Sunday, June 10, 2018

H||G Automa: Solo Playtest 2

End of the game, broke the score track with 52 points


What's this?

See my previous post for background information on Solo Hunt or Gather with a Ghost Player Automa.


What I tried

Ghost Player turn

  1. Score points and end turn, or…
  2. Claim a space, one as close to a player claimed space and as close to the village as possible.
  3. Switch active character
  4. If there is a face up tile of the correct type, take it, otherwise…
    1. Draw a tile
    2. If it is the correct type, collect it
    3. Wrong type, place it face up on the board
    4. Event, discard it
  • The ghost characters stay in the village, with the inactive character on its side.
  • Collected tiles are placed face up in the village.
  • The ghost player has no carrying limits.
  • The ghost player starts with 2 points on each track.
  • The ghost player goes first.

Ghost Player Scoring

If any of the ghost player's tiles in the village are valued higher than the bottom two, the ghost scores. After scoring one tile, if another tile also meets the minimum scoring value, it is also scored.


The new ghost player rules for claiming spaces make it feel more like a 3 or more player game than even a two player game, which is great.

The ghost is still too dumb about scoring. A human player with some events the alter the market is able to keep the ghosts scores low while making those big paydays that are critical for winning the game.

I forgot to take my free goal in the Fall. That is as much a problem with that new feature of the Fall as it is Solo Play. Also haven't done the typography update for that season yet.
  • It feels more natural for the ghost to switch characters before claiming their space.
  • Player may keep their or collected tiles face up.
  • When the ghost player scores a tile place it in a face down stack next to their claim markers.

Clarification: since the ghost player claims a space automatically, they should not also claim a space when they collect a tile.

Fun Rabid Beast play!
Rabid Beast: got to pull off a fun move, intentionally not going home for help so that the next turn I could hand off my pouch to the hunter, manipulate the market to score, and then die carrying only a torch to pick up another goal in the summer.
Master Scout: with only the human player leaving tiles face down this might be too easy.

To try next

To make it harder: Ghost player only scores when the resources are in the top 2 slots. Easier: ghost player scores anything that is not in the very bottom slot.

I need to streamline the ghost player's turn. Make it flow the same every time, even if it's less logical, like claiming a space when it doesn't explore.
I'll try:
  1. switch characters, 
  2. claim a space,
  3. score or draw a tile as that character.

Ghost drawing an event should do something, even if it's just draw the next tile.

Goals to Remove for Solo Play
  • Explorers
  • Copycats
  • Pathfinders
  • Homebodies
  • Territorial

Events to Remove for Solo Play
  • Village Gossip
  • Wise Woman
  • Celestial Phenomenon
  • Potlatch Ceremony
  • Fog

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Solo Hunt or Gather with a Ghost Player Automa

Background: What is an Automa?

The Automa (Italian for automaton) approach to solo variant development is one that preserves the feel of the multiplayer game. The player runs a simple script for the robot (which I'll be calling "ghost") opponent's turn which will simulate the interaction points between players. No decisions are required, and minimal book keeping. The ghost does not follow all the same rules as a human player, but at the end the player will win or lose, this isn't one of those "trying to beat your highest score" things.

Here is some more background reading:

The Rules: First Take

Ghost Player turn:
  1. Score points and end turn, or…
  2. Switch active character
  3. Draw a tile
  4. If it is the correct type, collect it and claim a space
  5. Wrong type, place it face up on the board
At the end of the solo player's turn, discard any non-event tiles that were face down at the start of your turn. Turn any face up tiles left by the ghost face down.

  • The ghost characters stay in the village, with the inactive character on its side.
  • Collected tiles are placed face up in the village.
  • When the ghost player places on the board, whether claiming a space or the wrong type, they pick a space as close to the village as possible, and as close to one of the player's claimed spaces.
  • The ghost player has no carrying limits.

Ghost Player Scoring

If any of the ghost player's tiles in the village are valued higher than the bottom two, the ghost scores. After scoring one tile, if another tile also meets the minimum scoring value, it is also scored.

Playtest Report

First Impressions

This is going to work. I played through a full game and with some on the fly corrections ended up feeling like the real multiplayer game. It needs some adjustments to increase the interference on the board and raise the ghost player's scoring ability. The biggest concern was a bit of book keeping: it was hard to remember to claim a space for the ghost player.

Questions that came up

How to choose which character the ghost starts with?
Who goes first? (Human player this time)
If the ghost player scores a Season Goal, which track does it go towards?
Ghost draws event? (Ended turn)
How many points does the ghost start with? (None this time)


Celestial Phenomenon: count the ghost as a player when an event refers to player count.
Potlatch: remove this.


