Sun and Starship Playtest

October 19, 2014

Managed to get a playtest done for my boardgame design on Friday night. After a last minute cancellation due to health, we had three players, and completed the game in four and a half hours.

Some things worked very well, especially the Dreadnought construction mechanic and the way it interacted with the Decline & Fall of the Galactic Empire. Combat mostly worked, although there was an issue with “pure victory” not giving enough of a benefit to the winner. The game flow was about what I expected, early expansion, combat when the empty space for easy expansion ran out, a pause, then further fighting, a pause for a round of monument building, and then a quick descent into the abyss of the endgame.

Housewar Playtest 002

The Blame/Decadence mechanic did not work well. Partly due to an early Rotten to the Core event that removed Blame from Corruption in the Atomic Power collection phase, and partly due to there not being enough sources of Blame. So next playtest I will add more options for acquiring and manipulating blame.

The players mainly stayed with 10-15 Glory points of each other, which seems to justify a high glory score model, and they reached Glory scores of 50-60 by the time the End Game was triggered.

The players collected 197 Atomic Power during the game, and spent 53 Atomic Power on Dreadnoughts (roughly 27%). Only two of the 14 Dreadnoughts built in the game were destroyed prior to the endgame.

The Fall Track was at 12 after the second turn, 10 after the third turn, 6 after the fourth turn, and the endgame was triggered in the 5th turn.  So it declined at about the expected rate.  Atomic Power inflation did occur, and this makes the later turns slower, so I may think of reasons to have big power sinks to speed play a little. The playtest did show that becoming powerless was a bad move, running out of power before the other players made you quite vulnerable to raids on your territory.

Housewar Playtest 015

The endgame was a three way civil war, largely fought between a coalition of Blue and Yellow versus Orange (which included the Purple Imperial Battleships). Orange fought quite well, but really couldn’t outlast the determined attrition of two players. At the end Blue had two Dreadnoughts left and Yellow had three Pirates. In a four player game, it would have been much riskier for two players to go all out against the Last Emperor, as the fourth player could sit on the sidelines.

On the whole, the design feels very promising. I’ll be making some tweaks and trying to get another playtest done in the next few weeks.



Farewell Mists of Pandaria, Hello Iron Horde!

October 14, 2014

A Paladin in her Glory.

With the 6.0 patch a day away it seems appropriate to reminisce about what I have enjoyed and disliked about Mists of Pandaria.

The good

  • Launch was pretty smooth, I had an enjoyable week off work, levelling my paladin to 90 on the first day and getting stuck into 5 mans the following day
  • The Halfhill farm was fun, its quests were interesting, and the ability to farm pretty much all the main trade resources was insanely profitable (if tedious to do on all your alts every day)
  • Learning to tank, incredibly stressful at times, but ultimately rewarding to become the go to person in guild to solo tank raid content. I still have a lot to learn in terms of being proactive about fight direction (still too much attention taken up just in ability use) and in communication with the raid group (being vocal about taunts for example)
  • Professions seemed reasonable, JC and enchanting continued to dominate the Auction House, but crafters had reasonable access to new patterns with each new tier, Scribe was underwhelming after the first tier and Engineering was its traditional gold sink. I made over a million gold, and then proceeded to give most of it away.
  • Flex raiding, a late introduction, this has become my preferred casual play with alts and mains, its provided a social guild experience, and means we can completely avoid LFR
  • Throne of Thunder, I found the zone to be fun, but the lack of resource nodes meant I stopped going there once I had hit exalted reputation, it was an interesting insight into how much fun being a miner is for my main toon
  • Timeless Isle, I think my main complaint here, is that the island felt too small to me, and some parts of the island were simply too dangerous for solo play. It was hilarious watching the Alliance kill each other when PvP flagged. Weekly quests certainly worked better for me than dailies, make some progress, get bored, go do other stuff and come back later.

The bad

  • PvP was awful, chain CC and zero health in a few GCDs, I did the bare minimum required for the legendary quest line, and never went back. I used to enjoy battleground PvP in TBC, but the proliferation of “kill the healer first” addons has changed the game experience to be a negative one for me. On the plus side, we didn’t lose an entire zone to world PvP, or have a raid boss gated behind PvP victory requirements.
  • Daily burn out at launch, there were too many factions, and you needed revered reputation with just about all of them to access raiding gear, I shudder to think of the agonies that some people went through grinding this out on multiple toons.
  • Failing to heal, I struggled to heal at raiding level with my Paladin, and I couldn’t find guidance from my traditional sources (many older advice blogs simply died off or deliberately stopped covering Holy Paladins)
  • Failing to DPS, like healing, I simply couldn’t put out the DPS required to be competitive in a raid, the gap between any DPS character I tried to play and the better players in my raid group was simply too big to warrant me investing time
  • LFR, simply too much of an unpleasant environment, filled with trolls, for me to put effort into gearing alts or mains through it
  • Black Market Auction House, after the first week, when I picked up a gear upgrade, I never saw anything else worth buying again.
  • BOAs not dropping off Garrosh, I have only had the tanking sword drop (twice) when what I really wanted was the shield.

