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M.U.L.E.: The Boardgame

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Oracle
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I've been working on a Boardgame version of the old computer game M.U.L.E. My rules so far are HERE.

There's been a lot of talk in the forums about porting computer games to boardgames lately.

My usual way of designing a game is to make a prototype in corel draw first and not worry about formalizing the rules until the prototype is done. Usually I end up getting bored with the tedium and my game stalls. This time I wrote a rough draft of the rules first.

Jason

Joe_Huber
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M.U.L.E.: The Boardgame

Interesting - we clearly have very different ideas of what makes MULE tick, since my starts on such a game (I've started at both a direct adaption and an "inspired by" game) have been very different. Somehow, this doesn't surprise me; while I think a huge number of people have attempted a MULE boardgame, I doubt they have a lot in common.

Joe

Oracle
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M.U.L.E.: The Boardgame

Joe_Huber wrote:
Interesting - we clearly have very different ideas of what makes MULE tick, since my starts on such a game (I've started at both a direct adaption and an "inspired by" game) have been very different.

Do you have any of the material from your diract adaptation start? I thought my rules were a fairly straightforward transformation of the game. If your take on the game was that different, seeing your point of view would help improve my version.

Jason

sedjtroll
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Eraly comments on first readthrough of rules

This will be short (I hope) as I have to run, but I want to say a few things before I forget...

1. Can cut down on bits by using 1 d10 in each color per player... 8d10 is alot fewer than 120 cubes. Just use a few cubes to represent 10's of goods.

2. Consider a game-determined start player (mayor) so it's more equitable especially considering there's a set number of turns.

3. Don't set out the land tiles at first (44 tiles next to the board? Sheesh!), keep them in a drawstring bag or else in facedown piles. Reveal either X or maybe X+1 at a time (where X = number of players), and during Land Grant you choose from that pool. The auctioned land could be either random (drawn from bag or stacks), or could be the leftover of the X+1 tiles.

4. Draw a Crystite tile at random each time you place a tile on your board and place it on that tile.

5. On second thought, maybe they need to be placed facedown on the tiles when the pool of tiles is revealed, so you can Assay them.

6. The Mules could have a hole in them, and the 'production token' could be a peg that fits the hole.

7. Are the odds for gambling good that way? Or should it be even odds of winning, losing, and pushing? (1-2, 3-4, 5-6)

9. Does the scoring put too much weight on land tiles? Or no... because the only way to get ahead in Land tiles is to win auctions, which means having more money throughout the game... *shrug*

More later,
Seth

Oracle
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Re: Eraly comments on first readthrough of rules

sedjtroll wrote:
This will be short (I hope) as I have to run, but I want to say a few things before I forget...

Thanks for taking the time to post; you have some good comments here.

sedjtroll wrote:
1. Can cut down on bits by using 1 d10 in each color per player... 8d10 is alot fewer than 120 cubes. Just use a few cubes to represent 10's of goods.

At plastics for games, 10 sided dice are $144/1000. I'd need 16 for the game (4 colours for each of 4 players), so the price would be $2.30 per game, and $144 would buy enough for 62 games.

It seems that finding a source of coloured wooden cubes has been a long-running problem here. The best I could find is www.enasco.com which has 100 2cm cubes in assorted colours for $12 and 1000 1cm cubes for $27. The assortment means a lot of waste, but I can worry about finding a supplier later and use 2.7 cents/cube as the base price for 3/8" cubes.

That means the 120 I need for the game will cost $3.24. It's $1 more than using dice, but I think the cubes are a lot nicer, especially in a production game. The 1000 cubes for $27 is enough for 8 games, which is a more reasonable amount to pay and quantity for prototypes too.

If I'm willing to paint my own, unfinished cubes are $27/1000 for 3/8" and $42/1000 at www.woodwrks.com

sedjtroll wrote:
2. Consider a game-determined start player (mayor) so it's more equitable especially considering there's a set number of turns.

I'm not sure what you mean by this? Say something like "roll a die, high roll goes first"?

sedjtroll wrote:
3. Don't set out the land tiles at first (44 tiles next to the board? Sheesh!), keep them in a drawstring bag or else in facedown piles. Reveal either X or maybe X+1 at a time (where X = number of players), and during Land Grant you choose from that pool. The auctioned land could be either random (drawn from bag or stacks), or could be the leftover of the X+1 tiles.

