Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Moctezuma playtest and tweaks

Last Saturday I was able to get in not one, but two 3 player tests of Moctezuma's Revenge!

One of the main things that has kept this particular game down, and I think it's the thing that keeps many prototypes from making progress, is simply not getting it to the table. That's why I was so excited to play Moctezuma's revenge again, for the first time in 8 years.

I was over at Isle of Games, the FLGS that's nearest my new home, and it just so happens my longtime friend Ben is a manager over there. Ben is the one who tested Moctezuma's Revenge with me all those years ago, so it was neat hat he was around this time too... unfortunately he was busy working and couldn't join us to play :(

Here are some notes from those two games, followed by some changes to try next time:
For reference, the rules I used: Moctezuma's Revenge rules v2.0.

The game went over pretty well with the players. I wonder if it couldn’t use some more fundamental changes...

Game 1
I used the "5 action point" rule set ("5AP"), and I used 14 cursed and 11 safe chits, requiring 2+ cursed chits for a temple to be cursed. This was a mistake, actually, and it resulted in 6 cursed temples out of 7 (I added chits to the prototype according to majority needed, not 2+, AND I counted wrong when deciding how many chits to use... OOPS). 6 cursed temples is almost certainly too many! I think 4 or 5 max would be better. The players thought it would be OK if the minimum number of cursed temples was zero, but I think it might be better to guarantee that at least 1 temple will be cursed each game. 

We all knew which temples were cursed a few turns before the end, which was lame. Jim and I had researched several times before going exploring, while Hillary just went out and started looting temples. She ended up with maybe the highest score, but the most cursed icons and therefore an automatic loss. Is an auto-loss too harsh? Maybe there should just be a bigger penalty for the player with the most curse icons, like -1vp/icon, while everyone else only loses 1vp/2 icons.

Game 2
This time I used the "2 actions per turn" rule set ("2A"), and I used 9 cursed and 16 safe chits, requiring a majority of cursed chits for a temple to be cursed. This resulted in 3 cursed temples. I had the most points, but also the most cursed icons so I lost. Jim and I did about 2 turns of double research before exploring, while Hillary did about 4 this time. The 2A version went quicker and felt a little lighter than the 5AP version, but I think we got to do about as much stuff. 

I didn’t like that it took a whole turn to move to or from the library, and I didn’t like the temptation to research everything first then go explore, and never really research again.

Here are tweaks I would make for next time:
  • In 2A version, it should only take 1 move to get to or from the library, but you shouldn’t be allowed to do both in the same turn (the Library isn’t a shortcut)
  • In 2A version, 2nd Research in a turn should cost a discard of any treasure card. This gives you another way to dump cursed treasure, and it also means you can’t double research until you’ve gone exploring. So you probably will turn 1 Research/Move and start looting temples, then later come back to do more research.
  • Asymmetric starting info would be nice, but how to implement?
  • Is “Most cursed icons = you lose” a good rule? Too harsh? Maybe just a bigger penalty? try "most cursed icons: -1vp/icon, everyone else -1vp/2 icons".
  • Try using 12 Cursed/15 Safe chits for a total of 27, so 2 are unused each game… so you can’t count. I think that leads to 1-5 Cursed temples (and more likely 2-4).
  • Maybe make the Loot action (2A version) 3 cards, then 4… so if you see the Name card in the first draw, you still have a choice of 2 cards to keep. Or else add a SEARCH action to look at more cards, keep none (see below)
  • Maybe make an option to look at more cards but keep none… for if you want to find the name of a temple at the cost of getting a card. So like:
    • Move 1/Move 2 (1 space in the first move action, 2 more if you move a 2nd time in a turn).
    • (temple) Search 4/5 (keep 0). Helps you find the Name card.
    • (temple) Loot 2/3 (keep 1). Gets you more cards.
    • (library) Research 2/3 (reveal 1. 2nd one costs 1 card). Gets you info, reveals some, allows a discard avenue for cursed treasure.
    • (library) Study: Discard 1 card to reveal that temple’s name tile. Discard avenue for cursed treasure, and a way to learn the name of a temple.
  • One idea I had to prevent over-researching was this: You can only research the CURRENT or NEXT column, not beyond that. Then if you want to see info in the 3rd/4th/5th columns then maybe you’ll return to the library once the game is about ⅓ (or ⅔) over. Alternatively, maybe you can always research any column, but it costs a card to research beyond 1 column ahead of where the game is currently at?

Here's the updated rules based on this playtest and commentary: Moctezuma's Revenge rules v2.1

Stay tuned for more playtest reports or info about this game, and the experiment in co-designing with Jonathan Gilmour.

Post script:
I just had a thought on card distributions: Maybe there should be some more texture to the cards as far as VPs vs Curse icons. For example, currently the treasure distribution is 5/3/3/2/2/2/1/1/1/1/1, where the 5 has 3 curse icons, the 3s and 2s have 2 curse icons, and the 1s have 1 curse icon.

Perhaps it would be cooler to have some of the cards with a disproportionate number of curse icons, not directly related to the amount of VPs on the card, something like:
5vp/3 icons
3vp/2 icons
3vp/2 icons
2vp/3 icons
2vp/2 icons
2vp/1 icons
1vp/2 icons
1vp/2 icons
1vp/1 icons
1vp/1 icons
1vp/1 icons