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Subject: [WIP] Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck) rss

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Gregg Jewell
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Rivers is a lite 2-4 player card-placement game. It is a great game for the family with a friendly theme requiring simple math.

I hope you enjoy the game and can give me feedback on the rules, mechanics, and theme. This is a WIP so new ideas and suggestions to enhance game play are welcomed.

PDF rules are here and the official entry is here.
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Gregg Jewell
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Re: Rivers - A lite 2-4 player card laying/area control game {standard 52 card deck}
Dev Log:
10/3/13 - Game created
10/4/13 - Rules release v0.1b (PDF)
10/4/13 - Rules release v0.2b (PDF)
10/5/13 - Theme overhaul, added new rules for tributaries, confluence, fishermen and trophy fish
10/5/13 - Rules release v0.3b (PDF)
10/7/13 - Added "Hungry Bear" Joker variant
10/7/13 - Rules release v0.4b (PDF)
10/10/13 - Rules release v0.5b (PDF)
10/12/13 - Rules release v0.6b (PDF)
10/15/13 - Rules release v0.7b (PDF)
10/18/13 - Created initial sketches for a custom deck
10/18/13 - Rules release v1.0 for BGG entry (PDF)
10/19/13 - Offical BGG entry created
11/09/13 - Major rules revision (PDF)
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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Re: Rivers - A 2-4 player card laying/area control game {standard 52 card deck}
JewellGames wrote:
Rolling River Segments
If two or more river segment cards in hand are consecutive they may be played together on a running river as one rolling river segment as long as the combined number on the added cards does not push the total sum of the river beyond 24. Example: A running river has a 2 of hearts and 4 of spades. The player adds a 5 of clubs and 6 of hearts to that river.

As written, this only requires the played cards to be consecutive to each other. However, in your example they are also consecutive with the previous river card (4-5-6), which might make readers think that this is also a requirement.
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Gregg Jewell
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Re: Rivers - A lite 2-4 player card laying/area control game {standard 52 card deck}
Antistone wrote:
As written, this only requires the played cards to be consecutive to each other. However, in your example they are also consecutive with the previous river card (4-5-6), which might make readers think that this is also a requirement.


Thank you, I changed the example to avoid confusion. I also made quite a few changes to terms and wording to improve theme.
 
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Gregg Jewell
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PLAYTESTING QUESTIONS
Taking a note from my late buddy Jason I am asking for playtesters. First of all, thank you for taking a look at the game.

I am looking for gamers who would be dedicated to helping polish Rivers through constructive criticism on the game's design, mechanics and fun factor to be posted in this forum thread or via GeekMail. I am very comfortable with criticism and public posts help stimulate other testers' discussion and debate, so GeekMail is only preferred if you feel more comfortable communicating in that way.

a.) How easy was it to read the rules and learn the game?
b.) How easy was it to teach the game?
c.) How easy was it to play through your first game?
d.) Do the card powers and effects make sense?
e.) Did the mechanics integrate with the theme?
f.) Did you use the Jokers?

And:

g.) How many times did you play? How many players?
h.) About how long did each game last?
i.) Is the game fun?
j.) Did you enjoy how the game "felt"?
k.) Did you want to play the game again?
l.) Did you feel that you had a level of control during the game?
m.) Or, did you feel the game was too random?
n.) How does the game work for 2-, 3-, and 4-Players?

And:

o.) Write a general, brief, report on how the game played-out--at least a few of these reports would be nice, preferably not-too-long after the game session so that your memory is fresh. These do not have to be long, just informative and critical. Bullet points are fine; prose is not necessary. Opinions are great, too: did your opponents laugh with glee as they won that fishing tournament on the last turn, did they upend the gaming table when you beat them by one point, did they beg to play "one more time"? Or, as facts-are-facts, did your group hate the game and build for it a funeral pyre?

Here are the rules:

1.) Download the Rules PDF and review.
2.) We will test the game, collect feedback, discuss/debate, and tweak/polish the game as necessary.
3.) I will close the testing phase once I feel that the game is as ready as it can be for publication.
4.) Upon publication, testers who were reasonably active with feedback will receive two free copies of the published custom deck.

Any questions?
 
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Gregg Jewell
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Re: Rivers - A lite 2-4 player card laying/set collection game {standard 52 card deck} playtesters required
For my initial prototype run of the custom cards I will be using makeplayingcards.com instead of USPC because MPC offer orders of 1-5000 instead of USPC's minimum 2500. The poker sized cards will be 300 gsm quality.

Anyone had experience with these guys?
 
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R.J.
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Re: Rivers - A lite 2-4 player card laying/set collection game {standard 52 card deck} playtesters required
JewellGames wrote:
For my initial prototype run of the custom cards I will be using makeplayingcards.com instead of USPC because MPC offer orders of 1-5000 instead of USPC's minimum 2500. The poker sized cards will be 300 gsm quality.

