Wade Broadhead
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So I'm working on a hybrid euro/exploration, slightly civ-light game called Old World, New World. It's an attempt to blend euro style role selection mechanism (a la San Juan) with area movement, hidden board exploration, then finally intensification/empire/route building with players shipping goods to the New World they just discovered, and shipping valuable resources back they have just harvested.

Anyway...
One role to be selected each turn is "Tech advance" and I have 4 simple categories with three "steps".
Naval, economic, engineering, and manpower

They are pretty straightforward. When a player takes the tech advance role, they acquire the step one ability (i.e. faster ships, better turn income, etc). All players can acquire all steps in any of the 4 areas, but the number of turns and difficulty getting the role each turn will limit the amount of tech advances per game.
My question is what other interesting ideas are there for simple tech trees? I've thought of ideas like Antike where the first one in might get a bonus, or that only 2 players can acquire any path or area. Perhaps people are allowed to follow only 2 paths.

My current idea is OK, but basic. I wanted to solicit feedback from this great uber BGG brain of experience to see if I could improve the mechanism. Any ideas for deliciously interesting decisions concerning tech advances would be welcome.

Thanks in advance.

 
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Byron Collins
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The people contributing to wikipedia have this to say about tech trees: This was somewhat interesting, but mostly focused on computer games:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tech_tree

From a board game perspective, you could approach your tech tree in many different ways. As you mention, your basic approach is just that... basic. No problem with that, but to make it more interesting, consider first studying how various games (computer and board) approach tech trees and advancing a player's units, armies, economies, etc... look at civilization and age of empires to name a couple. Determine what elements of existing systems you like, and then develop your own unique system. Find what is missing from existing tech tree systems.

Some considerations...
Consider limiting the branches to distinct paths, where if you choose one tech, other branches are closed off for that game. This makes choices more tactical in nature (which path to choose, etc.). Consider introducing a randomness to techs by using cards or dice-- try to develop X, end up with Y, etc.... one obscure example that comes to mind is 3M... in trying to develop the strongest adhesive, they ended up with post-it notes. Not the strongest adhesive, but new adhesive technology nonetheless. Consider techs that are not fixed bonuses... for example, a player successfully develops technology "A (+x)" which provides a movement bonus to all naval ships of x. The player then rolls for x to determine what the bonus is. In this way, successfully developed techs change with each game.

Just some thoughts... good luck with your project!

-BJC
 
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Alexander B.
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What I like in tech trees is synergy. I like it that when I invest in one tech, it helps other techs to be better. There are a lot of ways to do this, but a big part of the fun for any game like this for me, is to have a "build" that I feel is "clever" and it is hard for me to do this if the only real choice is what branches I'd like to go for.
 
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Re: Interesting or at least better than average Tech Tree Id
While it is a computer game, Sword of the Stars does two things that I am finding interesting. First, each race has "exclusive" technologies that only they can build. That's not all that interesting in your case. The second thing it does is that techs outside the "core" have a probability of being present.

In a board game, I can see this being implemented by having tech cards. Shuffle them up and leave a few out of the game. This will have the effect of shaking each game up a bit so you can't count on tech X actually appearing.
 
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Wade Broadhead
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Thanks everyone, it's tough to develop a mechanism that is simple, effects game play, creates agonizing decisions, and does not hinder gameplay or make the game fiddly or overly difficult to learn.

Thinking about some of your ideas last night I came up with a solution for my particular game. Presently, I have 4 tech trees with 3 "tiers" each. I also have 4 "resources" that are discovered on the New World map and are shipped back for varying amounts of money and 1 VP.
I thought I could combined an intensification/tech tree. So players can select traditional tech advances OR intensification. Intesification would simply be +1VP additional for every spice or gold etc returned to the Old World, or +2VP per building constructed in the New World. Do you intensify your markets for VPs and try to get goods back or upgrade your working capacities and units?

I thought about a mechanism where by a player selects the Technology Advance role for the turn, then pays 4$ to pull 2 chits out of a bag that are tech advances. The player is allowed to select one of these advancments, and retruns the other to the bag. Players can pay an additional 4$ to grab an additional 3rd chit but is only ever allowed to keep one. This way there is a random element, and it allows players to somewhat specialize in a technology or intensification. $8 depending on the time of the game, may, or may not, be alot of money to spend for that extra chance.

I like the idea from Conquest of Paradise and others of throwing money and time at an issue but never really being sure what the creative types will actually discover or invent.

Of course there would be caps on techs so one person does not get +15 VP per resources returned or a ship that trvaels 10 spaces a turn when everyone is only going 2.

Thanks for the ideas, and let me know if anyone likes this particular idea. I'm sure it will be too random for some. The playtests were far TOO deterministic in my opinion, so adding a decent cost to the role as well as a element of chance, and choices to intesify VP return rate vs simple unit upgrades should help, without adding any undue confusion or complication.
 