The ugly

  • Burn out … I stopped raiding for several months, because I simply could not cope with the mechanics in Heart of Fear. The raiding environment as a whole is one almost unrecognisable from Vanilla/TBC raids, the Dungeon Journal is incredibly intimidating with the sheer number of mechanics to master in each fight, the amount of blue/purple death crap on the screen, against dark blue/grey backgrounds, the shrieking and wailing of addon alerts…
  • the legendary quest line was something you couldn’t not do as a raider, and it had large choke points that were not fun to work through, for me the PvP requirement was what killed any enthusiasm for trying to get this item on alts
  • the fate of Garrosh, after all the build-up, after 150+ wipes learning the fight, to have him taken prisoner and escape was a major let down
  • Watching raiders quit the guild due to lack of progression, which accelerated as the introduction of mythic raiding drew closer. The officers were in the position of either (a) not raiding at all or (b) accepting below par performance. While we put a lot of work into standards and expectations going into the expansion, we simply didn’t live up to them.
  • Going in to the next expansion without enough players to form a 10 man raid team. With a November release date, many people in guild will not be in a position to raid until January. While we have a pool of casual players who can be carried through normal mode difficulty, we have lost half of the heavy lifters in our guild.
  • Server population faction balance continues to worsen with every expansion.

Tier 14

  • Most liked boss: Elegon, after mastering the elevator boss this was an excellent fight for tank swaps and picking up adds.
  • Most disliked boss: Garralon, crap everywhere on the ground and a fight that was hard to see and hard to control. Heart of Fear as a whole was my most disliked raid instance of the entire expansion. My guild found it weird that it was the gate to Terrace of Endless Springs, when all the fights in TOES were easier than most of those in HOF.

Tier 15

  • Most liked boss: Jin-Rokh, one of the few fights my guild did on HM during this tier, I have often liked fights where the raid group has to split into two teams for part of the fight.
  • Most disliked boss: hard choice between Durumu and Dark Animus, with Dark Animus winning due to the sheer confusion and brutality of its opening sequence.

Tier 16

  • Most liked boss: Paragons, I liked the Klaxxi and this is a fight were I managed to solo tank the last third of the fight with most of the raid group dead on our first progression kill, so a good memory.
  • Most disliked boss: Garrosh, this fight was harder on normal mode for my guild than HM Spine of Deathwing was in Cataclysm.

Looking to the future

I am excited for the Warlords of Dreanor expansion. I am happy that there are no new classes or races, as I have long passed the point of diminishing returns from alts. It has been eight years, but I still love playing my Paladin. My list of things I am most looking forward to include:

  • more options for flexible raiding, while my guild has lost the option to do the hardest raiding content in the game, we are gaining more flexibility for raid group size and cross-server recruitment for all the other content types
  • the new approach to world zones, and the player housing garrisons, will give me the freedom to choose the content I want to engage in each night after work
  • Asharan, a world PvP zone incorporating cross-server population balancing is one where I won’t feel like a constant victim of Alliance numerical superiority
  • lots of small quality of life improvements (bag space, simpler gearing, being able to avoid accidental PvP flagging)
  • Ability pruning – I would love to take a task bar or two off my raid frames, especially after enjoying the 5-6 action limit in TESO. While I am losing some iconic abilities, I accept its good for the game, as you cannot keep adding to the ability list with every new expansion.

This time around I am only taking two days leave for the launch, but that gives me a four day weekend. The big decision facing me is this – do I just concentrate on playing one character as well as possible, or do I play all my current max level characters again for the economic synergy that will arise from having multiple Garrisons?

I will miss having a million HP on my tank. Yes, it was a bit silly, but it was a nice reaching the top of the mountain benchmark.

Some thoughts on the competition

No one else has been able to launch a subscription based AAA theme park MMO and maintain anything close to WoW’s player base. I am not sure anyone can while WoW continues to be what it is, as the major growth has been in free-to-play games and games focusing on smaller teams with a PvP focus. Blizzard’s cancellation of Titan is interesting, while done because the ideas didn’t pan out for fun, I don’t think they could actually expand the market with a second MMO without cannibalising the WoW player base. MMOs expand to fill available time and I have struggled to play more than one at a time with any degree of skill.

