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Subject: Colonial Island Economics rss

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peter jackson
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I'm working on a new design that focuses on island economics, and I wanted to get some general reactions. I tried to read up on the economic history of Haiti, the Philippines, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands to get some reality-grounded ideas. As for implementation, I tried to stay away from economic mechanics I'd seen before, and focused on what seemed to be the most crucial aspect of early island economies gaining independence: a positive import-export balance.

Bear with me. It gets less weedy.

When you set up the game, there will be two stacks of cards: "Ship" cards and "Opportunity" cards. There will also be a "Harbor" track with numbers 1 to 8, and a pile of little wooden resource pieces, approximately 10 pieces in each of 7 resources. Finally, each player should have a little pile of chits that represent various buildings and such belonging just to them.

Each "Round" consists of 3 phases: (1) draw as many Ship cards as the Harbor track indicates, and sell resources to the ships as possible; (2) draw 2 Opportunity cards and use them as possible; (3) collect resources based on your plantations.

Let me say a little more about each phase.

(1) Each Ship card will have a few resource requests; for example, a ship may request bananas, rice, and sugarcane. The ship will sit in the harbor until it has bought everything it wants to buy. Players take turns selling individual resources to the ships; the price of each resource is the number of ships requesting that resource. So if there are three ships requesting bananas, I can sell a bundle of bananas to one of the ships for 3 bucks. The next guy to sell bananas will only get 2 bucks. Obviously, this means it's important who goes first in the sales process; I have a mechanic for that, and I'll explain it a bit later.

(2) Most Opportunity cards will be one of two opportunities: clearing land, or building a plantation. Both opportunities will cost you a few gold. When you clear land, you simply play the card in front of you. When you build a plantation, you can choose to put it on land that you own (in which case you'll pay a fee to the bank), or on land someone else owns (in which case you pay a small fee to that player). Every plantation will produce whatever crop is indicated by the land it's on--coconuts, rice, spices, etc. Each time you build a plantation, increase the Harbor track by 1. Rather than going in turns, I envision this phase as being pretty chaotic, with everyone building whatever they can, all at once...we'll see how that goes in playtesting.

(3) Finally, everyone collects resources based on where their plantations are located. There should be plenty of resource pieces for everyone; the number of resource pieces may need to increase so that's not a limiting factor.

And then, back to Phase 1. Draw more ships, sell your resources, make some cash. The player with the most land is first in line to sell resources; the idea here is that if you cleared land last turn, you're probably behind in the resource business, and I feel bad for you. Whenever a ship is completely full--as in, it has all 3 resources it came to collect--it sails off to the bottom of the Ship deck, and the harbor track is reduced by 1.

The game should end whenever the harbor track moves to 0 or 9. My concept here is that the harbor track represents the balance of imports and exports: if the island is exporting more than it's importing (Harbor track at 0), then the island can declare independence! On the other hand, if it's just importing relentlessly, it will probably always be a subsistence vassal of the imperial power controlling it.

I'd like to have differing victory conditions depending on whether the harbor reaches 0 or 9. I think money should be worth points as a 1:1 ratio--if you have $20, you should have 20 points. But I think land and plantations should be worth different victory points depending on how the game ends: if the island declares independence, I think owning land should be more valuable; if the island becomes an absolute vassal state, I think the plantations should be more valuable.

Some other aspects I'd like to work in: I want some of the Opportunity cards to be buildings you can build to enhance the product of your plantations (providing rum instead of sugar, for an obvious example). I think these buildings should allow you to sell the basic resource for more money; other players should be able to use your distilleries or factories for a price, with your permission. I also think it'd be interesting to have a few rounds after the harbor reaches 0, where the island has to survive a revolution. I have a bundle of ideas on that, but nothing solid.

If you read this far...what do you think? Sound like something you'd enjoy playing?
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Tyler
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I quite like the idea of varying victory conditions that tie thematically into the political outcome of the island itself and are driven by the economic consequences of player decisions. That sort of thing definitely pulls me in and makes me feel more invested in a game.
 
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peter jackson
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CptWilly wrote:
I quite like the idea of varying victory conditions that tie thematically into the political outcome of the island itself and are driven by the economic consequences of player decisions.


Thanks for the feedback. I want to develop this aspect of the game as well. My current thought is that different buildings or plantations will be worth "influence" with either the island or the imperial power. If the island declares independence (harbor reaches 0), island influence will be worth victory points; if it goes off the other end, imperial influence will be worth victory points instead.

My fear is that this could get very complex very quickly; however, I think I could probably just tie the influence points to different objects in the game--so a plantation is worth 1 island influence point, and says so on the card, while getting a monopoly on a shipping route would be worth an 1 imperial influence point (and should say so on the card as well).
 
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First off, this is a very very nice conception. You have a marriage of a mechanic to along with a theme of an island and they seem like a good fit. The victory conditions play into this as well.

I see it as the sort of game I wish Puerto Rico would have been. In that its more open ended in terms of what strategies to pursue; does the economy wind down, does it expand upward? do I bail out? do I stay and become King? In PR you are sort of straight jacketed, you know when the game will end, you know how many buildings are left, if he picks the planter then ...

Here I see at as more open ended. The group think can manipulate the economy and cause it to thrive or burn or whatever.

But you're leaving out something; or else you havent quite put it all together. How is that harbor track ever going to come down at all? you havent explained how that happens. All that we know is that it keeps going up when players build plantations.

That also does not quite reflect the balance of trade. You cant have say 4 ships sitting there that have not filled, someone builds 3 more plantations, the track goes to 6 and what 6 more ships arrive in the harbor? There has to be some sort of harbor capacity. Maybe it can be increased if someone buys more docks or something.

Not sure what the answer is to reflect the balance of trade but I think it has to do with how many ships you've filled. There has to be some sort of dynamic. It cant be a one way street if I understand how you describe it.

How many players do you anticipate would be ideal? 4? I think you have to make a decision on that, so that you can determine how the next layer of rules will play into the strategies.

There has to be someway to manipulate the overall game dynamics. E.g. how many ships are coming, and how those oppurtunity cards come up. There might be some sort of system where you auction them, e.g. in St. Petersburg.

You might want to think about the labor force in this game. As well as the political aspects. Who controls what cards come up? who controls the land? Is it who has the most money? Can you auction off the leadership role? Is it worth 5 dollars to manipulate the ship cards and/or the oppurtunity cards.

It's a really good idea. You've got explain a little more about how that balance of trade thing works and how many players this is supposed to support then we can have another go at the strategic aspect.

This is a real interesting state of development.
 
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oh yeah, you also havent explained the structure of these turn. How do players sell to the ships? One by one? you're gonna have a turn based system for phase 1, then some free for all thing in phase 2? And then phase 3 is what exactly?

That free for all thingie you want to do for the oppurtunity cards? Yeah that's not gonna work. I shouldnt say that. It might work, but if it does, you've probably created a whole new mechanic/game for one aspect of your game. YOu dont need that; save that for a whole 'nother game.

You should try to find conventional, easy to understand, tried and true mechanics to graft onto the basic game system. Because the concept of import/export and victory conditions is already innovative enuf. Make it easy for the players to manipulate the parts of the system. The strategy will come on this higher level, the group think, the balance of trade, the end game conditions. THat will be deep but the way to get there should be easy to grasp.

EDIT: OK I see now the harbor is reduced when the ship sails. got it.
 
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Erik R.
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This idea reminds me of the game Container, in the way the players generate goods on their harbor, and there is an economic simulation occurring in the way you and the other players are buying and selling and trading goods with each other. It's actually possible to crash the game if you make dumb moves that damage the flow of money.

I don't mean to say your game should be like Container (which is rather dry). But the take-away from that game (and other economic games I've played) is that a economic game needs to explore the concept of limited resources that you know the exact count of.

Lots of things in your theme can be considered limited resources. Land is not an unlimited resource, especially on an island. Although crops can be grown and regrown, the time(turns) it takes to grow them is also not unlimited. Money, as well, is not an unlimited resource, though it's nice because it's a fluid resource. There are only so many dollars in an economy at any given time, though.

So I would say to try to think about the game in terms of how people capitalize on limited resources.


woooooober wrote:

(2) Most Opportunity cards will be one of two opportunities: clearing land, or building a plantation. Both opportunities will cost you a few gold. When you clear land, you simply play the card in front of you. When you build a plantation, you can choose to put it on land that you own (in which case you'll pay a fee to the bank), or on land someone else owns (in which case you pay a small fee to that player). Every plantation will produce whatever crop is indicated by the land it's on--coconuts, rice, spices, etc. Each time you build a plantation, increase the Harbor track by 1. Rather than going in turns, I envision this phase as being pretty chaotic, with everyone building whatever they can, all at once...we'll see how that goes in playtesting.


I'm unclear on the balance between land and plantations.

The way you've explained this, it seems that Opportunity cards are drawn at random. This seems to distract from players making meaningful decisions about how they want to shape the economy, and someone could just get stuck drawing nothing but one card or another, or the wrong card at the wrong time.

Furthermore, it seems that owning and going for a Land/independence victory is not worth the trouble?

Plantation builders may build on anyone's land. It seems they can save up some money, build some plantations, which will attract more ships and expand their options (and profits) to sell their goods. With more money, they can build more plantations (doesn't matter what type at this point), and rush to the end of the game - and the victory condition that awards them for having plantations.

Basically, whoever builds Land (especially at first) is going to be taken advantage of, and seems very likely to lose, if they are trying to keep empty lands. Trying to swing the game back in their favor (towards Harbor = 0) seems a lot harder than simply trying to build more Plantations than the others.

I like the idea of the points being different depending on how the game went, but it really seems like simply owning land should not be the alternative strategy. Maybe building other types of buildings can be the opposing objective to plantations, and land is a common resource between the two?
 
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peter jackson
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Thanks for the feedback, Erik & Sunday! You've both hit on points that I'm still trying to figure out myself.

Land & Plantations: I've been fluctuating through a number of different approaches to this balance. A clear winning mechanic hasn't yet emerged. However, I know some points that I would like to incorporate, if I can do so elegantly: (1) I'd like there to be some basic, core land that's available to everyone for planting, etc.; (2) I'd like people to be able to develop new land that's just for them; (3) people ought to be able to rent their land to others--be the land baron living off the backs of the farmers.

Erik, I echo your critique of the opportunity cards system. It's gone. Right now I'm leaning toward having a few options available during the "Development" phase, and folks can take turns doing one development at a time. There are only three basic actions I can think of right now: (1) an expedition to discover/clear new land, (2) building or re-planting a plantation, and (3) adding an advanced building (distillery etc.) in town.

Note that second action includes both building new plantations, and re-planting them as well. One thing that apparently happened on a few islands--Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados--is that an imperial power would show up and request all the farmers stop growing one thing, and start growing another. So I'd like to reflect the "pull up the tobacco and plant some sugarcane" mechanic by making it possible to re-seed your plantation; it would be quite a bit cheaper than building a new one, but it would require that bit of effort.

As for victory points, here are my current thoughts. "Imperial prestige" will be earned through establishing a monopoly on a trade route; a "monopoly" is created when one player satisfies all three resources a ship is trying to buy. "Native influence" will be earned through owning land and plantations. Prestige pays off if the harbor hits 9; Influence pays off if the harbor hits 0. So earning each kind of VP actually pushes the harbor toward the opposite end of the spectrum: by completing a Ship's requests, you lower the import/export balance (getting closer to 0), while by building plantations, you increase the island's reliance on imports (for its burgeoning population).

