David Thompson
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Greetings, I'm looking for critiques, comments, reviews, and playtesters (especially playtesters!) for a game I'm currently designing called Switch and Signal. This game was born out of my desire to play a railway operation type cooperative game. There are 1,000,101 games about building railways across countries and continents and, as best I can tell, 1 about actual micro-level railway operations (throwing switches and signals, etc). Switch and Signal is a gateway-level cooperative game that focuses on the operation of a congested network of railways in a relatively small area.






In Switch and Signal, you take the role of engineers, signalmen, switchmen, and yardmasters working together to safely load, move, and unload freight trains through a congested railway network.


Object of the Game

The goal of Switch & Signal is to gain 10 Victory Points, which are earned by unloading cargo. Victory Points are lost if trains crash or if you do not have an adequate supply of empty trains. You lose the game if you go below 0 Victory Points or if you run out of cards before reaching 10 Victory Points.

1 - 4 players
30 minutes
Ages 8+


Downloads:
- Rules (playtest v0.5, updated 8 June 14)
- Components
- High res color map
- High res (mostly) B&W map

A pic from the first playtest session:


A pic of my dad and me playing this past weekend:


The game board:


A couple cards:

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I will want to check this out when I have time
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David Thompson
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dugfromthearth wrote:
I will want to check this out when I have time


Thanks, Dug. I would really appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

If anyone is interested in reading about the initial design/development thread concerning this game, it spawned out of a discussion in the general gaming forums.
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Georg W
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I played solo a few times. Managed to win on "advanced", but not on "expert".

Regarding the questions in the other thread:
Railway occupations: I've only tried signal- and switchman and found the signalman much more useful (for solo play). Maybe the switchman just requires a different approach - that would actually be nice.
Game length/ overall flow; tension: I thought it worked well. thumbsup
The second dispatcher card seems critical - the one that increases the arrival rate to 2. It's worries me that this card can come up as early as card 22 and as late as card 42. That should make a difference of 5 to 10 trains. It was not an issue in my games, though, i.e. I don't recall having drawn the card very early.
Art direction/ time period theme; real world basis: I'm not exactly missing anything, but I'm not a railroad enthusiast either.
Difficulty mechanism: Maybe simply a score, and a recommendation for beginners to aim at 7 points? For more variety, could the setup be randomized? For example, the numbers on the starting city spaces.

My main dislike was keeping track of all the trains, mentally, and moving them every turn. I've turned to replacing (temporarily) blocked trains with tokens of a different color. I think I'm getting faster at telling where trains are headed, so, after a few more plays, it might stop being an issue altogether. Still, I wonder if the game would work on a smaller scale, or if only a random subset of trains moved every turn.

As a note to players reluctant to print and cut 10 sheets of cards: I printed only one of the four decks, 21 cards, and used pen and paper to track part of my cards when re-shuffling. And I kept track of the current dispatcher card on paper as well.
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firpo wrote:
I played solo a few times. Managed to win on "advanced", but not on "expert".


Georg, thanks for taking the time to print and play Switch and Signal and for posting your thoughts. I'm impressed that you managed to beat the game on Advanced. That's very difficult. I haven't beat the game on Expert yet myself! What did you think of the level of difficulty for Beginner? Too easy?

firpo wrote:
Regarding the questions in the other thread:
Railway occupations: I've only tried signal- and switchman and found the signalman much more useful (for solo play). Maybe the switchman just requires a different approach - that would actually be nice.


I have had a lot of playtesting with the prior version of Switch and Signal (draw seven cards, but no railway occupations), but only limited experience with the new roles (only about 10 games). Thus far, the influence of the roles seems largely situational, with the Yardmaster the least useful.

firpo wrote:

Game length/ overall flow; tension: I thought it worked well. thumbsup
The second dispatcher card seems critical - the one that increases the arrival rate to 2. It's worries me that this card can come up as early as card 22 and as late as card 42. That should make a difference of 5 to 10 trains. It was not an issue in my games, though, i.e. I don't recall having drawn the card very early.


This is a very valid point. I have considered tying the increase in difficulty to the number of Victory Points the players have accrued (for example, maybe the difficulty rises when the players accrue 3 victory points), but the problem that arises is that players will immediately try to "game the system" by stacking up a bunch of loaded rail cars before earning any victory points. I'll keep this in mind, watch out for it in my playtests, and make it a specific point of interest for blind playtesters.


firpo wrote:
Difficulty mechanism: Maybe simply a score, and a recommendation for beginners to aim at 7 points?


I thought about this a good bit. There's no difference between everyone starting at 0 and Beginner ending at 7, Intermediate ending at 8, etc except that it seems easier to just have 10 victory points always be a target number. The other alternative is to eliminate the sliding victory points altogether, and rely on other mechanisms to increase difficulty.

firpo wrote:
For more variety, could the setup be randomized? For example, the numbers on the starting city spaces.


Brilliant! I love this, and it will be very easy to implement. Instead of the starting cities being numbered, I'll just have people print out starting city tokens and randomly place them at the beginning of the game (after the initial game, which will have pre-set locations). One of my concerns was that players would get into a routine of always configuring the starting signals and switches the same way (or very similarly). By randomizing the starting cities, players will have to modify their switch and signal configurations. This will be the main difference for version 0.3. I love it.

firpo wrote:
My main dislike was keeping track of all the trains, mentally, and moving them every turn. I've turned to replacing (temporarily) blocked trains with tokens of a different color. I think I'm getting faster at telling where trains are headed, so, after a few more plays, it might stop being an issue altogether. Still, I wonder if the game would work on a smaller scale, or if only a random subset of trains moved every turn.


I can definitely see this being an annoyance. I play with physical components (robbed from Ticket to Ride), which probably helps a bit. I also have a fairly well-developed system of movement. Once you get a routine down, it goes very fast. I'm not sure I like the idea of randomizing and limiting movement of the trains. As one playtester astutely pointed out, the real game is the use of switches and signals to optimize the end of turn train movement. The idea of randomizing that portion of the turn would negatively impact the main mechanisms of the game, I'm afraid. However, I will try to think of better ways for tracking which trains have moved.

firpo wrote:
As a note to players reluctant to print and cut 10 sheets of cards: I printed only one of the four decks, 21 cards, and used pen and paper to track part of my cards when re-shuffling. And I kept track of the current dispatcher card on paper as well.



Correct. It's very easy to play with a single set of cards and track the Dispatcher separately. You just have to be careful not to cheat yourself out of the cards in the players' hands when the deck runs out.

Thanks again for the awesome feedback. Priceless.
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Georg W
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Reading Cameron's post, I realized I had been moving the trains just as he suggests they should be moved, i.e. all based on a single roll. My bad. That explains why I found the game rather easy. I must've read the Move Trains subsection too hastily, taking away only that all trains move, and then the Dispatcher section kind of suggests that they all move at the same speed: "The Train Speed symbol indicates the number of spaces moved by each train during the Move Trains phase of a turn."

Now, playing by the actual rules (hopefully), I needed two attempts to win even on "beginner". The first game was in limbo (for maybe 10 minutes), like in Cameron's report. This game felt too long. In all my other games, I found it easy to tell when I couldn't win anymore (several imminent crashes), but in this one, I thought I might still have a chance.

The second game, I managed to get to 3+7 points without any crashes. It may have helped that the first dispatcher card came up right away; hard to say if that's good or bad. Maybe I actually played better. As in all my games, I continued to see if I could've beaten the next higher difficulty, but it turned out I would've needed a little extra luck for that.

Game 3 I started on intermediate difficulty. Had my first crash at 2+5 points, shortly after the second dispatcher card, two more crashes if memory serves, but still managed to get to 2+7 points. At that time, I was well into the fourth deck and loading trains just to avoid running out of empty ones. So I called it a victory at "beginner" and stopped.

Comparing the two movement rules (actual and suggested), I don't think the individual die rolls add that much overhead. The majority of the trains are usually stuck or can only move one step. I recon I rolled at most 5 times per movement phase. I rather liked having to keep trains apart to avoid rear-end collisions. Those also happened with uniformly moving trains, but were a minor factor.

