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Game #55: The Sands of Time by Jeff Warrender

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

Just a few random thoughts that popped into my mind.

Wouldn't it be a good idea to let each player start with one Chronicle card? This would prevent a player feeling clueless at the start of the game. Giving them a Chronicle card right away would start the game in the middle of the action, so to speak.

If you want to empasize the difference between the two types of resources a bit more, you could change the resource production action so that a player has to choose which resource he wants to produce; gold or crops, but not both.

Also, streamlining a game does not necessarily mean that it makes the gaming experience less rich. It just means you take out extraneous stuff which does not contribute to the intended experience, or that you simplify subsystems without necessarily changing the experience. Often streamlining actually enhances the experience, because it allows players to focus on the stuff that really matters, instead of on the fiddly, unnessary bits that murk the waters.

The prefect selection is really the basic choice that drives all other choices a player makes in the game. Therefore, I think that you should streamline this mechanic as much as you can, and make it as intuitive as possible. The effects of each prefect choice should be clear immediately. You don't want players spend too much time thinking about the effects of choosing prefect X. Rather you want them to think about whether the effect of prefect X is better than the effect of prefect Y at that particular point in the game. You see what I mean?

I still think the simplified prefect selection mechanic I proposed could work, if the diamond economy is tight enough. Yes, you could choose the production prefect a few times and spend some diamonds to produce more diamonds, but it still costs a valuable action, and it is less effective than producing, doing something else, doing something else and then producing in the next turn again. Also, it costs a few actions to get the diamond production going, so by the time you get it going you have some catching up to do with the other players.

The reason why I compared this game to Goa is because you take your actions in relative isolation, undepended of what actions other players choose. You can still choose prefect X, regardless of what others players do. The prefect selection mechanic provides less "turn angst" than for example the role selection mechanic in Puerto Rico, where you always have to think about how picking a certain role influences other players. It seems that in Sands of Time most of the "turn angst" comes from the combat in the game and whether or not another player will attack you. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.

- René Wiersma

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

zaiga wrote:
Wouldn't it be a good idea to let each player start with one Chronicle card? This would prevent a player feeling clueless at the start of the game. Giving them a Chronicle card right away would start the game in the middle of the action, so to speak.

It's not a bad idea. I think I have currently that the Event at the end of the first game turn is "Receive a Chronicle card", so that has the same impact, albeit one turn later than you're proposing. I do think, though, that the first turn, while giving some options, will be somewhat "a-strategic"; you're just trying to ramp up your production machine and create a stable empire at that point. I think it's possible to do that with a particular strategy in mind, but maybe not essential.

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If you want to empasize the difference between the two types of resources a bit more, you could change the resource production action so that a player has to choose which resource he wants to produce; gold or crops, but not both.

It's worth a thought; perhaps too brutal, though; I'm not sure. It could be a nice answer to the issue of simplifying the production question -- you produce a base of one Resource type, one Diamond lets you produce the other type and then, the second diamond lets you produce Diamonds. Of course, this maxes out this action at 2 diamonds, and requires you to be producing more than 1 diamond for the 2nd to be useful, but anyway, maybe it could work.

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Also, streamlining a game does not necessarily mean that it makes the gaming experience less rich. It just means you take out extraneous stuff which does not contribute to the intended experience, or that you simplify subsystems without necessarily changing the experience. Often streamlining actually enhances the experience, because it allows players to focus on the stuff that really matters, instead of on the fiddly, unnessary bits that murk the waters.

I don't disagree at all; it's possible that different people just use the word differently. Some of the responses have sounded to me like they were advocating a much more dramatic simplification of the game; I think I'm looking more at a "pruning" operation, with some more fine-scale changes.

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The prefect selection is really the basic choice that drives all other choices a player makes in the game. Therefore, I think that you should streamline this mechanic as much as you can, and make it as intuitive as possible. The effects of each prefect choice should be clear immediately. You don't want players spend too much time thinking about the effects of choosing prefect X. Rather you want them to think about whether the effect of prefect X is better than the effect of prefect Y at that particular point in the game. You see what I mean?

Absolutely, and I agree. I think that while I'm maybe not 100% happy with the Prefect actions, I'm not all that unhappy with them either. The only ones that are a bit unsatisfying are the General (two kinds of actions for 1 ability), the Architect (3 kinds of building operations), Production (no easy way to have an "upgradable" aspect) and Population (again, "upgradable" action is different from base action). It's not perfectly elegant, but I'm not yet sure there's a way to simplify things to the point where there are 8 prefect abilities, each of which can be upgraded. I'm still looking at it, though.

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I still think the simplified prefect selection mechanic I proposed could work, if the diamond economy is tight enough. Yes, you could choose the production prefect a few times and spend some diamonds to produce more diamonds, but it still costs a valuable action, and it is less effective than producing, doing something else, doing something else and then producing in the next turn again. Also, it costs a few actions to get the diamond production going, so by the time you get it going you have some catching up to do with the other players.

This last is important -- I think that knowing when to go for a city and start diamond production is important, because it can really slow down the early-game ramp up as you give up valuable resources to make the change. I think that my current prefect selection mechanic is actually simpler than the one you proposed, but yours might be a better way to permit upgrading those actions; the trick remains getting the actions into a state where they are easily upgradable.

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The reason why I compared this game to Goa is because you take your actions in relative isolation, undepended of what actions other players choose. You can still choose prefect X, regardless of what others players do. The prefect selection mechanic provides less "turn angst" than for example the role selection mechanic in Puerto Rico, where you always have to think about how picking a certain role influences other players. It seems that in Sands of Time most of the "turn angst" comes from the combat in the game and whether or not another player will attack you. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.

It's true, the game has you taking your actions pretty much in isolation, but the board gives an element of interaction that PR definitely doesn't have. With only 26 Territories, that's only about 4 per player in a 6 player game, so every territory really matters, and I suspect they'll be hotly contested. Yet, there are enough mechanics that encourage peaceful play that hopefully it won't devolve into a war game. (Nothing wrong with war games, it's just not the focus of this project...)

Thanks again!

-Jeff

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

jwarrend wrote:
zaiga wrote:
Wouldn't it be a good idea to let each player start with one Chronicle card?

It's not a bad idea. I have currently that the Event at the end of the first game turn is "Receive a Chronicle card", so that has the same impact, albeit one turn later than you're proposing. I do think, though, that the first turn, while giving some options, will be somewhat "a-strategic"; you're just trying to ramp up your production machine and create a stable empire at that point. I think it's possible to do that with a particular strategy in mind, but maybe not essential.

On the one hand, if everyone's 'ramp up' is the same, then it's kind of boring to make everyone do it. On the other, if ramping up is strategy dempendant, then for example say you want to use the Mongol Horde strategy, so maybe you choose initial starting territories with wheat, and produce wheat and start populating your Horde... then you get a Chronicle card which rewards you for the number of cities built.

The point is, you can't really decide what strategy to use until you get at least 1 chronicle card. Or, more accurately you can, but the card would help you decide. In the above example, you could shrug your shoulders, keep building up your army, and as soon as people build cities you could start attacking them. I don't know if that would be better or worse than building an early city- a risky proposition but which should lead to good scoring if pulled off... depending on the chronicle card.

What I'm saying is that I agree. Why not put the card draw action at the BEGINNING of the round instead of the end? Then it's the same as now, only you get the chronicle BEFORE turn 1, and there's consequences (unrest) immediately following it. I suppose that might be too soon for the consequences, remains to be seen.

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zaiga wrote:
you could change the resource production action so that a player has to choose which resource he wants to produce; gold or crops, but not both.

It could be a nice answer to the issue of simplifying the production question -- you produce a base of one Resource type, one Diamond lets you produce the other type and then, the second diamond lets you produce Diamonds.

I would think it would work better if "Produce" yields Crops, "Advanced Produce" (w/ diamond) producs Gold in addition or instead. Maybe a second advanceyields both.

I think Diamonds should come another way. I don't like the idea of spending diamonds to get diamonds. You could use Diamonds to incentivize other actions which might be underused. So players might sometimes take a sub-par action because they need or want a diamond to upgrade actions.

- Seth

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

sedjtroll wrote:

On the one hand, if everyone's 'ramp up' is the same, then it's kind of boring to make everyone do it. On the other, if ramping up is strategy dempendant, then for example say you want to use the Mongol Horde strategy, so maybe you choose initial starting territories with wheat, and produce wheat and start populating your Horde... then you get a Chronicle card which rewards you for the number of cities built.

It’s true that the starting territories you choose (and also what territories surround those) will drive your strategy quite a bit. I don’t think every one will ramp up the same way, and I do think that you’ll be guided somewhat by the strategy you choose to adopt; it’s just that whatever ramp up you follow, it may not preclude retooling and following a different strategy a turn or two later; the first turn probably doesn’t lock you in for the rest of the game. I guess I have in mind games like Risk or Shogun here: in those games, you don’t actually start with adjacent territories, and you must spend a couple of turns “consolidating” your empire. This aspect of those game may seem superfluous to some, but I think it’s somewhat enjoyable. I’m not advocating a similar process for this game, so much as saying that having to spend the first turn or two “ramping up” is tolerable from my perspective. If your Civ comes fully-formed, the game wouldn’t give you as much flexibility.

Also, it’s important to note that there are 3 piles of Chronicle cards, and probably 3 types of cards per pile (and an experienced player will know what those cards are), so if you want to follow the “Mongol horde” strategy, you’d pull from the “Political” pile, and have a decent chance of getting something you want. (Actually, I think all 3 political chronicles will be conducive to that strategy).

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The point is, you can't really decide what strategy to use until you get at least 1 chronicle card.

If a player feels that way, he could use his very first action to draw a Chronicle card using the “Scribe”.

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Or, more accurately you can, but the card would help you decide. In the above example, you could shrug your shoulders, keep building up your army, and as soon as people build cities you could start attacking them. I don't know if that would be better or worse than building an early city- a risky proposition but which should lead to good scoring if pulled off... depending on the chronicle card.

Exactly, I don’t think there’s a single “right” or “wrong” answer to any question about strategy. I think that you can plod ahead with your strategy and hope to get a “good” card later, or adapt your strategy based on the cards you draw; either could be successful. Another important thing to note is that after the Historian occurs, you lose all of your Chronicles, so you basically have to start over from scratch with respect to scoring. So even when your empire is in full bloom, you’ll still need to spend some effort to get the cards that best reflect your empire’s strengths.

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Why not put the card draw action at the BEGINNING of the round instead of the end? Then it's the same as now, only you get the chronicle BEFORE turn 1, and there's consequences (unrest) immediately following it. I suppose that might be too soon for the consequences, remains to be seen.

Yes, this is the main reason why things are the way they are now. I think you need to go from turn 1 to turn 2 with nothing bad happening.

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I would think it would work better if "Produce" yields Crops, "Advanced Produce" (w/ diamond) producs Gold in addition or instead. Maybe a second advanceyields both.

Not a bad idea, but it would probably involve reinvisioning the economy, since right now the two Resource types are pretty much equivalent in terms of importance, so to make one resource only produce upon upgrading would presuppose that you could identify one resource as being the one that would produce upon upgrading. I think it would be too much of a change to do that.

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. I don't like the idea of spending diamonds to get diamonds. You could use Diamonds to incentivize other actions which might be underused.

Yeah, it was really just a top of the head idea. It probably doesn’t work in practice.

I originally had a feature that allowed you to double production in some territories. In a sense, this would be a nice diamond-related production function (double-produce in one region per diamond), but it may be too generous and it still doesn’t make production “singular” in nature.

But really, I’m not inclined to even push aggressively for such a change unless some of the other prefects could be simplified. The Philosopher could be simplified by jettisoning the auction, the General could be simplified by combining combat and annexation as Bill suggested, but it seems that the Architect can only be simplified if the city/market/diamond economy is removed from the game altogether. So maybe I’m sort of stuck with what I have, which, I hasten to point out, isn’t too terribly complicated.