I now think that the 200+ hour levelling game, which must be completed prior to accessing the end game, is a trap for new MMOs.  I simply lose interest in the levelling game, fail to engage in social groups (it is difficult to find a group of adults from the same time zone as me), and then cancel my subscription after a few months. When a game is launched with significant errors (e.g. social chat does not work, or its impossible to log in for a month) it is hard to sustain interest even that long. The shift to arena format games like LOL and WOT is interesting, but ultimately for me they just don’t have the social aspect that WoW has given to my life.


Gaming Kickstarters/crowdsourcing I have backed

October 13, 2014

Draft-Map1

I’m watching the last few hours of the 13th Age in Glorantha Kickstarter. I was not familiar with the 13th Age system until last week, but I found a comprehensive review of many of its mechanics (Icons and the One Unique Thing look really cool), and it sounded well suited to Glorantha’s mythic level of power, and better for my own old school style of gaming than Heroquest.

It met most of my criteria for backing something:

  1. Already something I am a fan of (Glorantha, especially that rework of the classic RQ 2 map)
  2. A product I am reasonably sure will finish (from a company that already has published stuff)
  3. Involves someone I respect from previous work (Jonathan Tweet et. al.)
  4. Looks like it will be fun!
  5. Nothing too risky (which is pretty much every computer game I have looked at). Shipping seems to be an area where things go horribly wrong and costs exceed the initial budget.
  6. Affordable (just, the shipping to New Zealand for a couple of books increases the cost by around 40%).
  7. Learning about it before the Kickstarter ended (curse you Pathfinder miniatures!)

I do sometimes wonder, if I am backing something to reach stretch goals for content that should have been included in the standard product. More money for more artwork seems reasonable. Money for vanity stuff, like having your name or myth included, sure, if its optional its not my money. Money for extra monsters or enemy organisations … I’m not so sure about that. Money for extra gaming products to go with it, sure that sounds good.  This is something I think about, as its possible I will try and crowdsource funding for a boardgame design, so collecting a few ideas for cool stretch goals could be handy.

I backed Sprawl. Not that I really need a cyberpunk system right now, but it is fun to back something your friends have started, and the Dungeon World style is good for paring things down to the basic tropes.  This makes it good for convention games … where the sheer complexity of the options in something like Runequest just drowns the story out.

I backed Call of Cthulhu 7th edition. In part this was due to the sheer nostalgia for the epic campaign Shane Murphy run almost 25 years ago, which had a major influence on my life at the time. Its almost complete, and I should have my hands on the leather bound hardcover books before Christmas. I only glanced at the PDF proof of the rules that came through (buying various Bundles of Holding has given me a long backlog of RPG books to read through), but it all seems on track for delivery.  I used the quick play version of the rules for Asterix and the Deep Ones, but it was almost too complicated for a 3-4 hour convention game.

Call of Cthulhu has built up a lot of mythos related stuff over the years, so the Kickstarter was able to offer reskins of classic RPG products, t-shirts, hats, fake coins, coffee mugs, pins, cards, dice … having a vast plethora of addons from stretch goals certainly gives people something to watch as the Kickstarter progresses.

The Old Ones got even more money pledged from me for Cthulhu Wars. From the fun game point of view, this was powerfully attractive for the promise of insanely asymmetric faction powers, something I loved in the classic Dune boardgame. I am hoping to have the main game in my hands before Christmas and I intend to bring it to Big Gaming week in Christchurch. It looks like all the supplements will come through in the new year sometime. Probably good for my customs bill that it gets split up like this.  I like the look of the rules and have borrowed from them for the next iteration of Housewar.  One reason for backing it at a “get one of everything” level was the sheer number of miniatures on offer. I will always have something to pull out for a crawling chaos horror at the FRPG gaming tables.

HeroForge – is now in beta and I had a play with the alpha, building an elf in musketeer style clothing. My feedback was that it needed an “undo” button. Its fine if you have a limited menu of choices, but once you have a large list trying to reselect back to what you just changed out of will be a pain.  An option to easily share the images you generate to social media would also be nice.

By way of comparison I took a quick look at Figureprints which has been making World of Warcraft figurines for a while. The price there is US$130 plus shipping for one painted miniature, with a limited menu of options (items earned in game, and still stored on the account, or from a small list of classic weapons and armour).  So for HeroForge I am getting six unpainted miniatures for $160, or around $27 each, but I have free range to design what each miniature looks like. HeroForge is something I backed because in part I thought, this is a service the gaming world needs.