Skirmish_Tactics wrote:
I thought about this a good bit. There's no difference between everyone starting at 0 and Beginner ending at 7, Intermediate ending at 8, etc except that it seems easier to just have 10 victory points always be a target number.
I was thinking of a score without a (fixed) target number. Beginners would be recommended to aim at 7, but if they managed 8, more power to them. Isn't that how it works anyhow? If a beginner reaches 10 points easily, adjusting the difficulty retroactively is more economical than starting over.
Higher difficulties spawning more trains (for example) would be fine by me, too; then the above would be moot.

Skirmish_Tactics wrote:
firpo wrote:
For more variety, could the setup be randomized? For example, the numbers on the starting city spaces.
Brilliant! I love this, and it will be very easy to implement. Instead of the starting cities being numbered, I'll just have people print out starting city tokens and randomly place them at the beginning of the game (after the initial game, which will have pre-set locations). One of my concerns was that players would get into a routine of always configuring the starting signals and switches the same way (or very similarly). By randomizing the starting cities, players will have to modify their switch and signal configurations. This will be the main difference for version 0.3. I love it.
It seems that the game would be (much?) harder, though, if, for example, the 7 and 12 were interchanged. Perhaps changes to the track layout could make this more fair. If it does work, the numbers of the starting cities could even change throughout the game, forcing players to adapt their main routes. Gradually replacing improbable numbers (2, 12, ...) with more probable ones would also be a (crude) way to smoothly increase the rate of arriving trains over the course of a game.

Quote:
I'm not sure I like the idea of randomizing and limiting movement of the trains. As one playtester astutely pointed out, the real game is the use of switches and signals to optimize the end of turn train movement. The idea of randomizing that portion of the turn would negatively impact the main mechanisms of the game, I'm afraid.
I thought they could move extra fast sometimes to make up for not moving at all at other times. But that may indeed make movement too jumpy: If a train moves only half of the time, it would usually have to move 4 or more steps when it does move. At any rate, I agree that trains should move mostly by themselves.

Quote:
Thanks again for the awesome feedback. Priceless.
Thank you for making the game and discussing it.
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Cameron McKenzie
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If you use Ticket to Ride trains, how do you tell which way they are facing? The trains seem symmetric to me.
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firpo wrote:
Reading Cameron's post, I realized I had been moving the trains just as he suggests they should be moved, i.e. all based on a single roll. My bad. That explains why I found the game rather easy. I must've read the Move Trains subsection too hastily, taking away only that all trains move, and then the Dispatcher section kind of suggests that they all move at the same speed: "The Train Speed symbol indicates the number of spaces moved by each train during the Move Trains phase of a turn."

Now, playing by the actual rules (hopefully), I needed two attempts to win even on "beginner". The first game was in limbo (for maybe 10 minutes), like in Cameron's report. This game felt too long. In all my other games, I found it easy to tell when I couldn't win anymore (several imminent crashes), but in this one, I thought I might still have a chance.

The second game, I managed to get to 3+7 points without any crashes. It may have helped that the first dispatcher card came up right away; hard to say if that's good or bad. Maybe I actually played better. As in all my games, I continued to see if I could've beaten the next higher difficulty, but it turned out I would've needed a little extra luck for that.

Game 3 I started on intermediate difficulty. Had my first crash at 2+5 points, shortly after the second dispatcher card, two more crashes if memory serves, but still managed to get to 2+7 points. At that time, I was well into the fourth deck and loading trains just to avoid running out of empty ones. So I called it a victory at "beginner" and stopped.

Comparing the two movement rules (actual and suggested), I don't think the individual die rolls add that much overhead. The majority of the trains are usually stuck or can only move one step. I recon I rolled at most 5 times per movement phase. I rather liked having to keep trains apart to avoid rear-end collisions. Those also happened with uniformly moving trains, but were a minor factor.


