Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Notes from Fifty-second Playtest

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Rules Tried
Largest territory bonus reduced to 2 points to make it only a tie breaker, not game decider. It didn't come up because the game wasn't very close this time.

We also tried sticking with the same player order as last playtest, trying to see if that makes a difference. We'll stick with it for the sake of testing, but I think a bad roll, or risky decision that didn't pay off, make much more difference.

Equipment Updates
Changed the Knife (+3 / 2 damage) cost to 3, and dropped the Sling (+4 / 1 damage) down to cost 2. Everything is feeling pretty balanced, no single weapon strategy dominated.

Secret Goals
Brave: It's funny how often there ends up being a deadly animal that camps out right next to the building and kills one or two player's hunters over and over again. Combine this with a goal that leads players towards stubbornly attacking a deadly Wolf, and it can make for a rough game. Still think this goal has merit. The 7 point reward is great, and encourages playing against the normal strategies (wolves are very often left on the board at the end of the game).

Update: the goal name should be changed to "Brave or Stupid" (based on feedback from the playtester who tried it).

Bushwhacker: Getting 5 points for claiming the most spaces might just be another one of those "rewarding players for winning" goals. But it might be worth trying one more time to see if a player might really change tactics and go for it, poaching easy kills and adopting different equipment approaches (spending extra for pouch, torch, atlatl).

Crack Shot: This goal is good in that it encourages players to go after small animals that are also hard to kill. Squirrels, like wolves, are often left over at the end of the game, this goal helps with that. I do need to clarify, maybe just in Appendix B, what happens if you kill a second squirrel and then die yourself, does it still count? (the goal specifically says you don't have to sell it).

Pathfinder: This one is fun in that it forces a very specific territory shape. In retrospect, I might have picked a single shot kill weapon, with the Bow & Arrow my prey was pushed away from the space I wanted to claim. Got lucky and nobody prevented me from connecting my territory, but was a close call because this goal isn't tie friendly like others.

New Ideas
We came up with what has promise to be a breakthrough idea while brainstorming how to further integrate secret goals into the game play, and how they might be used as a catch-up mechanism. Currently when one of your characters die the character's cousin comes into play with 4 points to spend on equipment. This makes up for the lost equipment, but not the lost opportunity. One suggestion was that you might be able to score some of those points rather than spend them on equipment. A reasonable idea, but has potential for abuse, and would keep the Atlatl from coming into play as often.

Then Dan had the idea that when a character dies the player gets an additional goal. We'd been playing with various ways you might get more goals during the game, but if it's without price then there would have to be a penalty for failing to accomplish the goal, which would require more fair (aka boring) goals. But if you can get a goal to balance a setback, introducing larger potential hidden scores at the end, it might be possible to make a silent comeback and pull off a surprise win!

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