Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pony Express - full playtest #4

I've posted previously about full playtests #1, #2, and #3 of The Pony Express, and how I'm using it for my "Gil Hov 4p challenge" game. After my last test, outside of the few tweaks I listed (change Guide, changed Compass, replaced one Spur with a New Delivery), the main thing I needed to do was re-design the board.

Yesterday I got together with Dan Keltner to talk design stuff, and one of the things we did was look at the board. Dan fired up Inkscape and helped me whip up a new map, with one Post Office in Missouri and another in California. Here's a schematic of the new board...

 I managed a playtest with the new board today. Here's how it went:

In an effort to make a 2-endpoint board that resembled the previous one, I just sort of picked the original Post Office and town #6 and stretched them out... and I added 1 route because it looked pretty bare.
I realized later that I had inadvertently REMOVED town #6, turning it into a post office... I should have instead ADDED a post office. I was able to play around that, but I think I want to keep at least 10 towns, if not increase to maybe 12. I think 10 towns might be enough.
I guess if the CA Post Office in the map above were replaced with Town #6, and a new CA Post Office were added to the left of that, with a 1-cost route to town #7, a 1-cost route to Town #6, and a 2-cost Route to Town #5, that would probably work. If another route were added from #6 to #2, then the board would be sort of symmetric, but I think it might be better if it's not symmetric.

I'm still thinking of inflating all the base route costs to 2 and 3, instead of 1 and 2, to make the item bonuses mean more... and new I'm actually leaning toward that. It seems like too often currently players are reducing the cost to 0, and having to pay 1 anyway. I think it would be better if the items helped you approach that, but didn't reach it as often.
I'd like to label the routes (near the route costs, I guess) with small letters (a, b, c, ...) so that they can be referenced, and also to imply an order for putting down hazard tiles. If you just go in alphabetical order then there's no question whether you've added one to each route or not (did I miss one? Did I add 2 to this one?)
Ideally, each route would have an obvious graphical space for the (1" square) hazard tiles (like the dashed squares here on either side of the route cost), and each town would have an obvious graphical space for the (1" square) item tiles. Of course, a town could have as many as 4 items (starts with 2, gets 1 more at the end of rounds 1 and 2), and I'm not sure there's space for that many at each town - maybe a large-ish space near each town that "items" are stashed in would be good, without being specific as to how many?

So I have some tweaks to make, and I think a friend might help me create a more attractive version of this board. I'll be sure to report back the next time I play :)

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