Micro Dojo – Advanced Game Mode

In this update, I want to show you the advanced game mode, with a little insight into the development process. The advanced game mode can be thought of as a mini-expansion to the game, as it adds more complexity and a (varied) different ways to play. This fit well with my mission to pack as much value as possible into a small game, and the advanced game mode let me explore some more interesting design space without overwhelming new players. The advanced game mode adds two features:

  • Advanced Movement Abilities
  • Advanced Objectives

Advanced Movement Abilities

When designing buildings for the game, they generally gave you abilities in one of three areas:

  • Gaining resources
  • Controlling movement
  • Gaining points

You might recognise two of the buildings in the game that fall into the movement category – the Stables and the Guard House. However in the early designs there were four more buildings that allowed a player to unlock additional abilities for the Geisha, Sumo, Ninja and Samurai meeples:

These buildings gave more options to the player, but for a less experienced player it wasn’t intuitive that purchasing one of these buildings could be more valuable than something more straightforward like a resource gathering or points scoring building. The biggest problem with these buildings though was that if they didn’t come out during the initial random selection, the characters had no…well…character.

Playing with movement abilities unique to each character was something that I really wanted to include in the game, both as interesting design space and to communicate the theme better. Including these abilities as standard detracted from the tight simplicity of the base game however, and made the game much harder to learn. This made them a perfect candidate for an advanced game mode that offered players that had mastered the standard game a new way to play.

The advanced game mode has two main variants, and a third variant that can be applied with either one.

In Variant 1A the movement abilities of each meeple can be used by paying the cost shown in the rulebook. These are priced at two resources each, which is fairly costly when you think that some of the stronger spaces in game give you 2 resources for a turn. Consequently the movement abilities get used sparingly during the game, but when they are used they can be decisive. You and your opponent now have an extra threat to keep track of if they can be afforded.

In Variant 2A the movement abilities of each meeple are available for free at all times. This adds a lot of extra complexity because of the amount of choice that you and your opponent has, but also leads to fun, powerful and somewhat chaotic games. Because of the overwhelming complexity of choice the game loses some of the chess-like calculation elements, but is generally a quicker and more exciting game.

Finally Variant 1B/2B modifies the other two variants by letting you (randomly) choose which meeples have abilities available for the game. To do this you simply flip the meeple tokens during setup, with the coloured side being active and the grey side being inactive.The legacy of the advanced game mode abilities as buildings lives on, and though the artwork for them didn’t make it into the final game I’m delighted to share it with you my fans.

Advanced Objectives

The other part of the game that is modified with the advanced game mode is the inclusion of advanced objectives, which can be included with the existing 9 objectives during setup.

Three of these objectives are based around positioning, which is not a feature seen in objectives in the base game at all. The Combatant and Spymaster objectives score the active player points if the two meeples adjacent to each other when the objective is triggered, whilst the Organiser objective scores if any three meeples are in a straight line. This encourages players to look at the state of the board not only in terms of what spaces are (or will) be available but also at relative positioning of the meeples. In the standard game with only basic orthogonal movement it was very easy to prevent anyone from scoring these objectives and gameplay stalled, however in combination with the advanced movement abilities a smart player can grab points from these objectives.

The other two objectives are based around what might initially seem counterintuitive play. For a game that wants you to acquire resources, build buildings, and score points, having the least of these things seems at odds with driving the game to a conclusion. These two can lead to some interesting races where one player foregoes the objective points in order to obtain an earlier advantage.

Playing Advanced Mode

The advanced game is recommended for players that have played at least 5 games of the standard mode due to the added complexity. Even if a player only played Micro Dojo 5 times I think it already represents great value for money, but adding the advanced game mode variant (for just a handful of tokens and two panels in the rulebook) was a great way I could pack even more value into the game and give it a long life.

(Note: Credit for the prototype meeple artwork that was used for testing goes to meeplesource.com)

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