Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bag building rondel? More like Bag Building NONdel!

I've gotten a couple of tests of Joan of Arc: Maid of Orleans in here and there, mostly 3 player and a couple of 2 player games. I've made a little progress on what the starting tiles should look like, and the skeleton of the game idea is holding up, but so far the reaction and overall feel of the game is a little underwhelming.

From the beginning I've worried that players might not have enough reason not to just move the maximum 3 spaces on the rondel each turn, which makes the whole idea of a rondel rather boring. My hope was that as you get good tiles into your bag, they will be so attractive that it will be a reasonable decision whether you stop early for the effect, or move all three spaces for maximum"income". To an extent that has proven true sometimes, and sometimes not, and I was prepared to be ok with that.

After playing with Mike and Andy, I'm not so sure I should be ok with that. Long story short, I don't think my game uses the rondel mechanism very well. Maybe it's just not the right mechanism for the game.

I was trying to think of a way to have "big turns" in the game, and Andy suggested removing the rondel and instead placing the tiles on columns, where you choose 1 column each turn, collect the income from each tile in that column, and execute the action of the last tile (most recent) in that column. Then discard the entire column, and draw 1 new tile for each column.

A few details aside (maybe draw tiles at the end of your turn and place them at the beginning of your turn so you can think about it on opponents turns, maybe cap each column at 5 tiles, etc), this sounds like a much better format than the rondel, and the best news is that I can try it without any changes to the prototype!

I like the idea of this mechanism, and have been wanting to use it for something anyway, so this is a good opportunity. Unlike the bag building aspect of the game, I didn't have any compelling reason to use a rondel, so I don't mind losing it. I briefly considered ditching the bag building in favor of "rondel building" - where you'd have a static rondel, but you'd buy upgrades for the spaces, but that wasn't an attractive option for me. For this game I'd rather emphasize the bag building, which this column mechanism may help facilitate better than the rondel was.

I hope to try the game again while I'm in England for UKGE this week, with the new format, and see how that feels. I should be able to tomorrow!

Edit: I was able to try the game once (2p with Ian) with the new stack system, and it worked alright. Discussion with Ian was helpful in re-framing how I want to look at the tiles (income vs action) in order to power them up appropriately. We talked about how pretty much everything in the game needed to be powered up a bit, and ways to potentially do that, with a little balance discussion thrown in for good measure.

I just updated my prototype with all new tiles (starting tiles as well as tiles for the supply). For now I've taken interesting actions off of the tiles, they're all just various combinations of income, basically. I might like to add some "actions" back in on some of the 3 or 4 cost tiles, but I might just decide to leave that sort of thing for the skirmish tiles and static effects of spaces once the battle in that space has been cleared out.

I'm itching to play and see how it goes. I'd hoped to try it at the shop this weekend, but it looks like I'll have to wait for Origins on Wednesday. Who'll be there, and who wants to try this game with me?

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