Laruna: Age of Kingdoms "Tweaks & Balance"
We’ve reached the “tweak” stage. This is the point where the team feels all the concepts, main mechanisms and designs of the game have reached their final form. What this usually means is that the game from top to bottom is about 90% of the way complete. From here on out it’s all about making tweaks to reach a sort of balance. This is not to say that certain mechanisms won’t change, but the changes made will be less sweeping or dramatic, and more to hone in on specific needs.
One such example is the concept of Command in LAOK. If you are unfamiliar with how this works, command is a resource represented by tokens that enables players to control military units. Without Command tokens, units will not follow orders and are basically useless, so rulers who plan to defend their lands with units or wage war in foreign lands will inevitably need Command tokens.
Every kingdom represented by a player has access to a small number of Command tokens by default. This is dictated by the Kingdom mat under the “Army” column. In order to gain access to more command, a player would have to improve the associated tiles on their kingdom mat, or seize control of specific territories.
Now through the early waves of playtesting and development, any unit required only a single Command token for a player to control them. The thought process was to not burden a game already heavy with plenty of decision any further than necessary. One token means one unit, that was the logic, but unfortunately through many of the games that were played or supervised, several players started feeling the Command tokens felt “wasted” on small units and it became common place for kingdoms to employ weaker, early game units until they had the capacity to let them revolt (a game mechanism to disband troops) and replace them with more powerful or useful units. While there isn’t inherently anything wrong with such a strategy, they often went further as to say that playing as a command heavy, warmongering kingdom didn’t necessarily impart the feeling that they were able to do anything all that different from what the other players in the game could. Essentially, they felt due to the economic costs of fielding large numbers of units, and the unusual disparity in what a single Command token could buy, their Military focus didn’t shine or satisfy as well as some other Kingdoms who were concentrating on spell slinging or Economic development.
Since we feel a big part of any game experience is the feeling a player gets when involved in the game, this obviously needed adjustment. Thus came the most significant of the “Tweaks” during this last leg of development.
Units will be given Command token costs (between 1 and 3) and the amount of available Command tokens from all sources would be increased accordingly. Admittedly that seems like a very small change, but the ramifications are rather large. No longer could a player with a Kingdom that is Command starved afford to field 2 lonely but powerful units. Imagine a situation where a player who has focused almost exclusively on economic and kingdom development then uses their measly 2 Command tokens to field two Giants! These are expensive and very powerful units that could allow a kingdom with low command and only two units stand on footing with a kingdom fielding many more troops. Now with this tweak, those two Command tokens can only go so far for them, while a more militarily oriented player has access to not only greater numbers, but potentially much more powerful units.
Recent playthroughs have proven this to be much more compelling for players of the military persuasion and their enemy players have even said it makes dealing with them more interesting - and more difficult. We’ll keep adjusting the unit costs until the pacing and overall balance is just right, but so far, this was a good tweak.