The idea is that all the unoccupied land tiles are up for grabs, not just a randomly selected subset. For example, there will be 4 patches of fertile farm land which will probably get grabbed early. If they don't show up until the mid-game it will make the game a bit painful for all the players. Worse, if only one shows up early, whoever grabs it will have a major advantage.

The farmland is best at producing food which is equivalent to action points. If one player early on can get a monopoly on food, they can charge the other players a lot for it because without them, they do anything.

sedjtroll wrote:
6. The Mules could have a hole in them, and the 'production token' could be a peg that fits the hole.

Very nice idea. It is very cumbersome to have a mule, a crystite tile and a production tile on each land square.

The mules will always have a production type when they're on land squares, so I was thinking of having the mules colour coded, but the store will have a fixed number of mules and they won't have a production type yet.

sedjtroll wrote:
7. Are the odds for gambling good that way? Or should it be even odds of winning, losing, and pushing? (1-2, 3-4, 5-6)

Gambling is supposed to be profitable, it's a way of trading extra food/action points for cash.

sedjtroll wrote:
9. Does the scoring put too much weight on land tiles? Or no... because the only way to get ahead in Land tiles is to win auctions, which means having more money throughout the game... *shrug*

This is something that can be playtested, but the idea is it makes the land that much more valuable especially late in the game when it might only be worth $100 based on production potential. This way the players will have to pay that much more (and make sure they have the cash to pay). It's also a reward for a player who happens to be the only one with cash.

Thanks for your input.

Jason

sedjtroll
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Re: Early comments on first readthrough of rules

Oracle wrote:

It's $1 more than using dice, but I think the cubes are a lot nicer, especially in a production game.

I can agree with that. Just trying to think of some way to keep the number of bits down. Really though, if there are '10 bit' bits (big cubes), then you only need enough of the smaller cubes for 9 for each player at a time (max)... that's 9cubesx4playersx4colors=144total... bummer. Likely that won't happen though.

Quote:
sedjtroll wrote:
2. Consider a game-determined start player (mayor) so it's more equitable especially considering there's a set number of turns.

I'm not sure what you mean by this? Say something like "roll a die, high roll goes first"?
No, I mean each round instead of the Mayor passing to the left, find some way to let the game state determine the new mayor. This way, if there's an advantage to going first (like the tiles to choose from or whatever, for example... or there being enough resources*) you can mitigate that by letting the losing player go first or something. This takes away the imbalance of some players getting more turns as Mayor than others.

FastLearner had something like this in Everest... the player lowest down on the mountain is the start player each round. It works really well. He also talked me into a system like that for 8/7 Central, where the leading player (in VPs) plays first each day (where in general, being last is best for VP scoring).

* There's an idea- do something like Puerto Rico where there's only so much of each resource... so during Production, you might want to be Mayor because if you're last you might get screwed.

Quote:
The idea is that all the unoccupied land tiles are up for grabs, not just a randomly selected subset.

I see what you mean, and I recall the computer game having a timing aspect to it- the curser ran across the board, and the player who presses the button fastest for any given land plot got that plot (1 per turn). You could see where rivers were (usually better for production).

However it's kind of unwieldy to have all the tiles out, don't you think?
Hmm... maybe the board itself could be made up of the tiles laid out (at random?), and the Land Grant phase could go like this: Starting in the upper left corner and working left to right, top to bottom each land tile in turn becomes 'up for grabs.' A player can choose any tile they want, but they must choose in turn order, and they must choose a tile that comes after the last tile picked. A player can only pick one tile per Land Grant phase, and the option of tile does not wrap around... if you do not choose a tile then you don't get one.

This simulates that curser thingy from the computer version, and it gives priority via turn order (rather than who presses the button first). It also allows people to shut other people out of getting land by just taking the last available tile, which is probably a big flaw in it.

Here's an amendment. For each tile players in turn order either take it or pass. If they've already taken a tile this turn then they must pass. I think that's what I meant at first. Again, the 'curser' does not wrap around.

Finally about the fertileness of the land plots. I wonder if there's a simple way to make the 'value' of a tile relative to it's placement. If the 'random board of tiles' idea I suggested above makes sense (this would be instead of taking the tiles onto your own little board), then maybe a land tile would have a static base Farming value, which would increase if it's on or near a stream (for example)- where a steram would be a tile feature. In this way each player would probably start off on equal footing.

