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FCE: General Game Flow

Four Corners of the Earth is a map-making game for two players. The goal is to use the energies you've collected in such a way as to earn dominion points (a way to earn VP as well as an increased ability in the game to do things). At the end of the game, the player with the most VP is the winner.

I'll add pictures and examples to this Game Journal soon, but for now here's a brief summary of gameplay. Apologies if it's difficult to visualize without images.

Gameplay proceeds as follows:

  1. Active player draws energy cubes from the bag.
  2. Starting with the active player, each player draws cubes to add to their supply in a "snake" format (active player takes 1, other player takes 2, active player takes 2 more, then other player takes the last cube remaining).
  3. Starting with the active player, players take turns converting energy from their supply to map tiles, which they draw on the map. In most cases, the new terrain must be placed in a space adjacent to already-existing terrain of the same type. This is called "Making Terrain."

    - If player uses 1 energy, they Make 1 map tile.
    - If player uses 3 energy, they Make 2 map tiles and gain 1 point of dominion with that terrain.
    - If player uses 5 energy, they Make 3 map tiles and gain 2 points of dominion with that terrain.

    Dominion points are key, as ultimately dominion is the primary way to earn the most points in the game. A tension exists between having "first pick" of where to place terrain by using 1 energy at a time, or saving them up so you place some terrain and then gain dominion.

  4. There are three turns during a single round, in which players may either Make (use energy and draw on the map) or Pass (not do anything). Players must Make in the first turn of a round, but are welcome to either Make or Pass on the second and third turns. Energy used is discarded off to the side, to be returned to the bag later.
  5. After three turns, a new round begins. Active Player role switches to the other player, and play continues as before.

Ending the Game
As the game continues, the map will continually fill, and players will gain dominion over the six different types of terrain:

  • Mountains
  • Rivers
  • Deserts
  • Plains
  • Forests
  • Swamps

I will detail special rules about Making certain types of terrain in a different section of this Journal.

The game ends in one of two ways at the moment:

  • One player gains 6 Dominion in one or more terrain, or
  • The map grid is entirely filled.

Player Score & Winning
There are a number of different ways to earn points in the game. I strove to create a balance between immediately-earning points, and providing for strategy that allows for players to earn points at the end of the game.

  • Dominion Score: For each of the six terrain types, players compare their dominion level.
    - the player with the most dominion will earn 1 point for each tile of that terrain, plus 1/3/6/10/15/21 points depending on how much more domain they have compared to their opponent.
    - For example, if I have 4 domain in Desert while my opponent has 2, and there are 8 Desert tiles on the map, I would earn 11 points: 8 (Desert tiles) + 3 (two levels of Dominion greater than my opponent).
  • Terrain Score: A somewhat less-powerful bonus is related to the positions of certain terrain on the map. I'll detail these in another section of the Game Journal.

    The goal of the Terrain Score was to make the placement of different types of terrain thematic and discrete. Placing Mountains is done in a different pattern - and for a different reason - than Rivers, for example.

  • Bonus Score: If a player is the first player to meet the criteria while map-Making, they earn a Bonus. Like Terrain Dominion, the player with more Bonuses earned will earn 1/3/6/10/15/21 points depending on how many more bonuses they've collected than their opponent. Bonuses are earned from:
    - Making terrain in one of the four corner spaces of the map
    - Making terrain in the center space of the map
    - Completing a contiguous path of a single terrain between opposite edges of the map
    - First player to gain 1 Dominion in each of the 6 terrain types
    - First player to gain 6 Dominion in any terrain type
    - (I have a few other Bonus criteria to test)

    The goal of implementing the Bonus Score is to motivate a "first move." Along with the player's initial energy allotment, this gives players a reason to spread out to specific areas of the map and make their first choice(s) at least marginally interesting.

  • Energy Score: Finally, each player can earn points for Terrain Energy remaining in their supply at the end of the game. This is scored similar to the Domain and Bonus scores, but with the following wrinkles:
    - Drawing a white cube from the bag at the start of a Round means all used cubes will be returned to the bag at the end of that round. Additionally, the Active Player for that round selects a terrain to be factored in for the Energy Score. this is marked on the side of the map grid and remains there until the end of the game.
    - At the end of the game, players compare their quantity of energy cubes for the different terrain recorded for the Energy Score. The player with more cubes earns the 1/3/6... points for having more than their opponent.

    Scores in this category rarely are significant, at least in testing. However, it adds utility to energy that can't be placed in late-game, and allows players to have a reason to "block" certain terrain from being chosen by their opponent.

With the implementation of scoring in a few different ways, the game becomes complex. I wanted to add deterministic strategy to FCE, but I also want to make sure scoring is not time-consuming and arcane to an infuriating, "point salad" degree. Finding the balance of tension between map-making and end-of-game scoring needs extensive testing.

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gamejournal | by Dr. Radut