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thoughts on various game mechanic options (long post)

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MarkD1733
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Battle Conditions number array
Troop Upgrade Cost Player Aid
Cavalry Dice Explainer

Last week, I had the privilege of showing my game at UNPUB 7 in Baltimore. I have only a few playtests as my game currently runs long. I had great feedback and appreciate those folks who played and contributed great ideas (and everyone who played did just that). Now I have a plethora of ideas, some of which "compete" with each other. I need help deciding. Most of what I am talking about is mechanics, BUT the physical prototype can be a factor too. I will do my best to describe any specific prototype features. In some instances, your feedback may actually provide the full decision I need. In other instances, simply posing the question and the options will help me thinking through the problem. Either way, thank you all in advance for any suggestions you provide:

Okay...heeeere we goooo....

OVERALL GAME CONCEPT: Co-operative Revolutionary War game:

1) EVENTS TIMELINE & SPYING: The original concept is as follows: There is a timeline of events with 4 event cards (may turn into 5, 1 card after each of 5 phases). The deck is on one end of the timeline, and the current event is on the other end. There is also a "spy" phase in the course of gameplay. During the spy phase, if you deployed a "spy" to any of the 4 unrevealed cards, you can reveal that card and make the event known. If you reveal a card using a spy, you now have the choice of playing it as the next current event...or you can take the chance on the next unrevealed event (or technically ANY unrevealed event). However, because the phases are randomized, the spy phase could occur last after all the events have played...so what is the point of the spies then? So now an event reveals immediately at the start of the round (before any phases), and the spy phase applies elsewhere during the game. After all phases are worked through, 4 new Event cards are revealed for the next round of play. During the playtesting, after "playing an event" players wanted to slide the event cards down the timeline and reveal the next card that got to the spy. QUESTION: DOES THIS MAKE MORE SENSE? Or should the cards stay put until all are revealed? Personally, I thought that sliding them down made things too easy considering they would really then only need to deploy one spy if the next card that slides into position gets revealed. I think changing the position of the Events deck away from the timeline might interrupt that flow (depending on how this ultimately plays out). THOUGHTS?

Also, my "spy economy" on the timeline needs changing. My original concept is that the cards are frozen, and your first spy is applied to the first card. The next card required 2 spies; the third card requires 3 spies; etc. The fourth card cannot be "spied." Considering the spies also provide information on the win conditions, additional "spying" beyond the first event on the timeline never really emerged in the gameplay. QUESTION: Do you think that more spies are required for the next card (1 spy for first card, 2 more spies for the next card, etc) with a total of 6 spies for all three of the four cards?

2) HOW TO HANDLE MILITIA: Original concept: Labor cubes (which produce troop upgrade supplies) would be conscripted into militia cubes with no way of returning to labor cubes. As a result, the battlefield became full of militia, and there was little labor to produce supplies needed to upgrade other troops. So, I moved to a simpler mechanic (thanks to my niece's suggestion) where players can freely pull laborers into militia (as minutemen when battles happen) and then put them back into the labor pool at later time. QUESTION: After they fight their battle, WHAT SHOULD THE PLAYERS BE ABLE TO DO WITH THE MILITIA? Do these militia cubes immediately go back into the labor pool, or do they stay on the board as militia "defending" after a battle. I currently have them staying on the space if they win. If they lose the battle, my thought was that you lose a cube, but then then other three "break ranks" and flee back to the "campaign space" (a space where all the troops start from before being allocated to the battles). Each player has action cards, one of which is "ORDER SUPPLIES" which allows them to take "white cubes" (from Militia) and put them back as labor producing supplies.

