Old Sun Renaissance

January 12, 2019

I am currently reading M. John Harrison’s Viriconium, and thinking about building a dying earth genre setting for a Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition campaign. I’m calling the setting Old Sun Renaissance. I like the idea of a last city where “the wealth of its people lay entirely in salvage” and which “revered stability and poetry and wine merchants; its cousins only revenge.”

For this campaign I am thinking of taking the Escalation mechanic from 13th Age and changing it into an Entropy mechanic. I see it working like this:

  1. Entropy starts at 1 for the party.
  2. Increase Entropy by 1 each round.
  3. If using a powered item, any roll under the Entropy value exhausts its current charge.
  4. When a player rolls a 1, roll 1d20 on the Entropy Event table, and then reset Entropy to 1.
Illustration Credit: Don Dixon

Entropy Event Table

  1. A device the PC was using breaks.
  2. One of the laws of physics is suspended. Probably gravity.
  3. An adversary uses a surprise action.
  4. A spell expires early, or the spell being cast turns out very differently from what was intended.
  5. An NPC runs away. Was it a friend, or a foe?
  6. If it can catch fire, it catches fire. If its already on fire, it explodes.
  7. The sun flickers, plunging everyone into darkness for a round.
  8. All death saves are made with disadvantage next round.
  9. Re-roll temporary HP and keep the lower score.
  10. Ancient machines start activating.
  11. The floor collapses, revealing a hidden chamber.
  12. Drop something small and valuable, like your ring of invisibility, without noticing it is gone.
  13. Re-roll initiative for everyone but the person who rolled the 1.
  14. Temporal surge. Anyone reduced to exactly zero HP next round is immediately restored to full HP.
  15. An ancient dimensional door reactivates, and a wave of faceless enemies starts pouring through. It closes when the next entropic event is triggered.
  16. A device is triggered, and starts loudly counting down, starting from the entropic die value, or three, whichever is higher. Roll again when the countdown reaches zero.
  17. Reduce the number of Death saves allowed by 1.
  18. Proficiency bonuses now equal the entropy die until the next entropy reset.
  19. An NPC changes sides.
  20. Check icon relationship dice.

In play I would expect to refresh the table so the same outcome does not occur too often. I might also need a table for social encounters and exploration. Overall the intent is to prompt something interesting to happen when a 1 is rolled on a d20, and to some extent for the players to be happy that a failure has occurred, because the POW cost of some of their play options has been reset to minimum. You could call this “flailing forward”, where a failure creates a window of opportunity from the chaos that follows the failure.

Entropy Feats

The other use for the Entropy die is to set the power (POW) cost for using Entropy Feats. So when Entropy is 1, it costs one POW to use an Entropy feat. If Entropy has reached 5, it costs five POW. Here are a few examples of Entropy feats:

  • Magic: choose a spell you can cast, you can spend POW and refresh that spell as a bonus action. Increase the Entropy die by 1. From 5th level, if you take an entropy feat a second time with a spell, you can refresh and use it as a reaction action.
  • Final Blow: once per combat, spend POW and declare who you intend to attack. You act last in the initiative round, but add your total attribute score to damage to one successful martial attack (e.g. if using a finesse weapon with DEX 17, add +17 to damage, not +3). If the POW is spent, but the final blow is not attempted, the POW remains expended but the final blow can be attempted later in the combat (with a new POW spend). After using this feat, reduce your HP to 0. This entropy feat can only be purchased once.
  • Ragged Endurance: once per combat, spend POW and gain HD temporary HP. From 5th level, gain 2 HD of temporary HP, and from 11th level, gain 3 HD of temporary HP. You can take multiple uses of this feat.

Generating Attributes

In order to calculate your Power attribute, you first need to generate all of your character’s other attributes. I am borrowing Rafu’s Matrix Method for this, because both point buy and 4d6 drop one would be terrible for what I have in mind. Start by outlining a matrix with the six standard attributes (STR, DEX, CON, etc) and three columns.

  • STEP 1: roll 6d6 and arrange as you wish in the first column.
  • STEP 2: write the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 arranged as you wish in the second column.
  • STEP 3: roll 1d6 in strict order, in the third column, no rearranging of scores! Sum up the three columns to get the score for each of the six attributes.
  • STEP 4: The Power (POW) attribute is equal to the difference between your highest and lowest rolled attributes. For example, if CON 17 is your highest attribute, and WIS 9 is your lowest attribute, then your character has a POW score of 8.

