Thursday, March 27, 2014

An expansion for Exodus - IV. Victory

Many people label Exodus: Proxima Centauri as ameritrash, a game in which fighting is the highway to victory. Besides fighting, there are several more way of accumulating victory points and the expansion will bring a few extra. Let's discuss them one by one, highlighting the changes introduced by the expansion.

Space combat

The expansion brings almost no changes here, the winner of every space combat will gain points for every enemy ship destroyed in that combat - and remember that in Exodus everyone is an enemy. However, players may end up sacrificing Dark Raider to deal damage before combat and without awarding anyone points with this action.

Centaurian Resistance cards

In the base game, a player had to make a choice after defeating the Resistance: keep the card for Victory Points or discard it for an immediate benefit. In the expansion, after a player has researched Quantum Reflection, he will be able to gain the benefit and the points.


In Exodus, the holder of the Chancellor title would get 5 points at the end of the game, the Vice-Chancellor would get 3 and so on. The expansion allows one player to gain extra points by having a relevant political role. On top of that, with Fringe Politics the same player will gain points at the end of the game for each active law. This is part of our aim for great asymmetric game play and a way to make politics more attractive throughout the game, enhancing politics as a strategic layer of the play.


The economy used to be simply means to an end. With the expansion, one player will be allowed to trade resources for Victory Points. I will not say more, this is a part of the game which requires more testing, so the trade rate between CP and VP is not final, but it is going to happen. A player less inclined to fight will have the option to... fight just a little less and harvest a little more. 


I guess this is the part which everyone was expecting. Compared to other established 4x games, Exodus refused the "techers" the ability to invest heavily in research and thus achieve victory. The question "why?" was on everyone's lips every time we played Exodus in convention or in private. We wanted to keep the base game simple and deliver to those who wanted a classic combat oriented fast empire builder.

The design paradigm has changed when we decided to build this expansion, hence the introduction of points for research. There are two technologies influencing this path to victory. Fringe Science will allow every player to score points for each technology they have researched with a nominal cost above 11 CP. However, this technology is available to a single player who makes a decision which will affect everyone. The Technological Singularity will allow one the player to gain VP for the total nominal cost of his technologies.

I left space domination and control of the planets at the end because the expansion bring no changes to this part of the game.

Overall, the expansion brings new concepts on the path to victory, but neither one of the "new ways" is self sufficient. Exodus will remain a complex game and victory will be achieved with a mix of strategies and  best tactical decisions.

If you missed the first episodes of our preview of the expansion, here they are:

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Praetor production or how 0.4 mm can make a difference!

We haven't talked about Praetor for a while and today is a good time to continue the "conversation" for several reasons. 

The first and most important is that Praetor is in production. For the past several months we've been preparing files for the box, the punch-boards, the rules and so on. We have had at least a dozen of sleepless nights and tight deadlines, the kind of work which is furthest possible from my beloved game design, but just as important. 

Once the files were completed and approved by our partners - you do remember that Praetor will be published in 7 languages, don't you? - we sent them to the printing house and they sent feedback and the process went on and on until finally all the color proofs and the die-cuts impositions were all ready.

If you're wondering how a board game looks like in its earliest production stages, long before the final product is a box nicely shrink wrapped and ready to find its way to your gaming table, here are some examples:

Punch boards on a 70 x 100 cm printing paper with the die cuts in red

Box insert color proof

If you'r wandering if there were mistakes, the answer is "of course". In a business where even one millimeter counts, we had to re-make all the boxes because the knives were 0.4 mm (that's 0.015 in) too close to the border of the relevant graphics. It may seem ridiculous, but it's part of a publisher's job to avoid all the possible mistakes and produce a game as close as possible to perfection.

In the picture below you can easily notice the yellow (almost) circles showing this almost zero distance from where the die line is and where it should be. These 0.4 mm created a 12 hours continuous work load for one of my colleagues. Thankfully, this time it wasn't me :).

Die line for the from of the box

Well, this is all behind us now. We have just approved all the files, the color proofs and there's nothing left than to wait another few weeks until we see the final product.

And since we've been less busy with production issues, we had the time to update our website. And this is the second round of good news about Praetor. If you visit the NSKN Games website, you'll notice that Praetor has migrated from "Upcoming" to "Games". This means that the last drop of shadow is gone and Praetor is an ongoing reality. Hurray! So, take a look on the new web page of Praetor and you might even discover a few surprises. We'll talk about them soon, really soon!

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

An expansion for Exodus - III. Asymmetric game play

Over the past two years there was one question / suggestion which popped up almost every time people talked about Exodus: Proxima Centauri... "What about asymmetric game play, special player powers?" and we've been answering that it's planned. Well, it's time to let some details come to light.

As you may already know, there are six faction fighting for dominance in the base game of Exodus. The expansion gives them names, specific features and technologies, action cards and even new ways to score Victory Points.

The factions

Sirius Theocracy home planet: GAIA
Sirius Theocracy is a faction originating from North America and they main focus is politics and peaceful expansion. Wait... did I say peaceful? I might have spoken too quickly. Peaceful and Exodus: Proxima Centauri don't really belong in the same phrase, however in comparison with other factions, Sirius Theocracy will seems less hellbent on destruction.

Besides the ability to build Space Defense Systems and thus dealing with incoming WMD, this faction has three technologies which allow them to twist and bend the political system. They can use Corrupt Politics to alter their bids on Political cards and turn order, Visionary Politics to add laws on the table and resolve additional Political cards only for themselves and Fringe Politics to score additional Victory Points at the end of the game.

The Tachyon Scanners will allow the Theocracy to have an advantage in the first round of combat, because everyone in the Exodus Universe needs some additional fire power. But that's not all, the Clone Factories will provide a unique ability to expand quick and without trouble by cloning population on various planets.

Arctic Dominion home planet: TERRA NOVA
The Arctic Dominion is the second faction which can trace their origins in North America. Their main focus is production and trading, scheming or buying their place at the High Council table. On their unique tech tree in the expansion you will find Expert Mining and Expert Banking which will triple the amount of resources generated by the associate actions, giving them an incredible speed of generating resources. With Expert Trading they will always be able to use the best trade rates at the common market, so it's safe to assume they will never run out of resources. Expect the Dominion to buy their way to the top of the Council every turn and to use their economic power to coerce other faction to comply with their interests.

Like true masters of trade, their top technology, Master Trading, will let them buy their fame and fortune - the Victory Points. It won't be a bargain, but if the Dominion stays out of trouble long enough, they might just prove the toughest of the opponents.

Like every other faction, they must have their secret military technology. For the Dominion that's the Quantum Reflection which will let them take all the benefits from the Centaurian Resistance - points and bonus. Let's not forget that such an economic power likes to keep all their resources safe, including their population. Thus they have also developed the Space Defense System and the basic Escape Pods allowing their combat forces from damaged ships to descend on nearby planets.

Han-Xia Dynasty home planet: NU-KUA
Han-Xia Dynasty are the descendants of the ancient Chinese and their main policy was to overrun their opponents by shear numbers. With blunt force when necessary but mostly with brilliant tactics, the Dynasty are trying to dominate the interplanetary space.

In their desire to expand, the Han-Xia developed a technology to build Spaceports so they can build they fleets in every corner of the empire and with Advanced Repairs they're able to repair their spaceships more efficiently. The CP Alloy technology offers them the advantage of building cheaper ships and thus sacrifice them using Advanced Tactics for maximum damage before the actual combat.

The Dynasty can also develop Expert Maneuver and stir their ships clear of danger and Fringe Tactics to organize their fleet of spaceships so that their heavily armored ships can take damage and protect thier weaker ones. On the top of their unique technology tree is the Hyperspace Drive, a new experimental drive  allowing ships to bend the space-time continuum and travel long distances in a matter of minutes.

With an extra-large fleet of Dark Raiders, the Han-Xia Dynasty can enforce space dominance over the other factions.

In my next post I will reveal details about the other three factions. If you missed our previous articles about the technologies of the expansion, here they are

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Friday, March 7, 2014

The strategy review - War of the Ring

War of the Ring (second edition) is the one game I seem to never get tired of, I've been playing it regularly over the past half a year and I cannot wait to put it again on my gaming table. It has slowly made me addicted and the more I play, the more possibilities I see, more strategic decisions and more fun. So, let's take a look at the strategy, mostly from the point of view of the "good player", the guy fighting against Sauron.

I will once again assume that you know at least the basics of the game and after this very short introduction I will skip straight to the heavy stuff. So, the armies are set up, the two players are facing each other and ... here it goes.

The first few turns

For the Shadow the strategy is simple... always keep a few dice in the hunt pool, otherwise the fellowship might move too easily. Then move your nation to war as soon as possible. Why? Well, as Shadow you want to have as many action dice as possible, so you need to bring your leaders and therefore your dice in play. So, there's a double advantage in advancing your nations to war. Ideally, by round 4 you should already have two leaders in play and two extra action dice.

