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Subject: Trading/Merchant Board and Card Game rss

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Chaotic Progressive
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Hey, BGG. Glad to know you! I was referred to the forum by a friend after asking for feedback on the game I'm designing that's loosely based on the Spice and Wolf anime. I've run into a bit of a snag, and I'd like some feedback.

The game is a hybrid board and deck-building game (think Monopoly meets Ascension) that takes place in a small medieval fantasy country. Play consists of 2-8 players traveling around this country, buying and selling goods at markets and settlements. They begin play by choosing a faction, which dictates how much money they begin with, and choosing a location to start from. They then draw a card from a deck of various markets, which stays in play at that location and sets prices for the various goods players can purchase. After they've spent their gold, they get a number of "Travel" cards to shuffle in with the goods they purchased, bringing it up to a total that has yet to be determined (the theory here being that heavier caravans/wagons travel more slowly).

During each turn, a player may play any number of Travel cards in their hand to move between settlements/markets. If they end their turn on an empty settlement space, they draw a market for that location and it stays in play. If they end on a Wilderness space, they draw from the Encounter deck, either bringing ruin or fortune in the form of ancient treasures or catastrophes.

The reason I'm posting is i was trying to think of a victory condition. Since play can proceed almost indefinitely, I was thinking about an arbitrary gold value to be reached depending on the number of players. As an alternative, "advanced" rule, I was also thinking each individual faction could have their own condition.

Any opinions? General criticisms? I welcome all.
 
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K Riovanes
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Multiple victory conditions are a good way to make games interesting. However, faction-specific victory conditions are very easy to tip out of balance. The Starcraft board game comes to mind, I seem to remember the various leaders had somewhat bizarrely easy/difficult victory conditions. I'd also hate to end up in a situation, thanks to the RNG gods, where I would be winning as another faction but not as my current one.

The best example of a multiple-victory-condition board game I've seen was Star Chamber - actually a PC game that played as a combination board/card game. In that game, the simplest way to win was to annihilate your enemy's homeworld. You could also, by controlling various Artifact Planets around the map, gain 30 Destiny points and win. Thirdly, every six rounds involved a vote at the Star Chamber, a sort of galactic senate, at the center of every map, one of the effects of which was to award a Power Play. Any player who obtained three Power Plays won. So the game always ended by turn 30, though usually before. It was always a gripping and tense situation to have a massive enemy fleet bearing down on my homeworld while I looked at my +26 Destiny score and 2 power plays, wondering how I could somehow scrape by long enough to get either 30 destiny or survive to the next vote.


Hopefully this gives you some ideas.
 
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Chaotic Progressive
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Well, balancing between the factions would of course be something I'd take a lot of care in doing, but in general making each as difficult as the others. I was also thinking of doing it as an "either/or" thing... you either have the alternate victory conditions during a game, or the standard ones. Although, having both in play at once could be interesting. "Reach XXXX gold, or collect 10 treasures..." or maybe some kind of "market control" thing, where your faction could take over various local markets.
 
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K Riovanes
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I do like the idea of combining a general goal for everyone - say, reach X gold - and a specific goal for your faction, say, corner the Sheep market, cause your faction really, really likes sheep (don't ask them why!) Good luck finding different conditions that are actually balanced, though, that's gonna be tough, and may not even be possible if the resources and/or map are asymmetrical. The only way to truly be balanced is to have everything identical except for its name and graphic.
 
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Chaotic Progressive
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Then why not territory control? Say, each market has a threshold of gold that it can give out per "day" (turn). If a player instead spends that much money in the market, then the market gets its threshold incremented (a counter is placed on it, and the gold it can pay out in a given day is doubled), and then that player "controls" that market. First one to control ten markets (roughly half the board) wins?
 
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Chaotic Progressive
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Forgot to add that this could happen multiple times; I could control it, you could spend 2x (twice the amount of the threshold) and then control the market yourself.
 
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James Hutchings
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Can players intefere with each other's accumulation of wealth?

If so, a goal could be to send the other players broke (provided that fits with the theme).

If they can't, that might be a problem with the game anyway.
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Chaotic Progressive
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Overall, I'd like a more collaborative game. Players can trade with one-another if they're at the same location, either dictating their own terms or using the market's prices for a baseline. Adding in things like combat or direct interference seems like an additional hassle to me, although I was thinking about allowing some manner of price fixing in controlled markets, such as paying a tax in order to sell anything with the tax going to the controlling player.
 
