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by GM Dave

Hauler Developer Blog Part 5 – Playtest Results and Alterations

December 22, 2013 in Developer Blog

hauler_logoI was fortunate to play the game with a game designer and several folks at D/FW Nerd Night and found a number of items that were either not clear in the rules, or just did not work the way I envisioned them working, so I have a list of changes to the base game that I want to discuss today.

First big change is that the concept of pollution was called out as a mirror image of a mechanic in another game, so I am altering that a bit and calling the card “Maintenance”.  Maintenance will represent the wear and tear on your fleet as you move around the board.  If at any time you draw three maintenance cards into your hand at the same time, you must spend your action that turn to place the maintenance cards back in the maintenance deck, no choice, it just means a truck broke down and you are not moving that turn.

Second big change is that the choice to move trucks or deckbuild was not a choice at all.  It was far easier to move around the board and speed and deliver routes than I anticipated, so everyone did that and hardly anyone used their turn to deckbuild unless they had a hand full of only truck cards.  So, the choice is gone, and every turn will start with deckbuilding.  Draw 5 cards from your pile, then play action cards that you can or must play, then buy cards with available green stamps.  If you have cards that grant you extra actions or buys, resolve the actions first, then perform the number of buys that you can.

Performing the buys last also lets us keep the idea of bonuses for quick delivery intact.  During the playtest, we allowed buys at any time and players were buying route cards and then using their action to move.  It made for a quick score in some cases, but in other cases the buy happened last and the player had to waste 12 hours when they never moved, so this will level the playing field.

The other main gripe was that the game felt euro but there was this hauler die and limited player interaction.  Although the players liked “Trains”, another deckbuilding transportation themed game, they wanted more player interaction out of that game, so I settled on adding a few mechanics to help that along as the third change to the game.

To increase player interaction, more highway segments in the game will start as a normal segment, meaning there are fewer speed traps.  After a player speeds through a zone, they will alert the local bears, and that road will become a speed trap.  Players may still speed through speed traps, but it will mean they get a ticket when they do so.  This will mean that speeding has just become a real choice in the game, as it costs you victory points when you do so.  The ticket mechanic has also been tweaked so that a player only gets 3 before the counter resets, but they may not take a movement action on their next turn, representing them being “detained” for too many tickets.  Aside from the mandatory speed traps, if a player speeds through a speed trap they can remove the speed trap token because the bears got their man and headed back to the donut shop.

Next, a construction action card is being added to the decks.  When a player plays this card, the action it gives allows the player to place a construction token on a road segment, which makes that segment slower than usual, adding 2 hours to the normal time, and not allowing speeding.  This is a key way to slow your opponents and adds an interesting player interaction point to the game.  Once a player encounters the construction, the token is removed.

Finally, the third point of player interaction is the operations center.  The ops center will not only serve as a place for the players to deploy new trucks to the game, but it also serves as a “union headquarters” for the player.  This means that the unions control the loading docks and any player that wishes to start or end a route in that city must pay the player to use his union labor to load or unload in that city.  The player that loads or unloads loses a victory point and the player that owns the union shop gains that victory point.

All these changes will be in effect for the next public playtest on Saturday, December 28, at Madness Comics and Games.  The fun starts at 3pm.

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by GM Dave

Developer Blog – Hauler Part 4

November 22, 2013 in Game News

Back so soon with another update?  YES!  In the spirit of NaGaDeMon, I have been working late into the night on all the aspects of the game and actually ran a 6 player simulation and it was not very good, in that the decks ran out too fast and the trucks did not move.  So, the game is now a 2-5 player game and I will be doing more playtests in the coming days.

946075_10202120233758072_1552013860_nIn the meantime, I want to talk about the card design for Hauler, specifically the deckbuilding cards.

Like many deckbuilders, the card is laid out with the title up top, the cost of the card in RED and the greenstamps that the card provides when played in GREEN.  When a player decides to do a deckbuilding turn instead of moving their trucks, they will play cards from their 5 card hand, and each played card may have effects, give the user green stamps to use to buy other cards, or both.  In the example on the left, the card is not worth green stamps, but this card allows the user to place an operations center, which acts as a hub and a free fuel stop for a truck.  This is a great time to either place the operations center where a truck already is or purchase a new truck and deploy it at the operations center so you don’t use up your fuel tokens or have to buy fuel.  Then, the player must move a truck and draw a pollution card.