Anyone had experience with these guys?


It looks like they are a reseller for PrinterStudio.com (based on the site design and higher price)...

My first order from them (PrinterStudio) came out really well.

My second order had 2 packs of cards (one of them 234 cards).

There were 5 issues (gashes and ink spills)... They promptly send me replacements... I havent received them yet, but hopefully they come out right. If they do, I will probably order from them again.

Plus, PrinterStudio always has some deal going on, and 10% off for new customers who join their mailing list.
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Gregg Jewell
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Re: Rivers - A lite 2-4 player card laying/set collection game {standard 52 card deck} playtesters required
Awesome, thank you for the insight.
 
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Gregg Jewell
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
Still working on the rough sketches (havent added fish pips yet). Do you like the smaller icons or larger icons that will sit on the riverbanks?



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Robert Seater
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
I like the bear rules, since they add some more control over the game, and an element of resource management. You should clarify that bears cannot be played on contested rivers, which is implied by the formalism but not stated outright.

Can face cards keep being played onto contested rivers, or can only one be played? The word "claim" sounds like only one can be played, but the discussion of majority suggest players can keep piling them on. If someone else has put an appropriate face card on a 24 river, can I put one there too?

How do you track who owns which face cards, after they are played?

Reshuffling mid-game when a face card is drawn for a new river gets tiring. I'd prefer to discard the face cards, add them to the new river, put them on the bottom of the deck, or something other than shuffling.

For the custom deck, you should print rule reminders on the cards with special rules: face cards (listing their point values and when they can be played on an overpopulated river), trophy fish (reminder that it doubles in scoring but counts as a 1 for population), and hungry bear jokers (stating '-3' on them).
 
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Robert Seater
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
JewellGames wrote:

Post these in the game's gallery!
 
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Gregg Jewell
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
rseater wrote:
Post these in the game's gallery!


Definitely, they have been awaiting admin approval

I will post the color sketches and obviously the final product once complete!
 
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Gregg Jewell
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
rseater wrote:
I like the bear rules, since they add some more control over the game, and an element of resource management. You should clarify that bears cannot be played on contested rivers, which is implied by the formalism but not stated outright.

You are correct. Currently I have it worded so it can only be played with river cards (which those can only be added to flowing rivers themselves). Also the next sentence states that on a flowing river the bear reduces its population by 3. Edit: I added, "Hungry Bears have no effect on contested rivers."

Can face cards keep being played onto contested rivers, or can only one be played? The word "claim" sounds like only one can be played, but the discussion of majority suggest players can keep piling them on. If someone else has put an appropriate face card on a 24 river, can I put one there too?

Yes, "and any player may have multiple anglers at a contested river to declare control of it." I tried to use the word declare here to indicate that you are declaring control but do not actually have control. Edit: I have changed the wording to "compete for control". Does this clear up the confusion? I am open to suggestions for more clarity!

How do you track who owns which face cards, after they are played?

Generally the "side" of the river you place the face card that is closest to your reservoir indicates who controls it but I should define this in the rules other than just the pictures in the appendix.

Reshuffling mid-game when a face card is drawn for a new river gets tiring. I'd prefer to discard the face cards, add them to the new river, put them on the bottom of the deck, or something other than shuffling.

I have also thought about this before. I have noticed in a few games where we kept drawing face cards for a new river midgame and the shuffling was a little cumbersome. I thought about having the face cards simply discarded or placed at the bottom of the deck. I think I like the bottom of deck solution most since this adds a little tension if the deck is close to "running dry" and players are still fighting for contested rivers. I will playtest the the new rule for a final decision. What are your thoughts on the bottom of the deck change?

For the custom deck, you should print rule reminders on the cards with special rules: face cards (listing their point values and when they can be played on an overpopulated river), trophy fish (reminder that it doubles in scoring but counts as a 1 for population), and hungry bear jokers (stating '-3' on them).

Good point, I will fit this in some beta designs and have it added to the poll on the final design of the cards. I had already planned to have a little trophy icon on the aces as a scoring reminder. In fact, in my alpha prototype I even had icons on the bear which were well received by the testers so I will work on streamlining a design.

Btw, old alpha design bear here:

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Robert Seater
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
Session: 2 player game.
I liked the iterative black-jack feel of the game, but it ended up being very random and one-sided. One player won by a landslide, seeming to always draw high valued consecutive cards that could be used to immediately complete a river for 21. The game lost all its tension very quickly. Turn after turn, player 1 made perfect 21's and Player 2 kept just playing junk in hopes of drawing straights or pairs, to no avail. The main issue was that player 2 didn't feel in control at all.

In general, if I can't make perfect 21, then I feel like my plays are pretty arbitrary, and most of the game comes down to luck of the draw. If I draw face cards, I can add influence to rivers that aren't complete, and plan on overpopulating (but much of the time I only have river cards). I think the core issues is that I'd like some better control over my draws -- e.g. a draft board, view-N-keep-1, some form of rummy-like discard pick-up, or may an option to discard 1 card at end of turn to draw an extra card. Right now, the luck of the draw is overshadowing the game. It's also possible that a larger hand size would help, as it would increase the chance of having patterns in a random hand.

I like the bear a lot, because it offers additional control and a way to manage bad draws. However, the bear helps use large cards, not small ones. So far, it seems that large cards are usually better, since they are easier to use to complete a perfect 21. Maybe players should start with a few cards like that in play, to help even out luck. E.g. what if each player started with 2 random cards face up in front of them, which could be played as if they were in hand, but are never replaced. Other players could play around those cards somewhat, to avoid leaving a river that number less than 21, so they would be of reduced value. However, they would help players work around hands of low cards, and hands of cards that don't add up right. You could even say that if someone plays a single card and doesn't complete a river, that they get a replacement face-up card if they have used some of their original 2. A little more resource management would give more to think about, without adding much complexity.

Crazy idea:
Maybe there should be some sort of blackjack-like option for a player who doesn't have a good play -- e.g. at the start of the turn, you can flip the top card of the deck into one of the rivers that is at 10 or less (thus it will never be completed). That would at least give me something to do when I can't complete a river. Maybe doing so has some sort of cost, so that it isn't just a random thing that players always do. E.g. everyone else gets a free draw immediately, temporarily bringing them above the normal hand limit. Or maybe that's too crazy, and adding too much complexity.
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Gregg Jewell
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
That is unfortunate that you had such a lopsided draw, I think many traditional card games can suffer from this. I will take all your ideas into account and see how I can implement a lower random draw without over complicating the game. Thank you for the valuable feedback!

First off I added a mulligan system known in this game as "watershed".

The game rules now state:
"Each player is dealt 5 cards as their hand. A watershed is an area or region drained by a river, river system, or other body of water. Prior to the start of the game, a player may announce they will “watershed” their initial hand and put any undesired cards at the bottom of the deck and redraw until they have a full hand again. This can only be done once per game."

Second, another variant I have thought about adding that can be used as the Jokers or the "Bicycle Advertisement" cards that come in those boxes is (temporary name) The Icthyologist.

The Icthyologist - In this variant each player receives a Joker (or the "Bicycle advertisement" card) as a “The Icthyologist”. Icthyology is the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish. This card can be played along with a river card, that has 4 or less fish, on any of the player’s turns once per game. Playing the Icthyologist with that river card doubles the fish of that card. Once that flowing river is completely populated the Icthyologist is removed from play. Icthyologists have no effect on contested rivers.

This variant favors the lower numbered cards. I am looking for a better thematic name for the card however.
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Robert Seater
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
very nice!
 
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Robert Seater
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
In area majority games with more than 2 players, it usually works well if there is a second place prize -- otherwise players may avoid conflict entirely, as the risk is too high, removing that interesting part of the game. E.g. I might just keep playing face cards into rivers I'm way head on, to ensure I get their points (which are quite high), rather than risk getting nothing, just to hurt one of my opponents. In some games, it is important that winning is all-or-nothing, but usually gradients of success are good.

What if the winner of a contested river scored the river, but the losers still scored their face cards? That might make face cards too good, since they would always score, but it would make conflicts more frequent and players more willing to participate. It might be worth a try, at least when playing with more than 2.
 
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Gregg Jewell
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
Some major rule changes and updates

Notable changes:
Scoring of fisherman has completely changed. All fisherman will score some amount of points but more points are scored when you OR your opponent ends that river at 21 rather than 22,23, or 24. Tweaking values may be required but that is an easy fix through playtesting

Instead of populating a river it now "ends/empties" into the river mouth to form a lake. This fits with stacking them in your reservoir and (see below) contested lakes.

Contested rivers now changed to contested lakes.
1) cuts down on space by stacking all cards together.
2) creates further distinction between flowing rivers and contested lakes and what that means for face cards
3) reworded it to "fishing tournament" and "winners" instead of "gain control" to give it more of a competitive feel

Added a note about using tokens as a means to identify card ownership (meeples, coins, wads of paper, etc).

The pictures in the rules still need to be updated to reflect the shift to contested lakes (stacks) which I will be working on over the next few days.
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Robert Seater
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
I like the revisions a lot! The fishermen are much more interesting this way.
 
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Gregg Jewell
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
I have gotten a few comments about the confusing tributary and confluence terms since that implies cards would branch off a river. I shifted the terms to a loose interpretation of some fish terms.