Thanks for the recap, Georg. Your experience with the two difference move systems is very informative. I agree that the current move system is much more difficult (as it requires a greater level of effort and planning to guarantee trains don't collide). I tend to think that so few trains are moving any significant distance, that it really isn't that much work to roll for each individually. However, I'm open to opinions on this. In fact, the movement system is probably the area of the game I'd be most receptive to hearing proposals for change. So if anyone has any thoughts on alternatives, I'm up for it. The only requirement is that there would have to be some random element that would create risk for the players if they didn't ensure a proper distance between trains.



firpo wrote:
I was thinking of a score without a (fixed) target number. Beginners would be recommended to aim at 7, but if they managed 8, more power to them. Isn't that how it works anyhow? If a beginner reaches 10 points easily, adjusting the difficulty retroactively is more economical than starting over.
Higher difficulties spawning more trains (for example) would be fine by me, too; then the above would be moot.


I'm still open to suggestions about difficulty. Switching the starting and ending scores don't change the game mechanically, so I'm not overly concerned there (it would come down to playtester preference). In some ways, I think it would be nice to achieve a different method of difficulty scaling, though, that totally eliminated the difference in the Victory Track. For instance, maybe the easier difficulty just doesn't have one or more of the Dispatch cards, etc. I'm open to any and all suggestions here (and I'm still considering the different board idea).

firpo wrote:
It seems that the game would be (much?) harder, though, if, for example, the 7 and 12 were interchanged. Perhaps changes to the track layout could make this more fair. If it does work, the numbers of the starting cities could even change throughout the game, forcing players to adapt their main routes. Gradually replacing improbable numbers (2, 12, ...) with more probable ones would also be a (crude) way to smoothly increase the rate of arriving trains over the course of a game.


Right. This is a very, very hard thing to simulate, and the number of physical playtests required to determine balance is unrealistic. What I'll probably do is develop the game without this component. Once I've nailed down the core mechanics for the game, I'll develop a simulation of the game and randomize the starting spaces to determine impact. At the end of the day, this change is only aimed at improving variability and repalyability.

firpo wrote:
Thank you for making the game and discussing it.


And thanks especially to you and Cameron. I have a ton of great additions for the next playtest version. I'll try to get v0.3 complete this week.
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MasterDinadan wrote:
If you use Ticket to Ride trains, how do you tell which way they are facing? The trains seem symmetric to me.


I was worried about that at first, but we've never had a problem. The movement in the game is so organic and obvious (coupled with the fact that direction changes once you move into a city) that it's never come up during a playtest as an issue.

That having been said, I'm ordering some of these train pieces from Print and Play Productions to use for my prototype.

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are you going to enter this in the contest?
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aVoidGames wrote:
are you going to enter this in the contest?


The 2 player contest? I really, really want to, but it's technically 1-4. I originally conceived it as a 2 player co-op and designed it with my parents in mind. However, because it supports 1, 3, and 4 player options, I'm not sure it would qualify. Maybe I could beg Nate?
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Georg W
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Word is that games announced no earlier than 1.1.2014 will be eligible for this year's (summer's?) solitaire contest.

Regarding train movement:
I've come to wonder why the trains all have the same destination. Wouldn't the players' job be harder if some trains were travelling, say, from west to east and others from east to west, or crisscross? Maybe a way to achieve the same depth with fewer trains (and hence less train movement).

If trains had to move by a single dice roll, I'd consider something like this:
Spaces are annotated with numbers.
bluetrainE
=|=|=|= =|=|=|= =|=|=|=
1,2 2,3 1,5

A train moves if the dice match one of the numbers on its space, and continues to move until reaching a space whose numbers have not been rolled. So, if two dice are thrown, 14 would move the train one space, 35 zero spaces and 25 three spaces (or more). Not sure if it's worth a try; the procedure may well be slower than the current one, and it's less intuitive.
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firpo wrote:
Word is that games announced no earlier than 1.1.2014 will be eligible for this year's (summer's?) solitaire contest.


So do games like Switch & Signal (games that can be played solo but can also have multiple players)) qualify for entry?

In the 20013 entry rules, this sounds like Switch and Signal wouldn't be allowed to enter: "This contest should be purpose-designed solitaire play games. Multi-player options are allowed but the primary focus of the game should be for solo play."


firpo wrote:
Regarding train movement:
I've come to wonder why the trains all have the same destination. Wouldn't the players' job be harder if some trains were travelling, say, from west to east and others from east to west, or crisscross?


