Other Wise

Sticking it to the kahuna and approaching gravy

New rules.

I’ve moved kahuna to the Advanced Game and for now I’ve decided to go with the increased kula prices rather than shifting the multiplier ranges. According to the spreadsheet it works out well enough. Oh, and I upped the market colour count up from 5 to 6. We’ve played several games this way and it makes market delivery patterns slightly tighter earlier in the mid-game and brings in the end-game a turn or two faster.

The only rules change required for the smaller Earthsea map is a reduction in the market distribution to match the smaller set of nodes (25) and distribution stack markets (80) (as versus 30 nodes and 95 distribution stack markets in Polynesia).

No other changes seem to be necessary or called for in the game other than the above. It is feeling very close to done. Now to test the Earthsea map and re-verify the Kahuna-less game.

And the wallet bone is connected to the bribe bone

Much more work and thought has been going into this project than I’ve had time to document. Some notes:

  • Most important: Scoring is (good_press-bad_press)^2+money. Ties go to highest good press. Player with the most bad press is auto-eliminated

  • Event cards come with money (total defined on card). Other values on events are good and bad press. Good press slightly outnumbers bad press. This guarantees a winner outside of ties.

  • Draft an event higher up the stack results in money from the bank going on lower cards

  • Select an event and resolve it against your network, or play money and resolve it against another player’s network

  • There are three phases per turn: networking, event, press resolution.

  • In networking each player plays two cards, or plays one card and pays money to move one network card

  • In press resolution rounds only one step of the graph is resolved, not the full graph.

  • After all event cards are processed, networking and press resolution alternate until graph is empty

That’s just another fish in the wall

Another set of playtests on the Polynesia map went extremely well.

Despite my efforts the game persists in trying to last about 3 hours with all new players. 2.5 hours is definitely in reach for an all-new player group, but it is a fight.

The only aspect that I’m still fiddling with is the Kahuna. I’ve been convinced for a while that they are not strictly necessary to the game, but I like them and so left them in, seeing them as a possible expansion mechanism. I’ve played and without them. One of today’s games however revealed their downside with efficiency-minded players: They’re resource production magnifiers and when they’re used efficiently resource production rates get very high (I was producing almost 30 fish plus more than a dozen shell every turn) and the lower value kula tokens are thus simply not as interesting. That’s a problem. Fortunately the obvious resolution is simple:

1) Remove kahuna from the base rules and make them an optional advanced game

2) Rescale the prestige multipliers to every 15 rather than every 10 when using kahuna

or:

2) Increase the kula token costs to 5/11/7

That’s simple enough (I’ll probably drop the second rule change for the third after I work over the spreadsheet some more). Everything else is working well. Hopefully we’ll get in another game on Monday and again on Tuesday if Corrupt Benifecence doesn’t distract with its own playtesting.

Recent playtests have also started to clearly reveal that the game really has three phases. It always did, but it took a bit before I noticed it so clearly:

1) The first portion of the game is dominated by infrastructure building and is very zero sum competitive.

2) The mid and most of the late game is dominated by sustaining the income rates required for ideal gift-giving (kula).

3) The end-game, which is relatively short, is mostly defined by limiting and constraining the delivery opportunities of key players through route claiming and which specific markets are available for delivery when.

The only other change I’m looking to make is:

  • 3 prestige may be discard to allow both deliveries in a turn to use one more proa than the player has

    Not a biggie but it makes prestige even more fungible. It is a small change that, again, should occur in less than half of games, but it will make for more interesting end games.

    I should remember to get pictures of the game in play posted…

The profits of being all wet

The core problem of the game that the players try to solve is simply that described above: the iterative process of building and modifying a DAG across which both good and bad things flow such that they net profit over the other players from their DAG manipulations by the end of the game.

This is going to be an extremely counter-intuitive game. Great.

Initial theme concept is of competing political campaigns. The politicians are of course self-serving and slimy. The player in the best shape at the end of the game wins the upcoming election and thus wins the game. There is no ranking, merely a winner and a set of losers.

I expect this will be a (near) pure card game. Unfortunately I suspect it won’t fit neatly within a multiple of 60 cards, but I’ll worry about that later. Scaling is probably 3-5 players. Multiplayer chaos is likely a problem, but we’ll see.

Basic pattern:

  • Each player has an (identical) hand of cards, coloured to match their player colour. Each card has on it two values, a ‘good’ value and a ‘bad’ value. The values are likely five or less for each. The exact values are to be determined by some number theory (which I’m assuming will work).

