Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gamesmiths - 6/18/12

Last night's Gamesmiths meeting was poorly attended. While there was a new face there, none of the regulars were in attendance, only myself, Ben Butterfield (who's Rail net we played last month), and Aaron (referred by Ethan Myerson).

I had a few different games I wanted to test for various reasons, and I wasn't sure which to go with. I brought Alter Ego, which needs some work, but I could not find the player boards. I also brought a submission called Panic which TMG is considering, and a game TMG is committed to for next year which really needs to get back into the development rotation.

While it was just the 3 of us, I suggested we start with something short and see if anyone else would arrive. So I brought out Panic.


Panic is a quick, light game by James Ernest, Greg Parsons, and Mick Sullivan. There's a blog post about its inception (linked above), which is a pretty interesting read. It's about stock trading and set collection, sort of - or as James put it: the last 5 minutes of Trading Places. There are cards in different suits (where suits are commodities), and players begin with a hand of 9. There are also 9 cards (3 sets of 3) face down in "the market" - the center of the table. Players will bid for the right to peek at the face down cards, pass cards from their hand to their opponents, and eventually dump cards from their hand to the market, and by the end of the round, players will end up with a hand of 5 cards. The value of each commodity will depend on what's in the market - the commodities of which there are the most in the market are in plentiful supply, and therefore aren't worth much. The commodities of which there is not much supply are in high demand, and are therefore worth more.

The structure of the game is quick and easy. You bid to gain information about the makeup of the market (the winner gets to peek at a face down stack of cards), and you pay for your bid by locking cards into your final hand (face up so opponents can see). Each round after bidding players pass some cards to their neighbor in an attempt to improve their hand. After the 3rd round, each player discards 4 of their 9 cards into the market, finalizing their scoring hand. The market is sorted by commodity and the value of each commodity is determined (ranging from -2 to 2 for example). The idea is to keep cards that are worth positive points and not cards that are worth negative points.

I have played this game a couple of times now, and the response as been pretty universal - it's interesting and kinda fun, but it seems like too much of the market comes out at the final discard. So much that it overshadows any information you may have received from bidding. And being able to discard your unwanted cards completely insulates you from being passed cards you do not want to deal with. However, these are things which could only be an issue with certain groups, and they may be easily addressed without really changing the game much.

Last night's game has solidified a few questions and comments I'd like to discuss with the designer before deciding whether this is a game we should pursue further.

Captains of Industry

Captains of Industry is the new name for the game I'm developing for TMG that was originally called Titans of Industry. We had to change it when another Titans of Industry popped up on Kickstarter. It's been a while since I have played the game, and I have not yet used the newest small changes.

The 3 player game went smoothly, taking a total of about 2.5 hours including rules explanation. One player was slower than average, and I hope that the average game time turns out to be less than that session would indicate.

Comments after the game centered around some details of the technologies, such as maybe a tech which increases your demand (exportation) should occur earlier in the game so that it pays off more, or perhaps tech should cost more if someone has already purchased it. Other comments included:
* Rules questions such as Do you score your Titan card (Captain card?) if you are tied for "most" on something? and a component question about the new 1st Facilities (is that a production cost or an OVERTIME production cost printed there? Answer: Overtime. Designer changed icons on me!)
* Are the Titan cards well balanced? Especially the ones that reward Real Estate - which (a) you have other incentive to buy, and (b) accelerates the game, making other cards harder to score.
* Why is there no tech which gives a bonus for selling the higher level goods? (maybe Age 2, +1 Market Share, or at least + $$ per Machine/Oil/Corn sold)
The thing that concerned me the most was a comment that perhaps the ages end too abruptly. I like the Age timer mechanism a lot, but it might be true that once the 2nd Real Estate is bought, players are further encouraged to buy the third, and that ramps up the speed of the Age considerably. It might not actually be an issue, but it's one of the main things I'll be watching out for in future playtests.

We discussed some of the other potential new titles for this game, and a couple came up that we had not yet considered:
Masters of Capital
Captains of Capital

Overall a useful Gamesmiths, even if poorly attended. Hopefully next month's session will be better.

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