I think we finally have something which achieves everything that we want with the trading ship contracts, and at the same time makes the agents more valuable. Up until now they have been feeling a bit weak in our play test games!
It’s a bit difficult to explain why all of this is important without being able to show you the full game. But, basically, players need to work out whether they want to earn more credits or more victory points.
Credits are needed to build up your mining operations early in the game, but victory points are needed at the end to win. If you invest too much while others are earning victory point you won’t be able to catch up, but if you don’t invest enough other players will eventually overtake you. There is also the potential for a bad move to land you in trouble if other players fill up the ship before you manage to supply the required amount.
Here’s an example of how it works. You’ll need a bit of imagination for the moment since we haven’t got any proper artwork for the trading ships.
Here we have the basics of a cargo freighter with three contract options (the pink boxes on the left hand side – imagine these as a cockpit or control room), and space for 6 units of ore (the grey boxes on the right hand side – image these as a loading bay).
The dark red areas are for agent bonuses, which I’ll explain shortly.
When you sign up to a contract using an agent, you place one of your cubes on the pink (advance) space. The hash number in front is the minimum number of units of ore you then need to supply before the ship departs to earn victory points, and the number in the pink box is the credits you receive immediately as an advance. There is a trade off here between earning as many credits as possible, while still making sure that you will be able to supply enough ore before the ship leaves.
Other players can sign up to the other 2 contracts, and the ship departs at the end of the turn when all of the light grey cargo spaces are filled.
You can never earn more victory points than the hash number, so you can afford to be too cautious. A bit of risk taking is what we want to see!
If you use a specialist agent then you receive a bonus, and to track that you put cubes equal to the bonus into the large dark red area.
Here’s an example where red plays first, and signs up to the top row of the contract using a level 1 agent.
Once you have signed up to a contract you can then start to deliver units of ore using a captain.
It’s a race to fill the contract before other players as the ship departs at the end of the turn if all of the light grey cargo bays have been filled. You’ll see that there isn’t enough space for everyone to supply all of the ore that they would need to.
Continuing the example, red has had some competition from green. He’s only managed to supply 3 units of ore, while green has jumped in and supplied 2 units on the bottom contract.
Green didn’t have a specialist agent, so didn’t want to take the risk of signing up to the middle contract. It is now the end of the turn and the ship is departing because all of the light grey areas have been filled.
Here’s where the agent skill comes in. Because red used a specialist agent with a skill level of 1, he negotiated to supply 3 units of ore instead of the normal 4 units. He also receives 1 extra credit for each unit of ore supplied because the agent was able to negotiate a better prices. So, red received 33 credits, 11 credits for each unit plus 3 victory points.
Green receives the normal amount of 10 credits for each unit of ore supplied. She also receives 1 victory point for fulfilling her contract. For the extra unit of ore in excess of the hash number, green receives 10 additional credits instead of a victory point (the +10 bonus).
I hope that makes sense and that you can see the opportunities for tactical play and player interaction that we are trying to build in.
I’d love to hear what you think about this.