Ruff_Hi's Antics

All Happiness is the Release of Internal Pressure

Sponsor Comments: Adventure 44 - Oh Mista Hart!

This style of game (lots of AIs on a cramped map) is one that I have played quite a few times. It is generally fun and just involves unit spam and getting on a role. There is really only one path to victory with this set up and that is conquest. I took domination off the board when I used the "What a Mess" theme. By the way, if you know any Aussies of 30+ years of age, you should ask them to complete this sentance "Oh Mista Hart ..." (best said in an Italian old lady accent if you can manage it) and if they don't say "What a mess!" then you have my permission to revoke their passport and citizen rights.

I originally emailed this concept to Sullla over the Christmas / New Year break when the games that RB had been hosting were difficult, challenging games. As such, I thought a little, light bit of fluff would be just the ticket. The email I got back from Sullla said that he had 3(ish) games in the works from various sponsors but he would slot this game in the queue. Months later, here we are.

The majority of the game design was aimed at slowing the player down. I tried to put in a number of speed bumps that would be triggered at staggered intervals during the game play.

The Map
I was looking for a map that contained two land masses, hoping that one of the AIs on the other land mass would dominate its island and be a real challenge for the late game conquest. A narrow-ish starting land mass would also encourage the player to systematically pick off the AI. Some early testing had the player starting in the middle of the land mass and having to push wars in two directions. I decided that this doesn't add value and just makes the cultural crush that you get after taking a city twice as annoying thus the player starting position at one end of the land mass.

Civ Selection
The 'Aggressive AI' option was checked to slow down the player so I thought I would throw in some defensive support if your game turned pear shaped. Thus the PROTECTIVE and CULTURAL traits. All leaders would experience cultural pressure in this game, so the free +2 culture would be useful throughout the game. The defensive archer would also help if an AI took an early dislike to the player. Part of me wants to claim that the civ selection was actually a stroke of genius, given how useful the Unique Unit and Unique Building ended up being for this game - however, the truth was that it was a lucky happenstance and really helped to cement the civ selection.

Vulture: can double as an axe or sword which was critical given the limit on units of similar COMBAT_TYPE
Ziggurat: early courthouse at Priesthood which was useful given the expected early wars and cities without having to tech to Code of Laws

AI Placement
I didn't spend much time on this aspect of the game. The only move I did was to place Korea (Protective!) beside the player to slow him down.

Resource Placement
I deliberately moved copper away from the start to make the player work for it. However, on the flip side, I added horses to the players start (the only source of horse on the map) and swapped a grain to a cow to spur the player towards Animal Husbandry (and thus reveal the horses). The other resource twist was that I completely removed Iron from the map. My play testing had shown that the game becomes a total joke when the player gets to knights - at that stage, it becomes a 'point and shoot' game rather than a (hopefully) growing challenge. Removing Iron also took out cannons (another unit that can break open a game).

I wonder if anyone popped iron from a mine?

COMBAT_TYPE Limitation
This twist was added near the end of the play testing and was designed as another speed bump to the player - inserted to force the player to take a few turns to save gold if they wanted to mass-upgrade their war machine. Unfortunately the concept wasn't 100% clear to the readers, thus reinforcing the good practice of getting someone else in the community to review your game write up and provide feedback (something I failed to do with this game).
Was I Satisfied?
From the 'game finished' feedback, it appears that the majority of people had a fun time playing. Based on my shadow game, I am happy with my game design except for the second island - the clean up there was very easy. I think in hindsight, it might have been better to beef up the tech resources on that island and give it all to a good teching AI that was also able to fight as well as giving that AI contact with the other AIs. That might have made for an interesting end game showdown.

I will add some comments here after I have read people's reports.