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Serica: Plains of Dust» Forums » Rules

Subject: Offsetting Han empire's disadvantages rss

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Andrew
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I played a game with my buddy and we concluded that while the mix of deckbuilding and tableau-building was very entertaining, there were some major flaws that broke the game:

1) Not enough incentive to build deck -- roman player is better off with a 4-6 card deck as long as he's found some that work for him.
2) Han player has no defense against bandits if the Roman player isn't shipping goods. In my case, I focused on building buildings so Han wasn't getting the roman goods he needed to protect himself. 

Perhaps a variant could be added that gives Han an advantage in the area of shipping? I'm thinking something like 'all shipped Han goods are worth an additional VP compared to their value' to incentive shipping despite the risk. In effect, make the game more asymmetrical. The other option would be some way to require the Roman player to ship, but that makes less sense to me.

Or, possible add in more cards that are defense and han-oriented?

A
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todd sanders
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interesting ideas. i will think about them and try some playtests. thanks.
 
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Andrew
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Love the game, we would love to see some tweaks so that we continue to play it. I would like to play as the Han empire to see if I can gain a victory that way.
 
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Joy Cohn
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I've had that same issue when playing. Nobody sends caravans in the early game if there's bandits about.

This kind of rambles. Apologies, I broke my glasses and I'm not able to edit this well. Questions and requests for clarification are welcome.

I considered a couple of things. One, stack the deck - put all the bandits in the second half of the deck. Alternately, it would be interesting to see bandits with a price tag. Romans have their soldiers, etc, the Han have their courts. Could make the bandits a 'Han' goods resource purchased with Han blocks. And add some Vatican cards to balance it out a bit for the Romans. And sure, where does one stuff extra cards in a 54 card deck? Oh, wait. What about a Vatican card to replace the block conversion card?

The bandits wouldn't strike until the card was purchased and placed in a player's empire. IOW, treat them as mercenaries. I'll see what that does to my own game play.

Perhaps what is missing is the realization is the game is all about the caravans. Without caravans, there is no point to the game. And I'm going to use some camel meeples I bought from Meeple source to see how well this works.

Think of the caravans as a conveyor belt, where they all keep moving back and forth. Six in total, on the three tracks. It doesn't need to be a colored pawn if one has their cargo in the right spot (1, 2, or 3), once it gets to the other end, it's reloaded with the cargo coming back. So let's say the first turn, start a caravan at each end, even if it's empty. Keep them running at all times, as though they carry goods from other sources, and not just our own. Maybe I'll end up adding more caravan cargo spots so that there can be something for more than three caravans. Roman cargo would go one way, with Han cargo passing them along the way. Since the camels turn around and make their way back, with all six camels in play, it matters not what color they are.

Give them three turns to start sending at least some goods. After that, if no one has goods in transit, the game is over ( this is an additional game end condition ). If there are no caravans and no goods, there is no point to the game and it's over.

And Todd - this is a beautiful game. Thank you!
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todd sanders
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well i like the idea of placing the bandits further down in the deck. they then become a sort of event you have to contend with after you begin building your empire.

when i designed this game I never saw the Han side being weaker than the Roman side though this is something now players comment on.

the caravan idea is good. i had wanted originally this push and pull between cooperating on the caravans and competing for the empire building. that unbalance interested me.

please do try out your caravan idea and let me know how it goes. i would be very curious to see how the game feels. the end game condition in this way is interesting.

having it be a continuing trade rout could offer a way to introduce a 3rd player (North Africa) into the game and add another deck in as well for them
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todd sanders
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i don't have as much design time lately as i once did but both of your comments here really make me want to go back and revisit the rules after being a game designer several more years now. some really good ideas here!
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Andrew
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Do it, and I will playtest!
 
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Joy Cohn
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Thanks, I'll indeed playtest that and let you know.

The following ideas require essentially a new game.

I definitely like the third player idea, but you'll need to create mats, one for each player. That would lend itself to more players. The cards would be built out from each player's mat, to the right. The bins and colors would be moved from the ends of the board to their own mat.

If you want to leave it at three players, give two of the color blocks to the North African player. That requires more of an interaction between players. And of course, a different map. Ah.

The Romans would still produce the wine and glassware, the Han makes silk and spices. The African player can make ivory and gold with the white and yellow blocks, conveniently taking one color from each of the Han and Roman boards.

If you want more than three players, you'll need more colored blocks with different products.

The cards could be reconfigured to add items from the AP, but where do the extra cards come from?

My issue with the bandits in the deck is that these cards effect the game differently, and they work with a different mechanism in the crossroads. And putting the bandit cards in the second half of the desk creates a possibility where the crossroads could contain more than one bandit card.

I'm not saying not to have bandits, but rather to create a new method to trigger bandits, by some randomizer. Perhaps once any player gets to a certain place in the victory points track, roll 1D6 for each caravan and a bandit strike a caravan with a 1 in six chance. Further out, 2 in six, etc. Towards the end, say 50% chance of a bandit. By then, the camels are more fortified and perhaps invincible.

And then convert the bandit cards to African player's cards.

I'll play with the original idea first and see what works. Thanks for listening.
 
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Joy Cohn
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If I may offer, when this were built out to six players, the other three would be Maurya, Nihon, and Rus (India, Japan and Russia).
 
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todd sanders
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yes though less documentation there in terms of maps and such. the spice road end points were seemingly rome and beijing. back to some more research. i think i would never go more than 3 players though. 3 presents a nice push and pull struggle. 4 would make the game a lot longer
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Andrew
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dumarest123 wrote:
yes though less documentation there in terms of maps and such. the spice road end points were seemingly rome and beijing. back to some more research. i think i would never go more than 3 players though. 3 presents a nice push and pull struggle. 4 would make the game a lot longer


I appreciate the two-player aspect, personally -- I think the game could be fixed to still be asymmetrical without being unbalanced.
 
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Joy Cohn
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I think I can offer information to justify Africa:

www.ipekyollari.net/SilkSpiceIncenseRoutes.htm
 
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Joy Cohn
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Well, we played this evening. We didn't finish, as we had other committments, but I can tell you that keeping track of which camel goes where is hard, without having some space to corral them before sending them back. The reason for the 'interesting idea, didnae work' result is because the cameeples were falling down a lot and getting turned around.

I stacked the bandits in the second half of the deck, and towards the end of the time we played, shortly after this picture, we'd run out of stamina and we'd gotten ourselves boxed in with all the soldiers in the crossroads, and he'd just about to purchase enough of my goods to buy them.

I'm going to think about this some more. Stacking the deck to get the bandit cards further down is harder than it sounds like.

I still want to try my idea where the bandit cards are like mercenaries, which gives the Han Dynasty something to purchase, sooner. Here, we'd played around five turns and he was just getting to the point where he could buy the Roman soldiers.

As is, it's still stacked against the Han.


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