Pathfinders: too easy, and always forgetting to claim spaces for the ghost.
Wanderers: was able to score one more point than it would have by returning home with gatherer.

To try next

  1.  The ghost player automatically claims a space at the beginning of each turn it explores.
  2. The claimed space should be next to one of your space and as close to the village as possible (flipping those priorities and emphasizing interference.)
  3. The ghost may only want to score when a resource is in one of the top two spots in the market.
  4. I need to screen all the goals and events for solo play appropriateness. This could happen during playingtesting for more context.
  5. Another difficulty level I could adjust is what happens when the ghost draws an event.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Twenty-three

Playtest with Kris, Ryan, Elsa, and Dan

What we tried 


Spring: +1 for scoring, 2 points for all of everyone score.
Note: in a 4-5 player game that's rarely if ever going to happen, it would be sufficient to require everyone to collect something.

Summer: 3 points for claiming a space not touching another. End summer: play order changes. 
Players adjusted fine to the order changing, but it had little to know impact on the game and is not worth the confusion. Also, unlike other games with some kind of marketplace, it isn't the player to your right that makes that big a difference, it's the other player at the table that has collected the same type of tile as you.
To do: Re-word goal "for having a claimed space" and all the goals should specify that they happen at the end of season, not that some seasons have mid-season bonuses.

Fall: 2 points if one of your character is dead.
Note: Maybe it should be 3 points? Arranging a death has an opportunity cost.

Winter: note that I need to clarify that everyone gets one more turn.

Rules Clarifications

Village on fire: early in the game players can score 2 without penalty. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just unexpected.

Wise woman: typo "a elderly" should be "an elderly". It was funny, we were trying to figure out what Kris had seen based on his questions, but both tiles turned out to be the same.

Torch: explore this space again.

Tall tree: face down non-event tile.

Question: what happens if two seasons empty in one turn? (Super edge case with 3 torches?)


Game ended unexpectedly fast!
Less events should explore again. Question whether Wise Woman and Strange Mushrooms should ever draw 2-3 tiles.

Teaching script note: teach it with player mat upside down so people learning can read it and see where things go. Have the gatherer start out with moccasins.

Graphic Design & Usability Notes

Seasons art: If I'm going to keep them arranged circularly, they need to have arrows and maybe each section with colors. Otherwise they should read left to right and be arranged in two lines.

There should be more visual queues that characters go back to the village, maybe an empty area or more silhouettes of meeples.

The marketplace symbols could stand out more on the events. Maybe use stones as a divider like around the village and background graphics from the board?

To try next

Lower equipment costs for 4/5 players? Let's try it! Each player gets fewer turns.

Events should not let you explore again, but they will be explicit about telling you to pick up a retry crystal, which effectively pays off the opportunity cost of picking one up. As it was they were over-powered. The "explore again" feedback was based on an earlier version, were they were more random, more of them were bad, and they didn't give you the ability to manipulate the marketplace.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Twenty-two

Two player game, really fun!

What we tried

Moccasins remain at two points cost.


Spring - all players score points for claiming as many spaces next to the village as they can.
Summer - score points for claiming 3 spaces at the edge of the board.
Fall - score points for having your hunt and gather scores close to each other.

Season notes

The Spring public goal might be ignorable. It is probably better to focus on the Summer goal from the beginning.

Rules notes

A clarification that has come up a few times recently: do have to explore? The answer is: no.

Event notes

Rockslide: still need to fix the wording to clarify that other players must come help you if they can. Idea: if there is another player within 3 spaces give them this card and they must help you. That way their plans get messed up, but they get the event.

Tornado: player to left picks if two longest paths tie, otherwise you just move the longest.

To try next

Moccasins costing 3 points. Opening with gatherer might be too clearly the right choice now.

I like the way the Summer goal encourages players to explore away from the village. Between that and the events in the corners, the board is now being fully utilized in ways that it wasn't before. I think I need new public Spring goals, shared if possible, that are not at odds with the Summer goals, because otherwise players have no incentive to make a sub-optimal play so that everyone can get some extra points.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Twenty-one

Playtest at GuildHall in Burbank

What we tried

Moccasins still cost two, but now let you move 5 spaces.

Rules notes

Cybil observed that a common new player anxiety is about characters being on the same space, whether others players are your own.

Fall 3A: clarify that it counts all scores up to this point, not just this season. Everyone got a goal.

Idea: roll the dice where to place the village at the start of the game.

Goal notes

Homebodies - Need to explain what kind of tie it is referring to.

Territorial - complaint of not enough points. This might be valid

Paranoid (none of your spaces touching more than one of your other claimed spaces) - this easier with moccasins.

Haggler - clarify that you must have at least one tile that you collected but did not score.

Speaker for the Dead - pull out if Fall gives a goal.

