Thorium Dynamo… the Craziest Prismata Econ Unit

Hi everyone!

I just wanted to make a quick post to talk a little bit about one of the crazier units that we’ve released recently: Thorium Dynamo.

We’re making a change to the unit, which is shown below (its ability will now be much weaker, converting GGG to 3 gold instead of 4). However, I wanted to also give a bit of background on the unit and explained why we designed it in its current state.

New Thorium

A proposed nerf to Thorium Dynamo, which will go live at midnight EDT on Friday. The change, highlighted in pink, is to reduce the gold produced by its ability to 3

Thorium Dynamo is different from most other Prismata units in a lot of ways:

  • It’s an economic unit with buildtime greater than one.
  • It allows you to get a huge amount of income quickly without investing in additional Engineers.
  • It allows you to convert another resource (gaussite) efficiently into gold.

However, its design also followed a different procedure than that of most other Prismata units.

Typically, the units we add in content updates are classics that we’ve been internally testing and playing with for months, or often years. They’re based on old, tried-and-true designs. Thorium Dynamo, on the other hand, was created by Will and me in May of this year. It, along with Tantalum Ray, are the first of a handful of new units that have been created with the knowledge gained after releasing Prismata on Kickstarter, doing surveys on favourite units, and receiving feedback on design and balance concerns. We learned many things: players really like powerful economic units, enjoy interesting click abilities, and love units that bring flexibility in the use of different techs. They also enjoy having the opportunity to play unusual strategies (like breach-proof), and don’t mind when units help facilitate this. Thorium Dynamo does all this, and more. But did we go too far?

One the surface, Thorium Dynamo doesn’t seem like a broken unit. It provides the same income increase as two Drones and a Conduit (which together cost about 10 gold). With its two-turn construction time, you can regard it as costing 5 gold this turn, plus 5 gold and a green next turn. Together (depending on how you account for inflation), this is worth about 10 gold—the cost of two Drones and a Conduit. So it should be approximately balanced.

Of course, these costs ignore the usual Engineer cost in Drones. If you bought the old Thorium Dynamo (with the GGG->4 ability) and two Conduits, then you could increase your income by 6 while spending only a single unit of energy. This allowed you to ramp up your economy immensely without a third Engineer, and has resulted in some pretty insane games with huge economies (35+ income per turn in some cases!)

There was a time in the past when other units could do this. For example, Trinity Drone had no energy in its cost for most of Prismata’s early years. This was changed in 2014 when we tried to simplify and unify all of the unit costs in Prismata, and it was decided that everything that increased your economy should cost energy.

Thorium Dynamo’s original cost, when designed, was actually 5EE + sac 3 Drones. The double energy in its cost made it much more difficult to ramp up to four of them, but it had a small problem: player 2 was strongly advantaged in Thorium Dynamo openings because of the ability to build two Dynamos during the first two turns of the game. We needed to reduce the unit’s energy cost, so that p1 could open DD/D+Dynamo to compete with player 2. This resulted in the rampy, low-energy Dynamo that you see today. And while we did see some pretty rampy games while playtesting with the unit internally, after talking to many players about the unit, we’ve concluded that it’s probably just a little too crazy.

We considered a lot of different fixes, but after reviewing them, we decided to go with something simple: weaken the click ability. Now, Conduits no longer function as an efficient income source once you have a Thorium Dynamo. You’ll still get some use out of its ability (especially in games where you become desperate for additional gold as time goes on), but it will be significantly less good to click every turn. Still, you’ll be able to ramp up your economy quite a bit whenever Thorium Dynamo is present.

The new Dynamo will go live this weekend (probably at around 11:59pm EDT on Friday).

We hope you’re enjoying some of the crazy new ideas we test as we progress through our alpha period. Should we bring out more crazy units? Should we try Trinity Drone at 2G instead of 2GE? Let me know what you think on reddit!

About Elyot Grant

A former gold medalist in national competitions in both mathematics and computer science, Elyot has long refused to enjoy anything except video games. Elyot took more pride in winning the Reddit Starcraft Tournament than he did in earning the Computing Research Association's most prestigious research award in North America. Decried for wasting his talents, Elyot founded Lunarch Studios to pursue his true passion.