[NaGaDeMon] Domo: Alpha Playtest - The First Season (Ever!)

I managed about 30 minutes after work today to set up and photodocument the first ever season of play during this first playtest. I'm only one season in, but the photography, obsessive double-checking of rules, and constant stopping for pictures is really dragging game play out. Yes, this is real nuts-and-bolts stuff here, but I think showing an actual play session will expose both warts and strengths. I encourage comments and feedback.

Even three turns into the game, I've uncovered a few situations that I didn't consider while writing. I'll note them below and expand on them in the next rev of the rules.

Basic mechanic: Check your holding rating (h) and roll a d((h+1)x2). Add bonuses, and the higher total wins. A rating of 2 means a d6. Max rating is 5, so max die size is d12. Government has no rating and always rolls a d6.

I added things to the layout as it became obvious I needed them. Specifically, I added dice to track year/season/month, and a green cathedral as a First Player token. Additionally, I used green sticks to indicate things of note on the board.

I'm just focusing on nuts and bolts here. I would encourage the naming of hexes and holdings in an actual game to create a story. The original intent of Domo was to provide a political backdrop to an RPG, and I'd like to honor that intent.

So without further ado, I give you DOMO: The Alpha Playtest.

Setup
For convenience, I set up the game on my desk, crammed in front of my laptop. I went with a 6 hex map for space concerns, and the whole thing fits in a 22-by-8-inch area. So far, this seems to be working and generating conflict immediately. Note: cardstock is not terribly heavy, and a cough or even a heavy sigh can blow the hex dividers away. It's better with ownership cubes in place, but still...

The initial map, pre-placement. Each side gets 10 cubes to place.
Each side starts with 3 Influence (sticks) and 3 Gold (yellow cubes).
All hexes have dividers laid out with the power centers in the same orientation. Clockwise from the top, they spell out MARE: Militari, Arcanum, Religio, and Economia.

I stuck with 2 sides for sanity's sake - fitting 30 cubes on 6 hexes at setup can come later. Blue is led by a Religio who gets a +1 leadership bonus on all rolls involving Religio holdings, and Red is led by a Militari who enjoys a +1 leadership bonus on all rolls involving Militari holdings. Blue went first in the placement round, and focused on spreading out to own hexes as quickly as possible. Red was more reserved and tried to consolidate position, but ended up placing to block Blue from owning 4 hexes at the start of the game.

The board, post placement. Season 1 begins.
Gold and Influence income for this season is lowest.
The initial board is skewed toward Blue, and those Religio holdings will give a large advantage in Influence income. Hex ownership is 2 and 2, with 2 hexes contested. Seems like a decent setup.

Season 1 Income
We start the first season. Gold and Influence accrues at 2 each for hex ownership, and 1 per 2 cubes in a holding, rounded down. Religio holdings give a bonus of 1 Influence each, and Economia holdings give a bonus of 1 Gold each. Note: 12 influence income empties the bank of blue sticks before the game even begins. Guess I should get more Influence tokens when I go shopping to make the next prototype.

In Season 1, Blue nets 7 Gold and 12 Influence. Red ended up with 10 Gold and 6 Influence. Red gathered the least influence, so decides who gets the First Player token. He decides to let Blue keep it. Note: Clarify this rule for the first turn, since the First Player is decided prior to placement too.

Season 1, Month 1
Each turn, players choose 1 action from a list of 10. Half are available to any holding, but each power center has 1 unique action. Hopefully I'll get into those unique actions soon.

Both sides decide on Expansion actions, so this is an easy turn. Blue expands his Religio holding in the center grassland hex, and Red decides to build a Religio holding in the upper right forest hex before Blue decides to move in. Note: Add rules on how to create the first holding of a type, since this is Red's first Religio holding! Rules as written assume expansion from an existing holding. Thought: Use hex ownership's standard d6 to attempt creation, but that screws players that don't own hexes. Might make a Guerrilla option to create without owning the hex, but I think that'll be an add-on to the basic game.

Each Expansion action costs 1 Gold and 1 Influence.

Expansions abound! d6 shows Year, d4 shows Season.
Note that I incremented the Season d4 for a turn. Oops.
Next photo introduces a Month indicator: a green d6.
Season 1, Month 2
Here's where things get interesting. Blue decides on a Coup action from the Religio holding to take over the grassland hex he recently expanded. A Coup costs 4 Gold or Influence in any combination. Since Blue is flush with Influence, 4 of those go back to the bank.

Now for the roll. Government always gets to roll a d6 when it tries anything (mostly on defense, but the note in Turn 1 opens the door for offense). Blue is attacking with a Religio-2 holding, so that means a d6 as well, but at a +1 because of Blue's Religio leadership bonus. Blue wants this Coup to succeed, so spends 1 Influence prior to the roll to add an additional +1 and potentially add more influence after the roll.

Spending Influence was a smart move since Blue rolled a 2 for a total of 4 vs. the sitting Government's roll of 5. Defenders win ties, so Blue needs to add 2 more points to win. Blue can spend a total of half the die size in Influence on a roll, and the maximum of 3 influence is just enough. Blue's total roll is now 6, just edging out the Government. Note: Coup actions can target hexes or other holdings. Coup rolls that succeed by 3 or more will reduce the losing holding by 1 and expand the winning holding by 1. Expansion doesn't apply when rolling against a Government for control of a hex. Need to make that explicit.

