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.
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.
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!