Colossus of Atlantis at Wellycon

We play to find out what happens, and this time Atlantis definitely sank. As we hit game round nine, Atlantis Doom reached 1,317 and Divine Wrath reached 260, crossing the 250 threshold for triggering the endgame after one faction betrayed another. As the earthquakes started, and the waters rolled back as the tidal wave approached, I asked the Archons in the Council of Atlantis what they were doing. The leader of the Tyrants climbed up to the top of the eponymous Colossus for a good view. Another Archon tried sacrificing half the populace to Great Cthulhu, and the altars and streets of Atlantis ran red with the blood of the innocent. The other half of the populace was “busy” following the use of an Aphrodite divine favour special action. One Archon prayed to Poseidon to save them – no luck – maybe they should not have made Athena the patron Goddess of Atlantis? The Archon of the Oligarchs successfully invoked the wrath of Zeus to strike everyone but them with thunderbolts, and so Atlantis sank, with the 1% counting the coins in their vaults and making sure they had enough to pay Charon.

Group photo at the end of the game.

Control Debrief

We had just enough players for five teams of four, rather than the eight teams of five players the game was designed for. Marketing is hard, and on a holiday weekend there are a lot of alternatives. Wellycon is also rapidly becoming the GENCON of New Zealand, and with a large con you get a bit of FOMO and its a big ask to get players to commit eight hours to one game. Next year we might do better to run two to three short duration games, with one running from 1030-1330, another from 1400-1800, and then an evening game from 1830 to 2200.

The space we had at the venue was fine for the number of people we had involved. If we had a full complement of 40 players I think it would have been getting cramped. If I had known that the exit door on out back wall was definitely going to be closed to casual traffic, I would have set the tables up differently, e.g. placing the Strategos table closer to the middle. Another option if using the same space again would be to try and get some smaller tables for the factions to have a home base.

Some logistics elements that can be improved on:

  • Bring a PA system
  • Have a Control person tasked with emptying “dump bowls” for tokens used at one table that need to be moved back to another table
  • More plastic tubs to help players move/store their tokens
  • Use multiple vehicles to transport stuff to the venue.

The map game and combat between generals flowed fairly well in Act I. In Act II everything slowed down as player versus player combat was enabled. The two main factors in this slow down appear to have been the duel mechanic and the use of Divine Favour cards to increase battle strength. This meant that rather than battles being largely automated, every fight required a check pause for resolution, and with 13 maps and four battle rounds, that meant 52 pauses in play. So it is not surprising that the Strategoi went from finishing three full Action Phases in Act I to only finishing one in Act II. Some “bluff” cards might help speed up divine intervention, as might committing the favour cards before battle cards are pulled.

The Strategos game. Maps were made using Profantasy’s Campaign Cartographer.

The rough count of finished Megaprojects was that 13 Colossi were completed, against two each of Temples and Wonders, and zero for Architecture. While building giant robots is fun, the disparity in numbers suggests that the value of the other Megaprojects could be increased or better communicated to the players (e.g. a note in the Archon brief telling them that Architecture projects increase their popularity).

Civil War in Atlantis, two Colossi fight near the Temple of Doom megaproject.

The Colossi dominated Sieges, taking part in 70-80% of the sieges and only losing on two occasions. At one stage in game development I had a siege engine mechanic, which posed a threat to Colossi in sieges. For balance I might need to reduce Colossi effectiveness versus cities, or increase the damage they take.

One feature of Colossus was the large number of game currencies: Talents (cash), Tyche (luck), Arete (virtue), Doom, Wrath and eight types of trade goods. Of these currencies Arete would be the one to drop from a future run of the game. It serves mainly as a “bennie” for good play from Control, and Control can probably fudge things in the margins without needing a specific token.

Battle Kiwi made these tokens for our game.

Priest Control observed that the downsides of Divine Wrath (which works a bit like the Terror Track in Watch the Skies) needed to be more clearly communicated to the players, such as a note in all the player briefings that a major crisis happens at every 50 points and 250 triggers the sinking of Atlantis (or a similar catastrophe). I should have built a spreadsheet for tracking Doom efficiently.

Strategy Control wanted a clear visual of which factions were allied with each other. The league oaths pinned to the wall were too far away for reference. Some kind of reference chart at the table or pairs of team flags. If we had run a full Priest game, then priests would have been more involved with alliances. We also had a very fuzzy alliance, where the players specified the outcomes the alliance was intended to achieve, rather than the behaviours the allies were to follow. The question was “Given the abject failure of the alliance to achieve its goals, has it been broken, if so by which side?”

The Archon game worked well, except for Stasis (civil strife/street battles in Atlantis). What was supposed to be a quick playing minigame turned into a half hour marathon. Once again duels slowed the resolution down, and counting the VP proved much harder than I thought it would be. Archon Control suggested rejigging the main Archon sequence of play so that determining vote strength happened before the Debate Phase, which is a good idea.

Archon Disaster/Event cards would have been clearer if they had two options rather than three options, and faster if the default outcome was a “No” vote for option (1) means that option (2) happens. The full set of 10 Constitution articles was only ready for Assembly Adoption by Round 4-5, and only after the last article was rammed in place by the winner of a Stasis outbreak. I suspect that the Act I deck can be just Constitution cards, and then Acts II/III can have the interesting stuff when trying to rule an empire.

In terms of game demands on players, the Strategoi and Engineers appeared to be working at 110% in Action Phases, but only 50% in the Diplomacy Phase. The Herald and Archon players appeared more evenly involved in both phases. I am yet to read the player feedback forms, so we will see if players felt the same way later in this post.

