A relic hunt by Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It works! Now for the balancing...

Solo playtesting of the changes suggested in the previous post shows promise for the new system.  Without the cubes, the game is easier to set up and there are practically no fiddly things that you need to remember to do, which will make the game easier to teach, learn, and play.  But to really evaluate its effectiveness, it needs to be well-balanced.  To illustrate what a potentially daunting task this is, here are all of the different variables that can be independently adjusted:

- Number of cards drawn at start of turn
- Reduction in cards drawn if operatives present?
- # of spaces to advance progress track for the two operatives that have this power
- If an operative is required to execute his power but can't, advance progress track?
 - How much to advance progress if you read a clue in a city with an operative?
- If you pass an encounter, do you get the reward tile AND the theme card visit, or just one or the other?
- Can you draw a card as an action?
- How many fists must you pay to deactivate an operative?
- Must you discard an item card to receive bonus check marks?

But in practice, it's not so bleak, because the range of possible values for each of these is somewhat limited.

There are essentially two things we want to control for.  The first is that players can accumulate check marks at an acceptable rate; my goal is something like 7-8 turns per player outside the temple.   And the second is simply that the enemy track doesn't reach its end before the players have enough time to execute those 7-8 turns.

So, things like "# of cards drawn" and "how many rewards per encounter" affect how efficiently the players can acquire check marks (assuming a certain range of difficulties for the challenges).  And the answer seems to be that getting 3 cards per turn, less one for each operative in the city, and getting both a reward and a theme card visit from passing a challenge, get players to a high level of information, but not completely perfect information, within 7 turns each.

Then it's just a matter of tweaking the functionality of the operatives, and the length of the track overall, to ensure that those 7 turns occupy the full span of the progress track.  What's nice is that the operatives and their various powers, though simple, DO have the effect that v7 had, where the board is becoming a more difficult place late in the game, and you're eager to enter the temple, because your flexibility outside the temple is diminishing.  But it isn't that challenges become more difficult, but rather that rewards become less generous (because many cities have lost either their reward token or theme card), and enemy operatives are more plentiful (so getting clues will be more likely to lead to movement on the progress track).  I want to test this a few more times to confirm balance, but I'm close to being ready to call it successful from a desing standpoint, and then it's just a matter of tweaking.  And of course the temple phase still needs to be calibrated with a similar process, but I'm optimistic there because it worked so well at Spielbany.  The player who found the grail and font did so in about 4-5 turns, which is just about right.
Unrelated to this, I had a thought that probably doesn't really work, but I was mostly interested to see that it could work.  We played the other day that when the group enters the temple we wipe the board clean, remove it, and lay out the temple in its place.  But if instead the temple is built on the board, then there's room for a 5x5 grid of playing cards.  AND, it could work out that the entrance to the temple could be placed on the city that contains the temple, meaning that the entrance to the temple is in a different location relative to the rest of the temple every time.  For example, if it's in Cairo that's room (4,1), whereas in Constantinople it's (3,3).  I tried it out, and sure enough, every possible point on the grid has exactly one (or zero) cities, with the exception of Odessa/Bucharest.  In practice it's probably too swingy to let the entrance be in such different parts of the temple.  I mostly liked the idea because it would't force you to clear the whole table to make room for the temple (if you have an average sized table), and woud feel give the location at least some influence over the temple phase.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Possible further simplifications and removing enemy cubes (?)