One thought I had about 3-D printing of game miniatures. When the price drops, and printers become more available, where does the market for Games Workshop’s expensive propriety miniatures go?

I also backed the Runequest 6 Collectors Edition through crowdsourcing. This was pretty straightforward, no extra kitsch to worry about, just good artwork and packaging. I’m such a fan I got multiple copies, for fear of disasters with cups of coffee.

I have not backed everything I have seen appear on crowdsourcing platforms.

  • Cthulhu Invictus modules – I was not actually all that impressed at the quality of the other Cthulhu Invictus modules/scenarios – far too much physical combat, and calling for reinforcements from the local Legion fortress
  • Boardgames that just had themes which didn’t appeal to me
  • Glorantha world maps at a 5k per hex detail, and Glorantha coffee table books, at the time I was interested in other things and had less spare cash to take a punt with
  • OGRE, from Steve Jackson Games, what was on offer was a game that was goldplated and full of a thousand addons that would have broken me for shipping and customs – it simply grew too far away from the simple ten minute game I used to play with friends in the high school library.

I will have to do more research on how these things work, both what helps a project succeed, and what can lead to them failing. I suspect trying to get a boardgame with big plastic space dreadnought miniatures off the ground, without an established reputation, will be a hard slog.


Cliff notes for Warlords of Draenor Professions

October 12, 2014

These are the notes I cribbed from reading the http://wod.wowhead.com/guide=2506

Both gathering and crafting are integrated into the new Garrison system. Its worth taking the time to read up on the Garrison system, as mistakes can take a bit of gold and time to reverse. A few things I noted:

  • old choke points in skill levelling can be bypassed in WoD, so overpriced low level enchanting mats and the like will soon be a fading memory
  • levelling is much easier, most crafting professions have a handful of blue patterns, not the mess of greens built for instant sharding
  • don’t worry about training in a city before launching into the expansion, mobs and quests will give you what you need
  • Garrisons have their own resource currency, professions often require mats from multiple gathering professions, this added with the Work Order system, means there are more steps in producing most craft items and room for confusion and mistakes
  • the crafting professions look evenly matched, the traditional dominance of the modification professions (Enchanting, Jewelcrafting) looks to be over.

Blacksmith

TLDR, the easy stuff is easy to get, the hard stuff is a long grind.

(1) It will take about two months to learn all the patterns (the upgrade weapon/armour patterns take 15 days each to learn).
(2) There are no 2-handed weapons that can be crafted (so far, might be something like the ToT weapons down the track).
(3) There is a limit of “Unique Equipped: Warlords Crafted (3)”, so while there are eight epic armours, no one will want more than three of them.
(4) Learn Chest, Helm, Greaves, these three items provide the biggest stat boost for the same mats.
(5) Can learn how to make a pet “Soul of the Forge”.
(6) You learn the skill and get a few patterns just from the initial questing, plus the Forge building for your garrison.
(7) Its possible to level BS from 1 to 600 in four hours of frenzied slaughter of NPCs (and trading in scrap items looted from their bodies). Rinse and repeat for other professions as needed.
(8) No sign of crafted PVP gear. PVE gear will automatically scale up towards PVP stat levels, just not quite as good as dedicated PVP gear, so no real need for PVP specific crafting items.

Mining

(1) True Iron Ore, Blackrock Ore, and Draenic Stone (which can be traded for ore)
(2) Fragments skill levelling extended to all ore types (and similar mechanics for other gathering professions)
(3) Ore nodes can spawn a hostile Goren when mined
(4) Level 2 Garrison plus a quest gets you a mine for your Garrison
(5) “Ore Eater” Battle pet
(6) Peon’s Mining Pick (not sure if this a limited spawn like the Ancient Mining Pick, or if everyone can grab it). Worth farming, it will save hours of your life if you like flying in circles looking for gold dots on the mini-map.

Alchemy

(1) There are WoD versions of classic, hard to get spells, including Invisibility, Free Action, Water Walking, Water breathing, and Swiftness.
(2) Better level fishing, a lot of the potions require fishing mats for Crescent Oil
(3) Alchemy followers in an Alchemy lab will give you a stack of potions/day
(4) Transmorphic Tincture: changes gender for a short time
(5) For standard flasks and potions, your garrison can provide everything you need
(6) Only Alchemists can make “Greater Flasks”, possible +250 stat rather than +200 stat gain (and its primary stats not secondary stats)
(7) A greater flask requires 5 of the ordinary flasks, plus some stuff, to make, so I think you can imagine what the Greater Flask cost is going to be like…
(8) iLvl 620 Alchemist Trinket for xmuting.

