Sunday, September 24, 2017

Recent testing: Alter Ego

After bringing Alter Ego back to the table after 2 full years, I wanted to keep it in rotation, lest it find its way back to the shelf for another couple of years. So we played a 4 player game of it last Friday, and I incorporated 3 changes since the last playtest:

  • I nerfed the Teamwork tokens -- they didn't give us an additional fight icon anymore
  • I changed the penalty system to the one I described in my previous post (linked above) -- for every 2 penalty tokens, you lose 1 icon. The only way to remove penalty tokens is through one of the few equipment that does that.
  • I included the new insight I had recently about a 2 civilian "safety net" -- instead of losing immediately when you're out of a civilian color that you need, you take one of the black tokens. Black civ tokens never get returned to the supply. This way you have to lose 3 times that way in order to actually lose the game.

That last one was great, I could tell immediately that it was a perfect solution to that particular problem.

The penalty system was interesting, and Dave thought it was certainly an improvement over the previous version. I'd like to see it in action a little more before I weigh in on whether I'm happy with it.

The nerfed Teamwork tokens were a bit of a problem, I think. With the costs the way they are now (henchmen basically cost 2-5 icons), it's quite difficult to defeat the expensive henchmen without teamwork, and since their costs are specific, it's still difficult. The additional icon of your choice that the TW token used to give you helped a lot with that, but it also kind of made defeating the cheaper henchmen sort of trivial. Also, it seemed weird to say "I'm spending this TW token so you'll fight on my team, but I don't actually need any of your icons, I just need the one from the TW token."

So what probably has to happen is that I need to re-cost the henchmen, possibly with a max cost of 4 icons (or possibly not). Also, I think the henchmen costs need to be more heavily in one icon or another, like AAABB, rather than ABCDE, so that you can reasonably build your deck toward defeating them!

In other news, it's come up so often that I probably need to re-order the turn sequence so that the Family phase is AFTER the fight phase. Maybe I an incorporate it into the Recoup phase, slightly simplifying the overall turn:

  1. Job phase: Collect money (penalty for not playing Job cards)
  2. Patrol phase: Bring henchmen into play (penalty for not playing Community cards)
  3. Fight phase: Spend icons to fight henchmen
  4. Family phase: Discard display, draw cards (penalty for not playing Family cards), choose card from stacks, fill display from hand, discard remaining cards.
In this new scheme, I suppose it makes the most sense to play any Events in addition to your regular 5-card display, and then discard them when you use them during the following Fight phase (or maybe leave them in play until you use them, so if you didn't need it that turn, it'll still be there the next turn).

One other thing that came up was the idea of having a simple board. Suppose there were 5 locations, each bearing one of the 5 fight icons. Then suppose the Henchmen costs were reduced by 1, but cost the icon of the location they're at in addition to their printed cost. This would give the henchmen a sort of variable cost, and could maybe add some potentially interesting board play to the game. I don't know if that's really necessary, but it could potentially add to the theme.

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