Saturday, May 31, 2014

Terminal Busyness

We have been playing more games of Harbour recently. I have been trying to get people to play it every day at lunch. One time they all revolted and asked to play Witch Hunt instead. This is funny because I was actively campaigning for Harbour, but they wanted to play my game instead. I cannot say that I am sad that that happened (having my game more popular than a game that a publisher is about to publish is a good step).

After playing more games (of Harbour) I am still not sure what the optimal strategy is. I was able to pull off some large point margin games by picking up only large buildings, but I have not won every game.

I just got a bunch of kickstarter updates (templar intrigue, burgoo, coin age, robots on the line) recently. I look forward to getting all of the games that I supported last year. Hopefully they all come in before the end of this year.

I have been too busy with other things to make much progress in any of my games recently, although I have been getting a group of game designers together to help playtest and to allow me to playtest their games. Here is the forum thread that I started for that purpose.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

More Harbour

After a few more days of playing, I have more thoughts about Harbour

For one thing I have played my first four player game.

Four player games:
Playing with four players makes the game a little more difficult to plan for, but not that much.

The pacing of the game is slightly slower in a 4 player game, but still not boring. Sadly enough you cannot fully plan for your turn during other player's turns since their turns have a high chance of changing your plans.

Some cards (tax office, and abbey) seem to have different power levels based on the number of players. The weakest point for the tax office card is at 3 players (where you get only two goods, but get to pick neither of them) The abbey card seems to be best in a 2 player game.

As I haven't played a statistically significant number of games I am in no position of authority to make the above statement, but that is the way that it feels to me.

Market Alteration:
If you use an action to change the market it is less likely with four players that the market will get back to you in an unaltered state. This means that you really have to focus more on getting lots of different types of goods than on controlling the market.

In a two player game with my wife she commented how the game is very different without a market changing card (which is true). I think that not having any cards to change the market in a two player game tends to make the game less fun, however having cards that change the market in a four player game seems less useful than it does in a two player game.

The base cards only have one market alteration card, so it is unlikely that you will get one unless the stretch goals get unlocked.

Snowballing:
It seems like an especially good idea in this game to pursue one strategy to the exclusion of all others. Getting all of the coin cards makes your buildings cost so much less that you can buy a building every two or three turns. Getting all of the warehouses or anchors makes you able to get so much more out of each action than everyone else that you need fewer actions to prepare for a buy (warehouses are also good in helping your recuperation time.)

This is not, however, true when looking at getting multiple hats. I almost wish that you could get a bonus point at the end of the game for each additional hat that you have (because sometimes you have a hat and want to buy another hat building just to prevent other players from getting or using it).

Concerning Hats:
Players that start with a hat have a big advantage in the early game. They can visit other players action cards and force the other players to play on their home action at times. By the middle of the game that advantage wears off (and is replaced by the advantage of the guy that starts with an anchor, coin, or warehouse).

Breaking the game:
I have been trying to break the game (as all playtesters should), and think that I have a pretty strong strategy. It would take more play to determine if the game is actually broken by it or not, but it seems as if the player that buys the more expensive buildings tends to win.

This might seem like a stupid insight, but if you ever have a chance to buy a decent building right now or a great building next turn you might be best to hold out for the great one.

A player that ends the game with four seven or less cost buildings has a maximum possible score of 27 points. The lowest score possible with three ten cost buildings is 26 points. The average score of three ten cost buildings is 29 points. The best possible score with three ten cost buildings is 31 points. You probably get the picture, but the game seems to benefit the player who holds out for a big buy a few turns later.

Relative card value:
The best card in the game from a purely cost to point ratio is the fish market. It also has a decent ability and a pretty good symbols. The other good cards from a cost to point value are:

ratio card
1.18 Fish Market
1.1 Traders guild
1.09 Abbey

Pub and ranch have the lowest point to cost ratio at .71 (which probably makes them bad cards to buy). Pub has a good ability, and ranch might have a good ability (depending on how many anchors you have).

Another conclusion:
The game is still a fun game after more plays. I will continue to post more updates as I think of more things.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A review of Harbour (Currently a Pre-Kickstarter by Tasty Minstrel Games)

I received a playtesters copy of Harbour on Friday night. My wife and I already had a date planned, but I was able to convince her to try it out after we were done having sushi.