The Chameleon Lotus

TLDR: Pick ALL the herbs!

The way this new lotus is implemented is a little bit different from the Pandaria ones: In MoP, Golden Lotus nodes are a rare spawn replacing a regular herb node. Apparently in WoD the Chameleon Lotus mimics a local herb, meaning you don’t know it is a lotus until you gather it. Essentially, instead of being a rare node spawn, it becomes a rare herb drop from a regular node.

Can be picked from Garrison herb garden.

Archaeology

Mostly like Mists, some BOA 620 gear, and some jumping puzzles for people who like platform games.

Cooking

A bit simpler, +50 and +75 stat food … except for the +100 stat feast which requires a Level 2+ Barn in your Garrison to get the materials. But in general you just want lots of meat/fish.

Jewelcrafting

JC used to be the Queen of Professions, the one anyone could make a million gold with. Its had some pretty massive changes:

(1) No more meta gems, primary stat gems, socket bonuses, or gem colours. No more prospecting!
(2) The number of sockets on gear is being reduced significantly, I estimate to around 10% of the current number of sockets (so demand for gems will be greatly reduced)
(3) There is emphasis on crafting neck and ring items, with levelling patterns good for L92, 95 and 98. You can build epics too, but remember the 3 crafted item limit – its probable that other armour slots offer more item points than mere bling.
(4) Probably looking at a couple of months to pick up all the patterns, like BS there are some 15 day upgrade patterns to boost neck/ring iLevel.
(5) Gems now come in two exciting flavours, vanilla and “greater”. Regular gems are +35, greater are +50.
(6) You need to be a JC to get greater gems and the best upgrades.
(7) The supply chokepoint, regular gems are going to be CHEAP, like the green gems today. A greater gem requires 50 times as many work order/daily CD resources as a regular gem. If you did nothing but play WoW all day, forgoing sleep, you can probably make two greater gems per Gem Boutique per day. If you just do some work orders at the start of the evening, and again when you log off four hours later, you can probably make one every second day. Getting one of those epic blings or upgrading it is going to consume more like a week’s JC resources (x100-200 the resources of a regular gem).
(8) Note the daily CD for making crystals is shared with the daily CD for learning patterns.

In case you hadn’t figured it out already, you can’t make Draenic gold by sitting in Orgrimmar at Level 90. You will have to do the starting quests up to around Level 92 and you will need to get the garrison up and running.

Engineering

The red-headed step child of professions, filled with useless toys you can’t offload onto unsuspecting customers, traditionally a way to spend gold rather than a serious gold earner.

(1) A lot of the odd little Engineer items are now available to anyone through the Engineering Works. The loot-a-rang may be useful in raids, when you have run past a mountain of corpses, and now wonder which one has you 30 silvers on it. The one use glider, stealth, shield, and attack toys may be a source of income. I’m hoping these things don’t become essential for raids, otherwise we will all be writing macros to include their use.
(2) You need to be an engineer to make armour upgrades, or use the Blingtron 5000, or the Wormhole generator.
(3) The Ultimate Gnomish Army Knife, the version for engineers only, has a 10 minute CD resurrection. Wording suggests it is always successful. We’ll need to test this in the field because science!
(4) You can make Fireworks, including Everlasting Horde Firework (which had a 0.5% drop rate in the week it was available).
(5) One epic weapon – an agility gun. And you can make scopes for ranged weapons as usual.
(6) Four epic goggles/helmets – in cloth, leather, mail and plate varieties. Statwise they seem equal to those produced by the other crafting systems in the game … but they’re Mechshades, and they’re bind-on-equip. Did you know transmog rhymes with ka-ching!? Your engineer alt could be busy making a pair of these while your other crafter toon is busy working on chest or legs, so some potential for faster gearing by paying attention to your Engineer.
(7) Yes, there are pets. Three crafted, one from the Blingtron.

Fishing

Fishing has been made more complicated.

(1) Fish comes in different sizes (bigger = more meat)
(2) Savage Savory Delight = orc pirate/ninja costumes.
(3) Each zone has different fish, and a unique bait to increase the chance of catching that fish.
(4) Crescent sabrefish is essential to many alchemical products.
(5) Rubber Duck pet
(6) Social fish – new ways to annoy your raiding comrades by throwing fish at them
(7) Pretty Draenor Pearl
(8) Your garrison gets a fishing shack at L94. Nat Pagle will turn up, and will annoy you endlessly.
(9) A pet land shark and water strider mount await those willing to grind and grind and grind…

Inscription

Inscription is the boom/bust profession of WoW. One day your stuff sells for a fortune, three days later you have to pay people to take it off your hands.