  • There is a deck of event cards. Each card contains two events, one good and one bad. I’m thematically supposing Kovak-style cartoon art. An example card might read, “Your politician has a mistress…who is REALLY HOT! (good)…with more than two legs! (bad). The good events will have a “good press” value, and the bad events will have a “bad press” value. The expected value range is probably less than 7 for each.

  • The event cards are shuffled and a draft pool of at least N+1 are revealed, where N are available for drafting and when one is drafted the N+1’th becomes available for drafting.

  • The game consists of rounds. First is a networking round, then one or more rounds handling the press outfall from an event.

  • In the networking round players iteratively play one of their cards on another player. This may repeat several times until each player has played several cards. Played cards accumulate in front of that player.

  • Possibly a player may spend money to move a previously played card instead of playing a new card.

  • A card is played by placing it face up in front of another player. In this manner each player will accumulate a tableau of cards in front of them.

  • There is then an event round. The active player selects an event from the draft pool. The event comes with good tokens equal to the good value of the good event and bad tokens equal to the bad value of the bad event.

  • The active player must then distribute to good and bad tokens to the cards that players have placed in his tableau. The event is essentially a pair of press stories about the other player’s candidates and the player’s must try and use their social networks to distribute the bad press away from them and to try and “collect” the “good press”.

  • The player must distribute the tokens equally among the cards put in front of him by other players, with the cards with with higher values (of each type) getting priority for tokens of that type.

  • Each player then retrieves the tokens placed on their (cards), and distributes them among the cards placed in front of them which have a higher value than the card they took the token(s) from, with priority again going to highest value. The one change is that the player may keep any good press tokens that are left over after a “fair” distribution (minimum 1) to the cards in their immediate network.

  • Good press tokens are good, bad press tokens are bad. Tokens that have reached the end of their network are collected by the player and define their score.

  • This then repeats with players retrieving and distributing tokens until all tokens have reached the ends of their connection graphs.

  • Next is another network building round, another event selection, another set of press distribution rounds etc, then repeat etc.

  • After N event or possibly an internal metric (one player achieves a state) the game ends.

  • Good press tokens are worth N more than bad press (bad press is better than no press) , player with the highest score wins. Possibly a largest bad press elimination.

    — Possible additional mechanism would allow players to spend money(?) to distribute bad tokens they’ve already accumulated to their downstreams? There are several other possible ideas for mixing in currency models.

    This morning’s shower was good for Corrupt Beneficence; I think got the core of a game put together while the water drummed staccato rhythms on my nape.

An early exposure to the cold — yes it is that small

A recent review of Ruhrtropolis by Scott Tepper got me thinking about players iteratively creating incentive structures, and in particular having players communally create an implicit DAG among themselves in order to predictively profit from incoming events and then having to maintain and optimise that graph across future events.

This feels, nay tastes, like there’s a really neat problem hiding in here that a game could be wrapped around. Something juicy. I’m just having a difficult time isolating what the core problem really is so I can wrap a game around it (in case it gets lonely of course). Grrrr.

The blog title is suggestive of a possible themeing around grubbing ambulance-chasing politicians attempting to exploit public disasters for political profit.

Global warming claims deposits of increased humidity

The limited file storage space on BGDF was annoying so I moved all the images off to my own (slow) system. I’ve also updated a few of the below entries to contain the images I couldn’t post before.

New rules.

Also drew another map for the game based on Ursula K LeGuin’s Earthsea (an excellent series BTW). The Earthsea map has 20% less islands and rather less routes. The intent is for a smaller map better tuned to smaller player groups.

One of these things is like the others

Two small changes:

1) When one market exhausts, finish the turn (this is already in the posted rules, I just forgot to mention it)

2) During the Explore Routes phase a player may discard 3 prestige in order to explore one more route than they have explorers. This change allows prestige to be fungible like other currencies

Both are fairly minor. The second should allow for more subtly interesting and challenging end-games.

Jaw flaps, ego-flation, you sank my battleship!

Word of mouth appears to be working. Three people, two of which I don’t know and have never spoken to have approached me asking to get in on a game of ‘Ohana Proa. They say they’ve heard Good Things from other playtesters and like the look of the game. Multiple other positive murmers and reports in local groups. There appears to be an underground conversation.