A list of unrelated Control feedback points:

  • The harvest mechanic needs to be simpler.
  • For speed of play, player badges and other game materials need to incorporate faction name, colour and symbol.
  • A red flag for tables where divine wrath has been triggered
  • More clarity around Wall tokens for colonies
  • Some grey walls for neutral colonies would have reduced some wild map control swings
  • Not sure if we needed all 13 game map tiles with just five factions, could have capped it at number of factions +1?
  • Hero control needed to be clearer
  • Add sea monsters.
  • The game ran to schedule, starting on time and completing the expected number of nine rounds of play.
  • We picked up about ten new emails from people walking past the game. Next year at Wellycon we should have flyers.

Player Feedback

Feedback forms were handed in by about two-thirds of the players. The top quantitative feedback (higher numbers are usually better) was:

  1. Enjoyment: did you have fun? 4.5 out of 5.
  2. Briefing: how well did the briefing enable you to play the game? 3.8 out of 5.
  3. Difficulty: how hard did you find the game to play 1 = hard 5 = easy? 3.2
  4. Rate of Play: how much time pressure 1 = too much 5 = too little? 3.3
  5. Control: how good a job did they do? 4.6
  6. Involvement: how was your involvement with other players? 4
  7. Value: did you get value for money? 4.5

Overall a pretty good result.

Plato was a terrible urban planner.

Tickets for the day were $NZ 22 for players. All of that went to Wellycon, and the game costs were covered by me (the Control team got free tickets to the event, snacks and drinks, and pizza after the game). In feedback players indicated a desire to pay an average of $NZ 29.67 for a similar length game in the future. This would be enough to cover hall hire and half the printing costs of a megagame with a similar number of players.

Marketing – where people first heard of the game – was an even mix of friends, mailing list, and announcements at the Den of Wolves game in February.

Communication – the best source of information that led to people signing up was a mixture of friends, emails and Facebook posts. Not much love for our website or store posters this time around.

Things players wanted kept for future games

My comments are in brackets after the player feedback in italics.

Trade goals had that Advanced Civilisation feel, which suited veteran gamers. (I think the territory objectives were too easily achieved earlier on, I may focus on goals that actually require trading something in the future).

Oaths laws and other interplay mechanics between groups, the group speeches and voting.

Having to perform extemporaneous speeches as the archon was a fun challenge (I think the podium box we brought along helped a lot for the speeches)

Divine favour very much fun

Interaction between the roles was fun and interesting.

It was very fun I like the idea

Herald role linking all the other teams was a great experience and helps reduce time for individual table rounds. (The Herald role was also of way of reducing the number of required Control, by getting players to move items and information between subgames)

Archon debate phase

Things players wanted stopped

Engineers probably had too much to do. (Everyone wants the Engineers to build them more stuff. However, they did have ~11 types of thing they could build, and trimming that list down to ~8 would improve the cognitive load on Engineers)

Engineers in action, building tomorrow today!

Split off the hero or streamline, took a lot of time (This may have been less of an issue if we had the players for a dedicated priest subgame, which would have been responsible for all the hero quests)

Little less opportunity for wrath so game can continue for longer.

Cypher was a bit distracting. (I could have done more to push the espionage cards out to players earlier in the game)

More availability of civil war and battle rules, i.e. would have been good to read as an Archon.

Not a full stop, but something that could speed up the civil war would be good.

No to long side quests like street fights and quests

The 20 minutes were too much for doing the diplomat phase, I had time were I was doing nothing. (A thought I had was to shift the “letter” technology development mechanic for engineers into the Diplomacy Round, where the tech being developed is for Atlantis, and factions have different perspectives on whether the tech should be military, economic, cultural, etc.)

Suddenly ending game by wrath of gods as having a lot of fun. (We had pretty much reached the end of the game and our allotted time in the venue. It’s great that people wanted to keep playing, but the Control team were running out of steam)

The stasis phase needs streamlining. I really enjoyed it but it was slow. (I agree, not sure whether I should refine the existing minigame, or handle it in a more abstract fashion, like the voting mechanic in a past game where everyone had to close their eyes, then point at who they supported to win a vote).

Things the players wanted started

More ways to stop big stompy colossi (yes, they were just a bit too strong)

There are many “luxury” roles that might improve the game but we didn’t have the turnout for them. (Yes, I would love to have solo roles for: High King of Atlantis, an Oracle, Historians, Cultists, Mercenaries, foreign ambassadors – but it requires us building up a much larger base of regular players)

More goal based mini stories to keep you invested and excited in your faction. (While we had some scripted injects, I think the ideal in megagames should be for the emergent play that the players create to be engaging.)

Jason and the Argonauts quest unlocks the Black Sea map.

Scheduled food breaks. (Mentioned a couple of times. The problem with a food break is that if anyone goes off site you lose an hour of game time. In theory, everyone should be able to find a few minutes in the Diplomacy Phase for food, drink and a toilet break)

Make heralds magistrates. (This was a player choice in the range of options for Constitution articles)

More work on the rules – some still a bit ambiguous.

More ability for players to backstab. (This is on the players I think, the more deals and alliances you make, the more people you can betray. I am reluctant to give strong incentives to betray everyone in a game where breaking oaths triggers Divine Wrath).

Would like to play with the Priest role active. (This was mentioned in several feedback forms. We would have loved to have more players along so that role could have been played).

Colour coded resource tokens cheat sheet (Yes, would be handy)

Team tables for diplomacy phase. (Would be great, and if we had our own venue to ourselves could be done.)

What next?

While I will look at tweaking Colossus and I plan to see if running a game in Sydney later this year could work, I have my wedding to help plan for February 2019. So I am not going to be running any megagames in Wellington between now and mid-2020. If other people want to take the opportunity to organise a game, I have the ability to help with maps and tokens.

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