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Subject: WIP: Spiders & Spymasters rss

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Jeremy Stoltzfus
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Note: I posted this in the other design forum first, before realizing this is where it probably should have gone



Stats
2-4 players
Competitive Worker Placement / Wargame hybrid
Mechanics: Area control, worker placement, bidding, bluffing
Playtime: 60 minutes

The gist
2 to 4 players will choose a spymaster (Gao the Spider, Richeleu the Sparrow, Sir Francis the Rat, or Grigori the Snake) and attempt to manipulate the results of a war between 5 warring factions, while secretly bidding Influence on the outcome.

On a player's turn
The game will consist of 6 turns consisting of a few phases:

Conspiracy Phase
Players will start the game with 5 Influence tokens with varying values (3, 2, 1, <skull>, <skull> ). During this phase, they will place 1 of these Tokens secretly (face-down) on a Faction. The object is to match the highest tokens with Factions who end the game controlling the most territory. The skull tokens serve as bluff tokens - if any enemy attempts to spy on you and reveal one of your tokens, they better hope it's not a skull.

Espionage Phase
Players will alternate placing Spies onto a Faction's council. These spies are used during the Faction Phase to control the actions of these Factions.

Faction Phase
Each Faction will have a Council consisting of 3 positions, each corresponding to an action a player can control:

* Master of Coin: This position allows a player to either skim Gold off the top to use for his own benefit, or to put that towards more armies for this Faction.

* Marshall: This position allows a player to raise additional armies for a Faction and distribute them.

* Lord: This position allows a player to make an attack with this Faction using any troops that have been raised.

Intrigue Phase
During this phase, each player will have the opportunity to buy an Intrigue Card with various effects. Anything from killing an enemy spy or revealing an enemy Influence Token, to buying a Dragon to terrorize a Faction.

**Scoring/End Game**
At the end of 6 turns, players will score points for any Intrigue Tokens placed on one of the top 3 Factions (determined by how much land they control). If an Intrigue Token remains unrevealed, it is worth double.

That's the gist of it. Any feedback is welcome and appreciated!

Full Rules:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sSoDNzm3m92W1sFHuVFdevfZ...

Cards:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mQtqcWFTseqnzINaWfx0XDUN...

Board: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-NUl0oEvyNAZ2cxNzZsaE5BS2M...
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Charles Ward
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Sounds good, I will keep an eye on this one. Great title.
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Jeremy Stoltzfus
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Thanks! If you're a Game of Thrones fan, you'll probably recognize the title was inspired by the character Varys. In fact, the whole theme was inspired by the spymasters from those books and - in turn - the historical figures who were likely inspirations for those characters.

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Jim McCollum
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Looks cool. I like the way it's about backing the most successful faction rather than playing as a faction. That's similar to King of Siam, but your game has a ton of other differences.
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Jeremy Stoltzfus
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Awesome, thanks for mentioning King of Siam, I'm going to have to check it out. I did a fair amount of research to find similar games but that one did not come up. The closest I had found was Age of Gods.

Side note: it looks like there's an upcoming re-implementation. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/172996/king-dead
 
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Craig C
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Looks like fun. The subject interests me as well, and my game idea, though still in its Excel infancy, has many similarities.

One thing I looked at incorporating was along the lines of semi-random events that occurred in the various lands, and opportunities players would have to influence their outcomes. Have you thought about doing something along those lines in this game?

The key to being a great spymaster is being able to turn events in your favor, after all. ninja
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Jeremy Stoltzfus
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Cool! Yeah, I implemented something kinda like that. Basically, you're able to draft a card from a limited pool of events and have them occur. So for example, a "Leper" card might come up in the pool, which a player would be able to hire (draft) and send to a land and reduce all their armies to 1 strength.

So it's similar to what you described in that they appear randomly in the pool, and you're able to hire them and direct their effects.
 
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Craig C
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Neat. Stuff like that really adds to the game, I think, because it gives the sense of being in an active world and not one that just sits still and waits for you to influence it.

How do the different territories in your factions' kingdoms work? Do armies get raised in particular areas and move around prior to attacking, or are they just raised in the faction's kingdom in general?

I apologize if all this is in the rules; I can't open the docs at work.
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Jeremy Stoltzfus
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Yeah, totally agree.

So raising, moving, allocating, and attacking with Armies works like this:

Basically, the player who controls a Faction's Marshall (via a spy in their council) decides where to muster any new armies, if he decides to muster any at all.

The player who controls a Faction's Lord can move a number of units from one province to another, leading to an attack if moving into enemy territory.

The third council role is a Master of Coin. He skims gold off the top and sends it back to you. As the spy master, you can then use that gold to hire mercenary units (via the cards I mentioned earlier) and place them wherever you'd like.

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Craig C
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Sounds cool. And the mercs fight for whichever side you choose, I assume?

Is there ever a situation where there aren't enough players to control every part of every faction, and if so, what happens then? Do uncontrolled marshalls auto-generate troops somewhere, etc.?
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Jeremy Stoltzfus
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Yep, there's a lot of situations like that, especially early in the game. How it works is that there's a hierarchy Master of Coin < Marshall < Lord (left to right on the board). Uncontrolled council actions are delegated to the next position up the chain (to the right). If there are no spies higher up the chain, they do nothing. So if you have a spy in the Lord's council seat, and the other two are vacant, you get to do all three.

And yeah, the mercenaries fight for whichever side you choose.
 
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Craig C
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Interesting. It'd be neat, but challenging to implement, if uncontrolled factions had some set actions they'd take. That could motivate the players to start spending influence there and steer that faction's behavior.
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Jeremy Stoltzfus
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Yeah totally. I experimented with that but found that it upped the complexity significantly and kinda reduced the interactivity for players. If I could find a good implementation it would be very cool, though.
 
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Craig C
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jerdude wrote:
Yeah totally. I experimented with that but found that it upped the complexity significantly and kinda reduced the interactivity for players. If I could find a good implementation it would be very cool, though.


One potential issue with some factions sitting idle is players could back a faction and pretty much ensure it could dominate an idle neighbor. Have you run into this in any of your testing, or is it pretty much a non-issue?
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Jeremy Stoltzfus
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It hasn't really been an issue, but it's a great point. On turn one at least 6 Spies are going down, and there are only 5 factions. So typically each Faction is able to do something right from the start.
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Craig C
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jerdude wrote:
It hasn't really been an issue, but it's a great point. On turn one at least 6 Spies are going down, and there are only 5 factions. So typically each Faction is able to do something right from the start.


It's an unlikely scenario, to be sure, but something you might think about. I can envision a couple playtesters who set out to break the game agreeing to start on opposite ends of the map from each other, each build up a faction and crush their neighbors, and then the game would devolve into a wargame instead of the kind of intrigue you're looking for, which would be a shame.
 
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Jeremy Stoltzfus
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Yeah, I hear you. It's something I'll certainly look out for, but there's a few counter balances that make that style of play very disadvantageous.

Plus, even if they did choose to play that way, the game should still play as expected since you're forced to back at least three factions each. So even if 2 Factions crush all their neighbors, the victory will come down to which player backed the LEAST crushed of the remaining factions, and which player concealed his bids successfully.

Edit: Not trying to be defensive here, you make a great point and thinking through these scenarios is very helpful!
 
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Craig C
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Gotcha. If you have to back three, it can mitigate that issue, and even in the other scenario there'd still be incentive to send your spies to the other player's faction and try to mess with them, or beef up the factions in between to halt the other player's advance.

It's an unlikely scenario, but could be possible, so I thought it'd be good to think about.

And I don't think you're being defensive. You're just answering my question.
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