Game Design Blitz #8

And today’s card is…

The Card

Color: Yellow

Number: 1

Piece: Hex

Mechanic: Area Control

The Idea

Last week I had to look up the mechanic because I wasn’t quite sure exactly what the mechanic was. This week I’m very aware of Area Control and how it works, but I realize that not everyone would know necessarily. As such I think from now on I’m going to always post the BGG definition of the mechanic at hand.

The Area Control mechanic typically awards control of an area to the player that has the majority of units or influence in that area. As such, it can be viewed as a sub-category of Auction/Bidding in that players can up their “bids” for specific areas through the placement of units or meeples.

One of the various mechanics in my favorite game is area control. In Tikal players vie for control of ancient temples by having the most explorers on the site. But, this isn’t “what’s your favorite game with this mechanic”, I’m supposed to be designing a game using area control. Unlike Tikal, I want the area control to be the primary mechanic of the game, but by itself, area control isn’t necessarily a “mechanic” in the same sense that an action point system (the primary mechanic in Tikal) is. It is more of a criteria to determine who controls a location or who scores points for a location. Can we turn area control into the driving force behind a game? What would an area control game system look like? I’m thinking something where the next action taken in the game is determine by who controls specific areas… kind of like worker placement by committee I suppose. Perhaps a resource-based system where each nation or region of the board represents a different resource, and players bid for turn order by bidding a number of workers to the region that they want to collect from. However, you are bidding your workers, and those bids are placed in those regions. The region with the most workers will be the only region that produces materials that turn. All workers that were used to bid are pulled to that region but there is some kind of penalty, say one of those workers is lost and will have to be earned again. So, if I use 5 workers on coal, Jessie uses 3 workers on brick, Jan uses 4 on wood and Shawn uses 2 on cloth. Then I would collect 5 coal. Jessie would lose one worker and collect 2 coal, Jan would lose a worker and collect 3 coal, and Shawn would lose a worker and collect 1 coal. If you are vying for the bid in the same region but are outbid, then you still collect but because your workers didn’t have to travel to another region, you don’t lose any workers. But there has to be some incentive to not just follow the start player, so let’s say that you still lose a worker, then a worker produces your bid-on resource, then the rest produce at the winning mine. In the example above, Jessie would earn one brick, one coal and lose one worker. Why not just bid all of your workers though? We would have to employ other actions for the remainder of the turn that require the use of workers… building things with the collected resources, trading resources with the bank (and maybe other players too?), improving the resource collection in each region, re-hiring workers, etc…

The Pitch

In Mining Town you are one of several mine owners vying to have the most valuable mine. The problem, of course, is that you need the resources that are produced by the other mines in town in order to build up the town’s infrastructure and improve the efficiency of your own mine. Each improvement that you make to your mine or the town moves you one step closer to being the most valuable mine.

Mining Town is a worker placement game which employs a unique area control mechanic to determine player order and the primary resource gathered in each turn. Players bid workers by placing them on the mine that they want or need to collect resources from. Each mine needs workers, but the one with the most workers pays the most, so any workers in other mines will head over to that mine to work for the day. Some workers get mad that you made the wrong choice for where to send them, so they quit and you must re-hire them to get back to full capacity. After resource production you use your remaining workers and the resources you have collected to improve your own mine, improve the town, rehire workers that quit and trade resources with the bank and/or other players.

After a set number of rounds, the game will end and the player with the most valuable mine is the winner!

Brief Overview – Quadropolis

pic2839757Quadropolis is a city building game from designer François Gandon with art by Sabrina Miramon, and is published by Days of Wonder. Quadropolis can play from 2-4 players and plays between 30-60 minutes. In Quadropolis each player has a team of four architects who are vying to secure buildings from a central board to build in their own city. As players utilize their architects and the central board diminishes, the choices on which buildings to buy become more difficult. After three rounds of play, the player who has the best city is the winner!

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Brief Overview – 7 Wonders Duel

Brief Overview

pic2576399_md 7 Wonders Duel is a drafting game for two players. Designed by Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala, and published by Repos Production. The playtime is approximately 30 minutes. If you have played 7 Wonders, then you are familiar with the theme and general mechanics of 7 Wonders Duel, but the game is actually quite different. Each player drafts four wonders to start the game after which the game is played out over three ages. Each age has cards set out on the table in various shapes, with alternate rows of cards face up and face down. Each successive row partially covers the row above it. The first round is a pyramid with two cards at the top and six cards at the bottom. On a player’s turn they will remove one card from the display and are unable to take a card that is partially covered. As cards are removed, the card in the rows above are uncovered and are therefore turned over if face down and are able to be drafted as well. When a player drafts a card they may do one of three actions with that card. The first is to buy the card by paying its required resources and place it in your city. Then, depending on the card, it may have some effect. For example if the card is red and has a shield on it, this counts for military action, and the token on the military track is moved toward the opponent. Brown and grey cards in your city have resource symbols on them which may be used to pay for cards on future turns. The second option with a drafted card is to discard it and recieve two gold coins. Each yellow building in your city gives you one additional gold when discarding. The final option is to place the card under one of your wonders, indicating that you have met the resource requirements and thus built that wonder. Each wonder has actions associated with them such as taking another turn, getting military actions, destroying opponent’s resources, and so forth which take effect one time when the wonder is built. Once seven of the eight wonders on the board have been built, the seventh wonder may no longer be built. When the first age card layout is gone, the second age layout is set up. Whomever is behind in military might takes the first turn. Play continues through the third age, after which victory points for the various buildings, military position, wonders, and other sources in your city are added up and the player with the highest total is the winner. There are two early victory conditions as well. The first is to win by military might which is accomplished by advancing the token along the military track to the opponent’s side. Once the token gets to the opponent’s end space the player instantly wins the game. The other early win condition is achieved by collecting science cards. These are green cards, each of which has different a symbol on it. If a player collects six different symbols, that player immediately wins. In addition, if a player collects two science cards with the same symbol, they may then claim a special token which will provide a bonus for the rest of the game.


I am really impressed by the mechanic of building a tableau of cards which are drafted by the two players. It was introduced in 7 Wonders as a two player variant to drafting and it is pure genius. In fact, I may try to use this drafting method the next time I play Magic: The Gathering with my friend. The fact that you can see some of the cards that you are drafting and not others means that you can draft defensively some times, but when a face down card is flipped over you are never certain if it will reveal something that your opponent really needs. You have to think a move or two ahead and sometimes figure out if you or your opponent will be forced to reveal the next juicy card choices. The inclusion of the early win conditions means that you really have to pay attention to what your opponent is doing, and if they seem to be trying to advance the military track or are collecting all the science cards that they can get their hands on, then you may have to draft and discard cards in order to deny them the early victory rather than taking the best card for your particular strategy.

I enjoyed playing 7 Wonders Duel and find it a great alternative to 7 Wonders when you are limited in players, but I ultimately enjoy the original 7 Wonders as I tend to like more players and more offensive play rather than being forced into playing defensively. I would say that if you enjoy 7 Wonders, but item find yourself with only two players, then 7 Wonders Duel is a fine edition to your collection.