Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sedjco Playtest Session

Another playtest meeting occurred last Sunday. It was very interesting in that I implemented the new version of All For One!

It seemed to work well enough. I look forward to testing some more soon to see if I like it. I am really used to (and enamored with) the ID version, so I'm trying to be objective with this system.

Sebastian suggests that the story track score start slow and ramp up more and more as the track goes on in order to differentiate the tracks and to get players to want to sort of shape a strategy... however I'm unsure of this because the strategy it encourages is "use the same character you want to use anyway so you can bump the same track over and over" - and also you share each track with another player. An idea I'm mulling over to solve the "no long term strategy" problem is to look at adding some kind of set collection element to the missions you complete. At the end of the game you'll already have the missions in front of you, seems like rewarding a set somehow should not take any real design work, and at the same time inject a possible long term goal.

I guess I'll keep thinking about it...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Long time no post... long time no design!

It's been a couple weeks since my last post, and I still haven't gotten to some of the things I said I'd post about... like those Strategy and Tactics articles Oh well, such is life. Here's what has been going on:

Playtesting: I've finally gotten a playtest group started, we meet at my house on Sundays from 11ish until frisbee time. The core has proven to be myself, Aric Jack (shrike on BGDF), and Eric Flood, with a few others who've been once or twice each. So far we've been testing several of Aric's card games, as well as All For One, Blockade Runner, and a game of Eric's as well.

Gaming: I went to PhoenixConGames last week - it was mediocre relative to KublaCon and BGG.con, but it was worth the trip. I played a handful of board games, mostly with people I play with at home anyway. I did meet a couple guys from Phoenix, and a couple of Bo's friends as well, and hang out wih my friend Chris who lives in Phoenix as well. At RTeam game club I've gotten to try Notre Dame finally. I was disappointed at first by some aspects of the card drafting mechanism, but the game is growing on me.

Game Design: I haven't done much with design lately. I had decided to postpone new design ideas and work on "finishing" some of the many I have already. I had resolved at New Years to get All For One "in line to be published" this year. Blockade Runner is allegedly going to be published by Shifting Skies games, working on contacting people about a license right now. Wizard's Tower got 2nd place in the KublaContest (it's not actually called "KublaContest", but it ought to be ;) ) and both the contest director Julie Haehn and Aldie from BGG wanted a copy. Julie said she knows an up and coming publisher, and wants to show them Wizard's Tower and All For One, and Derk and Aldie said I should submit Wizard's Tower to Z-man games... I guess that's a step in the right direction! I have been agonizing over a way to combine my current "ID" version of All For One with David's current "Story" version in a way that accomplishes the goals of the story version but maintains the good aspects of the ID version... and I think I've finally done it. I need to get that finished up and sent off to Julie so she can show her publisher friend! I also told her she could have a copy of the game, since she likes it so much - I just have to make another prototype now...

Aside from the All For One version stuff, I haven't done any real design work at all in the last who-knows-how-long. I've all but forgotten about that Time is money thing, which may be my next project when I get back to designing. Either that, Kilauea, Dynasty, or Hot and Fresh.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Comments on Rick's game Spatial Delivery

Spatial Delivery general thoughts and comments
I was happy to get the chance to play Spatial Delivery, a prototype by Rick Holzgrafe, at KublaCon last weekend. The game is about collecting resources at earth and then setting up trade routes and delivering them to planets in need. The resources come in 4 flavors: Medical, Science, Robots, and Culture- each planet wants one of them. The game is played in 6 rounds, each round consisting of the following phases:
1. Draft – Players draft Resource and Exploration cards until they have a hand of 5 cards.
2. Action – Players take turns building or moving and selling the resources at various planets to get VPs

So in general you get the resources you want to trade based on their value and the route you plan to take to deliver them. Then you get VPs for building Trade Stations (which cost Exploration cards) and for dropping off stuff at planets – only 1 trade per planet per round is allowed.

I liked the basic structure of the game, and how your draft picks hep drive where you want to go on the board, then where you establish trade routes on the board help drive what cards you want to draft. I think there’s some really good ideas in there and the game has the potential to be quite good!

Spatial Delivery specific thoughts and comments (mostly for Rick)
I liked all the basic aspects and the basic skeleton of the game:

- Players “get stuff” (in this case via draft) in order to deliver… so the stuff they want to get is driven by what they want to deliver, then later their network dictates what they want to get. I think this is good, and probably fairly standard.

- The reward structure is good, more points for trade stations at ‘better’ locations, more points for further away – rewards the extra work done to build those stations and make those deliveries.

- I’m beginning to like the ‘competitive draft’ more – I’m still not altogether fond of it though. I think it can work, but it needs some help from what we played (I’ve got some ideas on that, below)

The things I didn’t like can all be fixed, I think, and the game seems to have plenty of potential. I didn’t like the way spending your challenge token to protect your card didn’t really protect your card. I didn’t like the amount of time and effort that went into the draft. I didn’t like the stalling out, waiting for someone else to build. I didn’t like breaking up trade routes with other trade stations (as I believe Rick didn’t either). I didn’t like how different Exploration cards were from goods cards, and how different in relative value they could be. But as I said, I think all these things can be fixed. Here’s how I’d probably try it:

1. Modify the draft. For starters, perhaps if you challenge for a card and get denied, you shouldn’t get a chance later to draw a card to replace the one you didn’t get now. I.E. there should be exactly X rounds of drafting, not just ‘until everyone has X cards’.

