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Lajos
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Age of Steam ‘Frontline’: a wargame expansion for AoS

Intended for three players.

Map:




Special tiles:



from left to right:
frontline tile;
war zone terrain tile;
war zone terrain tile with destroyed city (now town);
war zone terrain tile with destroyed town.


files:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/fileinfo.php?fileid=20637


background

It’s war. There is heavy fighting between whateverland and its southern neighbour. To support the war, a constant flow of supplies and fresh soldiers to the front is necessary. Railroads are construct to facilitate the supply, but like towns and cities may be lost if insufficient supplies and soldiers are delivered.


rule changes (updated: Jan. 5)

The brownish hexes are the war zone, the lands destroyed by war. The grey hex tiles with canons represent the front line. Place these on the six brownish hexes on the map such that ‘NEW’ is north, and ‘OLD’ is south.

New cities A, B, E, and F are not used. Don’t fill up the columns of these cities and of white 5 and 6 and black 3 and 4 on the goods board.

Cities black 2 & 5 start with three goods; all other cities start with 2 goods.

All cities demand black cubes (raw materials). Whenever a black cube is delivered to a city, that city immediately produces two random cubes. (Not from the goods board! Place them in the city).

All frontline tiles (with the cannons) demand everything but black cubes and what they already have. (For example, if there is a blue cube in either the ‘NEW’ or the ‘OLD’ box, that frontline tile does not accept any more blue cubes (until the cube is removed, see below).)
When a red, yellow, blue, or purple cube is delivered to a frontline tile, place it in the ‘NEW’ box.

At the end of the goods growth phase check the ‘NEW’ boxes of all front tiles.
* If there are one or more cubes in the ‘NEW’ box, move these to the ‘OLD’ box. If – after this move – there are cubes of all four colours, red, yellow, blue, and purple, in the ‘OLD’ box, move these back to the supply. Move the – now empty – frontline tile one hex to the south. In the 3rd, 5th and 7th column, frontline tiles may move into the black off-board areas.
* If there is no cube in the ‘NEW’ box, move that frontline tile one hex to the north. All tiles on the hex the frontline tile moves to - except war zone tiles - are discarded. Place a brownish war zone tile on the hex the frontline tile was in if necessary. If there was a town in that hex, that town is now destroyed, place a war zone tile with a black X on that hex. If there was a city in that hex, that city is now a town. When the front moves past a hex in columns 1 or 8 that hex is destroyed in a similar manner. When ever a city is lost (in this way), immediately move all player markers back three spaces on the income track.

When war zones are liberated (by pushing back the front line) players can build on these hexes. A track tile replaces the war zone tile. Destroyed towns and cities can be rebuild by means of an urbanize action.

Building in hills or a liberated war zone costs 1 in addition to the normal costs.

You can build a maximum of 2 tiles in a turn; 3 with the engineer.

You cannot build track through the front into enemy lands. (Obviously...) Neither can you build on enemy terrain. All terrain south of a front line tile (in a straight line) is considered enemy terrain.

Tracks that no longer connect to a front line tile or a town or city are lost if they are not elongated.

Cities can directly connect to frontline tiles. Such a connection costs 2. (Place a marker on the tile edge.) When a frontline tile moves closer to a city tile, a track connection may be replaced by a direct city-to-frontline connection. When a frontline tile moves away from a city, direct connections are lost. (Remove the markers.)

At the end of the income phase, count the number of visible war zone terrain hexes (both preprinted and covered by tiles). This is terrain lost in the war. Divided this number by 2 and round down. Move all player markers down on the income track the resulting number of spaces.


playtest notes (Jan. 5)

Well, what do I need to say? The game works and I kind of like it. There is an important co-operative element added that some may not like while others do. It also is even nastier than regular AoS.
It may be advantageous to build as many connections as possible in the north early in the game. That, however, is a selfish strategy. It implies that the other players have to build in the south and deliver to the front. Otherwise everyone will lose. Players will need to keep each other in check.
Due to the limited delivery area and the very tight map, you'll have to use each other's track every now and then. It is useful to have many connections to the front, because other players will often use them. However, if they don't, you won't be able to deliver enough yourself (there are 6 frontline tiles and 3 players, do the math...), which will result in losing terrain and (possibly) connections.



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I'm confused. I don't see any cannons on the map.
 
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Verkisto wrote:
I don't see any cannons on the map.


They're not on the map, they're on the additional tiles.
 
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I don't mean to be overly critical here; but given your rather prolific expansion output during the past 48 hours I have to ask: are you going to playtest any of these before rubber stamping them?

AoS is currently mired in a glut of releases already, including many fully playtested, free downloads such as Japan, Spain, and New Zealand.

It is certainly your right to upload maps without any playtesting, but I would personally prefer to at least see some work done on a map before releasing it to the public.
 
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CortexBomb wrote:
are you going to playtest any of these before rubber stamping them?

No.

How did I 'rubber stamp' them, by the way?

CortexBomb wrote:
It is certainly your right to upload maps without any playtesting, but I would personally prefer to at least see some work done on a map before releasing it to the public.

You have a point of course, but I don't see uploading my maps on the Geek as 'releasing to the public', but as 'making available for playtesting'.

For now, I'm out of ideas. But I can promise you, that when I come up with something new, making it available to my fellow geeks will be the first thing I do.

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Lajos wrote:
You have a point of course, but I don't see uploading my maps on the Geek as 'releasing to the public', but as 'making available for playtesting'.


Can you comment on your design process?

For me, getting a map to "production quality" takes at least a dozen solo plays (me playing as all players with various player counts), plus another 10-20 supervised playtests with other experienced AoS players (I'm usually one of the players), followed by a dozen or so more blind playtests (I'm not present, they only have the rules and map). Figure two hours per game, that's 24 hours of solo play, 30 hours of supervised playtests, and another ~10 hours for report and question processing for the blind playtests. I actually usually do more playtesting of the three types for my maps than this, but I'd consider these reasonable numbers. Using the above pattern, getting a map to play test quality is a roughly 24 work hour investment, not counting design time, computerised simulation time, or drawing time. That's usually a process diluted across weeks if not months for me with a typical time investment I'd guess around 100-150 hours with most of that spent in design/simulation (design time is usually while driving FWLIW).
 
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I largely concur with JC on this one.

When I say "rubber stamp them" I mean release them, be that in hard copy for money, or as a download. To me, releasing a map is the same thing as saying "This map is polished and ready to go, please download and play it".

The reason I bring this up is because I know how arduous it is to release a fully playtested map. I have been working on my first release, Montreal Metro, for the better part of a year. Granted, that work has been sporadic, and largely dependent on opportunity (exactly 3 players present) since I've long since moved past the solo playtest stage that JC alludes to, but it is still moving forward and finally nearing its end.

From experience I know how something that looks good on paper generally requires extensive tweaking before it is actually ready to released. This can be as simple as mildly augmenting the way a map is designed, to completely overhauling new special abilities, and so forth.
Putting together a map is an involved process, and while getting it right on a blind map assembly attempt is possible, I would not put a lot of faith in that as a solid design process.
 
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Well, here's the first step in your process: proofreading.

Quote:
All cities demand black cubes (raw materials). Whenever a black cube is delivered in a city, that city immediately produces the top cube in its column on the goods board. (Place it in the city).


Does this mean whenever a good is delivered TO a city or FROM a city? Seems to me that "in" a city needs some serious clarification!
 
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I would assume its a simple typo and it should read.

All cities demand black cubes (raw materials). Whenever a black cube is delivered into a city, that city immediately produces the top cube in its column on the goods board. (Place it in the city).

That is the intuitive answer and as serious as you need to get.
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CortexBomb wrote:
The reason I bring this up is because I know how arduous it is to release a fully playtested map. I have been working on my first release, Montreal Metro, for the better part of a year. Granted, that work has been sporadic, and largely dependent on opportunity (exactly 3 players present) since I've long since moved past the solo playtest stage that JC alludes to, but it is still moving forward and finally nearing its end.


I started working on what is now AoS:Launch! back in June. I drew out some ideas for a map, nothing really specific, just some ways I thought city colour clustering might be interesting. It then sat pretty much until late September when the rush suddenly caught up with me to get things ready for Essen. I had two maps clearly ready: AoS:London and AoS:Sun, and possibly a third in AoS:Central America. Could I get a fourth out in time so that I had two pairs of maps for sale at Essen?

The answer was simple: No.

