Posts about Colonial Zoo

Naming declavier

Seth Jaffey mentioned using tokens to track player investment in City States, each player having a limited supply and needing to allocate them judiciously. The idea has merit, but not I think where Seth was thinking.

A core problem with the current nascent design is transports in the mid and late game. There’s simply little to reason to build them as they’ll generally benefit others more than the builder. The core problem here is that by the early mid-game each player will already have established investment presence in all the City States, thus causing the end-game to devolve into a series of simple localised efficiency struggles. Having transport, aka communication, fall out so severely in the end-game is uninteresting and needs address.

Nothing determined yet, but I’m mostly musing along the following lines:

  • Players start with no/few tokens.

  • Players may opt to buy additional tokens at certain game events (probably building events?)

  • Players may assign tokens either to transport or to infrastructure in City States on specific game events (research/building?)

  • Players with transport tokens in a CS are paid cash every time transports are used, proportional to their plurality (land and sea differentiated?)

  • On tech upgrade of a City Centre the player with the least tokens plus any players within +2 tokens of that are cashed out of the city and paid cash proportional to the current value of the CS. All remaining players must then discard one token from the CS. Removed/discarded tokens are either returned to their players or perhaps discarded back to supply

  • On subsumption of a City Centre by another CS the players in the acting CS are rewarded with cash proportional to their token plurality and the value of the subsumed City Centre

Feeping Creaturism

City centre ranges:


T4 may yet grow by one. The T6 Metropolis not only has infinite range (and is thus not shown), but also marks one of the end-game conditions. Board size across player counts will necessarily be a function of the above.

Fiduciary notes

Ooof. That wasn’t so easy. The main changes are adjustments to the action costs for the different buildings and their products. A few buildings were lost in the process and the tech tree had to be adjusted to suit. None of the changes were particularly large but they are rather sweeping. For instance, the ramp of action costs was flattened, so that late products don’t cost many more actions than early products. That has the happy effect of putting the driving focus on the tech tree and the resultant building rotting.


Fife and snares

A simple pass through the building graph annotating each node with the action costs of the products required as inputs on each building. Oh dear. Oh dear this is bad. Action ranges for drains run between 3 for a Granary and 15 for a Shipyard or even 22 for a Train Station. Not good at all. The top end should probably be no higher than 15. It wouldn’t hurt for the lowest drain to bump up a step either.


Percussive reduction

I added a secondary red graph to the technology graph which maps the inputs to the buildings within the various technologies. As the clear linear layering of the technology tiers was lost in the new display form I also coloured the nodes for each tier. The results are quite interesting and surprisingly close to what I’d expected. I’m specifically pleased that the tree orientation and node weighting has coarsely ordered the technologies and buildings into the order the players will generally want to build/research them, at the same time calling out the clearly ambiguous sections with nodes at similar heights. Nice.


Nando, I suspect unwittingly, persuaded me last night to lose the Tier 0 buildings. Losing them gives the game a faster start, possibly trimming around 30 mostly irrelevant minutes off the play time. A fair trade.

A similar colouring exercise on the building graph groups produced:


Carting the demiquaver

Quite a few changes here:

  • About as close as I’m going to get to a final building set at this early date. There are 52 of them, which has a pleasing familiarity to it given the vacuity I’m building this game on.
  • Added a key.
  • Buildings continue to be coloured for their primary terrain constraint. Currently everything is bound to a single terrain. I’d like to make a few bivalent later, eg paddocks, but there’s no rush
  • Buildings are shadow coloured per their primary resource cost for construction.
  • Technologies are coloured for their primary resource cost for research.
  • The above two mean that the building and tech cost graph edges have been removed. This makes the graph much cleaner and more readable.
  • Dark edges mark the tech graph. Light edges mark the building input/output graph.
  • I’ve not marked money inputs or how many of an input are required or output.
  • Technology tiers are marked and grouped. The intention is that when a City State researches something in a new/higher technology tier, that ALL buildings in the City State at tier-2 will be instantly removed from the board, including any product markers on them. (It is possible that I’ll change this to build a building instead of research, but that’s a fairly small change). It is left as an exercise for the reader to see the rather severe problem that this tier-2 destruction poses for a budding City States as well as the matching implications for game strategy and timing for players.


Risibly Rococco

A few have accused me of developing a 4X/Civilisation Game. I haven’t discouraged them as in some ways I clearly am, however I’ve also made clear that my focus has been on commerce and investment. What is amusing, and I didn’t realise this until very recently, is the degree to which this design is coming to represent my own views on world history and cultural conquest. For instance there’s no war in Colonial Zoo. There’s also no territorial exploration. War and exploration are staples of standard 4X games but they have no real place in Colonial Zoo and I don’t intend change that. I don’t consider war or exploration to be particularly significant drivers of history and cultural development. No, the simple urge to grow and survive as expressed through commerce is the centre of my view of history, and that is being reflected in Colonial Zoo.

Construction impassionata

An early stab at the building graph overlaid on the technology graph:


Cleaned up, using groups for technology nodes and heavy solid lines for the tech tree, dashed lines for products_needed_to_build and solid lines for inputs_to-produce:


There’s still much to do. I’m also thinking about dropping out a whole technology level – feels like there are too many acts in the play.

Can't hear the trees for the tuba

First version of the technology tree:


Second pass:


Greatly simplified third pass:


This last version feels to be of about the sight size and complexity for Colonial Zoo.

The first version above was drawn with KDissert, a neat enough mind-mapping tool. However for this use it has the problem that it can’t represent loops. The loops in the above image were made by stacking nodes. Bad.

The second two graphs were made with yED, a spiffy Java-based graph editor.