-J

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

Ok, as my session winds down, just wanted to thank everyone again for the excellent suggestions! Here is a list of the changes I’m looking to implement prior to the next playtest, as a result of your suggestions. None are earth-shattering, but they add up to a nice net reduction in the number of rules.

Turn order: Remove the card-based turn order mechanic, and just use clockwise rotation for now.

General cost: All combats will cost your current Unrest, in crops. (instead of multiplying by combat round)

Governor cost: The Governor action must be paid for with Gold.

Closing markets/Can’t attack a city in which you have a market Removed this rule.

Limit on markets Adding a rule whereby a City can’t have more markets than its capacity.

History cards to become single-sided and drawn face-down. Advance cards will remain 2-sided.

A couple of tentative changes, that I’m not completely sold on yet...

General prefect simplification: Combine the general’s subactions “war” and “annexation” into one action, with annexation occuring as a selectable consequence of war. I’m hesitant because there’s a bit of ambiguity in dealing with unowned territories, since you don’t need to fight a war there to annex them.

”Auctioning” advance cards removed I’m thinking of doing away with this for now, if only to simplify the Prefect actions; I actually quite like the mechanic. I may add it back in at some point.

Changes yet to be made:

Perhaps, a simplification of the “architect” action, with which you can currently build structures, cities, or markets. It would be nice if each Prefect could only do one “thing”. I don’t see a great way to achieve this with this ability, short of adding a 5th Prefect, which I’m disinclined to do.

An off the wall idea:

Based on suggestions made by Seth and Rene, here’s a crazy way that the prefect action selection mechanic could work, using a mechanic I cooked up for a different game. The idea is that each turn, you can take as many actions as you want, but must pay diamond tokens to take multiple actions in this way: you get one free action, the next action would cost 1 diamond, the next 2 diamonds, and so on. Here’s the thing: diamonds are not returned to the supply after being used. Instead, the total number of diamonds is fixed, and when the supply is exhausted, an “age” has ended, and scoring occurs. You have some sense (and some control) as to when this will happen. Since players start without the ability to draw diamond tokens, the first age will take a while to get through, but in the latter ages, a player may only get 1 or 2 turns before the age ends, so he must have sufficient diamond production to pay for a few actions per turn, or else risk the age ending before he’s done everything he may have wanted to do.

I don’t think it’s even remotely likely I’ll go to this kind of system -- it’s just too radical a change -- but just wanted to point out that some of the suggestions that came up sparked some different ideas for how things could go.

Thanks again to all who've chimed in! If you haven't yet, but want to, you've still got another day left!

-Jeff

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

jwarrend wrote:
Limit on markets Adding a rule whereby a City can’t have more markets than its capacity.

In case I didn't mention it before- I really like this idea a lot.

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General prefect simplification: Combine the general’s subactions “war” and “annexation” into one action, with annexation occuring as a selectable consequence of war. I’m hesitant because there’s a bit of ambiguity in dealing with unowned territories, since you don’t need to fight a war there to annex them.

Or... you do, but you automatically win *shrug*

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simplification of the “architect” action, with which you can currently build structures, cities, or markets. It would be nice if each Prefect could only do one “thing”.

Could the "one thing" that the Architect can do be considered "Build"? Then the options for building are Structures, Cities, or Markets?

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here’s a crazy way that the prefect action selection mechanic could work... you can take as many actions as you want, but must pay diamond tokens to take multiple actions in this way... diamonds are not returned to the supply after being used.... when the supply is exhausted, an “age” has ended, and scoring occurs.

I think this is a really clever idea, and it wouldn't hurt to try it out. Neat.

- Seth

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

sedjtroll wrote:

Quote:
here’s a crazy way that the prefect action selection mechanic could work... you can take as many actions as you want, but must pay diamond tokens to take multiple actions in this way... diamonds are not returned to the supply after being used.... when the supply is exhausted, an “age” has ended, and scoring occurs.

I think this is a really clever idea, and it wouldn't hurt to try it out. Neat.

The problem with it, as I see it, is two-fold. First, it seems that as players start accumulating many diamonds towards the end, there could be more of a downtime issue, since you can take several actions in a row. The other concern is that it makes diamonds pretty much a must-have, the centerpiece of the game. Moreover, the game falls apart if players choose not to buy diamonds.

The one thing it does do nicely is handles a glut in diamonds pretty effectively, since using them becomes more and more expensive the more you use them. Zaiga's idea gave a similar way to handle this, and in fact his would probably mirror my turn structure a bit more. So this may be the kind of idea I'll use should a diamond explosion become commonplace. We shall see...

-J

GeminiWeb
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And back again ...

Some more comments ... in case you were feeling neglected .... ;)

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sedjtroll wrote:

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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.

I was a little phased by thsi at first too, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I think it gives a nice feel of people just migrating to better lands, both still maintaining allegiance to their 'king'. It reinforces the idea that a border is quite an artifical idea and things are often no way that clear cut.

Coherence

Just realised that there are no rules for having your empire non-contiguous. (For example, in Vinci, you have your turn to rejoin it and then you have to choose which 'bit' you want). Not saying that you need them, but it will need to different strategies.

With rule ... is it viable to 'split' enemy empires, causing them to crumble?

Without rule ... scatter your people into 'pockets' according to desired capacity and produce, avoiding the less productive areas. (Defense might be much harder as troops are split, but hard to be taken out as your empire is diverse).

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Closing markets/Can’t attack a city in which you have a market Removed this rule.

Funny - I thought this was a good rule to stop people having markets in their own cities. Does this just mean that the market disappears afetr conquest instead?

- Bill

jwarrend
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Re: And back again ...

GeminiWeb wrote:

I was a little phased by thsi at first too, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I think it gives a nice feel of people just migrating to better lands, both still maintaining allegiance to their 'king'. It reinforces the idea that a border is quite an artifical idea and things are often no way that clear cut.

I think your justification is as good as any I've come up with. I think this element works well gameplay-wise, and it just goes to show that one can justify just about any mechanic!