Interesting idea. I think there's merit to it, if you could think of an easy way to track the trains that are bound for each destination (color coding and simple symbology would probably work). The railroad network would also need to be reconfigured. This idea might make for a good flip side to the board. It would allow for a completely different play experience. Other than tracking the different destinations on the trains, it should also be easy to implement once the core rules of the game are finalized.

firpo wrote:
Maybe a way to achieve the same depth with fewer trains (and hence less train movement).


I'm curious - discounting the possible issues with train movement, do you feel there are too many trains on the board at the end of the game? Currently, I feel like the congested nature of the board near end-game is a positive, but I'd like to get others' thoughts.

firpo wrote:
If trains had to move by a single dice roll, I'd consider something like this:
Spaces are annotated with numbers.
bluetrainE
=|=|=|= =|=|=|= =|=|=|=
1,2 2,3 1,5

A train moves if the dice match one of the numbers on its space, and continues to move until reaching a space whose numbers have not been rolled. So, if two dice are thrown, 14 would move the train one space, 35 zero spaces and 25 three spaces (or more). Not sure if it's worth a try; the procedure may well be slower than the current one, and it's less intuitive.


Wow. I think that would be a bit much. I'll try it though, during our next round of playtests. I'll just pencil in the number sets on one of the boards I have printed out. Shouldn't be too hard.

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Updated playtest version 0.3.

Changes:
- Crashes remove cards rather than Victory Points;
- Inability to spawn new trains removes a card rather than a Victory Point;
- Combined the Load and Unload cards and actions into the Transload card and action;
- Changed the Yardmaster to incorporate the Transload action.

Changes not included in version 0.3 but planned:
- Optional ability to randomize the starting city locations. I fully intend on including this (in some capacity), but during the playtest phase I'm going to leave it out to minimize variables.

- Optional Switch token components (request by Cameron). I'll work these up, but they will be an alternative rather than the standard component.

Focus for playtest v0.3: test changes to crashes and place train mechanics, explore alternative move mechanics, explore alternative difficulty modification ideas.

Downloads:
- Rules (playtest v0.3, updated 26 Jan 14)
- Components
- High res color map
- High res (mostly) B&W map

Thanks!
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Georg W
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Skirmish_Tactics wrote:
[...] In the 20013 entry rules, this sounds like Switch and Signal wouldn't be allowed to enter: "This contest should be purpose-designed solitaire play games. Multi-player options are allowed but the primary focus of the game should be for solo play."
Hm, this rule does sound rather exclusive. I'm not aware of any amendments. Still, I don't think it would be too bold to at least ask. That is, if you're comfortable with presenting S&S as (primarily) a solitaire game in that context. Playing only solo, I didn't find it apparent that the game was primarily designed for cooperative play.

Quote:
I'm curious - discounting the possible issues with train movement, do you feel there are too many trains on the board at the end of the game? Currently, I feel like the congested nature of the board near end-game is a positive, but I'd like to get others' thoughts.
I don't know. I don't find the many trains troublesome now, but I do remember finding them difficult to keep track of in my first 1-3 games. My best guess is that having the main routes memorized reduces the attention required per train considerably. I certainly agree that the tension should increase towards the end (and so it does).

As for that track-triggered movement system, apart of other possible shortcomings, I had forgotten that S&S is aimed at families. I imagine children will like the current movement system much better.
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I think the number of trains will be reasonable once we find some figure to use - we will just turn it on its side whenever it's movement is blocked, and turn it back up if the movement gets unblocked.
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Georg W
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That's actually what I do now:
(enlarge for caption)
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firpo wrote:
Hm, this rule does sound rather exclusive. I'm not aware of any amendments. Still, I don't think it would be too bold to at least ask. That is, if you're comfortable with presenting S&S as (primarily) a solitaire game in that context. Playing only solo, I didn't find it apparent that the game was primarily designed for cooperative play.