It is now December. AoS:Sun and AoS:London were published and have been selling in reasonable quantity. I am pleased with both designs and feel that they are good. AoS:Central America suddenly popped up just before Essen and revealed that it wasn't actually as interesting as the ~30 prior playtests had suggested, so back into the design treadmill it went. A few small tweaks to terrain locations, pricing, numbers and paths of sea routes, oh, and a compleat rewrite of one of the new actions and half a dozen more playtests later and it now seems to actually be ready. Maybe. Just, ohh, maybe 30 discrete edits later. I won't be surprised if it heads back into the design mill again but I have hopes for it being good now.

Meanwhile AoS:Launch! that was looking so very good just before Essen with its 3-weeks from near-raw to ready-to-market development cycle, and even playtesting rather well to boot, suddenly developed hiccoughs. Yeah, it was kinda interesting and new, and that's worth something, but it also had the three P's: prosaic, processional and far too predictable. Not good. I want maps with razor edges that can be played and enjoyed and analysed without submission at least 50 times by the same players, not something that wears out in just a few sessions. So back into the design mill it went and it has been lurking there ever since. A tweak here, a tweak there, a change in pricing there, a recoloured city there, a new action added, another action removed, desired player count goals edited, three entire rule rewrites, etc etc etc. Donut-shaped maps, I've now learned, bring their own rather peculiar and particular challenges that are quite different from other maps. They are particularly rife with degenerate patterns and I'm not confident that I've found all of them. It also doesn't help that the colour clustering and other ideas I'm trying to explore with AoS:Launch! have degenerate patterns that are exacerbated by being on a donut-shaped map -- so I really have to get this right for it to work even moderately well.

It is, as I noted above, now December. Two months later. Design-wise I've been working on nothing else. I've played in excess of 50 solo-plays of AoS:Launch! and have poured in at least 150 hours of concentrated sit-down design effort not including solo-plays. I've found that if I concentrate I can polish off a solo-play game in about 90 minutes, and that if I really work at it, I can learn what I need to know from a solo-play in around an hour. Since the design-re-entry I haven't done a single public playtest. It isn't yet ready but I think it is getting close. Maybe. Another half dozen or so solo plays will tell me if I've rounded the corner with the last set of changes or not. They "feel" right to me, a wonderous and glorious feeling, but the proof is in the playing, not the feeling, and there's a lot of playtesting to do yet. It hasn't quite started to sing yet.

Quote:
From experience I know how something that looks good on paper generally requires extensive tweaking before it is actually ready to released.


Yeah. Designers often have a strong idea of how a game "should" be played. Players of course don't always share that ideal. This can be a big problem, especially since it is the players that are right, not the designer.
 
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clearclaw wrote:
Can you comment on your design process?

It depends on what I'm designing. For these (and other) expansions, it's rather simple. If I have an idea for a map or other kind of expansion that's easy to create, I just do it and upload it. I generally assume that BGG members who download stuff know enough about their games to assess whether an expansions makes sense. If you're interested, print it out and try it. There is always a risk that it's crap, and if you think it is, you're welcome to tell me (it might result in improvements).
(For games it's different. When I'm designing, I usually build a computer model of it and playtest it a lot. The reason I haven't uploaded any of my finished games is that I hate writing rules.)

clearclaw wrote:
For me, getting a map to "production quality" takes at least a dozen solo plays

Downloading one of your maps then is a bit less risky than downloading one of mine... I'll remember that when you make one available.

CortexBomb wrote:
When I say "rubber stamp them" I mean release them, be that in hard copy for money, or as a download. To me, releasing a map is the same thing as saying "This map is polished and ready to go, please download and play it".

Well, for me there are differences between a commercial release into the public and making something freely available to a bunch of game geeks. You don't have to pay for my maps. They may be crap. So what, they're free...

CortexBomb wrote:
Putting together a map is an involved process, and while getting it right on a blind map assembly attempt is possible, I would not put a lot of faith in that as a solid design process.

I agree wholeheartedly, but if my maps don't work, I can still hang'em on my wall.

Clearclaw and CortexBomb,
you're taking this all far too seriously. Maybe you're designing maps that may eventually be published. Those maps need to be of professional quality. I, on the other, am just designing a few small maps for fun. I'm not planning to make money with them. In the contrary, I make them freely available to anyone who wants to try them. There is some risk involved, because my maps haven't been playtested, but you don't have to pay for them.

krainer wrote:
Well, here's the first step in your process: proofreading.
(...)

I'm not a native speaker. In Dutch that sentence wouldn't be ambiguous (at least not to me). It's corrected above. Thanks.
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Lajos wrote:
It depends on what I'm designing. For these (and other) expansions, it's rather simple. If I have an idea for a map or other kind of expansion that's easy to create, I just do it and upload it.


