Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2/22/10 playtest: Ground Floor

Last night I had a planned playtest night for Ground Floor. I liked the format and will continue to do this when possible - just a FaceBook invite, specifically to play Ground Floor. I'll set up another one for next week for Belfort, seeing as how that one is 'on the docket' so to speak (that is to say it's being published this year, and is therefore more pressing than other games).

Hopefully it'll go more smoothly next time. This time David (the designer), myself, and Wystan all confirmed, and we were all present at the scheduled time. Eric called to say he "might" come but would be late, which I took as confirmation. Mandy had been a "maybe," but had called at 3:30 to tell me she would definitely be there. That would make a good 5 player game.

Nate showed up (on time), but hadn't told me he was coming. This was OK because the game plays 6, but he couldn't stay long enough for the whole game and therefore was going to just listen to the rules and watch for a bit. Then Doug showed up, who I also didn't know was coming - again OK because the game plays 6. Eric showed up a little later than he said he'd be, but that was fine because we were still waiting on Mandy. After a while we decided to start without Mandy. Nate suggested he begin, and when Mandy showed up ("any minute now") then she could take over for him.

Mandy never did show up, and Nate had to leave after about round 2, so we dropped to a 5 player game. Further, Doug had to leave after about round 6, so we dropped to a 4 player game. Fortunately, the game is resilient enough to actually accept someone leaving in the middle, though it does screw the players up a little bit, for example if a player gets jacked by another player, then that other player leaves, it leaves a bad taste in the jacked player's mouth.

Next time I will make an effort to get more confident responses, and to start on time. Monday night is a rough time to try and do this kind of thing, especially when it starts 90 minutes later than the already lat 6:30 start time.


The game itself went really well. Wystan, who is always skeptical of prototypes, said he liked it a lot more than he thought he would. He hamstrung himself in the early game, buying a Blank Floor (new addition - place to put TIs without covering GF rooms) rather than something that gave him a direct benefit. He also misunderstood employees and opted not to hire any at first, but he did purchase an Internship Program (which is 2/3 of an employee which you don't have to pay). This left him with a lot of $ income and a reasonable amount of Time to spend on actions, and is generally not a bad position to be in, but somehow he was not able to translate that into Prestige Points very well.

Eric's reaction wasn't bad either. I expected him to complain a bit about the "random" number of consumers that come each round to purchase goods. Since one of the main ways to get $ in the game is through the competitive merchandising market, it matters a lot whether there are 2 consumers or 4. You know the range (in a Recovery maybe it's 2-4), but 2 is VERY different than 4. As a result, you have to make hard choices such as "do I price my product at 8 to ensure a sale, or do I price it at 12 with a 2/3 chance I'll get the sale and a 1/3 chance I'll get nothing?" Eric made this exact choice one turn, opting for the 2/3 chance of more money, and he got burned. his situation was such that he could not afford to get burned, therefore I would argue that he should have gone with the safe bet and accepted less money for a sure sale rather than gambling on more money. He didn't like this as it really crippled him that round, and his comments after the game were to the effect of "if you get shut out of sales, you should be able to wholesale your product if you want for less money than the other people made." While it's not a terrible idea, I think that option is already in the game - you just have to choose to whole sale your goods BEFORE you find out if they would have sold at a higher price, not AFTER. Kinda like in real life. Eric prefers games where he can perfectly calculate whether he will sell his good or not, and price accordingly.

A thought I've had before that is along the lines of being able to wholesale goods if they don't sell is this: Currently, if you don't sell, then your product drops to the next lowest price bracket. If it drops off the lowest price bracket, then you get nothing. I wouldn't mind seeing a rule wherein you get $4 when you drop off the bottom of the chart, which is $2 less than you would have got if selling for the lowest price. I happen to have had more goods fall off the bottom of the chart (over the course of all my games played) than anyone else, and so I have most often been affected by this, and I've been able to win or place despite those setbacks, but I still wouldn't mind seeing a small wholesale option in that case. However in all other cases when you don't sell, it's because you didn't price right or you weren't popular enough, two things which you have direct control over.

Eric and Wystan both had some other good comments about specifics of the floors, which I will ponder and incorporate where necessary.

Doug had to leave early, but said he really enjoyed the game and would like to play it again, especially in a game which wasn't a learning game. I'm not sure what Nate thought, but since he had to leave so early, I'm not sure he knows what he thought of the game either.

I will make a new blog post with each of the Ground Floor rooms, TIs and Floors listed to analyze their effectiveness and costs, in an effort to weed out the bad and tune the good.

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