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What Are Good End Game Principles?

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Actionartist
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Hey all! I’m excited about Privateer. It’s beginning to feel like a real strategy game. But the end-game needs a bigger bang. Something less abrupt. You know—the opposite of Catan.

As a refresher, here’s the gist of the game: You command a fleet of ships for your home country, charting the treacherous seas in search of new islands and priceless treasures. Your map will lead you to the locations of rare jewels hidden among the unknown islands, scattered by the rogue Corsair that roams the waters. By conquering savage jungle islands, raiding treasure-laden merchant ships, and battling off other privateers, you will gain your fortune by returning gemstones to your homeland. Once you have one jewel of each color, five jewels in all, safely stored on your mainland, you are master of the seas.

After some internal playtesting, the game mechanics are solid. The beginning and middle are engaging and flow well, and I worked out a few of the minor bugs already, so it’s beginning to feel strategic and quite fun.

However, the objective of the game gets fulfilled too quickly and a little abruptly. So the game flow happens, ships are attacking other ships, ships are getting upgraded, the Corsair swoops in, the players are getting competitive … and then one player manages to get that last jewel home as everyone else realizes they can do nothing to stop her. Game over. One last turn until Jim gets his last jewel home, why even bother?

What are some good end game principles? What makes a stripped-down victory point system:

-suspenseful
-climactic
-able to suddenly change direction
-close

Load me up with your wisdom, peeps! What am I missing? Thanks!

X3M
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Chances to victory should

Chances to victory should never, ever, reach 100% before the end.

This is a common problem in strategy games, where combat occurs. It is the toughest problem as well.
So...

What is it that makes the victory 100%?
Is it the fact that no one can catch up with the jewel carrying ship?
Or is that ship to strong in combat?

Think of a counter to this. And the strategy of other players would be, having this counter in the vicinity.

If possible, can you reduce the speed of a jewel carrying ship? Even if it is only by 1?

FrankM
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Victory lap

You could try adding a task that can only be started after all five jewels are acquired, and also state that players finishing in the same turn tie regardless of turn order (unless you have some bid-for-turn-position mechanic already, in which case let that distract them from bee-lining all resources on completing the victory condition).

Thematically, perhaps the five jewels power an Oracle of some sort, revealing the missing detail needed to define the victory condition. I would have this be a single fill-in-the-blank detail, not a random draw of a "quest card" with unpredictable difficulty given how complicated the game state can be so late in a session.

For example, suppose you've decided the final victory involves a sea battle against Poseidon. The missing detail would be a location to send your fighting ships. Or perhaps there is some centrally located Important Location, and the missing detail is which of the five jewels to deliver there. Whatever it is, it should take more than one turn to accomplish, but feel like a grind.

Actionartist
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X3M wrote:What is it that

X3M wrote:
What is it that makes the victory 100%?
Is it the fact that no one can catch up with the jewel carrying ship?

That is exactly the problem. I’m actually working on a solution though—if it works I’ll share it.

questccg
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Re: Victory Lap

@FrankM doesn't adding a "Victory Lap" just a form of postponing the obvious victory??? I think the problem is this:

The Jewels should only be revealed as they are found in the game.

What this does is DELAY or slow down the "jets" of the leading player so that opposing players have a chance to still be a part of the race for the victory in the end.

Such that everyone is in it - until the very END???

Something like that seems more "natural"...

krone9
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Either you end it when you

Either you end it when you get that last jewel or what about that triggering your chance to go home and play the end game (a bit like Trivial Pursuit)

Something like draw a card from the Deck of Random Royal Whims. This is a mix of cards which deem you:

- suitable spouse material for the royal offspring
- incredibly offensive and clapped in irons until the next person presents themselves, lose all jewels
- slightly disappointing - lose d6 jewels and go back out to sea

Of course you can redraw if you brought an additional gift for the monarch but perhaps the other players can force a redraw by sacrificing something to besmirch your reputation in advance

maybe you can only carry so many gifts at once in your ship so you can either capture all 6 jewels plus 1 gift and chance your luck, or you have to do multiple trips with "insurance policy" gifts along the way. And those insurance policy gifts could be used to counter your opponents.

Actionartist
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I discovered the solution!

I solved it! So in the game right now there is also the process of conquering the savage islands in the name of your homeland. I got this idea last night:

At the beginning of the game, each player is given a random commission card which has a map of the islands on it, with three of those islands arbitrarily highlighted. This represents the trade route that the homeland wants to establish. The player must conquer all three of these islands as well as collect all five jewels in order to win.

The catch is that the players keep their commissions secret! No other player knows which islands the others want. Nobody knows, even if somebody has or is about to have all five jewels, if that player is about to win, because they may not have all the islands they need.

