to get an additional n General actions

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• Changing the combat system (i.e. how to work out you wins).

Could you explain more why you feel that such a change is needed? I’ve been through a lot of iterations with the combat mechanic. I settled on this “nearly deterministic” model because it just seemed easiest to implement

Hard to say. I mean I think I prefer a deterministic method as well. Maybe I think it looked like a bit of maths (yes, I have an honours degree in statistics so I might just manage :) ) which might seem cumbersome compared to the rest of the ruleset (noting that your experiences and your playtesters experiences in playtesting are more valuable than my guesses here!). I think it would be nic eif it were something that people could do in their heads when recruiting their armies to prepare for war (attacking or defending).

Also, maybe I just like to see a bit more carnage than the winner losing 1 citizen and the loser losing 2 citizens ...

All the best!

Bill

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

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I think the diamond economy is a really neat thing and perhaps it should stay after all... but as I said before, I think it's only neat if people aren't swimming in diamonds all game long, you know what I mean?

I absolutely agree.

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Also, though this doesn't affect the mechanic... they should probably be something other than Diamonds, no? ;)

Absolutely! As I may have mentioned, the reason I called them “diamond tokens” is that the first iteration of the game had a way to upgrade buildings with “Wealth Tokens”, which had diamonds on them. When I jettisoned that function, I had the tokens leftover, and I’ve used them to take care of this functionality. But sure, a better name would be great! Any ideas?

Incidentally, the original game also had something called “Goods tokens”, which just had a “G” on them. I’ve also jettisoned their functionality, and guess which GDW game those tokens are now being used in! (Hint, what other word starts with “G”)

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Suppose you keep the cities and markets- with the caveat that your own cities have built in markets and therefore you don't build markets in your own cities*... but instead of the markets being the diamond farms and the citizens hanging out in opponents' territories bringing home crops or gold, suppose the markets were how you produce in other players' territories (and thereby benefit from when they use the Produce action).

Certainly a possibility, but I think I like the simplicity of peasants just producing, period, with no special requirements or protocols.

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The Produce action rule would be something like you get 1 crop or gold (depending on the territory) per peasant in your non-city territories, and you get a diamond for each of your cities. Opponents get 1 resource of the appropriate type for each market they have in your cities (and they get no diamonds).

I think that if I was going to do this, it would run the risk of making markets “unnecessary complexity”. I think that just having your peasants in other players’ territories produce basically does the same thing, but more simply. I think markets are tied to the diamond economy, for better or worse...

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Finally, structures could be buildable only in cities, not territories without cities- this would emphasize your "give up production to build more cheaply" idea. That might be the way it is already, I don't recall.

No, you can currently build anywhere. I think it needs to stay that way, or else city-building becomes “doubly necessary”. I’m trying to shape the strategies in the game around actual history, and one strategy that I want to work is the “Mongol horde” strategy, which probably shouldn’t require city-building to work. But there probably will be a Chronicle that specifically rewards the Structures you’ve built in cities, so that would motivate building in cities.

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ALSO... Here's an idea I just thought of for an upgraded Produce action whithout making people get super rich super fast...
Regular production: you get a resource per Peasant.
Upgraded production: same, but you ALSO get 1 resource per Market.

This is cute! But...currently, the “upgraded production” action is that you just get a bonus resource per Diamond token. The model you’re proposing may make resources flow too loosely.

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I think the combat model is fine, unless your playtests prove otherwise. You actually have 2 suggestions, either of which is probably fine- the one with the die roll might make attacking a little more exciting and a little less likely to cause AP because you can't exactly calculate the outcome, but you kow your chances.

There’s still some uncertainty in the “almost deterministic” model in that you must move your forces and declare combat in two separate actions, so someone could potentially move their own forces and foil your combat before you could initiate. The die roll would give uncertainty, but there’s something attractive about saying the game has “diceless combat”. I’ll start with that for now, and if it’s too bland, try the other way.

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In your rulebook you have an error in your detailed combat example, and it switches who wins. Also, if it were me I'd remove the second example, the detailed example of how to count using parts from a game that some people may have and some may not.

Yeah, that detailed example has changed a lot of times as combat resolution has changed. I’ll check it out. The “Wallenstein” variant isn’t actually part of the true ruleset; I put it in mainly so I’d remember it. I’d like to try it out a couple of times; if I tried to pitch this game to Queen games (publisher of Wallenstein), it could be a selling point.

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I think there's a couple things you could try to mitigate [overpopulation]

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[*] Allow only the capacity worth of total citizens in a territory. Then people could decide to pick a fight in order to drive people out and then move their own people in.

The problem with this is that it would require defining two different paradiagms for combat: combat between two coexisting players, and combat against a neighboring Territory. I suppose I could just disallow combat in a territory in which you coexist, but really, I think it still would have the problem of players “locking up” territories by filling them to capacity.

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[*] Allow overpopulation, but have each territory produce only it's capacity worth of crops/gold.

Possible, but perhaps makes production more fiddly than it currently is. Personally, I’m not yet sure how much of a problem overpopulation will be. Again, better than 2/3 of the events actively penalize this. And since movement is somewhat costly (requires a special action), reorganizing your empire won’t be cheap or easy, so it won’t be viable long-term to overpopulate. If someone else is overpopulating your territory in a way that will cause you to experience Unrest increases or attrition, it may be a motivator to attack that player.

I expect I’ll change the rules so that when adding new citizens, you can’t overpopulate a territory; but, I’ll still allow overpopulation to occur during “migration”.

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I was thinking of suggesting [adding neutral armies]... is it something you're considering? Even if you don't have to fight, it mioght be nice to require at least 1 Warrior in order to take the territory fo your own- emphsizing the Warrior vs Peasant dichotomy.

It’s something I’m willing to consider if necessary. The nice thing about not having this is that currently, in the first turn, you can annex a Territory with only one “General” action. Whereas if you had to fight a battle against neutral armies, you couldn’t annex till the 2nd turn. I think I’ll keep it as is for now, partly because other games have done “neutral armies” just fine. As you know, I really like to explore new aspects of a theme whenever possible. But this may be a necessary bit of borrowing. We’ll see.

Thanks again!

-J

jwarrend
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reply to Johan

Quote:

When I read the rules again I did not find anything that I think that needs to be fixed before a test is made... but we have not seen all components.
When a game feels ready I normally go threw all components several times and see if I can reduce the number or do things differently.

Sure, I can see the wisdom in that. I’ll respond to your suggestions. Glad to hear you think it’s ready to go! I think there’s some wisdom in not trying to perfect everything and just play the thing and see how it goes. But it’s been helpful to invest at least some thought into getting it right...

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Game board
Do you need the game board?
An alternative solution is to have cards (around 4"x4") with each area.

You want me to throw out my crowning artistic achievement?!? Just kidding. I do suspect the game could work with cards rather than a board, and it would be really nice for scalability and expansions, but I really do think that the board, once rendered by someone with good art skills, will be a very important part of what will make this game special. There just aren’t any other Civ games with the circular board, and I think it’s one of the aspects of the game I like most. There was a game a while back that involved laying out cards in an array to form the board, but I can’t remember the name. I don’t know how well it was received.

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Structures Advance Board - History Card/Advance Card Board
I have not seen those, but it should be possible to include those on the game board?
Scoring Track
Could be placed on the game board?

The first two boards really may not need to actually exist; you just need a space on the table to put down all the cards. I’ve used a board to simplify that (to avoid the “where do I put the cards?” dilemma). Some extra space on the board could accomplish this, but I’ve hesitated to do that since (a) it would make the board bigger and (b) the board is so clean and simple right now, I’d hate to clog it up with stuff. The scoring track probably could go on the inside of the information boxes, as SiskNY suggested.

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Player mats
Unrest level could be changed to markers and distributed on the areas that have unrest. Example, if you attack an area, you will get unrest in that area, if there are more of another players pieces, place unrest and so on. For each unrest in each area, your capacity (not other player that is just there with peasants) is reduced with one. This also includes battles.

That’s not a bad idea. My concern is that it makes the game more like Wallenstein, and it’s already somewhat similar to that game. I like having Unrest fix your overall cost for actions; I think it’s essential to the design, currently.

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The Prefects could be reduced to one line with prefects, which can do one type of actions. Then you make a deck of cards with prefect actions that you can (with diamonds), upgrade the prefects. This will open for a possible expansion.

That’s a possible reason I hadn’t considered for going back to Prefect cards. I may go back to that model; I’m not sure.

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12 Corn Markers, 14 Gold Markers
Could be included as structure cards?

More likely, I’ll just include the resource types on the 26 capacity tokens, since they always go as pairs. (ie, every capacity token has a resource token associated with it during the game, so why not just print them that way?)

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Diamond tokens
Could be possible to take away and just have scales on the player's math.

Yeah, probably. The only nice thing about having them as separate tokens is that, since I allow them to be used to “upgrade” your combat rating, it might be nice to have them as tokens in case I decide that I want this “upgrade” to be a closed-fist bid, to make it happen simultaneously. But that’s really the only reason it would be better to have them as tokens.

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Wooden units: 20 Peasants (cubes), 10 Warriors (cylinders)
One way is to just have peasants. Then you build armies. Armies are trained peasants. All trained peasants are placed on a Army marker (work as your warriors, but they have to stick together). This will give you a possibility, to create an advanced battle variant in the future.

This would be kind of like

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10 markers (octagons)
Is needed, but you have limited the number of areas that a player can control.

Oh, you’re right, I think I need to add more markers of one sort or another to mark ownership. Probably giving you some disks or something to do that. Or alternatively, to force you to use peasants to mark owned territories, such that the bigger you get, the more you reduce your citizen pool (but also increase the total number of peasants from 20 to 25 or 30).

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Event Cards
If you go for the dice in the battles (I like the version with no dice), then the dice can also be used for this. Remove the cards and include a turn scale with the different card effects in an order (use 12 steps). If you roll a 1 you will remain on the same place (the same effects are used once more). If you roll a 2,3,4,5 move one step. If you roll a 6, move 2 steps. (You will never know how many history event that will come up).

That’s a nice suggestion, thanks!

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Turn Order Cards
Needed?

Probably not, I think I’m going to go with clockwise rotation for now.

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Start Player Pawn
Needed?

Strictly speaking, this component is never needed in any game, but it’s usually helpful to have just to help remember. Since I’m now going to do turns in clockwise order, it probably would be nice to have something like this just to remind you who goes when.

Thanks again!

-Jeff

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Reply to GeminiWeb

GeminiWeb wrote:

I suppose I was thinking about reflecting the scenario where other people migrate into your areas to the point where the area cannot produce enough for all. This could lead to interesting tactics and might encourage wars due to overcrowding. However, as you say, the attrition and unrest effects may make this less of an issue anyway.

I think that attrition and unrest will encourage wars due to overcrowding, since the owning player is most adversely affected by overcrowding.

Quote:

I think I'm coming to understand this better. How about ...
• A General 'action' can either be
o Combat;
or following a successful combat against the owner of the land
o Conquest (Annexation); or
o Spoils

That’s pretty much how it is now, except it basically removes any consequence of winning a combat other than the other guy losing 2 guys and you lose 1. Or rather, it forces you to choose an extra action (via a diamond) to gain the victor’s benefit.

This could probably work ok, but there’s still the ambiguity of how to annex an unowned territory. I guess it would just be that you wouldn’t have to fight a combat prior to that annexation.

I’ll think about it some more.

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Hard to say. I mean I think I prefer a deterministic method as well. Maybe I think it looked like a bit of maths

It’s really just X per warrior (where X =2 + {0,1, 2} if you have certain advances), and 1 per peasant, plus 1 if it’s in a city.

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Also, maybe I just like to see a bit more carnage than the winner losing 1 citizen and the loser losing 2 citizens ...

Yes, I can relate to this as well. It does seem odd that the consequences of a 3-on-1 battle are the same number of casualties as a 20-on-14 battle. It seems like the number of casualties should scale more. Not sure of a good algorithm to achieve that.

Thanks again for your comments!

-Jeff

Johan
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Re: reply to Johan

jwarrend wrote:
Quote:

When I read the rules again I did not find anything that I think that needs to be fixed before a test is made... but we have not seen all components.
When a game feels ready I normally go threw all components several times and see if I can reduce the number or do things differently.

Sure, I can see the wisdom in that. I?ll respond to your suggestions. Glad to hear you think it?s ready to go! I think there?s some wisdom in not trying to perfect everything and just play the thing and see how it goes. But it?s been helpful to invest at least some thought into getting it right...

Yes I think that the game is ready to go for a test. it is better to see what's not working and then change it.

jwarrend wrote:
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Game board
Do you need the game board?
An alternative solution is to have cards (around 4"x4") with each area.

You want me to throw out my crowning artistic achievement?!? Just kidding. I do suspect the game could work with cards rather than a board, and it would be really nice for scalability and expansions, but I really do think that the board, once rendered by someone with good art skills, will be a very important part of what will make this game special. There just aren?t any other Civ games with the circular board, and I think it?s one of the aspects of the game I like most. There was a game a while back that involved laying out cards in an array to form the board, but I can?t remember the name. I don?t know how well it was received.

If you want to do something a little different the do a octagon board (remove one territory and you can have 3 per side).

// Johan

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

jwarrend wrote:
Certainly a possibility, but I think I like the simplicity of peasants just producing, period, with no special requirements or protocols.

Heh, this sounded ironic to me. I don't know why. It's probably nothing.

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just having your peasants in other players’ territories produce basically does the same thing, but more simply. I think markets are tied to the diamond economy, for better or worse...

I was trying to fix the thematic oddity of people farming for crops in someone else's territory. I suppose if too many people are in your territory you could build a city there to stop them from producing... By extension, if you build cities in all your territories and send your citizens to go farming and digging for gold ion other players' territories- that could be a decent strategy.

You may be right about the diamond economy and markets. It just seems like getting a couple Diamonds every time someone produces would lead to too many diamonds in the game.

Regarding that, our contents list has 20 diamond tokens. I doubt that would be enough, especially in a 6 player game. I expect before long there would be enough cities on the board that everyone would have a market or two.

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you can currently build anywhere. I think it needs to stay that way, or else city-building becomes “doubly necessary”.

I don't know about doubly necessary, but it would become necessary- which means you have to choose when and where to build a city because you'll be giving up production.

The point was that the goal of 'giving up production in order to build cheaper buildings' doesn't make sense to me unless the peasants can be used EITHER for building OR for producing, not both. Building in non-city territories implies that you could build cheaply AND produce with the same peasants in the same turn.

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one strategy that I want to work is the “Mongol horde” strategy, which probably shouldn’t require city-building to work.

This is a good point. But if the Mongol hordes aren't building cities, are they building structures anyway? Maybe they're just being militaristic and overtaking cities.

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Seth wrote:
Here's an idea I just thought of for an upgraded Produce action whithout making people get super rich super fast...
Regular production: you get a resource per Peasant.
Upgraded production: same, but you ALSO get 1 resource per Market.

This is cute! But...currently, the “upgraded production” action is that you just get a bonus resource per Diamond token. The model you’re proposing may make resources flow too loosely.
That depends on how common diamonds are. I think I'm advocating having fewer diamonds in the game, which makes a big difference on the upgraded actions.

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There’s still some uncertainty in the “almost deterministic” model in that you must move your forces and declare combat in two separate actions, so someone could potentially move their own forces and foil your combat before you could initiate.

I wouldn't call that uncertainty in combat resolution. It just makes it easier to see the attack coming. It's not as if your first 'move in' action commits you to fighting, in which case one could say that it's uncertain what thedefense will look like (although you can see how many Citizens the player hasaround, and how many crops they have in hand and could produce, so you could figure out their maximum defense if you wanted to).

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Yeah, that detailed example has changed a lot of times as combat resolution has changed. I’ll check it out. The “Wallenstein” variant isn’t actually part of the true ruleset; I put it in mainly so I’d remember it. I’d like to try it out a couple of times; if I tried to pitch this game to Queen games (publisher of Wallenstein), it could be a selling point.

I'd be careful with that... telling a company that an aspect of your game is just klike one of their games is probably more likely to turn them off than turn them on. They might say "We already sell a game that works that way."

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Seth wrote:
Allow only the capacity worth of total citizens in a territory. Then people could decide to pick a fight in order to drive people out and then move their own people in.

The problem with this is that it would require defining two different paradiagms for combat: combat between two coexisting players, and combat against a neighboring Territory.
I must have missed something because you completely lost me here. Combat is ALWAYS against another player, isn't it? You choose the territory in which the combat takes place, then you choose the player you're fighting- isn't that what your rules said?

So why can't you choose a territory that you own, or that noone owns?

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I suppose I could just disallow combat in a territory in which you coexist, but really, I think it still would have the problem of players “locking up” territories by filling them to capacity.

I'm not sure I understand the purpose of this... in my suggestion the whole point was to ALLOW fighting in a location where you coexist, because the result of the fight would be to push some citizens out of the territory to make room for more of yours.

This capacity limit may not be a good idea after all, I just want to make sure I got the idea across properly, which I obviously did not.

- Seth

jwarrend
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Re: reply to Johan

Johan wrote:

If you want to do something a little different the do a octagon board (remove one territory and you can have 3 per side).

That's indeed pretty different!

One other thing that I thought about when pondering the "card based board" model was that I could just as well do a "modular board" with tiles, a la Settlers or something. But one other reason to keep the current board is that, even though it's very stylized, it still contains the names and spatial relationships of real places of the time period in question, and this is one of the few tangible connections the game makes to history. I think this link will help people to immerse themselves more in the game, which is needed, I think, given the random resource distribution and freedom of following "unscripted" strategies.

-J

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

sedjtroll wrote:

I was trying to fix the thematic oddity of people farming for crops in someone else's territory. I suppose if too many people are in your territory you could build a city there to stop them from producing... By extension, if you build cities in all your territories and send your citizens to go farming and digging for gold ion other players' territories- that could be a decent strategy.

Now you're thinking strategically! Hey, you're probably already better at this game than I am...

I'm still not sure there's a thematic oddity. Think of farmers farming crops in foreign territories as "squatters". The owner can choose to assert his ownership and try to kick them out, but other than that, they can farm if they want to; there aren't walls around the arable land. I think it's ok.

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The point was that the goal of 'giving up production in order to build cheaper buildings' doesn't make sense to me unless the peasants can be used EITHER for building OR for producing, not both. Building in non-city territories implies that you could build cheaply AND produce with the same peasants in the same turn.

No, because they're the same Prefect, the "Works" prefect I believe. With that Prefect, you either produce or build, but not both. The peasants can contribute to either action, but not on the same turn.

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one strategy that I want to work is the “Mongol horde” strategy, which probably shouldn’t require city-building to work.

This is a good point. But if the Mongol hordes aren't building cities, are they building structures anyway? Maybe they're just being militaristic and overtaking cities.

That may be true, good point.

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That depends on how common diamonds are. I think I'm advocating having fewer diamonds in the game, which makes a big difference on the upgraded actions.

I don't disagree. I think I'm just adopting more of a "wait and see" policy. If diamonds are too plentiful, then the mechanism by which they come out will have to be evaluated. I think that there won't be "diamond overload", and that if there is, there will be a severe resource crunch. But I could be wrong. I simply don't think we can really tell without testing the game out.

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It's not as if your first 'move in' action commits you to fighting, in which case one could say that it's uncertain what thedefense will look like

That was all I meant to say; that between the time you move and the time you attack, the defense could change on you. But you're right, you can have a sense for how much it could change by...

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I'd be careful with that... telling a company that an aspect of your game is just like one of their games is probably more likely to turn them off than turn them on. They might say "We already sell a game that works that way."

I'm not 100% sure you're right in general (or that you're wrong, either), but at any rate, in this case, the commonality between my game and Wallenstein isn't a mechanism, it's a component -- the "cube tower". The way I propose to use it is different than the other two games they have that use it already. In those, each player throws cubes of his own color into the tower when fighting, and the winner is the one with the most cubes that come out (but some get stuck in the tower). In my variant, there are only two colors -- one for Territory owners, one for "invaders" (although the owner may be the one initiating the attack). I like the mechanic better than a die roll, but because it's an expensive component, I'd never design the game around it unless I was sure I was never going to try to publish the game.

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The problem with this is that it would require defining two different paradiagms for combat: combat between two coexisting players, and combat against a neighboring Territory.

I must have missed something because you completely lost me here. Combat is ALWAYS against another player, isn't it? You choose the territory in which the combat takes place, then you choose the player you're fighting- isn't that what your rules said?

Yes, that's how it works. But you were saying combat could be to "get someone out" of a territory. What I thought you were referring to was the situation where one player has filled a territory to capacity with his own citizens. In that case, if territories couldn't exceed capacity, then no one else could get in, and thus, a new combat would have to exist. This is the main reason why I couldn't have capacity being a hard and fast limit -- because it would make isolationism unrealistically powerful as a defensive strategy.

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I'm not sure I understand the purpose of this... in my suggestion the whole point was to ALLOW fighting in a location where you coexist, because the result of the fight would be to push some citizens out of the territory to make room for more of yours.

The game has this currently.

-Jeff

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

jwarrend wrote:
What I thought you were referring to was the situation where one player has filled a territory to capacity with his own citizens. In that case, if territories couldn't exceed capacity, then no one else could get in, and thus, a new combat would have to exist. This is the main reason why I couldn't have capacity being a hard and fast limit -- because it would make isolationism unrealistically powerful as a defensive strategy.

I see what you mean. In a system where the production is related to the territory in addition to the number of peasants- if there were a production cap on each territory that was less than the capacity- then this could actually be a good thing. You could stick extra peasants in a territory to keep people out, but it would cost you a lot of resources.

