Rocco Privetera
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This is all about my game MegaJail where you are managing a jail and prisoners made out of cards, mostly, trying to house the most prisoners with the more dangerous worth more. This game emphasizes theme and creating a fun story over chess-like tactical stuff. I just want gut feelings on stuff. Here we go! Questions in Bold:

1. Your jail is full of "Conditions" like Fires, Riots, Contraband, and Open Cases. Right now I'm using tokens placed on the cards to show these and what they are influencing. Right now the tokens have #'s 1-6 on them. Every turn, the current Active Warden (AW) rolls an event die, and if the # comes up, that thing activates - for example, if you have a fire marked "3", and someone rolls a 3, that card is damaged.

AT a recent playtest, someone suggested making all the fires 1 number (making it easier to find and handle them). Eventually the group suggested something like: the Event Die has sides 1-2 marked Fire, 3-4 marked Riot, and 5-6 marked Contraband. That means one player rolling the 2 means EVERYONE'S Fires activate, but no Riots or Contraband does.

Which do you prefer: Every condition has numbers from 1-6 or the second way, where a custom die activates ALL of one type of Condition. The first is a little more complicated, but to me thematically makes more sense, with random stuff happening everywhere, instead of why is every Fire bursting at once? But the second is definitely easier.

2. I have a central tracker board (10" square, very pretty looking) that right now tracks two things: a sort of negative VP called "Infamy" that players earn by letting Cons escape or for letting parts of the jail get run down; and the current Turn, which is shown by a little Ship token flying along. The current turn is important because the game has a fixed turn length, but also because you get different resources depending on the turn.

I could replace the tracker with a smaller board - 4x10 say - for just the Infamy track, and then use cards for the current turn and resource values. That could free up some table space. I could also replace the Infamy tracker with individual cards and tokens for each player, but I feel like it's more fun to see the relative positions. So:

Which do you prefer: a big board with a track, and a token showing the turns and resources you get on that turn; or a smaller board for the track and some cards for the turn info?

3. I've got some testers who feel a certain aspect of the game "isn't fair" and want me to adjust for it. Case in point: as a warden of your wing, you can spend resources to build lots of cells that suit the prisoners needs, so the prisoners are all calm. But an alternate strategy is to spend resources on Guards, and when prisoners get unhappy, you just suppress them. Or, you spend resources on toys - so maybe I don't have as many cells as you, but my wing has a space ball court and a gym, so even though the cons get mad they also blow off steam.

The players feel that should be getting bonuses for Calm cons, but the original game scoring simply says "each prisoner has a VP you get if you have them housed at the end of the game, regardless if they are angry or not". So:

Should players get a score bonus somehow for running a calm jail (more complicated but fairer for people who want to run a calm jail) or just get points for housed Cons regardless of their anger or unrest?

4. Players get cards every turn they use to build stuff like Cells and Gyms. Each card has a requirement in other cards to discard to build it. What happens if you don't have the cards you need to build the thing you want - i.e. you have a Gym card in your hand you want to build, but no other card with a Gear symbol which the Gym card needs you to discard)? Well, you can currently: a) Trade with other players; b) turn in some other resources (call it 1 card once) to draw a new card and hope you get what you need or c) turn in a LOT of resources (call it 2 cards) to simply say you have the one build icon you need.

I'd like the game to be more interactive, with more trading and fighting and double-dealing. However by providing ways for players to get what they need, that cuts down on the interaction. HOWEVER players all say they like the options to get what they need, so they can have more solo-building experiences. This game does have some civ-building flavor to it - you build stuff, tech, etc during the game and then have something to feel proud of at the end. So:

Do you prefer more ways to get the things you need so you can build what you want (easier, less interaction) or should I limit some of those mechanics to force more interaction?

I think that's it. Thanks!
-Rock
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TTDG
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Fairfax
Virginia
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1. Random number conditions.
2. Point track.
3. Yes, give some reward for calm.
4. More options.

So, 1, I think you can do some things with colors and icon shapes to make each number 1-6 stand out. So do that, but definitely keep the events happening randomly. You could also do something with 2 dice, say 1 for the event type, and then the 2nd for which one of those. That reduces the places people have to look, but might mess with how often the bad things happen. Camden has some bad events trigger off card draws IIRC.

