Thursday, May 07, 2015

Pony Express surprise playtest

I stopped by a game store today, and got a chance to play a 3p game of Pony Express! After updating it today while waiting for my car, that was a pleasant surprise.

Bottom line, it worked pretty well. Remembering that this is a lighter game, not a heavy strategy game - it worked pretty much as intended. Chris and I were neck and neck for the first 2 rounds, but he outscored me by about 20 points in the last round. That was 50% because of an Express Delivery, and 50% because he did a better job than I did.

I'm actually not sure I like the Express deliveries. Currently they award money if you're 1st to the post office, but cost money if you're not. It's supposed to be sort of risky, but rewarding. I don't mind the idea of it, but I am not sure I like the cards themselves. They seem like no-brainers - you take them for $X, and worst case you lose some or all of that - better than letting someone else potentially get it. Because of that dynamic, I doubled the value that you get/risk... which maybe helped, but maybe just over-rewards people. maybe it should be more like "+$5 if you succeed, -$10 if you fail" or something.

People have asked for a type of delivery that could be to either of 2 towns. I can't think of a reasonable way to do that and stay in theme though!

We discussed possible types of cards to add, and one thing that came up was a card that requires you to go to 2 specific towns. I'm not 100% sure how that would work logistically, maybe you just remember that you've been to the first when you get to the 2nd. Im also not 100% sure what the theme on that is... 'we heard there was a parcel to be picked up and delivered, visit towns #1 and #12!" I think you'd have to do it in whichever order you choose, since you might be starting in MO and you might be starting in CA.

In order to add a 5th player, I'd need something like 6 more cards. I've currently got enough cards for 4 players, but I'm not super thrilled with the Express deliveries. I do like the New Delivery items, but that means I need cards to draw from, and I don't know what to do if you draw a card that needs to go to the same town you're in.

I don't love the map items... I like the idea of them, and players have liked them, but there are so damn many of them, and they seem so useless. Maybe I should make the maps work for 2 different locations? I don't know, maybe it's fine. They would work better if the game were longer than 3 rounds, I think. Or maybe if they somehow let you teleport to a particular town or something (thought at would be crazy). Or maybe "go directly to that town in 1 action, though you pay all the costs of a route" or something. Not sure how useful that would be.

Anyway, it was a decent test, and I think I will still try to play on Saturday.

One thing I might tweak... I'd like the Land Features (Mountains, Rivers, Lost!) to be on the board at the outset, because it makes sense you would know where those were (well, mountains at least), and because they are so impactful. I have a thought how to do that... during setup, put out those tiles along with enough other hazards, and treat all the other ones as Tumbleweeds... so you start by knowing where the land features are, but not the snakes, bandits, or bears. Then after the first auction, add Snakes+Tumbleweeds, then after the 2nd auction add everything else. I think I'd need a lot more tumbleweeds though.

Another thought is that maybe there could be some tiles that are temporary... like some of the snakes for example. Then say you remove the tumbleweeds immediately before drawing more tiles, not immediately after. Maybe that just means having some +0 tumbleweeds and some +1 tumbleweeds, and making Spurs trigger on routes with tumbleweeds.

Anyway, a pleasant surprise.


Ian said...

I assume you are collecting all deliveries from a common point? 2 centre deliveries could be contracts which require signatures from people in 2 different towns.

Or do you have out and return deliveries already? Go and get this signed and bring it back or deliver this letter and bring back the reply.

Does the game allow for longer term delivery goals? Get a signature from someone in all 5 of these towns. This would make some deliveries more attractive than others to different players.

(I'm a cycle courier and have already mused over a similar game with a cycle courier theme).

Seth Jaffee said...

Ian - thanks for the comments!

Currently, the game is like this: Players start each round at a post office (in Missouri for example), get the parcels to deliver, and then deliver them on their way to the other post office (in California) on the other side of the board.

Getting signatures is an interesting idea, and a good excuse to need to visit multiple towns!

A friend suggested at the last playtest that there be some card or cards that reward visiting many towns in a round, sort of the opposite of the Express deliveries, which reward you for reaching the post office first, implying that you visited fewer towns.

The Express deliveries might ought to be standard rewards - like you ALWAYS get rewarded for returning first. That would solve my problems with the Express Delivery card - there simply wouldn't be any. However, that doesn't help my problem of needing more cards! Also, if the Express deliveries are standard, then it might stand to reason that the "multiple town" deliveries might ought to also be standard... again, not solving the problem that I need more delivery cards, not fewer!

I'm not sure what to do... maybe going back to 2 parcels per town is an OK idea, but I really don't love it when people are able to double up on a town and get essentially free money.