I'll definitely ask. There's no harm in that. I've never participated in the single player contest (only the 2 player contest). Any idea when it's set to start?

firpo wrote:
I'm curious - discounting the possible issues with train movement, do you feel there are too many trains on the board at the end of the game? Currently, I feel like the congested nature of the board near end-game is a positive, but I'd like to get others' thoughts.
I don't know. I don't find the many trains troublesome now, but I do remember finding them difficult to keep track of in my first 1-3 games. My best guess is that having the main routes memorized reduces the attention required per train considerably. I certainly agree that the tension should increase towards the end (and so it does).

As for that track-triggered movement system, apart of other possible shortcomings, I had forgotten that S&S is aimed at families. I imagine children will like the current movement system much better.[/q]

Sounds good. For now, I'll stick with the current move system while we're testing the new card mechanism, but I'm definitely still open to new idea for movement.

MasterDinadan wrote:
I think the number of trains will be reasonable once we find some figure to use - we will just turn it on its side whenever it's movement is blocked, and turn it back up if the movement gets unblocked.


Right. That's exactly what I do. Works well. Georg, I love your pic.
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Skirmish_Tactics wrote:

I'll definitely ask. There's no harm in that. I've never participated in the single player contest (only the 2 player contest). Any idea when it's set to start?


It looks like a July start but Chris also mentions there that they're considering allowing announcements sooner-though I don't see a 2014 thread yet.
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davekuhns wrote:
Skirmish_Tactics wrote:

I'll definitely ask. There's no harm in that. I've never participated in the single player contest (only the 2 player contest). Any idea when it's set to start?


It looks like a July start but Chris also mentions there that they're considering allowing announcements sooner-though I don't see a 2014 thread yet.


Thanks. I just asked if I could enter Switch & Signal. Let's see what they say.
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No official word yet, but it looks like I'll probably have to make an "official" solo variant of Switch & Signal to enter it into the contest. No worries - it won't be too hard. I'll just have to figure out whether the solo player will be able to play one or more of the Railway Occupations. It's possible as the design and development of the game continues, I could integrate additional options aimed at multiple players, specifically to avoid the Alpha Player issue. If so, I would just leave those options out for solo play.
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I wanted to try out a solo play of this since I've never played a train game before.

I randomly pulled the Switchman but as another poster said, the Signalman would have been the most useful. I had 4 trains all huddled around the same junction in the upper left region because I could not pull a signal card to move a 5th train out of the Production city there. I also had another 3 trains around the board also all waiting for a signal card to get things going. I did have 2 unload cards I could have played to get a signal action, but I didn't want to lose those cards since one of my loaded trains was at the edge of the Port city...held up by a missing signal.

Unless you had the Signalman to get a free signal action every turn, the game stalls and more trains come in every turn. I shudder at the thought of the number of trains on the board with more people playing with more trains coming in every turn. I guess that's part of the tension in the game, but it seems to need more available signal actions especially if playing solo. Having to depend on the random card draw to the point where it completely stalls the game is the biggest problem with me. There would be more cards drawn with more players, I can also see how it would be very easy for an alpha player to dictate orders in this game.

The game play is pretty straightforward and the playlets rulebook does a decent enough job of explaining things except for one very glaring omission. Page 5, column 2, "Move Trains" section talks about the Difficulty Marker and the Difficulty Track...what are they? I can't find any preceding mention about them. The only track I see is the Victory Track so I figure maybe the Difficulty Track refers to the "Beginner-to-Expert". But when the rulebook specifically points out a Difficulty Marker, it sounds like there should be a separate marker from the Victory Marker. I just assumed that the single marker and track served for both Victory and Difficulty at the same time.

The most confusing part was figuring out exactly what you're suppose to use for the number of spaces you're suppose to move. In the above mentioned Move Trains section, it says the Difficulty indicates how many dice to roll for a total number of spaces to move. But in the Dispatcher section on Page 5 says you roll the number of dice indicated on the Train Speed of the Dispatcher card and move the number of the dice indicated by the arrow symbol. Actually, I had a hard time believing you're really suppose to roll that number of dice if the Difficulty/Victory marker goes up the track to the higher numbers. So I played the Dispatcher rules for determining train movement.