I think I have a semi-coherent set of changes that further reduces complexity from the playtest version and follows through on the removal of the cubes in favor of the operatives.
First, no more sub-locations.  Each encounter deck has different illustrations, but the cards are functionally identical within each deck.  Instead, there are 12 "reward tokens" -- 2 for each solution category, 3 "allies", and 3 "items".  One is randomly placed in each city.  Additionally, the 12 theme cards are randomly placed in cities, with each card indicated a type of city in which it can be placed.  When you pass an encounter, you get to either receive the reward from that city's "reward token", OR visit the theme card in that city (or maybe it's both).
When you face an encounter, everyone gets to look at the card, but there's no Where's Waldo aspect, there are just icons, and here's what they do:
- Phobia:  Active player faces the challenge at +2 difficulty.
- Item:  Anyone with that same item card gets a white token on the card.
- Operative:  Move that operative to the current player's city, IF the operative is activated.
No more enemy cubes; instead, the progress track is divided into 5 sections; at the end of the turn, the number of chips you pull from the cup is based on the section of the track the marker is on.  (Chips either advance the progress track or let an operative execute his power). 
There are several marked spaces on the progress track, at which something happens.  One is "activate an operative" -- flip over the card from the card row.  Another is "enemy attempts to dig for the temple"; but not sure where.  Maybe another is "remove captured theme cards from the board" -- e.g. if the Grail Diary has previously been captured, on this space it has been burned.
So going back to the encounter cards, when you see an operative, if that operative is activated but not yet on the board, you pull him onto the board now, to your city, and you put his chip into the cup.  If his chip gets pulled from the cup, or if you fail a challenge in the city he occupies, the special power indicated on his card is executed.  When you are in a city containing an operative, something happens; maybe it's (a) you add a black chip or (b) if you visit a theme card or get to read a clue, the enemy progress advances by 1.  Or maybe it's both of those.  And maybe, as before, you can initiate a fight challenge against the operative to knock him off the board (but he never deactivates once activated?)
The operative powers include "advance enemy progress by 3", "capture a theme card and bring it to the nearest stronghold", "remove the reward chip from the city".  Other possibilities include "move the PLAYER to the nearest stronghold", "deactivate a theme card's 'bonus knowledge'" (but this one may be too fiddly).
There are a few nice things that this does.  First, it keeps the operatives moving around, keeps them showing up at a somewhat unpredictable but basically controlled rate, and most importantly, gives a completely scripted way for bad things to happen to the players, without the players needing to remember or police any special rules.  The bad stuff that happens is /entirely/ contained on the operative cards, and the occasions on which the operatives get to execute those powers are fully specified; there's nothing to remember.  So it's a big win in terms of reducing the number of rules the players must internalize to be able to play.  The removal of the sub-location system (which I liked) also helps with this.  Now, you face an encounter, and you either get a reward or get to visit a theme card.  (If you want to do both, simply face another encounter).  And if there's an operative there, do this if you pass, do this if you fail.
I really, really liked the system where the operatives are connected to encounter outcomes -- ie if you pass/fail an encounter that gives reward X, and the operative that matches X is active, then that operative gets to do something.  But even with me not playing and simply policing the game's bureaucracy, we forgot to do this constantly.  I think it's just too hard to remember, and it's highly preferrable if it's simply that the operative gets to do something if he's in your city, otherwise don't worry about it.
The other thing that's nice is that it should still organically create "convergence" at certain locations.  A city that contains the more important theme cards is likely to be visited more by the players, which is likely to result in more operatives being drawn there, which makes it more likely that, e.g., that theme card will be kidnapped or the enemy progress will advance.  Maybe if a city has multiple operatives in it, those operatives dig for the temple there? 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Spielbany session recap

Saturday's session at Spielbany went reasonably well.  Four players, three of whom were completely new to the game, were able to understand the rules, acquire information, enter the temple and find the artifact before the enemy track ran out.  Unfortunately, the game took quite a long time, and I had to give out some free check marks several times to speed the game up, but I know why that happened and will come back to it.  First, the positive notes:

- The temple works pretty well.  The turns are quick and you can move through the temple quickly, but it's big enough that there's some time required to explore.  And the rooms having mostly three exits each means that you can get almost anywhere, but the route you have to take may be slightly more roundabout than you had hoped.  And of course, the temple's enabling "technology"...

- ... The chips-in-the-cup system is very successful.  It keeps the turns inside the temple short, and allows for a range of possible bad things to happen randomly, but in a mostly-predictable way, and all within the same framework.  This prevents needing a different "trigger" for every bad thing.

- The enemy operatives system worked well as a way to let the enemy's presence grow, and to give players something concrete to struggle against.  

There were a few things that didn't work due to balance, but that should be easy to adjust.

- The operatives were a little too easy to de-activate.  The rule is that if anyone sees an operative on someone's encounter card, they can fight that operative, (difficulty = number of operatives) and deactivate it.  This happened too frequently so by the time they entered the temple, all operatives were deactivated.