3) STRONGER CAVALRY DICE: Each troop (Militia, Infantry and Cavalry) has their own unique dice (4 each; see attached image-Cavalry Dice Explainer). Infantry and Cavalry are upgrades, meaning that some cost is added but for better result (see attached image-Troop Upgrade Cost Player Aid). In my battles, I have each troop type rolling against a specific number to win the battle. For example, I might have a value of 8 for Militia, 12 for Infantry, and 4 for Cavalry. The total of ALL troops is then compared to an OVERALL BATTLE VICTORY (OBV) number. If the players beat the OBV, they win the battle which counts towards winning the game. Each troop that rolls better than its respective value affords some "spoils" bonuses. Whereas the militia and infantry basically had "pips" that you simply counted up, I tried to make the Cavalry more specialized, with less pips but other "powers." For example, reroll a die. When fighting the battles, the playtesters quickly determined that the cavalry were low in power towards the victory condition considering their upgrade cost. QUESTION: HOW CAN I MAKE CAVALRY MORE POWERFUL or GREATER VALUE USING SPECIAL POWERS rather than just "pips?" What dice roll mechanics should I consider to bump up the Cavalry so they are more impactful to the battle when rolled?

Thanks for your ideas!

Mark

gpetersen
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Your game sounds fun! I love

Your game sounds fun! I love the idea of a cooperative war game. I'm fascinated by military history but I don't like direct player confrontation in my games. (That said, having a Benedict-Arnold-inspired secret traitor mechanic would fit the theme if you wanted to go that route!)

As for the cavalry, my understanding of military conflict in this period was that the main battlefield use of cavalry was to force the enemy infantry into squares in order to make them more vulnerable to your artillery. I don't see anything artillery in your rules, but the idea of cavalry as something that supports and strengthens other troops would be thematic.

Cavalry were useful as scouts. What if cavalry could allow you an option to retreat from a superior enemy relatively costlessly?

FrankM
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Just a quick thought on cavalry

Sounds like an awesome game!

gpetersen wrote:
the idea of cavalry as something that supports and strengthens other troops would be thematic.

The reroll mechanic (which is more of a flanking maneuver than a charge) may allow the player to reroll militia or infantry dice that fared poorly. Reroll the cavalry itself if none of those are present, which might happen while scouting, or the player is happy with the militia/infantry rolls.

MarkD1733
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Thanks! Great ideas

I appreciate the input.

MarkD1733
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Thanks! Great ideas

gpetersen wrote:
Your game sounds fun! I love the idea of a cooperative war game. I'm fascinated by military history but I don't like direct player confrontation in my games. (That said, having a Benedict-Arnold-inspired secret traitor mechanic would fit the theme if you wanted to go that route!)

As for the cavalry, my understanding of military conflict in this period was that the main battlefield use of cavalry was to force the enemy infantry into squares in order to make them more vulnerable to your artillery. I don't see anything artillery in your rules, but the idea of cavalry as something that supports and strengthens other troops would be thematic.

Cavalry were useful as scouts. What if cavalry could allow you an option to retreat from a superior enemy relatively costlessly?

I appreciate the input.

I do have an artillery mechanic that I hadn't thought about synergizing with cavalry...excellent!

I have 2 expansion concepts...may be that traitor is a 3rd. My niece mentioned that as well. It sounds like a natural thing to include somehow.

I do know that cavalry were definitely used for reconnaissance. I have some tie-ins to the spy mechanic as a result.

Also, I do like the retreat idea -- maybe the cavalry permits you to sacrifice 1 cavalry to retreat all the rest of your troops with no casualties?

Thanks, again for the great ideas.

Mark

MarkD1733
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FrankM wrote:Sounds like an

FrankM wrote:
Sounds like an awesome game!

gpetersen wrote:
the idea of cavalry as something that supports and strengthens other troops would be thematic.

The reroll mechanic (which is more of a flanking maneuver than a charge) may allow the player to reroll militia or infantry dice that fared poorly. Reroll the cavalry itself if none of those are present, which might happen while scouting, or the player is happy with the militia/infantry rolls.

Okay...my officer cubes permit full re-rolls of 1 or more dice of one troop type (kinda like Yahtzee). So how can I use re-rolls differently for cavalry? Or would there be a benefit to using cavalry in addition to officers in that instance? So if I did a Cavalry as EITHER re-roll a single die or roll their own dice, what could those dice do? Again...one die for each cube, up to 4 cavalry dice. The other dice results must be pretty powerful to offset a re-roll option. I was originally thinking "doubling a die" or something like that but then it sounds very "mathy."

I also had cavalry with their own victory condition (along with militia and infantry victory conditions) to contribute to the battle, but it didn't compare well to the militia or infantry for the bulk of the OVERALL BATTLE VICTORY condition. Should I keep that individual cavalry condition? I like it, but I would need to alter its contribution in some way.