Take aways:

  • Polynesian theme is popular

  • Gift economy is attractive. Get ahead through giving is thought to be weirdly good. Appears to resonate strongly.

  • The delivery process with resources constantly being handed to players is attractive. The constant earning without having to manage a snowballing (or not) balance sheet is particularly liked. (‘Ohana Proa requires sustained and rolling income, not income growth or resource accumulation)

  • Positive sum aspects are more attractive than negative sum aspects (the reverse of my preferences)

  • Map is “pretty” and “cool”. Note: map is mostly a standard issue atlas-style map of the south seas with a network and a few tracks overlaid.

  • The piles of bright pastic market tokens are attractive.

  • One caught on to the currency exchange basics of the game and called that out as a key interest.

    But, no game this last Monday at SB-Boardgamers. Had to miss tonight’s session at SVB (car trouble). Next game scheduled for Monday.

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man

New rules.

Changes:

  • Clarified currency usage in introduction

  • End game scoring extended by privilege multipliers. This is the biggie. x1, x2, x3, x3.5 (rounded down). The other choice is x0, x1, x2, x3, but the reward at +30 seems overly large

  • Turn order no longer (ever) reverses

  • Rewrote the Delivery section again

  • Rewrote and yet again re-determined how Kahuna work

  • Fees for moving over others routes with kahuna or empty optimised out

  • Entire resource game is now positive sum. There are no fees and no payments except for turn order auction, VP sales and kula. This small coherency change has a large bu subtle effect.

  • Rules are getting shorter.

    Note: Not clear that Kahuna are still needed. For now I’m going to leave them. I don’t intend to remove them from the design. If they go anywhere it will be to an advanced/more strategic variant, leaving a simpler base game.

Have you met my brothers, Pete and Repeat?

(I’m tired, it is late and if I don’t write this now, two days later, I never will. I’ll try to get back to this and update/extend but don’t be surprised if I don’t).

Two games were played on Saturday at the Los Altos Gamesday. Both were using the new reduced map (all single-edge leaf nodes removed) and a variety of small teaks to kahunas and kula and the end game condition simplified to one market exhausted. Both were four player games. I played in both — I find that I can’t really evaluate a game if I don’t immerse myself in the decision making process for that game.

First game:

  • I gaffed the route claiming in the initial round. Rather than a free claim in player order, then a paid claim in payer order with turn order going to the last in turn order, I did a forward and reverse order with ties going to the higher turn order. Ooops. That really screws the player in last in the initial turn order and gives the first player total certainty on his gains on the first turn.

  • The new delivery model (delivery over route and that player’s routes produce on the next island. Worked well and explained easily. Resource production increased less than I’d expected. Cause appeared to be that players simply far more frequently delivered over other’s routes for a close to net zero gain in total resource production.

  • The kahuna changes worked badly (payouts only if other player delivers through kahuna).

  • Prestige did not work well. My earlier analysis that prestige accumulation was too monotonic seemed verified. The changes to increase variance and range of prestige allocations worked but did not provide the tension or arc I was expecting. The only focus was to not be last. Being first in prestige or having high prestige had no interest other than not being last.

  • Late in the game one player admitted that this was not his sort of game, complaining that it was too combinatorial and that he preferred simpler high tactical games. The other two players married couple) only really warmed to the game as the end-game approached and the prestige race really hunkered down. They appeared to greatly like the positive sum aspects of the game and ended the game with saying they wanted to play again.

  • Playtime was 3 hours.

    Lessons:

    0) New map is good. 1) Get initial turn order assignments right. 2) Make kahuna reward their owners and other players 3) Add a reward for high prestige, something to draw players up the prestige scale in addition to the fear of being at the bottom 4) New endgame definition worked well but was slightly slow.

    Second game:

  • Fixed initial turn order worked much better.

  • As an experiment I tried another variation on kahuna only rewarding on other player actions. This worked moderately well for me as I occupied the centre of the map and my kahuna were hit on east/west traversals. The other players never bothered to invest in kahuna (and I can’t blame them).

  • Added a scoring multiplier to prestige of (int (prestige/10)+1) with a max multiplier of x3. This worked well. All players focussed on prestige early and engaged ion kula exchange ASAP. Considerable plotting went on to ensure that the only profitable deliveries available either had no players attached to give kula to or only specific players. The turn order auction tightened. Final highest prestige was 35 with two other players in the mid/high 20s. All previous games ended with most players with prestige in the teens and the high point in the low 20s.

