After buying a whole pile of d12s at my friendly local teacher's supply store, I started noodling around with something, and here's what I've got:
On each turn, five resource dice are rolled and if the symbol comes up, that resource can be built somewhere on the board. The board is made up of 12 islands, each with some number of spaces. Each player writes down a number from 1 to 12. Any number that more than one person writes down gets a resource engine (farm, plantation, gold mine, et al.)
Second, each player decides where he wants to put down a Diplomat (each space on each island can house either a resource engine or a diplomat's house.) Players write down where they want a guy to go, and if no one else has written down the same number he gets to send a guy there.
This is repeated as the board becomes seeded with resource engines and diplomats will end up on islands, and at various epochs in the game points are scored. Anyone who has a diplomat on the island can try to haggle one time over how to divide the points, or put their fate in the random selecting bowl. Everyone puts one cube into the bowl for each diplomat they have on that island, and they can use some of their influence to put extra cubes inside. Some saboteur cube go in, and if one of those is pulled the whole island rots and no one scores anything.
I have the basic idea down of how players will get to where they want to be, and what will be there, but how should the point pot be determined for each payoff round? There's five different resources and varying levels of rarity that they'll come into play.
Instead of writing, maybe have a hand of cards (like the role selection cards in Race for the Galaxy)...and if there are 12 islands to pick from, each player could just have a die and turn up the face of the number of the island they want. Anyways--just trying to avoid the writing idea (it wastes paper and seems awkward). Good luck!
By "writing" I didn't mean paper alone, I could go with little wipe-off pads or those magic boards where you lift the cellophane to erase, but I think you hit something with the dice and cards, and that's how I'm going to do every action in the game.