In Hauler, when you choose to complete the actions on the card, you must complete all the actions, from top to bottom before playing another card or purchasing any cards.  The only thing a player can do after starting the actions on the card, but before completing all the actions on the card, is to buy and place a truck, as I talked about in the last paragraph.

The cards are color coded, in that this special operations card is orange.  Truck cards are red and all give green stamps.  There are gold Victory Point cards that give the player VPs to count at the end of the game, green Fuel cards that grant fuel tokens to move the player’s trucks during a dispatch turn or when a card effect is used to move a truck, blue Action cards that introduce a ton of variation in the game with positive and negative effects and black Pollution Cards.

1467480_10202123031748020_800666209_nThe Pollution cards are special, in that they are not purchased and are simply the consequences of using card effects to move trucks on the board instead of taking a dispatch turn to move all the trucks they own.  The Pollution cards just pollute your hand, and provide junk that must be removed in order to have a more productive deck.  There are Garbage trucks in the game that allow the player to return Pollution cards to the pollution deck, treatment facility cards that offer the same opportunity, and if a player passes a turn entirely, they can return all their pollution cards in their hand and redraw to 5, placing any pollution cards drawn on the pollution deck so they start their next turn with 5 productive cards.

I am going to be working on the card layout this weekend for the route and special effect cards and will hopefully have an update on them next week.  The route cards are straight forward, move a load from point A to point B and get paid X victory points.  Some perishable loads offer bonuses for quicker delivery, but you run the risk of speeding to complete the run with bonus points.  There are hitchhikers that also provide an opportunity for bonuses, and although you real truckers know not to pick up hitchhikers, hollywood has done a great job showing that everyone in a bind can get picked up by a friendly trucker.

Also coming are the weather and event cards, like earthquakes, hurricanes, storm fronts, blizzards and a host of other natural disasters that make speeding in or out of an affected city quite dangerous.

Thank you and please keep sending me suggestions!  One very helpful suggestion actually will have me redesign the card cost and benefit icons to look like a stop sign for the cost and a dollar bill for the green stamps it provides.

 

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by GM Dave

Developer Blog – Hauler part 3

November 20, 2013 in Developer Blog, Game News

HAULER_BOXI have to beg for your forgiveness, I have not kept up with the blog on my working with Hauler.  Almost a year to the day since my last post, it is finally time I unveil the finished product that will be called Hauler!  I am very excited, that after more than 2 years in design and playtesting, I think the game is polished, tight and, oh ya…EPIC!  The specs on the final game come in with this list of contents:

  • 20″ by 30″ game board
  • 82 Route Cards
  • 520 Deckbuilder Cards
  • 32 Randomization Cards
  • 41 Tabbed Cards for Indexing
  • 6 Scoring Tokens
  • 12 Weather Tokens
  • 18 Time Tokens
  • 24 Operation Center Tokens in 6 colors
  • 36 Tickets
  • 36 Fuel Tanks
  • 36 Truck Tokens in 6 colors
  • and…the Hauler Die.  6 custom faces that represent Accidents, Robberies, Cops and Tickets.

The game is complex.  This is Dominion meets Trains meets Ticket to Ride…with a case of red bull.  Basically, the game is a deckbuilder and a board game fused in a synergy never before seen (by me at least) and promises depth of play that is beyond a normal gateway game, but not overly complicated.  Each turn, the player may choose to move all his trucks or play cards from his hand, purchase cards from the piles or purchase route cards that give victory points upon the successful delivery by one of his trucks from origin to destination, with the possibility of bonus victory points for added speed.  There are also victory point cards in the deckbuilding piles, so a player could theoretically catch some mega luck and win just collecting VP cards, but that is highly unlikely.  The winning player will have a deck that gives the right action cards to allow him to move his trucks and still provide green stamps (money for you non-truckers) to buy higher value cards for later use and deck building purposes.

