Ever since the GenCon tests revealed a need to replace the level 3 advancements, I have had a few playtests dedicated to trying out different ideas for said replacements.
The problem with level 3 advancements is that they are only available in the third age. This means that they will only have an effect for less than a third of the turns in the game. The earlier advancements have low power abilities, but that is okay because those abilities can be in effect for nearly the entire game. Level 3 advancements don't have the luxury of time.
Originally, I had almost all of the level 3 advancements be simple one-shot point scorers. This made them desirable, but it alsoo meant that they had much the same function as the Titan cards. I believed that that was alright because the advancements were open information and you didn't have to be dealt it to use it. In practice, this distinction proved to be less important. The worst part was the overlap of actual goals between the Titan cards and the level 3 advancements. As one of the GenCon testers said, "You shouldn't be able to score two things with the same action."
So I have been going through various powers for the level 3 advancements that affect actual gameplay. Unfortunately, nothing I've tried has been powerful enough to entice players to spend a precious third age turn acquiring it. Even when I myself was playing, I could never justify losing that turn.
I am dialing up the powers, trying to make advancements that will pay off for that lost time by the end of the game. I need to be careful, though, as the powers I am trying all seem like they could easily blow up the game's economy if abused in the right circumstances.
A long slog of tiny adjustments. That's what game design is all about.