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Apocrypha Adventure Card Game» Forums » General

Subject: Impressions from playtesting - 22 Sept '16 rss

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Craig Stockwell
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I dropped by the LSG offices yesterday to see how Apocrypha is playing these days. Five of us did three missions from The Book of the Skinwalkers -- the first chapter after the base set chapter (The Secrets of Candlepoint). The story is non-linear, so it's not like you have to play Chapter 1 before Chapter 2 (or Chapter 9), but the base chapter is there to teach you the ropes (so definitely play Candlepoint first).

Completeness I: The general mechanics felt finished, while mechanics of certain missions were still being adjusted (or at least reconsidered). If you're interested in the current ruleset, the KS campaign Update 32 has a link to Game Rules v. 9.02. Some cards had flavor text, but I'm pretty sure it was a minority. There was a lot of placeholder art -- but I didn't think to ask if that was because it wasn't finalized, not incorporated into layout, or because they hadn't reprinted cards since finalization/layout.

Card Layout: The art is better-featured now (even compared to PAX West), the flavor text is incorporated in the least-distracting way I've seen, and the game text is larger than the hard-to-read implementation at PAX West. While I think some people will still want for larger game text, I think they've struck the right balance point between "more art space" and "greater legibility". Because it's a co-op game, it's not critical a player be able to read cards in front of another player -- in fact, I think it mitigates some of the "alpha gamer" effect; instead, players can ask, "who can help me with xxxx?" The closest to alpha gamering that took place was immediate offers like, "I can help you with XXX, YYY, and/or ZZZ -- what do you want?"

Player seating: Since the player's [seating] position at table is a large part of how you can assist (which I first noticed -- and dug -- in Samurai Spirit), a party could min-max. We didn't, but I believe we were in one of three optimal configurations. Between missions, we could have rearranged, but opted not to (I think as much because our quick-check showed no immediate advantage to doing so, and we were comfy in our chairs). In a dedicated group, playing through all the books ... I'd expect optimizing would occur.

Fragments: A neat thematic element and mechanic of the game, memory fragments are one-use or lasting abilities which can aid the Saint (or their fellows). Over the course, I believe we used more than half of the one-use fragments. Not unlike classic D&D scrolls or potions to low-level adventurers, they can (and probably should) be used for strategic advantage often (and not hoarded). We were very aggressive with use, and I felt like that was the right decision.

Time: Our first mission took 45 minutes, the second 1:42, and the third was around 1:20 (I forgot to set a timer on the third). For five players, and with some explanations long the way (two playtesters, three Sharks per game), I thought it very reasonable.

Set-up: Like other ACGs, there's a modest amount of set-up time per mission (but less than, say, iterations of Upper Deck's Legendary line (which I play a *lot*)). I suspect it'll be like the Pathfinder ACG, in that, once we have the box out, we'll want to make it a multi-game session.

Tempo: I never felt play was bogged down; when we had slower turns, it was owing to players trying to work out the best combination of cards to play (and assisting to accept) -- but it generally felt like a group effort. Most of the time, we felt the time-tension; a few times, we felt the "getting low on HPs (cards)" tension.

Winning: We won all three missions -- but most of the time, we felt like we were on-track to win, not "a lock to win".

Theme: Not only did the game's overall theme come through, but the chapter's theme (broadly speaking, lycanthrope gangs) definitely did too. I'm excited to see more of the art for the chapter.

Completeness II: I'm not privy to how many playtest sessions (in-house and remote) have happened -- with ten chapters (intro + 9 books), each with ten missions (IIRC), a lot is needed. My impression is that what I played yesterday had seen a fair amount of testing already in, and was pretty close to being release-ready. If you told me the base set is mechanically ready, I'd probably believe you; if you told me all the chapters were ready, I probably wouldn't. If the missions I played were representative of the state of all the missions in the chapters, I'd believe they could send files to the printers in under one month.
(That's my somewhat-informed opinion -- having worked for a couple of game publishers, having designed a couple of games, but only having seen 3 of 100 missions.)

Of course, I wish I already had this game in my hands -- but considering the depth and scope, I agree with their choice to take the extra time to do it right. So long as we get updates every month, I'm not distraught about the delay (disappointed, sure).
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sean stockton
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I appreciate your review here. While I am anticipating the delivery of Apocrypha to my game table, I've also felt a good bit of trepidation because the number of things that could fail and snowball catastrophically in a project this massive. You've definitely alleviated some of that for me.

Thank you meeple
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Bryn Ballard
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Thank you for this report it's very illuminating. I do hope they have taken care to test all of the missions - it does seem like an imponderable task to release so much content all in one go. Here's hoping the full release matches your experience playing 3 missions - it seems like a positive start.
 
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Craig Stockwell
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I hope to find free time in my schedule which coincides with their in-office playtesting, so I can try other missions, from other books, in the next week or few. If I do, I'll add them to this thread.
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