But that is not all, there are action cards in the game that are like attack cards, but not really.  Only one real thief type card, but there is a sleeper cab that causes the other players to oversleep and lose 2 hours of drive time on their turns, there is a lot lizard (trucker term for prostitute) that causes other players to miss 4 hours of drive time.  There are cards that give you extra actions, extra cards, an extra buy and pollution cards that junk up your hand every time you move a truck with a card effect.

Players start with one truck and are able to move it after placing their first operations center, which their first truck is dispatched out of.  Trucks can move up to 12 hours of travel time per turn (more if a card allows) and if the player plays it safe, they simply move the time allotted on the map for standard travel, or they can speed and shave time off each segment to get to a destination faster and earn bonus victory points.  Some perishable items and hazardous materials will pay a bonus for alacrity on the highway.  Of course, if you speed, you still roll the hauler die.

So, gone is the turn order on the board.  Gone is the resource management poker mechanic and all that is left is good old fashioned trucking and deck building.  I will write more blogs, I promise, as we get past beta and into full prototyping.  Expect this title to come 2014 to a kickstarter near you!  In the meantime, here is the prototype board.

hauler_boardv4

 

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by GM Dave

d20Radio Kickstarter Private Game Schedule Now Available

August 7, 2013 in Game News

Below, see the planned schedule for our private games for all the $50 backer reward level.  Please contact Chris directly with any concerns or emergency type situations.  We still lack a couple of responses, and may add a bit to this.

 

Backer_Game_Schedule_8_7_13

 

 

 

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by GM Dave

Pillage! Begins Public Play Testing

August 1, 2013 in Announcements, Game News

mystic_goblinPillage, Gamer Nation Studios’ third game to enter public play testing, will be featured at the EONS launch party on August 11, 2013 at Madness Comics and Games in Plano, TX.  The event is scheduled from 1pm to 6pm and will feature the Lead Designer Brev Tanner showing off the game he has been working on since early 2012.  Pillage is a fast, fun game for up to 4 players in which the players control a race of monsters that attack a village to destroy building and collect resources and victory points.  Sometimes, a monster may run into a knight, or militia and must fight to be able to continue pillaging.  The game can be played in less than 30 minutes and due to the variety of the cards, is different every time you play.

Join us in the first public play test of Pillage! on Sunday, August 11.  The game will also be featured at GENCON on August 15th in a public play test that will tell us when this game will be ready for market.  The current plan is to play test for 90 more days, make edits and launch a kickstarter funding campaign in Q4, 2013.  Production is slated to begin and the game published in January or February, 2014.

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by GM Dave

Gamer Nation Studios Announces Tall Tales RPG Using The Triple Threat System

July 22, 2013 in Game News

### FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ###

July 22, 2013 — Lewisville, TX

Gamer Nation Studios to Publish Tall Tales RPG by Managing Designer Jay Little

Gamer Nation Studios has announced that they will publish a new role-playing game titled “Tall Tales” by new Managing Designer Jay Little.  “Tall Tales” will use the new Triple Threat System, a narrative die rolling system designed to be flexible, fun and fast.  The Triple Threat System has been in development for over 4 years under the guidance of Jay Little and is currently in play testing.

“Tall Tales” is set in the American Frontier that never quite was, where folklore and legend fueled the stories of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Pecos Bill and the King of the Wild Frontier, Davy Crocket.  Players will build their American Heroes to join the fray against varmints and critters as well as villains led by the Commodore of Crime, Cornelius Vadnerbilt.  Tall Tales is billed as a yard spinnin’ game and relies on players’ fame and notoriety to establish themselves as true American Heroes.

Refer to the game website at http://www.talltalesrpg.com or Gamer Nation Studios’ site at http://www.thegamernation.org for more information.

Jay Little is a veteran game designer with more than 20 years of experience in the hobby gaming industry. He’s the award-winning designer of popular games like Star Wars Edge of the Empire Roleplaying GameWarhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd EditionX-Wing MiniaturesBlood Bowl: Team Manager the Card Game, and many others, including several dozen roleplaying titles for a number of different game systems.

