Friday, October 20, 2017

Oh Noes!

I just realized that with the ION Award coming up at the beginning of December, I need to work on my rules documents!

The games that I am going to be preparing this year (if I can get them ready) are: Grab the Loot!, Terran League of Defense Robots, and The Madness Place.

I expect that things will be pretty busy over the next few weeks.

I have also almost finished my playtesting website. A few more features and it will be ready for an alpha release.

Here's to hoping that I can get it all done.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Grab the Loot... again

More work has been done on PlaytestHub, and it is coming closer to completion. I have about 20 open issues with it in my bug tracker, so I am coming to a close. That being said, Google just announced a new database technology for firebase, so I might wastespend some time converting it into a newer technology.

We have been playing Grab the Loot at work some more, and the new changes are solidifying into a better form. I have been trying to figure out what changes would allow the game to play the same, but have the scores tighter. I am taking pictures of people's end game situation after most games now, so that I can keep tabs on what any given change will do to the scoring.

I think that I have found a scoring method that will work pretty well:
Items are worth 2 points each.
Coins are worth 1 point each.
3+n bonus points are awarded to the player with the most of any given item, where n is the number of cards in the Greed matching the item.

In the game that we played today a degenerate strategy where a player takes the first action every turn and gets 2 points a turn was discovered. It was surprisingly effective, so I am going to nerf it (it would lead to boring play). Other than that player, everyone was pretty close to each other score-wise.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Start cards and avatars

I played Grab the Loot at work with the changes that Daniel and I talked about, and then the next night at the Board Game Design Guild without them. They definitely need some balancing, and I am not sure if they make the options less interesting, but I am going to work on fixing them up. My notes from the game at work were as follows:
  • more money gain - things cheaper - top one is free most of the time. 
  • add a few more greeds for 2 players
  • Captain should give 2 coins. 
I have implemented the first and last, and I am not sure if I am going to make the second one happen. I need another playtest before I continue with the new changes.

I also made a new mat for The Madness Place taking into the feedback that I received from Daniel. Here it is in all it's glory:

I also made some start cards for TMP - cards which guarantee that you start with a level 2 device, and a time card, so that removes a little bit of the fiddlyness of the setup, and balances the possibility of one player getting a time card in the draft and the other player getting no time card in the draft.

It should also encourage players to use the swap action (which among players that are first timers is a good thing, because it is an advanced technique that only my wife and I use, but it is really powerful).

Alison and I played a game of TMP tonight with all of the new rules, and it was fairly broken. We jury-rigged it into working and finished the game, and then had a long discussion about what needed to change to make it work for real.

The problem was making storing energy free. It made all energy automatically stored (because once you ran out of useful things to do you could just end your turn by storing all your remaining energy one unit at a time.) Why have a rule that energy is lost between rounds if storing energy is free?

We decided that the rule should make it so that once one player passes, for every turn that they miss, the can start the next turn with one time energy. This will make other players have to not take too many turns after someone passes because they don't want to give tons of free time energy to the opponents.

After the changes were made mid game, we went on to having a fun game. I built a time machine, and a green/red generator (red was balance, and green was everything except for draw, balance, and stealing a device). Alison built an infinite blue machine and a blue to green converter. We liberally stole each-others devices and finished so close.

Here are some notes from the playtest:
  • Dual cost rooms should be valued higher.
    • Perhaps +1 point will do it?
    • I could imagine them even higher if you were considering the difficulty of getting two devices to make the energy, but the random chance of the universal machine providing just what you need makes me hesitant to do that. In some games they would be easy, and in others they would be hard.
  • Rooms that cost Spark/Madness are windfalls when they are late in the game.
    • Just remove them. They should cost time, and be valued the same as other time rooms.
  • Time when used should allow the machine that it is used on to be run action free one time.
    • I know that this is in direct opposition to the discussion I had with Daniel, but we played it his way, and having your entire turn be to pay an energy and remove a meeple is so boring when the other player is doing real things that we felt that this is necessary.
  • When you pass, gain 1 time every time you miss a turn.
    • This forces players to consider how long they want to keep going after someone passes - it gives them the option to choose, but makes sure that they are not wasteful.
    • This could also serve as a catch up mechanism - if someone got behind an infusion of free energy could be helpful for them.
  • When using another player's device, pay once per use.
    • give the cube
    • activate the device action free - pay cost and place special (colored) meeple.
    • special meeple does not block other player from using the device.
      • This is critical, since the I felt that Daniel really hated me stealing his device, and that is not a good play experience.
    • Thematically, special meeple is your mad scientist?
  • Remove player abilities. They are forgotten more than they are used.
  • Does more players necessitate more draft cards? 2 per player +1?
So, with these ideas, I hope that all of the changes that were envisioned with my play with Daniel will be realized an balanced. Playtesting, however will be the only thing that can ensure that.

The game ended with a 1 point spread, and I would have won if I had been given one more turn, so it feels pretty tight at this point. I think that allowing every player to use other players devices is the real reason for this. You can't get so far ahead if your opponents can access the same things that you can. The bonus energy that you get when someone uses your device is also nice.

I have also been working on my PlaytestHub website, and have made definite strides. I need to do more things, but it is moving along nicely. Perhaps by the end of next month I will have finished it.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The result of the feedback.

So, now I am ready to figure out how to incorporate the feedback of yesterday:

 Madness Place:
  • I have already removed the discard a meeple for a energy, and add an energy to the output.
  • I have already lowered the number of free actions to 2: access device, and balance.
  • I have made the person that steals a device pay an energy to the person that they stole from. This should make stealing still a deterrent to building awesome devices, but not as powerful as it used to be.
  • Storing resources is now energy cost free, however it does cost a turn.
  • I also have to figure how the scoring is off. Daniel said that he felt that it was off, but didn't elaborate. 
Either way, these should not be horrible changes to make, and I should be able to test them fairly soon.