It's easy enough as a single player to play through your own turn and round, but as I look over the rules again for the train movement, does it actually mean ALL players move their trains at the end of each player's turn?!

One other thing I kept missing was that when placing a train at the start of each turn, I kept seeing the Dispatcher card train speed dice. I had to do a double-take and remind myself every time that I'm suppose to roll 2 dice, not the number of dice I see on the card. May 2 small dice can be added to the Place Trains section as a visual reminder that that's the number of dice to roll when placing trains?

One other suggestion for the board...any reason why the starting signal and switch spots are not on the actual board the way they are indicated in the rulebook? I understand that the Advanced Play variants allow you more freedom in placing the starting pieces in different locations, but since these indications on the board apply to only the setup, Advanced Play rules can just ignore them. That would eliminate the need for referring to the rulebook every time you set up a new game.
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secoAce wrote:
I wanted to try out a solo play of this since I've never played a train game before.


Thanks for taking the time to print and play this, secoAce.

secoAce wrote:
I randomly pulled the Switchman but as another poster said, the Signalman would have been the most useful. I had 4 trains all huddled around the same junction in the upper left region because I could not pull a signal card to move a 5th train out of the Production city there. I also had another 3 trains around the board also all waiting for a signal card to get things going. I did have 2 unload cards I could have played to get a signal action, but I didn't want to lose those cards since one of my loaded trains was at the edge of the Port city...held up by a missing signal.

Unless you had the Signalman to get a free signal action every turn, the game stalls and more trains come in every turn. I shudder at the thought of the number of trains on the board with more people playing with more trains coming in every turn. I guess that's part of the tension in the game, but it seems to need more available signal actions especially if playing solo. Having to depend on the random card draw to the point where it completely stalls the game is the biggest problem with me.


That's a great data point for feedback from playtesters. Right now the deck is balanced (meaning an equal distribution, not necessarily balanced for play), but it sounds like some focused testings needs to take place to address whether the board layout should change or if the card distribution should be modified. I suppose I could recommend solo players using the Signalman, but I don't want to hae to depend on that for players to have a chance.

secoAce wrote:
I can also see how it would be very easy for an alpha player to dictate orders in this game.


Agreed. This is something I want to specifically address once the core of the game is worked through.

secoAce wrote:
The game play is pretty straightforward and the playlets rulebook does a decent enough job of explaining things except for one very glaring omission. Page 5, column 2, "Move Trains" section talks about the Difficulty Marker and the Difficulty Track...what are they? I can't find any preceding mention about them. The only track I see is the Victory Track so I figure maybe the Difficulty Track refers to the "Beginner-to-Expert". But when the rulebook specifically points out a Difficulty Marker, it sounds like there should be a separate marker from the Victory Marker. I just assumed that the single marker and track served for both Victory and Difficulty at the same time.


Which version of the rules did you use? Version 0.3 removed the Difficulty Track in favor of the randomly drawn Dispatcher Card. I did this in conjunction with the shift of removing cards from the deck when you have crashes and when trains can't spawn (instead of losing Victory Points).

secoAce wrote:
The most confusing part was figuring out exactly what you're suppose to use for the number of spaces you're suppose to move. In the above mentioned Move Trains section, it says the Difficulty indicates how many dice to roll for a total number of spaces to move. But in the Dispatcher section on Page 5 says you roll the number of dice indicated on the Train Speed of the Dispatcher card and move the number of the dice indicated by the arrow symbol. Actually, I had a hard time believing you're really suppose to roll that number of dice if the Difficulty/Victory marker goes up the track to the higher numbers. So I played the Dispatcher rules for determining train movement.


Wow. I'm really sorry about this. I'm not sure which version of the rules you were using, but it sounds like there must have been an iteration where I hadn't completely switched over the terminology. There is no Difficulty Track at all now - just the Dispatcher space, which is used to track movement. It sounds like you played with the correct rules, though, by using the Dispatcher.

secoAce wrote:
It's easy enough as a single player to play through your own turn and round, but as I look over the rules again for the train movement, does it actually mean ALL players move their trains at the end of each player's turn?!