- Check marks were too hard to get.  Unfortunately, this really smothered the game, but at its core it's a simple problem:  most of the theme cards give 1-3 check marks, PLUS some "bonus" check marks, if you discard a specific item card.  In practice, although players did acquire some item cards, only once did a player have the right item card to discard when visiting a theme card that called for it.  The solution is probably as simple as either letting you discard ANY item to get the bonus check marks, or to make item cards easier to get.

And, there were a few things that players felt need to be adjusted.  

- The enemy operatives should do something bad to the player in the temple when they "catch you".

- The theme cards should start on the board, instead of being pulled onto the board after successfully passing an encounter.  But they should also be able to move around, or perhaps be moved around by the enemy.

- The need to go to a specific sub-location to visit a theme card was somewhat confusing, but would perhaps be easier if the theme cards all start on the board.

- The idea of a "where's Waldo" mini-game may not fit here; maybe, just make the actionable elements overt on the cards.

- The cube system may be superfluous.

It's this last point that I'd like to consider more fully.  I wrote in a previous post about how the intent with the current system is that the cubes represent the enemy's reach on the board, with the operatives being a shadowy and gathering menace.  But it's possible that the game could be simpler with a single enemy system, instead of two interlocking enemy systems.  The argument in favor of this simplification would be that the functions that the cubes perform could be achieved another way, and that the cubes add fiddliness.

The rules for how cubes are added definitely due suggest some complexity:  You add a cube to a city (a) when you arrive there, (b) when you add a theme card to the city, or (c) when you read a clue in a city.  The number of cubes in the city determines the number of chips you pull out of the cup, and when a city reaches 5 cubes, you (i) replace the cubes with a big cube (locking the city at 5 cubes), and (ii) activate a new operative, and (iii) henceforth, whenever you're required to add cubes to the city you instead add black chips to the cup.

That's not an absurd number of rules to remember, and players didn't have a big problem keeping it straight, but it is a lot of bureaucracy to patrol, and the functions the cubes perform,  activating operatives and controlling the number of chips pulled, can be achieved in different, simpler ways.  For example, the number of chips pulled could simply be given by the position on the progress track.  It could be split into five sections; in the first section you pull one chip per turn, in the second two, and so on.  This could persist through the temple as well.  This is not as variable as the current system but it's not obviously worse, and it's certainly simpler.  And something similar could trigger the operatives being placed on the board.

In this scheme, the operatives are the enemy's entire presence on the board, both inside and outside the temple.  That is, as the previous post discussed, more symmetric.  And it could make the theme more concrete:  when Operative X is in Cairo, he may be able to capture Sallah; when he's in Ankarra, he may be able to dig for the temple there.  Connecting specific locations to the enemy's actions makes more sense if it's a specific "person" that's executing the actions.  But it may also be more attractive from a playability standpoint.  The cubes don't exactly act as a deterrent to actions -- if you need to visit Alexandretta to get the Grail Diary, you're going to go whether there are 3 cubes there or 5 or 0.  But if there's an operative there, you may hasten your trip there (if you're afraid of the theme card being kidnapped) or delay it (if you're worried the operative will cause you some harm, whatever that might be).  These considerations come more easily to the forefront of your mind if the operative is a pawn on the board, and the powers they possess may be easier to incorporate into your plans if you see explicitly where it can be executed.

I'd like to think more about this possibility; it's a bit of a departure but it's not completely different.  It's simply a way to execute some of the same functionality we've always had, but in a different way.  And most of the other changes are minor and will be easy enough to try.

I doubt we'll play the game again at today's Spielbany, but hopefully I'll get a chance to solo test some options for these systems soon, and will report back on how they go!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Thinking about expansions

I posted a thread on BGG about three philosophies of expansions.  Briefly, they are (a) the Carcassonne approach (add functionality and components), (b) the Ticket to Ride approach (change the setting but keep the player interface basically unchanged), and (c) the Lord of the Rings approach (repurpose functionality and components from earlier versions to keep the overall complexity increase down).  For LA, approach (b) seems most appropriate -- add scenarios, keeping the basic structure of the game intact, with essentially the same rules and components, and change only the details of the scenario (obviously adding solution cards for each new scenario).  Because of the versatility of the components, to some extent this can bleed into approach (c) -- eg the temple, built as it is from cards, can be laid out completely differently in scenario X vs. scenario Y.