David Villegas and Chris Witt are ENnie Award Winners for their Role Playing Podcast “The Order 66 Podcast” and are accomplished game designers as well.  They formed Gamer Nation Studios in 2010 and produced their first game, Edition Wars in 2012, which earned an OGGIE nomination for Card Game of the Year and is an ENnie award nominee for Best Role Playing Related Product in 2013.  Their second game, EONS, an astronomy-based board game, has received overwhelming praise before its Summer 2013 release.

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by GM Dave

Developer Blog: Eons part 2

February 11, 2013 in Announcements, Developer Blog, Game News

With playtesting in full swing for EONS, several rules have been modified, but I am very pleased to say that after six weeks of solid playtesting, we made an overhaul of the original rules and tweaked others to come up with the general ruleset that I went over in the first EONS dev blog entry, and even that has changed.  The entropy counter is now a cosmic countdown instead of counting up, we are dabbling with a constant entropy countdown every fusion phase, we are also looking at removing the players’ ability to destroy another player’s last star to keep the game in balance.  All small changes that will ensure a competitive game and a good experience at the table.

 Just to give an idea of where we started, we had fusion cycles that followed the conservation of mass principal, and had many hydrogen creating a carbon, and so forth.  We also had a resource marker that escalated the price of elements based on scarcity.  It was a disaster, so we scrapped the resource market and made resources a fixed cost because the first person was able to buy, and it got so expensive that everyone else was shut out of the resource game, and we had a runaway victory.  We also had stars collapsing after 4 turns, and it was almost impossible to take resources and have a star survive…another disaster, so we overhauled the fusion cycles and added fission.  This makes it possible to sustain a star indefinitely and still get resources off the star.

We also had a problem with people simply building stars to let them die and get the Uranium, build a planet and collect the essence, buying more resources and creating a runaway chain of more and more essence and the ability to build almost unlimited planets and win the game with no issues…another bad deal which led to stars supporting a certain number of planets or the essence is cut off.  This was the change that made the game work and made it a very good game until the douchebag factor reared its ugly head and some players just blew up stars because they were there…and another tweak to make killing other players’ stars harder to destroy.

The next change we made was to limit the resource pool and redo the mathematics behind the essence and victory points associated with each cosmic body.  When this change went in, this made the game go from good to great!  We are very proud of the game at this point and are still conducting more playtests to hone the rules before the kickstarter campaign gets started.

This entry, I’d like to talk about the gameplay a little bit and how the turn order affects the EON cycle.

EON_Cycle

EONS does not really have turns, so to speak, but each EON is represented by a complete cycle.  At one point in the cycle, the turn order is established and each phase in the EON cycle is marked with a green arrow that points downward, indicating that the order of play goes from top to bottom on the turn order, or a red arrow that points upward, indicating that the order of play goes from the last place in the turn order to first.  As the players move through the eons, these are thephases  in each EON:

Purchase – Players, in reverse turn order, can purchase resources at the cost of 1 essence per Hydrogen, 2 essence per Carbon, 3 essence per Oxygen and 4 essence per Iron.

Build – Each player, starting with the 1st player in the turn order, can build one cosmic body at a time, and the turn order repeats until everyone has passed.  Once a player passes, she is done for that EON and cannot build again until the next eon.  In endgame, this means that the person in the lead is often a target for supernovas and cosmic collisions, so plan accordingly and be able to build and replace stars for your lost victory points.

Account – Generate essence for all your cosmic bodies that are in play and supported by stars.  Also, the number of victory points are tallied and the turn order is adjusted for all phases until the Account phase is completed in the next EON.  This phase flows from first to last in turn order.

Plan – In this phase, players may discard from their hand, and redraw cards up to their total of 7 cards allowed in their hand.  This phase flows from first to last in turn order.

Fusion – Players create new elements in their stars and are able to retrieve elements after fusion.  Each star has resources available for fusion in the resource box at the bottom of the card, as resources are removed and placed in the element pool, the fused elements are then placed inside the star image on the card.  Only elements within the star image on the card can be removed at the end of the fusion step.  It is important to note that if a star cannot fuse due to a lack of available elements on the star or in the pool, it collapses and all resources on the star are released to the resource pool and a uranium is generated for the player that owns the star.

