I know it's been a while since I have posted, so I've got a fair amount of information to share.
To begin, artwork is on the way! A good friend of mine has commissioned an artist to work on the Waves of Wealth and War logo, Port Chart art, and card art, and the logo should be finished soon. I look forward to injecting Waves with some much needed aesthetic personality in the near future. The game needs a good image if it's ever going to succeed.
In terms of the game itself, more balance tweaks are coming soon. But before I explain that, I feel a need to explain the upgrade system in Waves of Wealth and War.
Upgrades are the heart of the game. The upgrades each player purchases are permanent, locking him or her into a build that will define his or her playstyle for the entire game. Because of the sheer number of available upgrades, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Here is a picture of an older edition of the game (it's just a pure example of a port chart) Around the edges of the chart, you can see that there are slots for upgrade cards ordered in tiers from 1 to 3. There are 3 cards in each Tier of each division, meaning that there are 27 normal upgrade cards. There are also 6 Ship Specialization cards for which there is a slot at the top of the chart (these are limited to one specialization per player).
The Tier system was designed to create meaningful choices for players that were exclusive of other options. In older editions, each of more than forty cards were available to purchase at any time, if a player could afford them; this meant that every player could possess every upgrade, given a long enough time line. The Tier system restricts players, but also encourages thought and simultaneously separates a wide range of options into more digestable chunks. When you're looking to buy your first upgrade, it's much easier to choose between three, Tier 1 options than 27 options which can be bought at any time.
In order to advance in Tier, one must simply possess an upgrade of the Tier below in the same division. To buy a Tier 2 Market upgrade, you must first have a Tier 1 Market card. To buy a Tier 3 Military upgrade, you must possess a Tier 2 Military upgrade. What makes this restricting is that you only have three slots in each division, meaning that you may never purchase more than three of any one type of upgrade. If you desire, you can purchase multiple Tier 1 upgrades, but doing so eliminates the possibility of ever owning a Tier 3 card, since you will not have the space to accommodate it and purchases are permanent.
This means that you have to carefully choose each card you buy, as each purchase eliminates at least two other potential purchases. There is also a great deal of synergy across divisions of upgrades as well as across Tiers. For instance, Barracks, a Tier 1 Military upgrade, combines well with Enlistment Recruiters, a Tier 1 Political upgrade. The Barracks makes every Sailor hired at your Port into a Soldier, and Soldiers are a great deal more effective in combat than normal Sailors. Enlistment Recruiters allows you to hire 20 Sailors for the price of 10, which means that if you possess both upgrades, you're suddenly hiring more effective troops at half the cost of other players (unless they went with the same choice). However, purchasing Barracks means that - unless you want to buy multiple Tier 1 upgrades - you eliminate the choices of Ship Merchant and Lifeboats, which, respectively, allow you to sell superfluous vessels and protect your crew. Likewise, purchasing Enlistment Recruiters eliminates Lighthouse and Adventurous Population, which, in turn, protect from pirate attacks and grant free sailors to your allies when they visit your port.
Even among Tier 1 upgrades, the possibilities are many and varried, but adding multiple Tiers increases the combo potential. Adventurous Population combos well with Taxmaster, a Tier 2 Political upgrade which gives you more Wealth from Tax, which happens whenever other players visit you (which they'll do plenty of, since they get free sailors out of it)!
At the moment, I'm very happy with the series of meaningful choices this system encourages players to make. Oftentimes players will be horribly torn between options, wondering which will benefit the most, simultaneously fostering a terrible fear that whatever they don't choose will be lost to them forever. Do I build a Tavern to increase my income or a Merchant's Guild to increase the potency of my market rolls? Do I keep my officers safe with Lifeboats or man my Ships with sturdy soldiers by purchasing a Barracks? Tough choices. However, though the system itself will not change, I am finding a great need to replace some of the less popular cards, particularly in the Market division. Of course it's a given that I will be making little tweaks and adjustments all the way up until the game releases -- I just figured I'd inform everyone of what is currently being adjusted. At the moment, I'm in need of new Tier 2 and Tier 3 Market cards. I'll let you know what they end up being!
Thanks for reading! If you have any comments, questions, or thoughts about the system or anything that I mentioned, feel free to fill out a contact form and I'll get back to you when I can!