Taking an idea forward – Buildings

Buildings in Euro games are nothing new or innovative, but I find them extremely interesting and a good way of creating a connection between the Players and the current session; there’s a greater feeling of “ownership” when trading in your collected resources for a permanent (typically) new addition to the board. Different buildings come out every game, allowing for various playstyles and strategies to come out during games. That being said, I often feel that buildings, or at least the construction of them, don’t often fit thematically into games, which is something I hope to accomplish.

In the context of this game, adding buildings should mean more than “I pay resources, get a few VP and now there’s an extra spot on the board to send workers to.” I don’t mean to disparage games that do this, however since we’re rebuilding a war-ravaged city, I want there to be more oomph when a player constructs a building. Some thoughts on how I am going to accomplish this:

  • Fixed number of building spots on the board;
  • Open choice of buildings to construct;
  • Different types of buildings to allow for different strategies;
  • High resource costs for construction;
  • Rewards matching the high costs.

If I had to pick a game that I feel does buildings particularly well, it would probably be Caverna. There are a huge selection of buildings available (many argue too many) and they fall into different categories; passive bonuses, abilities that have to be activated with an action and buildings that are simply worth points at the end of the game. What I want to do, however, is make the buildings feel much more impactful when they are built, instead of just being an action where that is the optimal move points-wise.

So what does this mean? Well, in a nutshell, I want buildings to make players feel like they’ve actually worked to pull them off – a point of comparison would probably be the 25 or 40 point quests in Lords of Waterdeep, whereby they really are goals that players have to save up for several rounds in order to pull off. High resource costs aren’t the only way of doing this, however, I also want the buildings to feel like buildings that a player owns. Although I don’t want to have nearly as many building options as there are in Caverna, I hope to offer a generous number which players can choose between, likely falling into three different categories:

  • Bonus influence (moves a player up 2 or 3 spaces on the Influence track);
  • Passive bonuses (nets the owner a bonus when they take a particular board action);
  • Action space (any player can use this building as another board spot, owner gets bonus effect).

None of these are particularly unique or out of the ordinary, but I think with proper effects and appropriately thematic names, they will help the game feel more alive and meaningful. Some first-pass examples of the three types of buildings as mentioned above:

  • Cathedral – influence building – costs 15 stone, 10 wood – building player moves forward 3 spots on the influence track;
  • Lumber Mill – passive bonus – costs 5 stone, 8 wood, 1 worker – building player receives double wood when harvesting from the Forest;
  • Guard Tower – action space – costs 12 stone, 3 wood – building player moves forward 1 spot on the influence track and any player may place a worker here to grand protection to any one unprotected resource location. Owner placing a worker here will receive the normal amount of that resource at the end of the turn.

The examples above are still rough and resource costs will likely be adjusted once I get the base buildings sorted out and begin prototyping. Iconography will be important for these buildings, as well as for the overall user experience of the game, which is an aspect of game design that I have come to particularly appreciate as I have had the opportunity to play more and more games.

Initially, I believe there will be 7 possible building locations on the main game board, with 7 possible buildings of each of the 3 types, for a total of 21 buildings initially. I don’t want to offer so many choices that players will suffer from huge bouts of AP when trying to decide on which one to build, but at the same time I don’t want to provide so few choices that they become repetitive after several plays. Additionally, I truly want players to feel like their choice of building matters, so they can play one game focusing on accumulating passive bonuses, another focusing on a mix of Mission cards and Influence buildings for points and yet others where they can focus their efforts on creating extra action spaces and then using the extra options to make sure they always have access to what they need. The buildings are probably the aspect of the game that I need to invest the most time working on at this point, and they will likely be the hardest aspect to properly balance, but I hope that it’s worthwhile in the end.

Next time, I’ll be discussing the rest of the board and what spaces Workers can be used before the buildings even come into play.

(Header image by BGG user saksi – https://boardgamegeek.com/image/1993165/caverna-cave-farmers)

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