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Europa Universalis Development Diary #9

War of the Roses, by Olly Lawson

Last week we had the honour of working with Dávid Turczi, designer of games like Anachrony and Dice Settlers, as well as solo modes for Teotihuacan, Cerebria, Keyper and many more. He came here to work with us on the solo mode for Europa Universalis: The Board Game the whole week. We can safely say that we got more from him than we could ask for.

Solo gaming might not be for everyone, but for a growing number of board gamers it is a deal breaker, and we really wanted to make something good for the solo gamer community too. We now have the framework for what we believe will become a great solo mode for the game. Dávid will work with us in the coming months to get it to perfection. In addition to this, Dávid has also helped us tremendously with other development work. This has sharpened the focus of other aspects of the game, resulting in increased tension and level of competition overall.

Computer gamers might be asking themselves why people would want to play the board game solo when they already have the PC game. The answer will differ depending on who you ask, but one way of seeing it, is that they “scratch different itches“. Many solo board gamers emphasise the tactile experience of moving actual pieces on a board, or that they look for ways to spend time away from the screen. Compared to traditional board gaming, which is a social experience, solo gaming is more like a puzzle that you try to solve.

Dávid Turczi and Víctor Paiam testing the new solo mode for Europa Universalis: The Board Game.

Solo Mode

The solo mode for Europa Universalis: The Board Game is set up like a 3-player game. It will pit you, as a player, against two Major Power Bots that essentially have an AI which determines their behaviour. Additionally there will be a number of Active NPR minors with a much more limited and simple behavioural pattern.

This means you will be playing the solo mode very much in the same way as you would be playing a game against other human players. The obvious difference is that there will be a lot less negotiating, deal making and backstabbing. What you want to do is score more Prestige (Victory Points) than any of your bot opponents. The solo mode should play very fast once you get used to the main bot actions and decision making.

Bot Realms

Each of the Major Powers will have its own dedicated Bot, which makes decisions that make sense for that Realm, both historically and in the context of its current position in the game. Of course it will not be as advanced as a human opponent or the AI of the video game, but it will constantly keep you on your toes. And it should be really tough to beat in a head-on confrontation.

Each Bot will be drawing from a deck of cards to determine what type of action it will take on its turn. These actions will unfold in various ways, determined by the current circumstances. There will be an advanced hierarchy of priorities for each of the more complex bot actions, but it will be presented in a manner that makes each action easy to execute.

Work in progress resolution flow chart for political/diplomatic Bot Action. (The cube signifies a die roll.)

Above you can see one of the prototype flow charts we are working with while we are creating the “AI” of the bots. This is just a peek “under the hood”, and the final look of the actual charts in the game will be very different. This type of chart provides us with a quick way of testing if a specific Bot Action can be resolved in a satisfying manner in all relevant situations.

Major Power at a Glance: England

England has invaded Scotland and occupied two Provinces.

England’s starting position in 1444 is a bit tricky. As the Hundred Years’ War draws to a close, the French are likely to be on the war path. At one point you must make a choice: how much are you willing to sacrifice in your bid to defend the English continental possessions? Is it worth being dragged into an all-consuming conflict with France, or should you make peace and look elsewhere for more profitable hunting grounds?

With two Maritime Trade Nodes just off their coast, a third one nearby, easy access to North America and the Caribbean, and lots of ports, England is well positioned to build a trade empire based on naval power. This choice of strategy however, is likely to bring you into conflict with Castile/Spain, who have similar ambitions.

If you can deal with your domestic problems, like the War of the Roses, and build a strong basis of power in the British Isles and Ireland, while maintaining a navy second to none, you can project your power across the world. At the same time you are in a unique position, since a strong navy will also keep your homeland safe from the attacks of hostile armies.

