Saturday, August 21, 2010

Playtesting night - Eminent Domain, Winds of Fate

Michael and John came over for 4 games of Eminent Domain and 1 game of Winds of Fate.

I'm still really happy with the idea and the structure of Odysseus: Winds of Fate, but something just isn't right. I especially think that the 4-player game works a lot better than 3-player. 3p really seems off to me, something has to be done about that. There's something that doesn't seem right about how adventures are always 2-against-1. I had hoped that the benefits of 'staying in' even if it's 2-vs-1 would be big enough to matter, but I think the psychological effect of 'fighting 2 people' turns people off... even though all it means is which direction Odysseus will move (there are still lots of rewards you can get). Perhaps more info about who wants to go where (see below) will help that feeling because you could maybe predict where people want the ship to go next.

It continues to be disappointing to players to start with a random Destiny bet, so I will have to do away with that, or change it in some way. It occurred to me tonight that part of the problem with the Destiny bet is that I might have added too many Destiny actions, and therefore the Destiny bet might pay off too much to be the 'small bonus' I intended.

I decided Monday (with the help of the Gamesmiths members) that the idea I had to associate bet chips with specific locations wouldn't work as I wanted it to. Michael had an interesting idea that might accomplish the same thing. Imagine a Roulette style board off to the side with each of the encounters pictured in an array. When given the opportunity to place a bet, you put a bet chip on one of the encounters, or perhaps between 2 encounters, or at the corner of 4 encounters (like you can place bets in Roulette). You would be betting that if/when Odysseus reaches that particular encounter, he will win or lose it (the bet chips could be double sided - put the "win" side up if you bet he'll win that adventure, put the "lose" side up if you bet he'll lose it). I will definitely think about this further and probably make a prototype to try it out.

These bets, being out in the open, might help players predict where other players want the ship to go, and therefore which color cards they are likely to play in any given Adventure.

Eminent Domain continues to impress. I'd recently added 8 Warfare cards, making 20 Role cards in each stack, because I felt like the game was too short if more than 1 player started taking Warfare. I'm not 100% sold on this, but I'm getting close.

We played 3 games of ED, then went to dinner, then played Winds of Fate and finished with 1 last game of ED. Each of our 4 games last night were close and very interesting. A variety of strategies were used, a wide range of Tech cards were used, and scores ended up being very tight. I also saw a lot more Following than I have seen before, which is also nice.

Our games were so close in fact, that 3 of them ended up in ties. Mike beat John in the first game on tiebreaks because his military strategy left him with 3 Armies to John's 1 resource - I was a mere 2 or 3 points behind. In the second game John and Mike ended in a dead tie (neither one had resources or Armies remaining). In game 3, I beat Mike on tiebreaks with my 1 resource. And in our 4th game I believe Mike win by a few points. 3 ties and a win - a good night for mike!

Games were moving fast, as all three of us are very familiar with the game. Also, I don't think we were paying as much attention as we could have to things like how many turns are likely left, and what exactly some of the other players are doing (I tried to research a tech that it turns out John had already gotten and been using!) I know that I could have played better had I paid a little closer attention - which is something I like about the game. It means the game is not simply solitaire!

After our games, I took a look at all the level 2 technology cards with Mike. A couple of them seem obviously better than the rest, most of them seem appropriately powerful, and a couple of them seem really terrible. After Mike left I thought about how I could improve the terrible ones so they are more interesting, and I decided to make them permanent effects that apply every turn. I rearranged a thing or two to accomplish that and keep everything balanced between planet types, and I think it'll turn out to be an improvement. I'm looking forward to trying it!

Overall a good playtest night!

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