- Seth

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

This is non-sequitur to the above comments, I just figure I ought to get my thoughts in and be sharing, because I want to get good feedback from this resource myself some day!

The main thing: I understood the rules much better from explanations in the discussion than I did from the rulebook. I think it could use a lot of clarifying, and the one area I think truly should be simplified is the setup phase (both instruction-wise and in actual play). I like somebody above's idea of having separate Ages for the event cards, because that event card shuffling plan was just the kind of thing that makes my wife not willing to play games with me. It may indeed be a relatively simple procedure, but I don't think it can be explained simply (except perhaps via video!), and so that is something I would look at, as well as the other board setups, like the various resource tokens.
That's the only significant thing I noted, and I do like how the game is full of pairs of things to decide between - a simple and elegant way to add interesting decisions. I wanted to try to convince you to drop to one resource type and/or one peasant type, but in trying to come up with an argument, I didn't see any way that it would be better without. I think you would do well to try to find decisions and mechanics to remove from the game so that there is simply less to do to get from beginning to end (and removing the turn order trading is good, even though I thought it was a cute mechanic), but I can't come up with anything that wouldn't hurt the game by removing it, offhand. I'm tempted to try to make a truly simple and really short Civ-type game myself, though (call it Carca-Civ?)... I loved the computer Civ in my 486 days. You've inspired me!

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

Hamumu wrote:
This is non-sequitur to the above comments, I just figure I ought to get my thoughts in and be sharing, because I want to get good feedback from this resource myself some day!

How magnanamous... (kidding)

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The main thing: I understood the rules much better from explanations in the discussion than I did from the rulebook. I think it could use a lot of clarifying, and the one area I think truly should be simplified is the setup phase (both instruction-wise and in actual play). I like somebody above's idea of having separate Ages for the event cards, because that event card shuffling plan was just the kind of thing that makes my wife not willing to play games with me. It may indeed be a relatively simple procedure, but I don't think it can be explained simply (except perhaps via video!), and so that is something I would look at, as well as the other board setups, like the various resource tokens.

I understand the concern, and in a sense, this is one of the real limitations of the GDW: you really want to be discussing the merits of the game itself, but really it's at least equal parts a critique of your rulebook writing. I think that in most cases, none of our rulebooks are actually as bad as they seem, in this sense: if you had the game in front of you, with all of its components, a game's rulebook would make much more sense and be much easier to follow then if you're trying to create mental associations between terminology and components that you haven't seen, or have seen images of but aren't holding. That said, I appreciate folks taking the time to tell me that the rules need clarifying. I think that the relative lack of specific suggestions probably indicates to me that a main deficiency may simply be a lack of examples. Part of the problem here is most likely my own preference to learn game rules from the descriptions of the algorithms rather than from examples. But I know that most people find examples much more helpful, and I should probably include some.

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That's the only significant thing I noted, and I do like how the game is full of pairs of things to decide between - a simple and elegant way to add interesting decisions. I wanted to try to convince you to drop to one resource type and/or one peasant type, but in trying to come up with an argument, I didn't see any way that it would be better without. I think you would do well to try to find decisions and mechanics to remove from the game so that there is simply less to do to get from beginning to end (and removing the turn order trading is good, even though I thought it was a cute mechanic), but I can't come up with anything that wouldn't hurt the game by removing it, offhand.

Yeah, the trick is really deciding which aspects of civ-building you're willing to abstract. My game has most of them in there: producing, populating, fighting, (some) deal-making, advancing, building, managing your empire, etc. I grant that I probably could have left a few of these aspects out, but I feel that the overall picture of the game integrates them in a not-all-that-complex way, so I haven't felt a need to take a broadsword to the thing and start hacking. If the game can be played in <3 hours, I'll be happy as a clam.

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I'm tempted to try to make a truly simple and really short Civ-type game myself, though (call it Carca-Civ?)... I loved the computer Civ in my 486 days. You've inspired me!

Go for it! Before you do, check out "Vinci", which is a much more abstract Civ game, but which is very good. Also look at zaiga's game "Gheos", which I guess you could describe sort of as "Carca-Civ", if only because it does have tile laying. His game is also much more abstract than mine, and while I haven't played, it looks very good. There's plenty of room for more Civ building games in the world, though, so by all means, roll your own, and tell us how it goes!

Thanks for your comments,

Jeff

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