Brainstorming for Buckets

I think we had some useful ideas for improving the Buckets of Dice Grand Strategy game for 2012.  I’m not yet at a stage of drafting rules and drawing maps, but I think its time for some more brainstorming.  What I am going to do in this post is just list some questions about elements that could be included in the game, without necessarily going into any great mechanical detail.  Please feel free to comment.

The key to brainstorming, is to use words like YES or AND, and not words like NO or BUT.  I’m looking for ideas that could be made to work, not reasons why an idea can’t work.

Basic frame: its a Big Damn Galactic Empire, wealthy, powerful, and decadent.  Its not explicitly a decline and fall scenario.


Should we have any NPC factions, like beserker aliens, smugglers or pirates?

Should we make one of the player factions twice the size of the other player factions?

Should players be allowed to change factions?

Should players be required to change factions at least once per game?

Should factions have identifiable leaders?

If factions have leaders, what powers should they have?

Should players be able to play as a faction of one (i.e. solotaire).

Should all factions have the same goals, or should they have different objectives in the game?

Side Games

In addition to the main map game, what other games should be included as part of the Grand Strategy game?


What should the Emperor do, if anything?


Should there be elections?

Should there be voting?

Should there be executions? Assassins?  Other forms of player assisted mortality?

Are binding treaties useful?

How can we enforce treaties more effectively?

What political goals should the different factions have?  Status quo? Reform? Rebellion?


Should we use an area based map, or go for something with a grid or hexes?

How many maps should we have?  One big map?  Five smaller ones? Three abstract ones?

Map Game – Movement

Should movement focus on individual players, or teams?

How long should a move take to resolve?

Should movement order be random?  Or follow a set sequence?

Should everyone have the same number of moves?

Should movement be ‘free’ or have an in-game cost?

Should everyone have the same movement rules?

How far should you be able to move in one turn?

Should we try two types of movement?  A slow free move, and an expensive fast one?

How should we handle movement between maps?

Map Game – Combat

Should everyone have the same combat rules? (Teams or types of units)

How long should a combat take to resolve?

Should combat have predictable or unpredictable outcomes?

Should you be able to wipe people off the map?

Should it be possible to kill players in fleet battles?

Should we have a strong offence, or a strong defence in the game?

Map Game – Economy

Should we have a detailed resource game?

What should we call the game currency?

Which should be more important: taxation, trade, or corruption?

Should income and spending be focused on players, teams, or the Empire?


Okay, that is enough for today I think.

5 thoughts on “Brainstorming for Buckets

  1. icehawk September 11, 2011 / 2:50 pm

    Should we make one of the player factions twice the size of the other player factions?

    AND give the members of that faction a zero-sum internal fight with each other for power and prestige within that faction.

  2. John Morton September 12, 2011 / 4:48 pm


    Much of the faction questions boil down to where the game is on a continuum that runs from wargaming to LARPing.

    * Playing, I prefer something more at the gaming end with clearly defined factions whose members are playing a team game.
    * GMing, I think individual goals tend to be time consuming to design, and they make play testing much harder.

    That said, Icehawk makes a good case for a large faction’s members having a competitive relationship — that would appeal to folks who like the LARP elements more than I do, and could work well if you put the right experienced games in those rolls (eg Jan, Mark, Rachel, etc).

    A consideration — it would be nice to finish the game, have a five minute breather, then get a ‘what actually happened?’ wrap up from the GMs, so if their are varied objectives, they should be easy to test for success.

  3. John Morton September 12, 2011 / 5:17 pm

    Side Games:

    Steal the trading sub game straight out of Avalon Hill Civ, using the GalCiv cards that are already printed and sitting in my garage.

    We’ll need some modifications to deal with the grand strat environment:

    * We can’t stop people from hording cards with end of turn card limits
    * It’s hard to get folks to admit they’re the last person holding a tradable disaster.