(1) The fact that a key byproduct of your scribe followers is a “merchant order” that is cashed in for gold tells you something about the lack of goods that scribes have to offer other players. Still 75-225g is not too shabby.
(2) Ability consolidation means there are few new glyphs, existing glyphs have been repurposed. Large numbers of glyphs are now learned automatically.
(3) BOE levelling trinkets at L91, 95 and 98.
(4) Can craft some weapons and off-hands for casters – wowhead has contradictory information about there ability to be upgraded, I’d lean towards them being capable of being fully upgraded.
(5) Darkmoon faire cards, Trinkets are generally +primary stat (or armour) with a crit or spirit proc. There are new Joker cards which can be used to fill in a missing card in a near complete deck. Trinket decks can be upgraded. NB: first DMC post launch starts 7 December. Edit 10 Warpaints to make, and not locked behind a CD, these are going to be pretty easy to make! Unlike the weapons, these don’t seem to be upgradeable.
(6) Card of Omens, for gambling with, or arranging movement of vast hoards of gold between servers. 1-6,000g.
(7) You still have to mill herbs. When the JC has knocked off for the day and is enjoying a beer, you will still be grinding…

Tailoring

(1) Hexweave Cloth, requires fur and herbs to make. Remember how you used to farm humanoids for cloth? Well, get used to killing furry animals. Or just doing lots of work orders.
(2) You get the standard WoD set of armours, stat rerolls and upgrades.
(3) No more leg embroidery.
(4) Tailor only “creeping carpet” mount and plushie toy (for Masochist Pet Battle owners only).
(5) The Hexweave bag has 30 slots and requires 100 Hexcloth (500 Sumptous fur plus herbs through work orders), so maybe you can make one every 2-3 days or so. If it is this fast, then there is not much point making the older big bags from Mists/Cataclysm as they take much longer to make and the mats are pretty expensive. You need to be a tailor to make these.
(6) Epic BOE cloaks. Do not appear to be subject to the 3-crafted item limit. These will be in demand.

Tailoring looks to be in a good place for making gold. Unlike the other gear crafters, you have a lot of options for your mats when the demand for crafted gear falls off. You will always sell bags. But, the price of the bags is probably going to crash a few months into the expansion because everyone else will be shifting their production into bags as well.

Leatherworking

I don’t have a leatherworker toon, but as there do not seem to be specialistions for pots, flasks and elixirs for WoD alchemy, I may as well convert one of my alchemists into a leatherworker/skinner.

(1) Can make armour, drums, profession bags (e.g. for mining). The bags are 36 slots, which is a slight improvement over the 30 slot tailoring bags, and no bigger than the 36 slot bags you can already build.
(2) Leatherworking only mount (Dustmane Direwolf).
(3) BOA Garrison tents, 10 second rest for +10 stat boost for an hour. Consumable.
(4) BOE epic cloaks, like the tailoring cloaks do not appear to be subject to 3-crafted item limit.

So, its okay, but nothing super exciting.

Double-gathering

Q. If almost everyone can make everything, should I just drop my professions and gather raw materials?
A. While most things can be made without great difficulty through your garrison, the very best items and upgrades are going to be locked behind long acquisition times for the patterns and long farming times for the consumables.


Back to the drawing board

June 15, 2014

2014-0~1

So the last version of Housewar was taking 4+ hours to play.  It was fun, but not as quick as I want (sub-two hours with 5 players), so back to the drawing board we go.

Some changes to the map. Part of the design is to have only 20 areas on the map (and then using a rough rule of thumb from Diplomacy of only having infrastructure tokens for 2/3 of the map areas (13 in this case, which is a flavourful number for a Decline & Fall game).  The other is to see what happens when I surround the central Glory point territory (Core Sector) by exactly ONE sector (the Heartland Sectors on the above map).  In past versions of the map there have been 4+ sectors adjacent to the Core, but it was always liable to end up being controlled by 1-2 players, excluding other players from scoring opportunities.  So I am thinking this version of the map might see players contesting the approaches a little more.

I also got to experiment with the function of the art package that lets me draw text along a curve easily. Once I do a test print to see if I have the dimensions right, I can tidy up this package.

Overall conceptual change is to just the player locus from being powers within the Empire, to being Pirates from outside the Empire. Over the course of the game the Pirates gain recognition (i.e. Glory) within the Empire, and at a certain point the player with the most Glory becomes the Last Strong Emperor. This triggers the endgame, where the Emperor must defeat all of the other players to win the game.

