As discussed previously, I am quite enamoured with the card selection aspect in Glass Road; I like how players can’t just pick what they need willy-nilly as they run the risk of losing out on half of what the card can provide. I also greatly appreciate how this particular mechanic greatly helps in eliminating the dreaded “multi-player solitaire” feel that many Euro games have.
When I sat down and decided that I wanted to build my own worker placement game, I had a few design goals in mind:
- Have 2 distinct phases;
- Not be multi-player solitaire;
- Have multiple paths to victory.
These are all aspects of Glass Road that I respect and enjoy, so that was my initial jumping off point; adapt mechanics I like from Glass Road into a worker placement game. The last thing I want to do is flat-out copy another game, so I started thinking about the theme I wanted to use, and how that might tie into this particular mechanic, as well as other aspects of the game. While the theme isn’t set in stone at this point, I’m relatively content with what I’ve come up with so far.
Thematically, players represent powerful families who are all vying for favour and influence in a fantasy kingdom that has just ended a long and terrible war. The game takes place in and around a large kingdom that was partially destroyed, and with so many soldiers and guards lost in the war, the prospect of rebuilding is still dangerous. At the beginning of each turn is Phase 1, where players actually select and play their cards (based on turn order), which further open up new areas of the board in Phase 2. As an example, Player 1 may wish to “Protect” the Forest, so that Wood can be harvested as a resource from it. To do so, he would select the appropriate card from his hand and place it face down in front of him. When all players have selected their cards in secret, they are then revealed in turn order and are then resolved. Players protecting the resource areas on the board means that in Phase 2, Wood can be harvested as a resource, with a kickback of either 1 Wood or 1 Coin going to the Protecting Player, as a payment for his protection.
That is all relatively straight-forward, not too far off of how Caylus‘ building work. Being cards, however, what happens when 2 (or more) players select the same area? To skirt around this, the mechanics from Glass Road wouldn’t work with the theme – 2 players are protecting the same area would bump up the payments required, reducing the value of a player going there, which didn’t make sense. My solution was as follows: if 2 players are protecting the same area, the amount of resources harvested by Players are doubled, however the First protecting player chooses both players rewards, selecting the reward that he wants (no longer an option for the Player who is harvesting, so long as they have sufficient resources) while also selecting the reward that the Second protecting player will receive.
From the perspective of the theme, I believe this fits and makes sense; the First player sends his troops out to protect, however the Second player gets there afterwards. Their additional protection allows for the workers to work safely for longer, however they are a larger force combined, so they shake down the workers for more resources. Not only do I feel this fits thematically, but it’s also a way of sliding a bit more player interaction into the game; do players want to take advantage of the additional resources available on this turn, or do they want to find other things to do so that they aren’t helping 2 other players? Similarly, if they don’t have enough Coins to possibly fulfil the Protection costs, can they get away with giving up some of the wood they are harvesting? Is this a valid strategy; get rid of your coins if you think two other players may pick the same card so that they’re stuck without an option? These questions are all things that I like thinking and feeling when I play a game, they require you to understand the layout of the board, what other players are doing and what they are accumulating themselves.
The next stumbling block I came across was a bit trickier; what happens if a third player chooses the same location to protect? I didn’t like the idea of just scaling it up further, as 3x the resource provided could lead to an over-abundance of a particular type of resource if all players ended up dog-piling the same spot every turn. I thought about allowing for a maximum of 2 players on any spot and simply invalidating subsequent cards for that spot, but that’s simply not fun and not at all something I wanted to experience. Instead, I stuck to the third bullet-point above: ‘Have multiple paths to victory,’ which lead me into the “Mission” mechanic that I’d like to talk about next time.
(header image by BGG user travisdhill – https://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/2290644/glass-road)