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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

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Brykovian
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This is a bit more complex game, but back in the strategy-conflict area, with which I'm more comfortable.

Royal Impressions is a war and building game with a timed game-end and VP collection throughout. I'm looking forward to your input on it.

Rules: http://www.bgdf.com/files/My_Uploads/Brykovian/ri.pdf

Game Board (quite rough, but gives the idea): http://www.bgdf.com/files/My_Uploads/Brykovian/ri_board.JPG

Thanks!

-Bryk

Scurra
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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

I was very interested to read this, as it is covering much the same ground - albeit less ambitiously! - as my "Wheel of Time" game from last year. And the key aspect is pretty much the same: how should players be allowed to conduct actions? In my case, I used a key mechanism to allocate the actions, in yours you are allowing every player to do every action but in an unspecified order.

Things I like:
- the "fake" units. A neat device, although it could get old pretty quickly.
- the "spy" cards. I like the counterplay between set-collecting and instant use, but I'm worried about the die-roll effect.
- the simple scoring system. Although it could be too simple: there may not be sufficient alternate routes to victory.
- the action selection. It feels as though players should still not be able to take all of the actions in a single turn though, as many of the best games are ones where you want to do everything but can't.

Things I didn't like:
- the combat system. It seems far too arbitrary at the moment, without much scope for subtlety. This may, of course, be what you want! But it seems like it could drag horribly.
- the "sameness". Although the Fortresses provide different special abilities, they seem a little uninspiring. [For contrast, in the Wheel of Time, because the players were representing deities, they had influence over whole spheres of development. Fundamentally, they were the same thing (add to die rolls etc.) but thematically they feel stronger.]

I'd like to congratulate you on a clear rulebook though; everything was obvious and in the right place.

(Oh, and I don't believe your projected playing time for a moment! A four-player game will last six turns. To fit that into 3 hours would require a single turn to last 30 minutes, which would require each action by each player to take around a minute each. Yeah, right ;-))

Brykovian
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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

Scurra wrote:
the "fake" units. A neat device, although it could get old pretty quickly.

Can you elaborate on the "could get old" a bit more? I do think some ability to feint is important, since there won't be that many cannon or militia units to work with.

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the "spy" cards. I like the counterplay between set-collecting and instant use, but I'm worried about the die-roll effect.

I wanted to make it something of a risk that the player had to take ... commit to the action, although you don't know if it'll work. Of course, the spy cards aren't worth many VPs ... so perhaps this should be a straight "gimmee".

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the simple scoring system. Although it could be too simple: there may not be sufficient alternate routes to victory.

You gain VPs in different 3 ways, primarily ... conquering (VPs of won/held territory), building (structures), and collected sets of spy cards. Not sure I care to allow more routes than this for this type of game.

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the action selection. It feels as though players should still not be able to take all of the actions in a single turn though, as many of the best games are ones where you want to do everything but can't.

Were the rules clear on the fact that on a player's turn, he can only do *one* of the phases? During the course of a round, each player will take 7 turns and can't repeat any of the phases he's already done (except through using the "focus" phase -- which has the purpose of allowing each player to double-up on a phase within the round). I think with this approach, players *will* have that tension of "I wish I hadn't already used my '___' phase" ... with the added decision of using the 'focus' phase right then to "redo" an earlier-used phase.

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the combat system. It seems far too arbitrary at the moment, without much scope for subtlety. This may, of course, be what you want! But it seems like it could drag horribly.

I don't think there will be a lot of real militia involved in each battle ... so I don't see you getting a long, drawn-out set of battles. Truth be told, I have worked through a number of different approaches on how to do battles in this game. What I like about this method is that the fake militia play a role, defenses are a significant part of the calculation, and equipment can help out in those times when it's needed most and have a gentle sway on the chances over time.

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the "sameness". Although the Fortresses provide different special abilities, they seem a little uninspiring.

I only recently added the special Fortress Province powers ... not sure if they're needed or help all that much. The difference between games will be the initial Province VP distribution and production capabilities. Otherwise, I didn't want the map to play too much importance in the game ... I want the VPs, production, and players to make each game different.

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I'd like to congratulate you on a clear rulebook though; everything was obvious and in the right place.

Thanks ... that usually is a problem for me.

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Oh, and I don't believe your projected playing time for a moment! A four-player game will last six turns. To fit that into 3 hours would require a single turn to last 30 minutes, which would require each action by each player to take around a minute each. Yeah, right ;-))

Well, I'm using it as more of a "target playing time" at this point ... I think those numbers will go up, just as I hope to hone the design down to play more quickly. I'm more concerned with making each player's turn "feel quick". Also, notice that no matter how many players are in the game, there will be the same number of player-turns throughout. I am concerned that in a 5 player game, it will feel like you haven't had much chance to do anything significant before the game is over.

