Other Wise

Great googly wooglies!

New map:

The main change is the loss of the Market Development Charts as described below. The little yellowish spur bits are where the markets that will be priced on that island are placed during setup in a stack (must remember to update rules to that effect). Each small yellow circle contains a number which defines how many markets are to be placed there during setup. Simple!

An interesting aspect of this is that I can tweak the numbers of markets in specific locations downward to change the weighting of the graph if needed.

Counting for Godot

I’ve decided to use stacking plastic counters for markets (they’re small discs with a central dome that stack well, similar to the damage markers in Heroscape)

They’re readily available in large quantities and in multiple colours from educational supply stores.

As they’re not very small (12mm is the smallest I’ve found) I’ll need to increase the island size to accommodate, probably to 20-25mm. I’ll then need to make the map bigger in response , and this will allow me to hang a staging circle off each island (essentially a circle connected by a differently coloured non-route). Bingo! Instead of the market development charts I can use stacks of tokens on the staging areas for each island. They’re visually distinct from the islands and yet obviously connected. The islands also won’t need to be numbered any more. Good stuff.

While I don’t intend to use them (see prior post), these would make good fish counters (even better if they were not red):

They’re called “bean counters” and are also available from many educational supply stores.

Other items:

1) There’s a problem with the numbers. A 1 VP kula item can be bought with 2 fish. 1 VP may be discarded for 3 fish. Ergo making kula items from VPs is more efficient than from natural fish, and in turn players may as well concentrate almost exclusively on shell routes as soon as they can. Not good. I could simply drop the exchange for VPs down to 1:2 for fish, but that has nasty effects on proa costs (5 fish or 3 shells) and the rules forcing players to discard VPs to buy proas. The proa cost ratios are fairly carefully weighted for the behaviours I want and changing them won’t be pretty. Damn.

2) What to do if players collusively hoard fish by exchanging them with each other in faux auctions? Eventually the game will run out of fish? Possible addresses:

  • Force higher rot rates for players with many fish
  • Players sopposed to receive fish take them from players with more fish
  • Allow shells to be taken instead of fish and possible allow shells to be cast down into fish

The third option is the most attractive and the most unsettling. It adds a flexibility to the split economies which I’m quite uncomfortable with. A core assumption of the game to date is that fish and shells have very limited fungibility.

3) The game ending rules have a logical gap when the last market of a colour can’t be delivered because the destination is more than 7 proas away, or it is simply the last market of that colour on the board. This is a problem given that markets may satisfied at values of 3, 4 or 5 — there will be stragglers. A rewrite of that section is in order.

4) I’m still waiting for #4 but I don’t think I’d recognise it if I saw it.

Typoid Mary

Many small corrections and clarifications to the rules. Now to make kula tokens!

Chitty bitty bang bang

I dropped into the local craft store (Michael’s) to pick up picture matt to cut fish, shell, and two types of kula tokens from and luckily wandered about first. Ahoy!

Blueish gray ceramic tiles, blue one side white the other for fish: These should be perfect. Blue side up for fresh fish, white side up for dead old fish.

Red glass tiles for shells (red was the prized shell colour):

Both tiles are roughly 12mm square.

For route markers I’ll use the track markers from Age of Steam (which I’ve already marked on one side for another prototype which uses standard and narrow guage track).

I would have liked to get a few cups of shells like these (regularly available from mosaic/craft stores), but my local store didn’t carry them:

The remaining problem is kula tokens in three values for fish and shell kula tokens. I thought about picking up coloured glass bits in three sizes of blue and red, which they had, but I thought that would get confusing as players tried to remember their values. So, compromising I got a sheet of red and blue picture matt. The idea is the print a grid of numbers (1/2/3/4/6), Super 77 them to the white side and then cut them out with a rotary cutter. Simple, cheap, easy, effective pain in the arse.

Mind if we call you “Bruce”?

More rules cleanup:

  • Rewrote Rot section
  • Rewrote Kula & Kitoum section
  • other minor changes and clarifications

    I’ve been running game simulations and have some concerns about the graph, specifically the number, relative locations and effective balance of larger versus smaller islands (eg the Fiji/Tuvalu link). There are numerous potential problems in the area, but they all also appear to have tactical constraints which the other players may employ. I think it is time to actually make a copy of the map and try playing it, rather than just thinking about playing it.

It is entirely different and yet similar to…

Rules cleanup:

  • Rewrote delivery section
  • Clarified game ending conditions
  • Added bonuses for leading on the Kitoum track
  • etc.

And the eyes have it

The art needs some cleaning but is functional. Unfortunately I’m running into problems with Inkscape: bringing up the fill tools is taking the better part of 20 minutes while it spins on sbrk(). Gahh. Hand editing SVGs with a text editor is not my definition of fun. Heck, I’m not fond of XML at the best of times.

