A relic hunt by Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk

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.

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