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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An Icon for Meat

Finally, thanks to game-icons.net, I have an icon to represent meat in my game. Better yet, I put in a request on the forums and they're going to do one for hide too!

Wild Boar Exploration Disk (rendered)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Notes from Ninety-fifth playtest

What we tried


  • Replaced two negative black disks with ones that manipulate the market, improved Potlatch Ceremony (see previous post).
  • Reduced points of most goals by 1-2.

Notes

The negative black disks were too discouraging, so I'm shifting them towards supply/demand stalemate breakers.

Originally goals were 3-4 points. You had to, and some people would, die a lot to win the game with goals. The problem was, if the goals couldn't swing the winner then you know who has won the game before the end. So I raised them to to 6-8 points, with a few higher. Now we've got a 4 goal limit, which I think I'll keep even if the goal points go down to prevent the suicide strategy.

Rolled a 7 with my Atlatl against a Mammoth

Conclusion

The black disks can be exciting, but aren't so good they imbalance the game. It's challenging to flip one over and use it to your advantage if the market changes.

The Woolly Mammoth can be a game changer. At 3 meat and 2 hide, I almost caught Dan off guard and would have scored 20 points if I'd made both my rolls.

The very end of the game was disappointing because it outlined a goal that is still broken: Specialist. At 4 points per set of three and 1 per pair I accidentally scored 10 points to win by 1. This goal is left over from the shorter game is broken now in two player. I think it's time to eliminate this goal. It's not that different from the ones where you get points for collecting the most disks. It would reward a focus on collecting certain animals, but I've never seen anyone adjust their strategy to achieve it.

What's next?

I'd like to come up with some more black disks that are positive events or cool things that you can find to encourage people to flip them a little more.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Black Disks Formerly Known As Tar Pits

Black Disks

I'm exploring the possibility of replacing the static tar pit disks, which acted as minor obstacles, with more thematic event/animal/item disks that can be turned over as a free action. I've played three games with them so far, have gotten better at deciding where they should be placed at the start of the game, and like the changes they are causing. Anybody who has played the game enough times to realize that the supply/demand track is the heart of the game knows that sometimes it will lock up as people avoid scoring until the optimal moment. These disks give me an opportunity to mix that up a bit.


I haven't decided what to call these yet. Right now they do a variety of things. I can't call them events without renaming the exploration disks (although that not out of the question) to avoid alliteration. So I'm waiting to see which ones stick, and would welcome suggestions. On to the rules.

Appendix C: Black Disks

Permanents remain on the space, it cannot be explored.

Animals are treated the same as exploration disks, but may have supplemental rules.

Events are typically one time occurrences which are discarded after use unless otherwise specified. If the disk is discarded the space may be explored.

When an event moves a resource to the top of the supply & demand track, other resources move down to take its place, the same as during scoring, but in reverse.


1. Tall Tree

Permanent. Look at one face-down exploration tile. Roll 3 dice, less than 7 and the active character dies. Limited to one use per turn.

2. Bird

Animal. 1 life, 1 meat, 0 hide. When scored gain one Arrows equipment card.

3. Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Event. Omen of a long winter. Move the nuts to the top of the supply and demand track. Then move hide to the top.

4. Lucky Clover

Event. Use this disk to re-roll one die. Keep this disk with your goal until you use it. After use, pass this disk to the player to your left.

5. Famine

Event. Move the meat to the top of the supply and demand track.

6. Sickness

Event. Move hide to the top of the supply and demand track. Then move herbs to the top.

7. Drought

Event. Move the herbs to the top of the supply and demand track. Then move berries to the top.

8. Potlatch Ceremony

The player or players with the lowest trade value worth of equipment may take 3 points of equipment and distribute it among their living characters.

9. Woolly Mammoth

Animal. Deadly. 6 life, 3 meat, 2 hide. If collected must be scored before either of the player’s characters may explore again.

10. Fall Harvest

Nuts and berries are plentiful. Nuts move to the bottom of the supply and demand track, followed by berries.

11. Spring Bloom

Plants are growing fast and easy to find, lowering demand. Herbs move to the bottom of the supply and demand track.