Read the previous Development Diary chapters here:

Development Diary #1 (Map Board)
Development Diary #2 (Box Art and Monarch Power)
Development Diary #3 (Action Cards and France)
Development Diary #4 (Set-up, Sequence of Play and Castile/Spain)
Development Diary #5 (Diplomatic Relations)
Development Diary #6 (Warfare and Ottomans)
Development Diary #7 (Non-Player Realms)
Development Diary #8 (Basic Actions)

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For more news about the upcoming Kickstarter, how to sign up as a play tester, and reminders about Development Diaries, Sign up to our Europa Universalis newsletter.

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Europa Universalis Development Diary #8

Christopher Columbus, by Olly Lawson

It is about time for a new Development Diary. We have talked a little about Actions in previous diary entries, but mainly about Action Cards. This time we want to talk about the Basic Actions. Those are the Actions that you can always perform, without the need of any cards.

Basic Actions

The Basic Actions are, in the same way as the Action Cards, divided into the three types of Monarch Power – there are Administrative Actions, Diplomatic Actions and Military Actions. They normally cost either Administrative Power (AP), Diplomatic Power (DP) or Military Power (MP). But there are also some Special Actions and Free Actions that are not tied to any of these in particular.

Free Actions

Free Actions are Actions that you can performed alongside another Action during your Turn or, in some cases, even during another player’s Turn.

Declare War

By Declaring War, you go to a War against the target Realm. If you have no justification for doing so, no Casus Belli, you will suffer a –2 Stability drop. Most of the time a Casus Belli involves a Claim on some of the target’s Provinces.

Hire Advisor or Leader

Pay the recruitment cost to hire a new Advisor (Square portrait) or Leader (Circular portrait) from the cards in your hand. Advisors cost Ducats and provide extra Monarch Points in the area of their expertise, while Leaders cost Military Power and provide bonuses in Battles.

Take/Repay Loan

Take a Loan Tile and 5 Ducats from the general supply. You must pay an interest of 1 Ducat every Round until the loan has been repaid. You can take a loan at any time as long as you don’t already 5 active loans.

Special Actions

Special Actions are not necessarily linked to a particular type of Monarch Power, and don’t always cost Monarch Points to perform. They do however take up a whole player Turn.

Research Ideas

You may spend the Monarch Point cost stated on an Idea, to activate this Idea and claim the bonuses it provides.

Change National Focus

May only be done once per Round. Perform either or both of the two options below.

  • Discard any 3 Action Cards from your hand and draw 2 new cards of your choice. Alternatively discard 2 cards and draw 1 new. 
  • Increase one type of Monarch Power by two tokens, while decreasing the two others by one token each.

Change State Religion

From Age II onwards it is possible to change State Religion from Catholic to Protestant (or from Protestant to Catholic) by taking this action. Changing to or from other Religions can only happen as a consequence of War or Rebellion.

Explore

Pay 1 DP and 1 MP to move a Fleet or an Army into unchartered territory on one of the Exploration Maps. Requires “Quest for the New World” Idea.

Christopher Columbus discovers America. Illustration: Olly Lawson
Christopher Columbus discovers America. Illustration: Olly Lawson

Administrative ­Actions

Increase Stability

You may spend 6 AP, modified by your current Stability value, to increase your Stability by 1 step. (Stability ranges from –3 to +3.)

Convert Area

Pay 3 Ap and 3 Ducats to Convert the Religion to your State Religion in an Area where you own all the Provinces. Roll a number of Rebel Dice for the Area you convert equal to half the Tax Income of the Provinces.

Colonize

Spend 1 AP per Colonist token to Colonize any unoccupied Colony Space which you have Explored, and placed a Claim on. 5 Colonists are required to complete a Colony, an thus replacing it with a regular Province.

Diplomatic Actions

Influence

Pay 1 DP or 3 Ducats per token, to place Influence tokens in, or adjacent to, any Areas where you own at least one Province or already have one or more Influence Tokens.

