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Loyalty & Deceit: Advanced Mode and Solo Mode

(This was originally posted as a Kickstarter campaign update)

Micro Dojo was designed to have a ton of flexibility and replayability in a small package, and Loyalty & Deceit is no different. I’ll be featuring the extended game in a later update, but for this update I want to talk about a couple of the other game modes:

  • Advanced Mode
  • Solo Mode Playthrough

Advanced Game

The advanced game mode was included as a small section of the rulebook to provide yet even more content to the game whilst making use of existing components. It was recommended to players after they had played 5+ normal games of Micro Dojo as the rules (and particularly objectives) could lead to more complex play that might not be intuitive during the early games. The advanced game content could breath new life into the game for those that exhausted the base game, but truthfully I didn’t think many players would even get to that point.  If you only ever play Micro Dojo once or twice it still represents pretty good value for money. 

A recent post, and subsequent poll, on Instagram showed me just how popular the Advanced game mode was, with a lot of players saying it was their preferred way to play. The extra decision space offered by the advanced movement abilities, particularly when paired with a cost to activate them, really adds another level to the game for just a few small rules changes. Even, more, replayability!

Just like designing an expansion, the advanced movement abilities aim to ‘break’ some of the game rules to add interesting decision space. What makes the meeple movement abilities so unique is they can be used by both players, and so even if you don’t use the ability yourself you are placing the meeple in a position where your opponent might make use of it. In Loyalty & Deceit there are four new meeples that you can mix and match to further extend the Advanced game mode.

The Horseman is the mirror of the Samurai. Where the Samurai has basic extra mobility this is also mirrored with the Horseman being able to access otherwise inaccessible spaces. The Horseman had to have an ability that was similar to the Stables building of course (both representing the additional speed of the mount) and in fact moving two spaces in a straight line whilst ‘jumping’ over existing meeples was one of the initial design ideas for the Stables. This ability is only useful when the Horseman is on one of the 8 edge spaces and the opposite space is free, so it wasn’t suitable for the Stables, as a building that was only sometimes usable could lead to a negative play experience, but it was perfect for a meeple ability where the threat of using it was something each player had to think about constantly. 

The Monk is the mirror of the Geisha, with both intending to be the more peaceful of the movement abilities. The idea of the Monk meditating in place and not moving was a great thematic match for the ability, and I like it as a fundamental rulebreaker ability where a covered space cannot (normally) be activated again. It adds a really interesting decision space too – if you want to move the Monk to a powerful space, then your opponent has the opportunity to use that space after your next turn too. Side note: this mirroring approach wasn’t in any way communicated to the artist, or even intended at the time, and yet if you look at the Geisha artwork you’ll see the Monk is a mirror design of the Geisha (from the kimono/kesa trim and the the posed hands). 

The Sensei is the mirror of the Sumo. Where the Sumo pushes an opposing meeple out of the way, the Sensei pulls an adjacent meeple into the space that was previously occupied. The Sensei’s movement ability therefore allows you to move it freely whilst still protecting the space that is being left behind. It is the more defensive version of the Sumo’s offensive ability.

The Messenger is the mirror of the Ninja, and just like the Ninja was also the most difficult to design. When I started to come up with ideas I was amazed at how many possibilities for manipulating movement there was with just 4 meeples in a 3×3 grid. I played with ideas of programmed or forced movement, Daimyo marker manipulation, and even space/board manipulation. I wanted to capture the Messenger’s theme of going from some destination to another, or taking something from or to somewhere, and this is what eventually led to the idea of moving the Messenger adjacent to a meeple marked with a Daimyo marker. The intent here is that the Messenger is delivering a message to a Daimyo and goes directly to them without delay.

Solo Mode + Playthrough

Some of the details of the new Solo Mode changes can be found in the How to Play video (2:06) Mostly these were simple changes for the Automa to adapt to using the new Loyalty and Favour mechanics, but also required some changes to the Difficulty levels, rules clarifications for new tiles, and a lot more. Humans are very adaptable to new rules, but the 8 solo cards needed some help!

I decided to play through and record a Solo game to show you how it plays, and almost immediately regretted it when I started to get crushed by the Automa. How embarrassing would it be for the creator to get beaten by his own game? That said it was a great opportunity to talk through my thought process for how I play the game, how I solve the solo play puzzle, and share some insight on the new mechanics. I hope you enjoy it.

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