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    Mar 2nd, 2015 at 18:51:24     -    Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 (PC)

    Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 is a simulation game in which the player is tasked with managing an amusement park. Despite being a sequel, Rollercoaster Tycoon 2’s core game mechanics are the same as the original’s. The sequel adds a few minor improvements and additions and has new scenarios, but the discussion of gameplay elements in this log should be applicable to the original game as well.

    To begin a new game, you first select a scenario. Each scenario provides its own map, win conditions, failure conditions, attraction and scenario options, and special rules. Although these differences may seem fairly trivial for a simulation game, they can significantly alter the strategies used and overall gameplay experience. For this gamelog, I am documenting a playthrough of the “Prehistoric – After the Asteroid” scenario, which was added to the game in the “Time Twister!” expansion pack. This scenario tasks the player with building an asteroid-themed amusement park in a meteor crater. The win condition of this scenario is to reach a park value of at least $100,000 and the lose condition is not achieving the win condition by the end of October, Year 2. This scenario, like many in Rollercoaster Tycoon 2, has a special rule disallowing you from charging for rides. The player must make money through entry fees and stalls alone. In this scenario, the player starts out with $10,000 and no loans.

    Because the goal for this scenario is simply to achieve a certain park value, I needed to make sure I was consistently adding new popular rides and attractions to my park. To be able to do this, I would need a steady and moderate amount of income. To start off with a good foundation, I spent my initial $10k constructing 2 simple thrill rides, 1 simple gentle ride, and a small, inexpensive corkscrew rollercoaster that I designed.

    One of the core gameplay mechanics behind the game is designing your own rollercoasters. Although the game has premade track designs that you can use, they may not cover the price range the player is looking for and sometimes have poor excitement-rating-per-cost performance. (Excitement rating is a major factor in determining a ride’s popularity among guests and having rides with high excitement ratings is crucial to attracting a large amount of guests to the park.) Additionally, using premade track designs bypasses one of the game’s core mechanics, which I find to be very enjoyable and rewarding. However, I do often use premade tracks to bypass designing ride types that I find uninteresting. You can use the game’s coaster designer live inside a game session or in a special roller coaster design mode that allows you to build and test designs without any cost, and then save the designs to be constructed in a live game. For the initial corkscrew coaster, I chose to use the separate design mode to try to get a very inexpensive design while still having a decent excitement rating.

    After constructing these few rides, I added in very basic stalls (food, information kiosk, drink, and restroom – these keep guests happy and bring in cash), constructed a straightforward but sizeable path system, complete with benches, trash bins, and path lights, and raised the park entry fee from its initial $10 price to $15. Once this initial setup had been done, I opened my park for business.

    This initial setup phase depleted most of my monetary resource. However, I quickly made enough back from entrance and stall fees to make small expansions to the park in the form of a few more small thrill rides. I also invested money in advertisement campaigns, which can help boost the number of guests in your park, and, therefore, increase your income when done at opportune times. After this expansion was done and the marketing campaign was launched, I bumped the park entry fee up by $3.

    I continued this strategy of making small, incremental expansions ranging in cost from $2k-$6k and launching advertising campaigns after each expansion to quickly boost my cash-on-hand back up to get ready for the next expansion. I continued this strategy until I had enough attractions in my park to reach a park value of $100,000, and thus, meeting the win condition for the scenario. I was only barely into year 2 when this win condition was met, so I won with a good amount of time remaining on the clock.

    After the win condition is met, the scenario is technically ‘complete’. However, the game allows you to keep playing, which is nice because I often feel attached to my parks after completing a scenario and like trying to finish off my original vision for them before moving on to the next scenario. In this game, I continued playing until most of the flat part of the map (the bottom of the crater) was filled with rides. By the end of my play session, my park had 18 rides, six of which were designed by me specifically for this play session, though I may end up re-using some of these designs in future play sessions.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this play session of Rollercoaster Tycoon 2, though I found the challenge level to be a bit too low for someone of my experience level, as the scenario was in the “beginner” category. I thoroughly enjoy being able to not only layout and design my own amusement park, but design the rides as well. Additionally, the game can be played in small chunks of time and can also be played somewhat passively, which allows for flexible play sessions instead of having to dedicate hours to be able to enjoy it.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Mar 2nd, 2015 at 18:52:27.

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    Feb 11th, 2015 at 02:10:36     -    Dominion (Other)

    I played two rounds of Dominion, a card game that revolves around each player continuously constructing their own deck throughout the game. The game has four different types of cards: victory cards, curse cards, treasure cards, and kingdom cards. Victory cards have a number that represents an amount of “victory points”, which are totaled at the end to determine the winner of the game. However, a player can not utilize these cards in any meaningful way during the main segment of the game. Curse cards have a number that represents a negative amount of victory points, and are distributed to other players via certain offensive cards such as the “Witch” card. Treasure cards have a number that represents an in-game currency of sorts. These cards are used to purchase other cards to add to a player’s deck. Kingdom cards (sometimes called action cards) have printed effects and instructions that occur when that card is played.
    The game is setup by placing the cards in a sorted manner face-up. The amount of treasure cards and victory cards used in a game is determined by the amount of people playing the game. However, there will always be 10 sets of different kingdom cards in a game, but the different subclasses of kingdom cards included can vary depending on player preference and expansion sets used. After the card stacks are set up, each player takes 7 of the 1-point treasure cards (called “copper”) and 3 of the 1-point victory cards (called “estate”) and shuffles these together to form their starting deck. Each player then draws 5 cards as their starting hand and the game begins.
    The turn-by-turn gameplay itself is actually extremely simple and in a lot of game sessions should be fairly fast-paced. On a player’s turn that player does the following in this exact order:

    -Optionally plays one kingdom card from their hand.
    -Buys one card with the gold from their hand.
    -Discards all cards and draws five new cards from the deck. If the deck becomes depleted, the discard stack is shuffled and becomes the new deck.

    (These rules may be slightly altered by certain kingdom cards that grant additional draws, buys, and actions.)

    This continues until either the 6 point victory card (“Province”) stack is depleted, or three of any of the stacks are depleted. When the game ends, the amount of victory points each player has is tallied up, and the player with the most points wins.

    For the two play sessions I discuss in this report, I used a web based-service called Dominion Online to play the game, as I did not have access to the physical game. Without paying extra, this digital version is identical to the physical core game and is played with other real people. Because the game is fast-paced and does not have any sort of diplomacy mechanics, very little is lost in translation from the physical to digital version of the game.

    For my first play session, I played a 1-on-1 matchup with a randomized assortment of cards from the basic game set. This assortment of cards only contained one offensive card – the thief, and therefore had no cards that made use of the curse card type. The game also had the moat card, which allows a player to counter the thief. Because of this, neither me nor the other player ever added a thief to our deck, so the gameplay remained purely focused on deck-building throughout the session. When no offensive cards are utilized in the game, the only way in which one player can directly affect the other player’s decisions is by depleting a resource, which disallows both players from gaining that type of card. The strategy I used consisted of buying the 2-valued treasure cards (“silver”) for my first few turns so I would be able to get some higher-valued kingdom cards early on. This game proceeded fairly generically with both my opponent and I using similar middle and late-game strategies. However, when the time came to start focusing on buying victory cards, my deck had trouble yielding enough gold per turn to purchase the 6-value victory cards as often as my opponent, and he/she ended up winning by 10 points at the end of the game. I believe this was primarily due to my opponent executing a better strategy during the middle of the game. However, the game was close enough where the random nature of drawing cards from a deck was partially responsible for my loss.

    For the next play session, I joined someone else’s game instead of hosting my own. Because of this, I played a match against a player that had purchased some of the expansion sets, and we therefore played with cards in the game that I had never seen before, as my previous experience with the physical version of the game did not include any of the expansion sets. These cards offered a variety of ways to combine their effects to increase a player’s number of draws, actions, and buys per turn. In addition, there was an offensive card that forced the opponent to add a curse card to their deck. Because of these factors, this match seemed to have a lot more focus on strategy and the outcome was not as luck-based as the first matchup (because I was beat very badly). Resource management was a lot more important in this match as well, as there were two cards that were key pieces to pulling off a lot of the better combinations, and therefore were getting depleted quickly. Because I had never played with a few of the cards from the expansion set used in this match and was unfamiliar with the strategies and possible combos, my opponent was able to dish out a lot of curse cards to me early on without me having a counter-strategy, which not only hurt my score but also affected the usefulness of my hands. My opponent was also able to collect most of the 6-point victory cards torwards the end of the game, and, therefore, ended up beating me by a very comfortable margin.

    I overall found these two matches to be very enjoyable experiences, but that is very much influenced by the fact that I have played Dominion in the past, and, therefore, am not overwhelmed by the rules or style of the game. I did not enjoy these matches as much as I have enjoyed previous matches, however, because I typically enjoy playing games more casually, and my more fond experiences with Dominion were with 4-player games with people with similar experience and skill levels as me.

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    1Dominion (Other)Playing
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