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Europa Universalis Development Diary #4

Today we will talk a bit about Game Set-up and give a brief introduction to the Sequence of Play. This may not sound so sexy at first, but it gives a real insight into how the game is actually played. Especially in the context of what you may already have read about Monarch Power and Action Cards in the previous development diaries.

Game Set-up

The initial set-up of Europa Universalis: The Board Game depends on the scenario that you choose to play and the number of players. The game has introductory scenarios that have a light set-up and lets you jump straight into the action, and scenarios that focus on minor powers, specific regions or certain time periods and events.

For the Grand Campaign, there are recommended choices of Major Powers, depending on the number of players. For example, one suggested set-up for three players includes England, Castile/Spain and France. Another three player set-up is Austria, Poland and the Ottomans. One of the set-ups for four players includes Castile/Spain, France, Austria and the Ottomans.

The Grand Campaign lets you play through all of the four Ages of the game. For a quicker game, you may choose to play two or three Ages instead. For all Major Powers in play, you shuffle their nation specific Events into the Event Decks of each of the Ages that you decide to play. Scenarios may also have scenario specific Events.

All players then place the large and small Province disks, Influence tokens, relation tokens, merchants and military units according to their set-up card for the scenario. For a 1444 start, simply place the Province disks on the appropriate flags on the board. All players normally get four Monarch Power tokens of each type (Administrative, Diplomatic and Military) and 15 Ducats to begin with, which are placed on their player mats. The players place their starting Rulers in the Ruler spot and draw a hand of five Action Cards and one Event Card. The last thing to do before the game begins is to select Missions. Each player normally gets to choose two and draw one at random.

The Realms of Castile/Spain, France, England, Austria and Poland, set up with large and small Province disks, military units (Armies and Ships), Merchants (pawns), Influence tokens (cubes) and relation tokens.

Sequence of Play

The game is divided into Rounds and each Round consists of the four Phases listed below:

  1. Draw Cards Phase
  2. Action Phase
  3. Peace Resolution Phase
  4. Income & Upkeep Phase

These Phases are performed in the order they are listed. Each phase is completed by all players before moving on to the next phase.

In the Draw Cards Phase, all players draw three Action Cards each of any type they like. They then pay 2 Ducats for each card they decide to keep in their hand. They also draw one Event Card.

The Action Phase is, as the name suggests, where the main action of the game happens. During this phase, the players take turns performing one Action at the time until all players have passed. On their turn, players may either choose an Action from the list of Basic Actions, or they may play an Action Card. Before players are allowed to pass, they must play their Event.

The Peace Resolution Phase only occurs if there are any ongoing Wars. Peace may then be negotiated or the victor may force his terms upon the loser. Undecided Wars may continue into the next Round.

In the Income & Upkeep Phase, all players collect Tax Income from Provinces, pay their expenses, and get new Monarch Power tokens according to the skills of their Ruler and Advisors.

At the beginning of a new Age (when the Event Deck of the previous Age is empty), players pick new Missions and the next Event Deck comes into play.

Major Power at a Glance: Castile/Spain

Castile starts the 1444 game a little bit weaker than the French further north. They are however in a very good position to increase the extent of their realm quite drastically, by uniting Spain. The chances of getting a tight relationship early on with Aragon, through the Iberian Wedding event, is very high. Integrating them into your realm is likely the next step. A union with Aragon could also be a springboard for a campaign in Italy. There you could soon be involved in a fierce competition with France or Austria. There are also a couple of nearby minors (Granada and Navarra) who provide easy targets for expansion.

If France and England can end their quarrels you should not be surprised to find yourself at war with one of them before too long. France is never far away, and England has an alliance with Portugal that could become a nuisance. Perhaps the best thing to do is leave it to the others to fight over the European continent and rather focus on exploring the riches of the New World. To secure an overseas empire you must make sure that your navy is amongst the strongest in the world.

The Reformation is less likely to tear your Iberian peninsula apart than other parts of Europe. But its consequences might still come knocking on the door as old alliances are replaced by new ones. Also be careful that your  economy does not become too reliant upon the American gold. 

Read the previous three development diary chapters here:
Development Diary #1
Development Diary #2
Development Diary #3

For more news about the upcoming Kickstarter and reminders about Development Diaries, sign up to our Europa Universalis newsletter.

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Europa Universalis Development Diary #3

In the third chapter of this Development Diary we will talk about actions and Action Cards. Last time we offered some insights into the Monarch Power system – a form of resources that players in Europa Universalis: The Board Game will depend upon to perform actions in the game.