  • One player was overly tired and had a hard time grokking the currency conversions. The other two adored the game and asked for repeat plays. Points they brought out as particularly liked were the delivery model, the prestige multiplier, and the challenges of maintaining income while competing for prestige.

  • Removed 5 markets of one type before seeding board so that orange markets were less common than all others (26 vs 31). Endgame worked much better though it wasn’t orange that ran out.

  • Play time was 3.5 hours (one very slow player who never really figured out what they were trying to do (it was after midnight so there’s some excuse)).

    Lessons:

    1) Multiplier for prestige. Probably need a bonus for >30 but moving to x4 is too large a leap. 2) Free claim in turn order, paid claim in turn order, ties won by player later in turn order works. 3) Revert kahuna to paying the owner for their deliveries and paying all other players for making kahuna pay. 4) Lose all the negative sum aspects of the game for resource management. Distracting, confusing and not necessary. 5) Reconsider limiting kula to two tokens. 6) See if endgame can be pulled in by ~2 turns. This is difficult.

Dance Dance Redaction

I played two playtest sessions this weekend at the Los Altos Gamesday, both with 4 players. In both games I made a variety of small rules optimisations (more on that later), but in the second game I made one small rules change to the scoring of prestige which suddenly snapped the whole game together and into strong focus. It was…amazing. I’ll post a more detailed report later but here’s the teaser:

Score=VictoryPoints+(Prestige*multiplier)

Just row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Gently! Gently, I tell yo

I see four core challenges and one obervation/opportunity:

1) Encourage players to use each other’s routes

2) Make kahnuas change the graph node weights for both the owning player and the other players

3) Make kula a first class economy where drains exceed faucets, but leave enough latency for kula management to be interesting

4) Do the above while keeping the 6 currencies of the game balanced (drains exceed faucets but enough latency between production/destruction for interesting currency management decisions and no profitable currency translation loops)

a) The game will always divide fairly cleanly into two sections: setting up routes and sustainable income levels, and then prestige and VPs in the second half.

New rules.

  • Delivering a market over another player’s route has no fee, but the route-owning player gets the resources produced by their routes at the island. (estimated 15% growth in resource production rates but the auction and raised costs (below) should soak this up))

  • Players continue to pay route fees for moving kahunas.

  • Delivering to a player’s kahuna over that player’s route gives the delivering player a prestige point. I’m hopeful that the new delivery/cost rules will make for much more route sharing.

  • Prestige points can be earned as follows: — 1 point for 5 markets (as before) — 1 point for giving a kula item — 1 point for delivering a market to a player’s kahuna over their route — 1 point for giving a kula to a players kahuna — 1 point for creating an all new kula item — 1 point for each max-value token in a given kula item (max 2) (ie a single delivery and gift could earn up to 7 prestige

    The most concerning thing here is that there are really only 3 points of variance for the value of a kula:

    • 5 markets
    • Did you create it?
    • Delivered to kahuna?
    • Delivered to kahuna over their route?

    The prestige for giving is constant and the prestive for max-sized tokens is likely near constant for any given kula item. I’m not sure if that’s really quite enough dynamism to keep the distribution of prestige point awards well spread (and thus prompting tension and arc), but I’m hopeful.

    • Kula items can only be two tokens and kula rot in the same way as fish. Kula token values are now also more limited: 1/4 for fish and 3/6 for shell (no 2 fish or 4 shell). Cost is 3 resources for the small ones, 7 for the big (which come with a prestige point when given) and 5 for an upgrade.

    There are several things combined here, but the key items are: Kula aren’t worth as many VPs, Kula need to be moved, fast, before they rot, there’s a much broaded ranger/variance in the prestige points that may be earned by a single delivery and actions that directly help other players (deliveries and gifts to their kahunas) are rewarded directly.

    I’m pretty much convinced that the two-part division of the game is a given. I’m not sure it is a problem. They best I can do is blur the line. No matter what the game is going to split into:

    1) Get more Proas and get routes out.

    2) Setup for scoring!

    I’m hopeful that the new prestige rules will have prestige coming out earlier in the game, and will make the rush to 7 proas a little more interesting (and not quite as automatic).

  • Changed end-game definition to one market being closed. At that point the core problem of the game in terms of market sorting has reached its first approximation. That seems like a fine time to end the game. I’m also looking to scale the game by simply removing islands from the map.

Pavlov, meet the back of my fish!

New rules.