I've also thought of jettisoning the "phases" structure and just adding "sell a resource" to the three actions listed before. In this approach, new ships would just appear whenever you build a new plantation, and rather than having a harbor tracker, you'd just count the number of ships.

Quite a few thoughts still rumbling through my head. I worked on some basic graphics for the resources I have in mind, which will be necessary to move this toward a prototype PnP; I'll post 'em when I get home tonight.
 
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peter jackson
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Ah, one other thing.

I think the person with the most Prestige would be the first in line to sell goods at the harbor, while the person with the most Influence would be the first in line during the Development phase. Thus, your track record with satisfying ship requests would pay off in future attempts to sell; on the other hand, you're quickly pushing the island toward financial independence and revolution, which would make your reputation with the crown all for naught! And the most influential landowner would sensibly be the first guy in line to lead a new expedition or start a new plantation--but he would also be aware that the more he develops the island, the heavier it will rely on foreign imports.
 
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thinking about the trade routes thing:

Why not identify the ships as coming from a specific place?

E.g.

Tokyo: Banana/Banana/Oranges
San FRancisco: Coconut/Rice/Tobacco

So if you fill up that boat from San fran with all three, then you can mark on a chart that you control the San Fran trade route. it also allows for more strategy as you can fill that last space but it might not give you as much money for the tobacco.

it also lends more thematic feel, as you identify with real life trade partners. I wonder if you could make a separate suit of cards for each city?
 
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peter jackson
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sundaysilence wrote:
Why not identify the ships as coming from a specific place?


Hmm, good idea.

There will be 20-30 ship cards; thematically, I was intending to have each card have a city name or something like you suggest. If you get a monopoly on a ship, you'd simply pull it aside into your own space rather than sending it to the bottom of the deck, for the purpose of tracking your VP.

What I'd like to do is make that ship card available to you whenever you want to sell. So basically, you could treat "monopoly" ships like your own personal harbor. The mechanical piece I haven't figured out yet is how to make the ship "go away" for a few turns while it heads home, unloads, and returns.
 
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it goes away, until the next San Francisco card turns up in the ship deck.

I presume someone could steal the monopoly from you if/when they were able to put 3 goods on a San Fran ship.

Are you shooting for four player? Im still not quite set on the game turns. would a rondel be useful for that?
 
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peter jackson
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I'm shooting for 2-6 players. 2 keeps me honest; 6 keeps me simple.

Monopoly ships: If there are only 3 ships per city, with 30 ship cards, that could definitely work. It may not make enough impact to make it worth the explanation in the rules; something I'll have to truss out in playtesting.

 
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6 cities; 5 ships per city. mark monopolies on a separate board.

A dock lets you sell two goods in a row.

STill a little unclear on turn order. Is everyone supposed to take turns during one phase?
 
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peter jackson
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At this point, both the Harbor phase and the Building phase will work in turns; I'd like to eliminate them if I can, but for now, it's simple and moves the design forward. Having the first turn seems quite powerful, so I think that might just rotate around the board. Again, oversimplified, but okay for the moment.

So for play order, we have:

1) Harbor Phase: Draw ships & take turns selling your goods
2) Development Phase: Explore, Build a Plantation, re-seed a Plantation, or draw/play an Opportunity card.
3) Harvest Phase: Determine weather & place resource cubes on successful plantations.

More Detail:

The Harbor: Always draw as many ships as there are barrels sitting on the harbor. If at any time there are more than 10 ships in play, the game ends in Imperial victory; players count their money and their Prestige to determine the winner. If at any time the last barrel is removed from the harbor, the game ends in Colonial victory; players count their money and their Influence to determine the winner.

Barrels: Barrels are added to the harbor every time a player builds a new plantation. Barrels are removed from the harbor every time a ship is filled up & sails away. (Barrels represent the meager luxuries required by the colonists who work your plantations: since the colony is unable to fulfill this demand, it stacks up in the Harbor, attracting merchant traffic. The ships refuse to sell these luxuries to the local population until they are sure of being able to secure the goods they came to pick up.)

