Got a chance to do some playtesting of Green-Circuit Mercs yesterday, and while the feedback was very valuable, it was clear there’s a lot of changes and a lot of balance needed before the game is ready for publication.
As the deadline for this is in less than a week, unfortunately I don’t think its possible to make these changes and playtest the revisions in a timely fashion to get it done and ready to go; that’s the downside to having only once/twice-a-week opportunities for game playtesting, something I’ll touch on in the closing thoughts. Still, several players expressed interest in playing/buying a final version of the game, and I’d rather revise it until it’s a solid hit concept rather than generate a bunch of assets and rush the publication of a game I know isn’t mechanically sound just to hit the contest deadline.
Revising our schedule to account for this, we get:
Cardboard Edison Award: January 31st
- Holy Press: Submitted, at Prototype step
Trick Taker Challenge: March 6th
- Green-Circuit Mercs: Not submitted, at playtesting step
- 2017 Northwest Luci Award: April 7th
- Alien Ambassadors
- Button Shy Wallet Game Contest: April 23rd
- Boatbuilders: Playtesting step
- Mamuki: Playtesting step
- Thunderglyph Survival game contest: April 30th
- Hunter’s Quarry: Design step
- Big Box Challenge: June 5th
- No design yet
- Gamelords Dungeon Crawler Challenge: August 15th
- No design yet, although I have a strong inclination to use a previously-shelved rough outline idea for a Legacy-style dungeon delve game.
The detailed breakdown of the feedback and my thoughts/changes on them is below the cut!
The player opinion on this seemed to swing strongly between extreme like, and extreme dislike. The underlying theme of semi-cooperative gameplay and the bluffing-bidding part of the trick taking was a hit as well. The problem right now for the most part lies in the Plant/Tech Cards and the endgame scoring.
- Balance Abilities
From very early on, it was apparent that the differing power levels in the Plant and Tech cards was too extreme to be enjoyable in many cases. I’m going to need to go in and make sure there’s no “suck” cards that feel like a tax to try and bid on.
- Balance Threats
I screwed this up, badly. I was shooting for a goal of around 10 of the final 18 bid-on Plant/Tech cards to be allocated depending on the threat type. The problem is that target goal of 10 cards was missed by a country mile for 3 and especially 4 players. I’m going to rework these, setting a hard cap at 8-12 cards of the total needing to be allocated (depending on the exact Threat type) regardless of player #. More players will split the max # a single player needs to have, not increase the # that need to be allocated correctly.
- Under table card selection or simultaneous reveal for ties
This one was a brief point raised regarding tiebreaking, and I think the simultaneous reveal worked just fine when we tried it out.
- Recycle vs discard piles
This is a nomenclature thing, for cards that are lost for the rest of the game due to being used in successfully Bidding, versus those temporarily out of use due to being used unsuccessfully in Bidding. I’ll be tweaking the rules and card text for this.
- No hand means you have a bid of 0 (for +bid cards)
An interesting idea of using ‘+X to Bid’ cards even if you have no cards left in your Bidding hand for this round. I thought it seemed reasonable, so for now I’m going to say definitely and include this in the rules for Abilities.
- Can use beneficial abilities on others, such as bid bonuses
Again, an interesting idea, and something I think that helps a bunch with the negotiation part of the turn so I’m more than happy to support it. Speaking of which, I’m going to make an explicit section in the rules for players to promise, negotiate, and whatever else before bidding begins. It will offer a nice chance for diplomacy and backstabbing/treachery.
- Adjust value of tech/plant cards for final scoring
One issue raised was that the point-tradeoff for purchasing plants/tech felt like a waste of cards, that winning a bid was an endgame net penalty rather than a boon. The average value of a bid card is 6.5, so I’m going to lowball that slightly and make it 5pts for Phase 1, 10 for Phase 2, and 15 for Phase 3. That way you’re taking a hit early on in exchange for better positioning and power, and Phase 2+ cards are going to almost always be a net bonus in points spent vs acquired.
- Increase power of cards, or allow cards to be used once per phase (flip face-up at start of phase)
This was in line with the earlier comment that abilities for cards need to be balanced, so they feel appropriately powerful for their cost. I think this issue will be mostly resolved with bumping the points values and tweaking the cards to be more interactive (more on that below), but for now this is something to mainly keep an eye on.
One idea it did give me is for there to be a tech or plant that can be used each phase instead of only once, so I’ll probably be tossing that guy in there somewhere.
- More interactive abilities
A lot of the cards are flat bid bonuses. This was a change from the conditional instawins I had before, but I overcorrected and will need to go in and make it a bit more interesting to use abilities rather than have them just be flat bonuses.
- Change “must have X cards” abilities to “get X, and an additional Y per # of cards”
Following the above comment, the “Must have X cards to do Y” format is honestly terrible, and means a weak end-game completely neuters a player strategy rather than just makes it weaker. I’m going to change these so they get better if you have more of them, but can be still be used even if you don’t.
- Bid decks with conditional bonuses
- Make each bid deck a “hero” deck,with some sort of abilities
- Name suggestion: “Trickster”
- Make each bid deck a “hero” deck,with some sort of abilities
This was a huge idea. The Overwatch-style theme wasn’t coming through very clearly through the mechanics, so this suggestion was bundled together so low-value bid cards don’t always feel like you’re shooting yourself in the foot. The rough thought was that each Hero’s Bid deck has a flavor: focus on plants, focus on techs, focus on winning bids, and focus on losing bids or subterfuge. Obviously the name Trickster is for the latter, and I’ll be working on other names as well for the remaining 3 decks.
- Should allow should allow recycle pile to be viewed
- standard deck/play layout diagram
This was mostly a QoL change, something to make it clearer what was where, and to make it easier to see the used and discarded bid cards from other players so as to guess their hands and bids more readily.Definitely going to add this into next rules iteration.
- Hidden information of some sort regarding tech/plants?
One player said they liked the idea of making some sort of hidden-information aspect around the plant/tech cards you have available. I’m not sure how that would work best in the base game, but it might be a nifty idea for an expansion plant/tech/hero deck
- Remove extra card bidding in later rounds
I’m going to implement this at first, since the special rule was never used in our game and didn’t appear to harmfully impact the game. However, players did express dissatisfaction with useless low-bid-value cards, so I think I’m going to focus player Abilities on the lower end of the bid card value spectrum (values 1-6, mostly)
While its disappointing that I’ll be missing the contest deadline, I’m really excited by this one, both for the small and cheap final size (so easy to send off for gifts and testing and reviews) but more importantly for the fact it’s starting to “feel” right. I got lucky and Holy Press “felt” right very, very quickly in playtesting, but Green-Circuit Mercs was a good stress test for the underlying mechanics and how well each part of them interacted with the overall whole.
So, what did you think of How would you feel would be the best way to respond to the feedback from playtesters? Please let me know in the comments and reblogs below. Cheers!