So this is a version of D&D where you want one of your attributes to be low. Which is why point buy and 4d6 drop one are not good character creation tools. My inspiration for POW as a strength based on your weakness comes from a line in The Magicians:

I think you’re magicians because you’re unhappy. A magician is strong because he feels pain. He feels the difference between what the world is and what he would make of it. Or what did you think that stuff in your chest was? A magician is strong because he hurts more than others. His wound is his strength.

Grossman, Lev. The Magicians: (Book 1) (p. 217-8). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Gaining More Power

First, POW recovery is based on class HD when you have a short rest, modified by the absolute number of your lowest attribute. For example, if DEX 4 is your lowest attribute, then you get +3 on POW recovery rolls, not -3. On the whole this recovery process advantages martial characters with larger HD and I am comfortable with that. On a long rest, recover all spent POW. Second, permanent POW gains occur when:

  • The two contributing attributes change in value
  • You choose to increase POW rather than gain an Entropy feat when leveling.

I am thinking of allowing a player a chance of increasing one attribute each time they level and do not get a standard feat (which happens at levels 4, 8, 12 and 16). Roll 1d20 + level and score greater than current attribute value to gain a +1 increase. If you fail, you can optionally choose to reduce an attribute by one (as your weakness is exacerbated by the stress of the adventurer lifestyle), and always gain advantage on your next level up attribute increase attempt.

If you get resurrected, you can also choose to drop an attribute by one point. I do not recommend this is a way of increasing POW, but I think its reasonable for a journey to the other side and back.

I might have some relics grant their owner POW, but on the whole my philosophy for a dying earth setting which magic and science are one and the same, is for “magic items” to cost POW to use for a scene.

The level up choice is to either gain one Entropy feat or to gain POW equal to the new level. No choice at level 4, 8, 12, and 16, as you get a standard feat at those levels. I imagine that most players will choose feats at low level, before switching to boosting POW at higher levels.

Next Post

I have more ideas to explore here. I think I have two posts worth of material on icons for the final age of a dying earth, and then at least one post on how I would hack the D&D 5E classes into shape for the setting.


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Megagame plans for 2019

January 3, 2019

Happy new year! here are the megagames I am planning to run or design in 2019.

Den of Wolves, 23 February 2019

Den of Wolves is essentially Battlestar Galactica, minus specific IP such as robots with bouncing red eyeballs, with a focus on the politics of the survivor fleet and crisis management. Click on the heading to go to the event page for the game blurb and some links to after action reports from games in the UK.

Den of Wolves is an experiment in using an off the shelf design, and then not hacking the rules! I do have some plans for adding some elements to the game that players can riff off in their roleplaying, but I do not intend to alter any of the mechanical elements of the game. This is also the first time I have run a game in Wellington without piggy backing on a convention, so the cost of the game includes venue hire, as well as production and licensing costs. As we already have players coming from Australia and Auckland, I am hoping for a good local turnout as well.

Tickets for Den of Wolves are on sale here. Unwaged or Control $15, Waged $30. There is a $5 price rise on 19 January 2019.

Image result for den of wolves megagame
Photo from South West Megagames, of the three sheets used to control one ship in Den of Wolves.

Colossus of Atlantis, 1 June 2019

A complete revision of the second version of the game. This is likely to be what I run at Wellycon.

The central premise is that all the players start the game as leaders in the expanding empire of Atlantis, and are members of one of the factions competing to dominate Atlantis, without triggering the wrath of the Gods and the doom of Atlantis. The game will follow a three act structure:

  1. In the first Act of the game, all player versus player options are disabled. This is a learning phase of the game, during which Atlantis will expand over a map of the Mediterranean and adjoining lands with 60+ significant cities.
  2. In the second Act of the game, the player versus player options are enabled and both players and factions can be exiled from Atlantis.
  3. In the third Act of the game, we will find out if earlier player actions mean Atlantis is likely to suffer a deluge or not.

Preview

The game will feature up to eight factions drawn from Ancient Greek myths and history:

  1. The Amazons, a team of women pushing for emancipation
  2. The Aristocrats, a team that seeks rule by the best people
  3. The Democrats, a team that seeks rule by all people
  4. The Medes, a team that supports peace, trade, and magical research
  5. The Monarchists, a team that supports the rule of Kings descended from the divine Poseidon
  6. The Oligarchs, a team that seeks rule by the wealthy
  7. The Stratocrats, a team that supports military spending and war
  8. The Tyrants, a faction that seeks to make Atlantis great again.

Each faction has players with the following roles:

  • Archon – the team leader who represents the faction on the Council of Atlantis, and in any street fighting that takes place in Atlantis
  • Strategos – the team general who commands military units on the main game map
  • Engineer – the team builder of military units, wonders and other technological marvels
  • Priest – the team magician who tries to keep the Gods happy, and can create curses that harm other players and wards/amulets to protect players from disasters
  • Trader – as well as playing an economic role for the team, the trader is also the team spy.

During the game, players will have the option to spend time performing hero quests based on Greek mythology. This might happen if you are exiled from Atlantis for a turn, or if your team chooses to send you off questing. Questing can result in both great rewards and tragic complications.

Flower Power II, second half of 2019

Revisiting one of my best games, which was originally run down in Christchurch in 2006. The premise was a lost colony, settled by peace and nature loving hippies, which had gone through technology collapse, balkanization, warfare, and then recontact with the rest of humanity.

The original Flower Power game was essentially a world war two scenario of mass industrial warfare, with some drug smuggling and COMINTERN intrigue on the side. It definitely resonated with many of the players, who still reminisce fondly about the game today.
Big Map

I now think the best frame for revising the game is to focus on contemporary issues of fragile states, peacekeeping, and counterinsurgency that we see happening around the world today. Where many of my past megagames have involved teams with relatively equal amounts of power and options, Flower Power II will feature factions with asymmetric power levels and options in the game.
I am not sure yet what the player roles in the game will be, but the factions are likely to include:

  1. Offworld aid organisations, trying to uplift local education and economic practices
  2. Offworld civil government representatives, trying to shepherd the planetary government into membership of an interstellar polity
  3. Offworld military commanders, trying to keep the peace
  4. Offworld private military contractors (mercenaries), trying to profit from keeping the peace
  5. Smugglers, trying to make profits from criminal activities
  6. Corporations seeking access to local resources, or contracts to supply offworld goods and services
  7. Planetary coalition government, trying to avoid a return to destructive warfare
  8. Insurgent factions derived from former local governments, spanning a range of ideological positions, and tactics from non-violent protest to terrorism.

Ready Party One

April 23, 2018

A campaign premise I sometimes pull out and tinker with is “Humanity has fled the destruction of Earth, and now exists in one refuge system.” A static version of Battlestar Galactica without the wagon train to the stars aspect. I sometimes pair this with options like:

  1. All high technology has been disabled by the energy fields that protect humanity.
  2. Some high tech has been disabled (anything that generates signals that the Enemy might detect). Cue some kind of Thought Police/Inquisition to making sure no one dares reinvent the radio.
  3. Human high technology lasts for a while, enabling a dictatorship over other sentient folk in the refuge (each of which has their own way of surviving incursions like the humans until business as usual can resume).
  4. Because other aliens have also done (3) there are a lot of vestigial empires and associated ruins.
  5. Many habitable worlds in the system (due to forerunner engineering) all linked by portals, or by limited space travel. With lots of relic scavenging – like Alistair Reynolds novel Revenger (2016).

Today’s addition to the toolbox is to make the sanctuary a crapsack world, a bit like Ready Player One, where the alternate VR is an attractive past time for the 99% of humanity living on soy paste and recycled water. The twist is that completing quests/dungeons in the VR activates portal travel or other Macguffin devices (or a nice meal, or the admiration of NPCs who watch the stream on replay channels). So in a campaign, you start playing the hard SF game, then when you need to get from A to B in a hurry, you log into the VR and do a quick mythic mode instance and off you go.

The VR is where the former alien hive minds/AIs get to experiment and interact with humanity in a safely contained system. Cue factions and conspiracies dedicated to finding out what is really going on/keeping the truth hidden from the sheeple.

The VR could be divided into nice little theme parks. Samurai World is right next door to Musketeer World and West World, and maybe the bleed over into each other in a few places. Maybe with a bit of digging you can figure out how to access the old forgotten alien VR realms, where the stories are completely different from those nice comforting fairy tales from Earth, where the plucky hero always wins the rematch.

I think the campaign would work well with a mix of game systems. Something crunchy for the “real” world (Eclipse Phase?) and something simple for the “fantasy” world, which could easily be D&D or something a few more baroque buttons and dials like Blades in the Dark. Not more than a one page PC sheet, and damn easy to create a new VR PC as required.

I should note that I have not actually read Ready Player One or seen the recent movie.

 


Jenga and Galactic Trade

October 2, 2017

For The Galaxy Will Burn I am planning to use the tower building and collapse game of Jenga as part of the game mechanics. This is to represent the collapse of bubble economies. As the Jenga tower grows higher, players can gain a bonus when they trade, and the bonus gets bigger as the tower gets higher. When the tower falls, that ends trading at that game table until the central government intervenes to get the trade mini-game up and running again (in the grand tradition of privatising profits and socialising losses). I am hoping that this creates some of the emotional tension of market trading.

As some people have pointed out, there is the sandbox problem of what to do with the kid who likes knocking sandcastles over. I think the best solution to that is to make it clear to the players that the spirit of the game is to do your best not to knock the tower over, and have a little in-game penalty for when it does happen. I think that is the 99% solution for 50 cents, or two lines of rules rather than two pages of rules.

Image result for jenga

I spent a lot of time last weekend thinking through the rest of the trade process. My conclusion today is that making trade a 20 minute mini-game is not going to work. This is partly because of the process elements. If you need to collect trade resources at table A, take them to table B, and then put them through process C, before taking resource D back to table A, then you have a lot of components which Control needs to be tracking. It is also because unless there are a lot of resources to trade and a lot of potential rewards to buy – on par with the complexity of the old Advanced Civilization boardgame – then there is not enough important stuff for the trade mini-game to actually resolve.

Remembering that less can be more in Megagame design, my design intent is for there to only be half-a-dozen rewards from trade, but for each reward to be quite powerful. It will also be simple enough to be handled at each map table, during normal gameplay. This means trade competes with the other gameplay options, i.e. you have to fit trade in and around options for building and moving units, fighting battles, etc.

The Jenga tower is the key chokepoint for mechanical resolution. If a standard turn of player action is resolving six-nine actions in 20 minutes, then the number of draws from the Jenga tower needs to be limited. While I would like the granuality of letting a player make multiple draws based on the number of hyperlane bases they control, its too high a bottleneck potential. I could make an exception for a draw based on Megapower, and allow that to have a double draw.

I still want Hyperlanes to influence trade, so I could limit the number of trade actions based on how many hypelane bases you have (zero bases = no trade, one base = one trade action, three bases = two trade actions, six or more bases = three trade actions). Another way of representing this could be to have just one trade action option, but to increase track values by the number of hyperlanes bases controlled.

For example, if you controlled three hyperlanes and did a normal trade action, you could boost a trade track by three. If it was a Megapower action, then you could increase two tracks by three, or one track by six.

The Jenga bars will each have a sticker on the end, indicating the reward it offers. Each time you draw a bar, increase the corresponding track on a player record display by one.

Bubble – for every 12 bars drawn, each player who completes a trade action gets one bonus atomic power counter. I do not expect this bonus to stack more than three times. The best estimate of number of draws to Jenga collapse I have found is a range of 12-35. When the market crashes, reduce the trade track scores, with the highest players being reduced to zero, and other players losing half of their position (round up).

Rewards – you need the highest score at the table to benefit. Rather than handing out dozens of cards, the trade system just needs to keep track of five reminder cards and a few counters on the player record track.

  • Green – military, your lock on defence contracts for parts and logistics lets you move more units and draw an extra battle card
  • Red – disruption, your economic stranglehold on the markets for new goods and services allows you to reduce the budget of another player by one (or two with a Megapower) when you undertake future trade actions
  • Silver – industry, your hold on cutting edge manufacturing lets you build additional units
  • Gold – political influence, the spice must flow, this increases the influence gained for the imperial politics mini-game
  • Blue – technology, exploiting intellectual property laws allows you to take technology cards from other players.

You can also choose to reduce a trade track score by four and collect a Megapower token. Cashing out of the market before it collapses will be an element of system mastery for the players. Cashing out of the market in a way that “bankrupts” other players by reducing their track value to zero, leaving you still dominant in the market … that should be a priceless experience.

My next post will probably be on how I plan to do the technology/research side of the game.


Colossus of Atlantis at GENCON

August 23, 2017

So I went to GENCON and ran my Colossus of Atlantis Megagame with 27 players and a control team of eight players (including myself). The game mostly worked, most of the time, which is about as good as you can hope for a Megagame.

The overall outcome was that Atlantis did not sink, but Europe did, and the two high-Kudos teams merged together to dominate that generation of Atlantean politics (with a Kudos score of 12,261). As in the previous game, players started changing the rules so that DOOM tokens were treated as an efficient energy resource, being renamed mid-game as “Destiny” rather than DOOM. The final Destiny score was 1,517, and the Destiny score required to sink Atlantis was 2,000. Over half of the Destiny points were gained in the last turn, due to the sinking of Europe.

Possibly the best compliment I had came a couple of days after the game, when one of the players said to me that while the game was complicated, it had worked smoothly. The half hour lunch break proved essential, given the distance to food vendors and washrooms. One team turned up in full on ancient costumes, a trident, and brought delicious cupcakes and other treats with them that they shared around.

2017-08-17 14.13.12That the game went well was in no small part due to the Control team, with Catherine McNamara doing number collation for DOOM and Kudos, Witt Yao handling hatred scores and the rival empires, and Jesse, Jessica, Peter, Joseph, and Benjamin on map table duties. This is the biggest control team I have had for a game, and everyone did well for not having been run through how the game worked prior to GENCON. It is a blessing back in Wellington, that I can often recruit my mini-game playtesters for Control duty.

2017-08-17 14.13.46I think I definitely want to be using a PA system again in the future, if I have a large hall space. Otherwise my voice would have been lost in the vast space of the Lucas oil Stadium. The PA let me focus on timekeeping, along with using a countdown timer on my smartphone, to keep things mostly moving along after the long first turn. We finished seven complete turns, rather than the hoped for eight turns, a result similar to the last play at Kapcon in January. The projector screen that the Megagames Coalition hoped to have for GENCON fell through, and another suggestion at one of the design seminars was to play countdown videos off You Tube to help with time keeping.

2017-08-17 14.14.08Now for the initial feedback from players and Control broken down into Keep, Stop, Start themes, with my own comments following in italics:

KEEP

  • Council options – after looking at how these played out, I think the game would play better with a reduction in the overall number of options (and many of them were duplicated between Councils)
  • Separate map tables – after looking at the size of the tables we had at GENCON and the maps the other coalition games had, I wish my map tiles were bigger, but back in Wellington there was only just enough room for the map tiles, player cities, and other game resources.
  • modifying and writing laws – I had some feedback that the delay in getting a law ratified by the Council of Law made some players uninterested in trying this option. The problem with a same turn change lies in communicating the change to all of the other Councils, players and Control (possibly this could be done in something like the Watch the Skies press conference/media phase).

2017-08-17 14.45.03STOP

  • too many tokens – I agree with this, but I need to think about which tokens can be dropped. I can also just try and reduce the rate at which tokens fountain into the game so that handling them is easier.
  • too many rules – see comment on rules clarifications below
  • unit caps made armies depend on upgrades too much – one problem here was a hard limit on the number of counters (everything for the game had to fit in one suitcase), if I had dropped to five players per faction, everyone could have had an extra token of each of the three unit types, but increasing maximum force sizes makes it harder for players who have been defeated to make a come back later in the game
  • the d4 was too weak – another way of doing dice for the game would be to use d6s and d12s, this would also be cheaper. I did have exploding d4s in the previous version of Colossus but this tended to extend combat time rather than change combat outcomes.
  • factions having two players at one map table (and thus dominating that table) – this was a feature of having five map tables and teams with six players, I was dithering over whether or not to drop the spy player role and have five teams of five rather than four teams of six, and went for the latter option on the day. If I had one more Control available I could have run a sixth map table.
  • wonder stacking – this would have been less problematic if each House could only buy each Wonder once, and I note here that the Council of Wonder unanimously passed a resolution to allow players more flexibility in the purchases (i.e. making it easier to stack wonders).

2017-08-17 14.45.48START

  • some people liked the abstract region map, others wanted something more like a contemporary map
  • make chaos happen earlier – Colossus is a very player driven game, so if the players choose to cooperate over territory division, not a lot happens. I did have feedback that the rival empires needed to be stronger/scarier (and I was deliberately avoiding making them too strong in this game)
  • more time for discussion planning and trading – another good reason to try and trim some parts of the game
  • more rule clarifications – this makes the rules longer, and I am not sure what a good length for a Megagames rule book is and I was aiming to keep the main rules to 13-14 pages. It will always be too short for some players, and too long for others.
  • Kudos cards drawn over a certain amount should give a static result – because of the number of cards drawn due to some wonder stacking, some people ended up having to count 160 Kudos cards in one game turn.
  • upgrade cards should be single use – I agree with this, but worry about them being hoarded for the last turn (I don’t think people carrying 20+ cards in their pocket is elegant design) so another option is to require them to be used in the following game turn (or to pay a higher cost for a more flexible use)

2017-08-17 14.14.27

NEXT STEPS

After this game, and the opportunity to see several other Megagames in action I have some thoughts on what to do for the next iteration of Colossus:

  • In some ways the easiest resource token to drop is Talents. Each of the remaining six resources could then be the key resource for one of the six player roles (Kudos for Generals, Cogs for Spies, Arete for Kings, DOOM for Sorcerers, Vril for Architects, and Orichalcum for Merchants) with that resource being needed to purchase/use upgrade cards or to activate certain Council options.
  • Player role briefs should have more information on council options and upgrade cards.
  • To make the map easier to understand in the early-game, each region should only spawn one type of resource. So land would spawn Arete cards, coastal regions spawn Orichalcum, rival empires spawn Vril, cities spawn Cogs, and Kudos and DOOM tokens depend on winning/losing battles.
  • To make dividing the map up evenly between layers less dominant as a strategy, Control will vary the number of resource tokens/cards each region spawns.
  • Oaths did not get a lot of use, perhaps half a dozen times in the game. Perhaps I should drop that mechanic?
  • Perhaps rival empire attacks should be driven by player bribes?

2017-08-17 14.45.13

Colossus is next going to be run in the Seattle region in the next few months, so I am going to be trying to do a quick turn around on small changes to the rules by mid-September. Feedback is welcome here, as are any stories about events that happened in the game which I missed.

 


Settlers of R’lyeh

July 12, 2017

This is a hack of the Settlers of Cattan game, using some of the figures from Cthulhu Wars. Although I see dreams of madness have inspired other designers along similar lines, what I offer here is a small island somewhere in the South Pacific, some fever dream ridden settlers, in a desperate race to complete a great temple and then join their Deep One cousins forever before R’lyeh sinks beneath waves again.

Shoggoth by Nottsuo <http://nottsuo.deviantart.com/art/Shoggoth-594261203&gt; CC 3.0 License.

Prepare to play Settlers of Cattan as normal, but grab the Cthulhu figure from your Cthulhu Wars set and replace the Robber pawn with Great Cthulhu. Place Cthulhu beneath the sands that cover the city of R’lyeh (i.e. on the Desert tile). Replace the Knight cards with Cultists from Cthulhu Wars, and grab a High Priest figure if available.

To set the right tone, I suggest playing at night, with candles, while playing A Shoggoth on the Roof.

The Stars are Right

When a player rolls a seven, the stars are right, and Cthulhu wakes. Move Cthulhu to any hex tile on the Cattan map. Do not discard Resource cards. Instead the player who rolled the seven has a number of destruction points equal to the lowest die on their dice roll that turn. For example, if a player rolled a 5 and a 2 for the stars are right, then they have two destruction points.

For each destruction point the player must either:

  • remove one road
  • downgrade a city to a village
  • remove one village

All tokens removed or downgraded must be adjacent to the tile that Cthulhu now occupies. All destruction points must be used if possible, even if this means a player must remove or downgrade their own game tokens, or must place Cthulhu to revel and slay in gay abandon in a tile that is not the player’s preferred choice. You cannot move Cthulhu to a tile where it inflicts no destruction, unless there are no player tokens left on the map.

If you downgrade a city and the player controlling the city has no village token that can replace it with, then that player must place a village token from another player of their choice, as the inhabitants join another splinter sect of the cult of Great Cthulhu.

The stars are right effect is also triggered if a player must apply the deluge effect due to inability to acquire resource cards (see The Deluge section below).

Cultists

When you play a cultist card you dream of Great Cthulhu, and then move the Cthulhu figure and apply all of the stars are right effects with the dice roll you made that turn.

Tip: for maximum impact, wait until a turn where you roll a double 4, 5 or 6 before using your cultists.

