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Subject: Objection! - More Balance or More Theme? rss

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Robert Osterman
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The game I'm working on is called Objection! and is a card laying game of arguing cases at trial. The play goes like this: Each player draws up a hand of cards and then lays them out into "lines" of questioning, chaining common themed "questions" into a coherent "case". The cards are titled by one of 4 themes and have colored marks to show what lines of questions can lead to other lines. The players do this like a trial. First prosecution lays out some. Defense then does the same or adds to existing lines (cross). Then each player gets another round to add to existing lines only (since you can't raise a new topic on Redirect or Recross).

So far the game has two identical decks made up of the same general mix of cards, which right now is the same blend of each of the trait cards.

I've play tested it a few times now and everyone's said good things so here's where I'm stuck:

The last group really pushed for me to take a page out of Smash Up and create "decks" of "lawyers" to be blended into a unique deck. This would tip off the other player what they might see but also let the players a) plan their jury draft to play to a strength they know they have and b) add more replayablility on a case.

My gut on the other hand wants to put time into polishing the mechanics and maybe even create some solid JPG's to print up more formal prototypes for sharing and passing out to potential playtesters.

Thoughts?
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Magnus Carlsson
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In my own process I try to focus on the balance and mechanics, because it often changes a lot. If you put a lot of effort into theming the game you might end up in a situation where you don't want to waste a lot of work just for testing out a new approach.

BUT...

I do tend to have theme in mind because I really like games where theme ties in with mechanics and it makes it easier to explain.
 
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Gavin Kenny
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Don't spend loads of time with JPGs and prettifying the game. At this stage spend the effort getting the mechanics and the balance right, since one bad playtest and all your lovely artwork might go to waste.

Nail the mechanics, then think about making it look nice. You should think about the theme, but it should not necessarily be paramount.
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Robert Osterman
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Here's part of the problem:

Adding more cards lets me deepen the theme and start to focus on play testing ~that~ direction. On the other hand, I could continue to keep pounding on the design as it stands and just keep probing for potential problems in the core mechanics now. The whole making prettier bits is mostly tied to having a system to mass-print the different card types rather than hand marking them all.

 
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Magnus Carlsson
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You should listen to your gut feeling and go where you want to go. One of the biggest problems in game design is getting to an obstacle and don't have the energy to overcome it. So try to find the best way for you.

Quote:
My gut on the other hand wants to put time into polishing the mechanics and maybe even create some solid JPG's to print up more formal prototypes for sharing and passing out to potential playtesters.


No one else is going to do the job, so if you have a way that you like better I suggest that you do that.
 
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patrick mullen
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I don't know. I always go through this struggle when I get feedback that is kind of out of left field and it often threatens to derail a project. Part of me feels like the best course is to proceed the direction I was already heading while keeping the feedback in mind and steering that way only ever so slightly. So in your case, keep making your card process work and do more playtests as-is. I mean, you only have heard this smash-up idea from one group, it's not something that everyone is clammoring for yet.

Then the other side of me says, you should at least do some preliminary exploration of that idea before either agreeing with it or rejecting it. If you reject it, you can return to your original path, more confident that it is the right one. If it's worth developing the new idea further, then you want to find out sooner rather than later.

It sounds like a really cool game by the way, good luck with it!
 
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Robert Osterman
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Thanks. If I can find my little tripod I might post a demo video this weekend to see if I can get even more eyes on the mechanic and see what percolates. That or I'll put some time into making some extra "decks" to start down the "smash up" theme of "building your team" before going to trial.
 
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Freelance Police
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MrOsterman wrote:
Adding more cards lets me deepen the theme and start to focus on play testing ~that~ direction. On the other hand, I could continue to keep pounding on the design as it stands and just keep probing for potential problems in the core mechanics now. The whole making prettier bits is mostly tied to having a system to mass-print the different card types rather than hand marking them all.


Try this: Keep the rules simple, but push the complexities onto the cards. That way, if one thing doesn't work, but the rest does, you fix the card giving you trouble, and keep the rules. But, if many cards don't work, the problem is probably with the rules. Also, keeping the rules simple allows you to build different difficulties and complexities of gameplay. So you can have balanced cards (low theme) and complex cards (high theme) in the same game system, without excluding one from the other. Also, by pushing complexity onto the cards, you're forced to be more economical with the complexities, since a card can only hold so many words.

I'm doing this with a miniatures game, and I'm liking the results. Even though the void spiders keep killing everyone. laugh
 
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Robert Osterman
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Sam and Max wrote:


Try this: Keep the rules simple, but push the complexities onto the cards. That way, if one thing doesn't work, but the rest does, you fix the card giving you trouble, and keep the rules.


I've been starting to experiment with that. I'm working on revising the decks to be a mash up of 3 "lawyers" each one bringing 15 cards to the deck. This takes the deck size from 40 to 45 cards which isn't huge. I may also change it to 20 cards per lawyer in the mix.

In theory then, if you want a "simple game" you can use the base three lawyers, or for advanced play you can swap someone out and replace them with a lawyer with more specialty.

 
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JT Schiavo
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A big part of playtesting is to learn how to determine what problem the players are trying fix, which is more likely a valid concern that specifically how the players want to fix it.

When I think of court, the last thing I think of is a smash-up style litigator creator. I understand the desire for asymmetry, but don't feel the smash-up route leads to the best style or thematic tie-in.

You already use drafting in the Jury selection, but perhaps also use drafting to build your deck? Frame it under the pretense of research and investigation to build your case?

How about setting up an Magic: The Gathering style sideboard with additional card options that you can switch into your deck? I'm not sure how valid it would be to switch cards mid game, but even pre-game it can help with a little constructed deckbuilding after you see the jury. Perhaps even somehow theme it into a sidebar?

As mentioned previously, I'd focus on the core of the game itself, then worry about how to work in the asymmetry and replayability.
 
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Robert Osterman
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crinaya wrote:


When I think of court, the last thing I think of is a smash-up style litigator creator. I understand the desire for asymmetry, but don't feel the smash-up route leads to the best style or thematic tie-in.

You already use drafting in the Jury selection, but perhaps also use drafting to build your deck? Frame it under the pretense of research and investigation to build your case?


Those are good suggestions. For good or bad in my lighter game groups (family) drafting/ pass and pick games are a hard explain. So I like some of the idea of drafting cards to build your core "case" deck and you're right it's thematic. I may play around with it soon.

In defense of the "smash up" theme what I'm looking at Thematically is the idea of picking which lawyers are going to try the case.

SO let's say this becomes "The Good Wife: The Card Game". You might pick for your side Alicia (Strong Narrative, strong Empathy), Diane (Strong Knowledge, Strong Narrative) and David (Chutzpah and Objections). This means you're set up to focus on three of the four categories for scoring. If you then draft into those for the jury and can object away the other scoring categories you're good.

Or you might put Alicia, Diane, and Fin (Strong Justice, Strong Knowledge). Now you're a little more nimble (you have cards in all 4 categories) but you're not as stacked with wild cards (Chutzpah) or Counters (objection). Youre also less likely to get headed off by a player who focused on one category over the others.

Does that make sense? (I'm still refining my pitches).
 
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