This week was mostly a refine the design week with a little Board Game Arena to finish things off Sunday night. I made a few changes to stream-line Legacy Wars in preparation for this weekend’s local game design meetup. Lets get on with show!
This was the week where I decided to sacrifice a certain percentage of thematic mechanics in favor of mechanical uniformity. As a fantasy themed game, it would seem natural that certain characters would have abilities that thematically make sense. A Barbarian destroys things, a Dwarf fights underground, and an Assassin is better at attacking from behind then head on. As such, I have made a point to create abilities that make sense thematically, but I have been trying to clean some of them up mechanically. The two primary culprits at this stage are the Elf and the Ranger. As any good fantasy fan knows, elves and rangers have strong ties to the land and use the terrain to their advantage. As one of the elements of Legacy Wars is the interaction between champions and their homelands, which offers them a terrain bonus, the first few iterations of the Elf and especially the Ranger gained bonuses from terrains besides their homelands. Initially the Ranger was very terrain dependent and the weakest character, but also did not really serve a purpose. This caused me to rethink his abilities which resulted in a change from terrain based abilities to giving him a battle ability more like that of an archer. The Ranger is now the best character in the game at taking out the weaker, but trickier characters. For example, he loses to the innately more powerful characters like the Knight or Barbarian, but defeats characters like the Wizard and Priestess straight up. This thematically represents his arrows preventing the use of their abilities. He still gets to use his Pathfinding abilities to manipulate the battlefields in a scout type role. These changes to his abilities greatly enhanced his power level and frankly would make him too powerful if he still gained terrain bonuses from multiple battlefields. This left me in a quandry, and I concluded that as much as I hated to do it his extra terrain bonuses had to go. I also decided to do away with the Elf’s additional terrain bonus as well for the sake of having all characters only strengthened in their homeland.
This allows for a simplification of the rules on a whole, and makes the terrain interactions consistent and easy to understand. I am happy with the changes and eager to try them out this weekend at the designer meet up.
I spent Sunday night on Board Game Arena and first up was a play of the pirate themed Libertalia. It had been awhile since I had played, but I have always done very well in two player games, so when I drew the 5th ranked player in the world I was not terribly concerned. I am happy to report that this was proof that Libertalia is more skill based than luck. I know this, because I got completely crushed. I felt like I played pretty well, but the score was not even close. In the end I think his experience, (me 12 games him 114) made all the difference, as his knowledge of the slim margins in a two player game was just too great.
Next up was In the Year of the Dragon. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog are well aware that it is one of my favorites and only one of two that I currently rate a 10.0. While I prefer, a two player game of In the Year of the Dragon, I found myself in a high level three player session with two opponents in the top 20. I used to be ranked as high as the top 5, but after a few losses to first and second and a decent amount of time without playing I had slid out of the top 20. I am happy to report that I pulled off the win, and by a nice margin at that. The key to the win was recognizing the early position of the famines and the emperor visits. While both of the other players opted for turn one and two purchases of the large privileges, I knew that having money for the emperor , harvesting rice, and being first to select actions on the other sides of the events would be critical to winning this game. Things worked out exactly as I planned, with one player starving a little during the famine and another having to take the money action twice. After that mess of four events passed, it was time to build build build! All of my extra palaces and no pressure to feed them let me make up lost ground to their large privileges. By the end of the game I had secured a nice 12 point victory over second place! This win put me back in the top 20, but more importantly it further showed that a first turn large privilege is not a guarantee of victory. I fully admit it is a strong play, and at times it is the best one, but too many people assume it is the only way to win and I strongly disagree! It was a great win and fun game that allowed me back up my theory about In the Year of the Dragon having additional openings.
I have certainly had weeks where I played more games, but few this heavily steeped in the theory side of games and game design. With Libertalia, I got to see just how big of an edge experience can be in a tight two player game. In the Year of the Dragon, let me explore uncommon strategies against top players and defy the conventional wisdom. Lastly, I applied the scalpel to trim some fat from Legacy Wars at a minimal cost to theme while tightening up the mechanics and the playtesting this Saturday will determine if the changes were correct. See you next week!