Actions

While players may always perform certain Basic Actions, you will often find the more specialised actions on the Action cards. These are divided into three decks that correspond with the three types of Monarch Power. Accordingly, there is a Military Deck, a Diplomatic Deck and an Administrative Deck. You may always choose which type of Action Cards you want to draw in the Draw Cards Phase. In the Action Phase players take turns performing one action at the time. You can either play an Action Card or execute a Basic Action. This ensures that player down time is low. 

Action card types with explanations
Prototype cards from the Administrative (green), Diplomatic (blue) and Military (red) deck. The text and graphics on these cards are not final, but they show the basic layout.
(Click image to zoom in.)

The action on each Action Card has a Monarch Power cost stated in the top left corner of the card. The type of Monarch Power is always associated with the deck it was drawn from. The color of the circle behind the number clearly indicates what type it belongs to. Red is military, blue is diplomatic and green is administrative power. This color system is used throughout the game. By paying the Monarch Power cost you may perform the action described on the scroll that covers most of the card.

Military cards may, unsurprisingly, give bonuses in battles or increase your military capacity in various ways. Several Military cards may actually be played on another player’s turn, as a response to that player’s action. Diplomatic cards will let you form diplomatic relationships by forging alliances, arranging royal marriages and more. Furthermore you may build spy networks to enable covert actions against your opponents. You can use Administrative cards to develop the infrastructure and economic capacity of your empire.

Leaders and Advisors

You may have noticed that there is also a section at the bottom of each card that shows a character, with a portrait and some abilities and icons. This is because every Action Card can be used for two distinct purposes. You may either play it for the action described on the scroll, or as the character below it.

There are two types of characters, easily differentiated by the circular or a square portrait frame. The circular portraits depict Leaders and the square portraits depict Advisors. You may use Leaders as Rulers of player nations, or as Military Leaders commanding armies or fleets. Leaders have a skill value in each type of Monarch Power. Advisors on the other hand, only provide a bonus in their field of expertise (administrative, diplomatic or military). This will subsequently increase the amount of Monarch Power, of the associated type, that you receive. If you have a Ruler with a Diplomatic skill of 1, and a +3 Diplomatic Advisor, you get 4 Diplomatic Power tokens each Round. Rulers normally stay until they die, while you may employ and fire Advisors at will.

Players must pay a hiring cost and an upkeep cost, in Ducats, for Advisors. Generals, on the other hand, cost Military Power to employ.

Major Power at a Glance: France

Although the French are among the most powerful nations of Europe, they also have powerful rivals surrounding them on all sides.

In the 1444 start, as France, you are in the final stages of the Hundred Years War with England, but there is a ceasefire in effect. The two powers are quite evenly balanced, but France is slightly better prepared for war. You have claims on all the English provinces on the mainland, which means you have the power to declare war at any time. Additionally, you can quite easily dominate the nearby minor nations, and you are reasonably well positioned for an Italian adventure. France also has a high tax income and manpower reserve.

However, France needs to be beware of potential enemies on all sides. In the south lies Castile, with ambitions of uniting Spain. In the northwest is your long time rival, England, and in the east Austria sits on the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. If your neighbor, Burgundy, falls under the influence of one of your enemies, this may become a big headache. France also desperately needs some more ports, to enable them to compete with other naval powers.

Still, if you can end the Hundred Years War favorably, without spending too many resources, you can perhaps enjoy a period of stability and growth before the religious wars of the Reformation hit you with force.

EU4 players will recognize several of the missions and events that are available to France in the board game.

Read the previous two development diary chapters here:
Development Diary #1
Development Diary #2

For more news about the upcoming Kickstarter and reminders about Development Diaries, sign up to our Europa Universalis newsletter.

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Europa Universalis Development Diary #2

So, it’s time for another development diary. It comes a bit later than we intended, since we have just come back from the biggest European board game event of the year, Spiel in Essen. As you may guess, we have been very busy with this lately. I said last time that we would take a closer look at one or two of the major powers, and I apologise for this, but we have to do that in the next diary instead I’m afraid.

In these two photos you can get an idea of how busy the booth was. All the demo tables were full, from Thursday morning until Sunday afternoon.

Box Artwork and Miniature Sculpt

© 2018 Tomasz Jedruszek & Aegir Games, All Rights Reserved

Even if we changed the content a little from what we had planned for this dev. diary, this doesn’t mean don’t have anything of interest to show you. Quite the contrary. First off, we hope that you are as excited as us to see the magnificent box artwork that Tomasz Jedruszek has created, in its full splendor. We think it really captures the spirit of Europa Universalis in a great way, both in the details and the composition as a whole. Tomasz has previously created box art for well-known board games, such as A Game of Thrones (2nd ed.) and Dominion, as well as a host of artwork for Magic the Gathering. Please check out more of his work over on ArtStation.