Trade

Pay 1 DP to draw 3 Trade Cards and choose one of the cards that has a Trade Node where you have, or can move, a Merchant that has not already been activated this Round. Discard the remaining cards. All players with a Merchant in the chosen Trade Node will now collect Trade Income from the Node according to their Trade Power.

Fabricate Claim

Spend 1 DP per Claim, to place Claim tokens on Provinces in Areas adjacent to your Realm. 

Military Actions

Activate Army/Fleet

You may spend 1 MP to activate an Army (or a single Land Unit) or make a Naval Activation. An activated Army or a single Land Unit may then either Move or Siege. When Land Units enter an Area containing enemy Units, a Battle will be fought immediately.

A Naval Activation will let you move any number of Ships on the board to a single destination (Sea Zone or Port). Fleets and Ships may move a maximum of 2 spaces (Sea Zones). They must stop and fight if they enter a Sea Zone containing enemy Ships. 

Getting ready for battle. Illustration: Olly Lawson

Recruit Military Units

Pay 1 MP, and the required amount of Ducats, to recruit as many Military Units from your Manpower Pool as you desire or can afford. Hire Mercenary Units from the general supply when your Manpower runs out. Build up to one Ship per Port you own.

Refresh Manpower

Pay 1 MP per 2 Units, to Replenish as many Exhausted Units in your Manpower Pool as you desire. These Units are moved from the Exhausted area to the Available area, and are ready to be Recruited.

Handle Rebels

Pay 1 MP per Unrest that you want to remove from your Provinces.

New Illustrations

As you might have noticed we have got some new illustrations this time around. That’s because we have Olly Lawson working on the cards for the game. He is a UK based illustrator and in his portfolio you can see that he is the perfect guy for the job. He’s got other historical games, such as the cards for Pandemic: Fall of Rome, already under his belt, and he’s even a fan of Europa Universalis!

All the illustrations in this Development Diary are of his doing, and there is a lot more to come!

Olly’s illustration admiring the paragraph I wrote about him

Read the previous Development Diary chapters here:

Development Diary #1 (Map Board)
Development Diary #2 (Box Art and Monarch Power)
Development Diary #3 (Actions, Action Cards and France)
Development Diary #4 (Set-up, Sequence of Play and Castile/Spain)
Development Diary #5 (Diplomatic Relations)
Development Diary #6 (Warfare and Ottomans)
Development Diary #7 (Non-Player Realms)

Newsletter Sign-up

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

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Europa Universalis Development Diary #7

It is been a while since the last the diary, and we apologise for that. That does not mean that we haven’t been busy, quite the opposite. We have been talking to manufacturers, commissioning illustrations, revamping the map, developing the rules, getting the Tabletop Simulator demo ready for testing, and of course lots of play testing.

Today I thought I would talk a little bit about Realms. Most of all we will look at those tempting targets scattered around the map, the Non-Player Realms (NPRs).

Player Realms and NPRs

A section of the map board showing southern Germany, northern Italy, the Carpathian region and the northern Balkans. Bohemia has been marked with tokens to signify that it is an Active NPR in this Scenario. Player Realms are marked with thicker Province Disks.

The European political landscape in 1444 included a myriad of states, small and big. Provinces would often change hands, either as a result of wars or as a consequence of diplomatic agreements or dynastic changes. These were mostly nothing like the national states of modern times. Thus, as a catch-all term, we merely call them Realms, because of the many different forms of governments and the various degrees of independence that they enjoyed.

Here we have circled some NPRs. Saxony’s (pink line) three Provinces all reside within the Area of Saxony. Venice (orange) and Hungary (green) on the other hand have Provinces located in several different Areas.

The Player Realms are clearly marked with thick Province disks (Austria in white, Poland in purple, and Ottomans in green). Most NPRs on the other hand are just indicated with the “flags” printed on the map board. All Provinces that have a similar flag belong to the same Realm. A Realm’s Provinces may sometimes be scattered across several Areas. Other times an Area may contain several tiny Realms.

The names of the Realms will also be depicted on the final version of the map board.