The first player to gain three Cultists gains the High Priest figure (if you do not have one, use a Cultist figure of a different colour). This does not count as an extra Cultist and merely serves as a reminder that you have the biggest cult. If another player ever has more Cultists than the player with the High Priest figure, they immediately take the High Priest figure.

High Priest

If you have the High priest when the stars are right, then your destruction points are equal to the higher of the two dice. For example, if a player with the High priest rolled a 5 and a 2 for the stars are right, then they have five destruction points.

Note: unlike the bonus for holding the largest Army card in a regular Settlers of Cattan game, holding the High Priest does not grant two bonus VP.

2017-07-12 15.35.30

Cultist, Cthulhu, and High Priest figures from Cthulhu Wars

The Deluge

If a player has no village or city tokens on the game map when the stars are right, or they no longer have the ability to get any resource cards from their remaining villages or cities when it is their turn, they must apply the deluge effect:

  • after moving Cthulhu and applying destruction effects from the stars are right, invert the tile Cthulhu occupies. This represents R’lyeh slowly sliding back beneath the waves and is a permanent change.
  • remove the circular numbered token from the inverted tile – it no longer generates resources.
  • if any road token now has inverted tiles on both sides, remove it from the board as the local geometry becomes non-Euclidean.
  • if any village or City is now completely surrounded by inverted tiles, remove it from the board. Their inhabitants have gone to join the Deep Ones.
  • road, village and city tokens removed by deluge effects are removed permanently and cannot be rebuilt later in the game.

Winning the Game

It is possible no player will reach 10 victory points before the deluge effect sinks R’lyeh below the waves, in which case dread Cthulhu wins. If a player reaches 10 VP first, they complete the great temple, and join the Deep Ones below the waves forever. All the other players should make “glub blub blub” noises as their settlers drown.


Pools

July 5, 2017

One of the key themes I am planning to incorporate into an Operation Unthinkable Megagame is that after almost six years of a world at war, most of the combatants want nothing more than to go home. So there will be a mechanical thread running through the game of a “clock” of political will that is running out of time. I also needed a way of modelling initiative at a theatre level, logistics and replacements, military capabilities, and all the wunderwaffe of alternate history. My ideas have developed a bit since my last post.

1945-05-01GerWW2BattlefrontAtlasFirst, for logistics, I started with some data on comparative munitions production by the allies in 1944 (the original numbers were something like millions of tons of munitions a year). This broke down as follows:

  • Canada – 1.5
  • United Kingdom – 11
  • USA – 42
  • USSR – 16

Because the UK and USA have commitments in the Pacific Theatre of Operations, I divided their scores in two, and added the Canadian score to the UK score to reach:

  • UK and allied forces (Canada, Poland, etc) – 7
  • USA and allied forces (Free France, Brazil, etc) – 21
  • USSR – 16.

This gives me a baseline score for how many supply tokens each side gets. Each token is a bonus attrition effect die to cause enemy casualties in battle.

While thinking about this, I was also thinking about the problem of how to determine which side starts the war, and how to handle initiative at the European scale. During the Second World War you generally had one side on the offensive, while the other side was on the defensive. A traditional I-go-U-go initiative system just did not feel right to me. So what I plan to try testing is having each side’s supreme command group (4-6 players) secretly allocate 100 points among the following five categories:

  • Alternate History
  • Initiative
  • Logistics
  • Military Capability
  • Political Will.

Alternate History

Alternate History points will allow players to use military capabilities that are not part of their historic force for mid-1945, including captured German equipment, vehicles that were only in prototype or blueprint form (such as high-altitude fighters for the USSR), and atomic weapons. It will also represent potential political choices, such as propaganda campaigns, influencing neutral nations, sending troops to secondary fronts like Greece and Norway, and redeploying forces from the Pacific. Some Alt-history cards are in both decks, so the first side to draw and spend the points for it gets it.

Each turn the Supreme command team will get to draw five cards for free. They can then spend Alternate History points to draw extra cards (the first card costs one point, the third three points, the fourth six points, etc). Each card has a cost to be played, either one, three, six, or ten Alternate History points. The cost will be weighted based on just how implausible the event is. For example, in the aftermath of WWII the Soviets managed to secure about 200 tons of Uranium oxide from German facilities, while the Western allies secured about 1000 tons. The allies let the Soviets have the plans for A9/10 rocket capable of reaching America, but there was no actual rocket prototype anywhere. So having a card option for a one-off dirty bomb is probably going to cost one or three alt-history points, getting a working A-10 ICBM is probably going to cost 10 alt-history points, and a German A-bomb to go in it another 10 alt-history points, as that is more alternative universe material than alternate history.