So what constitutes a scenario?  Certainly, it's 12 theme cards and probably some cardboard components.  Assuming that the "temple location" solution cards can be the same for all scenarios, it would only be solution cards for two categories, so at 12 cards each, that's 36 total cards for a scenario.  Possibly each scenario could have its own notepads, although this isn't strictly necessary.   So the bare minimum componentry for a scenario is 36 cards and some cardboard pieces.  That means that you could provide three scenarios with a double deck (108) of cards, and maybe a single sheet of die cut cardboard components.

Currently the board covers only Europe and the Middle East.  It would be easy, and highly appropriate, to add a board for Asia and another for the Americas.  Assume these are separate expansions, and that each requires a deck of Location solution cards (24?); so with a board, 24 Location cards, and 36 scenario cards, you can package up an expansion that provides one new scenario.  

So, assuming the base game ships with one scenario, then with one "three-scenario" expansion and two "board" expansions, we'd have a total of six scenarios.  But actually, because the clue categories are orthogonal and because the same three solution symbols are always used, players can get additional variety simply by playing out a given scenario on a different board, or by playing out a given scenario with the theme cards from another scenario.  And as I've discussed previously, it might also be possible to combine the boards, or to play a "campaign" game that involves setting up one board at each of three tables, and requiring players to hop between boards.

There are two other expansions that don't extend replayability in quite the same way, but might still be useful.  The first would be to add more Encounter cards, to avoid the situation where players have memorized the elements of all of the encounters and the "where's Waldo" aspect isn't fun anymore.  The second would be to have three temple decks instead on one; each deck would be indexed to a particular city shape, and each could have a different flavor based on the city type -- eg if the temple is in a major city it could look more like a palace, whereas in a remote city it could be more like a catacomb or cave.  And/or, perhaps there could be a temple deck that is "harder" -- there are more triggers for traps and noise, or there are fewer exits in the room cards, making paths through the temple more tortuous.

So that is, conservatively, five expansions to the base game, two of which require only artwork.  With the base game and these expansions, I think the game would be truly infinetly replayable.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Prototype photos

The prototype for v10 is ready for Spielbany.  This one took a lot of time to assemble.  And as we all know, graphic design is not my forte.  Anyway, here it is:

Zoom in on the game board:

Some highlights:
The temple.  Currently made up of 25 rooms, although that's easy to change.  "Red" cards are those that contain a testable feature; "Black" cards, those that don't.  I didn't anticipate how the red/black would give a checkerboard appearance.  Oh well.  The player's perspective is from above the room looking down.  Most of the rooms have 3 exits (the little yellow things), so there's some route planning but little likelihood that a room will be completely unreachable.  The colored circles are "spawn points" for the Operatives, and there are icons for noise (lower left), traps (lower right), items (upper right) and phobias (upper left), but those are hard to see in this photo.

The enemy operatives.  I just picked photos from the films for these guys for now, but each has a special power and a sub-location type in which he is (potentially) active.  They're in a row of 6, and at any time some or all may be "activated" (face-up).

 The interrogator.  Not aesthetically pretty, but this little puppy will reduce the production costs dramatically compared to the (beautiful) board of the previous version.   It's shown with the "True Grail" card inserted to show "Grail 6" through the window.  You'd then flip the interrogator over, and through the little window on the back, you see whether it says "yes" or "no".  No need for red masking/rubylith (although it could still include that for added security).

It's big enough that we may need to physically remove the board from the table when the temple phase starts; maybe, though clumsy, the players who enter the temple first just wait and count the turns of the other players, then they get that many "free" turns once the temple phase starts, before resuming the normal turn sequence.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Odds and Ends

There are always little design decisions that have to be made to make the game playable, but that don't seem crucial, at least at the stage where you're trying to see if an idea is going to work.  There are a few of those for the present state of the game.  For example:

What happens when a player fails a challenge?

Possible consequences include:
- Add a black chip to the cup
- Lose a white chip
- Immediately relocated to an enemy stronghold

My assumption had been that we'd go with the first option, and that provides a nice way to get the number of black chips in the cup up, but it doesn't feel as punitive as the other two options.  On the other hand, if the penalty is too punitive, then players will become risk-averse, and simply won't face encounters until they're heavily up-armored with cards.  The third option, despite its thematic appeal, may fall into this "too punitive" category.  Perhaps the second option strikes the best balance -- you lose one turn action.  Not too bad, but not insignificant, either.

How many enemy can go into a city before it "pegs", and what happens when it does?

"Pegging" a city means that the enemy cubes are removed from the city and a large cube is placed in the city, and henceforth, no additional cubes can be added to or removed from the city.

I now think that the threshold for a city to "peg" should be n+1, where n is the number of players.  Since cities have historically started with 1, 2, or 3 enemy cubes at the game's beginning, this would mean that some cities would begin the game "pegged" in the 1 or 2 player game.  Probably, that's ok, but might require a simple tweak to the rule, from "when a city pegs, do X", to "when a player is in a city that has pegged, do X".  It makes no difference in the 3 and 4 player games, since a city will only peg by definition because a player in the city has caused it to peg.  But it would avert the weirdness of having to execute a bunch of consequences before the game even starts in the smaller games!

Originally the rule was that when a city pegs, the enemy digs for the temple there, which works well thematically.  I'm inclined to change it to "an enemy operative is activated", to create a strong connection between the operatives and the board play.  We could have an intermediate threshold -- "operative activates when a city goes to n cubes, city pegs and temple is dug for when a city goes to n+1 cubes", but that feels like too much to remember.  Instead, maybe we can simply move the "enemy digs for the city" function onto an operative card.  Not as pretty thematically, but perhaps a net win overall in reduced complexity.

What is the consequence if you dig for the temple in the wrong city?

This is a challenging question; we need a system that discourages random digging but that encourages digging based on partial information.  One way to achieve this is to set a higher opportunity cost to dig -- it effectively costs you three actions instead of one to dig.  But there also may need to be a small penalty for failing a dig.  Maybe it's that the enemy progress track should go down a couple of clicks, or that you should have to add a few black chips to the cup.

What happens if you fail a challenge in the temple?

Historically it has been that your turn ends.  Since the challenges are all faced at the end of the turn in the new scheme, that doesn't work.  Maybe it should be that you're sent back to the entrance of the temple, and must drop the artifact, if you're carrying it.

What happens if, during an Encounter, a player calls out a feature that isn't actionable?

E.g., he sees a phobia but it isn't the active player's phobia, or he sees an operative but it isn't an activated operative.

I think probably nothing happens, and the other players still have a chance to identify an actionable feature.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gameplay examples for v10

Maybe it helps to illustrate some of the ideas from the previous post with a sample turn.  Because the structure is quite different inside and outside the temple, we'll walk through a sample turn for both cases.  Players are Henry, Marion, Abner, and Rene.


Henry begins his turn in London, a circle city.  He receives his customary 4 white chips and 3 black chips, and he also receives 3 adventure cards (because he's in a circle city).  He notices that the theme card "Grail Diary" is in nearby Bucharest, and that the Diary gives bonus check marks if a player carries a Map; and, there is a Map card available in Eastern Europe, but he must travel to a triangle city and pass an Encounter at a "Ruins" sub-location.

Henry's first action is to move to Ankarra.  He must pay 2 AP to make such a long trip, and he discards one white chip.  He also places an enemy cube in Ankarra, the fourth cube in that city.

His second action is to face an Encounter; he discards a second white chip.  The top Encounter card is a Tomb; he pays 1 AP to view the next card, another Tomb; he pays one more AP, and the third card is a Ruin.  He chooses to face this one.  He flips the card over.  He faces an Escape 4 challenge.

As he flips the card over, the other players look at the card; Marion observes snakes in the illustration, and calls out "snakes!", which is Henry's Phobia.  Henry must add 2 to the difficulty of the challenge, making it Escape 6.  Luckily, he has a Whip card, and an ally with a +2 Whip rating, which, along with one additional AP card, enables him to pass the challenge. 

Upon passing the challenge, he receives the "Map" Item card.  He checks the Enemy Operatives card row to see if the "purple" operative is active.  He is, so Henry must add one black chip to the cup.

