Monday, September 27, 2010

Tasty Minstrel Submission testing

On Friday I had a playtest night, specifically for Tasty Minstrel submissions. I got a surprising number of takers on my invite, and all it cost me was a couple of pizzas and some ice cream sandwiches! I actually had more testers than I knew what to do with.

We played 3 different card games, another card game which plays more like a tile laying board game, and in the end one of my own board games... and afterwords one of the testers (who is a member of the Board Game Designers Forum) stuck around and I tried his deck building prototype as well.

I think it's probably unprofessional of me to talk specifically about the submissions, so I'll keep this report in very general terms (except where it comes to my own game, then I'll say whatever I damn well please!)

Card Game #1: This game reminded me of Portal. I actually thought it was a bit better than Portal, as the cards were more interesting. But I'm of the school that if you're going to play a game like Magic: the Gathering, then you should just play Magic: the Gathering.

Card Game #2: A guy who used to come to my SedjCoProto playtest sessions dropped off 2 card games that we'd played back then, and had been updated per some of our comments and suggestions. We played one - 5 player - and I'd planned on playing the other right after. However, the first one dragged a lot and my players were not interested in playing another similar game, so I had to skip the 2nd game by that designer. Unfortunately the game did drag, suffered from a lot of unclear card interactions, and seemed to have a lot of down time. It did not go over well with the testers, though the theme was pretty good.

Card Game #3: This was a game I'd played before, though it had been updated by the designer. Some of the initial complaints were mostly to do with lack of interaction, so I was curious what the designer had done to remedy that. Of the lot, this is the only game I thought I'd really consider moving forward with, though it still left something to be desired. I think some of the changes were improvements though. I am interested in examining this one further. The basic idea of the game is very novel, and kind of a twist to the Deck Building craze that's sweeping the hobby.

Card/Tile Laying Game: This was a submission from James Ernest, who's trying to find homes for some of his better Cheapass Games. This particular game had a nifty, fairly unique main mechanism for tile placement, which was refreshing, but also had some very swingy random events which players didn't feel too excited about. Reading through the comments on BGG for this game I saw a lot of very positive ones, but most of the positive comments were qualified with the fact that the game was only $5. I don't think the reaction would be as positive toward this game (as-is) if it cost $20 or more, even with nicer components, and that's what we would want to do if adapting a Cheapass game - make a nicer, full version of the game. I don't think we'd want to do this game as-is, and I'm unsure if anything jumps out at me as a good way to adapt or amplify/improve the game to make it something we'd be interested in doing. I kinda think that's too bad, as this is the second time I've had a submission from a big name designer that I've had to turn down. If only James would have submitted Lords of Vegas to us - I haven't played it yet, but I feel like I would have jumped on that right away! :)

Winds of Fate: As I mentioned, we played a 5 player game of Winds of Fate. Actually, I just watched while 5 players played. I didn't mention that it was my own design, and 1 player said "I like the theme, I'm curious what hey did with it" - I liked that they didn't know it was my design, but then my friend John, who did know, blurted out that it was mine :/ Ah well.

This was not only the first play of Winds of Fate with the new Betting Board, but may be the first time WoF has ever been played with 5 players! One thing to note is that with 5 players I ran out of Adventure cards constantly. I had to cannibalize another 2 decks of playing cards in order to just play the game. I also saw more hoarding of cards than I'd like, and an attempt to make an infinite loop based on the geography of the game board. It turns out the rules handle the infinite loop just fine, but if it were to happen (on turn 4 or 5) then feel like that might be a disappointing game. I don't know if I need to worry about redesigning the game based on that, or if it won't come up often enough to matter. I'll have to watch and see.

My biggest concern for WoF might be that the process for resolving the adventure each round seems too fiddly. A bigger complaint however is that there is still an element that 2 players going for the same end condition can overpower a player going for a different game end condition. I think the Betting Board and non-secret Destiny bets has helped this a bit, but now there's more of a feeling of being rewarded for doing the same thing as everybody else, and that's no good! One thought is that if the netting board does what it's supposed to, then maybe a secret goal type of thing could be re-introduced such that players have different incentives again, but that can't really be made fair if there are 3 game end conditions and more than 3 players.

Anyone have any thoughts on this issue?

BGDF Game Design Showdown entry: One of the playtesters, Simon, brought with him his prototype which was originally an entry in the BGDF Game Design Showdown a few months ago. It's a deck building game where you have 2 decks, an action deck (whose cards you use to do stuff, and which refill to 5 each turn) and a Spell deck (more powerful cards that don't refill on their own).

The 2 decks was an interesting spin on Deck Building, and I think Simon has a pretty good start to a game. Hopefully he'll work on it some more.

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