Exploring: Leading an expedition to chart the nearby islands is expensive, and gets more expensive the further out you have to go. To reflect this cost, the price of exploring goes up during the game: it costs 1 gold for ever Island already on the board. Once you have charted an island, you must choose whether to claim the island for your own plantations--allowing no-one else to build on it--or whether to recoup some of your costs and cede control of the island to the colony. If you cede control, you may immediately place a free plantation on the island, and set the tile in the center of the board near the harbor. If you claim the island for yourself, place it in front of you; you get no free plantation, but you can hog that island for yourself all game long.

Building Plantations: Each island is good for growing only one or two kinds of crops, and there's only enough land to support 3-5 plantations. You can see what kind of crops are available on each island by looking for symbols in the corners of the tile; the number of plantations possible is shown through the number of dashed hexagons on the tile. The cost of building a plantation is high at first, but goes down as people populate the island. To reflect this, the cost of a plantation is always the number of open spots on that tile: so, if I want to build a plantations on a hex with five open spots, the first will cost me five, the second will cost me four, etc. However, you also must pay your dues: if you build a plantation on an island where someone else has already settled, you must pay each other player on the island 1 gold in addition to the base cost. Remember, as well, to add a barrel to the Harbor every time you build a plantation!

Re-Seeding Plantations just costs 1 gold. Pick up the plantation and put another one down with the crop you want. Remember, however, that each island can only grow one or two crops. You can't switch a plantation to grow a crop that's not supported by the island.

Weather: The back of each Ship card has a weather icon; some backs indicate a certain crop with an X over it. Before the harvest, pull the third card from the top of the Ship deck and place it on top: this is the weather for this round of harvesting! Presuming you haven't been struck by bad weather, take a resource cube of your color and place it on every one of your Plantations. If you do were trying to grow crops that got killed by the weather, simply skip this step: those plantations did not grow anything this season.

Selling Goods: When it comes back around to selling goods to the ships, take turns, starting with the player who has the most Prestige. If there is a tie, players may bid on the right to be first in line. When it is your turn, you may sell a good directly from one of your plantations to the ship: simply take the resource cube off the plantation and put it on the ship, covering the icon you just sold. For that resource, your customer will pay you the number of ships that were asking for that resource: so if there are 3 ships requesting cotton, you earn 3 gold for selling cotton to one of them. The next guy to sell cotton will only get 2!

Every time you exit the Selling phase, you must throw away all your leftover goods. The imaginary passage of time here is a month or two, and your sugarcane will just rot in the heat. Unless, of course, someone built a warehouse...

Opportunity Cards: ...by using an Opportunity Card! There are only 15 Opportunity cards. You may draw an Opportunity card by paying 1 gold, picking up the whole stack of them, choosing one you like, and placing it back on the table. Different cards have different costs. You may immediately pay to play the card you drew, or you may hang onto it for a time when you have more cash to throw around.

Opportunity cards come in several shapes and sizes. There are multiple Warehouse cards: these cards show three resources on them, and other players may pay you 1 gold per turn to keep all their leftovers in those three resources. There are also 2 distilleries: this card lets you reduce the number of barrels without visiting ships! It simply takes 2 sugarcane resources during the Selling phase; you earn the number of barrels there are currently on the harbor, and then take one barrel off the harbor! There is also a cotton mill, which works exactly the same way (but, ahem, for cotton). There is also a dock (thanks, SundaySilence!), which allows you to sell two resources to a ship when it is your turn--i.e. if the ship requests coffee and spices, and I have a dock, I can sell him both on my turn.

Monopoly Ships: If you sell all three resources to a ship--so that when it sails, all three of the cubes on that card are your cubes--pull that ship aside and set it in front of you. It's worth a certain prestige value (it'll say so on the bottom), which will be good at the end of the game. But you can also sell resources to it as if it were your own private ship, any time another ship from the same city is in town. This ship doesn't count for ending the game, and it doesn't count for the price of goods in the harbor. It's just your own little moneybag that pays you normal harbor prices for the goods it needs, once in a while.