12. Poison Berries

Event. Move the berries to the bottom of the supply and demand track. If the active player’s gatherer has any berries they are scored immediately.

13. Lost

Event. The player to the left of the current player moves the active character two legal spaces, avoiding other black disks and ignoring claimed space movement rules. The spaces do not count towards the 4 space limit. This disk is discarded and the turn continues like normal.

Notes from Ninety-second, Ninety-third, and Ninety-fourth playtests

End of a 3 player game

Playtest Ninety-two

What we tried

  • New! What were once simply tar pits are now (yet to be named) events/animals/items that you can encounter as a free action
  • limit 4 goals
  • hunger cube gained when fail to find something to hunt or gather, but didn't die

Notes

The black disks were placed close to the village and most got flipped over early in the game to little effect. The four goal limit seems reasonable. The rules are still not settled about the hunger cube, some confusion about when you get one.

Conclusion

The black disks need to be moved further from the village if they are going to work as intended, to break stalemates by disrupting the market mid-game. It's good that I had a playtester who simply ran around flipping them over to show that this was a problem. Another player, looking at what they did, decided to avoid them entirely.

The points on the goals are too high, they are determining the winner, making it so that you have to seek out death on order to get at least 3 or 4 of them, because if you wait to die incidentally you won't have time to accomplish your goals.

I think the hunger cube is a definite improvement, but need to simplify it. I'll also make a spot where it goes on the player aids (A.K.A. the back of the goal cards).

played outdoors on the patio

Playtest Ninety-three

What we tried

  • black disks at least 3 spaces from the village

Notes

A two player game this time, with a player who missed the first play with the new event/animal black disks.

Conclusion

Goals certainly won the day again, those will need adjustment. I screwed up and missed one when we cut our game short, but still swung the win having four goals compared to one.

The black disks worked perfectly. They kept the supply/demand track moving, and provided fun surprises. I killed a woolly mammoth!

With both goals and black disks now requiring players to add up the trade value of their equipment, I need to define that term in the rules, and it would help if the back side of a half-used spear/arrows card had its value on it.

black disks nearly opposite to the way tar pits were 

Playtest Ninety-four

What we tried

  • black disks at least 4 spaces from a central village.
  • your hunger cube is claimed any time you don't claim a space or die

Notes

Wow, we had some really bad dice rolling this game. One thing this game really highlights sometimes is people's stubbornness, attempting the same thing over and over again piling up character deaths, going beyond maxing out their goals.

The black disks continue to play a fun role in the mid to late game.

The end of this game had the biggest rules hiccup it's run into in a while. A detail of one of the goals is in the rule book, but not on the card (some goals don't require that you score the animal/plant, but you can't have lost it by dying - a game can't rely on people's memory of events). This misunderstanding led to a change in strategy and ended in a tie game that otherwise may not have been, there's no way to know. 

Conclusion

Negative black disks are lame. I'm going to replace them with more supply/demand track disruption, and a better Potlatch Ceremony.

There doesn't seem to be any harm in collecting a hunger cube when you hunt and miss. I've always said the worst thing that can happen in this game is when you go hunting, miss, but don't die.

Next step is definitely to revisit the points that goals award, and expand the text on the cards.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Notes from Ninety-first playtest

What we tried


  • limit 4 goals
  • hunger cube cannot be used if miss when hunting

Notes

The hoarder goal is unclear, I need to move the full length wording from the rules to the card, making it clear that you need at least 11 points (card says more than 10, which is easy to misread as 10), and clarifying whether half-used arrows/spears count (they do, but I'm not sure if they should).

We're looking forward to replacing the tar pits with obstacles/events to help mix up the market when it stagnates due to players refusing to turn in anything except at the highest value.


Conclusion

Four goals seems like it might be the right number. Dan played more suicidally than I did and got 4 early, I did some fancy equipment juggling and died a couple times, but was able to achieve all 3.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Notes from Eighty-ninth and Ninetieth Playtests

Lester, Ryan, and Kris
at Game Häus Cafe

What we tried

  • Players only explore once per turn.
  • Collect a hunger cube when you fail to find something, use it later to explore a second time.
Current rules around this have more complexity than fits nicely on a player aid: your turn ends after a single explore if you hunt an animal, it doesn't end if you are a gatherer and escape a deadly animal, it ends if you claim the space.

