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Subject: Design Journal #7: Forbidden Knowledge rss

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Galen Ciscell
United States
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Check out my game, Atlantis Rising! :)
Hello fellow BGG users - my name is Galen Ciscell and I am the designer of Atlantis Rising. Atlantis Rising is my first published board game and so I am anxious to see how it will be received by the BGG community. However, since the game will not be published until later this year, in an effort to fill the intervening months with useful information and perhaps even generate a little buzz around the game, I have decided to post a few design journal entries here on BoardGameGeek. I hope you enjoy reading about the design process, and perhaps you will even learn a little more about the game itself along the way!

Design Journal #7: Forbidden Knowledge

One aspect I’m not sure I mentioned in my initial design journal is my love for cards. I love having access to cards in a game, especially when I control when and how to play those cards to their maximum benefit. Thus I knew that I wanted to incorporate some method for using cards in Atlantis Rising from the beginning of my design.

In the game you can choose to allocate your workers to the Libraries, where you can draw one or more cards, based on the placement of your workers (tiles closer to the sea provide more options and/or more cards). A few component benefits also provide knowledge cards as well.

Initially many knowledge cards gave you a resource (Atlantium, crystal, gold, or ore) - you got the resource without a die roll, but what you got was random - the luck of the draw, so to speak. I quickly realized that this added very little to the game and, further, that using the Libraries to draw knowledge cards was almost always a better choice than rolling for a specific resource - at least you were guaranteed a resource, even if it was random. Eventually you’d be able to put together the right combination to build one or more components.

Now knowledge cards are far more broad-reaching and differentiated than their initial design. Knowledge cards provide many benefits that do not directly grant resources, but still aid the group (or the individual player) in some way - everything from paying one less resource when building a component, to rerolling the attack die, to reducing the target numbers in one section for a turn. Some cards are amazingly good (like Foresight - look at the top 5 misfortunes and discard any number of them), some are not so great (like Lore of Persuasion - gain a temporary Atlantean for one turn), and some are conditionally useful (like Libram of Unity - choose a tile; twice the usual number of Atlanteans may be placed there this turn).

Another aspect of knowledge cards which has changed with playtesting is the timing rules for knowledge cards. Initially I had conceived of the play of knowledge cards as restricted to a certain phase of the game turn, much like Cosmic Encounter. What I found in playtesting, however, was that people wanted to play these cards at other times and, really, there was no reason they should not be able to do so. Knowledge cards no longer have a phase restriction, but may instead be played at any time, with the caveat that they can never be played to interrupt an action (e.g. a knowledge card that places a mystic barrier token on a tile - which prevents a tile from being flooded - cannot be played to save a tile that was just flooded as the result of a misfortune card).

There are six main categories of knowledge cards, each with four copies of the standard card and an additional card which is slightly better or different than the four standard cards. For instance, there are four copies of Ritual of Transference (which allows you to give or take a resource to/from another player) and only one copy of Virtue of Sharing (which allows every player to pass a resource). A late addition to the selection of knowledge cards was unique cards which require a sacrifice for a benefit. Included in this category are cards such as Glimpse the Truth (discard a crystal to gain 5 mystic energy) and Codex of Continuity (discard a courage token to discard a special misfortune just drawn without effect). I like the choice that these types of cards create.

In my estimation the knowledge cards are very strong overall - but I wanted them to be, to encourage their use. In fact, the accumulation of knowledge cards proved to be a bit of a problem in playtesting, so a hand limit of four cards was instituted to force people to actually play the knowledge cards they acquired before accumulating more. Even so, Libraries are often the first to go when the group has to choose which section to Flood, because their value is not immediately apparent in the way that collecting new workers or resources may be. But players who collect and make clever use of knowledge cards will find themselves prepared to handle many unforeseen situations and equipped to put together powerful combos that will greatly aid the group!
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