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Just realised that there are no rules for having your empire non-contiguous. (For example, in Vinci, you have your turn to rejoin it and then you have to choose which 'bit' you want). Not saying that you need them, but it will need to different strategies.

Not sure how much of a problem this will be. I think that splitting up your empire into "pockets" will be a losing strategy in general, since any battle you lose, you won't be able to retreat to friendly lands and thus will get wiped out. Moreover, you won't really have the ability to shuttle citizens around between your territories, which may be an important capability. I bet it could work, but I think that in general, you'll want to keep your empire mostly contiguous if you can.

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Closing markets/Can’t attack a city in which you have a market Removed this rule.

Funny - I thought this was a good rule to stop people having markets in their own cities. Does this just mean that the market disappears afetr conquest instead?

Actually, this was one of the main reasons for the rule -- to remove the question "what happens to the market if you take over a foreign city?" But it's not that hard of a question -- the market just disappears.

-Jeff

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

My week is over, and the GDW is technically on break although I think Seth is going to be putting up a new game he’s been working on. In the meantime, thought I’d post some thoughts I’m having about the scoring cards in this game, as I’m trying to get a good set of things for which you can receive VPs. Here are my thoughts so far:

Political:

Size of empire (# of owned Territories)
Number of victory laurels won (either cumulatively, or since the last scoring round)
Number of territories in which you coexist with another player

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

Cultural:
Number of advances
Number of markets you’ve built plus those built by other players in your cities.

Anyone have any other ideas?

In the original game, there was a scoring category called “Culture”, which involved, basically, some buildings having a “Culture” rating, as opposed to a functionality. I was thinking that it would be easy to add this kind of effect back in, by simply putting a “culture” symbol (a pyramid, or some similar icon) on certain buildings and advances. And then, one of the scoring categories would be “number of culture symbols”.

It could also be a way to balance slightly weaker structures and advances by giving them this extra ability. The main impetus is that I want a way to reward players who have invested heavily in “cultural” achievement. This seemed like a nice, relatively simple, addition to do that.

I welcome any thoughts, as always!

-Jeff

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

How about a scoring card based on unrest, where less unrest means more points, of course?

I also think it would be nice if there were some end game scoring, apart from the scoring cards, perhaps majority based. For example, to take your idea of scoring based on culture symbols, the player with the most culture symbols at the end of the game receives X points, the player with the second most culture symbols receives Y points. This scoring system would add a long term, strategic path of victory, because you only score at the end game. It would also add some player interaction, because it is based on having a majority in something. Finally, as you noted, it can be a way of making weak buildings and advances a bit more interesting.

- René Wiersma

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

zaiga wrote:
How about a scoring card based on unrest, where less unrest means more points, of course?

I thought of this, but the problem is that it doesn't scale well as the game proceeds: it's probably not significantly more difficult to have low unrest in the early game compared to the late game; if anything, it's probably easier in the early game to keep Unrest low. In contrast, most of the other categories should scale as the game goes -- your empire size will (hopefully) be bigger late in the game than in the early game.

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I also think it would be nice if there were some end game scoring, apart from the scoring cards, perhaps majority based. For example, to take your idea of scoring based on culture symbols, the player with the most culture symbols at the end of the game receives X points, the player with the second most culture symbols receives Y points. This scoring system would add a long term, strategic path of victory, because you only score at the end game. It would also add some player interaction, because it is based on having a majority in something.

All versions of the game up to and including version 8.0 had this kind of "rank-based" scoring, and I like it for the very reasons you suggest. However, again, it didn't scale well over the game; being first in "culture" in turn 1 was worth as much as being first in turn 10, even though it's more noteworthy if you lead a category late in the game. I tried a model with an accelerated scoring payout, but wasn't super-happy with it.

Having said that, such a system, if it was only the endgame, could be rank-based and it would work just fine. In that case, you'd need to pick some meaningful categories. Probably, the ones I'd pick would be:

Lowest Unrest
Largest Size
Most "culture" symbols
Grandest city(ies?)

I initially didn't put something like this in because I really wanted only one VP system in the game, but these would give some nice "overarching" strategies. The only question becomes how much they should pay out, and whether it's ok for some of these categories to duplicate the Chronicle card categories.

Good ideas, thanks!

-Jeff

- René Wiersma

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

I’m hoping to playtest “Sands” at our Albany Playfest next weekend, and I’ve got the prototype pretty much ready to play, but I just can’t resist tinkering, so I’m contemplating a couple of changes. In a quick solo playtest, I observed a couple of things that worried me a bit:

-- The first few turns are brutal. The game system is very tight, and you just don’t have enough actions available to do everything you want to do. Especially painful is the dichotomous (?) nature of the actions: if you build, you can’t produce. This leads to some nice choices, but it may be too rough.

-- The structures that pay out achievement tokens, once built, don’t do anything else. There are some VP categories that reward the number of structures you have, but that’s about it.

So, I’m considering a different scheme, somewhat more in line with what Zaiga suggested, and here’s how it would work:

First, what I was calling “achievement tokens”, I’m now calling “action tokens”, and these come in 3 varieties (still) -- Political, Civic, and Cultural. Each Prefect sub-ability (eg, Governor, Migrate) would have one type of symbol associated with it (e.g, Migrate would be Political), and to use that action, you must spend an available action token in that category. The catch is that, following Rene’s idea, after you use a Prefect, you place one action token on it, so that future uses of the prefect cost the base 1 token plus however many tokens are currently on the Prefect.

The other catch is, I think, that the Prefect ability groupings will be such that each Prefect will have sub-abilities in more than one category (eg, for the “Empire” Prefect, “General” will be Political, “Governor” will be Cultural).

So, for example, in my first turn, I want to use the “Empire” prefect, as a General; I must pay 1 Political token to do that, and I place the token on that Prefect on my player mat. Later that turn, I want to use that Prefect as a Governor; I must now pay Culture tokens, and since there’s already one token on the Prefect, I must pay two Culture tokens to take that action. Make sense?