Components:
The rule book was not entirely complete, but was pretty good (I will sum up our questions later in the post). Some of the components did not look exactly as they did in the rule book (an accompanying letter explained most of the discrepancies, but the Market Board was set up slightly different than the rule book indicated that it would be).

Alison wants it noted that she found the rule-book by itself to be confusing. It explains everything on the cards, but because of the lack of context it is a bit overwhelming. We did not actually realize that we each started with a symbol (a coin for me and a top hat for Alison) until after the first game was over.

Andrea's favorite card was the Ranch
I expect the rulebook the be cleaned up a lot before the final release of the game (Eminent Domain's rulebook was pretty good), but right now it still needs some work.

The components were obviously not the final version, but I was pleased to find that they were still very high quality. The cards were perfect for shuffling. They seemed well coated, and made of decent card stock.

The artwork was excellent. The images were very thematic and also very funny. The iconography was clear and easy to understand. I liked that any complex ideas were explained in both icons as well as text. Some of the artwork was not yet entirely complete, but as long as they have the same artist complete it I have no worries about the game's visual appearance.

My personal favorite card in terms of artwork was the Bait Shop. Alison liked the Lumber Yard best, but we both also liked the Fish Market and the Architectural Society.

Game Play:
In terms of game play, the game seems (after only two plays) to be fairly well balanced. I will post another review after I have played it with more players and more times. There were cards that were more powerful than others, but they cost more to buy, so the player that was able to secure them for personal use was able to benefit only after having payed a reasonable cost.

The game setup is simple and takes almost no time. Some games take so long to set up that it makes you want to play them less, and this is not one of those.

Setting up involves:
Taking a character mat, a pawn, and a set of tokens, shuffling a deck and dealing out five cards to a communal pile, and placing four tokens on another mat.

Each turn involves just one action: moving your pawn to a open card and resolving its effects.

Common effects include modifying your amount of resources (more on that later), buying buildings, affecting the demand for the different resources in the market, and finally taking resources from other players (it seems that if you do this you always target every opponent and they decide what resource you get, so the attacks don't seem too personal).

During the game you will keep track of four types of resources: Stone, Lumber, Fish, and Meat. They all have a value of $1 each (always), but at different times there will be a different demands for each of them, so you end up only able to sell a certain amount of your goods. The demand can be as low as 2 and as high as 5. This means that unless you have the right amount of the right goods you are not able to buy the buildings that you want to.

Buying Buildings:
Here is how the game ended on the second game
The goal of the game is to buy the most valuable buildings, and the game ends when any player has bought four buildings. The max number of buildings that could theoretically be bought by any player are 7 (by using a library in conjunction with a clocktower) thought if this is possible in actuality I am not entirely sure.

We did end a game with me having 5 buildings, so the theory behind the multiple buy in the last turn is sound.

Both games that were played were fairly close.

It seems like the game provides a satisfying mix of strategy and randomness. I personally prefer games that are heavy on strategy and light on randomness, and Alison likes games that are more evenly mixed. Both of us enjoyed the game. The elements of randomness in this game only include which buildings are dealt out, and at what point in time in the game they are dealt out.

There is a bit of a random feel to the market, but it follows perfectly understandable rules, and it is possible to always know what state it will be in after any interaction given that you know what the player is going to be doing during that interaction.

Now, our questions about the rules:
Privateer Ship (& Bank): Can you move a marker that is already at the highest value (or lowest) (effectively moving nothing) just to get the other effect of the card?

Cartographers: Can you draw 5 cards and then buy a card that was already in play?

Clock Tower: if you move to a building owned by another player do you pay them twice?

Final Thoughts:
All in all it was a fun game, and I intend to play it many more times. I will bring my playtester's copy to work on Tuesday (Monday is Memorial Day) and play it with four players and see what my coworkers have to say.

Post Review:
Other gaming this week included some games of Love Letter, and a few games of Witch Hunt. The rules have been updated with the changes that we have made.

Mainly the recent changes are clarifications, however we have been vacillating between having -2 and +2 testimony cards.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Minipost

I played another game of Witch Hunt (this time with my monthly gaming group). They liked the idea of the game, but said that it needed more work. I already knew that it was a good idea that needed a lot of balancing, so I was pretty happy with the feedback.

We also played Dancing Robots (which I haven't played for a long time). They loved the judges and liked the difficulty that the game presented in balancing the various stats of the robots. The game went well, but I almost want to speed up the dance off. I need to figure out how to do that.

I also talked with Dave, and hopefully he will get me the last part card artwork soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

More Witches!