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Kevin McPartland
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Quote:
I like the idea from Conquest of Paradise and others of throwing money and time at an issue but never really being sure what the creative types will actually discover or invent.


Yes, I took this to the extreme on CoP: there is no tech tree at all! This is to simulate the nature of Polynesian technology: there are not many ideas that built on others. This building of ideas did occur with their development of double-hulled, ocean-going canoes; but most of these technological advances occured before the time frame of the game.

Others have suggested checking out other games' tech tree mechanics, and I agree. One of my favorites is from Hitler's War. Players may choose to invest their resources in r&d, in any of several items (everything from tanks and infantry weapons to missles and the atom bomb). As you push your counters (representing r&d investment) up the chart, you have a greater chance of success. You can choose to trigger the tech advance whenever you want, but the lower you are on the chart, the greater the chance of catastrophic failure.

Another cool idea from that game is the way other players get advantages in r&d when an opponent has advanced beyond them. Essentially, they are assumed to be stealing ideas from captured enemy weapons.

Another thought is to link your advances to actual tech advances of the Age of Discovery. It's just more fun to invent (for example) "copper sheathed hulls" than "ship tech level two".

Kevin
 
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Wade Broadhead
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Good ideas Kevin. I'm exicted to finally have a lot of innovative ideas for tech advances that really "spice up" the game.

Of course researching real advances is a great idea. I had planned on in the future once I got the tech style and mechanic down to my liking. I migth need solicit good 'names' for the types of advances.
(looks I'll be heading abck to teh lirbabry for research).

"Stealing" advances was also something that occured to me, as an interaction of the tech tree and area movement on the board. I had some ideas for trade now that I have a way to intesify your VP return for some goods. Gold may be worth more to you and tobacco to me, so trading (also you may not have found any gold during your discovery) the goods and giving VP for trades might be a good idea. I was thinking if a ship, or perhaps one of the character types, visits a neighbors port they can pay to bribe one tech away from an opponent, but must return back to their home port before it can be used. Time consuming but perhaps worth it. Granted one can only get three ships max, and those should be efficently ferrying goods back (or protecting) from the New World.

Thanks again. Now to figure out how to make nice new simple gameboard map!
 
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Another idea, is along the lines of another computer game, Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon. The way technologies are handled is they come up as inventions that the characters bid on. The winner gets exclusive rights to that invention and the advantage it gives for a set number of years / turns. I know you originally mentioned that all tech levels are available to all players, one twist could be that the first person to research a tech gets the advantage for a couple of turns, but then the information becomes common knowledge and all players get the advantage akin to technology theft. Or another idea is to have the set tech tree but have other technologies come up through the game that could be bid on.

Good luck.

Bob
 
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Wade Broadhead
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Cool ideas. I really like the first person in receives the tech that disseminates to all after perhaps 2-4 turns. The challenge is the balance. I already have a lot going on, and I don't want the tech race to be a game onto itself, but rather compliment the colonization and and discovery heart of the game. The mechanic you described may be fiddly and difficult to "manage" if there is a lot of other items already being tracked on the board, but I suppose it’s a challenge that requires an innovative design solution.
Keep the good ideas coming.

An idea I did have that involves bidding was before the game began you could bid on what I would call a national characteristics, something a little like Vinci. If 4 players were involved, there would be 8 traits that added VP to discovery, building, trading, etc. You would be bidding on national predispositions and your nations exclusive "specialty". There would be 4 costs on each one. The first player must pay the high cost, and then the second player pays the second, etc on down. It would be a fun gamble or "strategy" from onset of the game. You may pay for a tobacco disposition/strong tobacco market, and come to find out your part of the world doesn't contain much tobacco. Or choose a 'Builders Knack' disposition that gives you extra VP per building you construct, sending you into construction frenzy in the New World. Or you could start off with "None" and use your starting money to save up for a second ship to increase your shipping efficiency. I'm really wanting the difficulty to come with the strategic choices and not the game play itself. I think I have quite a few good ideas now.
 
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Wade,

You mentioned a character that can 'visit other ports', perhaps stealing a tech and taking it to the home port for use... You also mention not wanting a tech tree race to be the focus of the game... that gave me an idea.....

If your game is character-driven, perhaps you could create a variety of 'inventor/scientist' characters. You could have different scientists that are experts in different areas: Naval, Economics, etc... There's your tree-- in the form of a set of characters--- you may fire them or hire them for a set cost per turn. These characters possess the skills in science and technology to come up with new ideas for you-- you as a player do not have to choose a tech path, and cannot. Rather, you pick and hire an inventor and give him general projects to work on (as outlined by the rules). You may buy or employ additional scientists (of the same specialty) for additional cost, and better chances of development. The 'tech tree' goes away as such, and only works in the background of the rules, to support these characters.