How are Action Tokens received? I think you’ll get 1 of each type for free each turn (or perhaps 3 "wild" tokens each turn), but now, the structures that show Action tokens will pay tokens at the start of each turn. (It's an open question whether you lose unused tokens at the end of the turn, or during attrition events, or never...)

One overall advantage of such a system is that it would allow removal of the diamond economy, and possibly city-building as well, which would simplify the game a bit. I also think I could reduce the number of Prefects to 3 (but would add a 9th sub-ability by separating combat and annexation) More importantly, I think it just gives you more overall flexibility in the actions you take, making it easier to take multiple actions with the same Prefect but with a sensible cost structure for doing that. It will likely make the later turns of the game longer, but since you still need to use Action tokens to complete Advances and Chronicles, and since the action costs become somewhat self-limiting, it may not be too bad, though perhaps I’ll reduce the total number of turns if necessary.

In a sense, I think it also casts the decisions into even sharper relief: do I use these tokens to take more actions, or do I advance my Civ? It unifies this decision structure, whereas now, they’re somewhat separate due to the diamond economy being distinct from the advancement economy. But that separation may actually be a good thing. And, I think it adds some strategic scope, since the actions I'm allowed to take are now more dependent on the tokens I've chosen to produce.

I think it may be too close to this Saturday's upcoming test for me to make this big a change now (for one thing, I’d likely have to change several of the Advances and a few other things), but it’s probably something I’ll discuss after the playtest, and see what folks think. But in the meantime, if anyone has any thoughts, I’d be happy to hear them. Thanks much!

-J

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

A couple of comments (or questions) on your proposed change to Action tokens...

Will the tokens on the Prefects ever get removed? Is this a 'per turn' thing? Or do the tokens stay on there forever? If forever, it might get pretty tough to actually pay for actions after a while. As a per turn thing it could be ok... you have so many action points, and if you want to use the prefect over and over it costs more and more action points.

There might be an 'action prder effect' wherin you can only afford to do actions in a certain order. This could be a good thing or a bad thing., If bad, do the tokens really NEED to be of different types?

Finally, if the sub-abilities are to be of different types, might there be 1 subability of each type per prefect - so each prefect has a Political ability, a Cultural ability, and Civic ability?

- Seth

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

sedjtroll wrote:

Will the tokens on the Prefects ever get removed? Is this a 'per turn' thing?

Yes. The overall game turn sequence (Take prefect actions/reveal an event card) will still remain intact, but instead of everyone taking 3 rounds of actions, it will just be that players keep taking actions until everyone passes (ie, can't afford to take actions anymore). At that point, the tokens will be removed from the player mats.

Quote:

There might be an 'action prder effect' wherin you can only afford to do actions in a certain order. This could be a good thing or a bad thing., If bad, do the tokens really NEED to be of different types?

Do you mean, "couldn't they all just be 'diamond tokens'"? Possibly. I like that the 3-token system kind of fits in with the existing idea of "achievement tokens", and I think could give more strategic scope to the game. ie, if you're playing a heavily military game, you'll lean towards getting Political tokens so that you can take those kinds of actions more often.

As for an action order effect, yes, I could definitely see something happening along these lines. I'm not sure whether it's good or bad.

Quote:
Finally, if the sub-abilities are to be of different types, might there be 1 subability of each type per prefect - so each prefect has a Political ability, a Cultural ability, and Civic ability?

That's a strong possibility, to be sure. I have 3 candidate groupings: one is a categorized grouping (ie, one Prefect has all 3 Political abilities, one has all 3 Cultural abilities, etc). I also considered a "symmetric" grouping like you suggest, but I think I'm tentatively leaning towards an "asymmetric" grouping, where each Prefect has 2 abilities of 1 category and 1 of another. Something like this:

Prefect A:
War (Pol)
Annex (Pol)
Govern (Cul)

Prefect B:
Produce (Civ)
Build (Civ)
Migrate (Pol)

Prefect C:
Advance (Cul)
Scribe (Cul)
Populate (Civ)

I'm increasingly convincing myself that this is a change worth trying out, but I assume there are unintended consequences I'm not seeing yet. One is a possible loss of interaction from the City/Market economy.

Thanks for your comments!

-Jeff

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

wow.... this is a lot of comments and information about your civ-lit game right here... I am tempted to read threough it all once I have the several years of free time I would need to do this. :)

8O

But in the end, I probably will go through it all, and hopefully be able to offer some more assistance

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

DrMayhem wrote:
wow.... this is a lot of comments and information about your civ-lit game right here... I am tempted to read threough it all once I have the several years of free time I would need to do this. :)

Well, I could perhaps save you a bit of reading and post the latest version of the rules; I'll try to do that tomorrow. My most recent post (or 2nd most recent, anyway), is the question that's plaguing me currently; it's basically a restructuring of the action selection mechanism I'm using. It would simplify the game overall, which is probably good, but it's just not clear yet whether it would make the game better or worse.

-Jeff

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

jwarrend wrote:
DrMayhem wrote:
wow.... this is a lot of comments and information about your civ-lit game right here... I am tempted to read threough it all once I have the several years of free time I would need to do this. :)

Well, I could perhaps save you a bit of reading and post the latest version of the rules; I'll try to do that tomorrow. My most recent post (or 2nd most recent, anyway), is the question that's plaguing me currently; it's basically a restructuring of the action selection mechanism I'm using. It would simplify the game overall, which is probably good, but it's just not clear yet whether it would make the game better or worse.

-Jeff

I would say that generally, simplification without a change in the quality of a game (in gameplay and fun, etc) is a good thing. Even giving up some of the interesting aspects of gameplay in favor of simplification could be the right way to go. It all really depends on the opportunity cost of that simplification. I would personally try the game with the simple version of the mechanism, and see if the game still operates properly and will intriguing gameplay.

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

As always happens when you change one thing in a game, other changes that you hadn't considered bubble to the surface. In this case, doing away with Cities removes some complexity, but it has the unintended consequence of devaluing the low-numbered territories, which previously were nice as city sites, since they were cheaper to convert.

However, I have thought of a possible solution to this. It consists mainly of changing cities from something you explicitly build, to an implicit creation. A city would be any territory that contained as many structures as its capacity (so a capacity 3 territory with 3 structures would be considered a city).

The question then becomes, what does a city do? I think one answer is that it could give an immediate VP payout, perhaps equal to the capacity of the territory. Alternatively, it could pay out action tokens, but since structures now do that, it seems redundant.

Just some more thoughts on how this new action system changes other things in ways I hadn't expected, but which I think can be accomodated.

-J

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

For any who are interested, here's the latest version of the rulebook: SoT rulebook.

I will probably post a session report after our playtest this Saturday, and if the rules change (and I can only assume they will!) I'll get an updated version at some point...

-J

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

I'm trying to get the latest version of Sands together for an upcoming playtest session by an outside group. As I have probably mentioned somewhere, in this new incarnation, the Diamond tokens and Markets will be removed. A "City", instead of something you actively build, will be simply a territory that contains as many Structures as its capacity. Once you have a city, you get VP equal to the capacity, and you get 1 VP each subsequent scoring round.

But this leaves something of a vacuum on non-combatitive player interaction, and I'm wondering how this can be addressed. One aspect that the game currently lacks is a strong element of trade. However, since there are few resources, there's little to trade in the customary sense, and furthermore, deal-making takes time, and the game is already too long.

What to do? Here's an idea I had: there is a piece called a "Caravan" that can travel around the board under some level of direction from the players. When it hits a city, something happens. This could be:

(a) All players with citizens in the city get something -- VP, money, etc

(b) The player who owns the city can put something onto the caravan, and other players can buy it later on.

(a) is simple enough, but I'm interested in exploring how (b) would work. One idea was that the caravan could represent a vehicle for cultural diffusion: perhaps advance cards or structures (think of it as the "blueprints" for a structure) can be carried by the caravan, symbolizing that knowledge is being transferred between cultures. Probably the most straightforward implementation would be that the caravan has X spaces, and you can put something into one of those spaces, along with a marker indicating that it's yours. Then, when it comes to another city, the owner of that city can buy it from you, either by making a deal with you, or at some fixed price. Or maybe the card/upgrade/whatever is free, but you get VPs for having diffused an aspect of your culture?

However it works, it allows for some deal-making, but in a restricted sense. It also adds some interesting board position considerations. Maybe, eg, there's a "caravan" that travels the land and a "ship" that travels in the Med. I'm not sure how the caravan would be controlled or moved, either.

Anyway, just an idea for a way to permit some trading but without losing the overall terseness of the design.

I welcome any thoughts...

-Jeff

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

jwarrend wrote:
(b) The player who owns the city can put something onto the caravan, and other players can buy it later on.

I think this is a great idea. Here's a brain-dump for your consideration:

Just for context, I'm imagining (based on your description) a token to indicate the caravan's position, and an on-board track with "slots" for holding whatever the caravan is carrying.

Since no cities exist at the game start, have the caravan appear in the first city that is eventually completed. Let the city controller program the caravan's next few destinations, but without having it linger or backtrack (numbered tokens placed into territories should do the trick). When it completes its program, have the controller of the terminal territory reprogram it. Programming becomes especially cool if control of a territory changes after the path is set. Perhaps require that if the caravan is not in the largest city, then it must move toward, to, or through the largest city on its next journey (I can imagine it would cause too much hovering unless the program was long).

When the caravan makes its game debut, one or two slots are seeded with something desirable. At each stop, give players in that territory (meeting whatever criteria) a quick opportunity to bid on the current lot of goods (maybe a once-around per slot in reverse majority order [however majority is defined]). Restrict the auction in the following 3 ways:

    1) Bidding on an item with an identical item is disallowed. (No free lunch -- can't get crops 2-for-1.) 2) Excepting advances, whatever is won must "unload" into the territory. (This seems like a neat idea. Might suck for buildings. Might doubly suck if, for symmetry, you require bid items to be present in the territory. Whatever.)
    3) The winning bid must fill the slot vacated by what was won. Each item type in a winning bid gets its own slot on the caravan. Only single-item-type bids are allowed when the caravan is full. (For advances or buildings, define item type as a specific advance or building.)
Obviously, the caravan will tend to fill up under this system. If filling up the caravan is bad, you might remedy the situation by giving away items that don't garner bids with subsequent items that do.

This system doesn't require you to fix any prices or conversion rates, but there should be a hierarchy for item types. So you might say that advances trump buildings trump meeples trump resources. Did I say meeples? Yeah, you might say that slaves and/or mercenaries are fair game. Also, instead of arbitrarily rating advances and buildings, perhaps break ties on single-item-type bids by just awarding the final bidder (which should be the player with highest majority in the territory [ultimately the territorial controller]).

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

jwarrend wrote:
A "City", instead of something you actively build, will be simply a territory that contains as many Structures as its capacity. Once you have a city, you get VP equal to the capacity, and you get 1 VP each subsequent scoring round.

But this leaves something of a vacuum on non-combatitive player interaction, and I'm wondering how this can be addressed.
Admittedly, I haven't read the whole post. But I wanted to say this before I forgot because it might actually be helpful.

Regarding non-combative player interaction...
Suppose you could build things in other players' territories (is that how it is already?). You would get whatever benefit there is for that (maybe VPs for what you're building, or use of it, or the fact that it exists, or whatever), but you'd be helping them fill out their city which will give them a lot of VPs.

What denotes ownership of territories, by the way? I forgot. Controlling interest in Citizens? Some kind of ownership token?

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

Nando wrote:
When the caravan makes its game debut, one or two slots are seeded with something desirable.

I forgot about the "cultural diffusion" idea you had, which I think is pretty good also. I suppose instead of seeding (and at anytime, really) players could, for a VP reward, still do this via a donation to the caravan. Though I think the two could happily co-exist. Do seeding with resources, and do diffusion with the big-ticket items.

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

Nando wrote:

Just for context, I'm imagining (based on your description) a token to indicate the caravan's position, and an on-board track with "slots" for holding whatever the caravan is carrying.