-Bryk

sedjtroll
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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

Scurra wrote:

- the action selection. It feels as though players should still not be able to take all of the actions in a single turn though, as many of the best games are ones where you want to do everything but can't.

DISCLAIMER: I have not yet read the rules, etc.

This is an interesting point that David brings up. It's clear that some very good games introduce a lot of tension by having several options available but not allowing enough actions to do them all.

However, I maintain that's not automatically the best way to introduce tension, just by merit of some games working that way. By way of example I'll offer All For One, a game that Scurra and I have made (or 'are making'). A complaint levied by several different testers is that we allow 3 actions, but often there's only 1 or 2 useful things you can do on your turn. They say they feel cheated out of their last action, and that there's not enough tension because you can almost always do everything you want to do. In response to this complaint, David and I are considering simply doing away with the '3 action per turn' restriction, and allow players to do all the actions they want to do (once each).

The point is that I really feel like the only reason the testers felt cheated was because of the restriction. The tension in that particular game is not intended to come from not being able to do all the actions every turn. The tension comes from somewhere else (if you're not familiar with the game, the tension is supposed to come from figuring out how to do missions with characters which can be moved by all players).

So what's my point? My point is that you have to determine where the tension is intended to come from before introducing it via some method- even if that method is tried and true. It might not be appropriate to the game.

That said, I think I'll go read the rules and see if it's appropriate for THIS game :)

- Seth

Yogurt
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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

The game reminds me a lot of King and Things with the bluff troops (good) and the high-stakes single die rolls (less good). The theme's tired though. Kings never reward merit, you know. It's all politics and genes. :)

I was surprised to see the same building process can lead to phantom troops or real troops. This means phantoms are not just simulating feints and fog; they're simulating hollow armies and industrial failure.

The luck of draw might be overwhelming with this phantom-build system. I would try to moderate it, perhaps by allowing players to exchange two phantoms for a real army, or by allowing players to pay extra to guarantee a real army.

Similarly, the possibility of totally wasting a spy card is something I always find discouraging in a game. Perhaps a failed Spy roll could simply return the card to your hand, wasting the action, or more amusingly, allow you to try the Spy card on another player before discarding it.

About the pairs of VP tokens in a province: I found the set-up confusing at first, but it's easily remedied. Use two colours of VP tokens. "Randomly distribute the green VP markers to each province. Place the matching blue VP markers beside each green VP marker. The green markers are permanent and show the value of owning the province. The blue markers represent loot and are awarded to the first player to conquer the province."

Those bombards must have a great range. They can reach anywhere within hundreds of miles! Perhaps make them guerilla teams or something.

It definitely sounds like a game my friends and I would play.

Yogurt

Brykovian
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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

yogurt wrote:
The theme's tired though. Kings never reward merit, you know. It's all politics and genes. :)

True ... care to help me out on that side of things? (I'm tired as well.)

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The luck of draw might be overwhelming with this phantom-build system. I would try to moderate it, perhaps by allowing players to exchange two phantoms for a real army, or by allowing players to pay extra to guarantee a real army.

Actually, I've flipped back and forth between this random-draw method and just having the player take 1 of each type on each build. The random-draw adds a bit to the fog of war, but does have its downside, as you've mentioned.

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Similarly, the possibility of totally wasting a spy card is something I always find discouraging in a game. Perhaps a failed Spy roll could simply return the card to your hand, wasting the action, or more amusingly, allow you to try the Spy card on another player before discarding it.

I suppose the instant-block option might be enough of a risk that a die-roll isn't needed.

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About the pairs of VP tokens in a province: I found the set-up confusing at first, but it's easily remedied. Use two colours of VP tokens.

Thanks for that -- that would make it more easily understood.

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Those bombards must have a great range. They can reach anywhere within hundreds of miles!

Abstracted, of course. ;-p

Thanks for the comments, yogurt.

-Bryk

Scurra
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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

Brykovian wrote:
Scurra wrote:
the "fake" units. A neat device, although it could get old pretty quickly.

Can you elaborate on the "could get old" a bit more? I do think some ability to feint is important, since there won't be that many cannon or militia units to work with.

I simply meant that once you've got the idea, there are still only two unit types: real ones and fake ones, so it loses some of the surprise. What I would like to see is for some units to be "elite" (say, worth 2 regular units) to mix in as well. That way, you get to shake up the whole supply structure and make bluffing options far more interesting (is that single unit elite or a bluff?!)