When a player announces that he has met his objective and proves it by revealing his commission card, the game is over.

I find this rule adds suspense, intrigue, and secrecy, as well as bringing the game to a more climactic ending. You don’t know who’s going to win, because you don’t know what each other’s objectives are!

Rick L
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Hidden information

Hidden information in the form of secret objectives is definitely a good way to fix this. Play test it to be sure, of course, but sounds cool to me!

JamJam52
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Just a thought but...

Just a thought but...

Another possibility could be having a player decide to finish the game by getting a jewel of each color or a certain amount of jewels(so the game doesn't go on indefinitely), but the winner is the player with the most amount of points, which could be determined or influenced by a hidden role card.

E.g Each player gets a character card with specific goals e.g 2 points per specific color(S) of jewel and 5 points for particular island(s) captured.

That way the game might end but the winner in uncertain until everyone reveals their character and totals their points.

FrankM
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Fair warning

questccg wrote:
@FrankM doesn't adding a "Victory Lap" just a form of postponing the obvious victory??? I think the problem is this:

> The Jewels should only be revealed as they are found in the game.

What this does is DELAY or slow down the "jets" of the leading player so that opposing players have a chance to still be a part of the race for the victory in the end.

Such that everyone is in it - until the very END???

Something like that seems more "natural"...


The victory lap was supposed to be an opportunity for someone to catch up, or at least take notice that the end-game has begun... think of it as having to say "Uno!" when down to one card.

Hidden victory points would be a different approach to overtaking the lead player with the added benefit that the uncertainty mostly prevents players from ganging up on the leader. That might work better in this setting.

Fri
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Small varation of your solution

You could add a little variation in your goals to see if there is any improvement in game play. Like increasing the number of jewels and decreasing the numbers of territories or decreasing the number jewels but increasing the number territories.

Fri
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Concern with potential solution

I thought some more about your game. I have a concern that your solution may unbalance the game in a couple of scenarios:

Scenario 1:
Player 1 has a commission of islands A, B and C
Player 2 has a commission of islands A, D and E
Player 3 has a commission of islands B, F and G
Player 4 has a commission of islands C, H and I

Scenario 2:
Player 1 has a commission of islands A, B and C
Player 2 has a commission of islands A, B and D
Player 3 has a commission of islands E, F and G

In scenario 1 it seems that Player 1 would have a much more difficult time because he has to battle each of the other 3 players for his island. In scenario 2 it seems that player 3 would have a much easier time because he would not have to fight anyone for his islands. Just wanted make sure you are aware of this potential issue, you may have already recognized it and found a solution.

My solution is to have players have to establish an empire. To do this they would have to collect the 5 types of jewels and control variety of distant lands. The variety of distant lands would be 3-7 types of islands. To win a player would have to control 3-5 types of island that are not adjacent to each other. Ideas for types of island would be something like gold mining, lumber producing, {whatever} growing. Also, you could also adjust the number of types islands a player has to control inversely to player count.

Actionartist
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Thanks for the feedback guys!

Thank you all for the help. I think I’m sticking with the secret commission card solution for now, but your input has all been beneficial.

@Fri, I see what you’re saying with the unfair disadvantage some players might have, being forced to fight more players for their islands. I think the best solution is to craft each commission so that the players compete for the same number of islands. There are only eight islands, so there is supposed to be overlap so that competition is ensured. So it could work like this:

Player 1 = A, B, and E
Player 2 = C, D, and F
Player 3 = E, F, and G
Player 4 = G, H, and H

That way the same amount of competition is involved across the board.

But remember that each player keeps their commission secret. There is competition, but you don’t really know what you’re competing for!

Fri
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I think you got the concept

I think you got the concept but missed the typing.
Here is the most basic combination that I came up with that I think works :

A B C D E F G H
1 1 1
2 2 2
3 3 3
4 4 4

To aid replayability, you could have sets of commissions (like the cards from Spy Fall). These could be made by swapping the numbers in above table or by shifting the numbers in table right (the right most number appears on the left [like pac man]) or both. There are also other table layouts like this that work. An easy one is to have the numbers start in the lower left and go to the upper right.

Actionartist
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Yep, makes sense. Thanks for

Yep, makes sense. Thanks for the help! Now I’m trying to figure out 3 and 2 player commissions as well, which is tough … 

gxnpt
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one at a time

Are you allowing collect all then take all to home OR forcing collect one, take it home safely, then collect another?

If it only the final run home (of 5) that might not be preventable and thus result in a win, that is not a bad place for a game to end (after the first 4 have been collected and run home already).

questccg
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No warning and bingo he/she WINS???