For the initial game flow, I am borrowing the power generation mechanics from Cthulhu Wars.  So the early game is about expanding as fast as possible to capture territory and build Bases to increase power income. All the power is used each turn on game actions.  The mid-game is triggered when people start building Dreadnoughts, expensive units with special powers.  Each Dreadnought is generated randomly, by drawing two random technology counters. Its a bit like the civilisation tiles in Vinci. So one counter might be “Move +1″ and another counter is “Repair damage as a free action”.  Each counter will have a cost of 1-6 power, combining for a total Dreadnought cost of 2-12.  Each time a Dreadnought is built, all the existing combinations that were passed over get a cumulative one power discount to purchase.

I have found a pack of ~144 plastic spaceship models, in eight types and six colours, which sells for around $10 on Ebay/Amazon (plus shipping). So I will have lots of cool tokens to represent the Dreadnoughts.  They should hopefully turn up in a couple of weeks.

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I also grabbed a couple of packs of old Silent Death fighters (upper picture below) and some space ship tokens from a Buck Rodgers boardgame (which will provide the “popcorn” Pirate and Battleship units).

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In past versions of the game, the Decline was usually based on random event cards, or capture of the Core sector.  This could be too random (too slow/fast) or too easy for the players to stop altogether.  This time around I am going to try linking Decline to Dreadnought construction, i.e. linking it directly to an action the players will all really want to do.  So the Decline marker starts on the zero box of the Decline and Fall track, while the Fall marker starts on the 13 box.  Each time a Dreadnought is built, move the Decline marker up the track by a number of boxes equal to the power spent on the Dreadnought.  If the Decline marker reaches or passes the Fall marker, reset the Decline marker to zero and shift the Fall marker down one space.  When the Fall marker hits zero the endgame is triggered and the player with the most Glory becomes Emperor.

The Empire defends its territory. Borrowing a mechanic from an old 1970s kids game with a WWII Pacific theme, Hit the Beach, each time a player eliminates Imperial units, they get to place those units in a sector of their choice that the Empire still controls. So as the Empire shrinks its gets a little tougher, but you also get to place units to try and slow down the growth of other players.

How to get Glory:

  • Decadence: spend power equal to the Decadence Track value and score Glory equal to the Decadence track value (the track value reduces by 1 each turn, and increases by 1 every time someone is decadent), I plan to start the track at a high value (i.e. costing more Power than the players have in turn 1) so the initial turn order is not advantageous to some players
  • Monuments: you must own a Dreadnought to do this action, score one Glory for each Base, Dreadnought, and Monument you own, build one Monument as part of the action. All players score one Glory for each Monument they own. Costs power equal to the number of times Monument actions have been done, so it can only happen 13-14 times per game.
  • Winning battles (possibly one point per battle and/or one point per Dreadnought destroyed)
  • Reigning in control of Core sector (one point per action)

For the Endgame, your Glory is converted into Power, and this is your only source of power for actions in the final turn of the game. So all players will want as much Glory as they can get.

Blame mechanics: last few versions of the game had Glory resetting to zero, what I want to do this time is to reset it to one point below the lowest player (which could be yourself).  Blame comes mainly from rolling Skulls in combat, or from being Corrupt to try and increase power income.

I have also splashed out and ordered some plastic game markers from LITKO Game Accessories

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These ones will be good for representing Bases in the game (I already have some Parthenon style plastic markers for Monuments).  The ones below could be used to represent sectors devastated by combat involving Dreadnoughts (Nuclear hazard marker) or the Power income tokens (atomic power symbol).  These were not cheap, but they should make the game a bit more fun.

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World of Tanks Progression

March 18, 2014

Progression in World of Tanks gets a lot slower as you buy more tanks, as you spread your playtime across multiple vehicles. As the tiers go up, the amount of XP also greatly increases to the point where several hundred battles are required to unlock the next design.  Even though I am only concentrating on one tech tree (Russia) the grind through Tiers VIII and IX has become very slow.  Its also painful when a tech tree branches into multiple tanks, and you have to keep playing until both are researched.  I am still enjoying play of the H-35, UE-57, KV-1, KV-2 and KV-5 (my favourite tank for ramming), and playing one game on each of those is usually an hour of good times.

Object 704

This is the tier IX Russian Tank Destroyer (TD).  Sadly after 100 battles I am only averaging a 47% win ratio, and looking at all my tier IX tanks the victory rations are all sub-50%.  So while on paper its a decent vehicle, its often running into Tier X vehicles with players who know a TD’s weaknesses. I have a lot of days where I wish I was back in the ISU-152.  The 704 is fairly educational around why turretless tanks largely vanish from the OB post-WWII, anything that is fast and gets close will flank me, track me, and laugh at me.  One of the biggest issues I run into in high tier public matches, is a refusal to scout.  If no one spots for the team, I’m useless.  If the enemy team has a competent scout, once I’m spotted my survival time is about 5-10 seconds – unless the enemy shells bounce off my gun plate the TDs HP get stripped fast. In this Pearl River battle I was the brave one to be first around the corner that an M40/41 SPG was hiding behind (with a loaded round), and got the last kill needed for the Expert USA badge.shot_017

SU-14-2

This is the tier VIII Russian SPG Artillery, and like most high tier vehicles, its not a lot of fun to play.  While it can fire about every 45 seconds, and it does a lot of damage when it hits, its a big if around the hitting.  I can fire 12 shells in a long battle and miss every time.  I’ll have to wait for the Tier X SPG before I get significant improvement in the accuracy.  Even more so than the TD the SPG is utterly reliant on a team that can spot, block scouts, and not manage to lose an entire flank in the first three minutes.  Its not without reason that the player most likely to bitch about “noob teams” is in a SPG along the back line. I’m not sure how my team won this match, because they let the enemy scouts crawl all over the cap, which made it a short match for me.shot_018

ST-1

This is the tier IX tank in one of the Russian heavy tank trees, and progression leads to the IS-4, which is not as popular a Tier-X tank as the IS-7.  Once fully researched, its a lot of fun, reasonably fast on the flat (but not uphill) it has a decent gun and armour.  Like a lot of Russian tanks, its good for fast moving brawls.  Of all the tier VIII+ tanks I am progressing, its the most fun.  I did well in this Himmelsdorf map, climbing the hill, flanking the enemy behind the Castle, and then hunting a medium down in the south town, before the enemy arty killed me coming around a corner (the T-44 right behind me then hunted the arty down after a long game of at and mouse on the train tracks).shot_019

SU-101

This Tier-VIII Tank Destroyer is a piece of shit.  While it is fast and can redeploy quickly, both its armour and gun are crap.  The crap gun is really noticeable when you draw Tier X opponents. I only play this if I am feeling masochistic, as if I am going to have to grind TD pain, I’d rather do it on the 704 and get a bit closer to the Object 268 Tier X TD.  Just to remind myself what it was like I took it out for a spin.  Got Mines map and 350 ms latency, which is awful, but as it was a Tier VI-VIII battle I was able to penetrate and do a bit of damage.  A chunk of my XP came from spotting damage when I did a favour for the other TDs on my team by sprinting over to the shadow of a ridge line for proximity spotting.  One hit from an IS took away half my HP which just reinforced its vulnerability.

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T-44

This is a Russian Tier VIII medium tank … and the research grind is long. As well as tracks and turret, there are three engines and five guns to research.  The default Tier VII gun is underwhelming for a tank that will face Tier X monsters on the field.  I’m suffering through progression so that one day I can wolfpack at tier X.  In play its a hybrid, not fast enough to be a light, not grunty enough to be a heavy.  While a medium should be trying to flank and disrupt, the basic T-44 is just too slow and too puny to be scary. It pains me to say this, but I just keep playing and hoping for a decent team to carry me to the double XP win of the day, then I swap the crew to the Matilda Tier V premium for some crew training.  On the outing pictured below, sadly the latency hit me and I drove into the water and drowned.shot_024

Clan Wars

I have done about 20 Clan War battles with PANZR (Panzac Raiders) and it has been a lot of fun.  The IS-7 is much more fun in a team unit than in solo play.  The new rules for locking tanks out of Clan Wars, however, means I will only get to play Clanwars about three times every two weeks (if you click on the picture below you should get a clear view of the hour countdown in the tank strip at the bottom of the image).  As much as the company may talk about strategy, it looks pretty clear to me that this is intended as huge silver sink (about 6,000,000 a pop, or a couple of months grinding on a premium account) as people buy additional tier Xs to support their clan.  It is a lot of work, 15 minutes prep for each battle, and many battles are uneven fights, no shows, or ten minute sitzkriegs. Still, its a good feeling to have a competent company commander, be given clear orders, and just do my best to execute them.  In my last battle I sacrificed my tank by turning 90 degrees away from the enemy, allowing the rest of my team to take cover behind me as they converted the cap for the win.

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Too Many Maps?

Every patch another new map.  There are new maps that I have played once or twice since the last patch, which is really not enough to have a good chance of learning the map for different types of tank.  So its nice to see new skins of old maps (with snow or fire added).


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