Sunday, December 28, 2014

Pony Express - full playtest #1

John, Steve, and I played a full 3p game of The Pony Express, and I'm happy to say that the game did work!

A few items that I want to change and other thoughts I had while playing:

* All routes need to cost a minimum of 1... irrespective of discounts. I think that's fine, I can just say that you can discount the route to a minimum of 1. No big deal there. Of course, the Guide could theoretically still reduce a route to 0, but that also means you necessarily get 2 turns in a row... I could just as easily have the Guide reduce the cost to 1 instead of 0, and that would be fine.

* I should clarify "dropping" items vs "discarding" them. When something is "discarded" it is removed from the board, and effectively the game. When a player has too many items, they need to "drop" one, which means put it into their current town.

* I currently have 5 Maps in the Auction deck. Each of these maps gives you -1 to each of 2 cities. I like them, but as soon as someone got 1 it occurred to me that I had to determine whether it counts against their item limit. I said it did. That seemed fine. Ok, so suppose you drop 1 to make space for something else... does the map card go into the town to be picked up later? Or is that weird because it's physically a card?

I could make 5 tiles that match those maps, and when you claim that map card then you grab that particular tile, but that's 2 components to do the job of 1.

I could say that THOSE maps are different, and when you drop them, they are discarded, but then they act differently than other maps. is that OK? You already get them in a different way than other maps.

And finally, I could say that the map cards do not count against your item limit... again, acting different than other maps. is that OK? you get them differently, and they LOOK different, so maybe that's acceptable.

One other thing that happened - a player was at item capacity, and claimed a map card in the auction phase.So what happens? I had him drop an item in the Post office space, and allowed the next player to pick it up on the way out, which is all kinds of weird and unintuitive.

Not sure which way I'll go on that one yet.

* I am strongly considering adding a rule that you can only have 1 copy of any given item. Steve had 2 Compasses, so he got -2 to each route. Thematically it doesn't make much sense that a 2nd compass would help you any... or a 2nd map to the same town for that matter. Perhaps the map could be excused, but I think overall I should limit players to 1 item of each title.

* Currently, Tumbleweeds are simply non-hazards. Steve had a suggestion that instead, when drawing a Tumbleweed for a route, it could mean you discard the Hazards on that route. Where there used to be something, now there's nothing but a tumbleweed.

If I try that, then I'd reduce the number of tumbleweeds WAY down (currently they're the most common tile). Instead of 9 of them, I might want 2. Though thematically, it's weird that a winding trail or a river crossing disappears. Then again, it's a little weird that a river crossing appears out of nowhere anyway.

* John suggested that I stage the hazards and items, or at the very least, identify some of them to come out in setup to make sure they are at last in play. For example, I could make sure at least 1 Peacemaker is in play in the first round, so that a player could go for it in order to deal with Bandits.

In that case I suppose I could make all the winding trails and river crossings show up at the beginning (you just didn't know about them at first), which might be more thematic.

* I have been worrying about how to do tiebreaks if multiple players claim at the same time in the auction. I think the way to go is to say that turn order is the tiebreak, but that only applies if you actually speak up at the same time. If you're player 1 and I'm player 2, and I speak up before you do, then you can't say "oh, wait, I'll take it for that amount" - but if we both speak up at the same time, then your turn order means you win the tie.

Overall I think it was pretty good. I will make some of these tweaks before trying it again, but I think it's definitely got potential. I still think I'll look into Dan's idea to make a board with 2 Post Offices, one in Missouri and the other in Sacramento or something like that.

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