Saturday, July 28, 2007

Always re-examine the past, don't take things for granted!

While playing All For One today I started to re-examine some of the rules and it occurred to me that the game could be streamlined and made easier to understand/internalize. One of my least favorite things about the game is the length of time it takes to explain... it sounds very fiddly and complicated, but once you know how to play you realize it's really not very complicated at all. It's the barrier to entry that's always been a problem, and a symptom of the problem is the long, complicated explanation.

I've been so used to the structure of the game though that I was simply looking for better ways to explain it. It only now occurred to me that perhaps the rules themselves could be simplified and streamlined, and would thereby become easier to explain. Here's a somewhat minor change I'm going to try out, which could make the whole game sound a lot less complicated, while not really being very different at all:

First off, I noticed there are certain actions people generally take every single turn. Well, there are Move actions which are taken every turn, and Demand or Mission actions that are taken when applicable, either before or after moving... but almost always the Draw a Card action is used at or near the end of the turn, after spending cards fighting or doing a mission. The thought has crossed my mind a few times in the past, why not make refiling your hand an automatic thing at the end of the turn rather than calling it an action? This would simplify the action list and give players a little bit less they have to think about during their turn, letting them concentrate on the meat of the game, which is not drawing cards but doing missions. I always want players to be asking "how will I do this mission?" more than "when will I draw a mission I can do?" So I'm going to strike the "draw cards" action and make it standard at the end of the turn.

But then I got to thinking that refilling your hand may not be as necessary as it used to be now that the mechanics have changed since that actions inception. In fact, sometimes it seems that other parts of the game are silly (like spending cards to do things) because you can just refill your hand afterwards. The intention of that originally was to help cycle through cards to find missions you'd rather work on. The latest version of the game makes more of the missions more desirable to work on, so I'm beginning to think that a large amount of card cycling is not necessary. So instead of filling up your hand at the end of the turn, I'm going to try "Draw 1 card".

Furthermore, the One For All card - which was an amazing addition to the game - has a funky rule which always sounds strange when I explain it... "Once used, you get your One For All card back at the end of a turn in which you completed a mission." We added "You can skip your turn to get your One For All card back" as a way for a player stuck without their card to get it back in a pinch. These conditions under which you get the One For All card back have been a source of confusion in some playtesters (not many, but more than 1). With this new "draw a card at the end of the turn" rule I think that strangeness can be eliminated... you can either draw a mission card, or draw back your One For All card. Simple as that.

There are some ramifications that I've thought through, but so far all the ones I can think of seem either good for the game, or at the very least acceptable. I'm excited to give it a try and see if it makes the game feel more like a real game or not. Of course there's a chance I'm overlooking something and the change will end up being horrible... in which case we can always go back to the current version :)

The point is, it's good to look back on what you already have once in a while and make sure it still makes sense.

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