I think that the changes to Grab the loot will be as follows:

First changes (try these immediately, keep the ones that I like)

  • Split the different finishes into setup choices: nice captain that doesn't shoot people, or mean captain that shoots one or more people
  • Revealing (1 or 2) new behavior card each round (not turn)
  • Revealing fewer behavior cards with fewer players
  • Having multiple meeples and only getting them back when they fall off
  • Placing captain meeples every turn, not just turns that have net gain
Another set of changes that I will try:
  • Rotating the first mate each round
    • clockwise? counter?
  • Making fewer treasures for fewer players and more for more.
  • Make coins cheaper, and a more generic currency. Grab them all the time, or spend them to gain abilities. Weak abilities give coins as well, and expensive ones cost coins.
  • Cards should also each have themes.
  • Possibly block row and column both with meeple
  • Split nice and mean cards to remove actions that are mean.
Some new abilities should also exist:
  • Grab a coin as a noop. (always available)
  • Pay coins to see the bottom of the deck. (always available)
  • Show the bottom card to another player (if playing cutthroat)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Feedback braindump.

I met up with Daniel Peterson from Mayday Games tonight to show him some of my games. We ended up playing two games before we finished. He liked some things about them, and provided a lot of helpful feedback. To get it down before I forget it, here is a brain dump:

First we played Grab the Loot. It didn't really play well with two players. I need to play games to balance it at that point.

Grab the Loot:

  • Coins should be used as a cost and should prevent you from taking better actions.
  • Grab a coin as a generic space.
  • The being forced to move your meeple to a different card makes for interesting decisions
    • I just had an idea to block the row as well as column.
  • The randomness of the finish is not well beloved.
  • Cards should come out faster.
    • Talked about revealing new card each turn.
    • I think perhaps each round could rectify the problem also.
  • Modifying greed was very cool
  • Exponential should stop at some point.
  • Focus on the cutthroat element of the game if that is what people like.
  • You should have cost to get effects.
  • Placing captain's meeples are cool. You should place more of them
    • perhaps once a turn
  • Talked about having multiple meeples, and you get them back when they fell off the end of the board.
  • new abilities:
    • Show bottom greed card to another player
    • look at the bottom 2, or 3 for a coin cost
  • pull out cutthroat cards when playing more euro style
  • add in cutthroat cards when playing more take that
  • Another idea I just had was reducing the treasure count for fewer players

Madness place:

  • Streamline it
  • The timing is weird
  • Turns after someone passes should be limited
  • Remove all or most free actions
  • Some abilities (storing, sacrificing meeples) should be "free", and only cost a turn.
  • This game is the "right depth" for Mayday game's current direction.
  • Think about turns as a resource.
  • Building machines are fun - the game has real potential if it could be smoother
  • Powerful machines seem to break the game - no matter who plays them
    • Idea: when you steal the ability to use a machine, pay the energy to that player.
  • The scoring felt like it did not work for him - he thinks that the math is off.
I am happy with the feedback, and I am going to sleep on all of it and write more about it tomorrow. I will certainly be making some more changes to the games in the near future. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

More work on Grab The Loot

I had the guild look at Grab the Loot again. We played with 4 players, and had a good feedback session afterward. Here are my notes:

  • Not enough treasures changed hands - I need to up that!
  • Have a player that gives an extra blocker/worker?
  • Use a cube for the extra guy
  • Player that steals more?
  • More swaps to fix the treasures changing hands problem
  • Double your lowest item value as a player ability?
  • When cards fill up, discard them
  • What happened to the card that removed one person's meeple and gives one coin to that person?
  • Are coins too powerful? Perhaps 4 is a better scorepoint?
  • Cards that pay a coin to gain 2 items, or the reverse

All in all, I am ready to make some changes. I will likely have new PNP files ready in a day or two.

I have also made a lot of progress on playtesthub. It has the ability to add games, look at games, and mark games for playtesting. You just now need to be able to actually playtest them and give feedback.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

My latest idea

Not too long ago I made a survey about what people were having a hard time with when it came to designing great games. I have collected the results, and decided to make a website that connects playtesters to game designers.

The biggest things that people complained of was not having enough time, not having enough playtesting, and preparing to submit games to publishers or put games up on kickstarter. This website should directly help solve the second problem, and if I make it correctly, it should also address the first and third problem as well.

Designers will have to spend "points" to get their game to sort to the top of the list of games to playtest, and the only way that points can be gained is by playtesting other designers games and providing feedback. Once you have points, you can apply them to your own game, or you can sell them in a marketplace to designers.

Thus people that just want to get their game playtested without helping other people out can pay for that privilege. This addresses the time issue. Additionally, people that want to just play games can even make money off of playtesting as long as they are willing to sell their points.

The third problem: preparing to submit games to publishers or kickstarter them is also helped by this website, because the feedback that players give to designers is visible to anyone that wants to see it, so the player will be able to point to the feedback that their game has gotten and use it to help convince people that it is worth looking at.

I think that it has a good chance of working out.

In other news - two of my games made the cut in the 2017 Iludo game design competition: Moar Moai!, and The Age of Vikings. I am preparing to send out prototypes this week so they can be further judged.

Additionally, I am entering "Grab the Loot!" into the Mint Tin game design contest. I just need to pare it down a bit so that it fits into the tin easily.