MarkD1733
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do I need spy dice?

Right now, I have spies as guaranteed intelligence. Since I have dice for my troops...should I have some spy dice? Nice black dice with points for the amount of intelligence they can gather. But also have a face or two for getting caught? Then you lose a spy for treason, a la Nathan Hale.

FrankM
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Spy dice

I think that Spy Dice would fit in with the other mechanics, since all of the other cubes need to roll for effects. That sound you hear is your manufacturing cost going through the roof...

For the cavalry, it sounds like you already had my idea and assigned it to officers. A different role that cavalry can serve (though I don't know if it fits with historical use in this period) is to break the enemy order of battle. Feats like cutting off reinforcements, splitting units, etc. by leveraging their speed advantage over foot troops.

This could manifest itself as re-rolling the opponent's dice to simulate messing up their formations.

Masters of Gettown
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Timeline

Just as a note on the timeline staying or sliding.
I like the idea that the cards slide to the left and fill up from the right. It's like time is actually passing and this timeline can only show the present locations.
Wouldn't matter if some were unflipped, they just move down and replace themselves as and when they are used.

I saw Will Wheaton playing a marvel card game where one of the five different play areas, revealed and then moved along creatures in much the same way as you could do locations.

Masters of Gettown
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Spies per card

Do you think that more spies are required for the next card (1 spy for first card, 2 more spies for the next card, etc) with a total of 6 spies for all three of the four cards?

I think this is a good mechanic. Making it one spy per card makes it too easy, that element of the game would be finished at super speed compared to the rest. It's better to slow it down so they have a longer goal (of 6 spies) to work towards. You don't want a game where, when someone figures out the trick, they are unbeatable, or when everyone catches on it means there is now only one correct order of events to win.

MarkD1733
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Masters of Gettown wrote:Just

Masters of Gettown wrote:
Just as a note on the timeline staying or sliding.
I like the idea that the cards slide to the left and fill up from the right. It's like time is actually passing and this timeline can only show the present locations.
Wouldn't matter if some were unflipped, they just move down and replace themselves as and when they are used.

I saw Will Wheaton playing a marvel card game where one of the five different play areas, revealed and then moved along creatures in much the same way as you could do locations.

Thanks for your feedback on that. I need to just make sure that folks understand that when you slide the events down, they don't automatically flip when they hit the spy. There probably needs to be some kind of tactile signal that the spy's efforts were consumed. Currently, I am using a black meeples for spies (vs cubes for the other troops). What alternative components to consider? Or does the spy move back to some home for future deployment? I didn't have it that way, but I can consider it.

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Masters of Gettown wrote:Do

Masters of Gettown wrote:
Do you think that more spies are required for the next card (1 spy for first card, 2 more spies for the next card, etc) with a total of 6 spies for all three of the four cards?

I think this is a good mechanic. Making it one spy per card makes it too easy, that element of the game would be finished at super speed compared to the rest. It's better to slow it down so they have a longer goal (of 6 spies) to work towards. You don't want a game where, when someone figures out the trick, they are unbeatable, or when everyone catches on it means there is now only one correct order of events to win.

It is also consistent with the "1-2-3 intelligence levels" model that I use for the battles. While you would need more spies, you can move spies around the board with player actions.

MarkD1733
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Spy Dice and Cavalry Dice ideas

FrankM wrote:
I think that Spy Dice would fit in with the other mechanics, since all of the other cubes need to roll for effects. That sound you hear is your manufacturing cost going through the roof...

For the cavalry, it sounds like you already had my idea and assigned it to officers. A different role that cavalry can serve (though I don't know if it fits with historical use in this period) is to break the enemy order of battle. Feats like cutting off reinforcements, splitting units, etc. by leveraging their speed advantage over foot troops.

This could manifest itself as re-rolling the opponent's dice to simulate messing up their formations.

Just for clarification, this is cooperative, so there is no opponent. The team plays against the British abstracted by the battle cards. So for now, the cavalry needs to affect existing battle conditions, combat rolls, etc.