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Chaotic Progressive
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Although, I'd be interested in hearing your suggestions. Maybe certain Event cards would let you interfere, or maybe if you're in their home market?
 
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James Hutchings
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What would people be able to do in the anime?
 
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Chaotic Progressive
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Most of it is a relationship piece between the protagonist and the main character, centered around their interactions in the course of Lawrence (the protagonist) plying his trade as a merchant. There's a lot of traveling from market to market, buying armor in City A and trying to sell it in City B for a profit which is then used to buy things in City B and repeat the process.

There are some intrigue elements, a little cloak and dagger stuff, but mostly it's speculation and hawking of wares if I recall correctly.

In game, players will be able to buy and sell the various commodities they purchase, with more markets being revealed and trade routes being established as the game goes on. There is an element of random chance in the form of Event cards (bandits, wagon failures, finding a lost treasure, etc), and players will be able to trade between themselves either when they're at the same market, or if they have stockpiled wares at their base of operations.

So far as player interactivity goes (being able to "interfere" with the other players), I'm not certain how I would implement that. Maybe through an "Intrigues" deck (Spend X gold, reveal an Intrigue and something bad happens to somebody else while something good happens to you).
 
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Samantha RD
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ChaoticProgressive wrote:
They begin play by choosing a faction, which dictates how much money they begin with, and choosing a location to start from.


Is this allocated randomly? And do players have different starting capital? If so, this could make the game very unbalanced from the get go.

The travel mechanic also sounds like it may cause some headaches - can you only travel when you have sufficient travel cards in hand? If so, I can foresee bad draws where players cannot move for a couple of turns and get beaten to a market etc as a result - very frustrating!

Perhaps include a way to draw more cards? (i.e. spend gold to draw cards 1:1) - or simply be able to pay extra gold to upgrade your horse team/wagon for some automatic movement every turn?

Incidentally, very interesting choice of world. I LOVED Spice and Wolf. Good choice.
 
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Chaotic Progressive
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No, it's not allocated randomly. Play order is determined randomly, and based on that (not sure if I want to favor the high or low roller) chooses first. The factions will have certain benefits and hindrances (the Church, for instance, would get a certain discount on all items due to influence but would conversely be unable to purchase luxury items or use arcane/alchemical Treasures). Starting capital will be universal, with their factional influence having some effect on purchase prices.

As for being unable to move, a player may play any number of travel cards on their turn to move that many spaces. Also, after some thought, I think I'm just going to have them start with a base number of travel cards (say, 20) and then add their goods to that. It still achieves the effect of representing a heavier load with a slower movement rate, but leaves the player "stalled" less often.

And S&W is a great show, you're absolutely correct.
 
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James Hutchings
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Maybe the players shouldn't represent individual merchants like the main characters, but the powerful institutions in the setting.

Like having a Discworld game where you played the Assassin's Guild.
 
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Chaotic Progressive
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I like that idea, but it kind of changes the feel of the game while invalidating the "wandering merchants" flavor.
 
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Moe45673
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Have the interaction be somewhat passive.

For example, I like the area control idea. I'm thinking of Age of Industry here: A given market accepts only one good at a time (though maybe that can change through powerups). The market/village is heavily influenced by a given player and players can have influence in more than one market/village. Players sell their wares to this market and the controlling player gets a percentage. However, one of the terms of sale can be that the seller takes over as influence holder and the controlling player can accept that if they really need the money. This, of course, must be balanced by the game itself which, say, sets a sale-price range for a given market/region and a price that if the seller beats, he takes over control (of course, the controller can refuse the sale but if he does, he doesn't get any money!)

Controlling area can be balanced by having the controlling player pay a "maintenance fee" every round for each market/village they control.

The winner is the last player not to go broke (obviously, more than this has to be implemented into the game as as I wrote it right now, it can take forever a la Monopoly with Free Parking rule or Wealth of Nations with original ruleset)
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James Hutchings
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ChaoticProgressive wrote:
I like that idea, but it kind of changes the feel of the game while invalidating the "wandering merchants" flavor.


It sounds like you're saying that

* You want the game to be about wandering merchants.

* You want players to compete.

* Wandering merchants don't really compete in the setting.


It seems to me that, to break this deadlock, you're going to have to change one of these things:

* make the game about whoever does compete in the setting (cities competing for merchants?)

* Make the game co-operative. Perhaps each player has a single character who all work together.

* Change the setting so that wandering merchants compete in a way that they don't in the source material.
 
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Chaotic Progressive
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I think I like that idea, but then it's a matter of how to implement the maintenance fee: a certain amount (say, 10g) multiplied by the level of the market (say each time it's captured, the gold it can pay out in a single turn is doubled and it gets a counter of some kind). Or, just a flat fee for whomever controls it (say, 50/turn). As for a portion of a market's business going to the controlling player as a tax/tithe, I think it could be interesting if I could figure out a way to make it work without making the game too convoluted.
 
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Chaotic Progressive
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IIRC (and I'm not saying I do), the merchants in S&W didn't interfere with one-another much (excepting the guild houses). Now, as previously suggested by James Hutchings, I think I'm going to have the players represent organizations rather than individual merchants and allow interaction via use of an Intrigue deck (steal X items/gold/prevent them from moving/take away territory, etc) like the Event cards in Catan.
 
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Chaotic Progressive
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Sorry if this is a wall of text, but here's a rough draft of the rules.

Unnamed Merchant Game

1-8 Players

Before Play - Shuffle the Intrigue, Fate, and Market decks. Each player rolls a die to determine play order. The initial player chooses his faction first, proceeding clockwise. Then, the last player in order chooses his starting location, then each player in turn counter-clockwise. Each player (beginning with the highest roller) draws a Market from the top of the Market deck. Each player then purchases Commodities using their starting gold. Once players are finished purchasing goods, each receives twenty Travel cards. The purchased goods and Travel cards are shuffled together and placed face-down. Each player draws five cards and the highest rolling player starts the game.

The Pieces

- Deck - Each player has a deck containing their Travel Cards and Goods. When cards are played, they are placed in the Discard pile. When there are no more cards in a deck, the Discard pile is shuffled together and becomes the a new Deck

- Icon - Each Faction has a unique icon used to represent their influence. These are used to mark control of a market.

- Merchant - The game piece each player uses to represent their movements within the world, unique to each Faction.

The Factions - The people of power within the world, each vying for control of the land.

The Church, The Nobility, The Military, The Guilds, The Freelance, The Criminals, The Foreign, and The People (Better names and definition incoming)

Each organization has its own philosphy when it comes to brokering power, and each has an optional victory condition associated with it.

The Map - There are three types of spaces on the map.

- Settlements (white circles) - If players end their Travel phase on one of these spaces, they draw a Market card. This Market remains in play at this location until the end of the game.

- Roads (brown lines) - Players may move between settlements along these roads. Reveal one Travel card to move one space. If a player ends their turn on one of these spaces, they draw a Fate card.

- Wilderness (any non-road, non-settlement space) - Players may move through the Wilderness by playing two Travel cards to move one space. If a player ends their turn on one of these spaces, they draw two Fate cards.

Types of Cards - When a card is revealed from the Fate or Intrigue deck, unless it's a Treasure or the card
specifies otherwise, the card is then placed on the bottom of the deck

Intrigue - These cards may be purchased during the Market phase for XX gold. The card is revealed and their effects immediately applied. Any player except the purchasing player may be effected by the Intrigue.

Market - Each Market has prices for each Commodity, setting prices at that location. Once revealed, a Market will remain in play until the end of the game. Each market has a Threshold in the lower-right hand corner which represents the maximum amount of gold a player may receive from selling goods each turn.

Fate - These cards can either help or harm the acting player in the form of Boons or Misfortunes, or reveal special Treasures that remain in play and continually apply their benefits.

Commodity - The goods a merchant may peddle, their price being completely dependant on the market in which they're sold. When purchased after the game starts, they are put in the discard pile after purchase.

Phases of Play
1. Market (Ignore this phase if on a Wilderness space)
- May purchase and sell goods according to the current Market prices.
- May purchase an Intrigue.
- May trade with other players at the same location.
2. Travel
-May play Travel cards from their hand to move from their current location.
3. Fate
- Reveal a Fate card and apply its effects.
4. Accounting
- Discard any remaining cards and draw five new cards.

Play proceeds until:
A player reaches a gold total of XXXX
A player controls 10 Markets
All other players have been eliminated via Intrigue or bankruptcy.
(Optional) A player meets their factional victory condition

Territory Control: If a player spends gold equal to a Market's Threshold, that player becomes the Market's kingpin. Their icon is put on top of the Market card, the Threshold is doubled, and for each Commodity sold at that location the controlling player receives X gold in tribute. A player may take control of a Market from the current kingpin by the same method, spending the new threshold in gold and laying their claim icon on top of the prior player's icon (to track the current threshold). Note that this has no bearing on the value of the Tribute.
 
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