Game Design Contest: Playtest Results and Revisions

This weekend was quite busy (our Pom Roger got pretty sick, so any help in donations or spreading the word for our GoFundMe would be appreciated!), but I had a really successful playtest of Holy Press on Saturday, and of Green-Circuit Mercs (and Restoration Games’ Stop Thief!) on Monday.

we-didnot-playtest-this

I am so jealous of the name these designers snagged. While useful, eliminating playtesting would speed up my publication timeline sooo much…

Both sets of playtests went well, but Holy Press was definitely a huge hit, with all of the players really enjoying it and with a few suggestions for changes that should help catapult it from “Good” to “Great” once the revisions are added in. It also had the much larger group of players and resulting suggestions, so I’ll be addressing it second.

But first, onwards to the Green-Circuit Mercs playtest results!

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Overall Impressions

The game went over decently well. Overwatch’s popularity meant making the pitch “It’s a semi-cooperative game where you’re Overwatch-style mercenaries” helped I think cement the theme fairly well in everyone’s minds.

However, gameplay-wise I can tell there’s still a lot of room for changes to be made and iterated on. The initial voting was slow, and it definitely seemed to play better after the first full game as players started to understand the nuances of the design better. However, while I want to have a high skill cap on the game, I don’t want to have a similarly-high skill barrier to understand and feel confident in making game choices.

Suggested Changes

  • Use a larger player deck (1-12 instead of 1-10 seemed good)

I will need to shave phase tech/plant decks down to compensate for this change, probably altering it so each phase loses a single plant and tech option, and the reminder cards will be scrapped. This issue was derived from the conflict that while betting cards were worth their point values at game end, the required betting meant few, if any, would be leftover at the game end.

  • Possibly allow players to abstain from a round of betting each phase

This change might be superfluous with more player cards in deck from the change above, and I see it as being hard to definitively track without some sort of marker or card to denote it. I think I’m going to try the larger deck, and see if that helps before adding this in. If I do make this change, it will probably be to make all betting optional, but to also significantly increase the value of Plant/Tech cards so someone hoarding their cards the entire game is going to be significantly behind everyone else at game end.

  • Draw shuffled and randomized tech/plants for each phase, with players getting to vote yay/nay on each. Nay means use the next random drawn card instead

This one would speed up the setup for each phase slightly, but I worry there might be issues meeting Threat requirements. This is definitely going to need some playtesting to iron out how well it works

  • Tweaking of card values

Again, this will depend on the value remaining in player decks when they go to 12 cards instead, and based on how abstaining from betting works, if it’s allowed at all. My gut says to go with no abstaining, and fiddle with Plant/Tech values instead. Maybe the values will instead be the cube of the number of cards in each set (so 4 Tech scores 16 points, etc)

Changes for Green-Circuit Mercs will have to wait, as I want to get Holy Press as finely-tuned as I possibly can before the deadline on the 31st.

Speaking of which, moving on to Holy Press’ feedback:

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Overall Impressions

Everyone seemed to love it. The idea was easy to get across in a hurry, and everyone seemed to grasp the complexity and planning after just a single round, and the available actions after perhaps a second round. Turns went by remarkably quickly, especially considering the lack of a sand-timer to limit turns (something that will be in the Mandatory Changes section below!).

The biggest issues seemed to be when players felt “screwed” by unfortunate Dispensations removing most or all of their Route tokens, or repeated unlucky draws for new Route tokens that meant they were unable to reach desired factory tiles.

Overall, though, feedback was incredibly positive, and one player indicated they would be interested in buying the game right away were it available for sale today!

Mandatory Changes

These are the suggestions which had unanimous or near-unanimous “Yes!” responses from myself and the players when suggested. I think these changes will help really improve the game, and I’ll be making them before my second round of playtesting tomorrow.

  • Each turn, a player starts printing from where they left off at the end of their previous turn. If their printing runs off of available factory tiles or goes back into Start, they instead begin from Start the next round

I neglected to bring tokens to mark each player’s Book locations, but I will definitely need some. One player suggested maybe flat chips, so they can stack with other tokens on the same factory tile.

  • Reduce max route length to 6 tokens, not 9

9 was just insane, and everybody was basically just guessing where they were going after the 7th or so Route token. A smaller cap also effectively increases my max player # as well.

  • Dispensations/Tithes take immediate effect and interrupt your turn, rather than all triggering at turn end

This was a biggie, and helped make Dispensations feel a lot more like someone jerking the steering wheel (as intended) versus a temporary but non-harmful setback at turn end.

  • Use sand timer for each player: 1 minute
    • Possible Tithe: no sand timer limit that turn?
    • Possible Global Tithe: no sand timer limits for any player that turn?

While our group went fairly fast, I can see this as being a necessity with perfectionist player groups. The Tithe is one of many possible ideas, and I’ll mention Global Dispensations/Tithes below.

  • Change endgame goal from most Scriptures over # of turns to target # of Scriptures
    • This triggers last turn, so someone could do their turn and beat them with additional Scriptures

Another suggestion, I think since players were feeling like they were just getting the hang of the rhythm and layout of a given factory setup when the game ended. This would also be a great way to make for alterable game lengths, since our games had a typical score of 4-5 after ~45 minutes. I may make 10 Scriptures the ‘default’ full-game target, although that will be probably an hour-long game at the very least.

  • When starting, draw 3x tiles for number of players and draft them.

Rather than drafting 1 tile at a time and repeating it three times, this both seemed faster as well as being a good way to make sure the later players were less screwed by undesirable Route tokens at game start.

