Here we are 1 month after the craziness of GenCon. What an experience that was and although I had felt that the game was pretty much finished as I had envisioned it, the true test of mettle to see if The Wizards Path could walk it's own path and was it ready to be brought to the next level (to prepare it for production and shop for manufacturers).
This post is meant as a quick summary about the GenCon Experience and the feedback that I got from people who played, as well as what I've been up to since getting back from GenCon.
Teaching the Game to Others
Just because one designs a game does not necessarily mean that you can effectively teach people how to play it. Boy did I learn that lesson the hard way. The first couple of game sessions that I ran, I had tried to teach all the steps in playing the game in one shot and that in itself was my first mistake.
I knew going into GenCon that The Wizards Path had a steep learning curve. There are 6 phases in a turn and during the action phase (The Wizards Ways), there are 3 different types of actions you can do. Trying to show everyone all the steps and actions proved to be ineffective as people were mixing up the phases or placing cards in the path that did not belong there (the court cards). This was causing frustration with the players and to make matters worse, I was trying to run two (sometimes 3 games) at a time. So if the players had a question, I was going back and forth and sometimes they waited for me to get to them, aggravating the experience even more.
It took me after a couple of sessions to figure out a better way to explain the game. First, making sure that people were comfortable with the sequence of phases was paramount. If they did not understand the flow of the phases, then the game would be a mass of confusion. I advised the next series of players for the first 3 turns, to skip the 'Wizards Ways' phase so that the focus would be on how to build the Wizards Path and use the board to manipulate it. This gave them the basics of the flow of the game (foundation). Once they understood this, then I proceeded to show them the actions the Wizards take during the Wizards Ways phase.
This worked out much better as once people learned the foundation, they could then start to focus on strategy, which was the intent of the Wizards Ways phase (hand management through the use of the Majum, the benefits of magic challenges, etc).
To those who played in my first sessions, my deepest apologies for inadequately being able to explain how the game worked. Again, just because I know how the game worked did not mean I could teach it properly. Just for this experience, as a designer, it was a great eye-opener. I hope you will give it another chance.
Feedback - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
The Good ~ The feedback that I got back from the players was they seemed to like the game flow (once it was understood) and the artwork got a lot of compliments for the style of the game it was. With this, I felt I'm definitely on the right track.
The Bad ~ Some of the terminology for the game (such as influence and movement, or setting clear definitions for the Majum) was not explained properly, both in my description and in the reference sheet. This definitely needs to be polished up and re-written in order to avoid confusion. One of the things I've been working on since I got back was to try to polish up the rules/ reference cards. I'm aiming to have this updated by the end of this month so that I can download the last version of the introduction game in the files section (the one that can be used with a regular deck of playing cards). Also, running 3 games at once, by myself, was not a good idea. In this, I only hope that the players are able to forgive me for this as this was my shortcoming, not the game's.
The Ugly ~ The unanimous dislike that people had about this game was the voting process (petitioning the court) and the court cards. Part of me wanted to include a form of player interaction and associate it with the court cards. This included the voting process to bring into play the court cards to use their abilities. It was so despised that the players actively avoided it all together When I asked what people did not like about it, they confirmed that it was complicated to bring the court cards into play (the voting process included discarding cards for votes face down and bluffing) and although they have cool abilities, it did not warrant the hassle to try to bring them out, especially in a 3 or 4 player game where it was easily blocked by your opponents.
All in all, I would love to thank all the players that participated in the demos of The Wizards Path and for the feedback you have provided. Since I have got back from GenCon, I have been working on alternative ways to incorporate the Court cards in the game, without the hassle of the voting process. Also, I have been touching up the Elemental (suit) abilities to make them more interactive with the style that they are supposed to represent (for example, every time a Fire Wizard enters a magical challenge, they draw a card from the draw deck). I am currently play testing the changes and once I am satisfied that they are balanced, I will update the files in the file section
As far as the components are concerned, I have enough information to start shopping for quotes at the different manufacturers. I have mentioned to people during GenCon that my aim was to have this kickstarted by October. This is still the intent and the goal. However, it's looking to be more like the end of October. I want to make sure that the new mechanics for the Court cards are easy and flow properly and the Elemental Abilities are balanced.