Active NPRs

Depending on the player count and scenario, some NPRs may be designated as Active NPRs. These are indicated with tokens like the ones placed on the Provinces of Bohemia here. Active NPRs have triggers in the Event cards that can make them expand, or even attack Player Realms.

Tokens that show Claims and Diplomatic Relations

In the image above we can see that Austria has placed a (Royal) Marriage token on the Bavarian Province of München. We can also see that Austria have Claims on the Hungarian Province of Pozsony, and the Venetian Province of Brescia. The Ottomans meanwhile have Claims on the Bosnian Provinces of Bosna and Hum. The Claims provide the Claim holders with a Casus Belli on the owner of the Provinces in question, and they may go to War against that Realm to conquer those Provinces.

Attacking an NPR

If you decide that it is time to attack an NPR, they will of course try to defend their territory as best they can. When moving your Army into any home Area of an NPR you are at War with, they will defend with a number of Units equal to their number of Provinces inside of that Area and any adjacent Areas (Large Provinces count double).

If the Ottomans want to enforce their Claims on Bosnia, they will simply face two Bosnian Military Units when moving their Army into the Croatia & Bosnia Area to attack the Bosnians. Bosnia only has two Provinces (none in adjacent Areas). The Province of Zagreb belongs to Hungary, and is therefore unaffected by the attack on the Realm of Bosnia.

Austria could use the Claim on Pozsony to attack Hungary, but they would face a much sterner task in trying to defeat the Hungarians. Moving their Army from Austria and into Upper Hungary, they would face no less than nine defending Hungarian Units. Three of those would come from Upper Hungary itself and a total six from the bordering Areas of Croatia & Bosnia, Alföld and Transylvania. The Province of Lika, in the Eastern Adriatic Area, would not contribute any Unit to the defence of Upper Hungary, as it is too far away.

When you have defeated the defending Army of an NPR, you may subsequently Siege the Provinces in the Area where the Battle was fought. If you continue your march of conquest into the next Area, the NPR will muster a new Army to defend their Provinces in that Area.

Tabletop Simulator set up for a 6-player Grand Campaign game.

Read the previous Development Diary chapters here:

Development Diary #1 (Map Board)
Development Diary #2 (Box Art and Monarch Power)
Development Diary #3 (Actions, Action Cards and France)
Development Diary #4 (Set-up, Sequence of Play and Castile/Spain)
Development Diary #5 (Diplomatic Relations)
Development Diary #6 (Warfare and Ottomans)

Newsletter Sign-up

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

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Europa Universalis Development Diary #6

Today’s subject for the development diary, is one we think that many of you might have been waiting for, namely Warfare. While some players immediately try to conquer their way through the continent, others will stick to a more diplomatic approach. Either way, all players must be prepared for the possibility that their Realm will be involved in an armed conflict at some stage.

Preparing for War

If you see that neighboring Player Realms are gearing for War, it might be wise to prepare your own state for what might be coming. You could, of course, take diplomatic measures, by forging Alliances and making deals with other players, but eventually you will have to field a military force that can defend your lands. Gearing for War is costly, so make sure you set aside resources to pay for it. Taking a Recruit Action costs one Military Power (MP) token, and lets you recruit as many Military Units as you can afford to pay for with the Ducats in your Treasury. Regular Units are limited by the Manpower of your Realm. You may hire Mercenaries (orange color) on top of this. Recruited Units must be placed in your own Home Areas. Your Armies may consist of Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery Units.

When you are preparing to go on the offensive, and not simply defending yourself, you should make sure that you have a good reason to do so – a Casus Belli. In a War of Conquest a Casus Belli normally means having Claims on Provinces owned by the target Realm. You may use your Diplomatic Power to Fabricate these Claims as needed, if you haven’t already got them. When you have your Casus Belli, and you think that you are better prepared than your target, it is time to Declare War.

Warfare

You deploy your Military Units most efficiently by stationing them in one of your Armies. All Units in an Army may move as one. Each Army is represented by a miniature on the board, and has its own Army Mat off the map board, which may contain any number of Units. You move your Armies by spending one MP, and taking an Activate Army Action, enabling you to move one Army. An Army may move one space in hostile territories or two spaces in friendly territories, per activation. There are Action Cards that give attackers more flexibility, and cards that give defenders a chance to react.

Battles

When an Army moves into an Area with hostile Units, a Battle will ensue immediately. Both the attacker and the defender has a chance to play Action Cards to improve their odds. Having a General to command your Army is also very useful. As a basis, both sides roll 3 Infantry Dice. Then you add dice supplied by Action Cards and Generals.

You score hits by rolling symbols that match with Units in your Army. To score a hit for an Infantry result, you need an Infantry Unit, and likewise for Cavalry and Artillery. Each Unit may only inflict one hit on the opponent. In other words, you need to have the tactical advantage of a General or an Action Card, to efficiently make the most of having a large Army on the battlefield. If both sides have surviving Units after the first round of dice rolling, they may decide whether they want to retreat or continue fighting. You win the Battle if you defeat all of the enemy’s Units, or if they retreat.

Your casualties return to your Manpower Pool as exhausted Units. You must refresh your Exhausted Units to make them available again. Mercenaries are returned to the General Supply.

Ottoman forces on the move in the Balkans. Infantry dice shown in the foreground.

Sieges

When you have won a Battle, you may Siege enemy Provinces in the Area on your next Turn. To Siege you must pay one MP per Province, and you need to have enough Units to match the Tax Value of the Provinces you wish to Siege. For each successful Siege you place a control token on the opponent’s Province.

Winning the War

They key to winning a War is, perhaps unsurprisingly, to beat your enemy’s Armies, and occupying as many of their Provinces as possible. If you manage to do this well enough, you will be able to enforce your demands when determining the terms of Peace. The rewards for winning a War will often be capturing Provinces from your enemy, but you may also make other demands, and score Victory Points. We will take a closer look at Peace Resolution in another Development Diary. Beware the weakening consequences of spending too many resources on a War. If you are too greedy, you might make yourself vulnerable to attacks from other players.

Major Power at a Glance: Ottomans

The Ottomans have the potential to become a truly great military and naval power.

Age I of the game starts just after the Battle of Varna, where the Ottomans defeated the Christian forces of Hungary, Poland and Wallachia. This means that the Ottomans have a fragile peace with their Christian neighbors at the outset. This peace is unlikely to last forever given the conflicting goals of the Ottoman, Austrian and Polish Missions.

If the Ottomans can capture Constantinople early on, and consolidate their power in Anatolia, they are very well positioned to expand their territories in Europe and the Middle East. Playing as the Ottomans you will most likely be at War more often than most other players. The Ottomans’ strength lie more in their military prowess than subtle diplomacy. Even so, an Alliance with France or any other power at odds with the Holy Roman Emperor is not unlikely.

The quarrels of the Reformation should not concern you much, but during the first two Ages you might find yourself targeted by a Crusade. Make sure you get the most out of your great Rulers in the first two Ages. You should be able to face any enemy coming at you, as long as they do not come all at once.

Read the previous Development Diary chapters here:

Development Diary #1 (Map Board)
Development Diary #2 (Box Art and Monarch Power)
Development Diary #3 (Actions, Action Cards and France)
Development Diary #4 (Set-up, Sequence of Play and Castile/Spain)
Development Diary #5 (Diplomatic Relations)

Newsletter Sign-up

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

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Europa Universalis Development Diary #5

Diplomatic Relations

Even if January is well under way, I will take the opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year! The Development Diary is back after a break, and this time we will take a look at Diplomatic relations. In simple terms there are two main categories of diplomatic relations, inter player relations, and relations between Player Realms and Non-Player Realms (NPRs). The first is to a large degree something that depends on oral agreements, threats and promises that are not bound by game mechanics. Today we will be talking about the latter, which is controlled by a set of rules.