  • Can add route tokens between any route tokens or at either end

This one might change back, but probably not. I quite liked how a token being added in the middle can cause significant permutations to the route direction, and it made it a little less bookkeeping in terms of remembering how you were allowed to move.

  • If there’s a tie for most scriptures, whoever has the best book wins!

Just an omission regarding ties in the original rules. Plus, this way you get to argue over fictional religions!

  • If Dispensation/Tithes changes token order, use “slots” to track which tokens trigger or not

This was mostly a housekeeping change, so you couldn’t get effectively infinite routes when hitting one or more valuable tithes.

  • Reduce route token loss in Dispensation/Tithes to 1-2 instead of 3

This was since several players mentioned how losing 3 tokens basically knocked you out of 1-2 entire turns in the game.

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After having had past somewhat-unhelpful playtests with folks not overly  with a wide range of games, the feedback from this playtest was incredibly constructive and useful!

Suggested Changes

There were a lot of these, and I think I’m going to squeeze a chunk of stuff into “Expansion Fodder” for stuff that would go great as additional content to a base game.

  • Clean up the very clunky “have _____ for” Acts

Acts saying stuff like “have Justice for” just feel clunky, despite being the most ‘true’ to the given original 7 sins and virtues I wanted to try and include. That particular Act will probably just get changed to “judge.” I’m probably going to try and pare down ‘about’s as well to ‘for’s, so something like “lust about” becomes “lust for.”

  • Overlapping, identical, or antonym scriptures between players shouldn’t count for either
    • Maybe restrict this to when they show up on same turn?

This suggestion was over a worry that a lot of players tended to make really repetitive and similar Routes to other players, but I think the earlier change to starting Routes off of wherever your book left off might make this unneeded.

  • Scripture routes are hidden?

One suggestion was to keep the Route tokens face-down. there was so much to keep track of, though, that I think keeping them face-up would be a non-issue for any opponent outside of Watson.

  • Dispensations/Tithes: have the move value on back of card?
    • Possible Tithe: View a face-down card

The back-of-the-card move value allows both smaller cards, as well as making the result of the Dispensation/tithe a bit random as well. Add into that a possible tithe that allows you to peek at another face-down card, which could be very useful. However, the move values could be omitted entirely, and replaced with a 3-die roll as well, something I’m strongly considering as an alternative too.

  • Swapping route tokens option could scale with # of route tokens you have

This was due to a concern that swapping 2 tiles with a 9-length route isn’t overly helpful. Now that we have a max of 6 tokens on a route, more playtesting will be needed to see if this is still an issue or not.

  • Title change: “Scripture says…” (like Family Feud-style)

I am fairly attached to Holy Press, but I can tell it’s a darling I should see about murdering. However, Scripture Says doesn’t quite “catch” me, so I’m still brainstorming as to what it could be called instead.

  • Global Disp/Tithes that affect all players
    • Reverse order of route tokens
    • Void a certain # of scriptures made this turn
    • Everyone swaps token with player to right/left
    • Maybe make these more powerful effects unique to the specific token symbol?

This was a really key idea, a global good or bad effect rather than something that just mucks with one person. I think I’m going to fiddle with it and make sure there’s 2 regular and 1 Global Dispensations and Tithes out at all times.

  • Words that can be nouns or acts are both on the same tiletype (Love, Hate, etc)

This would introduce a third Factory tile type, but I think it’s a good one that would allow for a lot more flexibility in terms of completing full Scriptures.

  • New Action: Turn in # of route tokens (2?) to pick 1 specific route token from bag

I think I’m actually going to bump it to 3, and use it to replace the “discard 3” option. that option was more useful with really long route lengths and when you couldn’t accept new tokens. Given the change suggested directly below, that action choice suddenly becomes very unhelpful.

  • Drawing a new route token when at maximum lets you use new token to replace a current token

It means you aren’t getting “penalized” for hitting a good Tithe mid-turn and getting new Route tokens.

  • Die roll for Dispensation/Tithes location

This would be a way to remove the information on the card-backs and getting them face-down on the table. Plus it would lead to larger location variability if players are burning through one or both decks.

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I’ve found that one alternative to murdering your darlings is to stick them into expansion plans…and then murdering most of those anyways.

Expansion Fodder

  • Possible Dispensations/Tithes: Swap start factory tile with any other factory tile
    • Possible Dispensations/Tithes: swap 2 factory tiles?

These ideas could be folded into the base game, but I want to avoid loading it down with too much tile rotation or just too many Dispensations or tithes in general as well.

  • Possible Dispensations/Tithes: You go last/first

Just fun ways to mess around with turn order, but not necessary to a successful base game.

  • Ad-lib version for nouns and acts?

The idea was also brought up for an “adult” version, but I think the base game handles that just fine when you get the Scripture “Thou Shall Not Lust For Farm Animals.”

  • Target Scripture randomly made or rolled for at game start?

This was a nifty idea, but I thought it might work better as an expansion. It could even be a mini-pack of cards, like 11 cards: 1 are the rules, and the remaining 10 are Holy Pres-versions of the 10 Commandments or something similar.

  • Possible Dispensation/Tithes: rotation of tiles or moving of tiles are factory tile-type specific

I’m probably going to keep the current ones universal, but this works great for an expansion without adding quite as much insanity into the mix as the “any tile” it currently has.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I’m really excited for where Holy Press is going, and I’m optimistic that Green-Circuit Mercs is on the cusp of being something awesome.

Please let me know what you think of the changes and playtest suggestions in the comments and reblogs below. Until next time!

 

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