Notes

With this new approach you are guaranteed to get something every turn, an exploration disk, a hunger cube, or killed. And getting killed is often not a bad thing, as I'll discuss further in a moment. It reduces the complexity of most turns, and keeps the game flowing smoothly.

Conclusions

Overall everyone agreed is a great change. I need to work on the wording of the rules, to clarify whether a hunger cube can be used when hunting and you miss. We played that you could, but it was confusing. I'll take the opportunity to revisit the clarity around hunting - that when you miss your turn is always over. I noticed some confusion around this in a review on The Game Crafter.

Last year I overhauled the goals, adding some new ones and increasing their value. I needed the goals to be able to swing the winner of the game, to keep everyone engaged up until the end. The points needed to be scaled up to fit with higher scores because, by popular demand, I increased the game length from 45-60 minutes to 60-75 minutes. The problem this created, which has always been there to a certain degree, is that suicide became a broken strategy. So I created a limit of 6 goals. From recent playtesting it would appear that there is still a problem, as the game is now you need to die 4 or 5 times to be in contention to win the game.

Next Steps

  • Continue working on the wording of the rules.
  • Experiment with a limit of 4 or 5 goals.
  • New idea: fleshing out a terrain idea from a review of Hunt or Gather on The Game Crafter by turning the "tar pits" into event disks, that you flip over and something happens (some good, some bad, some altering things like the market).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Notes from Eighty-eight Playtest

Brandon (left), Lester (right), guest (center)

What we tried

This was a play through of the latest edition of the game, with two veteran playtesters (one who hadn't played in a while), and a new player.

What went really well this time was teaching the game. This was roughly my fifth time explaining the latest version of the rules, and they're really clicking into place; enough so that the new player was able to win his first game (and I only held back a little).

Teaching Script

Players each control these two characters (show and tell which is which), a hunter and a gatherer. Every turn, the first thing you need to decide whether to do is hunt or gather.

The characters go around exploring and collecting things.

Then you'll come back and turn in those things at the village to score points on hunt and gather tracks (move scoring cubes).

At the end of the game we remove our higher score (remove one score cube), so it's important to do well at both. (If new players don't volunteer something about a balanced diet, mention here. In this case he did.)

Now lets look at a typical turn (take out gatherer). We can walk up to 4 spaces (show, and mention no diagonal moves) but we'll typically start out closer to home. We can explore two times (pick up disk, keep hidden). If it's deadly we'll have to show it. If it's a plant we can pick it up. But only one type of plant at a time. (collect a plant tile)

You put a claim disk down on the space where you collected something. Both your characters can now walk over that space for free.

Now let's look at hunting. Hunters need equipment. On your first turn of the game you'll get 4 points worth, here are costs (point to bottom of cards). Characters can swap equipment if they're on the same spot.

Let's take a sling and a spear. (Show exploring, find a non-deadly animal, and a hunting roll.)

OK, time to score points. Scoring takes whole turn, no exploring, just walk home. (Take home character with best scoring opportunity, show how that works. Take other character home to score.)

Show other hunting equipment, Bow & Arrows, Atlatl (spear-thrower). Mention that you can trade in equipment to upgrade.

Talk about deadly animals and death, but re-assure that families were big back then, so if a character dies a cousin or nephew will step in, and you'll get an additional goal and a couple points for new equipment.

Show gatherer equipment. The pouch works well to remind players that gatherers can only collect one type of plant at a time.

Show a couple secret goals.

Deal out secret goals and start play. Remind players that they must both hunt and gather, because only the lower of the two counts in the end.

Conclusion

That's about it. The tar pits on the board usually come up as questions (simple to explain you can't walk there). It also helps to show people how the back of their secret goal cards works as a player board, and is important so that you can tell who has plants or animals they haven't scored yet.

There are more details, and this isn't a word-per-word script, but a structure that worked well, did more showing than telling, and reinforced some of the more important rules by mentioning them more than once.