Brykovian wrote:
Quote:
the action selection. It feels as though players should still not be able to take all of the actions in a single turn though, as many of the best games are ones where you want to do everything but can't.

Were the rules clear on the fact that on a player's turn, he can only do *one* of the phases? During the course of a round, each player will take 7 turns and can't repeat any of the phases he's already done

Just a terminology failure - I was using "turn" where I meant "round". But I don't see any major angst arising from using things in the wrong order, whereas if there were only five "turns" within a round, players would have to choose which ones they weren't going to take! I also think it might help the game-length issue, since the AP added by choosing which actions to skip would likely be less than the time those extra turns would take.

I like yogurt's suggestion regarding failed Spy rolls - it's a bit like founding colonies in Goa: if you fail, you get a free Colonist card which will make it more likely next round - but of course you've wasted a precious action this round which is more significant. So maybe a player just has to discard one of the two Spy cards on a failed roll, rather than losing both?

(As for the theme being tired: that's why I went for divinities! I think you should try a completely lateral assault on potential themes: cockroach warfare or something silly like that?)

Brykovian
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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

Scurra wrote:
I simply meant that once you've got the idea, there are still only two unit types: real ones and fake ones, so it loses some of the surprise. What I would like to see is for some units to be "elite" (say, worth 2 regular units) to mix in as well. That way, you get to shake up the whole supply structure and make bluffing options far more interesting (is that single unit elite or a bluff?!)

At one time, the militia pieces had a 0, 1, or 2 on the bottom to accomplish what you just wrote here. However, for simplicity sake, I cut that down to 0 and 1 (or "blank" versus "red dot") -- I didn't see a good way to work out how to produce a "2", plus I felt that there was enough of a bluffing mechanism available with just the inclusion of the fake militia.

Scurra wrote:
I don't see any major angst arising from using things in the wrong order, whereas if there were only five "turns" within a round, players would have to choose which ones they weren't going to take! I also think it might help the game-length issue, since the AP added by choosing which actions to skip would likely be less than the time those extra turns would take.

I'll have to keep that in mind. I'm also thinking about always allowing the players to "produced" with one province on their turn (instead of having a specific "production" card) ... and in addition to the normal production of individual items, the player could choose instead to flip over an already-used action card. Now this would essentially eliminate the need for "rounds", which would mean I'd need another way to time the end of the game. Perhaps add "End of Month" cards into the spy card deck?

Quote:
I like yogurt's suggestion regarding failed Spy rolls - it's a bit like founding colonies in Goa: if you fail, you get a free Colonist card which will make it more likely next round - but of course you've wasted a precious action this round which is more significant. So maybe a player just has to discard one of the two Spy cards on a failed roll, rather than losing both?

I agree ... I'll revisit the way in which spy attempts can fail, and the cost of that failure.

Quote:
As for the theme being tired: that's why I went for divinities! I think you should try a completely lateral assault on potential themes: cockroach warfare or something silly like that?

Hmmmm ... unlikely ... I might reduce the backstory to something very, very simple ... "So ... you want to take over your little corner of the world, eh?" ;-)

A couple more specific questions about the current set of rules:

  1. As already mentioned, the "Fortress Province Powers", as there are right now, are a bit on the {yawn} side ... any ideas for sprucing those up without tipping them over to the completely unbalanced side?
  2. Do you think the spy card ability to recon an opponent's militias or cannons will be a valuable thing to do? Or do you think that particular option will simply be ignored? (Assume that I fix the risk/reward/cost issue ...)
  3. Does the distributing production ability of the different non-Fortress Provinces matter in the end? Do you think someone would make it a point to grab a particular province because it can produce Cannons, or Spies?
  4. Is it too difficult/costly to build Structures?
  5. Does the end-of-round "population growth" thing work? Would there be a better way to increase the number of people markers in the provinces?
  6. Are the VPs categories weighted in a good way? Would there be a strategic balance between an expander (VPs for conquering/holding provinces) and a builder (VPs for having Structures)?
Thanks for the feedback so far!

-Matt

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Brykovian
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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

Okay ... well ... thanks to those who took the time to read the rules and comment on the game. You've given me some things to think about, and I'm already down the pre-planning road on a couple of those things.

-Bryk

jwalduck
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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

I have only just read through your rules. Like most others here I like the "phantom" troops idea.

One thing I did notice is that everything that involves people involves two of them - building, exchanging for troops, placing on board, etc.

Have you considered having everything involving one population token? It would reduce the number of peices on the board, save on the constant "dividing by two and ignoring fractions", and simplify the population growth step. Or maybe there is a reason for it and I missed it.

