Dear Jamey – expanding the worlds of Stonemaier Games

Keeping Jamey and the community in the loop on my work on making expansions for Stonemaier Games.
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Burn a Bigger Dystopia is shaping up – tweaking, tuning, and troubleshooting

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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The Euphoria expansion has been marching on steadily, since the last update. David was busy and so I have been going it alone for a while and before a meeting we had yesterday I wrote them a mail bringing them up to date on the changes and the reason for why I had made them.

Here, I’m sharing what I wrote to them, in case you’re also interested also interested in getting up to date on the expansion, the challenges we’re facing, and the discussions we’re having.



Hi Guys

If you have been through the latest files, you’ll have seen that I have made some changes, after the meeting with Jamey. In preparation for out meeting tomorrow I’ll walk you through the changes and the reasons for why I made them.

Removing player mat choice

Let’s start with the change, that was toughest to make: I changed the game so that players randomly are assigned to either rebels or oppressors, with the number of oppressors being equal to half the number of players rounded up.

I really liked that it was a player choice, but as I see it, it caused too many issues. If there for example are a majority of rebels, then:

• The rebels use of the radio would mean that the oppressor (and to a lesser extent the rebels) would be flooded by knowledge gains.

• Since rebels only have 7 authority tokens there would too many available places to put authority tokens and thus little pressure to go anywhere else than your favorite place.

• Rebels won’t construct markets nearly as much as oppressors, because they can place flames via the radio, since they get “free” morale. This means that the constructed market penalties are rarely used, which is a pity, since they’re an integral part of the game.

Number of flames

I initially set the number of flames for rebels to 6, but that seemed to make it too easy for them to win, so I changed it to 7. We need more data to say for sure, what the right number is and it of course also depends on whether we make other changes to the game that affects the balance between oppressor and rebel players.

Icarus

As agreed I removed the Icarite territory and their tier 2 allegiance bonus, which weakened them a bit as desired. Unfortunately, two other changes worked more powerfully in the other direction:

1. Rebel players starts with no flames (authority tokens):
a. Thus they must work quickly to gain flames.

b. Flames are bought using only resources and therefore resources are the most important thing for rebels by far.

c. The most efficient action to get resources is the Sky Lounge and so rebel players go to Icarus for resources instead of to a tunnel.

d. This was exacerbated if their active recruit is of one of the three Earthbound factions and someone camps a high knowledge worker on the associated commodity market, thus making it take a long time to get the tunnel allegiance bonus.

2. The oppressor players start without an active recruit, which again means that the only efficient way for them to get resources for the important constructed markets is via the Sky Lounge in Icarus.

These two factors combined had some unfortunate effects:

1. Icarus raced through the allegiance track in my playtests, which is the opposite of the original design goal of nerfing Icarus a bit.

2. It also made it a no-brainer for oppressor players to pick an Icarite recruit, since for them getting a recruit revealed is paramount, because they start without one and working with no allegiance bonuses is a major handicap.

3. Worse of all it limited the variability and strategy in the game, by railroading the players into using Icarite markets instead of tunnels for large part of the game.
a. The rebel players got the worst of this: They became almost exclusively focused on getting commodities, converting them to resources on the Sky Lounge, and then buying a flame. This reduced the strategy, variety, and fun in the game.

To fix these issues I implemented some changes:

1. The Sky Lounge and Breeze Bazaar got [gain knowledge] added to its cost. This makes them much less desirable and for high knowledge players it can at times be hard to be able to use them.
a. This makes using these two markets a tough choice instead of a no-brainer, which makes the game more interesting and reduce the blasting-through-the-allegiance-track issue.

b. It makes knowledge a more interesting resource to manage.

2. I changed the cost of flames to be a combination of resources and artifacts and I decreased the cost a bit by adding one more cheap space to the sliding cost track.
a. This is less clean than the cost only being resources, but it returns balance to the force tunnels and Icarite markets.

Den of Blissful Ignorance

The Den of Blissful Ignorance no longer accepts resources. Instead that has been moved to a new action: Thought Police of the Open Mind.

The reason for this change was mainly cleanness. We were at a point where each of the three new artifact market each had a choice between two different artifact pairs, but Den also had the three resource cost, which broke the nice symmetry.


The layout of the revision 7.7.2 board.

Treasured Artifacts

At our previous meeting, Jamey, we decided to remove the treasured artifacts, because it was a special case rule and particularly because we felt that the Bazaar already filled the same function well enough.

After having playtested, David didn’t agree with this and wrote the following to me:

Quote:
Firstly, I'm really missing wildcards for artifacts. Whether it be the treasured artifact, three artifacts = a pair, or even physically printing a wild card to include in the deck, it really feels problematic not having some method for grabbing the pairs needed to utilize the new buildings. As it stands, it feels like what building you might use is based largely on the cards showing in the market. I need some morale badly and Childhood Austerity sure looks like a great play, but in the four cards showing there's not a single appropriate card, no less a pair. Further, I can't gather cards to use it unless I have at least two morale, pouring more salt into that wound.

Another issue for artifacts, without the wildcard, is if there are two balloons showing. If I grab one, all of the other players can now reasonably assume that I am going to grab the other next turn (not 100%, obviously) and act based upon that knowledge. Do I grab one knowing that I'm showing my play? Having wildcards obfuscates all of that a bit.

Secondly, It seems very difficult for the Oppressor board to gain hearts. Perhaps this is intentional and I may not be up to speed on all that you and Jamey have discussed. As I mentioned, Childhood Austerity is no help, they cannot use the Flame Factory, so it seems like pushing hard on the Aquifier or the Farm is your only choice and may not be one you really want to do if those aren't your recruits. Certainly not twice. It feels like you are compelling them to be very austere with their morale, which restricts there choices quite a bit.

Thoughts?

Before playing I thought that removing the treasured artifacts was clearly the right thing to do, but now that I’ve played multiple times without the treasured artifacts I must say, that I agree completely with David, with the main issue being that the new artifact markets were supposed to add strategy by allowing you to choose benefits based on your strategy, but instead you’re very often forced to just use what fits the cards you can get.

I don’t think that we should reintroduce the old treasured artifacts (particularly because oppressors start without an active recruit). Instead I like both of David’s suggestions.

1. Players of the base game are already used to three artifacts being a replacement for a pair, so there’s no learning curve for this.

2. Adding wild card artifacts as a seventh type of artifact cards, will not only fix the issue that David highlights, it’s also clean mechanically, and adds excitement, when the show up in the Bazaar and more interesting decisions when buying from there.

As you can probably figure out from the above, I prefer solution 2.

The Flame Factory

It occurred to me that apart from thematic reasons the Flame Factory was added to have a slowdown action, which also means that the Factory doesn’t really need to give any other benefits than flames and benefits that support something specifically we want to make different between the two player alignments.

The commodity benefit doesn’t really achieve any design goal in relation to making differences between the two factions, so I removed it.

The other extra benefit of the Flame Factory is a gain of two morale, which works really well together with the Underground Radio, since its cost is morale. Mechanically this helps make a clear difference between the two alignments, where it’s much easier for the rebels to use the Radio. It also works very well thematically in that it’s mainly the rebels who use the Underground Radio.

David brought up the point that this synergy makes the Flame Factory - Underground Radio cycle too obvious a strategy. I see the point, but on the other hand, I didn’t feel it was a no-brainer choice, when I playtested. I would often skip the radio, because it would lower my morale so much, that I would have to discard artifact cards. Whether there’s an issue here or not, I think that we should try playing with the Factory giving only one morale.

Constructed markets vs. territories

David raised another point here:

Quote:
Is there any major difference between placing a second star on the market or in the territory? I see you removed the majority bonus from the territories? Shame... I liked that one. It feels like there should be a more compelling reason to choose between the two. Maybe I just haven't given it enough thought, but I'm pretty much done for the day.

I also liked the area majority mechanic and I agree that it makes the decision between placing on a constructed marker vs. a territory much more interesting, but for several reasons, I don’t think it’ll work anymore:

1. The size has been reduced. At 2 players there’s just one space and that feels like too little for a fight for majority .

2. The new mechanic where the rebels can place on top of other authority tokens makes it unclear, when a territory is filled up, and depending on whether we choose to include the stacked flames, it could be a huge advantage for rebels.

3. The reason we removed the rule, i.e. that it’s hard to represent with iconography on the board, is still valid.

On the topic of the constructed markets I’ve made a change so that if you use the action of a constructed market, then you can choose to place your authority token on the market instead of on the territory. The major reason for this is that for oppressors the territories have become smaller.

Statue of Tribute

I know that we’ve simplified the Statue of Tribute for good reasons, but I can’t help but feel that it could be made more strategic if we added a track where it was shown how many times each player had used the statue and the one who was in front would be the one who could place the stars.

This would give players a much bigger reason to use it repeated and to compete on it instead of waiting to the end and then grab it.

If we made this change, I’d suggest a track with costs of 1-3 or 1, 2, 4 commodities.

Rebel Radio

We’ve gone back and forth between whether the knowledge gain from the radio should be dependent or independent of the players count. Having it independent is the simplest and most clean solution, but after having played both ways, I think that there’ll be knowledge overload from three rebels using the radio, when playing six players.

Alternately we could limit it to only hurting your neighbors. That way it would be almost player count independent (with 2-players being the sole exception and I think that’s OK).

What I like about the current version

I think that the player mats and the change to rebel players having all flames and oppressors having all stars really make the thematic division between the two sides in the struggle come alive, which I think is great.

It also makes the mechanics of the game more interesting, because the asymmetry adds interesting and varied strategy to the game, where the mechanics reflect the theme, e.g.

• Oppressor players are the ones who build new buildings for the Dystopia and those impose harsh laws on the rebels, since it’s more frequently the oppressors who construct the markets, since the rebels need their resources for gaining flames.

• Rebels undermine the law and the oppressor aligned players by making acts of rebellion (placing flames).


• Rebels use the underground radio a lot to spread knowledge to the population, which makes it harder for the oppressor aligned players to maintain control of the workers.


Finally, I think that it has added a lot to the game that morale and knowledge have become more like a resource and that you must manage it in a more interesting and varied way than before.
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