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Subject: Path to Design Part Five: Numerai and advisors rss

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Travis R. Chance
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In my first post of this series, I shared my love of Game of Thrones, citing in specific the story of Daenerys. Another element of these books that I quite admire is how subtle the magical and supernatural are within a primarily medieval/feudal world. I wanted to capture this as well in Path of Light and Shadow. But rather than dragons and wizards, I chose to imbue the fantastical upon a single and solemn race of my own: the Numerai.

Long ago, before the time of man, the Numerai were the only sentient beings in all the realms. They thrived in great cities unlike any seen before or after. Theirs was a way of wisdom, tied closely to the world itself. They commanded forces beyond the veil of the natural world, god-like and divine even unto themselves.



But like all great empires, time moved on from them. The world changed and man sprung forth in throngs. The Numerai abandoned one another, fleeing their cities, which now lay in forgotten ruin. One by one, their numbers dwindled. And one by one, they forgot their names, their ways, and their wonder. Now only a few remain, many enslaved by the Hordes for crude labor. They wander the realms without purpose or memory, awaiting to be awakened.


WANDERERS


Unlike the other factions that can be recruited throughout the game, the Numerai have but a single type of unit that can be found. Each of the four realms has a majority faction, a median faction, and the a small number of Numerai within their realm decks.



At a glance, the Wanderer is a powerful card with its above average labor and strength. Like the Halax, a player can spend any combination of labor and/or strength to promote the Wanderer. This cost is a whopping six, double that of the Halax basic units, and triple of the other three factions basic cards. However, unlike ALL of the other factions, instead of promoting into a specific elite unit, the player will draw a random Legendary Numerai. Each one of these is unique, powerful, and offers a different ability based on your moral choices in the game.

Thematically, players are awakening the wanderers to recall their former selves. In doing so, they gain the loyalty and otherworldly might of the Numerai. The random draw reinforces the notions of the recruiting mechanism, while still offering a very powerful addition to your empire.



Each Legend awakened scores 3 influence at the end of the game, which is just a single point less that the two-step promotion of the unique units of other factions. But the differences do not end here. The Numerai have no faction specific structures. Their wisdom was forgotten, their marvels lost. Lastly, the Numerai are the only faction to incentivize switching your moral compass entirely. A heavy Numerai strategy can altogether forego trying to reach the pinnacle of cruelty or mercy, instead focusing on how to best utilize their two different abilities.



In the end, the Numerai are more than just massive purple-skinned ancients. They add not only a touch of the unreal, but also unique opportunities and abilities that make each game more memorable for the players that summon their great power.


ADVISORS


We have just two more elements to cover here in this last article before launch. It only makes sense to segue way from one highly diverse element of the game to another: advisors.

At the start of each game, each player will be given four Trusted Followers, Three Steadfast Conscripts, and a unique advisor. This is my homage to Jorah Mormont, Daenerys’ consul and confidant. Players will need guidance to succeed at the aims, after all.

Advisors are non-faction specific. This means they cannot be promoted. They can, however, be culled. Mechanically, they provide each player with a slight asymmetry in the form of a unique ability. These abilities will also often help players to develop an early strategy.

For example, the Translator functions as a wild for building structures, lifting the restriction of having a specific unit. This can be used for a build-heavy strategy. It could be used for a Hordes conquer strategy, helping to alleviate their inherent weakness at building. Or perhaps you are aided by the Recruiter, which happens to be excellent at adding powerful Numerai to your empire.



Other advisors are more straightforward, offering generally useful abilities, like the Tactician. This advisor is another unit with DEFEND, and a stronger one at that. Then there’s the Sellsword, eager to conquer with a useful die mitigation ability.



Finally, there are some advisors with powerful action abilities. When using a card with a specific action ability, you are unable to make use of the card’s labor or strength. While this might seem like a high cost at first, rest assured the actions themselves are quite strong. As there is absolutely no card draw in this game, the Oracle is a useful tool in utilizing key cards in your empire. The Guide is very well-rounded in labor and strength, but also can allow for crucial unmitigated movement in a pinch.





GENERAL STRUCTURES


Our very last topic is quite the opposite of much what has been shared today, in terms of uniqueness at least. The general structures on each player mat are available to all. There is no requisite faction that must be played in order to build them. These are all extremely useful utility abilities.



The Great Keep is helpful die mitigation. The Imperial Council provides guaranteed access to promoted units—a crucial key for larger merciful decks. The Royal Archive provides an increased hand size, another workaround to drawing into units more efficiently. Lastly, the Exalted Domain rewards players for pursuing elite and legendary units to be among your most trusted supporters.