Purchase – Players, in reverse turn order, can purchase resources at the cost of 1 essence per Hydrogen, 2 essence per Carbon, 3 essence per Oxygen and 4 essence per Iron.

When the entropy marker indicates that the game will end, the game actually ends at the end of the Account Phase that follows the event that caused the entropy marker to trigger the endgame.  This means that a star collapsing during fusion will allow for an extra build and purchase phase, but a supernova or cosmic collision will not allow for an additional fusion or purchase phase.

Turn order is important, as the players with lower Victory Point totals are given the first opportunity to purchase or fuse scarce resources.  Smart players that corner the market can actually cause a star to collapse if there are no elements available for a star to complete their fusion cycle.  This happened in our last 5 player playtest when carbon was fused into extinction and the point leader lost his star, and his essence for the unsupported planet, and oh ya, the game too!  That one planet cost him the essence and he was one short of building the star that would have had him on top, but the game ended before he fused the element on another star.

There are so many avenues to pursue in this game, it is hard to say what the dominant strategy will be, since the cards play an important factor in who blows up who first but one thing is for sure…the game is getting better and better and we feel that the game is in a place that it is ready to present to the world in a kick starter project next week.  For a preview, check this link here… http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/435243061/1076545863?token=2b0bac40 and let us know what you think.  I will be adding a few tidbits until launch, so check on us frequently.

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by GM Dave

Developer Blog: Hauler Part 2

November 21, 2012 in Developer Blog, Game News

In the last developer blog I talked about the core concept, driving the open road and making all your deliveries to earn points all while avoiding Johnny Law and any weather issues.  Now, I’d like to spend some time talking about what you can haul…the resources.

In hauler, there are five types of resources in the game, and they are produced all over the map.  Certain geographical areas account for more of a specific resource, but a player should never have to drive more than 2 days to pick up a load of one particular type of resource, depending on scarcity of course!  The resource types in the game are represented by colored cubes that the players pick up and place on their Hauler mat when taking a shipment.  Grain is found primarily in the midwest and plains states, and is represented by yellow cubes, while crops are found just about everywhere except the northeast and southwest and are green cubes on the board.  Meat is supplied in major markets and other selected areas in the plains and western United States and are red cubes.  Black cubes are raw materials, like wood or steel and can be found in the Northwest, Northeast and production markets all over the country.  Finally, goods are represented by blue cubes and are found in large cities all over the US that create goods from materials.

shipping_tableAs a player moves his truck around the map, he can load up to two resources from each city he stops at along the way in an effort to build the best load possible.  Represented graphically to the left, the valuation of each shipment configuration is tied directly to the amount of time it takes to assemble the resources.  Anyone can go to three towns and pick up a pair of goods, but if you make the extra turn count and truck over to Chicago to pick up the meat to go with your three grain out of Oklahoma City, well you have yourself three extra victory points and you can immediately load another resource in Chicago before you head to the Northeast for materials or goods.  There will be no single way to play this game, and the random elements of weather make this more appealing to the simulationist while still appealing to the family board gamer.

When planning on how to start the game, I made the decision to seed resources on the board to allow each player to formulate a plan of attack.  Of course this all goes out the window as soon as the player in New York and the player in Chicago both book it to Cleveland, but that is part of the intrigue and strategy.  Always have an alternate plan, bottom line!  The mechanic I chose to replenish resources is a card draw from the deck of resource cards.  Randomly, cards are dealt on the north side of the board, and a die is rolled to determine the resource mix placed on the city in question.  Depending on the number of players, there may be more or less resources available for a given city, but this will be indicated on the card.  Once the resources are placed, the other cards are also examined to see if there are any weather or earthquakes that have occurred.  If so, the die result rolled for resource placement will also determine the city on the card affected by weather.

The resource replenishment rates have been chosen to gradually introduce scarcity, and make the endgame choices a little harder.  It also will accelerate the need to take chances, speed and wreck an opponent’s plan with a well timed drive through Atlanta.