Going back to the spy dice concept. If I inject spy dice into the mix, I may simplify the spy mechanic on the timeline. The spy dice sound better as I think about it more. Now to figure out what the faces do, what mechanics play out.

MarkD1733
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more ideas on using the cavalry dice

FrankM wrote:
Sounds like an awesome game!

gpetersen wrote:
the idea of cavalry as something that supports and strengthens other troops would be thematic.

The reroll mechanic (which is more of a flanking maneuver than a charge) may allow the player to reroll militia or infantry dice that fared poorly. Reroll the cavalry itself if none of those are present, which might happen while scouting, or the player is happy with the militia/infantry rolls.

Frank,

Because you discussed reroll mechanics similarly, I would appreciate your input again. I want to ensure that the Cavalry dice aren't wasted when rolling positive results. So let me explain the current battle mechanics to put the cavalry options in context.

First the battle conditions are a subset of an array of numbers. I have attached an image of the current design of this matrix for your perusal. Currently, the array is made of 4 rows of 4 numbers--one row for militia, another number for infantry, another for cavalry, and finally a row for the overall battle condition to ensure the win. Exact battle conditions are revealed at the time of the battle, or earlier by the use of spies. In each row, there is one number for militia, one for infantry, one for cavalry, and finally a overall battle number (a big one) that players need to meet or beat. So the battle must be won overall (using that last big number) in order for the other battle conditions to matter. But if they win the battle and the other Troop battle conditions are met or beat, then there are supposed to be "SPOILS" based on those wins. Also, if a troop loses to their number, the troop loses 1 of their cubes as a casualty...so winning individual battles should be important. That said, the cavalry needs to be legitimately powerful considering a lot of resources need to be expended to make them. Their power must be necessary...just like Washington had learned over time. So, based on your reply, here are a several thoughts I had. I am hoping you can build on these.

1) The cavalry dice must be 100% useful...maybe not 100% successful, but useful if they result positively. Either they impart extra strength to win the battle, or they can be otherwise useful thus creating a meaningful choice.

2) The overall battle condition number is ultimately the number that wins the battle. Winning on an individual troop level simply provides bonuses and did not seem to matter to the players (and probably rightly so). The individual numbers are not currently tied to the overall battle (as opposed to adding up the 3 troop numbers to equal the Overall Battle Condition). That can change, but then the spy mechanic is in jeopardy of having a valid need.

3) I like your retreat concept. I am thinking it's not a face on the die, though. Maybe, the choice is by "sacrificing" a cavalry cube prior to their rolling, players can retreat all other cubes back to the campaign space and stop loss from the other troops.

4) Officers provide the full re-roll capability. Does having the cavalry provide a possibility of rerolling a single die (as a possible die face/result) seem worth the roll.

5) Basic face results for cavalry: Add to Militia's result (+1 to each militia die rolled); add to infantry's result; multiply something (e.g., double a die), "dead horse" (cav downgrades to infantry with no positive result); and "charge" (not sure what that can mean yet). If I roll 4 cavalry dice and they all land on "Charge!"...what does that do? All 4 should do something.

6) If I make the dice faces "special powers/effects" rather than numbers, then how can I incorporate them into the matrix to be one of the battle conditions? Or is there another number I need to have regarding the battle?

Thanks in advance for your ideas.

Mark

FrankM
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CHARGE!

The retreat idea was gpetersen's rather than mine, but it is a good one.

Balancing the cavalry would require knowing what the other dice can do. A simple way to make cavalry more effective is to increase the pips such as

A: 2 Sabers + 1 Militia pip
B: 2 Sabers + 1 Infantry pip
C: 4 Sabers
D: 6 Sabers
E: Charge
F: Horseshoe

The cavalry pips would probably work as crossed sabers... with the reminder to players that each crossed saber pair is worth TWO battle points.

The horseshoe represents the complicated logistics for keeping cavalry in the field. Rather than being permanently degraded to infantry, they fight as infantry until re-supplied with an orange or brown cube (whichever makes sense in the game's economy).

The charge represents coming to the rescue of another unit (even other cavalry). The charge is worth 0 battle points, but a chosen troop type is immune to losses for failing to meet its specific requirement. It's up to you if it makes sense for an unneeded charge to be rerolled.