English and Castilian Influence (cubes), Royal Marriages and Alliances in Iberia.

Influence and Diplomatic Monarch Power

As a player, your diplomatic relations with NPRs will depend on how you invest your Diplomatic Power (DP). One of the Diplomatic Actions you can take is to place Influence in Areas on the board. You can do this by simply placing tokens (cubes) directly from the DP available (on your player mat) and onto the board, or you can pay with Ducats instead and take tokens from your supply. You may place Influence in Areas bordering your Realm, or adjacent to Influence you already have on the board.

Influence signifies political power and good relations in Areas that you do not control directly. Having sufficient Influence will enable you to perform a number of Diplomatic Actions, like forging Alliances, vassalizing or, eventually, even annexing other Realms. Since there is a cap on Influence in each Area, you may also, to a certain extent, use Influence to prevent other players from performing these Actions in your sphere of influence. If you maximize your Influence in an Area you automatically gain an Alliance or a Royal Marriage with a Realm in that Area.

Influence can be sabotaged by the spies of other players, and may also be affected by Wars and Events.

Royal Marriages

A Royal Marriage is a bond that strengthens your political foothold in Areas of the Realm you have marriage ties to. Royal Marriages makes it harder to sabotage your Influence and they are also required for a number of (mostly beneficial) Events to trigger. With enough Influence, a Royal Marriage may, given the right circumstances, position you to inherit the throne of another Realm. You can gain a Royal Marriage using the appropriate Action Card, by Events, or by maximizing your Influence in an Area.

Allies

An Alliance is a pact to support one another in the event of War. If someone attacks you, your ally will happily support you with troops. When your ally is under attack, you must support them, or suffer a penalty for being disloyal. If you attack another Realm, you may convince your ally to join you by spending Influence. When you bring an NPR ally into War, you will control their forces for the duration of the conflict. 

An Alliance is also a prerequisite for subjugating another Realm diplomatically, and thereby making them a Vassal. As with Royal Marriages, there is a corresponding Action Card, and you may gain Alliances through certain Events, or by maximizing Influence.

Vassals

Polish and Ottoman Vassals (tokens without flags).

Vassals are subordinate Realms that have limited independence. They pay a portion of their income to their overlord, as well as providing troops when requested. In time a Vassal may be politically Annex­ed by their overlord. Certain Events may cause Vassals to break free from the ties to their overlord.

To vassalize one of your Allies diplomatically, you must have sufficient Influence in their Home Areas. You must also have a Tax Income that is greater than their’s. To complete the process, you play the Vassalize/Annex card and remove the required Influence from the target Realm. When you have a Vassal already, you may follow the same procedure to annex them diplomatically, thus completely integrating them into your Realm.

Read the previous Development Diary chapters here:

Development Diary #1 (Map Board)
Development Diary #2 (Box Art and Monarch Power)
Development Diary #3 (Actions, Action Cards and France)
Development Diary #4 (Set-up, Sequence of Play and Castile/Spain)

Newsletter Sign-up

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

Vote for EU as “Most Anticipated Historical Game of 2019” at BGG

Thanks to all of you who have already voted for us in the Historical Games Category of the Most anticipated games of 2019 on Board Game Geek. We are currently in 2nd place behind a certain game called Crusader Kings, and while we wish them all the best, we would also love to give them a good run for their money at least. The voting is happening now and until the 27th of January.

You can vote by following this link:
https://boardgamegeek.com/…/20-most-anticipated-board-games…

After scrolling down to “Category: Historical” and ticking Europa Universalis: The Board Game (and any other gameyou like), you need to go to the bottom of the final category (Best of the Rest) and hit the “Vote” button. Please note that you have to have a BGG account and be logged in before you can cast your vote. If you don’t have a BGG account, please consider registering, as this can make a difference getting the word out.