So what is a typical turn?  Simple, plan your route, move your truck while tallying your travel time, pick up resources and/or deliver shipments, and repeat for the next truck you have in service.  Seems easy enough until you see that red cube in Kansas City, you are in Indianapolis and a hitch hiker comes up from Chicago to Las Vegas, right in line with where you are trucking to.  Do you spend the extra time in Chicago and take the chance you won’t make it to KC to get the meat, or go for the green stamp grab and 15 big ones for the hitcher?  You plan the route and see that you will have to speed on one of the legs to get there, and you do exactly that.  You go from Indy to Chicago in 3 hours, pick up the hitcher, head to St Louis in 5 hours and speed to Kansas City.  You roll a 6.  Darn.  Ticket for you, it is your third of the game and costs you 4 green stamps as a fine, but you arrive in KC and pick up the meat you needed for the rainbow shipment.  You spent the time to get the hitcher, got a ticket, then got robbed by the hitcher, but you still net 6 green stamps for making the trip.  It all depends on what resources lie between Kansas City and Vegas on the route you want to take.

So what can you do with the green stamps?  Well, you need them to win the game!  But, more importantly, you have to pay to maintain your truck, pay for tickets, repair your truck after an accident and most importantly, buy ownership in your trucking company.  This sets the stage for the endgame condition, and will be the topic of the third installment of the Hauler Dev Blog.  Until then, keep it in the lines!

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by GM Dave

Developer Blog: Hauler Part 1

October 9, 2012 in Developer Blog, Game News

hauler_logoAs I start on this, I am not sure where I need to be.  To be honest, I don’t do much reading on other guys’ developer blogs out of some misplaced sense of honor that if I am influenced by someone else’s great idea, I am somehow soiled by the mere suggestion that I borrowed a concept.  So, pardon me if this series of articles does not seem to flow like other developer blogs.

Hauler is a concept I have worked on time and again over the last year or so, after my initial draft of Boarding Pass became far too complex to produce as an initial game for the small and indie publisher Gamer Nation Studios and it centers on one primary idea.  Get it, Haul it and Deliver it.  The premise is simple.  Travel as fast as you can and fill up the cargo area of your truck with resources that give you the best payout and find the closest city to deliver it to.

My first inspiration came from our beloved game of poker.  The payouts (in Green Stamps because after all, truckers refer to money, especially tolls, as green stamps) are based on a modified poker hand.  A pair is worth the least, then two pair, three of a kind and so forth.  The problem is that a flush can’t happen since the resources are only color coded and not numeric, and a straight cannot happen as such.  So, the solution is that the straight becomes a rainbow of all the resources and since resources tend to cluster together and you may have to travel longer to put together your resource rainbow, it is the most valuable cargo configuration.

Well, then how do the truckers get from place to place?  My next inspiration came from Rand McNally.  I love the way a map looks with the red lines for highways, green for toll roads and the occasional orange for construction, so I drew the map like that, except that I remember that the state troopers in Georgia have all these speed traps that you have to watch out for, so I said to myself “Dave, you need to work in speeding tickets and johnny law into the equation.”  And I did.  Travel times are pretty close to real travel times on the map, but there is another number on each route that tells you how much faster you get there if you bend the speed limit.  Tempting?  You Bet!  Roll the Hauler die if you speed and let’s say that in a regular stretch of road, you roll a 6, you get a ticket.  If you are in a speed trap (yellow stretches of road, since yellow means caution) then you get nailed by that bear on a 5 or a 6.

Let’s talk about the weather now too!  Since I am a weather geek, I had to add in the element of the weather.  Although I wanted a nice, organized weather pattern that moved west to east like a nice zonal flow in the summertime, there is very close to no way to make that happen.  So, I settled on the way I think most weathermen predict the weather, a die roll.  Each weather card has 6 cities listed on it to be affected by weather, with of course the northeast, midwest and the north responsible for the majority of weather spots.  If the city has a weather token on it, roll the die if you speed and this time, add a 1 to the list of do not rolls, because you could have an accident and be parted with some of your precious greenbacks. Southern California, I hear you snickering that there is no weather there…don’t worry, there are three earthquake cards that just happen to focus on the western cities.