You could simplify the population growth phase to something like:
"The player with the Septer Marker now places one population token in each Province. They must place tokens in the six fortress Provinces before placing any in the remaining Provinces, otherwise they can make the placements in any order. They make placements until all Provinces have recieved tokens or the tokens run out." - saves on the counting before the placements, but it will favor the holder of the septer.

Nando
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Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

Sorry, Bryk. The GDW dryspell combined with the quick scrolling front page helped me space this altogether. Here's my input, FWIW.

Quote:
... the "Fortress Province Powers" ... any ideas for sprucing those up without tipping them over to the completely unbalanced side?
Nope.

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Do you think the spy card ability to recon an opponent's militias or cannons will be a valuable thing to do?
Mixed feelings here. They might only be worth it in combination with the sabotage cards. I suppose their value would really be highlighted in the case where the reconned items were heavily real or heavily phantom instead of a balanced mix. Without a sabotage card to play in tandem though, the information could get stale rather quickly. Played at the right time, however (after the target's move/trade, but before your own move or attack), they appear potentially very useful, and even moreso without the pesky focus phase.

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Does the distributing production ability of the different non-Fortress Provinces matter in the end?
Production options seem like they'd probably be overshadowed by the sheer value of capturing /any/ province (especially previously uncaptured ones), and the fortress provinces for the extra specials. Having said that, the cannons seem potentially devastating (are they?) and a player who finds himself without his fair share may not live long to regret passing them by.

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Is it too difficult/costly to build Structures?
I don't know about difficult or costly, but it sure is a chore to digest and memorize the requirements list! ;)

Quote:
Does the end-of-round "population growth" thing work? Would there be a better way to increase the number of people markers in the provinces?
There are 15 provinces and each can hold 10 – why not just give them 50 more people markers and dispense with all the “if there aren't enough” rules? (It seems like a goodly number of people will be “cashed in” every round, so I guess a few more rules and a few fewer markers is probably a good trade-off. I certainly wouldn't wager on whether there's any real potential for a shortage because I just can't visualize it.)

As for an easier way – just throw all the markers up over the board and whichever province they land in is where they go! OK, no, I don't have any good ideas. I will say, though, that any method resembling yours (including yours ;) ) is probably prone to errors because there's no history of what was there immediately before, and if you lose track then you're just lost.

Where are all these people coming from anyway? We're only talking about a year here. What if you used cubes for people and put /all/ of them on the board at setup? Then during play you could have people assume 4 states: “ready to build”, “working/building”, “recovering/farming”, and “in militia/fighting”. Then you could start them off at “ready”, turn them to “working” to get stuff, and then turn some of those (2,1,0 depending on what's available in a province) to “recovering” at the end of the round for a visual audit trail. Those who are “fighting” perhaps wouldn't count toward the population limit. Maybe you could even have 3 “working” states (since you'd have two faces left over) and “count down” so you could really tie them up for bigger builds like structures. (Currently, structures look like they take the equivalent of 4 people over 2 turns. With this, you could do 2 people over 4 turns, depending on how you did the “recovering” state.)

So, in short: stick wit whucha got. ;)

Quote:
Are the VPs categories weighted in a good way?
Playtest fodder, IMO.

Anonymous
Game #70: Royal Impressions by Matt Worden (Brykovian)

Sorry to post on this so late, but I wasnt sure if I really had anything to say.

Nando told me I should post something, so here goes.

Im afraid I dont have a clear picture in my head of what it would look like when playing. This is a problem I have with lots of games that dont provide examples in the manual of how a turn should properly go. I never had too much luck understanding the relationships and interactions a game offered (the subtle stuff) unless I could run through them a few times actually playing live, with the rules in front of me. That is unless there are examples of most of the important ones. Think about adding a few paragraphs doing a few turns of typical and special case senarios. It would help guys like me (dim) understand better without actually having the game actually going on while im learning. I learn best by doing or by watching, and not so well from just a rulebook.

If you dont want to slow down the "not-dumb" folks you could just hide it all at the back.

I kind of like the phantom units idea, it reminds me of the pre-D-Day invasion inflatable tanks and trucks the allies used to play tricks on German recon oficers. Same with the spycards.

The combat seems like it will be drawn out , maybe its just because I dont have a clear picture in my head of how this goes down in actual practice, could the process be speeded up by using more dice at one time, ala RISK?

Sorry man, I just dont have a clear image in my head, or maybe this is just so much different than what I am used to (I dont really have much experience with different games than the mainstream outlets offer, so I probably havent seen enough here at BGDF yet to know whats good or bad yet just by reading the rules).

Hey what do ya know, I did provide some value.....

Now you have heard from the "clueless" demographic. :?

Best of luck,

C.

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