After Blue's turn: Coup underway to take over the hex at the green stick.
There's the green Month d6.
Coup actions need to succeed twice in a single season to take control of a hex (or destroy a holding and add the remnants to the victor), so Blue has one more turn to take over the hex. Red could have put down an Influence prior to the roll on the Government's behalf and played the spoiler, but Blue is so far ahead in Influence that it wasn't worth the risk.

Red decides to Attack Blue's Religio holding in the lower right hex and take the Church of Blueness down a peg. Since Red owns the hex, no declaration of war (Declare War is an action) is required for an Attack - it's simply cleaning house. So Red's Militari swoops into the Church of Blueness and starts making arrests at a cost of 1 Gold and 1 Influence.

Both sides are holding-2s, so both sides get to roll a d6. Both sides get a leadership bonus of +1 for using their advantaged holdings. Both decide to spend 1 Influence prior to the roll in case to add to their totals after the roll. Blue rolls a 4 for a total of 6, Red rolls a 5 for a total of 7. Red will win, but Blue decides to spend the maximum 2 more Influence to force Red to deplete his Influence.

Attacks reduce the losing holding by 1 for every 3 difference in the die rolls, rounding up. A simple win means a loss of 1. A tie results in both sides losing 1. An attack means someone's going to lose something. Red rolled the dice hoping to take the Church of Blueness out in one shot, but couldn't arrest all the clergy.

Red's attack at the red stick actually worked!
Season 1, Month 3
Blue needs to Coup again in hopes of owning that hex, so retaliation against Red will have to wait. Note: I just realized I didn't have Blue pay for this Coup action. I've updated Blue's Gold count for Season 2. Blue (retroactively) pays 4 Gold this time since Influence is running out. Blue invests 1 Influence in the roll, and rolls a 4 for a total of 6. The Government rolls a 3. Success! Blue takes the hex as the old government is shown the door. And by "the door", I mean "the executioner".

Blue's second Coup action this season succeeds!
Red decides to switch to a more grass-roots campaign to destroy the Church of Blueness and uses a Reduce action. There's less risk than an Attack, but it will only ever lower a holding by 1. Red spends 2 Gold and 1 Influence on the action, then spends an Influence to modify the roll. Blue also spends 1 Influence on the roll.

Since Blue's Religio holding is down to 1 after the attack last turn, Blue only gets to roll a d4 and can spend a maximum of 2 Influence to modify the roll. Red is still rolling a d6 and can spend 3 Influence. Each side rolls a 2. Red spends 2 more Influence to overcome Blue's 1 more Influence. Red's offer of bounties turns the citizens against the Church of Blueness, and the rest of the members are rounded up in short order.

I just forgot to roll for Red's Reduce action before this photo.
Picture Influence being spent like water and each side rolling a 2.
Season 2 Income
I decided to forge on with Season 2's Income phase. You can see the incoming Gold and Influence in the photo above, but I thought I'd break it down here.

Blue owns 3 hexes now and gets 6 Gold and 6 Influence for that. Blue has 3 Religio-2 holdings which give another 3 Gold and 6 Influence, for a grand total of 9 Gold and 12 Influence. Hex ownership is a Big Deal, as intended, and Blue's Religio-based aggression is paying off so far.

Red owns 2 hexes for 4 Gold and 4 Influence. Red's 2 Militari-2 holdings give 2 Gold and 2 Influence, and 4 Economia-1 holdings each give 1 bonus Gold. Red also got into the Religio game last season for 1 bonus Influence. Red gets a total of 10 Gold and 7 Influence. Red needs to step things up or get run over since total resource income equates to victory points at game's end.

Season 2, post-income. I paid for Red's Reduce action in this photo.
Blue still needs to pay 4 Gold for the second Coup, though.
Final Words for Tonight

So far, the costs associated with actions seem to be about right. I arbitrarily assigned resource costs based on the utility of the action, to a maximum cost of 4 resources for a Coup, and the 4 actions covered (Attack, Coup, Expand, Reduce) feel like the core of the game. The other basic moves (Declare War, which lets you Attack or Coup in a hex owned by someone else, and Move, which lets you move up to 3 cubes of a single type of power center across hexes per 1 Gold spent) will come into play soon, and the power center-specific actions may come into play in Season 3 or 4.

I hope things move faster now that I've got the basics down in my head. I think a Year (4 Seasons, or 12 game turns) should play out in about 5 minutes per experienced player. I think one action per month would work really well in a play by email version of Domo, too.

Note: What happens when 2 or more players attempt to Coup the same Government? I think the Coup count needs to reset with a change of ownership. That top middle hex is going to heat up as the land grab portion of the early game comes to a close.

Blue has 1 Influence stick left in the bank for Season 2, and we've still got plenty of Gold to go around, but I'll need many more counters with a bigger map. Note: Rework the map sizes by number of players. 12 hexes is probably good for 4 players and may be a little big for 3. Using Influence on rolls gets expensive quickly, especially using it on both offense and defense. We'll see how the rest of the game plays out.

I think it's important to share the experience and thought process of developing the game. I'm hoping to play 8 seasons, but we'll see what kind of time I end up with tomorrow. And I hope the mice don't eat the prototype overnight, because I'm planning on leaving it set up.

Thanks for reading!

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