Thursday, September 08, 2011

KoA&S, Alter Ego, Nottingham, and a TMG submission

Here's a little update on a couple of things:

Kings of Air and Steam
I got a good playtest session of Kings of Air and Steam in at Gateway last weekend. A 5 player game (I watched) where each player seemed to like the game. It dragged a little longer than I'd like, but not too bad - 5 players, learning rules, and a convention atmosphere took about 2:45. I was able to try some of the new rules Scott and I have been discussing, and I think they are working out very well. Tuning them a little further, here is what I think I will try next time:

* Cube values will range from $5-$9
* Depots will cost $5 for the first person to buy one, and $10 otherwise (this may prove to be too much) rather than $4/$6/$8.
* Passive income a straight $5 (used $3 last time, rather than an increasing amount). I thought maybe multiples of $5 would make it easier physically to play the game.
* No upkeep - with the 2nd+ Depot on each link costing $10, I don't know if it's really necessary to pay upkeep on your cubes.
* $15 starting cash (to help pay for the more expensive Depots)
* 1vp/$1, 10vp/Depot (same as 1vp/$10, 1vp/Depot, but maybe easier to count)

Alter Ego
I finally got a chance to play a couple rounds of Alter Ego, the latest version I posted about. My friend Jason and I played through a couple of turns each so I could see how the game flow felt. I thought it went really well. Now to re-do the villain deck again, and the equipment cards. Jason suggested that he liked the idea of a staged villain deck, maybe with some mini-bosses in it (which could be like the more expensive villains I currently have.

One clarification I thought about was that while players need to be able to attack more than 1 bad guy at a time, I think a bad guy with 2 hostages should only be able to be attacked once per turn. Their whole point is that they take more turns to defeat.

Another thing I noticed was that the Arch Villains being known from the outset - while good in theory - may not apply here. Since Alter Ego has become a cooperative game where you can help your buddies attack the bad guys, it's not so important to build your deck toward a specific endgame goal. So it may be necessary to address that somehow. Ideas for that:

* Maybe each player has a Nemesis which only they must face alone
* The Arch Villains could have interesting abilities, such as "Can only be faced by 2 Heroes at a time" or "Must be faced by a lone hero"
* ... other?

At Spielbany last April I played a cooperative game by Richard James called Nottingham. It was originally made for a Robin Hood themed Game Design Showdown at, and featured a neat theme where the players are on the side of Prince John, while a potential traitor would be on Robin Hood's side.

Tonight I played a new, revised version of the game, and I must say I think it's improved. It has a deck building mechanism which was interesting in that a good penalty for certain things was putting a junk card in your deck - though I'm not sure the deck building was utilized to the fullest. A relatively large part of the cooperation involved passing cards to other players decks, which was interesting. The game was a bit fiddly to play, but mostly that's because the prototype was not fully constructed - the fronts and backs of tiles were not connected, etc. I think with proper production it would be acceptable though. I liked a lot of stuff about the game, the 2 main 'problems' as far as I was concerned were...
1. Balance. The Merry Men's plots were weak (on purpose I think), and we were able to keep everything in check with no problems. The difficulty didn't seem to match our ability to do stuff and we were able to breeze through the game. However, I think this could just be a matter of tweaking things like the number of cards players get to hold, and how many plots (and what their exact effects) are. I did like how the plots usually had an effect who's intensity depended on the number of active plots in play.

Richard, if you're reading this: One thing that I think might be neat is if the plots did not get cleared at the end of each round - only when they're addressed by the players. Then the players would have to deal with them, and if they don't, the effects will snowball out of control. tonight it seemed like we could largely ignore the plots and just keep down the Merry Men and Corruption tracks (and we only ever got a couple Merry men in play). I also think it would be neat if one of the Outlaw cards was Robin Hood himself, always in play, and uncatchable - who's effect is to add like 2 Merry Men to the track.

2. The bigger problem I had was the turn structure. Jason said the point was to have players sort of pre-plan all the turn's actions, then after the plan is made, players take their turns. Jason and I were playing 2 characters each, and that might have made it more complicated - but we spent a lot of time planning out a turn, then still made mistakes by playing it out differently than we'd planned. It seemed like adding AP to the game on purpose. And with 11 cards per player (we quickly advanced the track that says how many cards you draw), there were a lot of combinations of options to consider.

One idea I had was to break that up - don't give players all of their cards right away, so they cannot plan out their whole round in advance. That might help, but I'm not sure.

the turn structure as it is does not seem like it would lend itself very well to a traitor (which is supposed to be an option for when there's more than 1 player).

TMG submission
Finally, I played a short dice drafting game submitted to TMG. It's not professional to talk about submissions, so I won't do that anymore - the game was neat though. It was a little easy to accidentally make an illegal play (both Jason and I did that), but maybe that's fine, players just need to be a little careful they don't do that.

No comments: