Friday Update: Green-Circuit Mercs playtest results and ClikB8

Sidenote: Whoooops. This was supposed to be posted last Friday, and I completely forgot about it sitting in my drafts.

So I had a chance to try Green-Circuit Mercs yesterday evening, with the new player-specific decks and the revised Threat values. I have to admit, I was incredibly nervous going into it: previous GCM playtests had left me a bit discouraged and worried that I was going down the wrong rabbit hole for how to address the previous issues with enjoyability of play.

It went fantastically.

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Game Design Contest: Prioritization and Playtesting

So, following the feedback from Alien Ambassadors and my inability to get a game test over the weekend, I’m looking at a next-available-playtest date of Thursday, with the due date for a finalized game concept/presentation on Friday.

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‘Twas not meant to be, methinks. Not for 2017, at least.

Unfortunately, that’s not really doable, especially if any issues whatsoever persist in the v2 Ambassadors iteration. I’m feeling that more and more it’s looking like I’ll be getting one playtest per week, meaning that I have to drastically rescale my games in progress to account for these likely shortcomings. I think I’m suffering slightly from a bit of frustrated expectations from players: Green-Circuit Mercs didn’t make a fantastic first impression, and the second revision did better but it still wasn’t a sought-after game. Alien Ambassadors did slightly better, but I think my players are possibly starting to be disinterested in trying new games.

More under the cut, along with the new schedule:


I feel like the best solution to this issue is to basically “complete” the games I have in-motion at the moment. For example, Holy Press still needs art and blind playtesting to get the rulebook polished up (and in that order, since nice art tends to be a good draw for cusious players), but I feel that the core gameplay is “done”. That said, here’s the new schedule, pared down to account for only one playtest iteration per month:

  • 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: Not submitted, at playtesting step
  • Button Shy Wallet Game Contest: April 23rd
    • Boatbuilders: Not using for contest due to component revision, at playtesting step.
    • The Order of Artemis: Not submitted, at prototype step. This one I’m shelving indefinitely, as I feel there was way too much stuff that needed a lot more polish before it would even have a strong core gameplay loop.
    • Mamluki: Not submitted, at playtesting step. Also shelved, but mainly until after Green-Circuit Mercs is released because there will be heavy art and logo crossover, and I want the shared universe to feel well-represented between the two games rather than try to meld them after the fact
  • Thunderglyph Survival game contest: April 30th
    • Hunter’s Quarry: Design step. This one is veeery tentative, and will probably unfortunately get shelved too. I love Thunderglyph’s art and such and I think the game has a ton of promise, but I want to make sure I revive my playtest base instead of screwing that up and crippling myself for later testing stages.
  • 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.

Current focus is on testing Green-Circuit Mercs and Alien Ambassadors, and getting those out of the way as well as getting Holy Press developed into a final releasable game.

This is really rough, as I feel like a screwup for eyes-bigger-than-stomach, as well as potentially damaging my only playtest source at the moment. I’m also going to be pushing to see about other playtest options as well, but that will require some checking around to make sure it fits comfortably with home, work, and Ironwatch needs as well.

Until next time; I think I’ll be working on cranking out the design outline for ClikB8 this Friday. Please let me hear your thoughts in the comments and reblogs below. Cheers!

Friday Update: Gameplay Tweaks

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So, got a game playtest in for Alien Ambassadors. Overall it went decently, but it definitely needs some changes before it will be ready for submission.

What Went Well:

Players really liked the weird actions, and seemed to enjoy the Interference changes as well. I was worried the latter might be too confusing or hard to track, but it sounds like they didn’t mind and liked how it changed it up from just being a basic 20-questions format. I am going to tweak a few of them (the ones that make an answer compounded with another action card), but overall this section went over swimmingly.

What Needs Improving:

The question categories are way, way too broad. While I might be rubbish at 20-Questions, I was only able to guess correctly for 2 of 15 cards. I had originally debated having a list of options players picked from, but had rejected it out of hand due to the sheer # of cards that would need to be added to make the list robust enough to provide some degree of challenge.

One option could be to make the choices as numbered tokens drawn from a bag, corresponding to a big chart of Places, Animals, and Things. While this would solve the issue, it doesn’t address a second concern I noted as I was playing:

There was basically no player interaction.

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Like this, but for board games and fun

Party games survive or die by their group fun-ness, and right now Alien Ambassadors has no player-player interaction other than the rotating interaction of the Translator and the Aliens. I figure I can kill two dangerous birds with one stone here, and roll in the goal of what players are trying to have the Translator guess. I can even call back to the original Alien Ambassadors constraint and have the monocolor cards.

The one drawback is I have to kill the Translator.

Honestly, the alien communication was the most-fun part, and as a Translator I felt more frustrated and useless than engaged and having fun. What we’ll do instead is have a common list of items, depicted by a picture most likely; each has a corresponding card, and at the start of a round, all players get a minute to ask questions using charades to the player to their left, and by the end of the minute they must place their guess by putting a marker on the icon on the board; if right, both they and the other player get a point, and otherwise they both get nothing.

Then the next round they draw new cards to replace the old ones, and do it again with the player to their right. This repeats swapping left/right until the game ends. In addition, at the end of each round, the player with the highest current score swaps seats with the player directly across from them (their choice if there are 2 options), so you don’t get permanently stale combinations of players. Play continues until someone hits a target point goal, say 15 or something.

Closing Thoughts

Now we have a direct player investment in both good charades/guessing, as well as good clues, a general semi-cooperative feeling, and best of all a constant ability to both use deduction as well as the alien language.

So, what do you think of the changes to Alien Ambassadors? Please let me hear if you like this better, worse, or something in-between in the comments and reblogs. Next week I’ll be doing a little design for a game I’ve got in mind called ClikB8, based on the idea of social media news. Until then, thanks for reading; cheers!

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Game Design Contest: Preparing The Order of Artemis for playtesting

Following up from where I left off Friday; firstoff, a logo!

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You can’t go wrong with a logo. Well, theoretically you could, but it’s highly unlikely.

So this one was interesting to work with; I’m slightly afraid it may need a lot of revisions (similar to Green-Circuit Mercs) in order to get it properly balanced. Ideally it should be pretty damn straightforward, but of course that could easily go to hell and need lots of fiddling or some mechanic could be completely untenable when played by players outside of my own brain: that’s what playtesting is for, after all!

Oh, and the format turned out to be open enough that I was able to make the game an instance or iteration, so there could be other Order of Artemis games in the future that could be compatible or something. That very much depends on player feedback to the game, and if it’s enthusiastic or mediocre. In this case, I perused a random generator until I got some ideas I liked, and decided on “The Lure from Beyond.”

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You can’t go wrong with Lovecraftian monsters and intrigue. Well, theoretically you could but its highly unlikely.

Continuing the design under the break!

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Friday Update: Wallet Game restart and The Order of Artemis

So I had a chance to play Camel Up last night, and enjoyed it a lot! Coup was also played, during which I tried the infinite Ambassador strategy after making a crucial and damaging error early-on and lost terribly while having a grand time.

However, as I attempted to demonstrate the core ship-building aspect of Boatbuilders, a crucial problem emerged: The table was a laquered smooth wood, and there was a gentle but steady AC vent overhead that was providing an almost-unnoticed breeze.

It was impossible to even get the base set up, let alone anything else.

This is a problem; while I knew breezes and smooth surfaces would be an issue, I hadn’t realized just how bad they could be compared to my relatively-controlled test environment at home. I think the game can be rescued by including 2-4 card clips in the set, and let players adjust how many they used depending on desired difficulty, but the problem is that will immediately bring us outside the scope for the limitations of the cards-only design Button Shy had asked for. So, while I am definitely wanting to hold onto Boatbuilders as a fun, light “pouch”* game, we’ll need to do a redesign asap for a new cards-only wallet game.

*In the vein of games such as Love Letter, Lost Legacy, and Cypher. Mostly just 18ish cards, and maybe a half-dozen small unobtrusive components.

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The designing will begin under the cut!

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Brief Update for Green-Circuit Mercs

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Just finished tweaking the cardset, and not a ton to elaborate on beyond what was touched on last week. Basically the changes made were:

  • Fixed imbalances with player # vs Threat, so now it should be a reasonably achievable goal rather than a hopeless task
  • Swung the points for Techs and Plants upwards, so you’re only getting an average net loss on the first round of cards. The abilities also got a very, very healthy injection of power and utility, so it should now feel like using an ability is a powerful thing, instead of an annoying and nigh-worthless bonus
  • Each of the 4 Bidding decks is now built around a heroic theme: Trickster, Highguard, Biosmith, and Cyborg. They focus on, respectively, losing bids, winning bids, Plant cards, and Tech cards. Hopefully this should add more layers of nuanced choice, and add some interesting strategies for play in addition to kicking the door open for more hero Bidding decks in the future.

The new version of the cardset is here, and the updated rules are here.

Going to be trying it out tomorrow, along with the prototype for Boatbuilders; I’ve got a very good feeling Boatbuilders will be a fairly good hit with not a ton of changes needed, but I definitely want to polish the dickens out of it before marking it off as finished.

 

Tangent: Outsider Game Balancing

Back to our regular schedule of content, after many mini-updates! Today, I wanted to take a bit to talk about outsider game balancing. Outsider here means someone who isn’t the game developer doing the balancing, and I wanted to go over two possible approaches to this balancing aspect.

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Not pictured: the third axis that lets you classify a game according to the GNS Theory

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