- Seth

sedjtroll
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Regarding the start player mechanic

So I don't know what a good 'start player mechanic' would be- what would best determine who should get to be mayor next.

It appears that going first would only be a benefit, never a detriment. So it would be nice to give mayorship to whoever's losing, in order to keep the game competetive.

BUt I don't really know what it means to be losing at this game. Maybe the player with the smallest Food production is 'losing' because they can't do as much stuff. I don't know.

One way to find this out is to just play it with a rotating mayer (as currently written) and see what it means to lose and who needs the boost most.

- Seth

sedjtroll
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Ye another reply.

I don't think I like the distributions of production variability. Rolling 1 die is bad I think. What about rolling 2d6 and the more productin you have, the more numbers you produce on...

Something like this:

<br />
Production     Roll on 2d6     Amount produced<br />
0                  2-7                0<br />
0                  8-12               1<br />
1                  2-6                1<br />
1                  7-12               1<br />
2                  2-5                1<br />
2                  6-12               2<br />
3                  2-4                2<br />
3                  5-12               3<br />
4                  2- 3               2<br />
4                  4-12               4<br />
5                  2-3                3<br />
5                  3-12               5<br />
6+                 2-12               6<br />

That's a meager attempt off the top of my head, but maybe you see what I mean and can figure out a better way. The idea here was supposed to be that however much production you have, that's how much you can get (max)- but you can always get some (unless you have zero production, in which case you're lucky to get 1)

- Seth

Torrent
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M.U.L.E.: The Boardgame

Bis disclaimer on the critiques of this post: I have never played the computer MULE, and know almost nothing about it. However take this as a sort of objective point of view then maybe.

As I gather it. Food is used to do actions (this needs to be more prominent I think, I missed it the first read through). Energy is used to power the Mules to gather stuff. Smithore is ?? used by the store to build more mules, I think. Crystite is just valuable for points.

Just trying to get a visualization of this. So players all pick the land they want, and randomly one of these gets a chance to have it auctioned to the group. Whoever buys this gets to play with it through the rest of the game? What happen to the other player's picks, or am I misunderstanding this process?
-- I just reread the rules, and I think I understand. There are players +1 tiles in play each turn. Right, one free choice and an auction.

THe Destroy a Mule action doesn't seem right. So you pay 100 just to take it from the store into the box. Won't the store just buy it back with Smithore? Wouldn't it just be better to buy it for yourself?

As for Seth's comments about the rolling, I agree, but probably for a different reason. If you choose to produce it, one die of all those types is a mess. Also you will get players accidently rolling wrong dice. However I have a twist on the suggestion. If you made a table on the board that is a group of rows and columns, with the rows the numbers from 2-12 (or whatever dice distribution you choose) and the columns being your production numbers. So you roll down the rows and count over to your production number to get your payoff.

Overall, it certainly seems like a neat game. I almost wish I had played the original.

Andy

Oracle
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Re: Early comments on first readthrough of rules

sedjtroll wrote:
I can agree with that. Just trying to think of some way to keep the number of bits down. Really though, if there are '10 bit' bits (big cubes), then you only need enough of the smaller cubes for 9 for each player at a time (max)... that's 9cubesx4playersx4colors=144total... bummer. Likely that won't happen though.

Yep, that's why I think 120 will be reasonable. I can use 1/4" as 1's, 1/2" as 5's and 1" as 10's to cut the piece count. In that case, 4smalls*4players*4colours = 64 small cubes will be enough at max; I could probably get by with 44. Then 16 mediums and 80 larges should be enough. It would be 140 total cubes instead of 200, but I think it loses a little of elegance with the extra denomination.

sedjtroll wrote:
No, I mean each round instead of the Mayor passing to the left, find some way to let the game state determine the new mayor. This way, if there's an advantage to going first (like the tiles to choose from or whatever, for example... or there being enough resources*) you can mitigate that by letting the losing player go first or something. This takes away the imbalance of some players getting more turns as Mayor than others.

With 12 rounds and 2, 3, or 4 players each player will get to be mayor an equal number of times with the rotating mayor system.