Yes, this is exactly how it would probably work. In fact, I imagine that there might be multiple caravans, but for simplicity, there would probably be only one track with the "slots" for goods/products.

Quote:

Since no cities exist at the game start, have the caravan appear in the first city that is eventually completed. Let the city controller program the caravan's next few destinations, but without having it linger or backtrack (numbered tokens placed into territories should do the trick). When it completes its program, have the controller of the terminal territory reprogram it. Programming becomes especially cool if control of a territory changes after the path is set. Perhaps require that if the caravan is not in the largest city, then it must move toward, to, or through the largest city on its next journey (I can imagine it would cause too much hovering unless the program was long).

These are all good ideas for the caravan AI, thanks! I was thinking it would be something like "at the start of your turn, if the caravan is in one of your territories, you may/must move the caravan." But a programmed route may work as well. Gives me something to think about!

Quote:
When the caravan makes its game debut, one or two slots are seeded with something desirable. At each stop, give players in that territory (meeting whatever criteria) a quick opportunity to bid on the current lot of goods (maybe a once-around per slot in reverse majority order [however majority is defined]).

What I like about this idea is that encourages peaceful coexistence in territories implictly, which is something I've been trying to do all along. My concern, however, is that an auction model, as opposed to a deal-making model, requires an exact valuation of what is being bid. This probably requires players to bid Resources, however, in a model whereby players simply buy from the display, a negotiation between the seller and buyer could ensue, with the involved players setting a price between themselves. Not sure which is better.

Quote:

This system doesn't require you to fix any prices or conversion rates, but there should be a hierarchy for item types. So you might say that advances trump buildings trump meeples trump resources. Did I say meeples? Yeah, you might say that slaves and/or mercenaries are fair game. Also, instead of arbitrarily rating advances and buildings, perhaps break ties on single-item-type bids by just awarding the final bidder (which should be the player with highest majority in the territory [ultimately the territorial controller]).

Ooh, slave trading, how non-PC. I was actually thinking about adding a unit called "slaves" that have 0 combat strength, but produce 2 resources per turn. I'm probably not going to do it, though, mainly because adding a 3rd unit may be too much. I can understand that slaves are taboo, but the fact is, they were a reality of the ancient world.

Quote:
I forgot about the "cultural diffusion" idea you had, which I think is pretty good also. I suppose instead of seeding (and at anytime, really) players could, for a VP reward, still do this via a donation to the caravan. Though I think the two could happily co-exist. Do seeding with resources, and do diffusion with the big-ticket items.

Right, my thinking was that if someone acquired one of your Advances, you would place one of their markers on that card (or else, they would get to freely mine the appropriate Advance deck and pull the card for themselves, and YOU would place your marker on THEIR card). Then, during scoring rounds, you get points for how much stuff you've given away. (probably this would be one of the Chronicle cards that you could record).

I've wanted to include a "cultural diffusion" element for a while now, and the original concept, which still may have merit, was built around peaceful coexistence between players. But this idea, the caravan as a vehicle to share stuff, is even more thematic, so I may try it out, even though it adds some complexity.

Thanks for the excellent suggestions about how to implement the idea!

sedjtroll wrote:

What denotes ownership of territories, by the way? I forgot. Controlling interest in Citizens? Some kind of ownership token?

The latter. You use the "Annex" action to gain control of a territory (by paying Crops equal to your current empire size), and place a marker in the territory's info box. You can only lose a territory by someone expelling you via combat and then annexing the territory out from under you.

Quote:
Regarding non-combative player interaction...
Suppose you could build things in other players' territories (is that how it is already?). You would get whatever benefit there is for that (maybe VPs for what you're building, or use of it, or the fact that it exists, or whatever), but you'd be helping them fill out their city which will give them a lot of VPs.

That's not a bad thought, but it might require rethinking things a bit. Currently, the idea is that most of the buildings confer benefits exclusively to the owner (although some, like Roads, give benefits implicitly to any players in the Territory). This is partly meant to increase the importance of territorial ownership, as a way to counterbalance the fact that ownership is difficult and expensive (which it's supposed to be).

I originally had an idea of "cooperative builds" -- buildings that 2 players could build on the border between two territories, which would give both players some benefit. I liked the idea, but it seemed like too much complexity to implement. I think it probably still does.

Thanks to both of you for the thoughts!

-Jeff

What denotes ownership of territories, by the way? I forgot. Controlling interest in Citizens? Some kind of ownership token?

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

jwarrend wrote:
My concern, however, is that an auction model, as opposed to a deal-making model, requires an exact valuation of what is being bid.

Thanks! You done learned me something! (At least it seems the fog is slowly lifting...) It's just that I thought...the trump idea...you know...

Well anyway, maybe you can learn me something else... You originally said (more or less), "Put your stuff on the caravan and shop it around." In other words, float a sell order. How about floating contracts instead? (Ahem. Let me reinvent this wheel. I'm new.) "I'm trading N Xs for M Ys." And allow a few M-Y combinations per contract. Send it out on the caravan, where anyone who ran across it could buy it. Whoever controlled the caravan could try to keep it floating in limbo, or usher it his way. Or disregard it. Or direct it back to you for an update. And if you could only update it in certain circumstances, maybe it would become "good enough" to someone who chanced across it?

The original setup of the contract would probably still get negotiated, huh? Bummer. Can't you just expressly forbid it knowing that those who prefer the time-sink of negotiation can simply ignore the rule?

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

Could Caravans be something created/owned by the individual players? For example, when they complete their first city, or a special structure, they can add a Caravan to the board in that territory.

The player would be able to move their Caravan(s) on each of their turns. If a Caravan (owned by anyone) passes through a player's territory, they can add an item to sell, or buy an item already carried. The owner of the Caravan would get a kick-back from the seller -- maybe a set small fee in money, or somesuch.

Obviously, it would be cheaper to sell through your own caravan, and even better if you buy things off your own caravan.

But that may be getting a bit more complicated than you want ...

-Bryk

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

OK... Once more with feeling!

jwarrend wrote:
... the caravan has X spaces, and you can put something into one of those spaces, along with a marker indicating that it's yours. Then, when it comes to another city, the owner of that city can buy it from you ...