Miniature sculpt: digital render and 3D printed sample

In addition to this we also just received the first sculpt for one of the miniatures, and had a small test batch 3D printed. We think that these detailed soldier figurines will add a new level to the visual and tactile experience of playing the game. We hope you like it!

Monarch Power

Now lets get into some more game play details. All EU4 players will be very familiar with the concept of Monarch Power. But since there may be a few reading this who haven’t played the video games or who’ve only played earlier versions of EU, we’ll try to explain the basics of it.

Monarch Power is a type of immaterial resource at the disposal of your nation. It is divided into three different categories; Administrative Power, Diplomatic Power and Military Power. These resources represent both a nation’s level of innovation and its capacity to perform actions related to each of these fields. The skills of your monarch and his/her advisors will be key factors in determining the rate at which these Monarch Points are renewed. We will talk more about advisors in another Development Diary.

So far it’s much the same as in the video game, but we are taking this concept a step further the board game. Monarch Power will be required to perform pretty much any type of action. If you want to perform a military action, like moving an army or playing a military card, you will need to pay for that action with Military Points and so on. Monarch Points will also be used to invest in the development of Ideas, recruiting military leaders, increasing diplomatic influence and much more.

Monarch Point Cubes

All Monarch Points are represented by the little cubes you see in the photo above. Where these cubes are located on your player mat determines what type of Monarch Power they belong to. When they are spent on actions, you return the cubes to your main supply. The sylinders in the photo indicate how many new cubes you would get in each of these fields at the end of each round. (When we have settled on the final layout for the player mats, they will of course get a nice design that fits with the theme of the game.)

Hiring the right advisors and investing these points in a clever manner will be key to the success of your realm. Your choices in these matters will also signal the priorities of your realm to other players.

The concept of Monarch Power is closely tied to the way the Action Cards in the game work. Thus, that is what we will take a closer look at next time.

For news about the upcoming Kickstarter and reminders about Development Diaries, sign up to our Europa Universalis newsletter.

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Europa Universalis Development Diary #1

EU dev diary 1

Greetings, Europa Universalis fans and board game enthusiasts! It is with great pleasure that we are publishing this first development diary for Europa Universalis: The Board Game. We know that some of you have been waiting impatiently for this. Now it is finally here, and this diary is the first of many to come.

As you may already know, Paradox Interactive and Aegir Games have embarked on the great task of bringing Europa Universalis back to the tabletop.

As anyone vaguely familiar with the video game knows, EU is a complex game of many features. Accordingly, an epic 4X board game that offers the players the wide variety of options and choices that an EU board game should, will also have a lot different aspects to it. In these development diaries we will try to focus on one, or a few, of these at the time.

In this diary we will give an overview of the map board. This is the main playing area of the game, where such things as military conflicts, trade, exploration and the results of diplomatic actions will take place.

The Map Board

map board overview
The prototype map board without any playing pieces on it

First off I have to warn you that all of what you see in the photos here are temporary graphics used in the prototype version of the board game. Thus all the graphics are subject to change, and will have added details in the final product. Still, EU4 gamers should instantly recognise much of the look of the map.

The main map covers Europe and the Mediterranean region. In the smaller inserts on the left are maps of North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. As you may deduct from that, we are initially focusing on the European nations as playable realms. The scope of the board game, for playability reasons, needs be narrowed down a bit compared to the video game, and after all it is called Europa Universalis. Future expansions however, may take a closer look at other parts of the world.

Furthermore, you will be able to section up the map and use smaller parts of it for smaller scenarios and lower player counts.

Areas and Provinces

Here is a close up of two areas containing some of the Polish heart land provinces

The map is divided into areas and sea zones. Inside each area there is a number of provinces, marked with the coats of arms of the realm they belong to. Armies move and fight battles in areas, while the ownership of provinces provide tax income, manpower and victory points. Winning a battle in an area will enable you to occupy hostile provinces inside that area. The border of the Holy Roman Empire is also indicated on the map. All areas, provinces and realms will have names on the final version of the map. Some of the area borders are likely going to change a little, and some new provinces will be added.

Also on the map, you will find trade nodes and trade routes. These provide a different way of accumulating wealth. Some areas have mountain borders that restrict the movement of military units.

Playable Nations

The playable nations in the regular set ups for the Grand Campaign will, for balance reasons, be limited to the major powers of Europe. The provinces of these realms are highlighted with golden (as opposed to silver) frames around their coats of arms.  These will include France, England, Castile/Spain, Austria, Poland-Lithuania, the Scandinavian Kalmar Union, Muscovy/Russia and the Ottomans.