I think that's what we assumed.

Quote:
I generally assume that BGG members who download stuff know enough about their games to assess whether an expansions makes sense. If you're interested, print it out and try it. There is always a risk that it's crap, and if you think it is, you're welcome to tell me (it might result in improvements).


I expect that someone who provides a game design, be it professionally published or provided for free has made a reasonable effort to ensure that the game works as advertised and delivers an enjoyable game experience.

CortexBomb wrote:
When I say "rubber stamp them" I mean release them, be that in hard copy for money, or as a download. To me, releasing a map is the same thing as saying "This map is polished and ready to go, please download and play it".


That's also my normal assumption for a commercial or free map/game.

Quote:
Well, for me there are differences between a commercial release into the public and making something freely available to a bunch of game geeks. You don't have to pay for my maps. They may be crap. So what, they're free...


Here's where we part. Playing a free map involves a considerable investment. The map needs to be printed/mounted/produced, the rules understood, and a group persuaded to invest their time in playing that map instead of something else which is known to be good. This suggests a level of trust and an extension of that trust to you and your map. They trust you, the designer, to have posted something which is worthy of that investment of their time and effort, and of their trust of their play group. Nobody wants the following discussion:

Hey, let's play this neat map I found on the 'geek!
....
That was absolute crap! Why the bleep did you waste our time with this? I'm never playing another prototype game again!

Ideally you want your maps played, and played again and again. That means you not only have to earn their trust, you also have to reward it so that they want to give you their trust to you again, confident that you won't disappoint them. You have to give them the value, up front, so that when your N'th game comes out they're actively interested in pursuing it.

Quote:
Clearclaw and CortexBomb, you're taking this all far too seriously.


I think we're taking it more seriously than you are, but I don't think we're taking it too seriously, not at all.

Quote:
Maybe you're designing maps that may eventually be published.


FWLIW when I was designing AoS:Central America, AoS:London, and AoS:Sun I did not have commercial publication in mind. It was an idea yes, and you can find posts here on the 'geek to that effect, but my idea was mostly running off a hundred or so copies to sell for marginal profit and then posting the printable images here on the geek after 6 months or so (and you can find posts here on the 'geek to that effect as well). Then Ted came along and more or less said, "Hey, I'll handle printing, marketing, sales, distribution and everything and maybe even keep you in muffin money for half the year...whaddya think?" and I thought, "I do love muffins and hey, I get to be a lazy arse bastard and let him do all the work! Where do I sign?"

Quote:
Those maps need to be of professional quality.


For me, so do the free maps. AoS:Japan is an excellent map from Richard Irving. Very nicely and well designed. He has many other maps, and I've played several, that he hasn't released. Frankly, I don't think he thinks they're ready yet. His San Francisco map is especially interesting, really clever, but yeah, not quite ready yet. I look forward to his other maps when they are ready. AoS:North of England is another great free map, really good with 5 players. AoS:Cheshire is nothing to write home about, basically just AoS:Great Lakes in a different locality, but it works as written and is solid. On my side AoS:Romania as pictured under the AoS listing here is drawn prettily enough, but I don't think it works as drawn. It isn't horrible to be sure, the basics are there, but it is an ungainly and inconsistent beast that I wouldn't feel respectful, respectful of my players, to post/provide at this point. Ditto for AoS:Tasmania, a map that I've been working on in various ways since last year.. Also ditto for AoS:New South Wales, AoS:Lake Baikal, AoS:Essex, AoS:Mare Humoris, AoS:Laos, AoSacific Islands, etc etc etc. They're just not good enough yet to even release for free.

Quote:
I, on the other, am just designing a few small maps for fun.


So am I. So am I.

Quote:
I'm not planning to make money with them.


I effectively lose money on every copy of AoS:London/Sun sold and it isn't going to get better. Figure that a given map goes through ~100 design hours, 20 solo plays (90 minutes each), another 20 public playtests (2.5 hours each), another dozen or two external/blind playtests (~20 hours monitoring, answering questions, reviewing reports etc) for a total of around 200 hours spent to arrive at something worth playing...and if Ted consents to publish it I'll probably get a massively total lifetime royalty of a few hundred dollars. What's that, $1/hour if I'm really really lucky? You know, I could make better money for less effort checking the coin return slots of payphones for spare change. Heck, I'd be doing orders of magnitude better with a "Will work for food!" sign at the side of the road! There's no way I'm making money off these suckers. I'm pouring money down the drain with them on a daily and constant basis. I'd do better to bang my head against the wall until I see stars -- it would certainly be cheaper.

Quote:
In the contrary, I make them freely available to anyone who wants to try them. There is some risk involved, because my maps haven't been playtested, but you don't have to pay for them.


No, I merely have to invest in them personally, and persuade my friends to invest in them. That's quite a large cost and it is all up front.

Tell you what, here are the original rules for AoS:Romania. They're crap, I warn you now, solid crap with a few nice ideas I'm intending to exploit again elsewhere, but solid and unworkable crap as written.

Setup:

1) Do not place any goods cubes in Belgrade and Constantinople.
Place three goods cubes in each of the other white cities. Place
two goods cubes in each of the other black cities. Do not place
purple goods cubes on Bucharest.

2) Fill the goods Production Chart in the normal fashion. Do not
place yellow goods cubes on the Goods Production Chart for Belgrade
or Constantinople. Do not place purple goods cubes on the Goods
Production Chart for Bucharest.

2) Each player starts with $12.

3) The 3 track complex tiles from the Italy expansion may be used
but are not required.

Rules changes:

1) Player companies may issue up to 20 shares at $6 per share.

2) Up to 6 track tiles may be built per turn. Only compleat links
may be built and all track built on a single turn must be
contiguous. Cities may only occur at the ends of a given track
build, which includes New Cities placed by Urbanising players.
However any number of towns may be passed through in a track build.

3) The player taking the extortion action may extort $3/link for
making a delivery over other player's track. The other player(s)
will receive income on the income track as usual. If an extorted
player has insufficient funds to pay the extortion, then either
emergency shares may be sold at the reduced rate of $4/share, or the
player may sacrifice income at a rate of $1 of income per $1 of
extortion to pay the extortion fee.

4) The player with the Engineer action may lay two track tiles as
part of their build for free.

5) An urbanising player must announce which New City they wish to
place where before they urbanise. New Cities may not be placed
adjacent to other cities. The other players in player order may
then set bribe values to stop the urbanisation. To successfully
urbanise the active player must pay each other player their bribe
amount. If he does not pay their bribes, each other player pays
half their bribe amount rounded up to the bank and no urbanisation
occurs. Player negotiation is not allowed during the urbanisation
bribery phase.

6) Immediately upon each delivery the active player removes the top
cube from the matching space on the Goods Production Chart for
either the city the cube was delivered from or the city it was
delivered to and places it in that city on the board. The new goods
cube is immediately available for delivery. If there are no more
cubes on the Goods Production Chart to remove for both the source
and destination cities, then no new goods cube aris produced.

7) For the Production Action a player draws 6 goods cubes from the
goods cup and discards two of them back to the cup. The player then
selects a column on the Goods Production Chart with one or more
empty slots. The other players in player order may then set bribes
to prevent the production. To successfully produce the player must
pay each player their bribe amount and the empty slots in the
selected column are filled with the player's choice of goods cubes
from his selection. If he does not pay the bribes, each other
player pays half their bribe amount rounded up to the producing
player and no production occurs. This process is then repeated
until all the production cubes have been placed or every column with
empty slots has been selected once.

8) A number of eight sided dice equal to the number of players are
rolled for the Production Phase. During the Production Phase,
Belgrade produces on rolls of 1 and 2, and Constantinople produces
on rolls of 5 and 6. As each cube is moved from the Goods
Production Chart board the other cubes in those slots are moved up
and a new cube is drawn to fill the empty slot. No other cities
produce goods cubes during the Production phase.

8) The game is one turn longer and can support up to 8 players.


Yup, that there is crap. I think it can be rescued. It will take a lot of work, but it can be rescued. There are some good ideas in there. Some really crappy ideas too. It will take some weeding and pruning and hitting of things with large blunt heavy objects before it gets to even halfway playable, and then a good long solid dose of actual game development before it reaches something even worth hitting a solo test play. Please have at it. Now! You can start with the production rules which are inconsistent and contradictory.
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I have to add simply that I agree with JC virtually across the board on this one.

Taking the time to print maps, getting theme prepped to play, and then playing them over another AoS expansion, or another game period represents a significant investment, even for a 2 player map, but especially for a 3 player one. It's not the price in money, but the price in time.

The thing which bothers me isn't the fact that you are making prototypes available, but the fact that you are making them available without putting huge warning signs up to the effect that they are not playtested and fully ready to go. The reason why I have a problem with this is because for the casual end user of the site, there is not any differentiation between, say, your Front Line expansion and Richard Irving's Japan. They are both 3 player maps available for free, right? If anything, your map is probably going to jump out more as well, because it is higher in the files listing due to its newness. The real difference between the maps, of course, is that Richard's map was meticulously playtested, and works exceptionally well. This map, while it might work, is completely raw.

I don't have any particular problems with people making prototypes available, other people on the Geek have put up stuff like the Puerto Rico thing, and Australia (which actually isn't "up" per se because you have to contact the user directly for the map, as it is not ready to be uploaded yet...), which were explicitly still in prototype form. The fact that they mention this up front allows me to avoid those maps until they reach the point where they are finished. Other people, who enjoy playtesting, of course have the option to do so, but it is at their leisure.

I also, finally, have to mention the commercial aspect, only because you brought it up. For my end of this, my map is not really a commercial venture in any real respect, I am not even going to make the few hundred dollars that JC has. My intent is simply to design a map that I consider worthy of releasing, to self-release a very limited number at my cost, and then, subsequently, to free release it in PDF form 6 months down the line in its BGG entry. I am not going to make a dime on my map, and it will eventually be nothing more than another download as well. The reason why I am adament about making my map as polished as possible before making it available is:

1) I do not want people to associate me with unpolished game designs. (i.e.: personal pride).

2) I do not want to dilute the quality of my favourite game.

3) There are so many maps available now that asking people to invest their time in my project is a considerable one, even with the 3 player scale, which is a tough one. If my 1.0 map had been released as I initially drew it, then I fully expect that I would have received scathing Geekmails and terrible reviews, because as good as it looked on paper, it still needed a lot of work, a lot of work. It still needs work, 4 major and countless minor redraws later. And that is just the physical design of the map, let alone the extra rules!

4) Even in the realm of free downloads, which my map will eventually join, there are a lot of very good, well-playtested options. Richard Irving's Japan, and the Claude Parentau maps (India, Spain, New Zealand), as well as Northern England. These were all extensively playtested before they were released. On the two player end, the Alpha Centauri map was playtested before release, as was the Scotland one.

====================

I have to stress again, I'm not trying to jump on you about this, but I wanted to express my reservations about casual uploads now before more users start doing it. AoS is a fine game, and IMO, anything which is actually released for it, anywhere, has a mandate to at least be reasonably playtested, and solidly enjoyed by at least a few gaming groups before it is made available for public consumption. I am thrilled to see that you are a big enough fan of the game that you want to design maps, I'm in exactly the same boat, as is JC, as are a lot of other people. I just wanted to make it clear that IMO designing an expansion is not as simple as just drawing up a map, coming up with some rules, and saying "Have at it". It is a rigorous, playtesting heavy project filled with frustration, but hopefully, at the end, a lot of fun. Many things will fail to work correctly, and they'll be tweaked. Segments of the map will need a redraw, and that will be done. The final project and release should make it all worthwhile though. At least that's what I'm hoping ends up being the case for my map
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Marc P
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Interesting discussion. I see that Lajos has put a disclaimer at the top of this page, which is cool.

I am curious about something that hasn't been touched upon yet: Lajos has uploaded three maps in the past few weeks (actually within a day or two). One is for solo play (the first such, I believe), and one introduces a unique theme and mechanic (Frontline). These new maps have been uploaded, by the authors admission, without substantial playtesting. I'm wondering how much of the concern about this slapdash posting of "completed" maps and theme ideas has to do with getting scooped. I don't mean to torpedo the strong arguments made by JC and Michael, as I agree with the points made. But I would be a little concerned if I had been working hard on a unique map idea, and then someone basically threw something together and posted it first. In the arms race of biological science, where I work, this is known as getting scooped. A similar race for maps here would be ultimately bad for AoS.

Let me stress that I'm not trying to pile onto Lajos here, but that I do agree with the primary elements of JC's and Michael's arguments. I own a few of JC's maps, and I've playtested Michael's Montreal map, and I'm impressed with their additions to the AoS world. But I also like the ideas in the Iceland and Frontline maps, and it would be nice if they could be better developed.
 