...Okay, we're 90% to Alpha playtesting stage. I need to draw some cards and tiles. For the moment, here's a crude rendering of a Tile and three Plantation pieces.


Oh yeah, any ideas on a name for this game?
PJ
 
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sunday silence
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Balance of Trade. Trade Winds. Winds of Trade. Something like that.

I dont get it: You're adding more islands? To what end? These are not going to be separate nations trying to gain independence are they? If not then what's the point? all you need is more land to spread out your plantations on THE SAME ISLAND. I dont know why you are adding another layer of complexity here. YOu seem to have all the complexity you need.


I think you should boil down the various sub mechanics into their essence and find a way to create various strategies through those sub mechanics.

For the same reason I dont get the exploration thing. Maybe I am missing something. ..
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peter jackson
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sundaysilence wrote:
You're adding more islands? To what end?


Hmm. This is a new thought for me, actually. I think I included exploration as a natural adaptation from another game mechanic I designed a couple years ago, Cosmos.

I still feel there are a couple reasons to include exploration, which are the same reasons anyone ever explores in real life: (a) I don't have enough room to do what I want to do, or (b) none of the land available has the resources I need. In the game, exploration would basically only be used as a necessity: if no Cotton shows up at first, for example, people will explore until they find some.

I hear what you're saying about the complexity of the submechanics. I think building plantations can be simplified by tying them to the barrels on harbor: you can buy a barrel from the bank during the Harbor phase, then "pay" a barrel to build your plantation.

As for simplifying exploration, I suppose you could start with 2 tiles for every player in the common area (i.e. pull 6 island tiles in a 3 player game) to depress the need for exploration. And I suppose you could nix the concept of pulling an island aside for yourself, and just add new tiles to the colonial core when/if you do explore. I will probably playtest both approaches to see which approach my testers prefer.

Hey, as a side note, thanks for all your ideas & comments!! Your feedback has been really valuable to me. I hope this project ends up in something you can enjoy!
 
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yeah, thanks. I will probably test some of these ideas myself, since my daughter and I have been playing a bit of Container and Monopooly recently.

Do you think some of the boats are going to stack up in the harbor if people dont want to take $1 to fill up the third slot in the boat? Should there be some sort of mechanic for getting boats out of there that do not fill up? Is the harbor meant to just hold an unlimited amount of boats?

Cause i was thinking, be able to get ships out of there would be another way to stategize in the game.
 
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Peter: have you looked at the game Archipelago? There may be a few similarities with your game. THere is an import/export mechanic, exploration, build houses or planations, there is market mechanic to control the prices of imports and exports, there is also different end game conditions that are kept secret from the other players. There is also a revolt possibility where all the players lose.

So it is some co-op, because you have to work together to prevent all losing, but it's also competitive. Sometimes one player can win if it revolts, but other times all lose.

I just read about today, I had heard of it but not studied it.
 
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peter jackson
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I had not heard of Archipelago. Saw some mixed reviews: some are absolutely glowing, others absolutely dismal. Interesting.

It does look very, very similar to what we're working on here. The main differences, it looks like, are scale & complexity: my goal is a 45-minute game for intelligent people who are casual gamers. I want there to be problem-solving and strategy, but I don't want to drown in rules.

I have some ideas for simplifying the colonization and exploration aspects. Nothing concrete yet, so I won't get into it, but...simpler. I'm also trying to develop an art style; not my strong suit, so I'm learning inkscape to get the job done.

Anyway, my wife is due any day with our first kid, so I may disappear for a while...but I'll be back, likely with an alpha version PnP. Thanks again for this conversation, and I'll ping this thread whenever I have some more updates!
 
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peter jackson
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Okay, back with a few developments (but still no kid)...

First, art development--here's a new sample tile.


Second, the game "phases" are now "seasons." There are four seasons in a year, each with specific abilities.