Event notes

Tall tree - clarify don't flip events.

Tornado worked, didn't move far but swept someone up.

Wise woman: change it so player draws and looks at them, other player mixes them up and placed them within 2 spaces.

Event idea: there is a traitor in the village. Die.

Graphic design notes

Weapons should have a + to indicate that you want to roll that number or higher.

Flip event resources? Poll players where they want to put them, under goal?

Player aid should have the number of each animal and plant that there are.

If at all possible, I need to make the Season text larger, and increase the space between lines. That might mean moving the tile stacks to next to the cards. They're just really hard to read upside down now, and you need to leave them on the board.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Twenty

End of the 2 player game, pushing the limits of movement to get more events. 

A two player game with Lester and myself.

What we tried

Taped the knife and default seasons to the board where they will be built in to the art. That will save on components (at 18 cards per sheet, it's critical to not add a 19th card), and also speed up setup time for first play and demos, not having to set out season cards.

Events can be combined in any order to manipulate the market. When you return to the village you may present any number of events that you will be using, and proceed to use their resources in any order.

"A" Seasons, taped directly to the board.

  • Spring: avoid leaving face down tiles on the board. We left 1, so scored 2 points each, a helpful boost, I picked up pouch + torch + mocassins.
  • Summer: 3 points for having claimed a corner space. We went in separate directions and did not have a problem, but did start working towards this in the Spring, barely claimed any spaces near the village.
  • Fall: 2 points for having scored the same number of plants as animals. We both missed this by a turn or two. 

New Equipment: Moccasins!


Standing stones claimed claimed 3 spaces, including the corner space needed for the season goal. It's too powerful to get to explore again.

Rockslide: I need to clarify when others must help you (not immediately, on their turn).

Village on Fire: it burned down! It moved two spaces, stranding both my characters two turns away. Epic! Totally shaped the end game, I was catching up, so Lester raced out the clock, ending the game before I could get both my characters home to score.

This was a very tight game! Lester did very well, and I picked up some bad tiles near the beginning, so I was scrambling to catch up the whole game. Lester also controlled the western edge of the board, picking up all those events to manipulate the resources in the marketplace. Somehow, probably through more experience with the marketplace, and some good luck (my Gambler goal found one I could score), brought the scores to a tie at the end. I won the tie break.

Play length: 80 minutes.

To try next

Moccasins weren't super impressive. I did use them once to reach something I wouldn't have been able to, but shortly after traded them in for a spear. I want to see what happens if they let the gatherer move 5 spaces. It might be broken, but might not.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Nineteen

Two player game at the end, scores within one point

What we tried

Moved the Bow costs back up to 5, left the damage down at 1. Arrows moved back down to 0.
As with the last test, Sling costs 2, does 2 damage.

Seasons: Summer and Fall don't give out free extra goals.

One event per season instead of two (mixed into a pile of 6 plants and animals). Three events along the western edge of the board.

  • Spring: not leaving empty space next to the village.
  • Summer: two spaces at the edge.
  • Fall: collected the same number of plants as animals


The board at the end of Spring. We failed at the shared goal.
Dan, playing white, has almost accomplished the Summer goal.

Summer goal of claiming two edge spaces we both accomplished at the end of spring or early summer, it was too easy. I want to try 3 points for 3 edge spaces, and 1 point for two.

Fall - I was off by one so got the alternative prize of two points. Players should only score one for not fully accomplishing the goal (this one is good and hard!). Players should only have reveal their tiles if they are scoring points, that way players who do score points are the only ones that have to show un-scores tiles, which is very undesirable, especially it it's a plant.

Events are fun! Here's Cornucopia breaking hard for the active player.
The other player scored 2 points less, but the marketplace has to be just
like this.

I did something mean as a player. I think it backfired, but I hadn't seen it done before. I used an event to drop a resource (meat) to the bottom after selling my own tiles, because I knew he wanted to score that resource (a boar). This would likely only ever be done in a two player game.

Neither of us got even a single extra goal. We both accomplished our goals, and I won by a single point.

The players took about 90 minutes.

To try next

Paint the base of the miniatures red and green to tell them apart.

Put a compass rose on the board.

The weapons are good like this for a while. See my recent analysis.

Maybe one of the seasons should give out a goal? Two seasons giving them was too many. Only getting a goal by dying in the summer and fall does stop the strategy of trying to die at the start of the game, which is good.

One event per season was enough I think, considering that we blazed trails to the corners and edges to unlock the events on the board. That might be harder with more players, but I do plan to add new Gatherer equipment Moccasins to increase movement.

When spending events in the marketplace, the game should allow you to declare that you are using any number of them, and then mix and match the order you manipulate resources from any cards you play.