Game Design Notes (and other random thoughts)

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Playtesting, Gaming and MACE West

David Gregg
United States
Franklinville
North Carolina
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Got in a good bit of gaming this weekend between a get-together with my folks and a dedicated gaming day with my BFF and our mutual friends.

Playtesting

Our dedicated gaming day was yesterday and involved myself, Daniel and Mitch. Mitch has been working on his own game design project and our first game of the day was to playtest it. I won't go into much detail on mechanics etc as that's for him to discuss, but I'll say that it is coming along very well and Daniel and I both enjoyed the overall mechanics. Some things still need balance / tweaks of course, but I can definitely see it being a game that goes all the way to publishing.

Later on in the day we also got in a game of my WIP Just in Time, this time as a pure cooperative. Mitch had to leave a bit early, so I played with Daniel and his wife. Overall I'm pretty happy with the switch to pure coop as it lets the players be a bit more tactical with location upgrades and helping to make each other time travel to best beat the game. Unfortunately we found things to be a bit easy and by roughly 2/3rds through the game we had caught up with the game's threats to the point that it was going to be nearly impossible for the game to really do any damage to us.



Fortunately Daniel and his wife both had great input on possible tweaks, so I'll be reworking the following for our next session:

● Some of the locations currently allow solving a task within 1 day of your current time. This is overpowered as we were able to pretty much just focus on getting those locations upgraded and then using their abilities to focus down the tasks around us. I'll be changing these to still allow completing a specific task type, but only on the current day (so will only be helpful if you're far away from the actual task location). This change alone will do a lot to make the game harder, so I'll probably have to reduce the cost on these locations a bit to balance them.

● Currently there are 3 locations that can distort (remove upgrades, force players at location to time travel) which is really helpful if another player landed on a bad day and needs some help, but there's 1 location type that can't currently be distorted. I'm thinking of dropping one of the movement spaces in exchange for the 4th distort type. I'm also debating as to whether I want the distort to remove all of the upgrades or just one.

● Another change that I'm considering to increase the difficulty is for new task to cause some extra damage to the players. Since there are only 4 task types, it should be pretty simple to assign a penalty to each type (lose a time-travel disc, an action point, a location upgrade, etc). At first I was thinking that the player who's ending their turn should suffer the penalty as they place the new task, but now that I'm thinking about it, I have another idea: since these penalties are a bit harsh I'd rather them not happen every turn, so instead of penalizing the current player, I'll just penalize whichever players are currently located on the day that the task is added to. This way there will be roughly a 50% chance that someone will be penalized, but the players won't know who until the die is rolled to assign the task. I think this will add a good bit of difficulty and help to prevent the game from becoming too predictable/solvable.

Now I just need to get the bits updated ASAP for the next playtest session this coming weekend!

Gaming

Saturday evening we celebrated my step-sis' birthday party with my folks, who request to play some sort of game pretty much every time we get together, though they prefer classic card games (Hearts or Euchre mostly) or lighter games (recent favorite has been Ticket to Ride). This time however, we went with an old party fav: Spoons. For those of you who've never played Spoons, it can be hilarious, though you'll need to be pretty quick at nabbing the spoons if you want to actually remain in the game for long. We play with actual metal spoons as I can imagine the plastic ones just getting shattered after a few rounds from the way we play. It isn't uncommon at all to see people diving across the table or wrestling it out on the floor to obtain that last remaining spoon that went flying from the initial grab. We've even had to get the ER involved a time or two (such as when my wife sprained her wrist during such a match).

Was good times, even though I came in 2nd



Back to our Sunday gaming day, between the prototyping testing we also got in a game of Chaos in the Old World, one that I'd heard of several times, but never had the chance to play. Mitch had obtained a copy and brought it with him, so we tried it out. I played the blue dudes, Daniel was red and Mitch was green. I think Mitch was the quickest to understand his win condition and really powered through his dial pretty well, with me catching on fast as well and mostly keeping up with him. Daniel took a bit longer to get his war engine running, but once he did, his points took off much faster then what we were able to keep up with. The game ended via VP's from Daniel with Mitch and I being only a couple dial rotations from our respective wins. The overall game was decent, but the quantity of counters that end up laying around the board seemed fiddly and I'm not a fan of games with overly dark theme such as this.

To wrap up the evening I started up a game of Ticket to Ride with Daniel and his wife, but my wife showed up to retrieve me before we could get very far. As my wife and his chatted for a bit, I showed Daniel how to play Hearts and Euchre so that we could get in some games of them next time our families get together.

MACE West

So this weekend is MACE West and the family is ready to get in some serious gaming! I've got my events lined up for Saturday, specifically: Just in Time demo from 9am - 11:30am, Nightfall demos from 1pm - 4pm and a Nightfall tourney from 5pm - 11pm.



I plan to have the Just in Time tweaks listed above ready for MACE and am looking forward to getting some fresh perspective on the game's mechanics. As for Nightfall, I plan to use the base game mixed in with Nightfall: Martial Law with some specific commons / private archives to ensure some lovely combos / kickers. As for the tourney, I'll be mixing all 4 currently released sets into custom draft decks with each deck containing 2 of each color from each set. The players will play with starter decks consisting of 1 of each starter minion both new and old. The tourney format itself will be a End of the World series mixed with the aggressive wound variant with best final score after 4 rounds being declared the winner and any ties being worked out with a single game of the life total variant. Hopefully there'll be enough participants that I can really mix up the match-ups to prevent playing the same people over and over again.
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