I do think the ability to sacrifice one cavalry to save everyone should be a distinct option that doesn't rely on dice rolls.

Maybe for the spies, convert them to die rolls and keep the progressive cost, but allow a single spy to do excellent work and be worth more than one.

First intelligence report costs 1 spy pip
Second costs 2 additional spy pips
Third costs 3 additional spy pips

A: 1 Lantern (spy pip)
B: 1 Lantern
C: 1 Lantern
D: 2 Lanterns
E: 2 Lanterns
F: Noose

The last face represents the spy being caught and executed. As Ben Franklin put it, "If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately." Face E might be some special effect such as sabotage, but I have no idea how that would work inside the game mechanics described thus far.

On a completely different topic, those dollar signs in the spy upgrade cost got me curious about the game's economics. The colonies started printing their own paper money even before the Declaration of Independence, and England immediately got busy counterfeiting it to inflate it into uselessness.

MarkD1733
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Cavalry and Spies

FrankM wrote:
The retreat idea was gpetersen's rather than mine, but it is a good one.

Balancing the cavalry would require knowing what the other dice can do. A simple way to make cavalry more effective is to increase the pips such as

A: 2 Sabers + 1 Militia pip
B: 2 Sabers + 1 Infantry pip
C: 4 Sabers
D: 6 Sabers
E: Charge
F: Horseshoe

The cavalry pips would probably work as crossed sabers... with the reminder to players that each crossed saber pair is worth TWO battle points.

The horseshoe represents the complicated logistics for keeping cavalry in the field. Rather than being permanently degraded to infantry, they fight as infantry until re-supplied with an orange or brown cube (whichever makes sense in the game's economy).

The militia and the infantry are just pips for the most part. Militia die is 0-1-1-2-2-3. Infantry die is 0-1-2-3-4-CANNON. The CANNON currently means that if the players have a cannon token in the fight (you just need 1 cannon token with all the troops) then it unlocks some extra points (e.g., it is worth 4 points + 1 point to each additional infantry cube in the battle) from the other infantry dice. (So if you roll 4 cannons, you would earn 16 for the total "pips" + another 12 for each of the other 3 dice that gets +1 for each cannon.) This was my way of including artillery, but this is where it can get mathy.

So, far my original design for the cavalry is similar to what you have. I have sabers for pips, but kept the sabers to only 1 or 2. The horseshoe (I had a horse with x's for eyes) downgrade to infantry would not have been permanent; it could be re-upgraded back to cavalry. I like your iconography choice of a horseshoe better than a dead horse. I think there should be a minimum value of 2 or something.

FrankM wrote:
The charge represents coming to the rescue of another unit (even other cavalry). The charge is worth 0 battle points, but a chosen troop type is immune to losses for failing to meet its specific requirement. It's up to you if it makes sense for an unneeded charge to be rerolled.

I do think the ability to sacrifice one cavalry to save everyone should be a distinct option that doesn't rely on dice rolls.

If the sacrifice of a cube permits a retreat, then I would opt to have the charge do something else. What if a charge maximizes one militia or infantry die of your choice. This way, if you roll 4 charges, you get to maximize 4 other dice...which is a big swing of points if you are rolling ones.

FrankM wrote:
Maybe for the spies, convert them to die rolls and keep the progressive cost, but allow a single spy to do excellent work and be worth more than one.

First intelligence report costs 1 spy pip
Second costs 2 additional spy pips
Third costs 3 additional spy pips

A: 1 Lantern (spy pip)
B: 1 Lantern
C: 1 Lantern
D: 2 Lanterns
E: 2 Lanterns
F: Noose

The last face represents the spy being caught and executed. As Ben Franklin put it, "If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately." Face E might be some special effect such as sabotage, but I have no idea how that would work inside the game mechanics described thus far.

I like these ideas. So for one spy, there is no roll...for any additional spies there is one roll per additional spy (representing "going deeper")...but you only roll 1 die. If a spy is caught on the first, then there is no additional rolls for that spycraft action.

FrankM wrote:
On a completely different topic, those dollar signs in the spy upgrade cost got me curious about the game's economics. The colonies started printing their own paper money even before the Declaration of Independence, and England immediately got busy counterfeiting it to inflate it into uselessness.

