(Original post here: http://3dtotalgames.com/wizard-academy-events/, now with exactly the same number of images as I get better with BGG. It has prettier bullet points though)
The playtester feedback has it that wizard academy is too hard. It also has it that player’s turns can take too long given the number of things they might have to do, such as placing and moving monsters. As most of the playtesters had only played the game once, I should be cautious about difficulty; it could be that the difficulty is just right for experienced players, but punishing for new players. The best approach would be to make it so that the difficulty could be varied game to game, which would mean the card s need to be redesigned the event cards. Here's a look at the old card:
Each turn a player would draw a card like this and follow the directions. As a prototype this card is none too pretty, but it gets the message across. How many boxes of the card are executed depends on how far through the game is, early on this card would just place an imp. By the end of the game it places an imp, then spawn imps, then place an imp portal, then activate imps, then place another imp portal before finally spawning imps again. Phew! It's pretty clear how this became overwhelming.
To clarify terminology for this game:
Place puts one thing in a random room.
Spawn makes every portal for that thing produce one of those things.
Activate makes the things act (in the case of imps, it makes them move around randomly until a source of runes is encountered, which they will then loot).
Now the level was going up every 32 turns, which sounds like a lot, but the games generally had a nice length of about two hours. Ideally the new event cards would only require a player to do one or two things, be easy to switch around to change difficulty, make it easier to determine when and how more dangerous events occur and also, to have a bit more room for pretty art. So here's what I came up with:
Minimalist, no? It hits most of the goals, the player has to do less, the difficulty is reduced and there's plenty of space to add some art. The difficulty control comes from the code at the top right; the deck starts with about twelve level one cards, each time it runs out some more cards of a higher level are added to the deck. As the game goes on, the cards in the deck become more dangerous without the need for any bookkeeping beyond remembering to add the cards to the deck when shuffling it.
This also allows for more specific scenarios. A "flood" scenario, for example, would fix the deck to contain more "place water portal" and "spawn water" cards, as well as mandating that some of the new cards being shuffled in will be these specific cards rather than random cards. A beginner group could have a starting deck of 10 S1s, 2 N1s and 2 A1s, whereas an experienced one could start with some level two or three cards in the deck.
Another terminology aside
S stands for "spread" and references cards that make existing problems worse: fires spread, monsters move, etc.
N stands for "new" and references cards that introduce a new threat either directly or by adding portals
A stands for "anomaly" and references cards that have odd effects. The level one version may work in the players favour, such as moving rooms or replacing one type of rune with another. The level two and three effects are less ambiguous, stealing runes or shuffling unknown spells.
Keeping the higher levels of difficulty available for experienced players, without undermining the design goal of simpler to execute cards is tricky: The new top level threat cards look like this:
It's ambiguous whether this is a match for the old top level event, such as the one that creates six actions referenced at the start of the post. Even if they are, the level one event will still be in the deck so the game will be easier on average. On the other hand, more focused scenarios might make more dangerous combinations possible - as always, the only way to tell is to test, test and test some more.
It could be that the old style cards still get used, but with the capacity to vary what goes into the deck and that the difficulty curve is better addressed by other areas of the rules. Making planning more viable in the face of these threats by showing cards in advance, for example, might offer a better difficulty solution and make the game more satisfying for strategically minded gamers. On the other hand a number of testers mentioned that this is a game they could use to involve their non-gaming friends and I'd love to build towards that audience. Then again, plenty of gateway games have deep strategy once you get to know them.
Google says 20-100 people look at this depending on the day and Google would never lie to me (even if I ask it to) but the comments are very quiet. So get involved! How does this approach sound to you?