His third action is to travel to Bucharest (he discards a third white chip).  Bucharest and Ankarra are adjacent so he need not pay AP to complete the move, but of course he does add a black cube to Bucharest.  This is the fifth black cube in Bucharest, so Henry must flip over the next Enemy Operative in the card row; it reveals the Blue operative.  He replaces the five cubes with a large cube -- the city is now "pegged".

His fourth action is to face an Encounter in Bucharest, a pentagon city (he discards a fourth white chip).  The Diary indicates that it can be found in a Castle, and the top card in the pentagon Encounter deck is a Castle, so he flips the card over and faces the challenge, which turns out to be Wits 3. 

As he flips the card over, the other players look at the card; Henry quickly observes that the illustration depicts an open map on a table, and he announces this, authorizing him to place a white chip on his recently-acquired Map card. 

He pays 3 AP to pass the challenge, and receives the reward for the card, which is to remove one enemy cube from the city(*).  The "gray" enemy operative card that corresponds to this sub-location is inactive, so he does not need to take an action pertaining to the operative.

He may now, by virtue of passing the encounter, "visit" the Diary card as a free action, and receives its 3 check marks in the "temple features" category.  He additionally discards the white chip from his Map card (in place of discarding the Map itself), and receives the bonus 2 check marks in the Location category.  This puts him at a total of 6 check marks in that category, authorizing him to read the level 2 clue, which he does -- it tells him "The Grail was carried from Alexandretta to Cairo".  He is unable to add an enemy cube to the city because it is "pegged", so instead he adds a black chip to the cup.

Henry has no further white chips, so he executes the final phase of the turn.  He is in Bucharest, which contains 5 enemy, so he must pull five chips from the cup.  He adds all of the black chips accumulated during the turn to the cup, as well as the "purple" and "blue" chips, since those two Enemy Operatives are active.

His first three pulls are black chips, so he reduces the enemy progress track by 3.  His fourth pull is the "blue" chip, which activates the blue enemy operative.  His power is to add 2 enemy cubes to the city.  Since the city is already pegged, Henry simply adds 2 black chips to the cup.  His fifth and final pull is another black chip, so he reduces the enemy progress track one more space, and his turn ends.  He empties the cup in preparation of the next player's turn.

(*) He can't remove a black cube from the city, so he simply receives one from the supply, for the purposes of final scoring.


Henry begins a turn at the Entrance to the temple, which contains a Treasure chest, so he receives 1 adventure card.  He also receives the customary four white chips and three black chips.

He begins by entering the room to his right, flipping the card over as he enters and discarding one white chip.  It shows a "noise" icon, so he adds a yellow chip to the cup.  It also contains a "Map" icon, and since he holds a map card, he adds a white chip to the Map card.

Next, he moves to the room above him, discarding a second white chip.  It has a "trap" icon, so he adds a blue chip to the cup.  It also contains a purple circle.  Since the purple enemy agent is activated (ie the card is face-up), and not currently in the temple, he adds the purple pawn to this space.  He also adds a black chip to the cup, because he is in a room with an enemy operative.

Third, he moves to the room to his right, discarding a third white chip.  He knows that this room contains a Feature (because the back-printing is dark red), and hopes it will contain the Throne feature, which he knows opens the Grail Room.  Unfortunately, the room contains the "Rope" feature, and he chooses not to activate it.

He adds his remaining white chip to the cup.  He is required to pull only one chip, since only one operative is currently present in the temple.  The chip is a Yellow chip, which pulls all operatives one space closer to him, so the purple operative is moved into the room he occupies.  Nothing happens, but the next time the operatives are activated, instead of moving, this operative will activate the Rope and determine its effect.  Should it test for the grail room (although we know that it won't), the enemy progress track would be advanced by 5.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Gearing up for v10 playtest at Spielbany

I think this new framework has solidified enough in my mind that it's worth giving it a try at Spielbany. Here's my attempt at a succinct summary of how it works: On your turn, you do three things.
  1. Resupply
  2. Actions
  3. Draw chips from the cup and resolve
That's it! 