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Michael Webb
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Marc,

I can only speak for myself, but I have no maps in design that are even vaguely similar to anything that Lajos is doing here. My objections to the nature of his uploads is purely contained in the arguments above.


I might add that at this point my objections have largely been taken care of: Lajos has added red print to the top of each of his the game entry pages warning prospective downloaders that the game is a prototype. This greatly palliates my concerns, and I applaud his decision in this case.

I have also changed the way the game entries look on my Geeklist, the Age of Steam list, which previously had these games up, but which neglected to list stuff like Puerto Rico and Australia because of their prototype status. From here on out, I will have a final entry on the list which lists current prototypes and links to information on them, at the point in time in which a designer feels the game is sufficiently ready to go, and has been revised sufficiently, then I will put a proper entry in.

I wish Lajos nothing but the best with his designs here, and I hope he gets plenty of playtesters, particularly the kind who are ready to write up session reports for him.
 
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Mark Crane
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I would imagine that if crappy maps are released, their quality will become evident in future geeklists and discussions. There are other mechanisms as well, such as the "thumbs up" indicator, that can also assist users with making choices about map quality. I fully agree that unfinished, under-tested prototypes should be labeled as such, but I am less worried, even as a neophyte, about the map pool being unduly deleted by sub-par entries for the aforementioned reasons. I suppose that the current "free aos maps list" could also be relabeled as "Free AoS Maps Worth Playing" or something similar. I am slightly concerned that the two engaged responses to this free map may have the more deleterious effect, in the long run, of discouraging map creation, even undertested maps. That would probably be more damaging in the long run than a glut of crappy maps, in my opinion. I am a marginal member and player at best, so take this for what it is worth.
 
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Michael Webb
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I can understand your concerns Mark, and to a large degree I share them. I am obviously one of the engaged posters that you refer to, but I also am worried about people being overly discouraged about map creation, and I have to emphasise, that is not my intent here. I heartily encourage people to create new maps, and to explore new ideas.

I have tried to be diplomatic in my responses, and my dialogue here, because I appreciate what Lajos is doing, and why he is doing it. When I augmented my Geeklist to only have finished maps, and posted my concerns here, I knew full well that I could easily come across as harshly critiquing the idea of fan map creation in general, and that is not my intent at all.

The thing that I do encourage heartily is playtesting, at least in a rigorous solo manner, of any idea before it is posted on the Geek. Solo playtests, at least, will make serious problems with any map evident, and they are something that anyone can do prior to posting a file.

The other thing I encourage is the kind of explicit labelling that Lajos has made standard on his entries...let people know that your new map is a prototype, because it will do two things:

1) It will keep people away who are not interested in playtesting. Some people love doing it, other people don't have the time. I had the time to playtest Iceland a couple of times, but I do not have it for multi-player maps.

2) It will encourage people to give the designer feedback and to post session reports, which will help the design process.
 
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John Bohrer
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I personally have enjoyed seeing Lajos' expansion maps, he is very creative. I do not see any necessity to label them 'Prototypes - undeveloped' in large red letters.

Some of the 'undeveloped' maps I have seen are better, in my humble opinion, than some of the 'developed' free downloadable print and play expansions. I see no need to artificially segregate these free, downloadable print and play maps into different groups. If an author wishes to provide disclaimers as to playtesting, development, or any other factors, then that is their decision.

Physically produced and sold 'hardcopy' maps are a different story, as one might think. I have recently played a couple of fine new maps by Ted Alspach, due out this year. Excellent work. The Steam Brothers set the 'Gold Standard' for AoS maps in terms of development/playtesting, with some expansions perfected and polished for over a year or two before they are produced for sale to the public. The new maps by Alban Viard and Ludovic Gimet are very creative, nicely done expansions. It is important that the commercially sold maps be 'fully baked'. This is not the case with the free downloadable print and play expansions. All the elements (rules, maps, etc.) of these PNP freebies are freely available for inspection before printing, it is the user's decision to explore them further.

So, Lajos, as far as I am concerned, please feel free to create and upload your expansions. I find them interesting. And have fun!

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John
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J C Lawrence
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slowcorner wrote:
I'm wondering how much of the concern about this slapdash posting of "completed" maps and theme ideas has to do with getting scooped.


Frankly, I'd have ~20 maps out tomorrow if I carried every new notion I've got somewhere in the pipeline all the way to a finished map. Getting ideas and even larval designs for maps is not a problem. That's the reall really easy bit. Making them into working games is not so easy.
 
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