2. When challenging for a card, you give the player one of your Rocket tokens (put it on the card to indicate the challenge). It should cost 2 challenge tokens (maybe just 1 in light of comment #1) to deny the challenge – the defender would give the 1 (or 2) tokens to the challenger, and the card would be protected from theft. In effect, challenging a card should be like trading movement points for that card (see next)… so if you ever lose a card in a challenge, you get movement points in return, and if you ever keep a card in a challenge it should basically cost you movement points. Note, based on #1 above, challenging costs you your turn, and if you get denied, you get movement points instead of a card. In general, if you challenge for a card you’re really just offering to trade your movement points for their card. Maybe you should be able to challenge with as many tokens as you want, and to defend they have to give you that number of tokens.

3. Challenge tokens should take on additional meaning. I think they should count as Rocket cards... that is to say you can spend them to move or build trade routes. If you challenged for cards, then you’ll have fewer of them to spend (and the person whose card you took will have more). If you defended then you’ll have fewer (and the person you defended against will have more). I think there could still be rocket cards in the deck, as players will need (or maybe want) them… but they wouldn’t need to be 50% of the deck. Maybe 20% would be fine.

4. Change the costs for building and add a cost for moving. Cost for building should be 1 Rocket card per trade route segment (stick), and trade stations should cost 1 card per adjacent planet, of the type the planet wants. I also think you should be able to build track without having to build a station. Cost to move should be 1 rocket card to move from station to station along a single colored route. So if there’s a long Red route, and Yellow splits it with a trade station, you could fly along the red route, PAST the yellow station, to the red station. I suppose you could stop at the yellow station if you like. Alternatively, make all routes the same color and don’t allow stations to break them. Remember, challenge tokens can be spent as rocket cards for moving and building routes! So each turn players get an income of rockets in the form of challenge tokens, and they might ‘barter’ for more via challenges.

5. I might suggest with these changes that you try laying out the whole board at the outset… that might be alright, or it might be like you found before that players simply want to jet straight out to the boonies. Not sure about that.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

All For One - first update in years!

I was chatting with Sebastian about what he thought was wrong with A41 (the ID version). What he mentioned was similar to the negative comments that I've gotten from playtesters... Players are or feel tied to a particular character, only want to use that character, spend too much time and effort cycling cards looking for missions for "their character," etc.

David's story track version attempts to address this issue by completely severing the ties between the player and the character, which is good. It also adds theme and story arc to the game, which is also good. However, when I played it (and also just in thinking about it), I didn't like how it went. There seemed to be problems with the back and forth tug-o-war for the tracks, making for swingy outcomes and whatnot. Also, there was information being added to the cards, and the missions need to be redesigned. Adding info to the cards is a bad idea because the other biggest complaint is that there's too much info on the cards already. Now I'll be the first to say that the info on the cards is only used in certain parts of the game, and organized well there's no reason there couldn't be a ton of info on the cards. I'm fine with that personally, maybe because I've played a lot of CCGs where there's a lot of info on cards, or maybe just because I'm smarter than the average bear... I dunno. But testing indicates that the cards need to have less info, not more.

Sebastian's idea was basically to assign the characters different traits (of the 6 traits from the story tracks), and when you get your goal card it would correspond to one of the character (i.e. match their traits), but there would be other characters you could use as well to tug your tracks the way you want.

In thinking about his idea, and David's Story version, I had a few revelations. Here's what I'd like to try...

Have 6 tracks, one per trait (King/Cardinal/All/One/War/Peace) - instead of 3 with a trait at each end of each. Assign each character a pair of traits, like King/All (Dartagnan?) or Cardinal/War (Rochefort?). When a mission is completed, the player scores 1vp per token delivered (as normal), and instead of the character scoring points per the ID version of the game, the active player increments one of the tracks associated with the active characters traits - per token delivered. So if you deliver 2 tokens, you bump up both tracks. If you deliver just 1, you just bump up 1 of the 2 tracks (your choice). The game would end when any of the tracks peg to the end, or when all the tracks are past a certain point (not when the vp pool runs out). Instead of ID tiles, players would get goal cards, showing 3 different traits (and the traits could be sort of paired, so you won't have both war and peace). At the end, your score is equal to the favors (vps) you've accumulated plus the level of each of the traits on your goal card.

This scoring is similar to the current (ID version) scoring, with a bit more points given out on he tracks, but those points are given out to more than 1 player. Also, this setup encourages doing a 3-token mission (bonus point for player and not for anyone else), being a little choosy about who you use but allowing for players to benefit by using multiple characters, it's more thematic of course, and it might even encourage loading up a character who's traits you have as a goal, hoping someone else will complete a mission with him. That last hints at a more cooperative feel to the game, which would be good. Also, this does not require more info on the cards, nor a redesign of the missions, nor really any of the mechanics - so I think it'll work well. In the case of a duel, I'd suggest the active player bump a track associated with the duel winner's traits - that's for either guard duel or character duel.

Friday, June 01, 2007

KublaCon was fun!

I went to KublaCon last weekend, and I'm in the process of writing up various reports and thoughts on stuff I saw and did there, and people I met. Thus far all I've posted is a Geeklist covering day 1 of the con. I of course plan to finish up with days 2, 3, and 4, and also post on here about some of the prototypes I played and experiences I had at the con.

More to come!

Edit: Here's my Geeklist covering day 2 of the con.