First the bad news. I was going to try and run Colossus in Auckland at Battlecry in February, but I have cancelled as work is going to be very busy that week and because Battlecry does not have a confirmed venue due to insurance problems. The good news is that I am still on track to run Colossus at GENCON in August, and I will be designing a pirate themed Megagame for Wellycon in June. The working title for that game is Aquila Rift, and my plan is for the main player roles to be corrupt governors, underpaid space patrol captains, fat merchants, and a lot of pirates. I’ll post more about that in February.
I think the short summary of revisions I am planning is:
- Reduce the fountain of Talents into the game to align more closely with the expected spending by players each game turn.
- Reduce the fountain of Cogs and to make Cogs valuable to all player roles, by having all players have upgrade cards they can buy.
- Make each Council have a path towards defeating the enemy empires.
- Make each Council have a path towards a high risk/high gain VP goal.
- Provide more structure and clarity for the Council process, and more options for actions that Councils choose between.
- Making Challenges and city attacks easier to do in the game.
Some new ideas I want to explore in a future blog post are:
- Creating a research process that facilitates emergent play.
- Whether there is scope to add some more player roles into the game. I am thinking about Historians, Oracles, and mercenaries from the foreign empires.
- A few more bells and whistles on how DOOM is handled.
- Monster Blood as a resource.
- Reworking Votes (a democratic Athenian concept) into Arete (a Greek concept for virtue/excellence) as a resource used to control Councils and to activate some powerful game options.
The Fountain of Talents
At Kapcon the generals united against the enemy empires, and a large number of talents flowed into the treasuries as a result. Even without this bonanza few people struggled to rebuild lost forces or to fund other options. I want the decision to spend money to be interesting, not trivial.
At the start of the game, you will be able to spend 1-10 Talents per fundable city option (Hoplites, Triremes, and Magikos). So initially 30 Talents of income a turn would be handy. This matches the rough spread of incomes from contesting territory, and the baseline 10 talents per turn from holding your city.
The revision here, is that rather than city upgrades granting you free Hoplites, Triremes, or sacrifices in the city temples, it allows you to spend more talents. So if the initial cap on Hoplite builds is 10, and you upgrade it by five, now you can spend 1-15 talents a turn on building Hoplites. Not being able to so easily replace losses may also make players think more about running away when badly outnumbered.
The Fountain of Cogs
To make play simpler, I will cut down on the number of Cogs spawned into the game, but also reduce the cost of all upgrades or other gameplay options that require Cogs. The Cog income is Turn Number + Vril + (DOOM tokens x Turn number). For example, in turn 3 if you have one Vril token and spend two DOOM tokens then you will get 10 Cogs. This also makes Vril very different from Orichalcum – Vril gets you extra Cogs, Orichalcum gets you a +1 to a city build option that can be reassigned.
Every player role will have uses for Cogs. This means it will no longer be automatic when a team meets that they hand all their Cogs to one person. Cogs will represent innovation. One possible breakdown for what Cogs can be spent on could look like this:
- Strategos will spend Cogs to purchase Hero upgrades
- Philosophos will spend Cogs to purchase Sorcery cards (which then require DOOM tokens to play)
- Arkitekton will spend Cogs to purchase City upgrades, or to gain discounts on the cost of constructing a Wonder
- Basilieus will spend Cogs to purchase Colossus upgrades
- Emporos will spend Cogs to create Trade deals.
I have been reworking the City tile, making it more of a left to right read, with tokens being stacked up on the white space to the right, and space for Orichalcum and Vril to the left. This is not a complete revision! In this version, Magikos is compared to each player you face, so if you had a Magikos score of 12, and you fight two enemies with Magikos 13+ you would roll two Chaos dice. If one of then had Magikos 11 and the other Magikos 12, you would roll one Chaos die and one DOOM die, and if they both had Magikos 11- you would roll two DOOM dice.
Defeating the Enemy Empires
I think the Strategos at Kapcon had a good time working together to defeat the enemy empires. What I want to do next time is ensure that every Council has its own path to defeat the enemy empires, so that the decision about which path to take is a more interesting one. The broad themes I am imagining are:
- Council of War – raiding the enemy empires to weaken them, then invading the enemy empire first with an Atlantean army, with the risk of the victorious commander then marching on Atlantis and making themselves Hegemon of all Atlantis
- Council of Wisdom – defeating the enemy empires by researching powerful unique spells that strike them with plagues, earthquakes, tidal waves, etc., with the risk of the spells backfiring and increasing DOOM
- Council of Wonder – defeating the enemy empires by building expensive Wonders that can be used for defence or in battle
- Council of Law – assimilating the enemy empires through dynastic politics, or funding conflicts within the enemy empire
- Council of Trade – ensuring peaceful coexistence with the enemy empires through trade agreements, with the risk that if they do attack the enemy empires will be more powerful.
All Councils will have a high risk/high gain Strategy
At Kapcon the council of War earned a lot of VP for all the Houses. The Council of Wonder was the biggest source of VP, but it was open ended based on talents thrown into this sink. Next time I want all the Councils to have a similar set of options that could gain a House 1,000 VP. The themes I am working on for the councils are:
- Council of War – defeating the enemy empires creates large rewards of talents, VP and other resources (but see below for how I plan to handle it differently), but it also creates an army that might be strong enough for the general to march on Atlantis and make themselves sole ruler (idea taken from The Republic Rome boardgame)
- Council of Wisdom – researching the path of ascension, finding what is required to become a demi-God, then attempting the heroic quests necessary to reach this goal (with the risk of being punished for all eternity by the Gods)
- Council of Wonder -making big wonders will still generate VP, but it may be harder to finish projects and the VP will not be equal to the Talents thrown at the project, but if you manage to build seven wonders, you can be responsible for triggering the Golden Age of Atlantis
- Council of Law – a political path towards becoming High King of Atlantis, such as successfully challenging all other Houses, and managing to sack at least one city controlled by each other House
- Council of Trade – earning enough talents to complete the Colossus of Atlantis before another House builds it first. Might have another option about turning Atlantis into a Thassalocracy (a trading based maritime republic).