Your suggestion is good. In the computer game, the first place player goes first and the last place player goes last. This give the last place player the advantage of seeing what the other players are up to in the development phase. The exception is if there's less than 6 mules left, the play order is 4,1,2,3 so the last place player can be sure to get the mules he needs.

The problem though is knowing who's winning in a way that counts; simply the most food doesn't mean much. If you don't think you'll need many APs you cut your food production even if you're doing well.

sedjtroll wrote:
* There's an idea- do something like Puerto Rico where there's only so much of each resource... so during Production, you might want to be Mayor because if you're last you might get screwed.

I don't know about that. It's good in the computer game to keep accumulating resources within the spoilage limits if the prices are too low. Having a tightly limited supply of resources would totally change the strategy (which I want to avoid), and it wouldn't fit in with the theme (why would 10 units of energy in someone else's storage facillity make my energy producers stop producing?).

sedjtroll wrote:
However it's kind of unwieldy to have all the tiles out, don't you think? Hmm... maybe the board itself could be made up of the tiles laid out (at random?), and the Land Grant phase could go like this: Starting in the upper left corner and working left to right, top to bottom each land tile in turn becomes 'up for grabs.' A player can choose any tile they want, but they must choose in turn order, and they must choose a tile that comes after the last tile picked. A player can only pick one tile per Land Grant phase, and the option of tile does not wrap around... if you do not choose a tile then you don't get one.

The cursor sounds a little time consuming, it might get tedious. That is something I could playtest though. I agree it's unwieldly to have all the tiles out, but it's important to be able to choose from any of the tiles in the game.

I thought about one central board instead of player boards. That would be good because there could also be a production bonus for having your production in adjacent fields - it is more productive to do things on a larger scale. It seemed more cluttered to have to have a board with land tiles and then the land tiles would need ownership markers, mules with production type markers, and crystite markers.

I do think it would be better with one big board, it just doesn't seem feasible right now.

sedjtroll wrote:
This simulates that curser thingy from the computer version, and it gives priority via turn order (rather than who presses the button first). It also allows people to shut other people out of getting land by just taking the last available tile, which is probably a big flaw in it.

If there's N plots left for the cursor to visit and N or more players before you in the turn order, you know you better take that plot, so because of the non-real-timeness of the boardgame, players won't get locked out, they just might not get their second favourite pick for a plot if they lose out on the first one.

It sounds like a lot of extra work for the players to add that element to the game.

sedjtroll wrote:
Finally about the fertileness of the land plots. I wonder if there's a simple way to make the 'value' of a tile relative to it's placement. If the 'random board of tiles' idea I suggested above makes sense (this would be instead of taking the tiles onto your own little board), then maybe a land tile would have a static base Farming value, which would increase if it's on or near a stream (for example)- where a steram would be a tile feature. In this way each player would probably start off on equal footing.

If I go with one board, I could have the river go down the middle of the board and not put land tiles there; the land tiles for the river would be implicit.

As far as placing the tiles on the big board as players get them, I'm not sure that fits thematically. With the individual player boards, the land tiles are effectively title deeds, and the land itself is imagined. If you're putting the land tiles on the board, it's like moving smithore containing mountains to wherever is convienient.

sedjtroll wrote:
I don't think I like the distributions of production variability. Rolling 1 die is bad I think. What about rolling 2d6 and the more productin you have, the more numbers you produce on...

I agree that what I had for production wasn't great, but I do think linear distribution from 0 or 1 to double the production value (so the average is the production value) is best - I think that's what the comptuer game has.

Ideally it would be max(1d[double production value+1]-1, 8).

Something like your system might be better, but players will have to keep referring to the chart for every roll to see what they get, and with up to 44 rolls per production phase, that's a lot of referring to the chart.

Jason

Oracle
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M.U.L.E.: The Boardgame

Torrent wrote:
Bis disclaimer on the critiques of this post: I have never played the computer MULE, and know almost nothing about it. However take this as a sort of objective point of view then maybe.

I think having never played the computer game will make your viewpoint valuable. I'd like the game to be fun for people who haven't played the computer version too.

Torrent wrote:
As I gather it. Food is used to do actions (this needs to be more prominent I think, I missed it the first read through). Energy is used to power the Mules to gather stuff. Smithore is ?? used by the store to build more mules, I think. Crystite is just valuable for points.

