Saturday, May 12, 2012

Alter Ego, Exhibit, and Theme-storming

I was up in Phoenix this weekend, meeting with Patrick Nickell of Crash Games, Fred McKenzie of Clever Mojo Games, Nathan Kohatsu, and Tory Neimann - and we got a chance to play a couple of prototypes:

Alter Ego

Patrick, Nathan and I went through the current version of Alter Ego, with the fresh new organizational format I thought up in the car on the drive up.

I was disappointed in how fiddly the turns seemed to be last Tuesday, and how complicated it sounded to get Teamwork Tokens and Call the Cops. I figured a player aid would help the situation, but I hadn't made any yet - and while it would be a reminder, it would not actually simplify anything. I'm really happy with the idea I came up with in the car. Imagine a player board, approximately 4" tall by 11" wide, divided into 5 columns as follows (with the following information in each - probably abbreviated and/or iconized):

1. Income Phase (skip if no cards are played to this column): Collect 1 $ token for each $ icon you have in play. Job cards, some equipment, and some Henchmen have $ icons.

2. Support Phase (skip if no cards are played to this column): Draw 1 card for each [card] icon you have in play. Family cards, some equipment, and some Henchmen have [card] icons. Collect 1 Teamwork Token for every 3 Teamwork icons you have in play.

3. Patrol Phase (NEVER SKIP! 1 Henchman icon printed on board): Draw 1 Henchman card for each [henchman] icon you have in play. Put 1 of those into play, discard the rest face down. Community cards, some equipment, and some Henchmen have [henchman] icons. For every 4 [henchman] icons you have in play, you may call in an Anonymous Tip (discard a henchman and rescue any hostages on him).

4. Fight Phase (skip if no cards are played to this column): You may spend Hero icons that you have in play to rescue Civilians. Hero cards, some equipment, and some Henchmen have Hero icons. You may give up to 1 Teamwork Token to each opponent in order to use 1 Hero card in their display. You may discard 2 Teamwork Tokens in lieu of any 1 Hero icon for the turn.

5. Recoup Phase (NEVER SKIP!): Discard all cards in your display and all $ tokens. Take a new card from the table and place it in your display. Play 4 cards from your hand into your display. Discard the rest of your hand. Draw 4 cards, plus 1 more for each Henchman you have defeated.

The way I wrote it above reads more like a rulebook, but that's really because I'm not sure the readers of this blog are super familiar with the rules so I wanted to be more clear. I imagine it would be more reminder rather than rules text-y. I even think it could be awesome artistically. I imagine a sort of panorama which starts with morning: in a suit going to work at the left end (Income), afternoon: guy at home with family (Support), evening: patrolling the streets (Patrol), nighttime: fighting a bad guy (Fight), and maybe dawn: battered hero returning home (Recoup).

I have not played Sentinels of the Multiverse, but from the day it was announced I had feared that Alter Ego may not be viable anymore because the theme and game sounded similar (cooperative superhero card game). However, Nathan assured me that Alter Ego may be viable after all, and he mentioned that even in its present state (which I think is still too fiddly) he thought it was much more streamlined than SotMV. Sentinels seems to be enjoying great success, as evidenced by the blockbuster Kickstarter performance of the expansion. Hopefully I can get Alter Ego to a point where I'm happy with it - it sounds to me like sentinels is a much different game anyway.

Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages

This morning on the way out of Phoenix I had lunch with an old friend Chris and his wife Becky. They were nice enough to try out a TMG submission I had brought with me, and then we played the latest version of Exhibit. Chris had played the game a while ago (and liked it at that time). Not much has changed since then - just the Consolation bid for not winning any auctions, the multiple tiles in an auction when nobody wins one, and the new Grant idea (one shot "wild weapon" of which each player started with one). Long ago I decided that I liked the Consolation bid. More recently (which is still about a year ago!) I decided I liked unclaimed artifacts sticking around for the following round (when the top 2 bids without going over will get one). The new idea is the Grants.

The first time I tried these I gave every player 1 Grant for each color (except Purple). That seemed like overkill - people didn't use very many, and it amounted to 35 components which didn't seem worth it. My plan for the next time was to give each player 3 Grants that can be used on any color other than Purple, however at the last minute I decided to just try 1 such Grant per player. the single grant seemed to work just fine, and I don't think I need to add more.

I think Exhibit is about done. It does tend to take a bit longer than I'd like, so I'm going to try starting the game with 2 Artifacts in each auction for the first round. I expect that to do 3 things - first, it will cut a round off of the game which will reduce the play time by at least a little bit. Second, it should help with the same thing the Grant was helping with - making it easier to get something going in the early game. And finally, it will give more players an Artifact going into round 2, and therefore a reason to want 1 artifact over another.

Other than that mall change to the beginning of the game, the only think I need to do is some Theme-storming in order to attach some meaning to the Purple tiles, and maybe the artifacts as well.


I think that a hallmark of a good game - and something I think Tasty Minstrel Games has going for it - is having a great look and feel in addition to being an interesting game. Theme and art factor heavily into that, so I need to add chrome to the parts of the game that are still abstract or are placeholders. This holds true for all of the games I'm working on, so I think it would be good to get some help with it. I'd like to start holding Themestorming sessions, on IRC, or a G+ hangout. If you'd like to participate in those conversations, then please feel free to do so! Leave a comment and I'll make sure I let you know when it's going to happen. Thanks!

No comments: