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Evangelists again

I’ve been working on-again off again on Evangelists and on another game, and Evangelists has been in “off-again” mode for a while. The fundamental mechanism of building and arranging a Gospel seems basically sound, but I’ve been really stuck on a satisfying Event system and a way to make this scale for different player counts. Basically, the Events represent “bad stuff that happens”, an abstraction of the persecutions of Nero which are more or less going on concurrently with the process that the game captures. Mechanically, the Events (now) control the game length: one of the Events is “one of the eyewitnesses dies”, and when all witnesses have died the game ends. But there’s a related effect whereby it is the players, poking around and asking about this Jesus figure, that attracts attention from Rome and hastens the persecution that results in the death of the eyewitnesses. (Of course there’s also the possibility in real life that many simply died from old age, but that’s lumped in with the persecution mechanism now).

So, we need events that come out often enough that all of the eyewitnesses die before too many turns have elapsed, but we also need players to have some direct or indirect influence on when the events trigger, but we also need the rate at which events occur to be independent of the player count.

The solution I’ve come up with is different than the original vision of the game but doesn’t seem to have added to the complexity of the game, although it does add a bit of fiddliness. Basically, you now get four actions per turn — move, gain a tradition card, interview a witness, take a city’s action; each type of action is represented by a particular color of cube, so at the start of your turn you receive one cube of each color, and as you execute your actions you throw the associated cubes into a cup. Then, at the end of your turn, you pull three cubes from the cup and distribute them to “event tracks” of corresponding colors. Each “event track” has a (randomly chosen) event card associated with it, and when the track pegs, the event triggers.

Now all of this manipulation of cubes would seem to be quite fiddly but in practice, so far it actually seems to streamline things quite a bit compared to similar action point allowance games I’ve played: when you want to take an action of type X, you just spend a cube in that color; no need to remember whether you already took your X action or not. And at turn’s end, you just draw cubes and resolve them. I’ve used a similar system in a different game and I like the way it delays the “bureaucratic” stuff (resolve the consequences of your actions) until the end of the turn. And it seems to hold promise for keeping the timing of everything correct across all player counts.