Very early first draft reaction to the playtest (I haven’t calculated how the economies balance — this is the very first draft):

  • All leaf nodes removed (recursively). One node added in Papua New Guinea.

  • Bases renamed to kahuna

  • Kitoum renamed to prestige

  • Vocabulary added to the Core Concepts section

  • Turn order control through route bidding simplified

  • Requirement for connected routes removed

  • Island scoring removed

  • Explorer tokens removed

  • Still have to pay for delivering over another’s route, but they also get resources for the island reached (one per route etc). If they have their kahuna on there the moving player gets a prestige point

  • Player giving kula gets one prestige point for giving kula, one if it is a new kula, one if giving to player with kahuna on island, and one per maximal value kula token in kula item (may be too much?)

  • Player receiving kula gets half of value of kula in VPs (rounded down) or full value if their kahuna is there

  • Kula tokens are 1/4 (fish) and 3/6 (shell) and cost 3/5/8 for small/upgrade/big

  • Turn order is reversed in Repeat phase rather than reverse order deliveries.

  • Kahuna nee base section rewritten

  • Kula and Prestige nee Kitoum section rewritten

    That’s a pretty big set of changes. In part I’m going to have to rely on the claiming turn order auction to sock up resource value variances, which is a poor and cheap solution (even if I was relying on it before too). Now to start running the numbers…

Light snowflakes, oppressive snowdrift

Ohana proa has its first public playtest last night. All prior play attempts were with me, myself, an I (ie solo playtesting).

Players: Me, Randy, Bruce and Rolf.

Notes on the players:

  • Randy and Rolf were familiar with the cultures of the Polynesian islands (Rolf quoted Margaret Meade to me in regard to the Trobriand islanders)

  • Randy is a widely respected game designer and analyst (outside of boardgaming) and has studied primitive gift economies and in particular the Polynesian gift economies

  • Bruce strongly dislikes games which suggest Analysis Paralysis or games in which there seems little chance of recovery once in a bad position

  • Rolf is a professional mathematician (crypto) with good realtime visual search and topology skills

    Summary of play:

  • 45 minutes rules explanation. I believe this can be reduced to around 25 minutes with little effort

  • Playtime was 4 hours. The graph is simply too large and the single edge nodes acted as timeclocks for the end-game conditions. Without them I expect that the game would have been approximately an hour shorter. Some polish will then reduce playtime towards 2.5 hours, which is acceptable for now.

  • Bruce was eliminated on the second turn as he had insufficient resources to explore. This was due to a poor rules implication understanding. I gave him a charity fish and shell to allow him to continue.

  • Many exclamations (mostly from Randy) over how heavily and even thickly themed the game is. Mostly this was in surprise as the group knows my thinly-themed abstract tendencies. More interesting was that all suggestions were in the direction of more thickly theming the game. I don’t think these two facts were contradictory.

  • Randy and Rolf quickly caught on to the concept of placing one’s base in a central location which many of your deliveries will then traverse. Both subsequently produced fish and shells hand over fist in this manner (a dozen or more of each per turn). This resource surfeit allowed them to dominate route bidding and kula production.

  • Ultimately Randy and I were eliminated on the last turn of the game with 20 kitoum. Bruce had 21 kitoum and Rolf had 24. Final scoring gave the game to Rolf by 4 VPs.

    Primary comments:

  • Took too long. (see above — this can be addressed)

  • The bases should be renamed to “Big man” or Kahuna. (agreed)

  • Kula gifts reward the giver too heavily. They need to also reward the recipient. (agreed)

  • General dislike for 5 markets awarding kitoum. (I believe this dislike was primarily a reaction to my poor explanation)

  • Bruce had a particular problem with the way that the route claiming auction affected turn order. While the mechanism as a way of controlling turn order was liked, the manner in which it was accomplished was not. (agreed — it needs a simpler implementation of the same mechanism)

  • Resource management and allocation for turn order control versus Kula generation was interesting and effective. (agreed — but maybe too interesting/effective compared to other mechanisms)

  • The route claiming auction needs to be simplified (which we did in an ad-hoc rules rewrite mid-game). Specifically the player to spend the most across all their routes goes last (and thus first in deliveries).

  • Not enough cooperation in the game. Too much incentive for the players to form sympathetic reinforcing pairs rather than to operate in an opportunistically laissez faire fashion among neighboring players. The rules around bases (required kula and double production) and delivery expenses (pay for using other’s routes) exacerbated this. (agreed — the game may also be best with odd player counts)

  • Several proposals that kula should reward the giver with kitoum and the recipient with VPs. This were part of a general and much larger discussion around moving many of the game decisions away from negative or zero sum to positive sum. I largely agree.

