Friday, December 11, 2009

Ground Floor

I've recently become friends with a guy in town who's working on a game called Ground Floor. He first showed it to me at RinCon in October, and it looked cool so I invited him over to play it. The game was interesting to me, but the first tie we played it went long, and some of the interesting mechanisms didn't seem to be shining through like I thought they could. I discussed certain aspects of the game with my friend Steve, who likes to talk about these things with me, and we figured out what we thought needed to be addressed and I emailed that info to the designer (David). Since then he's come over a couple more times to play the game, and each time I've sent comments back, and each time the game has gotten better and better. Last night David brought Ground Floor over to play with the latest round of comments addressed, and the playtest went extremely well.

Ground Floor is a game about being an Entrepreneur. Each player has just started a company. All they have is 7 Information, their ground floor office (representing certain basic actions they can take), $9 income per round from investors, and their time (4 marker discs representing units of time). As the game progresses, players can hire employees (which reduce your $ income but increase the number of time units you can use), upgrade their ground floor actions, and add floors to their building, gaining abilities and Prestige. To finance this, players "do business" in town by scheduling meetings, advertising, shopping at outlets and making products to sell to the public. They must do this in the face of a volatile economic atmosphere - in a Boom economy more products will sell, but noone will be looking for work. In a Depression you will be hard pressed to sell any products, but the job market will be full of potential employees who can be hire on the cheap. You can see the Economic Forecast, but can never be sure exactly how many consumers to expect in a round, so how you price your products matters a lot, as does your popularity level.

I'm really enjoying the game in it's current incarnation. The crux of the game is balancing 2 resources - money and information. In the early game players have an income of $9, and it's difficult to get an appreciable amount of info. As you hire employees though, your income goes down (you have to pay their salaries), and the only really good way to make money is through selling products. Selling products is tricky, as it depends heavily on your popularity, the amount of products being sold by players, and the number of consumers for the round. You need to find a way to make both money and information because it costs a significant amount of each to add on to your business. Your score 9Prestige) will be based on the floors and abilities of your company. A 6 story skyscraper is more impressive than a 3 story building for example, but there's something to be said about having a better operation on your ground floor as well.

Our game last night was particularly interesting as it had a very unique turn of events - the Economic Forecast deck turned up 3 Depressions in a row! That's almost impossible, and the ramifications were that we were all very poor for much of the game. We had to find alternate ways to make money. Very thematically, people were firing employees in order to get more income! It was difficult times in a difficult economy, and in that respect the game was very true to life!

The only "problem" left with the game as far as I'm concerned is that it takes too long. Our game last nigh was something like 3.5 hours for a 4 player game. That's unacceptably long. However I believe shortening it to 3 phases of 3 rounds each (rather than 4 rounds each) will shorten it up nicely - hopefully it will shorten it enough!

I will be taking a copy of Ground Floor with me to Atlanta to play with Mike and whoever we can get to join us. If you're in that area, let me know - we'll be looking for people to game with!

- Seth


Anonymous said...

Ooh, this game sounds cool. I'd love to try it! Sadly, I won't be in Atlanta.

Jeff said...

Gil, the best solution is to lean on Seth and Michael to come up to NY for Winter Spielbany!

Seth Jaffee said...

LOL! I would like to come, and if I do I'll be sure to bring Ground Floor with me. I'm pretty much liking it, but I'm unsure about game length - currently it just takes too long. I can't wait to play it with 9 rounds (instead of 12) and see how it feels (and how much time it shaves off).