Sunday, December 14, 2014

Crusaders - playtest 12/13/14

I sent my prototype of The Knights Templar home with members of The League of Game Makers - a design group out of southern California, and I heard tell that they may have played it today... I eagerly await their feedback!

In the meantime, I had a couple of friends over today and played two 4p games back to back, with all the latest tweaks, including a brand new Enemy track indicating the strength of each enemy... one Enemy grows in strength (though I flattened the curve at the high end), another is a standard 6 strength all game long, and the third starts out very strong and gets weaker as people defeat them.

I'm not 100% convinced that the "discount of 1 for indicated buildings" is the BEST way to do it, but it seemed to work alright. As expected, each players first turn was "Build one of the 2 buildings I get a discount for" - which makes me wonder if I shouldn't just tell people to start by placing one of those buildings into play. But we did start by building 3 different buildings, and the tweaks led to a lot more early building.

In the first game, John and I both went or a heavy Build/Influence strategy, though I seemed to do a better job of it than he did. Dave went all-out Crusading. I ended up winning the game, beating Dave by about 20 points, but I'm pretty sure that with 3 potential Influence spaces (looking at all the upgradable spaces), the Level 3 Church ("+1 Influence per cube") might be a little too powerful: I got AT LEAST 15, maybe more like 20 points off of that building itself. If that were merely "+1 Influence" then it only would have been 4 or 5 points instead, making the scores very similar between the Build/Influence strategy and the Crusade/Build strategy.

In the second game I nerfed the Level 3 Church (down to "+1 Influence"), but it didn't matter much as nobody really pursued an Influence strategy anyway. In that game I made another adjustment, reducing the costs of the non-bank buildings to 3/4/5/6 rather than 3/5/7/9 (as I discussed in my last post). This way I hoped that a player could get to the high end of the Building tracks without being FORCED to build Banks. I went all out on Farms, mustering Troops, and Palaces, hoping to crusade a lot, but I stumbled a bit in the early game, and didn't really do as much crusading as I would have liked. Dave on the other hand managed to completely dominate the board, Crusading like crazy, building lots of buildings far from Paris. He managed 135 points while the rest of us had 80-90 points.

I'm starting to get some data on the faction abilities and their relative strengths:
* The Knights Templar (drop 2 cubes into 1 bin) seems to be very strong
* The Knights Hospitaller (skip a bin) seems very useful, though not too strong so far
* The Knights Teutonic (distribute either direction) seems good when using a bin with few tokens in it, but less useful when doing large actions - which I htink is probably fine.
* The Knights of St Lazarus (start with 1 upgrade) seems pretty weak, I might make that 2 upgrades or something.
* The Order of Santiago (may leave unused cubes behind) sounds like it could be very strong, but I haven't seen it in action enough to make a determination.
* The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre (start with 13 action tokens) FEELS weak/boring, but it's hard to quantify its power. I had this one in the 1st game, when I won.

The "discount" thing on the starting spaces kinda kills the obvious benefit of The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, who could otherwise build on turn 1 when noone else could. I might combine that faction with Lazarus, allowing a player to stat with an extra cube AND an upgraded space, or I might let the Holy Sepulchre start with *2* extra cubes, and Lazarus start with *2* (or more?) upgraded spaces. For example, would it be broken to start with ALL of the action bins upgraded?

Things to try/keep trying:
* The Knights of St Lazarus: either "all bins upgraded" (or maybe "swap the order of 2 action bins, and upgrade 1 (2?) action bins, or something like that).
* The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre: Start with 2 extra Action cubes.
* Somehow weaken The Knights Templar maybe? Limit the ability somehow?
* Non-bank buildings cost 3/4/5/6
* Recalculate strength of all buildings (especially with new costs, above)
* Make the higher cost troops better (+2 Crusade, add vp)

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