  • General confusion over terminology. Too many new unfamiliar words: kula, kitoum, proa, etc. Simpler and more familiar words like “present”, “prestige” and “boats” were suggested. (equivocal — I’m a wordie after all)

  • Shell kula item values scale too slowly. (agreed)

  • Bases should be renamed Kahuna or “big man”. (agreed)

  • Base rules for doubling production worked well. Base rules for enforcing/requiring kula gifts were ineffectual (asked players to do what they already wanted to do). Base rules need to be entirely rethought and made more gift-centric and gift-promoting. (agreed)

  • Insufficient concentration on gift giving. Too much reward to the giver (VPs and kitoum). Too much reward for creating new kula (extra kitoum) Not enough reward to the recipient (potential future VPs). While the current system works it poorly creates either the trade of positional advantage or the desired negotiation-through-board-movements that is desired. (agreed — this is the biggie)

  • The island scoring is simply too complex, time consuming and unintuitive. (agreed — it needs to be excised from the game)

    Action items:

  • Remove ~5 nodes from graph, especially leaf nodes

  • Rename bases to “kahuna”

  • Rework base rules to emphasise coopetition.

  • Simplify turn order control (ascending order of largest bid).

  • Rework delivery/production rules to be simpler, more intuitive and more encouraging of using other’s routes more often.

  • Remove island scoring

  • Rework/represent thematic vocabulary (kula and kitoum especially).

  • rework kula gift results to reward both giver and recipient

  • re-examine 5 market benefits

  • Fix shell kula item value scaling

  • Subtend specialised terms with English equivalents

  • Increase value and activity of gift giving earlier in game. De-emphasise two-party reciprocal partnerships.

He’s beside himself with his other mind

Yet newer rules:

  • When all the routes to an island are claimed instantly move all remaining development queue items to the island. (Reversed the new rule added last night)

  • Kitoum points are now worth 1 VP in the endgame. This forces VP trade-ins to be at a loss. Shells are worth just over 1.5 VPs, fish just over 0.5 VPs. Discarding 6VPs thus generates 4VPs in direct resource value (if expressed in kula) plus a kitoum. If the kitoum were worth 2 VPs then the VP trade-in would be positive sum given the marginal gain for 4/fish and 6/shell kula items. Dropping the net to 1 VP gives 5 VPs (4+1(kitoum)) for the discarded 6 VPs: a small net loss.

  • Players may now have up to 2 bases. The expectation is that adding a second base will afford interesting trade-offs both for the purchase and movement of the bases. This could be a colossally Bad Idea, but I’m not sure where the balance point is between base movement and placement.

  • Clarified that bases don’t double production on the delivery round they are built.

  • Entirely removed the Auction Routes phase (was deprecated).

    Aside: The narrowing of the graph from the centre sections toward the edges has the interesting effect of increasing the import of early game decisions, decisions which are made when the game state is also most unclear. I’m not sure this is an advantage, but it is interesting.

Fish your money out lad, the boats are coming in!

New rules”.

  • Added an acknowledgements section. There should be few surprises there.

  • New rule: When all of an island’s routes are claimed anything left on the development stack is discarded. This can happen when two different player’s initial starting routes touch the same island.

— Entirely removed the Auction Routes phase. Possibly temporarily. As it was defined it was extremely interesting about 3 times per game and that’s simply not often enough to require a whole phase for every turn. I’ve rejiggered the turn order controls in response but more development may be needed.

  • Rejiggered turn order setting. The result is that the bids during Explore Routes are effectively once-around for turn order. I’m still not entirely happy with it, but it is better. The handling of delivery versus claim order is at least better this way.

  • Kitoum now scores in the end-game. Otherwise the incentive was to simply not be last. May be too rich. There is now also an incentive to be first and to have kitoum in general.

  • Added phase aids to the map

  • Added an Explorer track to the map (should be a bit, but I’m out of convenient bits that aren’t also silly sized). No rules annotation for this yet.

My proa is full of eels

New rules.

  • Removed and greatly simplified the remnants of all the MUST-DO rules.

  • Added a simple (if harsh) bankruptcy rule for forced exploration.

  • Added a Closed Markets track to the map, added related logic to Deliver section and thus greatly simplified the end game definition.

  • Rewrote the Deliver section as regards bases.

  • Allow players to pass on one of the delivery rounds in order to use double proas in the second round. (I may need to add a cost for this, but doubt it)

  • Turn order now reverses during the Deliver section. This is surprisingly important, mostly in that it makes the route claiming action both important and subtle.

  • Cleaned up the token type requirements for kula items. I’m still thinking about dropping the requirement for at least one shell kula token and am mostly but not entirely convinced that’s the right way to go. The basic argument is that shells are produced at the same rate as fish but are worth 3 times as much for kula and twice as much for bids. Ergo players should migrate towards near pure shell production rapidly — but I’d like to keep fish actively in the desireably balance…

Developmentally challenged

First targets for development:

  • The route auction may be removed. Most of the time it will be a no-op but I’ve left it in as in a few cases it clearly isn’t a no-op. Are those few cases enough to justify an entire phase for every turn? Frankly, I doubt it…except that when it is needed, such as when a player on initial setup is geared to make (say) 11 VPs plus 4 fish on the first turn of the game (maximal possible opening)… To remove the route auction (which was a hold-over from Lancashire Railways FWLIW), perhaps all that’s needed is an auction for turn order for the first turn and let later turns take care of themselves?

  • The special case rules for the cases when players don’t have enough resources or discardable VPs to satisfy the various MUST rules need to be cleaned up and simplified (must explore at least once, must delivery, must buy a proa if can’t delivery, must give kula to bases etc). I expect that I’ll simply disallow deliveries to bases without matching kula, allow proas to be bought for straight VPs without resources, and simply mandate deliveries if possible.

  • I already removed the constraint on how many VPs may be discarded per turn. I’ll probably also remove the constraint on kula items having to have both fish and shell kula tokens. The bonus value for shell items is already large.

  • The costs for upgrades (5 fish or 3 shells) feel a bit too high. I’m not sure if that’s the real cause, but the game feels lurchy.

A random chase

A place holder intended to encourage me to document one my earliest game designs: Keystone Escape.

To everything there is a season, Torque! Torque! Torque!

New rules.

Three primary rules changes:

1) Added bases which must be bought, may be moved, double production at destinations and enforce kula gifts (bases promote late game arc, complexity and tension variance)

2) Changed default exploration bids ands VP/resource exchange rates in order to resolve previously noted ratio problems

3) Changed first turn and turn ordering to be a little more fair. First turn windfalls are still possible but can be bid against.

More minor changes:

  • Tweaked setup to add more fish

  • Determined distribution of market types

  • Rewrote route claiming bid resolution section for clarity

  • Simplified must-deliver/can’t-deliver rules

  • Revised/reversed turn order controls

From the keyboards of babes

A conversational comment to David Boyd about arc in games, “Right, the optimal funnel should narrow and the variance of potential gains should increase,” got me thinking. Sometimes I type faster than I think. In this case the clear implication is that the special powers and roles should, nay must have limited use lifespans. Doh, of course!

All your bass are belong to us

The prototype is complete. The kula tokens are chits cut from picture matt with the size of the chit proportional to its value, and the colour representative of type. This works surprisingly well. The markets are 12mm in diameter so I’ll probably need to scale the map bigger again (and it is already quite big). At the same time I’ll put claiming token locations on the routes. A quick trial run of three turns suggested that the economy richness is not far off right and if anything may be a little too rich.

1) I still need to redo the VP_discard/resource ratio as already noted. This will likely have a sympathetic effect on all pricing, mostly upward.

2) The idea of a home base token is growing on me. The implementation would be relatively simple:

— Players don’t start with a base

— There is one base per player

— A base may be bought during any delivery phase and placed on an island delivered to

— Deliveries to islands containing the player’s home base produce double resources (this may be too rich)

— Bases may be moved in the same way as markets but base movements earn nothing

— A player making a delivery to an island containing another player’s base must give that player a kula item. If there are multiple bases on the island the player must give a kula item to each base’s player.

3) 151 markets in the game suggests 4 market colours with 30 tokens and 1 with 31. Fair dinkum.

From the keyboards of babes

A conversational comment to David Boyd about arc in games, “Right, the optimal funnel should narrow and the variance of potential gains should increase,” got me thinking. Sometimes I type faster than I think. In this case the clear implication is that the special powers and roles should, nay must have limited use lifespans. Doh, of course!