Taking an idea forward – Missions Continued & Turn Order

Previously I touched on the Mission cards from the context of accessing them during the first Phase of the game, so today I wanted to discuss them further and lead into how I want to handle Turn Order in the game. There are some worker placement games that handle turn order in interesting ways (Viticulture and Fresco stand out to me in particular), however of all the games I’ve had the pleasure of playing, Castles of Burgundy has one of the most interesting mechanics I’ve come across yet.

Missions (continued)

Ok, so we’ve established the inspirations behind the Mission cards as coming from Quests in Lords of Waterdeep and Forge War, but with the caveat of having different rewards. At this point, I’ve come up with three different types of Missions, each with different types of rewards:

  • Contracts
  • Favours
  • Investigations

Mechanically, the three types of contracts will be mostly similar; Players who start a Mission will place a worker onto the claimed Mission card which will have a certain number of steps indicated on them. Each round, a player will have the option of moving their worker on the Mission card one space ahead, taking up one of their available actions. Until such time that the quest is completed (or abandoned), this Worker will remain on the Mission card and be unavailable to take other actions on the board. My hope here is (as always) to create compelling game-play choices by making the Player choose to have fewer actions per round (at least until the Mission is completed), with the reward being something beneficial to them.

The three types of Missions each function slightly differently and provide rewards accordingly:

  • Contracts typically take a reasonable number of rounds to complete, but upon completion will provide the Player with an automatic reward at the start of every round. These rewards may come in the form of resources (gold or otherwise) or they may reward the player with a bonus whenever they take other actions on the board;
  • Favours are the shortest in length and provide one-off rewards, either the player will receive a single payment of a type of resource, an immediate ability to take an another action on the board or the ability to hold onto the card and trade it in for an action at a later time;
  • Investigations will take the longest to complete and may even have a cost (in resources or gold) associated with progressing on them, however the reward for completing them will be to move up a number of spaces on the Turn Order track for free (detailed further below).

Most of these ideas come from Plot Quests in Lords of Waterdeep, as well as the Visitor cards in Viticulture, which are some of my favourite aspects of those two games. Thematically, Plot Quests make a lot of sense to me – you’re sending some of your adventurers to accomplish some goal and as a result, the game “World” is altered for you as a result. They feel good once completed and the rolling benefits, while mostly only ever moderately powerful, are still a reminder that you’ve done more than just move forward on the Victory Point track. Similarly, the Visitor cards usually feel fantastic to play; their abilities fit the names appropriately and are almost always incredibly useful (with some being more situational than others). Both of these mechanics feel good to me, they are actions that genuinely shake up the game-play and provide a feel-good boost that I desperately want to capture.

Turn Order

As mentioned above, I really love the Turn Order mechanic in Castles of Burgundy. For those who may not have had the chance to play yet, Turn Order in CoB is a simple track but not one where players must make a strategic decision to move forward on. There are a limited number of Ship tiles that will seed the board on each round and when a player builds them, they are able to not only sell goods that they may have accumulated, but they also move forward one space on the Turn Order Track.

So why is this interesting to me? The most fascinating part is that due to the limited number of tiles that come out, there are only a few players who will be able to do this on their turn and actually doing so takes 2 actions (assuming the dice rolls are in your favour) to do so. Every Ship acquired is one less piece of Technology, field of Animals, Castle or any of the other types of tiles available in the game that Player will be able to take. Rushing ahead on the Turn Order track is perilous in its own right, as the Turn Order is counted not only by the position on the Track, but also in a “Last In, First Out” manner, so if another players also moves forward on the Turn Order track after you do, they will place their Turn Order Marker on top of yours, allowing them to go first instead of you.

After playing games such as Lords of WaterdeepAgricola and Castles of Burgundy, I’ve realized that I don’t want my game to last a fixed number of turns and rely on Victory Points to determine a winner. This choice may come back to haunt me down the road, however I’ve come to prefer games such as ViticulturePower Grid and Caylus where the Players ultimately have control over when the game ends and I often find this type of Victory Condition has a more thematic feel to it (what theme explanation is there behind a game ending after a certain number of rounds?).

The above being said, my current plan is to use the Turn Order track as a way of not only displaying Turn Order, but also as a way of tracking the games progression. This track (temporarily referred to as the Influence Track) will have a number of spaces on it (presently thinking around 12 with 10 being the End Game trigger), and after a certain point will begin rewarding bonuses to players who reach that particular threshold. Unlike other games, however, in keeping with the Influence name as it fits in with the overall theme of the game, I don’t plan to offer a spot on the board where Workers can be placed to move up on the track; each jump in Influence must be earned.

There will be several ways to earn Influence over the course of the game:

  • Mission Rewards;
  • Building construction (coming soon);
  • Resource protection.

Rewards from Missions will be relatively straight-forward; the player completing the Mission will move forward on the track as indicated. Buildings (which I will discuss next time) will be another way of accumulating Influence, however at a considerable cost. With regard to the Resources, this also ties in to the Card Phase of the game; since players are thematically providing protection, they will earn a trickle of influence as other Players harvest resources. This last part is the most tricky to me, as it’s something I want to include, however the rate can’t be too far on either extreme – too low and it will barely factor into games at all, too high and other Players may end up hurting their own progression to try and prevent another Player from advancing, neither of which are desirable to me.

Next time, I plan on talking about the Buildings that Players will be able to construct in the game, how they ultimately affect the game and how I hope to keep them powerful but not game-breaking.

(Header image by BGG user 3EBC – https://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/2385416/castles-burgundy)

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