|Smokestack vs. Flask|
Finally, I've been working on a 2 vs. 2 team variant for Clockwork Wars. This came about from a suggestion from several backers. During initial development of CW, I never even considered the idea - even though "informal" alliances are very possible and even quite common, depending on the play-style of the group. But developing formal rules for what I'm calling the Alliances variant has been a pleasurable (if slightly daunting) challenge. In the Alliances variant, each alliance will consist of 2 players who sum their VP total at the end of the game to determine the winner. That much was easy to come up with. But I had to comb through the rules, and each specific phase of the turn, to see what rules needed to be tweaked to accommodate and facilitate team play.
For example, I had to decide early on whether I was going to allow allies to have units in the same territory. I went with "yes," mostly for thematic reasons. But this brought up questions about control. If both allies had 2 Soldiers in a Village, for example, which player would gain the recruitment advantage? Both? Just one? I decided that control of a territory could never be shared. The ally with the greatest Army Strength in a territory would be in control and gain the benefits of ownership (worker recruitment, IPs, VPs, etc.). But what if the allies had an equal Army Strength, as in the above example? This forced the creation of a new game concept: the commander. During each turn, one player in each alliance serves as the commander. That player is the one who comes earlier in turn order. The commander controls a territory where there is a tie in Army Strength between allies.
Another issue I wrestled with had to do with the hidden deployment system and "table talk". It's very important to me that the uncertainty and tension of the Deployment Phase be maintained, even in a team game. As such, it didn't make sense to allow allies to share complete knowledge of their deployment orders. This also didn't sit right with me from a "realism" or simulation perspective. Especially in a time and place of limited technology, allied generals would not have perfect knowledge of each other's troop movements. So, allies cannot openly discuss their deployment plans and must make their decisions in secret, as per the normal rules.
However, the commander of each team can make a call-to-arms request of her ally. To do so, you simply write down the ID tag of the territory you want your ally to deploy units to, and pass that (secret) information to them during the Deployment Phase. All you can specify is the location - not the number of units you are requesting, nor how many you plan to commit. This allows for some coordination of offensive thrusts or defensive actions, but it's imperfect and should lend itself to some fun and surprising moments. The ally is also not bound to fulfill the call-to-arms, if he does not wish to.
These are some of the major issues that have come up so far, but like I said, it's been a joy - as game design always is. I plan to release a version (work in progress!) of the complete Alliance variant rules sometime next week.