Right. Until today I thought Smithore was also just a cash crop but I finally read the documentation after 20 years of playing the game :).

Torrent wrote:
Just trying to get a visualization of this. So players all pick the land they want, and randomly one of these gets a chance to have it auctioned to the group. Whoever buys this gets to play with it through the rest of the game? What happen to the other player's picks, or am I misunderstanding this process?
-- I just reread the rules, and I think I understand. There are players +1 tiles in play each turn. Right, one free choice and an auction.

Right, each turn, each player gets a free plot of land and then one plot is auctioned to the highest bidder. Once they get a plot of land, they keep it until the end of the game. The computer version does allow players to sell land (at auction). So far I haven't included that in my rules, but I might.

Torrent wrote:
THe Destroy a Mule action doesn't seem right. So you pay 100 just to take it from the store into the box. Won't the store just buy it back with Smithore? Wouldn't it just be better to buy it for yourself?

If the store has Smithore, it will buy it back but not until the next turn, so players that come after you in the turn order will lose their chance to install a mule that turn. You can only buy it for yourself if you can also outfit it for production and have a plot to install it on.

Torrent wrote:
As for Seth's comments about the rolling, I agree, but probably for a different reason. If you choose to produce it, one die of all those types is a mess. Also you will get players accidently rolling wrong dice. However I have a twist on the suggestion. If you made a table on the board that is a group of rows and columns, with the rows the numbers from 2-12 (or whatever dice distribution you choose) and the columns being your production numbers. So you roll down the rows and count over to your production number to get your payoff.

I like using assorted dice sizes, but based on most of the non-RPG games available, I'm in a very small minority. As I said, I do think Seth's dice idea is good, I just have a strong aversion to table. Though, the way you suggest presenting it would be fairly easy to read.

Torrent wrote:
Overall, it certainly seems like a neat game. I almost wish I had played the original.

You can always download a C64 emulator and the game.

If you'd like to read about the computer game, take a look at http://www.worldofmule.net/mule.htm the Official Versions section has screen shots.

The amount of fame this game has is pretty amazing considering it only sold 30,000 copies and that was 21 years ago.

sedjtroll
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Re: Early comments on first readthrough of rules

Oracle wrote:

With 12 rounds and 2, 3, or 4 players each player will get to be mayor an equal number of times with the rotating mayor system.

Ah, true. I still think it's worth considering because somehow it seems so much more fair than passing clockwise which seems so arbitrary. But maybe that's because I just discovered this game-determined thing and am still fascinated by it.

Quote:
It seemed more cluttered to have to have a board with land tiles and then the land tiles would need ownership markers, mules with production type markers, and crystite markers.

Also true, but I think it's better than cluttering the whole table perhaps. Maybe there's an easy way.

Quote:
If I go with one board, I could have the river go down the middle of the board and not put land tiles there; the land tiles for the river would be implicit.
something like tht would be good I think.

Quote:
As far as placing the tiles on the big board as players get them, I'm not sure that fits thematically.

I was thinking the land tiles would be randomly distributed on the board at the beginning. Even in the computer game the 'boad' is made up ahead of time, and you can sort of see where fertile tiles might be. These tiles could have river segments (good for farming) and mountain icons (good for smithore) and etc.

Quote:
If you're putting the land tiles on the board, it's like moving smithore containing mountains to wherever is convienient.

So like the mountain would already be there, players wouldn't put it there.

Quote:
I agree that what I had for production wasn't great, but I do think linear distribution from 0 or 1 to double the production value (so the average is the production value) is best - I think that's what the comptuer game has.

I liked Torrent's suggestion of a chart, although charts are bad in general.

- Seth

Anonymous
M.U.L.E.: The Boardgame

For those who are interested (and I'm not affiliated, so this isn't an "ad"), Shrapnel Games is selling a modern incarnation of M.U.L.E. entitled "Space HoRSE". I've got it, and it's a pretty faithful reproduction of M.U.L.E. with updated graphics being the only significant change that I could see (okay, they renamed some of the commodities, too, I think...and the theme music is lousy). Although, frankly, for a reproduction of a 20+ year old game, it is a little on the pricey side.