More Options at Council Meetings
While some Councils got a lot of Officers at Kapcon, others were short and thus had less to do. What I plan to do now is to adapt a mechanic I first saw in the Puerto Rico boardgame. Council meetings will have three steps:
- Determine how much Arete each player has. The player with the most Arete is President of the Council. Oldest player wins in a tie.
- The President makes the first choice among the options in front of the Council. Each option can only be chosen by one player each turn.
- The President then chooses who makes the next choice. That player then makes their choice, and chooses who will go next.
- Once all players have chosen, adjudicate results and collect rewards.
- Options not chosen, increase in value so they will be more tempting next turn.
I would give players thirty seconds to make a choice. I want there to be around 6-7 choices in front of them. Some options will be unique to the Council, e.g. the Council of Wonder builds wonders, others will be common between all Councils.
Common Council Options
These six options will probably be the core options. Each turn you get to pick between these and a couple of the unique council options. I will probably add a twist to each of the corrupted options, so this is by no means complete. This set up is similar to one I used in a version of my Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire baordgame.
- Arete: gain Arete.
- Corruption: gain Talents.
- DOOM: gain a DOOM token and choose one of the other options. The option you choose is now corrupted, flip the option card over. Anyone choosing a corrupted option also gets a DOOM token. Corrupting an option a second time has no further effect.
- Kudos: gain Victory Points.
- Research: gain Cogs, a bonus research token. If corrupted, also choose an option from the next deck of cards and add it into the current deck.
- Scandal: Spend Arete and gain a challenge token for use against one of the other Houses. If corrupted, this option does not cost you Arete.
Note: I am thinking of having a research process that has unpredictable emergent patterns, so that different players will have different costs for each upgrade, thus creating natural opportunities for trade deals between players. I’ll try blogging about that idea soon.
Unique Council Options
These options will vary between Councils, but their may be synergies between the two councils. Each Council will have one deck for the first half of the game, a second deck for the rising tensions of the second half of the game, and a Last Turn Madness deck for the last turn of the game. These options will be more powerful than the common options, but require a player to either spend some of their Arete in order to be successful, or to roll dice and hope for luck. In order for the madness cards to have their desired effects, I am thinking of inverting the standard turn sequence in the last game turn, i.e. resolve the diplomacy phase first, and the map phase second. This would also mean getting two Diplomacy stages in a row.
I will not try and cover all five Councils here, but looking at the Council of War, its options might be something like this.
- First deck – Armaments: increase the strength of the Army of Atlantis. Raids: player can attack an enemy empire (resolve on their map table next turn) with their House forces.
- Second deck – Foreign Wars: Player can start a war with an enemy empire, using the Atlantean army. The war continues until it is concluded (requires multiple victories). More Armaments: the Atlantean army gets even stronger.
- Third deck – Civil War: player can march the Army of Atlantis on Atlantis itself. This creates a mini-game around whether anyone tries to stop them. If the player succeeds they claim the title of Hegemon and +1,000 VP. Rule Change: make a change to the combat rules, requires majority backing from Council.
Note: I am thinking of adding a map tile to each game table which features the locations of the enemy empires. You need a Council option to move there, so it will not be attacked every turn, but the potential rewards keep accumulating.
If an enemy empire is completely defeated, there is a spoils phase. rather than there being one pool of VP, Talents, etc. to be divided, there will be a number of prizes that the players take turns choosing between. For example, one possible prize division might be:
- 100 VP
- 50 VP
- 10 Cogs
- 5 Orichalcum
- 2 Vril
- 150 Talents
- 75 Talents
- Three DOOM tokens
- Five Arete
- Three Arete
- A research token.
Not so easy to split it equally now?
Making Challenges and City Attacks Easier
In Kapcon there were several steps required before you had a shot at attacking a player’s home city. While it looked good on paper, in practice the Court of Law focused on expanding offices. So each Council now has a common option of being able to pick on another player, granting you a challenge token for their House. This token can then be traded around, but can be used in a future game turn to challenge a member of that House. If you get multiple tokens, then you gain a bonus for the attack.
With city attacks being easier, I will look at adding a city upgrade that is defensive walls, but as I want to choke down the supply of Cogs, focusing on defence will have opportunity costs elsewhere.
I will have to do some more thinking on the consequences of a sack. I think for the attacker, defeat and loss of troops is sufficient a penalty. For the defender, defeat needs to cost more than the 30 odd talents and resource tokens they would pick up from the colonies. One potential way to do this, is to have options on the war council that increase/decrease the rewards from sacking cities. Its something to playtest down the track.
What’s your design goal here? Are you looking for a linear progression curve?
I am looking for a sweet spot where the players can get the resources to do most of what they need to do, but not everything that they want to do. In the first game I let a lot of money into the system, knowing it could all flow out down the Wonder sink, which it mostly did. Next time I want the resources to be tight – unless the players choose to corrupt options that spawn resources, so that the resource spawn increases – they will always feel short of the talents needed to build their units.