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Friday, October 31, 2014

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Three

triple threes followed
by triple sixes
What we tried

  • 24 plant & animal disks.
  • 1 event per turn limit.
  • If you kept an event disk don't get an explore cube.
  • turn in 3 events for a goal, but not equipment.
  • called shot gives a -1 penalty if you get it wrong.
  • simplified Trader event doesn't change demand track.

Notes

This game had the craziest luck differential, as you can see from the photo, and it was reflected in the final score. What's changed though is that an unlucky player who died a bunch of times didn't win because of secret goals, so that's progress.

Play length was restored to an hour, but we still had time to upgrade equipment. Need to see what narrative arc is like with more players.

End Game

What's next?

Tree is unpopular, maybe it should let you look at 2 or 3 things?

Time to start scaling back experimental rules. Called shot makes poaching too powerful. Turning in event disks is fiddly and rarely done.


starting setup

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and Two

Game End
(paranoid yellow)

What we tried

New event Cornucopia replaces Bird. It's a collection of plants that can be gathered, worth 1 herb, 1 berry, and 1 nut.

Changed Mammoth to Sabertooth, a deadly animal worth 2 meat and 2 hide that has 5 life, which must be scored ASAP.

Trying arrows cost at 0, but you may only buy them if one of your characters has a bow.

Goal points lowered (quantities in parenthesis):
2 (4), 3 (4), 4 (3), 5 (3), variable (3).

Moved event disks at least 4 spaces from the village, they are better mid game.

Notes

Before starting the game there was concern that turning in 3 events for equipment (and probably goals too) encourages bad behavior. It hurts the game if people are just running around flipping events, not letting them do their job of mixing up the demand track when it gets stuck. Inspiration (the event that hands out goals) might be enough to get more goals out there.

Some ideas for restricting events:

  • 1 event per turn limit.
  • If kept an event disk don't get explore cube.
  • turn in 3 events for a goal, not equipment.


Called shot should be -1 to your rolls if wrong.

Trader is too complex. Shouldn't change the demand track, maybe shouldn't even change amount you get for trades. That it doesn't change demand is significant. It works awesome with Cornucopia, an event that gives you one of each plant, because it doesn't move meat and hide to the top.

Here is the biggest problem right now: game length has gotten too long.

The events on the board and being able to trade in equipment, have added complexity. Games are lasting 90 minutes or more. In some ways that's good, it gives time for the luck variance to settle out. But it's also hurting the urgency of the game. The end always used to come just a little sooner than you'd expect, and I like that a lot. This playtest I called an early end to the playtest with 20% of the plant&animal disks undiscovered. I'd much rather the game take one hour or less, and leave players wanting to go again.

The reason I decided last fall to increase the length of play by adding 50% more plant&animal disks was to be sure there was time for the game to have a nice story arc, where characters start out weak and grow stronger through a series of adventures. I think with event disks and equipment trading this can be done in a tighter time frame.

Another problem with the longer game is that it actually limits the paths to victory. In a longer higher scoring game you basically need to get the better equipment, Bow or Atlatl, to compete. The cost is absorbed by having more time to use it. In a shorter game you have less time to recoup your investment, so a more frugal strategy could succeed.


board setup

What's Next?


  • 24 plant&animal disks
  • 1 event per turn limit.
  • If you kept an event disk don't get explore cube.
  • simplify Trader event
  • turn in 3 events for a goal, not equipment.
  • called shot gives a -1 penalty if you get it wrong.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Notes from Playtest One Hundred and One

Lester, Kris, and Ryan

What we tried


  • 3 goal limit
  • Goals are always draw 2 keep 1
  • Players start with 5 points worth of equipment.
  • Bow costs 6, Atlatl 5, Pouch 4.
  • One spear has a trade value of 1.
  • Events stay up, even animals
  • Trader stays until the end of your next turn.
  • Events that change village let you score one disk now.
  • Turn in 3 disk for one equipment or to draw 2 goals and keep one.

Notes

Kris, red, killed a mammoth
Ryan, yellow, was paranoid
Myself, purple, eventual wolf master
Lester, green, scored herb in fall
Continued frustration with goals determining the winner, not skillful play. But the game play holds up, even with half the players behaving erratically. The end was exciting, with Lester grabbing the furthest space from the village and then lucking on an event that set the market up perfectly and allowed him to score.

What's next?


Change "hunger cube" to "explore cube", it's a more clear description of its purpose, and the obvious name in retrospect.

