Sep 21, 2008

Titans of Bizzaro-World

Last Friday I had the final playthrough for Titans of Industry and I will be shipping it to a publisher next week.

First things first: Congratulations to Jeff Sam, first unofficial champion of Titans of Industry.

Now, I wanted to discuss an evil-parallel-universe version of the game that I came up with shortly after GenCon.

First, take a look at the old rulebook. Specifically, look at the board diagram.

In the normal version of the game, there are nine markets, represented by the nine pricing grids around the board. There are four grids dedicated to the consumables sector and two grids each for the durables and energy sectors. Each grid accepts either one or two resources.

The four consumable grids each gain demand from one type of real estate, the one on its corresponding side of the board. The energy and durables grids each gain demand from two types of real estate, the ones on the sides of the board that that grid spans.

Each resource has two possible markets that it can be sold in. However, when a resource is produced, it is immediately placed in one of those two grids. From that point on, it can only satisfy demand for that market, not the other one. This led to situations where there could be a shortage of wood in one market even though there was a glut of wood in the other market that accepted it.

My crazy idea completely realigned these markets. instead of markets being an intersection of real estate type with sector (Residential-Consumables, for example), each resource was given its own separate market.

Added to the game were 12 demand cards. Each of these cards had a single real estate type, a sector, and one or two resources. These effectively corresponded to the markets in the normal game.

At the end of each age, these demand cards would be shuffled and revealed one at a time. When a demand card was revealed, the goods to satisfy that demand card would immediately be bought.

For instance, if the Industrial-Durables card was revealed, it indicates that Industrial-Durables demand can be satisfied by either Machines or Steel. You would count up the total Durables demand icons on the Industrial real estate cards that have been built, just like in the normal game. That number of cubes would then be bought from a combination of the Machines and Steel markets, depending on which can be bought the cheapest.

I decided to dedicate a single test to this bizzaro-world version of the game, after which I would either abandon it or pursue it exclusively.

The first effect of the realignment of the markets was that no resources ever went to waste, because they weren't committed to a single market. Each resource appeared on three or four demand cards. This meant that a cube had many more chances to be bought. Prices skyrocketed, as players no longer had to compete to be the cheapest supplier, because there was always an excess of demand now that demand was flexibly applied.

This meant that I had gotten rid of the bottoming-out problem, which was great. I have been battling that monster for about 15 versions without any success.

Unfortunately, the cure was worse than the disease. Players said that they found the game easier to understand, but that it was because much of the strategy had been gutted.

There was no more tension in pricing. Players just immediately priced as high as possible. There was also no more tension in placement since each resource had a dedicated market.

The game was easier. It was also pointless.

I had started the night believing that, with the market realignment idea, I had experienced a flash of brilliance, a moment of profound inspiration.

I ended it humbled.

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