Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Butterfly in the sky? No wait, this is Reading Railroad

Scott finally got a chance to playtest his build of Reading Railroad, and since it worked I finally got off my ass and finished my prototype as well. I played a 3 player game using the updated rules Scott sent me after his test. I knew going in that there were a few things I wanted to watch for and likely change. The test went well overall, we were able to play through the entire game, we had fun, and the system definitely seemed to work.

The things I'm looking to change are basically things intended to steer the game toward my original design goal - that you don't have to be a wordsmith to play the game. Also, I'd like to emphasize the in-game point scoring (by making longer words than necessary to connect cities) more, so that it can be a significant source of points in the game.

In game design terms, that is to say terms I personally use when thinking about game design, I'm trying to emphasize a particular SvB. In this case, I'm trying to create interesting choices stemming from the ability to score points either by building bigger words over the course of the game while laying track as cheaply as possible, and forgoing those in-game points in favor of building track to specific cities in order to get the "right" City tiles for endgame scoring. The former strategy I expect will score more points over the course of the game, but will probably end up with suboptimal City tiles or a smaller "biggest network". The latter strategy I expect will yield bigger endgame scores, at the cost of in-game scoring. Thus, we have 2 extreme strategies of which players will do some of each in order to collect enough points to win.

In addition, I'm trying to encourage an additional SvB in the endgame scoring - I plan to have multiple words that can be spelled with City tiles, some small, some large. I'm hoping that there might be a viable "short word" strategy as well as a viable "long word" strategy. The scoring for words will probably continue to be Scott's ingenious idea: [#letters]^2, which would make a longer word worth more points. However, a longer word ought to be more difficult to complete, so shorter words, though less points, could be more guaranteed.

Finally, one more idea I've recently had is to have additional scoring cards one could buy, like a Ticket in Ticket to Ride, which have 3/4/5/6/7 letter words on them which build on each other... for example:
Where you score for the longest word on the card which you can make out of your City Tiles. You would basically pay points for these cards, an investment in the possibility of more points later.

I intend to enter this game in the KublaContest (KublaCon game design contest) this year, which means I should probably get it wrapped up and in the mail fairly soon, it has to arrive by May 12th!

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