New event: Cornucopia replaces Bird. It's a collection of plants that can be gathered, worth 1 herb, 1 berry, and 1 nut.

Change Woolley Mammoth to Young Mammoth, an animal worth 2 meat and 2 hide that has 5 life.

Try arrows cost at 0, but you may only buy them if you have bow.

Goal points move down mostly 3-4. Speaker for dead should be 2 per other goal.

Move event disks further from the village, they are better mid game.

Notes from Playtest One Hundred

Left to right: Kris, Brandon,
Lester, Ryan, Jason

What we tried


  • 3 goal limit
  • Goals are always draw 2 keep 1
  • Players start with 5 points worth of equipment.
  • Bow costs 6, Atlatl 5, Pouch 4.

Notes and Suggestions for What's Next

Neutral events should have rewards for the person who found it.

The Trader event is broken, the way it stays around the rest of the game and acts as a better market. Maybe it should last until end of your next turn. Maybe sell 2 points of plants?

Event animals should stay face up (I don't remember why this was suggested).

Remove red berries from the herbs graphic in Photoshop.

The Master Scout goal is really fun now. Need to clarify if players put disks face up.

Is there a way to get more goals without dying?

Add an Event that gives you equipment.

Turn in events for equipment or goal.

Events that change village could let you score one disk now.

Event idea: draw goals = players and distribute them as you wish.

Notes from Ninety-ninth Playtest

What we tried



  • 3 goal limit
  • Goals are always draw 2 keep 1
  • Players start with 5 points worth of equipment.
  • Bow costs 6, Atlatl 5, Pouch 4.
  • One spear has a trade value of 1.


What's next?


Tall tree should only kill you on a roll that's less than 6.

More events should move up meat and/ or hide.

Try writing rules with called shot mistake a -1 penalty. Balance the added complexity vs. gain.

Master Scout: 1 point per correctly named, no penalty for getting them wrong.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Notes from Ninety-eighth playtest

Left to right: Ryan, Kris, Lester, 
Brandon, Jason

What we tried

  • Hunger cubes
  • Called shots
  • 3 goal limit
  • draw 2 keep 1 goal when re-spawn
  • black disks were just tar pits

Notes

Some second and third time players in this group, as well as playtest veterans. One new idea was that variable terrain might be interesting. Hopefully I'll capture a bit of that feel with the new "event disks" (or whatever I end up calling them). An underlying issue the desire for terrain brings up in making board position interesting. Only having one explore per turn (plus possible hunger cube) means less interaction with the board, and tar pits were spread out in this 5 player game. 

Called shots encourage poaching, which I don't think is a bad thing. As I watch new players figure out the game, the most successful beginners are the ones who figure out that the best way to increase your odds is to use the information other players give you when they fail to pick something up.

The 3 goal limit didn't come up. In a 5 player game there's isn't as much time for intentionally collecting goals as there is with any less.

Drawing 2 goals and keeping 1 introduces another decision an the beginning of players' turns. It wasn't an issue in this game, but normally I like to let people ruminate while other people go, that's why I moved the purchasing of equipment to as you leave the village, not as you enter it. If I gave the goal as soon as a character died, I'd have to balance that against intentional last turn suicides.

The hunger cubes seem to balance out the flow of play. People remember to use them better than they remember to claim spaces after a successful hunt/gather. It's nice to be guaranteed to get something at the end of every turn.

The bow & arrow are, if anything, too effective. They are expensive, and it can be tricky when you run out of arrows, but only missing 1 in 10 shots is great.



What's next?

Recommended board setup should have the village near a corner, to make board position interesting, and give more sense of exploration.

I need to try the event disks with more people, I'm sorry I forgot my cheat-sheet this time.

It might be interesting to try putting the atl-atl at a cost of 4 points, so players could start out with it, even if it won't do anything until they gather and score enough for a spear. Alternately, if the sling and club start becoming too unpopular, I could shift Bow, Atlatl, and Pouch all up one or two, and increase the starting equipment points.

Friday, August 15, 2014

An Icon for Animal Hide

The last of my placeholder icons has been replaced with a real graphic! Game-icons.net came through with a new original icon for animal hide.

Update: One piece of feedback I received was that the head of the hide was too round, too human, so I've elongated it and tapered it down into more of a snout, while trying to remain at the same level of abstraction as the original design.

Deadly Wolf Exploration Disk (rendered)


Updated mask: