Thursday, March 6, 2014

The evolving map: discovery tokens

I’d like to tell you about one rule in Clockwork Wars that makes every game different and interesting.

I’ve previously talked about the Discoveries in the game.  In every Age, there are 3 Discoveries available to research:  one based in Sorcery, one based in Science, and one based in Religion.  An example set from the Early Age might be:  Golem (Sorcery), Gunpowder (Science), and Monasticism (Religion).  These Discoveries are available for all players to research.  As such, they represent another point of competition and conflict of which all players must be constantly vigilant.  If you’re not careful, a wily opponent will research two different discoveries that have a powerful effect when played in concert (for example, Steam Train and Knighthood).

Discovery token (prototype)
When you research a discovery, you pay the necessary cost in Influence Points.  There is both a card and square cardboard token associated with each discovery.  You can place the card in front of you as a reminder of its special effect, but you must place the token somewhere on the map.  This token represents your actual discovery – in play.  As such, it now becomes a potential target for conquest.  If another player takes over the territory that holds the discovery, they will become the new owners.

I love this rule for so many reasons.  First, it creates a difficult and interesting choice for the player who makes the discovery.  They must decide where to put the token on the map.  They can place the discovery in their capital.  The advantage of this is that no player may ever attack another player’s capital, so the discovery will be safe for the rest of the game.  However, any one territory, including your capital, can only hold one discovery.  Let’s say you research Medicine – a powerful early age science discovery.  Do you place it in your capital, knowing that any subsequent discoveries you research – including the most powerful ones of the late age – will have to be placed in vulnerable locations on the map?  Or do you risk it by placing Medicine on the map?  If the latter, you better commit some of your valuable forces to defense of the territory.

When you can place the discovery on the map, it must be put in a research territory within the same "discipline."  Science discoveries must be placed on Manufactories.  Sorcery discoveries on Towers.  Religion discoveries on Shrines.  Furthermore, some Discoveries have powers which directly relate to their position on the map.  For example, the Catapult - an early age Science discovery - states:
During the Reinforcement stage, you may kill 1 enemy Soldier in any territory within two tiles of the Catapult.  Catapult may target its own territory.
This means that every map you play in Clockwork Wars will evolve in different strategic directions.  There’s already infinite replayability in how you set up the map itself, using 9 different terrains and any configuration your heart desires.  And then you add on top of this, players developing the map by deploying discoveries and radically shifting the value of individual hexes.

I recently played a game where I researched Soul Drain, an early age sorcery discovery, on Turn 2.  It’s a powerful card that says:
Whenever you win a combat versus a lone enemy Soldier, you gain 1 VP and may add a worker to your recruitment pool.  
I began using it to great effect over the next two turns (especially since it combos well with the Spymaster ability, Tactical Operations).  However, my opponents recognized the threat quickly and immediately began assailing the tower where I had the discovery stored.  I couldn’t keep it, while still expanding my empire, battling over court influence, and developing my villages.  So then one of my opponents took control of the tower and Soul Drain – and started using it against me the very next turn.  It was brutal!  Soul Drain changed hands a couple times that game, and every time it did it shifted the power-balance.  If you research something in Clockwork Wars, you have to be prepared to defend it.

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