He is here to talk

Apparently Omon Comar is a human civilisation that we have traded with in the past. This guy is a fox fiend who has risen to become their law giver, and he has come to treat with us. The military have gone back to training...

Sox Law Giver

"A Great Fox twisted into humanoid form with lidless eyes. It has a gaunt appearance. Its ochre hair is very curly. Beware its webs."

Oh sure. A web breathing giant fox demon in human form.

Why is this thing listed as a diplomat?

All squads scramble to the fortress gates. Go go go.

And gods be with you, my fine dwarven heroes...

Denpaged WTF Time

Everything has gone swimmingly for a while.

Ellen is overworked, brewing and brewing to keep us in good spirits, Persephone threw a massive hissy fit about only having the best rooms by a mile, and not 3 gazillion miles. It's all calmed down now, and our metalworking industry is going strong, we've even stopped smelting gold, because there's so much if it lieing around (I kid you not, the floors of some rooms are *carved out of native gold ore* and are still littered with unprocessed nuggets) and moved to full time steel production until our four military units have the best armour we can give them (barring experiments with stuff even cooler than steel. That will take a while).

Then this:

A Fox Fiend Diplomat from Omon Conar has arrived!

I'm terrified. I've never SEEN a fox fiend in this game, and they have a civilisation now? This is LIVE Blogging, friends. I'll report in a few minutes what the hell this thing is...

Standing the test of time?

For the benefit of people on the fence, a first impressions review of Civ 5, specifically the changes from Civ 4. By no means comprehensive, possibly not even accurate - I've played for one evening.

Hexes instead of squares - this is a change for the good, but I'm not sure it would be a big thing, except in combination with...

One unit per tile - this is AMAZING. Tedious killer stacks of death now have to be vast spread out armies, with flanks and rear areas and everything. Combat is vast and swirling. You need armies outside of cities to prevent encirclement (which gives bonuses to the attacker).

Ranged/Arty units - this contributes to the above mentioned armies. You have units that can attack without fear of reprisal, but should some fast unit get round your line to them, they are terribly vulnerable.

Change in attack/defence bonuses (you now get a penalty if you are attacked in the open, just like desert in Civ 5) - This is poor. It means that of two even units, the one that attacks first comes off best in open terrain (it's vice versa in rough terrain). that might have been intended to encourage aggression, but in my noe major war so far, it encouraged sitting just out of attack range, desperate not to be first-striked.

Noone has to die - well, obviously someone does in the end, but in a given battle both sides may take casualties (in the form of HP loss) but they may also both survive. I think this is good - adds to the strategy layer of military stuff.

"Free" sea transport for land units - I haven't played with this much, but after a certain tech land units can transport for free, becoming slow vulnerable boats for the duration of their trip. I think this is probably good - reducing the need for transport ships to be hanging around, but equally it could just reduce what was a meaningful decision.

Limit on units based on the resource to create them - ie if you have access to two horses, you can make a maximum of 2 units requiring horses. This makes strategic resources interesting past the first one, which is great.

Science decoupled from income - this is huge. It eliminates a non decision, and makes the economy more important. A really good change I think. Previously, you could adjust your science to earn more money, but it was almost always correct to run at the highest science rating you possibly could. If you failed at economy a bit you just ran at 90% science instead of 100%, and that was a tiny penalty. Now if you fail at economy, it hurts a lot more, and the false decision of "what science rating shall I set" is gone.

Global happiness - I'm not sure about this. In Civ 4 your cities had their own happiness scores. In Civ 5 it's a national score, and you need to keep it above 0 or penalties kick in for all cities. That removes one aspect of city management, which I'm not sure needed removing. It has benefits - it's now the control factor on number of cities, which works really well, but...yeah, I don't like losing individual city happiness.

No religion - I thought i'd miss this, but actually I specifically don't miss the rush to an early religion that was the start of pretty much any Civ 4 game I was playing to win. I liked the layer of depth religions added to the political situation, but on balance I think this is a good change.

Roads cost upkeep - This is great. No more roading everywhere to keep your workers busy. Make trade routes that count. Build a military road if you need one, but you'll pay for it. This takes the non decision of building roads everywhere, and turns it into a decision about critical roads. Good.

Individual traits - Civ 4 had 2 traits for each leader from a list, so one guy might be Philosophical/Aggressive, and another Aggressive/Spiritual. In Civ 5 each civ has a unique ability, such as the Japanese having all units attack with full strength even when damaged, or the Egyptians building wonders 20% faster. I quite liked to pick two from a list approach, to be honest, but the individual abilities thing is fine too.

Tech Tree - this seems less deep than in Civ 4. I've only played 1/2 a game, but if this turns out to be true, then meh. I always want more tech options in Civ games - I'd be most happy if it was actually impossible to finsih the tech tree in a single game - you had to ignore some side routes if you were going to finish others.