Fish Run
A run is a group of fish that migrate together up a stream. Two aggregations of a run are shoaling and schooling. Generally, shoaling is an unorganized grouping for socializing and schooling is a tightly organized grouping for protection. If two or more river cards in hand are consecutive (e.g. a 4, 5, 6) they may be played together on the same flowing river as a shoaling fish run. If two or more river cards in hand are matching numbers (e.g. pair of 7s) they may be played together on the same flowing river as a schooling fish run. The combined number of fish on the added cards cannot raise the fish population in the river above 24. Only one fish run combination is allowed to be played per turn.


Does this fit better and provide less confusion?
 
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
Posing an email exchange so that others can discuss:

JewellGames wrote:
How would you rate Knizia's Schotten-Totten? It kinda boils down to arbitrary and luck based plays as well but it highly acclaimed for some reason.

I haven't played that one per se, but the description suggests it is basically the same as Battle Line, which I love (and which I usually play without the Tactic Cards). In Battle Line, plays that don't complete a line are actually the most interesting, since they are committing you to what kind of pattern you will make there. Since every card could be used in multiple patterns, completing rows is also interesting. What it comes down to, for me, is that it's hard to know if a given play was right or not, but it's easy to know what's good and what's risky about a play. (In contrast, Lost Cities has fewer viable patterns, so I find that it has vastly less tension than Battle Line since each card really only has one good use, and more plays feel obvious.)

I think the thing that makes the game work well, is that each player has their own side of each position. So, playing an 8 and a 9 into a position is committing you to either playing a 7 or a 10 or abandoning it as junk. It doesn't allow your opponent to play a 10 there and immediately win it. Since you only play one card per turn, you can judge the tempo about how long you have until a given row might be completed. So, you have a lot of information about what moves your opponent might make next.

In Rivers, the shared completion of rows combined with hidden hands means that there is almost no information about what your opponent can do next, so it is impossible to build towards a good play. More often than not, I found that playing cards into a region one by one ends with opponent completing it for you. There is no way to defend against that, and know way to no it's coming, so it is unsatisfying.

Actually, if the game had open hands it might be more interesting, albeit a bit more computational. Or if opponent had to pay some sort of penalty to play onto a River you had just played onto. Or if you marked ownership of all cards, and rivers that you complete but had a minority of cards in were worth less. Any of those would give more control and information about who is likely to win a given position, thereby making intermediate plays strategic rather than arbitrary.
 
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
All good commentary. I plan to revamp it a bit then, thanks!
 
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
Looking into a 2 player only shift where a each player gets a side to the river source cards and the first player to complete 21 (or 22,23,24) gets the cards.

Bonus points are scored for fish runs or all same color. Beaver dams can be played on opponents side to stop then and score points for you.

Fisherman will need to be re-implemented somehow.
 
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
JewellGames wrote:
Looking into a 2 player only shift where a each player gets a side to the river source cards and the first player to complete 21 (or 22,23,24) gets the cards.

Bonus points are scored for fish runs or all same color. Beaver dams can be played on opponents side to stop then and score points for you.

Fisherman will need to be re-implemented somehow.

Combined rivers could work, since that sets the game apart form games like Battleline and is a nice allusion to BlackJack. Perhaps marking ownership of each card (with tokens) would work better, and retain the unique shared-river element. While I like Battleline, that game already exists.

You could even imagine giving one player Red and the other Black, with their own personal decks. Then the cards are auto-marked, and luck will average out more. With 4 players (and 2 decks) each player takes 1 suit. With 3 players, maybe use 2 decks but omit one of the 4 suits. It would still be playable with a standard deck.

 
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Re: Rivers - Need playtesters (only requires a standard playing card deck)
Here is a proposed sketch for a revision that sticks closer to the original design, but adds more tactical plays:

E When a river is completed with a perfect 21, the person who has the most cards there scores the cards there, and a new river is dealt out. If there is a tie, the tied player with the lowest card there wins the tie (e.g. the earlier play).

E It's ok to place face cards into an incomplete river, but they count as 0's. You can play several at the same time if they are the same rank (just like number cards). Face cards are discarded from play when the river is scored, and nobody scores them.

E If a river goes past 21, then the river will not be scored until the end of the game. Player can keep playing face cards onto such rivers. At the end of the game, each river on the table (both overflowed ones & incomplete ones) is scored by the player with the most face cards there. If there is a tie, the tied player with the lowest face card wins. If there are no face cards there, nobody scores it.

This way, you can gain control of a river by just playing there a lot. However, if someone else has a dominant position in a river, you can just send it over 21 and change the rules for winning it. You can try to overcome a dominant position in a river by playing face cards there, thus increasing your influence without raising the river's sum. Getting a perfect 21 is good, since it secures the river for you. But even if you can't hit 21, you can do things to gain leverage.
 
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