Things to note:

  • Yeah, the number of routes and islands has changed again and probably not for the last time

  • The Market Development Chart is sized per island, one less box than there are routes to the island

  • I don’t like the numbers on the nodes, but they’re functional. The other choices are:

a) Use names on the islands and on the Market Development Chart. I think this would be visually confusing and a royal pain in the arse to correlate between the map and the chart

b) Embed the Market Development Chart on the board with a track of markets beside every island. Long term I think this is the better choice but it is also the more graphically complex and busy — especially since I’ve not yet decided on what bits I’ll be using for the prototype. Until the game settles down I think I’ll stick with the charts.

  • The Proa Track goes to 9. I still figure that 7 is the maximum but I want freedom to experiment. End-to-end on the map is 11. It is possible albeit unlikely that goods at either end will be unable to be delivered. Thus the deadlock rule for the game ending (which I’m not entirely happy with).

  • Yeah, six places on the turn order track. They’d have to be insane, or at least not me, which is pretty much the same thing. This is clearly not a six player game.

It is tempting to toss the Kitoum Track and Score Track and just use tokens/poker chips for tracking each much like the equally useless money in Stephenson’s Rocket. Zero effective difference of course other than perception, but that approach may please the people who like Hidden Trackable Information.

Beating around the bush

I don’t like the Medieval Merchant-style production. It is too rich and lacks trade-offs for when to increase presence (explore) versus when to get resources.

New rules. Mostly cleanup and clarifications suggested by Matt Worden, but also a few changes:

  • Shell routes cost more to explore. If shells are more valuable than fish they should be harder to get

  • Bids on routes must start out matching the route type but can be later mixed fish and shells

  • Kula Gifts track renamed to Kitoum Track. The name is of course inaccurate as Kitoum may be transferred in Real Life

  • Kitoum received for deliveries to markets of size 5

  • Game ending clarified for the deadlock case

  • Island scoring changed to Kardinal und Konig-style area majority

  • Tie breakers for end-game scoring changed to shells then kitoum.

  • Added third place scoring

    I may still retreat to the simpler 5/3/1 scoring for islands. The only real difference is that ties and majorities are more interesting with the current rules.

An irritation of rashes

An odd thought occurred this morning:

Instead of having production occur for islands that a delivery passes through or terminates at, instead have every island not involved in the current turns exploration produce?

The result would be higher production rates earlier in the game with very low production rates in the end-game. Kula would be tend to be produced in a great rash much earlier. The endgame would be a process of diminishing income while selling just enough VPs to satisfy delivery requirements. The timing of conversion from kula production to end-game rationing (as well as timing the precise end of the game) would be key.

So far I think I like the idea — I’m going to have to build and run some models.

ObNote: This new approach faintly resembles and is indirectly inspired by Christwart Conrad’s excellent Medieval Merchant.

Magrathean exercise

It took some fiddling and slightly ahistorical editing (hardly the worst crime in the current map) to get to the right numbers, but the map graph currently has 34 islands and 61 routes. Assuming that each island starts with two markets and that the development chart (I should get a better name) has one market for every route which connects to the island but one, that gives ((61*2)+34)=156 markets.

Why is this important? 156=22313 silly. That means I can use 4 market colours with 39 of each. I would have liked to get down to 155 (531) and 150 would have been ideal (235*5) for 5 colours of markets with 30 of each.

But I have 156, which gives 4 colours of markets with 39 of each, which is workable. Another choice would be to put back the link from the Society Islands to Tubuai and use an asymmetric distribution, like 5 colours of markets with 26 of one colour and 33 of all the others (I kinda like this idea — good thing I don’t know of any other pick up and deliver games which use an asymmetric distribution of 5 colours of cubes). I would have also liked to get a few more of the island blobs in there, but the graph is already too big and likely in need ot trimming.

Ahh well, at least I have the base numbers set out and am familiar with the patterns to work with.

Oh, and there’s a minor rules] update, mostly just correcting obvious inconsistencies.

Beat me with your rhythm stick. Beat me. Beat me.

Next pass at the rules. Quite a raft of small polish changes, the largest probably being that the entire route produces during a delivery (the source island doesn’t produce simply to prevent double production on chained deliveries), along with a possibly unsettling change to how markets are satisfied. I like the idea of the 3/4/5 risk for a free Kula Gift, but I’m really uncertain it actually works.

Time to start working the numbers.

Give it to me one more time

There are currently 62 edges to the graph. Adding one more edge or losing two edges would make the edge count divisible by three and so make initial market distribution trivial (randomly on islands and chart). An easy enough change.

I love it when a plan comes together

The first reasonable draft of the game rules. I am particularly interested in comments on any ambiguity or lack of clarity in the form of the current rules (inconsistencies are of course my fault and lapse).

I haven’t done the arithmetic yet to see if the game is numerically viable, but the basic shape and relationships seem about right if there are simply enough bits to support the economy. Intuitively it feels like the next stage, assuming the basic numbers work, is to start boiling out complexity and false decisions. This is exciting, not least because ‘Ohana Proa seems like the sort of game I like to play, but also because I have absolutely no idea what is required to play this game well. I’m quite sure there is a way to play it well, but I’m at a loss to see what even the primary constituents of good play might be.

My fear is that minimum kula trade elimination will force the game to be too tactical.