How about the good guys? This is when it get a bit more complicated. It's important to make a decision in the beginning and choose which leader will guide the fellowship. You will also need at least one extra action die to keep your game rolling. I personally prefer Gandalf at first, so I can constantly refresh my hand of cards using his special ability. As soon as the fellowship has come close enough to Rohan, I prefer to deploy Gandalf in Helm's Deep so Rohan has a fighting chance against Saruman and his constant flow or armies. As soon as Aragorn is the guide, I make sure I use his special ability and hide the fellowship using any die.

General strategy - moving the fellowship

I guess that's not rocket science, but it's worth mentioning... every time the Shadow player has very few or no dice in the hunt pool, do everything you can to move the fellowship. Even sacrificing victory points is acceptable. My personal rule is to use the rings (the ones which allow changing one die) only for this purpose.

As long as the Shadow has one die in the hunt pool, I would move the fellowship up to three times. If there are two dice in the pool, I would move it twice and with 3-4 dice I would only move once per turn. With 5+ dice in the hunt pool, I would only move the fellowship at most once and only if there are no conditions for re-rolls.

The next question is which path should the fellowship take to Mordor? There's debate here, but I would go with the obvious, the shortest path. Only in case there's a special card on the table which brings one additional hunt tile in Moria I would consider going around. But that happens very rarely before the fellowship passes Moria. For the exact path, simply count the regions.

Defense vs. attack

If the Shadow player is inexperienced, he might just provide the opportunity for a swift military victory, in th end four points seem like a bargain. Well, that's only the case of an inexperienced player. Aiming for a military victory against the shadow is not really a choice against someone who does know and understand the game. So, I will start from this premise.

Defense is the way to go. Force the Shadow to spend as many actions as possible to attack and make the attacks as futile as you can. Prepare your defense in a city or stronghold, retreat in the next one (e.g. from Osgiliath to Minas Tirith) and then finally retreat in siege. Defending in siege is by far the most effective way to avoid losing you hard acquired troops. There's a drawback, you won't get to recruit and it's simply a matter of time before you'll be conquered. That's not a problem as long as you follow your long term goal and move the fellowship further. 

When you "plan" your opponent's VP, count wisely and make him spend actions and troops. If you have a stronghold with only 2-3 units and you survive the initial attack, retreat immediately in siege. This might cost another action die and maybe even one elite unit. Plan at least three strongholds which you will not lose. Not soon, not ever. It's easy to count the number of VP. If you can defend everything but 7 of them, you're in an ideal situation, because you have an out. Losing one more stronghold will still allow you to continue. In the worst case scenario, you must defend everything but 9 VP.

There will also be moments when you'll have the opportunity to be on the offensive. Don't be afraid to lose a few units if that means chasing a weaker enemy away. Remember, every more of the Shadow costs action dice and with less action dice, you will have less worries with the hunt pool.

Another interesting choice when defending is to combine armies of different free peoples. When you're attacked you'll get to activate/move towards war more than one nation, hence spend less action dice for this purpose. Keeping exactly one nation out of war is also sound strategy. I will let you know figure out why.

Playing cards in combat

There will be a moment in your game when you will have your hand full of cards and wonder "why haven't I spent more in combat?". Don't worry just yet, you might have made the right choice.

I would divide the cards according to their combat requirements in:
- cards which require a companion
- cards which require a leader
- and cards without requirement

Before you play a card in battle, take a good look at the rest of it. If the effect of the card has become superfluous or it brings minimal advantage, save it for battle. For example, there will be cards which require you to have a companion in a location. If that companion is already dead... well, you get the point. Also, there are cards which allow you to move nations on the political track which will prove ineffective towards the end of the game. Save all these cards for battle.

If you have chosen to go with the "destroy the ring" strategy, definitely you want to play the cards which will add the "good corruption" tiles to the game (0, -1 and -2 corruption). They may very well be the difference between winning and losing on the Mordor track.

With the same strategy, you will most likely want to use your action dice to move the fellowship as much as possible, but the same dice may be used to play cards. Those cards are better candidates for spending in battle.

One of the (probably many) keys to victory is to know the cards so you know what to expect, especially after half of the game. 

The Mordor track

To have a decent chance to win, when you start you climb on the Mordor track your corruption should be 5 or less. This depends, of course, on the hunt tiles still in the game, but this is a general guideline.

In my opinion, Gollum is the best guide on the Mordor track. First, if Gollum guides your fellowship, the other companion have died or left the fellowship, serving other purposes.That means that your corruption is low. Also, there are cards which work better with Gollum.