2, if you have any board at all, you can find a tiny bit of space to fit the point track in, maybe around the edge or in an unused corner. If the track would be the only board in your game, I still like seeing relative positions. You might also see if part of your game box could do double duty as the track.

3, if you have calm as a mechanic in your game, then yes I think you should reward that. I'd not do this out of any sense of 'fairness', but simply because you have the opportunity to make your game a richer experience. Knizia in some of his games does things like score based on your lowest multi-track score. I don't think you quite want that, but maybe each calm prisoner adds an extra 1/2 or 1/3 point toward victory. The other way to go is to increase the in-game reward for having calm, so that in effect it furthers the goal towards the other VP. For instance, maybe angry cons have a substantial risk of escaping, which has a risk of lowering that player's vp, said risk not being shared by the calm strategy player. Further, if the angry con player has to spend a lot of resources on guards, the calm player can spend those resources on more cons. In other words, this needs more balance.

4, more options lets people play the way they want, and opens your game up to a wider audience. I personally hate needing to trade if other players can present a united front and lock me out. Now, if you want to encourage trade, there are other ways to incentivize it. Maybe those that DO trade get some bonus from the bank, or maybe to get anything on your own you need to discard 3 cards instead of 2, but don't eliminate a whole style of play.
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DZ Woloshyn
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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1. Your original random-number way does indeed make more sense within the setting of the game. That setting/mechanism link is paramount to an immersive game experience.

2. I agree with TTDG that you could put the VP track (and the turn marker) on the back of the box. The turn-based-resource-boost could be handled differently if you'd like to have a high degree of interaction: vote for the resource that everyone receives! You're all Wardens in the same jail, right? Have a meeting! I like the little Ship turn counter idea, because you could argue that the ship is bringing your replacements and inspectors for the end of your term as Warden, and you'd like to make the best impression by having a prison wing that is most definitely NOT on fire.

3. In the same vein as the little-Ship-bringing-the-inspectors idea, having a calm prison also might make thematic sense. On the other hand, if the inspector that shows up is a hardline right-wing brick-hittin' mammajamma, then you might make a better impression by having guards with flamethrowers. You could have ways and means of figuring out what-type-of-inspector-is-a-comin' throughout the game.

4. Trading should be the easiest, most productive way to get what you need. Other ways must exist if, as TTDG mentioned, you get blacklisted by everyone else, but those methods should cost you extra (e.g. going through the convict-operated black market). I imagine that you would also get more Infamous in so doing, though. (Truly, I do not condone games whose interaction level peaks at "blocks an action that someone else could take". You can save the time and effort that is required to organize a game night to play one of those games by just staying at home with a solo, and then comparing scores online.)
 
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Rocco Privetera
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New York
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Ok, so:

1. Random Conditions on the die roll seems to be everyone's preference so far except 2 guys at one playtest. Yeah - if I can make the token random number stand out hat would help.

2. Back of box is a neat idea! My original thought was the gameboard was 10x10 and only consisted of the ship's path and resource elements plus the Infamy track, and then a 10x10 box for it to fit in. I could ditch the board for the box maybe. If another publisher sucks this game up (very possible right now, fingers crossed) they may want a real box instead.

3. Right now, Cons cards have two sides - a "Calm" side and an "Angry" side. Most of the stuff on both sides is identical, except for an "Angry" sign and some of the text boxes colored red so it's easy to see who's Angry. Things like the VP for a unit *could* be slightly better on the Calm side I guess. I run into some point issues tho - the average VP is 1-4. I don't want fractional VP. So if every con has 1 additional VP if Calm, I think that vastly overvalues the Calm Cons, unless I change the VP spread by... double I guess. So 1,3,5,7 VP for Angry cons and 2,4,6,8 for Calm ones.
Or maybe it's something like you get 1 more VP for every Cell of Calm Cons.
Or maybe having a lot of Angry Cons adds to your Infamy, which over the game results in negative VP. Like any turn you end with more than half your Cons angry, you get additional Infamy.

4. Hmm... well, since the Primary Resource right now is Operations Cards (which represent OPS workers and supplies - these get converted into Facilities or you hold them to just use the workers without discarding them) I can see something where if you trade, great - you get what you need without trying up your OPS guys. If you use your OPS guys to requisition more random resources, ok, but you lose the utility of the OPS guys to do other things. I might just have to try removing the "use x OPS to get exactly what you need" since that seems to make things too easy, especially when the players get more resource-creating engines going.
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