Jun 9, 2008

Titans of Industry v7

I had another playtest for Titans of Industry (and Privateering) yesterday. For a list of changes from the previous version, check out the conclusion of my analysis of that test.

One of two changes not listed there was a switch from a single market track for each sector to a set of parallel tracks. The reason for this change was to discourage players from immediately setting their prices at zero. When players do this, it shuts the game down, as there is nowhere left to maneuver.

The parallel tracks, one per player, meant that if one player bottomed-out his or her prices to start with, he or she guaranteed that his or her opponents would do the exact same, and everyone would be worse off than if they all had "colluded" to keep prices high. However, such an attempt at collusion carries risk of someone breaking the pact. This adds the pricing tension back into the game, as the players are faced with something akin to a "prisoner's dilemma".

Unfortunately, this change did not have the intended effect. There were too few available prices (as the price choices were reduced by two-thirds) and too many goods being produced (a result of the change I'll discuss next). This meant that there was really no price choice at all, as markets were filled beyond all capacity.

The other unlisted change was an end to single pricing. Previously, if a player priced multiples of a single good in a single sector at different prices, he or she would be forced to sell all of those goods at the lowest price of any of them. I removed this rule because I felt it was difficult to explain to players. Unfortunately, though the new rule, where every goods cube sold at its specified price, was simple to explain, it was a nightmare to carry out.

This was because a debilitating amount of math was required to figure out players' income at the end of each age. On top of that, the amount of money in the game skyrocketed. Flush with cash, players then proceeded to activate their facilities more times in a single round than was ever intended. This flooded the market with goods, helping to cause the pricing problem described above.

One of the other changes was a simplification of my diminishing marginal returns mechanic. Previously, the rule started with the following sequence:
To have a facility activate n times in a single turn, a player had to add the first n terms of that sequence. For instance, to activate a facility once in a turn, it cost $1. To activate it four times in a single turn, it cost 1+2+4+8 = $15. If the facility was a non-basic facility, the total cost doubled. If it was the second age, that total doubled. If it was the third age, it was tripled instead of doubled. This mechanic, though very strong in modeling the desired effect, was a disaster gameplay-wise. Players became unable to do the math.

I changed it to limit players to activating a facility no more than three times per turn. The costs for those activations were as follows:
Basic Facility: 1-5-10
Non-basic Facility: 2-10-20
There was no summing involved. If you wanted to activate a basic facility three times in a single turn, it simply cost $10.

The last major change to this version was an alteration to how the end of an age was triggered. Previously, each age ended when all of that age's real estate spots were built (4 for age one, 8 for age two, 8 for age three). You were not allowed to build in another age's spots until that age was reached.

I changed it so that each age would end the moment any five real estate spots were built. This had a few effects. First, it opened up player choices. No longer did the fourth building built have to be of the type not yet built. Players could completely ignore a sector's construction over the course of a game if they wanted to. Second, it made demand more variable. Sectors were no longer guaranteed to have demand that was approximately even. In fact, they might end up with no demand at all. Third, the variability of demand would push more players to compete in the real estate market in order to ensure that demand was created for their facilities' goods. Last, it lowered the total number of buildings that would be built in the course of a game from 20 to 15.

These effects culminated in a drastic decrease in the length of the game. Whereas the previous version lasted about 4 hours, 7 minutes. There were 182 turns taken (about 36 per player) with an average turn time of 1 minute, 15 seconds. This version lasted 3 hours, 19 minutes. There were 153 turns taken (about 39 per player) with an average turn time of 1 minute, 10 seconds.

I was glad to see that players were taking faster turns. This was probably a result of the simplified diminishing returns mechanic. More important to the near-hour drop in total game time was indeed the change to end-of-age triggering. The game is still too long, but I have an easy fix for that which I am certain will get the game to less than two and a half hours. I feel that this is the magical amount of time where game length becomes acceptable to the masses. While the 90-minute mark is the most popular game length, most people are willing to go an hour more than that, if they feel the game's strategic depth justifies it. Any longer than that and most people will refuse to play outright.

Here are some notes made by a couple of my playtesters:

I did not like the new market scheme where only 3 people can enter a market because someone could be shut out of the market before it's even their turn (as with dan). Although this accurately reflects how it would work in real life, I think gameplay wise it's not that great because the game is taken in turns. I prefer the old scheme where everyone can product in a given market as long as they have the building to do so. What if you took the last versions marketing scheme, expanded the prices, and limited producing and buying to the 1/2/3 rows depending on the age?

I also did not like the products being sold at face value as opposed to the lowest value. This introduces a lot of math to the equation which will make the game longer because more time is needed to calculate money/points at the end of each age.

Obviously research needs to be tweaked a bit as we all just kept buying research during the second age until it was all gone. I think cheap research needs to be eliminated somehow by increasing the cost to purchase research every age.

the game is also kind of long although I can't see how you would reduce that time. I felt that we had a good pace going and it still took a long time to complete.

As dan and you mentioned before, this is a game where the order of players greater affects the game depending on who ends the age. Maybe at the beginning of the new age we switch the player order?

This game seemed quicker however the previous version of it seemed more competitive, meaning that it was more ruthless. Every market was filled with backstabbing whereas this version takes this type of excitement out of the game. Three players can play side by side in a market rather than against one another.

I think that meat is useless. Two games in a row the person pursuing the meat has lost, and there is only one very specific market that meat is in.

Players should be able to buy their way into a market if they are willing to commit the necessary resources.

More spaces are needed for meat.

Residentials will always be the first to be built because they only require one resource type.

After discussing the game some more today, I have not yet decided whether to revert to the old market pricing scheme. However, I am making a radically new board. This new board will consolidate some sectors, dropping the total from twelve to eight. I think that this consolidation will help defeat the bottoming-out strategy, as it will increase the amount of demand in any single sector.

I am also increasing the facility costs for multiple firings. Hopefully this will halve the number of goods produced in any single turn, which would make it less likely that any player could close out a market in a single turn by a multiple firing that bottom-outs on prices.

I am doubling all the costs for activating a University. Combined with the increase in multiple-firing costs, this should make research scarcer. Players bought 23 out of 24 advancements during the last game. Preferably, I would not want them to buy more than 16 out of 24.

I am also reinstating the lowest-price rule. This should also discourage bottoming-out.

Finally, I am changing the ratio for converting money to victory points. Previously it was $10 = 1 market share. Now it will be $5 = 1 market share. This, again, should discourage bottoming-out, as it doubles the incentive to accumulate wealth through high prices.

I will be holding another playtest this Thursday with the new board. Hopefully I can make a decision on which market pricing mechanism to use by then.

The other game I tested yesterday was Privateering. It was played with the bounty-pairing, bounty-value reduction, and crew retention suggestions I received at Spielbany.

The playtesters reacted favorably to this one. The only criticism was that towards the end of the game there were too many crew members collected, making decisions on whom to play where more difficult and time-consuming.

For the next test of Privateering, I will remove the deckhands (previously known as stowaways except this time they had all flags and were worth 1 strength). I think that this game is actually pretty close to finalized, rules-wise. It is a simple enough game that I'm surprised how much thought players gave to their decisions. That is always a good sign.

No comments:

Post a Comment