Initiative

The side that allocates the most points to Initiative is the side that starts with the initiative. In a tie, the western allies get initiative.

Victory conditions will then be switched so that the side starting the war is the side that needs to try and get to the far side of the game map to win.

When you have initiative, you get to make most of the attacks in the game, but you only have a finite number of supplies to help. When you do not have initiative, you get to stockpile supplies, accumulate replacements, and make limited counterattacks.

After each game turn, the supreme commander for each side makes a bid in initiative points. You must bid at least one point, and can bid up to half of your points. The side with the highest bid has initiative next turn. The losing side’s bid carries over to the next turn.

I think how this will play out is some back and forth, but the side with the higher pool should be able to do several two turn offensives, and a month of continuous operations is about the maximum that the Red Army could do in WWII.

Logistics

I discussed the baseline for logistics above. Allocating points to logistics increases the stockpile of supplies you have at the start of the game after the six week pause since the German surrender, and increases the baseline logistic supply (representing improved road, rail and port supply networks). I will apply a diminishing return here, possible a square root, so a 16 bid gets you +4 supplies and a 25 bid gets you +5 supplies.

Logistic points are also used to buy replacement cards to reinforce units suffering from battle casualties:

  • the UK and the USSR are both exhausted for manpower, barring play of some alt-history options, so each time they play their replacement cards it costs more
  • the USA has not exhausted its manpower, so has a fixed cost for replacements.

I am still thinking about whether airpower draws replacements from this pool, or has its own fixed schedule of replacements. I am leaning towards the latter option.

Military Capabilities

This pool is used to refresh military capability cards. These cards represent the chrome and colour of history, such as the Russian all female bomber regiment “the Night Witches”, or the deployment of the M-26 Pershing tank, as one use cards that grant a bonus.

Once used Military capability cards are returned to supreme command, who can spend points to regenerate the cards, and they then pass back down through the chain of command to front line commanders.

Political Will

Political will represents how long you can keep your armies fighting before you start to have major problems on the home front and the front lines. When your Political Will hits zero, the other side starts getting “Morale” cards that can be used to facilitate desertion from your combat forces, and to try and reduce your Political Will by an effect die roll.

Game options to increase Political Will will be rare. In most cases its just going to keep going down. Each turn you do not have initiative, you roll an effect die for Political Will loss. This is a cumulative effect. So the third turn in which you do not have initiative, you roll three effect dice. I may also have a drain on Political Will for key cities or river lines being taken/crossed by the enemy.

Back of the envelope calculation, for an eight turn game, you probably want a Political Will of 25+ to avoid having morale cards used against you. There is an obvious interaction with Initiative – a high Initiative pool means you will lose less will due to being on the defensive, but the combat advantage for being on the defensive should even this out a little.

The Effect Die

Events tend to have a no long term effect, a small effect, or a large effect. Borrowing from the 2d20 damage system when Operation Unthinkable  asks for an effect roll it means rolling a d6 for:

  1. A one point effect
  2. A two point effect
  3. No effect
  4. No effect
  5. A five point effect
  6. A six point effect.

Interaction Between the Pools

When any points pool, except Political Will, hits zero the following process is used.

  1. The Pool is refreshed to its current maximum score.
  2. Roll two effect dice, plus one effect die for each prior time the pool was exhausted.
  3. Each die roll must be applied to either Political Will or the Pool that hit zero.

For example, an Initiative Pool of 25 hits zero for the second time. The player rolls three effect dice and gets two, three, and five. The player chooses to reduce the Initiative Pool by two and Political Will Pool by five. So the Initiative Pool is now refreshed to 23. They could also have chosen to reduce either pool by seven.

When Political Will is reduced to zero:

  1. Refresh Political Will
  2. Give the opposing side a Morale card, plus one Morale card for each previous occasion Political Will hit zero
  3. Reduce all five option pools by one effect die roll.

If any pool is permanently reduced to zero, its zero effect is then applied each game turn. This will probably result in a collapse of Political Will in a few game turns.