All trains are shared. So yes, at the end of each player's turn, you move every train on the board. Though you'll find near the end of the game, especially, that many trains will be stopped at a signal or switch (usually purposefully so that you can control their movement).

secoAce wrote:
One other thing I kept missing was that when placing a train at the start of each turn, I kept seeing the Dispatcher card train speed dice. I had to do a double-take and remind myself every time that I'm suppose to roll 2 dice, not the number of dice I see on the card. May 2 small dice can be added to the Place Trains section as a visual reminder that that's the number of dice to roll when placing trains?


Good idea! Thanks.

secoAce wrote:
One other suggestion for the board...any reason why the starting signal and switch spots are not on the actual board the way they are indicated in the rulebook? I understand that the Advanced Play variants allow you more freedom in placing the starting pieces in different locations, but since these indications on the board apply to only the setup, Advanced Play rules can just ignore them. That would eliminate the need for referring to the rulebook every time you set up a new game.


I like the idea of reducing setup time for the basic game, but I'm not sure I follow you. How would you be able to illustrate the configuration without having permanent markers for the pieces on the board? And if they're permanent, how would you shown that they've changed?

Thanks again for taking the time to play. I really appreciate the feedback. I also want to apologize again for the rules mix up. I'm going back now to see if maybe I somehow linked to an older iteration of the rules. It really stinks that it sounds like some of your play experience was negatively impacted by rules questions. You've got some great ideas here, so hopefully I can convince you to stick around and continue to playtest Switch & Signal as we continue to develop it.
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I printed the rulebook from this thread but I've just noticed that it was updated probably since then. I tried PnP games with a lot of token counters and I knew the paper tokens were hard to pick up. So it took me a little time to redesign the token page to make the standup markers.

Skirmish_Tactics wrote:
That's a great data point for feedback from playtesters. Right now the deck is balanced (meaning an equal distribution, not necessarily balanced for play), but it sounds like some focused testings needs to take place to address whether the board layout should change or if the card distribution should be modified. I suppose I could recommend solo players using the Signalman, but I don't want to hae to depend on that for players to have a chance.

For the board layout, I thought having on1y 1 signal at the large city junctions was pretty very restrictive. Maybe city with the 5 track connections can have 2 signals? But further playtesting would be need to make sure the added signal won't end up making the game too much easier.

secoAce wrote:
One other suggestion for the board...any reason why the starting signal and switch spots are not on the actual board the way they are indicated in the rulebook? I understand that the Advanced Play variants allow you more freedom in placing the starting pieces in different locations, but since these indications on the board apply to only the setup, Advanced Play rules can just ignore them. That would eliminate the need for referring to the rulebook every time you set up a new game.
Skirmish_Tactics wrote:
I like the idea of reducing setup time for the basic game, but I'm not sure I follow you. How would you be able to illustrate the configuration without having permanent markers for the pieces on the board? And if they're permanent, how would you shown that they've changed?

Notice the Setup Illustration on page 4 of the rulebook (or at least on the original version of the rulebook I downloaded)? There is 1 signal spot in a bold circle on each city junction and certain switch spots throughout the board with the switch icon on the setup illustration to indicate where you are suppose to place the starting tokens. These markings are not on the actual board image. If these are added to the actual board, then you can just set up the starting board without having to look back at the rulebook to see where to place the starting pieces on the board.
 
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I think the big problem is that you usually need to use a signal the turn after a train comes to a city, in order to stop it from going back out the same way it came.

This means you usually can't use a load card effectively without a signal to go with it. If the train is going to go backwards, I am probably better off not loading it because it's likely to get stuck or crash.

I had suggested combining load and unload, but maybe the solution is to add more functionality to the cards instead of combining them
For example -

Load card will load a train and allow you to change the signal at the city that was loaded (I can't use this to change the signal if I didn't load a train though)

For unload, we could call it Brake. It lets you turn a train on its side so it doesn't move this turn (but it will stand up). If the train brakes at the port, it will unload. The extra functionality means you can get some utility from these cards. Even if you end up with a handful of them you don't need, you can at least use them to prevent or delay crashes. It also means if the train needs to load this turn, but you can't do it, then you can delay the train so that next player can load it.
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