So, we have speeding and weather that can get in your way, why not just travel at regular pace?  It might work, it might not.  Every speeding ticket you get accumulates and gets more and more expensive, simulating your insurance rates, so by the time you have received 10 tickets, you have wasted 54 greenbacks!  AND, you go to jail, losing a turn and allowing your meat, grain and crops on the rig to spoil.

In a nutshell, that is the foundation of the game.  I’ll be back next week and talk about how I started in on the resources, the resource addition mechanic and how then end game might look, as well as how a typical turn will be spent in Hauler.

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by GM Dave

Developer Blog: Eons Part 1

September 21, 2012 in Developer Blog, Game News

eons-300x3001I am very excited to start a new developer blog on a project I am thrilled to be a designer on, called EONS. During GENCON 2012, we launched Edition Wars and began brainstorming more concepts for additional board games our company wanted to pursue. On night, we were sitting around and Krista Witt, the lead designer for this game, started talking about a resource management game that involved strategy, growth and competition. She had just finished up Power Grid, so this was one of the first Inspiration points of the game concept.

Then, a combination of other influences kicked in, around religion, science, Star Trek and chemistry as we started brainstorming and the idea was hatched. What made a better resource farm than the stars that make up our galaxy? Off we went, the premise quickly became that the player takes on the role of a “Cosmic Architect” with the ability to build stars by using her own “essence”, or energy that is generated by the architect and the cosmic bodies and life forms that she has created. A full turn in the game is called an EON, in which the player can buy elements, discard and draw cards to advance their strategy, build planets, and even generate life and civilization with certain advancement abilities and more essence and finally fuse elements and recover some of those fused elements. Each cosmic body the player builds and maintains generates an amount of victory points for the player, as well as a regeneration of essence. Additionally, a star is only able to support a specific number of planets in orbit. A good strategy to deny opponents victory points is to force them to have planets without stars, which still give victory points, but do not generate essence if they are not supported by a star.

The end game condition varies with the number of players, but every time a star or planet is destroyed, an entropy counter is increased by one. When the entropy reaches, say 11 (for a three player game), the game will end at the culmination of the current EON.

This entry, I’d like to talk resource management, as it is the core mechanic of the game. The resources consist of the most abundant element in the universe, Hydrogen, as well as Carbon, Oxygen, Iron and the destructive Uranium. Each star “costs” the player essence to create, as well as a mix of elements, which provide the starting resources for the Star. Planets and life/civilization also require specific mixes of elements and essence, but building planets and life will not add to the resource farm.

Resources can be purchased from the available resource pool using essence, but many of the heavier elements are cost prohibitive and that is where the scientific precept of fusion comes into the game. Fusion allows a star to convert Hydrogen to Carbon, Carbon to Oxygen, Oxygen to Iron and then perform fission to tear apart the iron and start over to generate additional elements to use. Elements can only be removed from the star if they are a product of fusion and is dependent on player decision. Now, we realize that all you science purists are screaming “What about the law of conservation of mass?” Although we fully understand the science, we have to suspend reality a little bit to make the game mechanics work, and frankly, once you get past the fact that it is not 100% scientifically correct, the ideas and precepts of the game draw you in, and you are absorbed in the fantasy of building your own universe. For this reason, we are also performing fusion differently, instead of fusing hydrogen to helium, we move up the periodic table very quickly to preserve the overall theme of the game, creating elements like carbon, the building block of life.

Uranium is a rare element, cannot be purchased, and is used for planet and star destruction, which we will get to in another entry. Uranium is produced as a part of stars dying. If a player removes enough resources that a star can no longer fuse, then the star collapses, goes out of the game, and generates one element of uranium for the player who owned the star. A supernova card is also available, which allows a player to use essence to destroy another players’ star, generating a uranium for the player that owns the star and allowing the destructor to take an element of her choice.

It is very important in end game to have plentiful resources, as the uranium and destruction comes fast and furious, and you must be able to support your planets as the entropy counter rises. Do not get caught at the end of the game without resources.

Next entry, I’ll get into how we came up with the gameplay cycle, some of the stars and planets as well as a look at other cards available in the deck.

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