In the summer, you build plantations & explore new islands.
In the fall, you determine the weather and harvest your crops.
You have to survive the winter by feeding your workers.
In the spring, new ships come into harbor & you can trade your goods.

The game ends in the Spring, whenever (a) there aren't enough ships to pull into harbor (Imperial Victory), or (b) you're able to sell enough to clear the harbor of all the ships (Colonial Victory).

There are three point types. Merchant points are awarded when you sell one ship two or more of your own resources (each ship demands 3 resources). Explorer points are awarded when you explore a new island (which is costly). Governor points are awarded for each island where you own more plantations than anyone else (each island can support 3 to 5 plantations). The winner is whoever has the most victory points. However, Merchant points don't count in a Colonial victory, and Governor points don't count in an Imperial victory.

I have more detailed mechanics prepared for each of the four seasons, but I wanted to introduce the concept to this thread and see if anyone had any thoughts (...if anyone is still here).
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am definitely still interested. The first thing that strikes me is it might be more interesting to have the departure and the arrival of the ships at different times of the year. Thematically it might be interesting to have this sort of fall departure/spring arrival thing. In the old days didnt they have certain fleets like the spring fleet?

Strategically it might have more drama and more interest to be able to fill those ships during summer and fall before they leave. It might give you more choices for one thing. Do I explore or sell goods? Do I harvest or sell goods More choices = more strategy.

Also there might be more drama if the spring is a check for Imperial victory and fall is check for Nationalism.

I still think there ought to be a way to remove ships that are not totally filled. It should be without changing the overall balance of trade number or whatever you call the number that goes up or down. Maybe it could be a card play. Otherise it seems too easy for a ship with say one banana slot open to have someone with the only banana plantation not want to fill it.

I think its good you have put out there an overall structure to the game, that we can talk about It was very difficult to suggest things with just this vague idea of shipping and importing. WIth a clear structure its better to concentrate on it.

Do you think a rondel would be of any use in this?
do you think cards might be used for most of the actions?
is it going to be turn based like everyone takes their turn?
 
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peter jackson
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Sunday, how are you thinking we could use a rondel?

For prototyping, I've just been playing that each player take turns playing actions; depending on the season, different actions are available. It's simple but it works. The issue I run into (and am trying to resolve) is that if the game is going poorly for you, you might wind up with insufficient money to do what you want on your turn. I really dislike "dead" turns, so I'm trying to come up with some free activities people can do when they're out of money (but other players still want to build and develop).

Economically, struggling through the weather and the winter has been almost impossible without one player simply taking a decisive lead. It's leading to some real complications for me. I want the game to remain competitive throughout; when I'm playing against myself, it should be very even. The consistent rise of one player over the others means that luck in the market is leading to far too much self-perpetuating success. That's actually very realistic--but not very fun in a game!

The other thing I'm still working on is getting some late-game depth. Once people have a decent economic engine running, I want there to be some satisfying investments available for them to dump their money into.
 
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sunday silence
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Maryland
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what part of the luck is messing it up? THe draw of the ships? Why cant there be an action where you can kick out certain ships that havent filled and draw new ones?

As for the rondel. You have what 5 actions now? Maybe add one for removing ships; perhaps another one for raising money from taxes or something. So thats 6 or 7. So you have a circular track of maybe 15 or more spaces, then you would pay to move around them and land on an action and then you do that action. Not sure if other players could do the same action.

I'm thinking the seasons could be built into parts of the track, so if you go past a certain line (between two spaces) that means its summer; and another line maybe 3 spaces later, that is fall. And then whatever season you are in would put limits on what you can do in that action. So it's fall and you're on harvest, you can harvest bananas but not peaches or something.

EDIT: it seems to me if you want the game to go down to the wire, then it should be important that you can fill boats and/or import and/or build plantations in multiple quantities on one turn. Because the nature of the victory conditions are such that you're going to know if one side is ahead or behind or close to victory.
 
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