Actionartist wrote:
I solved it!

Let me be sure I understand...

Actionartist wrote:
When a player announces that he has met his objective and proves it by revealing his commission card, the game is over.

I find this rule adds suspense, intrigue, and secrecy, as well as bringing the game to a more climactic ending. You don’t know who’s going to win, because you don’t know what each other’s objectives are!

Are you saying keeping the ENTIRE game secret and then one player ANNOUNCING that he is the WINNER "all of a sudden - out of the blue" is the better solution???

Personally it seems ANTI-climactic to me... Nobody knows how far along each player is, nobody knows when a player is about to win, nobody knows... well ANYTHING. It's all hidden-information.

And I'm not trying to criticize, I'm just stating what seems to be the obvious for ME?! Perhaps other designers don't feel like this - but IMHO I think this is a worst solution than knowing you're about to lose.

Look at it this way: "OMG Last Round ... I've got to do something..." vs. "It's the end of the game - I Lost."

Perhaps if you had PARTIAL-Hidden Information... Let me see if I can come up with anything (I'll think about it...)

questccg
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Ok ... this is MY attempt - to help!

As I said PARTIAL-Hidden information may work.

Instead of everything being secret... Each player chooses one (1) random card, telling them the LAST location of the 5th Gem. Each player keeps this information secret...

THE TWIST NOW... It is one (1) of the opposing homelands of the two (2) other players... And therefore he must "battle" his way towards victory.

Two (2) things can happen... Let's assume a 3 player game, 2 player ban together to protect the 5th Gem ... using most of they fleets and try to defend the assailing player. Meanwhile they can use their other ships to try to get the 4th gems (or lower) and all this while fending off the player who is about to win the game...

THIS IS CLIMACTIC! Why?! Because the battle between players will surely have players talking about "Remember that time when I took the two of you on in getting that last gem...", et al, etc.

If something COMES TO A END over some great battle... That TO ME, would make the game Glorious... And I too am working on a game that the end of the game is a Glorious battle between Good and Evil. (But that's not the topic of this thread...) So getting back to YOUR BATTLE... It would need to be an EPIC struggle to get and retrieve that LAST gem.

Something along those lines - sounds A> Like a LOT OF FUN B> Very thematic C> Worth playing again!

That's my go-at-it. Cheers!

Update: One thing that could be cool - is IF you could "transfer" gems from one ship to another... This would help the player trying to win the game. If he can hold off his opponents - just in time for a "fresh" boat to arrive and take the gem before that ship sinks...

Could be a fair way of making the END "Hard Fought".

Actionartist
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The Game Doesn’t End Suddenly

Thanks for the input guys! So just to clarify, @questccg, the object of the game is dual—collect all five jewels AND conquer your commissioned islands. No player has to wonder if the game will suddenly end. If a player has all five jewels but only one island, you know he’s pretty dang close to winning. If a player has three islands and four jewels, same thing.

Here’s what was happening before the commission. All the players would have around three or four jewels, the game would begin to build up, and then one player would load his fifth jewel onto his ship. All the rest of the players, knowing that he is only one turn away from winning, try to attack his ship to steal back the jewel. However, the case is usually that only one player can actually reach him, and he’s so heavily protected that they are powerless to stop him. Game over.

Now, when the same scenario occurs, the other players have the option to start attacking that player’s islands. Even if he has five jewels, he must have his three islands to win. You may not know which islands, but there aren’t that many, and it is easy to guess that the islands he’s already taken are commissioned!

Sorry for all of those generic pronouns in that example. Does that make sense?

Fri
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2 and 3 playercommissions and Suggestions for combat

Suggestions for 3 players

A B C D E F G H
1 1 1 1
2 2 2 2
3 3 3 3

or

A B C D E F G H
1 1 1
2 2 2
3 3 3

Suggestions for 2 players

A B C D E F G H
1 1 1 1
2 2 2 2

You can produce different sets using the methods I described above.

As others have suggested you can try make it harder for a player to collect their last jewel. Here are some possible ways to do that. Slow the ship carrying the jewel. Reduce the defensive capability of the ships. Special faster attack ships (maybe they can't carry jewels). Make the ships reconfigurable. Change to a pac-man style map. Have "mystic fog" that would act like the tunnels in small world or scythe. (There is probably a better name for this). You could use chits to placed on the board to represent areas with the mystic fog so that the could change from game to game.

Actionartist
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Appreciate the help!

You nailed it with the island combinations. That’s basically the same results I came up with after like ten different tries. Thank you for that! As far as the last jewel, there hasn’t been a need to make it any more difficult. The difficulty is found in conquering the final island. It’s already hard enough to gain the five jewels already.

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