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Some Specific Design Ideas for Maelstrom
I like this idea UM, I’m not sure I like the population revolt, but it makes since that production would be consistent with reaction. The random encounters sound cool.
The first part.
-Seems like a nerf that favors mages. We start the game at -10% production and defenses and then can pay our way to status quo.
-with the focus on building for mealstorm this seems to deflate the idea to build up your PCs especially defense
-it encourages team ups even more. Wizard Lower reaction everyone attack them while weak
-makes it harder to recover from a losing position which will encourage more drops

Perhaps have the live aspect only effect population. With friendly adding to population. Tolerant no effect, substantial and hostile people leave each turn. Hostile could result in revolt after enough people have left. But would likely take many turns before that happened.

Another idea of a living map would be clusters of PCs owned by players create the region not arbitrary lines on a map. As your PC cluster grows you gain benefits of influence, reputation and perhaps even production. An example when you control 5 PCs in a cluster a region is designated on everyone’s turn and you gain +1 reputation. At 10 PC +1 influence. 20 PC +1 rep and +10% production. Own 50% of the Census on the map you can declare a Rex victory. Usurper could be some combination of clusters totaling 50 PCs.

Second part
Please no random things that can hurt a kingdom. Random helpful things maybe ok. The reason for this is players tend to be hyper sensitive to things that give them a unfair disadvantage. I move my turn 10 reinforcements with 3 new wizards I got from ESO a band of ogres appears at the square and kills the group. Some players would quit. Band of ogres shows up on hidden village and takes it out. Quit time.

Perhaps something with warning that is bad could be tolerated. A nasty ice storm has arrived and will cause region x to suffer winter production next
- About wizards/artifacts denigrating a kingdom multiple times, that could be changed to just once per turn as a curse spell. Same for enamoring a region. Even better may be the restriction that magically enhanced/diminished reaction levels are only temporary and/or won't affect the popularity level. That way, no advantages for wizard kingdoms and all would fare the same with the new game mechanic.

- If a player didn't properly prepare their kingdom, it'll always be harder to recover against an invasion but the new metric of having regional popularity shouldn't be the reason that players drop. There are greater factors in the game that would cause a drop (wizards killed, top emissaries assassinated, sting of battles lost, etc.) than something like regional reaction levels.

- About clusters of pc's that provide certain benefits may be an interesting twist to the game but that change may be a fairly major one and may distance itself from a typical Alamaze game. Some players feel that they are ok with new concepts being introduced but not anything major gameplay-wise or the game won't feel like Alamaze anymore. Would like to have both: new concepts that would be fun to play but not change the game dynamics too much. So the clustering of pc's instead of having regional lines may be an interesting concept but it may be too much of a difference and Alamaze may lose some of it's normal "feel".

- About random encounters roaming the map, the kingdom would get an advanced notice that a band of Ogres has entered the region and provide it's location on the map. Knowing the location allows the player to prepare and intercept the roaming encounter. However, if the roaming encounter is not taken care of in a timely manner, it may cause havoc by attacking a pc or some other negative effect. So it won't be as if a band of monsters just suddenly showed up on your doorstep and ruined your position. Players would have some time to react and protect their realm from harm.
All of these things and others can be done, but should they be done?

In my experience, let's consider the introduction of 3rd Cycle.  After 20 years of 2nd Cycle, lots of the players joining The Resurgence were not exactly embracing 3rd Cycle changes.  Even some very good Imperators left when the old tricks stopped working.  3rd Cycle has only been around 3 years, and Maelstrom will be 4th Cycle.  The design document - just concepts not text results, spell changes, artifact changes, kingdom changes or setup changes is more than 20 pages.  Again, good design is what can be eliminated, not what could be added.  Alamaze already is 100+ pages of rules before Maelstrom.  Economic development will be a lot more interesting than issuing order #600. Brigades will have more distinction, the regions have character.  And its past time for a completely new map.

I've observed many of our new players fail to launch.  Even just how to get and use the map is an issue.  I've tried to address this with the Centaurian map and Duel, Primeval games with a mentor, free Duel to new players, etc.  So besides the Maelstrom design, I'd like us to continue to improve the interface so players can kind of just slip in with it being more intuitive.  We should have a lot more players but for many, Alamaze is too hard to get into.  I'd like to make a new game after Maelstrom more accessible to the more casual gamer, and have proposed Mike simultaneously work on his design after Maelstrom is out.

So we would have on our site 3rd Cycle, 4th Cycle, Mike's game, and Rick's next game.  I just have not heard many players asking for new things in Alamaze, and tinkering with it is always difficult from a design perspective in terms of unintended consequences.  For example, I probably overreacted to the wizards in 2nd Cycle coming in 12, 13, and 15, and in 3rd Cycle they are at the top of the leader board.  Is there a team game in 3rd Cycle where an Alliance doesn't take a wizard kingdom?  So re-balancing is part of the mission in Maelstrom.  I'm really looking forward to seeing it with those PC improvements on the new map, which I think will make strategies quite interesting.  Again, I'm not into "random" in a serious strategy game beyond the requisite die rolls. 

But, other opinions are welcome.  Just keep in mind we need to add players.  And things like unique new kingdoms with special rules take a disproportionate amount of time.  Honestly, I just want to finish the Maelstrom documentation and get it to Mike.  Then breathe a bit and figure out which of about five different game design notes I have to work on next.   I kind of missed out it appears on the opportunity to do a board/card game.

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