After reading the rulebook and playing through a game, I have amassed a few questions that are not exactly covered in the rules and or I'm just looking too deep into it. Anyway, here we go.
1. When defending, is the strength "used up?" I.E. If I have 5 strength and an enemy comes out with a strength of 3 and I defeat it, draw a card, and it is another enemy with strength 3, am I able to keep defeating enemies as long as I draw them or have I "spent" my strength?
2. Pertaining to building, What are the exact restrictions? Can I just build anything anywhere as long as it is no farther than three out from the start? Of course I wouldn't get the bonus, but the bonus isnt worth a whole lot to begin with. But if so, that seems far too simple to just end the game when you feel like it, especially if you are in the lead in points. Just use your 8 PP to purchase all artisans and build a bunch of cheap level one cards since buildings do not score a lot of points anyway.
3. About the marketplace, how does it work? Is it that everytime it is drew to your empire, in the trading phase, you just score a point for each warehouse? Couldn't you effectively empty your deck of all but four cards, one being the marketplace, and get a bunch of warehouses out and just keep scoring those points every turn? It seems like if someone got that going, there would be no stopping them.
And thats all of the real rules questions, I believe. But now I have a few observations:
Ending the game immediately seems to be a major disadvantage for the other player. You could easily make a huge trade and just build a ton of cheap buildings on your next turn before they even had a chance to respond. I think that giving the player a final turn would make someone at least marginally think before they ended the game. As of now it just seems like a no brainer to build a ton of cards if you are in the lead.
The game does seem to end too quickly to really feel the combos of the cards, but that isn't really a problem as you can just alter the end conditions a little. Possibly instead of 10 cards to end the game, that it could instead be the first to 12 cards or 60 points, whichever comes first? Of course this would need a lot of testing, but it's a good start.
Referring to the above, how could the abrupt ending be avoided? Possibly a building limit per build phase? Raise the cost of artisans? For every card built after your first, the build cost is increased in artisans by how many previous cards you have built this phase? It seems there should be a good way to adjust it without much trouble.
I've had many situations where I was playing as the Roman Empire and had plenty of my goods, but the only cards available to purchase were court cards, which all cost the Han Dynasty goods. Could there possibly be a way to fix this so you couldn't get perpetually "locked out" of buying with bad draws? Maybe some kind of expensive wipe action? This seems like it would be hard to adjust and can probably be ignored because you could start caravans instead with the goods you're saving. But it would still be nice to not be locked out of buying for a few turns.
It would be interesting if somehow enemies scaled to how far along everyone is with their game. As it is now, if they come out turn 1, they can be a huge problem. By turn 6 possibly, they are a joke and are mostly a free kill. Maybe something to do with their power being adjusted by cards built in your field somehow?
Stacking traders can seem pretty gamebreaking. It seemed pretty easy to get 2 traders and just start ruthlessly shipping a ton of goods to the other player, and unless they have an equal number of traders, you are going to be getting more points per turn indefinitely without a way for them to stop you as no other method in the game can score that many points at a time. To fix this, maybe it would be possible to raise the points you get for completing buildings because as it is now, most of them are not worth much of anything. Maybe increase the number of spaces between the players? This would at least hopefully negate moving the entire length of the board in one move.
Building in order seems trivial at best and way more trouble than the points are worth. You can sort through the deck all game looking for the next level card, only to get 1 or 2 extra points when you build it. Possibly significantly raise the bonus for building in order?
How many usable paths to victory are there in this game? The only path that seems to be consistent is trading a ton of goods.
It seems that there needs to be some kind of incentive for you to ship the other player goods they actually need. If you had the trader setup going, you could pretty much just ship them 4 of your most worthless good and still make good points, and basically keep them from ever getting any of your high end materials. Could a possible fix for this be that whenever you successfully ship them goods you would get a bigger bonus for completing the caravan instead of two points, but you wouldn't get any points for the goods shipped until the other player "bought" them. That would seem to give good incentive to ship things they need, as they are more likely to purchase them for cards.
Could there be any way to make it easier to get the other player's goods? It seems that if they chose not to ship you any goods and the crossroads fell so that you couldn't buy anything without them, that it would put you at a big disadvantage. Possibly be able to purchase them with PP, but at a much higher rate? Think of it as buying from a vendor in your own empire who is marking up the prices for an "import" fee!
Overall I find the game to be extremely enjoyable, and I hope to start a good discussion about some good possible variants in the future.
(I also just got finished making the actual game with mounted board and custom box, hopefully I'll get around to posting pictures! )
let's see what i can answer here for you and comment on
1. Phase 2/C - You may only defeat one enemy card in the Crossroads on your turn.
2. A player may build one or more cards from their Player Empire if they can afford the artisans. the built cards may go in any of the 4 fields and are built out 3 columns deep. cards do not have to orthogonally match in name, type or color but some cards allow a Stacking Bonus if built properly adjacent to one another. Yes you are right you could buy a series of cheap cards and build them, though you could, at maximum only build 4 per turn.
Though no one has mentioned this strategy yet as something they've tried. I suppose if it is a game breaker i would add a cap on the number of artisans per turn that can be hired.
3. The Marketplace gives you 1VP for each Warehouse you have built once during the phases of the game. I suppose you could empty out your deck and do this but there are only +3VP per turn gained in this strategy and this could be easily countered by shipping gold or silk successfully.
and onto the observations:
yes i do agree with you that the other player should have a final turn of some sort. at least a final turn at building or moving a trade caravan. a lot of the game is timing of course and paying attention to what the other player is doing
i liked originally that the game ended fast. it is supposed to be a quick game with a low number of cards (so as not to be like some other deckbuilders that go on a long time). but sure 12 cards or X points would be nice advanced game extenders once people learn the combos.
i think the easiest governor would be a limited number of artisans on each side so that you cant cycle through as many as fast or the cost could go up 1PP for 1-3 artisans, 2PP for 4-6 artisans (narratively it would cost more to house and feed a larger workforce)
the locking out could be easily fixed with a couple of extra Citizen cards - some sort of smuggler, or banker who could get the needed tradegoods. as a PNP i tried to keep the game to 54 cards so that people could print through artscow or printerstudio, so i was limited in what i was trying to balance with the cards.
yes stacking traders can make for a lot of quick movement but you are giving the other player the tradegoods in return. there might be an idea of different trade routes, some being shorter, some being longer and if you have a caravan in one you have to start a new caravan in a different route.
the co-op nature of shipping could be beefed up.
Most of what you are writing about here are things we learn as we become better designers and can balance more players options at one time. i like games that are fairly simple without to many rules or decision tree points. it keep things moving and prevents AP.
but you do cause me to think about some new options for the game. i will see if i can think of a way to release an expansion to the existing game (there was historically a route through africa as well), adding a new subset of cards and new rules for the co-op trade part of the game.
thanks for taking time to write out all of this. i do appreciate that very much