Potemkin Empire Designer Diary #2

Opening gambit of an unassailable lead.

Potemkin Empire was one of the designs I took with me to Protospiel Ann Arbor earlier this summer; one of my newer designs. It’s been on the table a few times in a previous iteration that crashed and burned spectacularly. After rebuilding essentially from the ground up, I felt it was good-to-go for Ann Arbor. I’m trying the Joshua Buergel / Grant Rodiek method of iterating in public on this design; in case you missed rules google doc come through my Twitter feed, here it is.

The suits remain the same as the first iteration: Government, Espionage, Science, Culture, and Industry, and their relative impacts on the in-game economy also remain largely similar; government is for ‘first player’ and final points, espionage is for attacking, science is for advantaging building, culture is for protection from attack, and industry is a secondary avenue to victory.

The first tabling at Protospiel revealed a large “runaway leader” problem involving combos with the Culture suit. Shannon McDowell identified the value of Culture’s unlimited protection from spying, and built an unassailable lead in that suit. This also proved that “exceed the current leader by 1” is too drastic a hurdle for a second-ranked player to ever overcome a current leader in any suit. With the shield firmly in place, she bluffed her way into an Science lead as well (for an additional card draw / building opportunity each round!), then went on a building spree of point-scoring Government buildings with total impunity as the other players spied each other to death.

The overall feedback here was also that Spying was “the fun bit”, and successfully “dinging” another player by torching a fake building was a key highlight. So I need to make sure that behavior is rewarded, rather than anything that might limit it.

For a second Protospiel tabling, I “nerfed” culture’s protective ability (it only protects against a single spy action, and is then discarded) and decreased the frequency with which spies are ‘captured/killed’ in the field (there are fewer situations where they will get caught). This gave many more opportunities to create tit-for-tat spying wars, which everyone enjoyed. This test, the Scientist was still overpowered (one player took it early game, and it never moved), so some further tuning is required to keep the scientist in your country.

The next change on deck is to reward players for having empty buildings at the end of the game — I’m nervous this may feel a touch athematic, but as one player noted: “the point, after all, is to fool the diplomat, not to spend resources building real stuff”, so players ought to get points for risking big bluffs.