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Balancing the speed of the game from start to finish

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#1 adamjmac



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Posted 28 November 2010 - 05:03 PM

I've played three games now, and one thing I noticed is that the end of the game comes very fast. It seems once you have three cities up with buildings, everyone is getting a tech almost every turn (especially with the 9+6 trade for a silk ability), and everyone who was originally focusing on military is now in a race to get a tech victory (or abandons their plan to beat the other players to it). On top of that, one player who has culture everywhere can move 2 or sometimes 3 spaces on the culture track each turn, even at level 3, which basically sets a timer on the end of the game since it's pretty tough to stop a player from doing that.

We've discussed it among ourselves and recognize this to be a problem; it's one thing that makes it very different from the computer game. If we had some more time to move around and actually fight each other with similar-level units, it would make for a more tactically strategic game and not just rushing for victory by combining a few abilities in the right order.

I would speculate the problem comes from the game designers being pressured to make a game that ends quickly. At some point, the game will snowball and someone will win, just to cut two hours off the game time. It feels a bit too chaotic when you've invested 2 hours already into setting up your cities and building an empire. In the computer game, someone might go to war 3 or 4 times in a game, and the pace of the game moves fairly linearly as you progress through time. In this game, you're lucky to have 2 or 3 battles before it's over, and it's not uncommon airplanes to fly over barbarian villages. There's just no opportunity for dynamics to evolve between players - it just ends.

One thing that I think would definitely improve this is by slowing the rate at which technologies are learned. Less frequent new technologies means less crazy special abilities, more production to spend on military units, and more battles between similarly matched forces. To do this, I would increase the trade limit, and proportionally increase the trade cost of technologies. It makes sense to have to save up for a few turns in order to get a level 4 tech, not get one every turn.

This would slow down the military victory, as it would take longer to build up a force strong enough to wipe out a capital, and also give players more time to trek over to your land and attack your units.

Slowing technology would slow down the economic victory automatically, because most of the ways to get coins requires having those tech cards. We haven't had a player go for economic victory yet, so I'm not sure how that might need to be balanced, though.

Cultural victory can happen pretty much independently from technology, so it would have to be limited on its own. The winner of our last game moved through level 3 culture in 2 turns, by getting well over 20 culture per turn (using scouts, resource abilities, etc.). We think a simple way would be to change the culture income to work the way hammers do. When you devote your city to the arts, you can move one (and only one) space on the track, per city that you do that action with. You have to be able to afford the movement with the culture icons available to that city (plus scouts can gather for it, or you can add incense abilities the same way wheat does for hammers), and additional tokens are lost. That means you can't just bank up culture tokens and spend them later.

Rebalancing these rules would probably be a matter of adjusting the trade limit and tech costs. Level 1 techs should still cost 6 or maybe 8, but level 3 or 4 techs would be more along the lines of 30 or 50. Next time if we try these rules, we will watch how long it takes the cultural player to move up the track, and then we can readjust the tech costs so that everyone else's technologies are earned at roughly the same pace.

Sure, a few little rules might also have be visited, like when you loot a player there won't be any culture tokens to take, but maybe you can get trade instead and then allow using trade to get culture (like hammers) at 3:1. But after working out those kinks, it shouldn't be too difficult to just slow down the pace of the game at the end, since in its current state it feels like we're not seeing the potential we could be from what is a fundamentally very good strategy game.

#2 CapnZapp



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Posted 29 November 2010 - 02:54 AM

Making the game finish in a reasonable length of time was highly likely a top consideration. After all, there are already plenty of games professing to give a "civ like" experience but which takes a long time to play.

Making this game give a little of each aspect of "the civ feeling" (a little exploration, a little expansion, a little conflict, and some optimization) but then bringing each game to a close, so you could start up another, was quite possibly a very good move by FFG.

The end-of-game timer doesn't start when some civ starts moving three steps on the culture tracker - it starts when the game begins. It's helpful if you already from the start realize this game is over in, what 12-16 (?) game turns.

Unlike the computer game, there isn't a period at the beginning of each game where you simply know nothing of the end game, and does not even have to consider ending the game. This game certainly isn't about building up a kingdom and then enjoying that for any length of time. This game is a continuous race to the finish, where everything you do should be geared towards winning (and not "making a good-looking civilization").

This said, if enough extra material becomes available through expansions, I can easily see fans making variant rules for longer play time (making a tech victory require a step 6 tech, making the military victory require destroying 50% of the capitals, and so on)...

#3 adamjmac



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Posted 29 November 2010 - 03:39 AM

After reading a bunch of forum posts, I see the point that the game is more about racing for victory, and that's not a terrible thing because there's a lot of skill involved in doing that. I guess I just like the concept of long, strategic games more. I'm not totally sure if it will be easy to modify and balance the rules into a longer game that has more interaction between players, but I'm going to try...

#4 Wybird666



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Posted 15 February 2011 - 12:30 PM

Of course there is nothing to stop you introducing house rules. In the computer game, you can tune victory conditions and many other rules. You can of course do the same in the board game - you won't go to prison or anything.

The rules in the book are designed to create a balanced game with an equal chance of all victory types (obviously depending on the styles of the players though). Tuning the rules will of course significantly tune the dynamics, but finding that out can also be part of the fun.

If you want a long exploratory fighting game, make military the only victory. The other options (culture, coins etc.) will become less used, but the benefits of use will still be valid. This should stretch the timeline out a bit. You could always extend the military victory to complete destruction (although losing one city could mean that eventually anyway).

Just make sure everyone knows the score before you play, and consider what the effects will be beforehand (just to make sure the game is unlikely to become bland).

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