I definitely have a more thematic opportunity here. I would love to incorporate all of the various Continental currencies...and I do have an inflation mechanic. Currently, the money is dealt with as a 3-digit track (0-9; hundreds, tens, ones) representing millions of Continentals. As provision phase occurs, the troops need pay and gunpowder. I need to check if "counterfeiting" is an event card. I did read about that, but may not have simply included it as an event card (which I haven't printed a lot of newer event cards conceived). I did include a card on British corruption, which is "fortunate event" for the colonists.

Thank you so much for your ideas. Everything was great!

MarkD1733
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Cavalry aids in retreats

gpetersen wrote:

Cavalry were useful as scouts. What if cavalry could allow you an option to retreat from a superior enemy relatively costlessly?

Just wanted to thank you for the idea on using the cavalry for retreating.

FrankM
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Glad to help

So, the last face of the Infantry die makes existing artillery more effective. Do these cannon bits have any value on their own? They're hard to transport over rough country, so they ought to be worth something.

My intention with the horseshoe was to leave the unit reupgradeable to cavalry at a discount, though that might complicate recording the game state (my assumption is that the cubes are featureless to keep them cheap).

My attempt with the spy dice was to make them reasonably similar to the attack dice, though I imagine the player might commit them one at a time rather than all-at-once like a battle.

The American Revolution had so many moving parts that it makes for fascinating strategy across as many different mechanics as you'd care to include. They almost convinced some of the Caribbean islands to join the rebellion, they did convince France to launch a highly distracting parallel war, they set loose countless privateers to mess with trans-Atlantic trade, etc., etc.

The only thing missing is the colonies' designated mad scientist Ben Franklin building a giant death robot from wood and brass :-)

MarkD1733
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continuing to brainstorm...

FrankM wrote:
So, the last face of the Infantry die makes existing artillery more effective. Do these cannon bits have any value on their own? They're hard to transport over rough country, so they ought to be worth something.

Basically, to make artillery, you use up 1 guns and 1 horses (not sure if that is the right cost balance, but that is what I have now), both of which are the same supplies for upgrading the troops. This is all abstracted, of course, so it's pretty arbitrary.

FrankM wrote:
My intention with the horseshoe was to leave the unit re-upgradeable to cavalry at a discount, though that might complicate recording the game state (my assumption is that the cubes are featureless to keep them cheap).

I can have it as a discount...maybe, just horses. That makes sense, because they are the "perishable" resource among the necessary resources.

FrankM wrote:
My attempt with the spy dice was to make them reasonably similar to the attack dice, though I imagine the player might commit them one at a time rather than all-at-once like a battle.

While rolling dice makes things consistant, in terms of determining certain outcomes, a question might be should we be consistent with how the number of dice works. For example, the maximum dice for any troops is 4. I could do the same for spies...such that you need to roll all 4 dice and have the same number of spy symbols or more to execute the spycraft successfully. So as an example (very off the cuff), if you have 2 spies out on a space, then you need to roll at least that number of "spy" icons to be successful. However, if you ever roll more nooses than spies operating in that space, then you lose spy. So, if you have the maximum of 3 spies, rolling all nooses is possible to lose a spy and nix the intel. The only issue is production cost. Is there suspense rolling one dice at a time for spies? Spy dice also has the advantage of rolling when you want the intel versus having to wait for a phase to activate.

FrankM wrote:
The American Revolution had so many moving parts that it makes for fascinating strategy across as many different mechanics as you'd care to include. They almost convinced some of the Caribbean islands to join the rebellion, they did convince France to launch a highly distracting parallel war, they set loose countless privateers to mess with trans-Atlantic trade, etc., etc.

The only thing missing is the colonies' designated mad scientist Ben Franklin building a giant death robot from wood and brass :-)

There is room for that in an expansion :-)

Overall, I want something that is just light enough that kids learning about the Revolutionary War (12-years old) can play and generally understand without having a serious strategic mind that is normally needed for some of those 2-player, zero-sum war games. I am looking at this along the lines of Freedom: The Underground Railroad and 1775: Rebellion.

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