Alder Devlog #6: Cards

Right from the first play of the game I said to myself “this game needs cards”. Almost all of my companions disagreed, but I still think it does. It was missing that element of surprise. The game was totally deterministic, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it needed something to spice it up, so that the little guy didn’t always lose the battle, or the hungry didn’t always starve to death, etc.

So I went through a lot of ideas on the subject. I wanted something that could spice up the gameplay, but not make it too much of a game of chance, and not remove the focus from the game itself.

So here’s what I came up with.

Each player has a hand of four cards. They must always have four cards in this hand. If they play one, they must draw a replacement at the end of the turn, They can play as many cards as they like in a turn, as long as they always have four in their hand.

Here’s where the interesting bit comes in. Only one in three of the cards are advantageous to play. The other half have penalties when you play them. So every time you play a beneficial card, you are risking drawing a bad card that will take up space in your hand. But when you have a hand of bad cards, you have the option of playing one, and taking the penalty, for the chance of drawing a good card.

You can also swap or trade cards with other players, in return for other cards, or gold, or whatever. You work it out.

I like this card idea. There’s kind of a risk-reward thing happening. I’ll see how it works out- the Alder playtest is this Sunday! Yaaay!

Alder Devlog #5: Improvements

A big part of the original game was the ability to spend gold to buy improvements in each of your settlements. For example, you could spend 15 Gold on a farm, which would give you +1 Food every turn.

But then I thought about sieges, and how cool they could be. A player might not have enough firepower to attack an enemy city outright, but they might be able to camp outside and stop the people inside the town walls from getting out to their farms.

And that in turn got me thinking. Towns don’t have farms! The farms are in the land around them, not in the town itself. So I had the idea to let the players build improvements on any suitable tile, instead of in towns.

That would give the players an incentive to stick around in an area, because they have it built-up with amenities, instead of moving on. It would also allow for sieges as I mentioned before.

So here is how I picture it.

Each map tile is a, say, 2″ square. Improvements are 1″ square tiles with a little picture of the improvement on them, and whatever their effect is. Therefore, each improvement is 1/4 the size of the gridsquares. The players are allowed up to two improvements on a tile.

You need to have at least one unit per improvement in a tile to get the bonus. So if you had two farms, you would need two people in that tile to work them. Only one persons’ units can be in the same tile, but an improvement can be worked by any players’ units.

Each turn, if the above condition is met, the tile’s bonus is carried out. For example, if it was a farm tile, then 3 food would be placed on that square.

Here are the improvement ideas I’ve come up with so far.

  • Cows: plains, hills: +3 Food
  • Sheep: plains, hills, mountains: +2 Food, +1 Gold
  • Fish: coastal tiles, rivers: +3 Food
  • Road: all non-water tiles: units can move unlimited distance along roads.
  • Wall: all non-water tiles: +2 Defence
  • Gems: mountains: +2 Gold
  • Canal: all non-water tiles: Makes deserts equivalent to plains (ie. you can have Cows + Sheep there) and boats can move in that tile.
  • Tea: hills, only when the weather value is greater than or equal to 2: +2 Food +2 Gold
  • Tower: all non-water tiles: can roll a d6 to kill that many units in an adjacent square.

I want to figure out a way to shoehorn in potatoes, because potatoes are cool, and maybe a “village” or something that creates a unit every turn, or when you roll a die or something. Maybe Iron, Silver, or Gold mines, to offer more options in mountains (beyond Sheep, Gems and sometimes Fish).

One thing to keep in mind is that the people working the tiles need to be fed each turn! And any spare resources they might have must be moved back to towns, or anyone could come along, kill the units, and steal the resources. They might even stay in the tile

One thing I’m considering is “technology”. The players have a number of technology cards, on show to everyone else, and they can only build a certain improvement if they have the right tech/s. They can choose any 5 or so at the beginning of the game, and either buy more or get them when they defeat other players. That would add an extra layer of strategy, as you need to figure out what you might need later in the game, and analyse your starting position and try and choose the optimal technologies.

But the game is already too similar to Sid Meier’s Civilization series than I’d like, and this would only make it even more similar. I’m wondering right now am I heading in the right direction, or am I making everything too complex? Is there another way I could do what I want to do, that’s a little bit less similar to Civ? Maybe it’s even a better option for me?

Alder Devlog #4: Vehicles

Okay, so I’ve been thinking about water.

In the original game, water was a barrier. Players couldn’t do anything with it, except make trade routes across it. It worked pretty well, but I think I can do better.

I originally thought of giving one player, one race, or one powerup to make a player able to travel across water. Other races/players/whatever would have other bonuses, like 50% extra attack, or the ability to change the weather, but I think that makes each player too different. It could be really interesting to give the players totally different abilities, but they’re all a little bit too much for this game I think.

So instead, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to combine it with another idea I had, and add ‘vehicles’ into the game. (Don’t worry, no jetpacks or anything. Maybe in an expansion ^^)

So each player can build vehicles. My first example is a boat. They can travel on water, and only on water. If there is a boat in a tile, you can move units and resources onto it. Then you can move that boat one tile every turn across water. Every player starts with one boat, maybe one powerup can make you start with two, and every so often they could turn up in the market.

I’m not sure if naval combat should be a thing, or if the weather could change things (eg. If the weather value is less than 2, the boats get stuck in ice) or if boats should have a maximum cargo size, but I like the idea of boats.

My second ‘vehicle’ isn’t really a vehicle at all. It’s a cannon. When there’s at least one unit in the same space, you can use a cannon to attack a square up to five tiles in any direction. You roll one d6 and that many units are killed in that square. You can buy a cannon in the market, or perhaps build one in a settlement for a certain amount of money or population points.

They’re not that big a deal-breaker in ones or twos, but just picture two sides with massive artillery sections lining up and firing at each other. That’s pretty cool isn’t it?


In the end, vehicles aren’t necessarily things to carry people. They’re just things that require a person to operate them. And I have a few other ideas for them, I might share later once they’re a little bit more finalised.

Alder Devlog #3: Stock up for the winter!

There was a weather mechanic in the original game that I was really proud of. It looked like this:

    2 - Scorching
    3 - Hot
    3 - Temperate <<<
    2 - Cold
    1 - Freezing

Look complicated? Don’t worry, it’s not.

I mentioned that you could tell your population to make food each turn. Well, the arrows there mean that the temperature is now Temperate. So for each unit in Food, that turn you’ll get 3 Food. If the weather was Freezing, then you would get 1 Food for each farming population unit.

If the event die was a 6, then the weather would change. It was rolled again. If the roll was 3 or less, the weather got colder, if it was 4 or higher, the weather got hotter.

This was really cool. You noticed that the weather was good right now, and you should probably make the most of it. But it wasn’t an urgent situation, so you put it off and got Gold instead, because you needed that right now. But then, your population worked their way through your food store, you were running on empty, and the weather was Freezing. That means at best, you could only maintain your food stocks, and not increase them at all.

My friend gained an early advantage by breeding like mad, having a much larger population than everyone else. We thought we were screwed. Then suddenly, the weather disimproved, and he was left in a really tough place trying to get enough food so that nobody starved, while the rest of us with our small populations were safe with large food stores.

So I’m extending this mechanic a little bit, into seasons. The weather board will now look like this:

[] [] [] [] | [] [] [] [] | [] [#] [] [] | [] [] [] []
2 - Showery   3 - Hot        4 - Sunny     2 - Cold
2 - Breezy    4 - Temperate  3 - Warm <<<  1 - Icy
1 - Frosty    3 - Mild       3 - Chilly    0 - Freezing

This looks a bit more complex, but it combines two things I wanted – more strategy, and a turn counter.

The 12 spots represent the twelve months, split into seasons of four months, as you would expect. Each turn, you move the counter one spot, so every four turns it’s a new season (although I think it might work better with longer seasons, maybe 8 turns instead of 4).

Each season has its own weather chart. You just use the one for whatever season you’re currently in. But you notice that each season has different values on its weather chart. Winter has much lower values than summer. What I’m going for here is making the player think ahead.

It’s autumn. The player has loads of food, and is at war with someone. That’s what they’re focusing on. But their opponent isn’t investing in Population and Defence, but in Food instead. Why? They have even more than you!

Because three turns later, it’s suddenly winter, and food is much harder to come by. Now you’re going to starve to death, while your opponent still has plenty of food to last them through.

Of course, that tactic wouldn’t have worked if it had been a mild summer. You wouldn’t have had much of a problem with food. They would have lost the war, because while they had loads of food, they didn’t have much in the way of troops.

The game could also come with a couple of different climate mats. They could be for different places. For example, a Desert scenario, where food is hard to come by at all times of year, or a Snowy setting, where the summer is the *only* time you can grow anything. Or maybe the game is set somewhere where they only have two or three seasons. Maybe there is a Hurricane Season, or Monsoon Season? Could be cool.

I like this idea. I think it’ll probably need some polishing and balancing, but it could work pretty well imho. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.