Civics - as you produce culture you get to choose civic options, from several "trees" such as Honour, Piety, Freedom, Autocracy... these each have an unlock effect (Unlock Honour and get 25% in combat against Barbarians) and 5 abilities in a tree once you unlock that particular civic area. This is really good - although you don't make the sacrifices you had to in Civ 4, you are never faced with switching out one civic to get another, and weighing up the benefits. I guess I'm 50/50 on the new civics at the moment.

City growth - your cities still expand based on culture production, but now they do it hex by hex (instead of expanding to a fat cross after a certain threshold.) This is better than the "all at once" that Civ 4 does.

This sounds like Civ 5 is compeltely amazing, and it is a lot of fun. The thing is, though, is that although I can list all these changes and in most I prefer Civ 5, I'm not sure that Civ 5 is as better than Civ 4 as all this suggests. I will have to play more to work this out.

Equality

This is one for all my friends who have strong opinions about equality, tax policy, etc.

Should beautiful people be taxed for being beautiful?

It is widely acknowledged that the beautiful get an easier ride through life. Myriad benefits accrue the attractive. In court, if you are attractive, the jury typically gives you a much easier time. In nightclubs, your quality of life is much improved by being someone girls/boys do not avoid because you look like a mutilated naked mole rat. Indeed, if someone is disfigured in an accident, compensation acknowledges the high value that being good looking has.

Leaving aside actual earnings (which are already taxed) made because of good looks (film stars, TV presenters, actually most other careers to some extent), these benefits are experience by the good-looking, and them alone.

So should we tax people, in an attempt to make them equal? If the ideology behind your beliefs about taxation is one of creating equality, what justification lies behind your feelings that we should not tax the beautiful? Or do you only think money is important, that the dollar is as far as equality should go?

I've only just starting thinking about this, but my instinct is that this is a good idea in theory, but not practically implementable. Still, when I'm the ruler of the world...

Game Design

Inspired by talking to Sara about Frontierville, and by my Party-word-game.

The main flaw with the word game is that it's too easy for a few people to take over completely and just grab people with the letters they want to build a word. Part of the design was that more outgoing people could play a greater part in organising words and pulling in quieter people to the game, so it would work well as a party game. This happens too much though.

Making letters secret just leads to people shouting the letters out, or (if they can't do that) noone can possibly make a word. So that's lame.

In Frontierville players can only make 2 types out of 6 resources. To build things you need to have a network of friends who will send you their paint (because you only have nails).

These limited resources are exactly like the letter you have in my word game. Only you can provide it, but it's no good on its own. That made me think - what if instead of building words, you were building...buildings. As long as you have enough resources to make the building, you make it, even if some players in your group couldn't help at all. You all get points. Resources can be secret now - you can tell people whatever you want, bluff your way on to high scoring teams and take points even if you weren't actually able to help.

First pass at the game looks like this:

There are five resources. Planks, Bricks, Six-Shooters, Cattle, Gold. Each player is dealt 2 resource cards from the deck, and may not show them to anyone.

A number of buildings from the building deck are turned over (depending on number of players). Examples are The Outhouse (1 plank, 1 brick, scores 1 point), the Bank (3 Stone, 2 Six-Shooters, 3 Gold, scores 8 points) and the Cattle Ranch (2 planks, scores 1 point per cattle)

Players form into groups taking on these building tasks (you can have more than one group per building - 3 outhouses is fine, for example).

Once the groups are settled (the majority of a group gets to say who is actually allowed in the group, so you can't just refuse to leave) they say what they are building. Everyone in the group MUST reveal relevant cards, if they have them. As long as the group reveals enough resources to build the building, everyone in that group scores the points for the building.

You play 3 rounds with the same cards, then change cards, I think. After 6 rounds total the town is finished, whoever has the most points wins the game.

I think this neatly sidesteps the issues with my party word game, and adds some interesting possibilities (for instance "of course I'll help with the bank, or course I'll help with the bank...(time runs low)...oh dear, I think I'll build this outhouse instead, hope you have enough planks and bricks!")

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Anyway, I'm going to try to take game design seriously in the coming months. I want to publish games - take them from ideas and first drafts (which I have no problem with) to finished shiny product (something I find challenging).

I'll probably continue to develop this frontier town game in the near future - needs a playtesting evening with 10+ people at some point though. But my main project is an XCOM inspired board game where one player is the Earth Defense Force, and the others each play commander of a different Alien Faction, trying to complete missions on the Earth.

That one has most of the major systems in place, and needs a little more development and then some polish before I create the first prototype and playtest it. Should be maybe 3-5 players.

If anyone is a budding artist and wants to draw lots of UFOs and Aliens for bargain prices, please get in touch :-D