by Gamer Nation Studios
What time does Madness event start?
Right, then, the thoughts were (Again, attributed to Martin Wallace, of Treefrog Games fame):
1) Split the deck into two - one for stellar cards, one for orbital. Let everyone start with Stellar. This lets the 'plan' phase have much more meaning - you can pick whether you want more stars/nebulae/supernovae/etc, or if what you need this round is more planets/collisions/asteroids/life/etc. You'd probably want either different card backs (too late now) or a board rider to distinguish the two piles, but the difference when, eg, going star hunting is huge. Likewise, it means everyone starts with far better odds of being able to play a star, because a planet-first game is quite a bit harder to pull off.
2) Play round robin in the Purchase phase, much like you do in Create (Your turn, my turn, your turn, my turn etc) - this helps prevent the 'first player buys all the hydrogen on sheer principle' tactic, which, um, I have to say has happened as a routine tactic... His initial suggestion is that each player can buy 2 cubes at a time, and it works well, albeit at a modest speed cost. Then again, it also seems to result in less 'roadblocks', where a player has his plans ruined and sits there for a minute trying to come up with a new strategy, so... It's hard to say at this point whether it's actually slower either way.
3) Partly tied into the above - rather than purchasing hydrogen during Purchase, let essence 'convert' into hydrogen during the creation phase. It really is Hydrogen that's the chokepoint in a lot of games - it can't be fused, and it's cheap enough you can just buy the entire supply if you end up rich on Essence and have nothing to build next round. You can still run out if all out there in the universe, but you can't run out because someone chose to sit on it, either. (Disclaimer: we haven't tried this suggestion out yet. But it's interesting, and worth at least a look.)
Mostly, this is adding in a little more strategy and the ever tasty 'will they beat me to X' tension, and mitigating a few of the more 'gamey' elements. The big one is #1, though - it makes Plan way more interesting, because you actually have a choice to make beyond 'how many cards do I want to cycle'. And if the leader starts buying up Orbital cards in the final round or two, it gives people a guide on how to react...
Give 'em a try, eh? :)
K&D yes, we are always interested in taking suggestions. As for the time frame, it was not a decision we came to lightly. We went over and over all the cards, baselining with mathematical balance for every card in the deck before we even started alpha testing, and it paid off with huge dividends, and added some things we did not anticipate, but only serve to make the game better. As always, if anything reveals itself in late stage testing, we can make adjustments, but we are already further along right now than we were when we launched EONS originally, so we felt very good making the call we did.
You sure you don't want to keep it slow'n'steady? I'll note you ended up throwing in surprise card mix changes at the last minute in the last one, after noticing stuff in late-stage testing. Not being harsh, but surely it's sensible that if you've got the game running smoothly, to polish more rather than speed the timeframe?
Speaking of, I really should get around to noting down the suggestions Martin Wallace gave after I played it with him one evening... would you be interested?