We playtested the new ideas mentioned in the last post, and while the general reaction to having challenges outside the temple resolve with a cube-pulling system was favorable, some tweaking is needed.
The two biggest concerns were (a) it takes a little bit of time and effort to set up the encounters (putting all the right cubes in the cup), and (b) if the rules for the "outside" and "inside" phases are different, the game may be too complex.
Other comments were: (i) encounters should just be about getting check marks -- having rewards like adventure cards as part of the challenge system was a distraction; (ii) instead of an enemy progress track there could be an enemy progress "pool" of black cubes, and this could be integrated with the cube-pulling tangibly; (iii) in some way enemy interest in you could build as the game goes on, making the game more difficult for you and maybe forcing you to take a turn to go to ground and lose some of the heat.
So, I have been tinkering with a system that pulls these together and integrates with the temple concepts. At your turn start, you take a black cube from the pool and add it to an (empty) cup. You're given 4 white cubes, which you can add to the cup at any time. Then, you take actions, all of which involve pulling cubes for the cup.
If you choose move or "reward", you draw a cube. Whether white or black, you complete the action, but if black, you add that cube to your personal enemy track, and, if there's an enemy operative that is as close to you as the number of cubes on your track, you move that enemy to your city.
This mirrors the way movement in the temple works -- pull a cube and resolve -- and this idea of a "pull radius" mirrors the way that noise will work in the temple. If you generate enough noise, the enemy comes looking for you; outside, if you generate enough "noise", that enemy informants can take notice of, they come after you. I think this is a nicely thematic solution for how to get the enemy to seem like they're chasing after you.
When you face an encounter, add an extra black cube to the cup (from the pool) for each enemy operative in your city. You can pay cards to add white cubes to the cup, then you start pulling cubes. With each black cube that you draw, something bad happens, and the severity of the bad thing depends, I think, on your enemy track. After 3 black cubes, you fail the encounter outright. But if you get enough white cubes to pass the encounter, you get to visit the city's theme card.
After the encounter (I think), you empty the cup of white cubes, but not black. So if you keep going in your turn, the enemy is still putting you at risk. And with each move or each reward, there's the possibility that they'll follow you. More actions in the same city just increases this risk. Of course, you can use cards to try to mitigate your risk. And the hope is that the tension will simply be between holding cards to help you in the temple, vs. needing to use them to get info about the temple.
Another suggested big chance was to not use a physical 2D temple, but instead represent the temple abstractly, with the temple rewarding you more for better info/guesses. The way I suppose this could work is that each aspect of the temple (grail room location, true grail, etc), would have a solution card, and you'd enter your "guess" using the solution sleeve, then flip the card over. It would then tell you how many cubes you need to pull from the cup and resolve. The better your guess, the smaller this number will be.
Maybe the temple is physically represented as a row of 4-6 cards with "gates" between them, and each gate is patrolled by one of the solution cards (each card could have more than one gate). These gates are, of course, abstractions; one might represent "where is the temple?", one might represent a key puzzle, one might represent the search for the grail room, one might represent picking the true grail, etc. The point is, it's a way of capturing what goes on in the temple without needing to balance a set of 2D movement rules.
I think the 2D movement system will align more with the publisher's preferences, but it may be that this more abstract system combined with the cube-pulling might give the right effect where information is beneficial but there's still unpredictability as to the outcomes. And since this is roughly how the very first temple worked (without the cube pulling), this is something of a full circle moment!
Another thought: if the temple itself is an abstraction, perhaps the need for a separate temple phase can also be abstracted away. In other words, you have a "board pawn" and a "temple pawn"; certain actions you take, as you acquire more information, authorize you to advance your "temple pawn". Not sure this is a good idea though.
(Relatedly, encounters could work this way too, as we previously discussed; the encounter card could give you a row of options for how to attempt to resolve it, you pick which one you want to try, and then the encounter card tells you how many cubes you need to pull. I like this idea but think it adds too much complexity to the encounter resolution)
Finally, the idea of using small cubes instead of check marks to represent info worked fine. But I wondered if even better might be that the clue cubes could become clue chits, that are labeled with the clue that they give you, and you need maybe 2 of the same clue chit to get that clue -- two halves of the map, as it were. I like this idea in principle -- encourages you to want to move around with bigger jumps, maybe motivates some trades -- but I worry that it might be too fiddly in practice. But it helps answer the question, "why would I want to shoot across the globe to interview Sallah to get his yellow cubes, when there are yellow cubes right here in my city on the Grail Diary?" If it's that I have a Yellow A clue chit and Sallah has one of those, whereas the Grail Diary has Yellow B, maybe that's an answer. (Of course, I might want to get B before shooting over to try to get that second A!)