When you choose to climb (by spending the appropriate action die) make sure that you won't lose at once. Keep track of the "eye" hunt tiles, on the Mordor track they're the most destructive. Assuming N is the probability of drawing an "eye" and D is the number of dice in the hunt pool, you will have an average chance of getting NxD. If this number added to your corruption will increase it to 12 or more, it's not the best moment to move the fellowship. There's an even better way to see how you're doing. If you know every hunt tile in the game, sum them up. Every "eye" is equal to the number of dice in the hunt pool. Divide then the total by the number of hunt tiles and you get an average. That's how much corruption you "hope" to get the next time you move the fellowship.

The Shadow - divide et impera

For the Shadow, the strategy is slightly simpler. Don't leave the hunt pool empty, that will allow massive movement for the fellowship without consequences. With that covered, bring your leaders in the game, starting with Saruman. He's very effective at recruiting and you can put a lot of pressure on Rohan without attacking. 

When you decide to attack, make sure that you have enough action dice which allow army movement. Then chose a target stronghold and take it in one turn (ideal case) or force it into siege (this way you don't have to fear reinforcements almost at all). It's easy to move the Nazguls, so make use of them in every battle, the leader re-roll is crucial. 

What to attack first? That depends a lot on your cards, but Gondor is usually a safe bet. First of all, it's the closest to your massive starting armies and it offer half the points for victory. This way you don't help the free peoples to progress on the political trap and it's quite easy to deal with one nation. Once Gondor is "taken care of", use Saruman's wolf riders to conquer Helm's Deep while moving your armies north of Gondor. With his speed of making elite units, Saruman's troops should have almost no problem in defeating Gondor. 

I will stop here, waiting to hear about your different strategies of playing War of the Ring.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

An expansion for Exodus - II. Technologies (part 2)

Last week I started presenting the new technologies in the upcoming expansion of Exodus: Proxima Centauri and today I am going to continue to talk about techs in the second article on this topic. 

Technologies in the base game

Space Combat

The Tachyon Scanner is another powerful type of development for space combat. Every player with this technology will be allowed to re-roll his failed combat dice in the first round of a space combat. You may immediately think that if you combine the Tachyon Scanner with the Quantum Scanner you get the most lethal combination in the game. Rest assured that will not happen, the same player will never have access to both technologies. The Tachyon Scanner will be available to a race which is not focused on space combat. But let's not rush into these details just yet.

In the base game of Exodus, the space combat is a pretty straightforward deal. You roll the dice, assign your damage and move to the next round, when you do the same thing all over again. With Basic Tactics the situation changes a bit. A player with this technology knows how to organize his fleet so that his most heavily armored ship takes the beating first. So, before each space combat (not every round of combat), Basic Tactics allows the player to assign one ship to stand in front of the rest of his fleet and take damage until it is destroyed. Only after this one ship is destroyed his opponents are allowed to distribute hits to the rest of the ships. 

In the same repertoire as Basic Tactics we are introducing Advanced Tactics. With this technology, a player is allowed to sacrifice one Dark Raider and deal damage to one enemy ship. The amount of damage is equal to the total strength of that Dark Raider's shields. If this does not look powerful enough, let me disclose one more detail. The player with access to this technology will also have a large fleet of Raiders, coming with the expansion (I won't say right now how many, but I can assure you that there will be enough to make this technology count). Imagine those inexpensive ships scattered all over the map and ready to deal up to three damage to any ship bold enough to attack.

There is, of course, another more advanced technology called Fringe Tactics. This one works in a very simple way. Every round of every space combat, the player who has researched Fringe Tactics will decide how the damage is distributed against his own ships. Overpowered? Maybe, but it will be equally expensive. And only available to one player. 

Centaurian Resistance Card

The last technology I am going to talk about today is Quantum Reflection. This one does not play an active role in space combat, but it brings something extra after winning the fight with a Centaurian Resistance ship. With Quantum Reflection you get the Victory Points depicted on the associated card (the one you get to keep after winning a battle against the Centaurians) and the specific benefit of that card. In short, "the benefit OR the VP" becomes "the benefit AND the VP". Now we are scratching a different part of the tech tree, specifically the technologies that allow players to score Victory Points, directly or indirectly, in ways which were not possible in the base game. I will develop on this topic in my next post.

Before I finish, I just want to say that Exodus has broken into top 1100 on BoardGameGeek! That was only possible with your help and I want to express my thanks for this. With the upcoming expansion, I now dare to hope that Exodus will climb about 300 places higher by next winter.

Exodus: Proxima Centauri in top 1100 on BGG

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