How would this work?...

Here's an example: As a player, you declare (to your inventors and other players) "I want to research better hull integrity" (or some other objective improvement an explorer would want). That sets your inventors to work on 'hull integrity tier 1' or the first tier of that tech. Each turn, a roll determines whether or not the inventor is successful in developing "hull integrity tier 1". Also, you may not get exactly what you want... for instance, make the roll decisive on both extremes of the die... rolls in the middle of a six-sided die (2-5) are unsuccessful. A roll of 6 develops the tech you were looking for, in this case, 'hull integrity 1', and you receive the chit for it. A roll of 1 develops a random tech within the same specialty while 'trying' to develop hull integrity.

In WWII and beyond, the top German scientists were highly sought after- some were even captured and forced to work for the enemy. I believe there are many examples of this throughout history. Your game could model it fairly easily. If you employ multiple inventors, you receive multiple dice to roll with (1 per inventor, and only 1 tech can be developed per turn). This also works in your element of choice. Say two inventors roll two dice as 1, and 6. Two different techs are developed that turn... however, the player may only pick one to keep.... If an 'inventor/scientist' character is say, captured in your game, the capturing player receives all techs that inventor has come up with.

Fairly simple, directed at a particular tech that you may or may not receive, adds choice, adds chance, and adds 'character' to the game with the protection and employment of inventors/scientists (rather than just looking at a list or block of techs, or drawing a card). It's mostly in the background of the game, since it's just one roll per turn, and you declare what you're trying for until you get it. You could have players alter what they're trying to develop, but I would enforce a penalty of 'no tech rolls' for 1 turn if the player changes their technology goals. It would also be entertaining as the other player to see your opponent hire and fire inventors for failing development rolls.

-BJC
 
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Wade Broadhead
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Brilliant ideas. Thanks a ton.
Since the game has an overall economy (money from roles selected, goods returned from the New World) one could purchase inventors for a sizable fee, and each inventor improves the chance of success of a particular tech being discovered. I also like the idea of accidentally discovering something else. I'm not sure the game has enough time or room for tech trees long enough for the exact method you described (which I love), but a person could be allowed to pull two tech chits from a bag with the normal Tech Role, and one additional for each inventor present. That way the character's bonus builds over time.

I'm still drawn to the idea of characters that effect game play that are actually "out in play" and must be protected. It's like abstract Euro idea mechanics with-legs. I have an envoy, merchant, and botanist already. Your inventor idea is great!

I think what I'm also going to do is have different advances have a +2 etc on them, so although the player chooses which advance, he has to weight the additional cost of the particular advance. Some advances I want people to get quickly, "naval-faster ships" others increase VP payout and need to be more expensive.

Still trying to balance the role selection vs a normal area movement / economic game. It's tough but fun! So much good info, time to play test again!
 
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Re: Interesting or at least better than average Tech Tree Id
A question that occurred to me while reading this post: How long is a turn? If the game starts with the very beginning of exploration of the New World (think Columbus), then it could be years between each turn. Just look how long it took the other major powers to start exploring after Columbus' voyages. The length of the turn will influence how much tech could be developed per turn and how long it would take for the information to disseminate to the rival nations. If the turns represent six months (later in the era, when you would voyage over in one season and return in another), then it could take quite a while for the new discoveries to disseminate. If then turns represent a decade each (reasonable for the early exploration efforts) then new tech would disseminate in a turn or two.

On a related note, have you considered variable lengths for your turns, much like Sid Meyer's Civilization had? The turns would start out a decade long in the beginning, and would decrease to as little as a season in the later colonial period. This would represent the increasing interest in the New World by the various European powers as time went on, without having long periods of downtime for the powers that started later.
 
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Wade Broadhead
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More great ideas. I have some good alternatives now. Each turn is about 2-3 weeks, and the game is role selection driven (think San Juan), so players fight for the "tech role". I don't want dissemination of ideas, although between the last few posts I think there is some amazing ideas for a pretty cool and interesting tech system that involves dissemination and chance. I may have to re-evaulate my whole system!

I've also added national characteristics. Since my game is set in 'Historical Fiction', each nation can play a different "role" each game. Before the game begins each player draws 2 national characteristic chits and chooses one and pays 10$. They can do this twice (for $10) or pass for a third go but the this opportunity costs $16. Players start with $30 so this can eat most of your starting money quickly. The advantages can either help in game or help VP payout at the end of the game. They are kept secret till they are used, or all game, in the case of VP payout advantages. In this way people have "strategies" above and beyond the regular game play. One characteristic might have a "builder knack" and the player receives +1 VP per building in the New World at games end. Also, a player may refuse to buy any characteristics and use the initial money to out-intensify his opponents.


 
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