I hope you all have enjoyed this series of posts about Path of Light and Shadow as much as I have in sharing them. This has been a tremendous labor of love for the last two years, not only by myself, but everyone involved in the project. This dedication and attention to detail is as vital to the end result as the mechanisms and theme. Thank you so much for taking the time to learn more about the game. We hope to see you over on our Kickstarter page on Tuesday May 9th. May your empire flourish and your name be echoed throughout all time!

Best,

Travis R. Chance


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Simon Beal
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Another great article, thanks Travis.

The recruiting seems quite random (drawing just a single card). It seems like it is tricky to develop a strategy as its literally just the luck of the draw as to what you recruit each turn.

Have you considered any variations on this to give the player some choice in what they recruit? The simplest method would be to draw 2 cards, choose 1 and place the other on the bottom of the deck. Even a small change like this could allow the player to better develop a strategy, rather than relying purely on drawing a card that fits with what they want to do.
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Travis R. Chance
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Ghost_Dancer wrote:
Another great article, thanks Travis.

The recruiting seems quite random (drawing just a single card). It seems like it is tricky to develop a strategy as its literally just the luck of the draw as to what you recruit each turn.

Have you considered any variations on this to give the player some choice in what they recruit? The simplest method would be to draw 2 cards, choose 1 and place the other on the bottom of the deck. Even a small change like this could allow the player to better develop a strategy, rather than relying purely on drawing a card that fits with what they want to do.

This is quite literally the primary concept in the game, the theme and mechanism reflecting that you never get to choose who follows your cause. While it may seem random, players will use their cards primarily for their stats: labor and strength. These are ALWAYS useful. Further, every card in the game is good, literally every card. They promote into even better cards. Players can also choose to cull these cards, which if cruel provides a bonus.

As far as strategy, you can avoid realms that you do not want cards from. Each of the 4 realms is populated heavily by one of the non-Numerai factions with a median amount of another faction--all realms have a minority of Numerai in them. To this end, you can make sure to end your turn in a realm to weigh the odds of getting a specific type of faction. Even then, morally opposite factions can use their enemies cards to shore up weaknesses. Every faction leg blocks together in different ways and you will never have an empire that is just one faction. Again, every card has some function within every empire.

I know it is a very different concept at a glabce, but after two years of testing and developing this game, I assure you it works and works well. This game provides both strategy and tactics. Managing these cards is actually not very difficult at all
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Simon Beal
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OK, that clears things up a bit. Deciding which realms to go to would be a key choice in the type of strategy/recruitment then?
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Travis R. Chance
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Ghost_Dancer wrote:
OK, that clears things up a bit. Deciding which realms to go to would be a key choice in the type of strategy/recruitment then?

Simon, precisely. A player will NEVER be upset to get a Numerai, as they have the overall best stats and are versatile for using stats for actions. If you wanted to go build heavy, you would edge toward the Sigilborne realms. If you wanted to conquer, you would edge toward Hordes. The Halax sort of straddle the middle line and work well in all builds. Commonfolk also function in a similar way as Halax, only caring that you are strong in mercy or cruelty.

There is only one card in the game that is intended to be promoted or culled: the Outland Beggar. And even this card, though not intended to stick around in your empire as is, has dual purpose uses for two very different strategies.

One thing we really worked hard to do was make every card useful. For example, if you were heavy Hordes (conquer strategy) recruiting by chance a Cathedral Builder would allow you to add defense back to your likely very ruined provinces. If you recruited the Sigilborne Convert, which has no strength or ability, but three labor, you could use this to build structures to help you continue to conquer--the weakness of the Hordes. If you promoted this card somehow, it would provide you with a Defender--though it would have no bonus to its strength. Again, Hordes have no defend cards in their faction, so this would give them a huge leg up.

Inversely, you could be Sigilborne and recruit Hordes units to bolster your weaker strength. You could use the ruin-inflicting ability of the Horde Marauder to lower the defense of provinces, which is useful considering Sigilborne units have such low strength. Then you could use one of the many effects within this faction to add that defense back, leveraging the Marauder's ability without the very often permanent loss of defense, and by extension, scoring.

Remember, each promoted card is worth points (1 for elite units, 3 for Numerai Legends, 4 for other Legendary units)

Both of the example above demonstrate how polar opposite factions intersect in many meaningful ways--these are just a handful of examples. One of the more interesting aspects of the game is how you manage and use these cards to pursue a strategy and path to victory. Like Dany in Game of Thrones, you can turn a legion of rabble into an unstoppable empire through inspired leadership.


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Nick Little
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Ghost_Dancer wrote:
OK, that clears things up a bit. Deciding which realms to go to would be a key choice in the type of strategy/recruitment then?

Deciding which realms to recruit from is very important, but also you are allowed to recruit a second card each turn. You do have to gain 1 Mercy when you do that, which is good with you are Merciful. When you are Cruel, that extra card gives you one more thing to Cull, which will allow you to lose that Mercy. So you can filter your way through certain realm decks.

You also recruit two cards when you conquer a province. This gives you more choice over what you choose to focus on.

At some point we had a structure that did what you suggested, look at two keep one, it was super fiddly and slowed the game down a ton. It just wasn't worth the downtime and mess.
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Simon Beal
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Thanks both for your comments. It sounds really good, can't wait to back it in the KS.

nicklittle wrote:

You also recruit two cards when you conquer a province. This gives you more choice over what you choose to focus on.

Ah I didn't know that, but I like it.


nicklittle wrote:

At some point we had a structure that did what you suggested, look at two keep one, it was super fiddly and slowed the game down a ton. It just wasn't worth the downtime and mess.

Its great to now you have considered stuff like this, even if it didn't work.
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Travis R. Chance
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More than happy to oblige. Thanks for taking the time to comment! Hope to see you next Tuesday on our campaign
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Ernesto Pavan
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I'm probably doing some thread necromancy here, but... isn't the Talesworn Numerai kinda underwhelming? Its (?) special ability only gives it (?) +2 to a stat, making it (?) either a 3/5 or a 5/3; but the other Numerai pictured have similar stat lines as well as a special ability they can use.
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Chad Ingram
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ErnestoPavan wrote:
I'm probably doing some thread necromancy here, but... isn't the Talesworn Numerai kinda underwhelming? Its (?) special ability only gives it (?) +2 to a stat, making it (?) either a 3/5 or a 5/3; but the other Numerai pictured have similar stat lines as well as a special ability they can use.

I think I'd agree hat it's not as exciting. That said. Mercy leans towards labour and cruelty toward strength. With the other cards you may be merciful any get a lower labour stat. While both streams will need both stats having an assured 5 in your 'style' is nice.

Maybe a +3 would be better but I could see how that may be considered too strong.
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Ernesto Pavan
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AlphaDonkey wrote:
I think I'd agree hat it's not as exciting. That said. Mercy leans towards labour and cruelty toward strength. With the other cards you may be merciful any get a lower labour stat. While both streams will need both stats having an assured 5 in your 'style' is nice.

I see what you mean, but... if I'm Cruel, then Gravebringer (3/5 with a special ability) is better than Talesworn (3/5 with no special ability). If I'm Merciful, then Mindbreaker (5/3 with a special ability) is better than Talesworn (5/3 with no special ability). In short, there could always been a better draw than Talesworn.

Quote:
Maybe a +3 would be better but I could see how that may be considered too strong.

I think that may be actually balanced. After all, is +1 Strength really better than forcing an opponent to discard a card or adding 2 Defense to a province?
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Chad Ingram
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ErnestoPavan wrote:

I see what you mean, but... if I'm Cruel, then Gravebringer (3/5 with a special ability) is better than Talesworn (3/5 with no special ability). If I'm Merciful, then Mindbreaker (5/3 with a special ability) is better than Talesworn (5/3 with no special ability). In short, there could always been a better draw than Talesworn.
Yes. There aways could be. But you might be merciful and want another boost to build and draw Gravebringer, in which case you might prefer to have drawn Talesworn. That was my point. Still I agree it's a little more lack luster then the rest and there aren't many other scenarios I can think of where drawing it would be exciting. A +3 could make the difference. A sure 6 in your chosen path would be sweet!
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Travis R. Chance
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The wrong version of Talesworn was posted--as evidenced by the typo. Apologies all! It is, in fact, a 6 stat on the respective path, making it very formidable.
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Ernesto Pavan
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Action Phase wrote:
The wrong version of Talesworn was posted--as evidenced by the typo. Apologies all! It is, in fact, a 6 stat on the respective path, making it very formidable.

It all makes sense now Thanks for clarifying!
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Chad Ingram
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Action Phase wrote:
The wrong version of Talesworn was posted--as evidenced by the typo. Apologies all! It is, in fact, a 6 stat on the respective path, making it very formidable.

Sweet.
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