Slightly more detail: 

1. Resupply: Outside the temple, receive 3/2/1 adventure cards if in a circle/pentagon/triangle city. Inside the temple, receive 1 card if on a treasure chest. Also receive 4 white chips, and 3 black chips (add the latter to the cup)

2.  Actions: Take actions, each time spending a white chip. Actions include

(a) Move (inside/outside), and add a cube to the city (outside)
(b) Face an encounter (outside)
(c) Dig for temple/test a feature (outside/inside)
(d) Attempt to steal (inside)

(a) Move -- Outside is the same as v7. Inside the temple, if you enter a room with a colored icon, add a chip of the same color to the cup. If you enter a room with an Enemy Operative pawn, add a black chip to the cup. If you enter a room with an Item icon matching an Item card you hold, add a white chip to that card.

(b) Face an encounter means you identify the "encouter deck" for the city shape you're in, and draw the top card, or pay AP go deeper into the deck (each card shows, on its back-printing, one of three "sub-locations", eg a castle, a museum, etc). The card shows a challenge category and difficulty. If you fail the challenge, add a black chip to the cup. If you pass, you get the reward shown on the card (e.g. a check mark, an Item card, capture an enemy, etc). Then, if there is a Theme Card that matches the location you're in, you may visit it (if it's already on the board) or bring it onto the board and visit it (if it's in the queue of face-up cards). If you add a theme card to the board, add an enemy cube to the city.

"Visit" a card means receive check marks in the category and amount shown on the theme card. If you have an Item card that is requested by the theme card, you may discard it to receive extra check marks, as indicated on the theme card.

If you exceed 3,6, or 9 check marks in a category, you may read the level 1, 2, or 3 clue for that category. Add an enemy cube to the city. If at any time the # of enemy in the city exceeds 5, activate the first deactivated (face-down) Enemy Operative card in the Operative card row. (c) "Dig" and "Test a feature", and (d) Attempt to Steal, are basically the same as previous versions 3. Draw chips: Toss any remaining white chips into the cup, as well as the colored chips for any active Enemy Operatives (if outside). Draw chips equal to number of enemy cubes in the city (outside)/number of enemy operatives in the temple(inside), and resolve each chip: 
Black: reduce the Enemy progress track by 1 White: nothing happens ("safe") Red (inside): Noise! Move all operatives one space closer to you Blue (inside): Trap! Draw a temple challenge and face it Enemy Operative's color (outside): Execute the Operative's special power, as stated on his card End of Game: The game ends when the scenario's objective is achieved or the enemy progress reaches zero. Players receive points for:
- Achieving the objective(s) - Finding the lost temple - Most captured enemy - Most white chips on Item cards There's an additional element to (b): Each encounter card shows, in its artwork, one or more types of special feature. The first player to notice such a feature announces it to the group, and executes a special action:
  • "Operative": If you notice an Enemy Operative who is currently activated, you may face him in a fight challenge (difficulty=total number of activated operatives), and if you win, he is deactivated. 
  • "Phobia": Each player has a phobia; if the active player's phobia is noticed by another player, the difficulty of the challenge is +2.
  • "Item": If you notice an item (eg a book, a map) for which you hold the Item card, add a white chip to the Item.
And one final detail about enemy Operatives: each Operative has a symbol that matches one of the six "reward" symbols on the encounters. If you face an encounter with a reward that matches one of the activated Operatives, and you pass, you add a black chip to the cup. If you fail, you execute the special power indicated on the Operative's card.

Things that I like:

  • Same turn structure inside and outside temple
  • Temple rooms have some detail and variety, but common framework (add chips to cup) will keep the action brisk
  • Multi-step nature of missions (eg "get the grail and bring it to a font") permits some route planning in temple, which is more important with icons in rooms
  • All players involved in each player's turn through encounters
  • More tangible and thematic role for enemy
  • Preserves the essence of v7 (which worked really well), but removes some clutter, rules, and components

Things I'm not sure about
  • The idea of theme cards being associated with "sub-locations"; but this is easy to change if it doesn't work. (The "sub-locations" themselves simply allow a given city to pay out different rewards for facing an encounter there, and for you to know what the benefit will be before the encounter).
  • "Steal", while important, may be too prone to cherry picking. May need to replace with a way, via chips, that you can be forced to "drop" the artifact, giving others a chance to grab it.