At Playtest UK (http://www.meetup.com/Playtest/events/86203292/) today, it occurred to me that part of the challenge of designing is persuading players (through the game itself) to engage with things as you want them to.
[NB. I'm sure that this has occurred to many people before me - I'm not claiming to offer pearls of sagacity here.]
We were playing a game that the designer has been working on for some years and seems to have tested a lot with the same group of people. Those people understand that cooperation is a large part of the game and that it is important for certain players to work together to prevent anyone from getting too much of a lead. Both games that we played today ended very quickly (particularly by contrast to the length of rules explanation) because the game itself didn't incentivise us to collaborate in this way. Even though the designer kept trying to nudge us in that direction, the mechanisms and theme of the game made it feel like an entirely combative game, so that was how we played it.
I had a similar - though more severe - problem some months ago with Spellsmiths. I really wanted it to be a bluffing game: players would cast spells which they may or may not ultimately be able to power with dice that they'd rolled in secret - they could keep upping the ante to force their opponent to play more and more spells. In the very first game of it, some of the players really took to this idea and it was great fun - however - they ultimately lost. The game didn't incentivise bluffing because it wasn't a winning tactic and, as this was the only enjoyable element of the game none of the later playtests had any success. It's currently gathering dust on the shelf but thinking about it from the persuasion point of view is giving me some ideas about how to resurrect it.
On a more positive note; while trying to fix a timing issue in Fiefdoms during a playtest today, I also introduced an incentive for players to bring in an element of the game that I initially conceived as being central but which had fallen by the wayside: Fiefdoms is an area-control game of sorts, players roll four D6s and use the results to choose two grid references on a 6x6 grid. These allow them to place workers - who give future powers and bonuses - and, more importantly, armies which can capture castles to score points. Friendly armies, when placed together, support each other against attack and I really wanted this defensive positioning to be a significant part of the game - but in most playtests it was more important to just get your armies spread across the board as quickly as possible because the first player to place their final army ended the game - and would most likely win.
Today's refinement is that the game ends when a player starts their turn with all of their armies on the board - so you not only have to place them but do so in such a way that none of the other players can dislodge them before your next turn. So players are persuaded to consider defensive positioning - as well as out and out point scoring.
With this change I'm now really happy with the game. I only played four player today so it needs testing for two and three players but assuming that the new rules scale well, Fiefdoms will soon be available to download at www.printandrollgames.com.
This is a project that I've been considering for quite some time now - so it's exciting to be finally embarking on it. I've been designing games for about two years now. I particularly enjoy dice allocation games such as Alien Frontiers, Troyes, Lords of Vegas and Castles of Burgundy and have been working on a range of dice based games of my own. I have looked at conventional publishing and self-publishing but found that the cost of repeatedly shipping dice would make the games rather more expensive than I would wish. So, I hit on the idea of a print and play website - providing the rules, boards, cards and everything that you would need to play the games, except the dice. As a gamer (first tabletop then euro-games) I already had a large selection of dice and have found a great many affordable sources for the few that I was short of - I hope that this will be the same for plenty of other gamers. I currently have two games coming towards the end of beta-testing and two more at the early prototype stage. I hope to be posting new games over the coming months and years. Each one will be available for a few pounds (GBP) and will use common and readily available dice and counters. I hope to have the site fully up and running within the next couple of months with the first two games available to buy. As soon as the site's up and running, I'll post a link on this blog. Adam Taylor June 2012
17 Feb 2013
- [+] Dice rolls