We have been hunting witches a lot recently. We have changed the game a fair amount, and are considering changing it more. The most up to date rules can be found here.

Some changes that have been made:

Balancing the Governor and Magistrate to make them give a standing bonus (+3) or penalty (-3) instead of making them kill players outright.
Changing the pastor to give other players point penalties for not helping him.
Changing the way that the roles gain points (almost all of them)
Removing 'Witches' from the game entirely. There are now 'hags', 'trollops', and 'crones', all of which still have effects that activate upon people looking at them.
Split up the Accomplices and the Witch Haters into more people (they still share common point gaining mechanisms, but they are quite different now.)

We have experimented with different values of claim cards (+2, +1, 0, -1, -2), and (+1, +1, +0, -1, -1). It remains to be seen which set will win out.

The action cards are still mostly the same as they were originally.

We are trying to determine what would be the best way to simplify the point gaining at the end of the game (It is often a chaotic mess).

Tomorrow I am going to a game night for some people in our ward (read neighborhood if you don't understand the aforementioned word). Perhaps we will play Dancing Robots, Perhaps we will play Witch Hunt. I am not entirely sure yet which one will win out.

In non-board gaming news I set up a RoboCode tournament at work, which went well. Hopefully next time we will have a larger turnout (only 8 contestants), and will have better robots (most couldn't beat walls at all)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Burn her anyway!

We played two games of the witch game today. It went fairly well for a first play ever. There were some complexities that need to be excised and some power levels that need to be adjusted, but all in all it was a fun game.

The first game went as follows:
Mike: Gossip Pastor who loved Dwayne
Dwayne: Constable Witch Hater who loved Beret
Bob: Defense Attorney Martyr who hated Mike
Beret: Magistrate Witch
TJ: Clerk Recluse who loved someone (perhaps Mike?)

The game started off well with me trying to influence everyone into sharing identities with me under the guise of trying to find out the witches. I allied with bob to try to get him killed and told everyone that he was a witch, but Beret tried to defend him as an ally witch.

Dwayne thought I was on his side since I was a Puritan, but I lied to him about Bob to try to convince Bob to talk people into sharing cards with me.

TJ was discovered by some action cards, and I shared with Beret and got killed. The game ended with a huge slaughter.

I was killed by the witch, Dwayne was killed by the magistrate (who was also the witch), TJ survived, Beret was killed by Dwayne and my votes and Bob survived (to his dismay).

Game two was a 4 player game with the following setup:
Mike: Shy Prosecutor who hated Bob
Bob: Witch Hater Governor who loved Mike
Beret: Councelor Witch Hater who I don't remember the attitude of
Dwayne: Witch Hater Peeping Tom who loved Mike

We figured out that everyone was good, but it took a while. I lost horribly by the end of the game. We had to call it off a little early since we had a 1:00 meeting.

Take homes:

Hate and love cards were well received. People liked  trying to fulfill them, and found them moderately humorous.

We played with claim tokens instead of claim cards. They were not so well received - apparently the text was too small, and the minus 2 and plus 2 tokens seemed a bit powerful. We are going to try with having only +1 and -1 tokens in the future.

The action cards seemed fairly balanced. None stood out as too good. The Reevaluate card was well enjoyed.

The Magistrate's ability seemed to be very powerful. People didn't like the diabolus ex machina feel to the card. The Mayor's pardoning ability didn't receive nearly as much fire as the Magistrate's condemnation.

The Peeping Tom was popular, but the Constable seemed a little lackluster.

In certain games Shy, Witch Hater, and Recluse can be hard to fulfill. The Martyr role is really funny to play with (as random people who see your role can decide to lie for you and make an alliance without your consent.)

All in all it was a good $5 for me and my whole family (The game was not actually $5, it was free (Also I didn't play with my family as much as my co-workers)).

I have not yet changed the rules to fix the problems that we found, but they are posted online already. You can find them here.

Friday, May 2, 2014

First witch still unhunted

We played some games of Creative Accounting (which is currently toying with being called 'Space Scoundrels') at lunch on Wednesday. The games went well. Everyone seemed to enjoy them, and we got to test four players for the first time. We also played a five player game. We played about five games total.

We have some preliminary cards for the witch hunt game, and I have written some rules, but I am not yet done with the first draft of the rules.

When I finish it I will post here.

We played most of a game of cosmic encounter at lunch today, but I had a meeting so we had to quit before the game ended.