    * Disasters are simple, have no specific protections and no tradable versions. They just dole out the harshness immediately and mechanically when the GMs put together the faction’s set of cards during the GMs Sort Things Out phase.
    * Commodity cards are useless by themselves; they have to be cashed in to the Trade GM for Galactic Ducets (or whatever), which can be passed onto the rest of the faction to be spent on matériel (or whatever).
    * There will be two types of commodity per value. After a couple of initial turns, or when the stacks end the turn below half, one ‘random’ commodity will drop in value, being only worth face value, rather than cards squared times face value. If someone is obviously hording, the trade GM can be a bastard and keep that commodity locked down until the cards are traded back. (I think we even have three sets of some values, so another set can be introduced for the benefit of everyone else).

    I expect the demand for ducets from the rest of the faction will shut down hording fairly quickly, though holding on to a card to block some rival from maxing out a sequence is always legit.

    It’s worth noting that the Trade GM is a pretty easy job – hand out commodities at the start of the turn, and cash them in when the players want ducets, so it’s a good chill out option for exhausted map GMs.

  4. John Morton September 12, 2011 / 7:37 pm


    It worked well to have a politics phase during the GMs do stuff phase in the Colossus game. I don’t have much of an opinion otherwise.


    Hexes where bad in Flower Power, because it was expensive to recalculate borders. Not a problem if factions fight over supply centers and ship yards. However, hex/grids may lead to stacking, so regions will more easily show what’s on the board and where.

    Assuming we have queues (a good mechanic, overall), then you want 4-5 players per queue, for players not engaged in a side game. I think three to four maps would work, so long as transit between the maps is anywhere on A -> off map -> anywhere on B or similar.

    Map movement/combat/etc:

    Queues are good. Try to avoid overly shortening the actions, as this tends to be painful (ie like Iron Dragon). Folks where basically happy with Colossus. With the last game, the main problems where the board being too busy, and the seated queues effectively blinded people to the happenings on the board.

    I’d say that having resource and ship producing centers, and ships with logistics and strength should be enough. Supply is a function of needing to return to ship yards to boost logistics and strength rather than tracing lines of supply (ie one less thing for the GMs to do). If resources are Civ trade cards, then resource generation doesn’t need to happen between map turns, too, which either speeds things up or is time that can be returned to individual player actions.

  5. Hamish September 17, 2011 / 8:14 pm

    I like the idea of not saying no, but…
    (might as well break all the rules)
    * Very little sucks as much as NPC factions playing kingmaker. Death to NPCs.
    * I don’t think assassinations add anything. It’s just an excuse for passive play so as not to attract attention or to ruin someone’s night by disrupting their fun.

    Factions of different sizes, including solo players, hell yeah! More levers for player diplomacy. A solo Emperor player could be very cool too – give him/her a bunch of resources to by votes… maybe the power to bestow and remove titles which come with resources/votes?

    I never play the politics game, but it seems to be popular. I liked the way it worked a couple of years ago when the “GM turn” was simultaneous with the assembly [‘as a general it gave me a chance to plan and just watch what my team members were doing ;)]

    I’m not sure what the cost:benefit ratio of enforcing and enforceable alliances is. It might be nice if they could be monitored/enforced by the players… Not sure how that would work.

    Maps & Movement:
    In terms of movement, The idea of a free “slow” move and a “fast” move that you pay for is cool. Gives some more tactical flexibility, which I’m a fan of.

    As I said after the last game, I *really* like the idea of ponderous armies (with one set of movement rules) and speedy raiders (with another set) who also operate on two different combat paradigms.

    I like multiple area or abstract network maps. In a galactic game, how are these conceptualised? That will have a bearing on how inter-map movement works. Is each map a different area of space connected by a wormhole/jump gate to other maps? Contiguous areas of space connected by multiple lines (as in this year’s game)? Something else? I like the former. Perhaps certain classes of ships have jump engines and can move off map to a holding area on another map for one move, then once in the queue for the new map, move from the holding area to any legal location on the new map.

    Certain classes of ship (Capital ships) have to jump to Jump Beacons – a type of upgrade for a friendly planet? Other classes of ship (Raiders, can jump anywhere from the holding zone). So raiders are for being a dick to the other size, capital ships are for actually beating them up/taking & holding territory.

    Individual income could be an interesting experiment if we could think of a trivial way to distribute the funds each turn. Maybe a queue to collect income with a income amount on a badge/ID card and a checklist for the “treasury” GM.

    Yes AND Yes.

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