Caravan. Slots. Stuff. Ownership markers. Selling in cities. All good.

What if you did a modified cut and choose? The least influential player in the city chooses which slot's goods are on the block. The owner of those goods then states his price. The city owner gets right of first refusal with one counteroffer. The goods' owner may of course accept or refuse. Until a deal is made the seller may hear one counteroffer from each other interested player who has influence in the city in order of descending influence.

[Edit: Enh. Upon reflection, I think the more direct approach is probably best: the caravan controller chooses the slot and states the price, gives the city owner right of first refusal with one counteroffer, a deal is made or refused. If refused, he hears one counteroffer each from all other eligible and interested parties, chooses among the offers simultaneously, and a deal is made or refused.]

If the goods don't sell, they remain in the caravan... EXCEPT, design the caravan to be FIFO (but sold goods get removed immediately and the remaining unsold items get shifted to fill the gap). So they remain in the caravan until newer additions push the stale items out. Expelled items could be returned to the owner, maybe with an action point cost for reclamation.

[Addendum: The owner of those goods would not be able to re-add his goods to the caravan until the caravan entered the next city he owned. Which, I guess, is just how the whole "put goods on the caravan" thing would work.]

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

I don't know if or how it fits into Sands of Time, but I think the caravan idea is an interesting one. Springboarding off the 'programmed route' idea someone mentioned, There could be a whole game made with that mechanic...

One player takes markers numbered 1, 2, and 3 and place them in the towns where the caravan will go, thereby programming it's route. There could be some restrictions on placement... no two markers in the same location, adjacent markers must be in adjacent locations (or within 2), whatever.

When the Caravan gets to the next town on it's route, the 'controller' of that town places the marker after the last marker on the currently planned route.

Finally, control of the towns should change back and forth over the course of the game, so there would be things like I try and take control of your town by the time the caravan gets there so I get to place the marker.

Then of course there would be some game action at the caravan location, or some benefit for the location of the caravan, etc.

Heh, I just thought of there being roads that the caravan might travel, and someone might ambush the caravan en route (like Robin Hood, or generic bandits). This could be a Stagecoach instead of a 'caravan' as well, for an old west theme.

- Seth

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

Nando wrote:
In other words, float a sell order. How about floating contracts instead?

This does indeed cut out the time associated with negotiating, and that's a good thing. The problem, as I see it, is one of representation. If you're making a "standing sell offer", this is easy to represent: you just put whatever you want to sell onto the caravan. But how do you indicate, in the "contract" model, "here's what I want for it?", keeping in mind that it may be several turns before the sale is actually closed? And, keeping in mind that there may be a variety of things that could be used for payment? (or maybe it should just be resources?) It's one of those things that is easy to explain but notoriously hard to actually pull off in a simple way without adding a lot of components...

Quote:
Can't you just expressly forbid it knowing that those who prefer the time-sink of negotiation can simply ignore the rule?

Alternatively, maybe a limit to the amount of negotiation. Eg, on your turn, when you wish to buy from the caravan, you say what you want to buy and make an offer. The seller either accepts the offer or makes a counter offer. You either accept, or the show is over. Maybe something like that, to keep negotiation from dragging on (which it definitely does...)

Brykovian wrote:
Could Caravans be something created/owned by the individual players? For example, when they complete their first city, or a special structure, they can add a Caravan to the board in that territory.

Sure, this is certainly a possibility. It might even make sense to do it this way, so as to permit caravan-related actions to become controllable with Prefect abilities (probably the "Migrate" ability). In a sense, this is effectively how it works already, since caravans will originate when you build a city (and there will be X caravans on the board, but only 1 "caravan board" onto which sellable items will be placed -- yes, it technically allows for "teleporting", but it's a minor liberty...)

Quote:
The player would be able to move their Caravan(s) on each of their turns. If a Caravan (owned by anyone) passes through a player's territory, they can add an item to sell, or buy an item already carried. The owner of the Caravan would get a kick-back from the seller -- maybe a set small fee in money, or somesuch.

Right, I think this is how it will work, except that I don't currently have the individual ownership, so perhaps the "kickback" won't apply. But it's a good idea, to be sure!

Nando wrote:
Upon reflection, I think the more direct approach is probably best: the caravan controller chooses the slot and states the price, gives the city owner right of first refusal with one counteroffer, a deal is made or refused. If refused, he hears one counteroffer each from all other eligible and interested parties, chooses among the offers simultaneously, and a deal is made or refused.

I'm not sure how this would originate; who is the "caravan controller"? In my vision of how it will work, the active player, if the caravan is in a territory in which he has a presence, may attempt to buy something. I like the idea that you're going one step further -- he's initiating a sale, and chooses the item to be sold, but if he doesn't accept the price, the other players in the territory have a crack at buying it. Kind of like the auction in Monopoly. Not bad! This still restricts negotiation, but encourages players to be reasonable in their demands.

Nando wrote:
If the goods don't sell, they remain in the caravan... EXCEPT, design the caravan to be FIFO (but sold goods get removed immediately and the remaining unsold items get shifted to fill the gap). So they remain in the caravan until newer additions push the stale items out. Expelled items could be returned to the owner, maybe with an action point cost for reclamation.

FIFO? No comprendo.

At any rate, I think that keeping items in the caravan till sold would be a good way to encourage players to put "good" items up for sale, but may also be a harsh penalty if no one is buying what you want to be selling. I'll have to think it over.

sedjtroll wrote:
I don't know if or how it fits into Sands of Time, but I think the caravan idea is an interesting one. Springboarding off the 'programmed route' idea someone mentioned, There could be a whole game made with that mechanic...

I agree, my only concern here is that this mechanic may be too much extra complexity for this game. I do think it could be the focus of a game in its own right, and presumably, it already is in some game or other. My guess is that I'll try the game out with it in, but that it will end up in an "expansion" to the original game...

Thanks, all, for the excellent comments and suggestions! I really appreciate your input and insight!

-Jeff

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