Each of the major powers will have events and victory cards specific to them. However, there will also be a number of scenarios that let you play various minor nations, and this can provide a very different type of game. More information about these scenarios will be provided in a future development diary.

For the active player realms, province tokens will be used to indicate the current state of a realm’s territorial possessions.

Enjoy the weekend! Next time we will take a closer look at one or two of the major powers. We will also reveal the box cover.

PS. If you really want to, it will actually be possible to play the Grand Campaign as any European realm, but this is not something we would recommend to inexperienced players.

PPS. Don’t forget to visit us and check out the game at the Paradox Interactive booth in Hall 5 (5-A104) if you are going to SPIEL in Essen this year (25th to 28th Oct). We would also greatly appreciate it if you let the world know of your interest for the game by saying so on the Spiel Preview Geeklist on Boardgamegeek.

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A Summer of Conventions and an Essen Autumn

As we move from summer to autumn (or fall to those across the pond) we are constantly working on the Europa Universalis board game development. At the moment we are focusing on making compelling event cards and victory objectives. However, you will also see more regular updates from the team in the coming weeks and months.

Places we have visited or are going to visit soon.

We have been, and really are, enjoying the opportunity to travel to conventions and fairs to meet fans and gamers in Europe and North America. Above all the feedback that we get is absolutely invaluable to us. But it is also just great to meet people who are as passionate as us about the Europa Universalis experience.

Also we will be drawing the winner of our mailing list competition tomorrow. As soon as the winner has been notified, we will announce it here on our blog. The lucky winner will receive a copy of Twilight Imperium 4.

Meeting board gamers at Arcon

Summer kicked off with the Arcon gaming convention in Oslo in June, where we demoed the game to eager fans from Norway. We had introduced some new and some adjusted features since PDXCon and were eager to try them out with new gamers, and we had lots of great feedback from those who played and those who sat around watching. This input subsequently carried into the continued work on the game over the summer.

Europa Universalis demos at GenCon

At the beginning of August Aegir Games travelled to GenCon with Paradox Interactive and Free League Publishing. This was our first visit to the greatest board game spectacle in North America, and it didn’t disappoint. Most importantly we had a Friday packed with Europa Universalis demo sessions for board game writers, bloggers, podcasters and vloggers. We also got to talk to some old friends and personal heros in the board game industry. We even got to play some new games and make some new friends. Here you can get some first impressions from Roll for Crit, and a full demo session recording from the Board Game Kaptain.

Developer Diaries

Starting at the beginning of next month we will begin publishing developer diaries, focusing on different aspects of the game. Here we will go through game features, one or a few at the time, and explain how they work. We really look forward to that, and hope that you do too!

Meet us at Essen SPIEL ’18 (Oct. 25–28)

The highlight of the board gaming year, for many, is SPIEL, that mammoth of an event taking place in Essen every October. Aegir Games will certainly be present too. For a lot of Europa Universalis fans and board gamers this will also be the first chance to see the prototype of the game up close. If you are planning to go, please come to see us at the Paradox Interactive booth (booth no. 5-A104). We would also be very happy if you would like to give us some love on Boardgamegeek’s SPIEL ’18 Preview list.

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Europa Universalis at PDXCon and Arcon

Europa Universalis Demo at PDXCon

Last month we went to PDXCon in Stockholm to present the prototype for the upcoming Europa Universalis board game to die hard fans of the computer game series. This was the first time we had a chance to show what we have been working on to a wider audience – it was a lot of fun (and quite intense)! We got loads of great feedback, which has been really helpful to us in the continued development process.

One of the people who took the time to play a demo session at PDXCon was PC Gamer writer Jon Bolding. His preview based on that demo and our chat with him was published on the PC Gamer web site just short of two weeks ago. One of the many great quotes from that article that we particularly like was this one:

I’ll likely lay down the cash and entire weekend required to try it out when they get this thing designed, published, printed, and shipped to my door.

Here are some photos from the demo sessions at PDXCon for you to enjoy:

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Next up for us now is the Arcon tabletop gaming convention in Oslo, which kicks off tomorrow. Here we will be demoing Europa Universalis on Saturday 23 June from 4 pm to 9 pm (16:00–21:00).

Tomorrow already we will be running sessions for our other upcoming game Crazy Neighbors from 7 pm till midnight. Crazy Neighbors will come to Kickstarter in the not too distant future, and the game is in the final stages of development. Naturally we will be hosting these sessions in the convention pub area, as this is a proper beer-and-pretzels game of fun and nasty take-that action.

Also we will be there all of Saturday and Sunday to talk to gamers, play games and demo our prototypes, so just look for the Aegir Games T-shirts and ask us anything.