As for the conversion from CG to BG, I wouldn't worry too much about getting exactly everything as it was in the CG. Anytime you make a conversion there's going to have to be some compromises, right (for example, the movie version of LotR?)? As long as you're able to get the general feel and effect the same, I think you're on the right track.

Oracle
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Re: Early comments on first readthrough of rules

sedjtroll wrote:
Ah, true. I still think it's worth considering because somehow it seems so much more fair than passing clockwise which seems so arbitrary. But maybe that's because I just discovered this game-determined thing and am still fascinated by it.

Yes, I agree. It's just a matter of finding a simple way figuring out who's behind without having to count up the score after each round.

sedjtroll wrote:
Also true, but I think it's better than cluttering the whole table perhaps. Maybe there's an easy way.

It wouldn't be any more cluttered than a game of PR :)

sedjtroll wrote:
I was thinking the land tiles would be randomly distributed on the board at the beginning. Even in the computer game the 'boad' is made up ahead of time, and you can sort of see where fertile tiles might be. These tiles could have river segments (good for farming) and mountain icons (good for smithore) and etc.

That would work, it's just a matter of the amount of board clutter; it will be hard to tell who owns the plot with just a marker on it. It's also a lot easier to produce 4 8x10" boards than one 16x20" one when prototyping :)

sedjtroll wrote:
I liked Torrent's suggestion of a chart, although charts are bad in general.

That's pretty much how I feel about it. I was thinking each plot would have its production roll separately. You're right that doing all of a player's production of one type of resource in a single roll won't make any practical difference in the outcome but it will simplify things. That way there will be at most 16 rolls per production instead of 44 and that's not an unreasonable number of chart look-ups.

It will lose a little excitment; instead of several rolls that each have a large range of possible values, I'll be simulating the composite of it by having one roll with a small range.

..An idea I just had is total the production from all your plots producing the resource, divide by 3, rounding up, and roll that many d6's.

Jason

Torrent
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M.U.L.E.: The Boardgame

I have a question on order now that I think about it. In the production phase you need to spend energy to produce right? So can I produce Energy to produce other stuff? Or do I need all the energy up front as it were to do the production.

Quote:
sedjtroll wrote:
I liked Torrent's suggestion of a chart, although charts are bad in general.

That's pretty much how I feel about it.
You are both dissing the Chart.. :( Yeah I know, charts have a bad reputation, but for certain things they really are the best thing.

Again I haven't played the original, but I wonder if there is some excitement to be had by making seperate rolls for production. Basically if you need energy, a bad roll for a turn could kill you, but on average over howevre many squares you have, you will get atleast some energy.

I dunno, without playing. Maybe all those rolls ARE redundant. However if you do go with a board layout thing, maybe you could do regional rolls. Basically each region has 'weather' or whatever. So the whole region gets a roll, and you look at your production numbers for that roll on the 'Chart' (yay chart). So by putting all your guys in one area you link your fortune. So there is incentive to spread out, but if you counter it with bonuses for contiguous groups, you get Tension. :)

Gotta go, maybe write later. Neat concept I hope you work through with it.

Andy

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Re: Early comments on first readthrough of rules

Oracle wrote:
An idea I just had is total the production from all your plots producing the resource, divide by 3, rounding up, and roll that many d6's.

I think this is a good idea for sure.

As for economies of scale, could that be more easily represented with something like this?:

For each land tile producing a good, you get an additional +1 to your Total Production value of that good for each adjacent tile you have also producing that good.

So if you have 4 tiles producing Food, 3 of them in a row and one seperate, and each has a food value of 1, the total production value would be

2+3+2+1=8

and the amount of food produced would be 8/3 (round up) = 3d6

Another example, 9 tiles in an array:
4 corners * 2 bonus points +
4 sides * 3 bonus points +
1 center * 4 bonus points =
24 bonus points for the group.

24/3=8 d6 extra dice for production.

That's in addition to the 9 or so dice you're likely to be rolling already for those 9 tiles. And that's for each resource.
This game is looking like it will be bit and die rolling heavy. Not that that's bad.

- Seth

Anonymous
Cool!

I just gotta tell ya, I think this is a great idea! I am sure there are plenty of people like me that remember that game from the glory days! I loved M.U.L.E for my Atari 800xl, very cool!!

Have you approached Electronic Arts to do this? That's gonna be your biggest hurdle. I think it's a super fun license! Good Luck!

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