So last Sunday some friends and I gathered for a night of play testing. First up was Dan Shaw’s game Salvation. I say “play testing” but Dan has refined this game since 1997 with his philosophy and religious studies classes. I think the mechanics and the theme fit nicely so it’s not necessarily standard play testing. Salvation is a different kind of 'move and roll' game where one tried tried to lead a major religion to enlightenment by converting souls, erecting holy buildings, and avoiding devastating Acts of God. You know any game designed by a philosophy teacher/war gamer is going to be interesting!
Dan has recently sent a call out for general play testers and he’s working through some good 3-5 player variants on a smaller map. According to Dan I think the sweet spot with the game is 4 or more attempting to convert large number of souls. The 4+ game sounds more epic, and I’ve always been an epic game fan. This is a session report with a short discussion about some potential suggestions for enhanced game play, in the hopes other amateur designers and those interested in the game and theme will glean something from our experience.
Still we were happy to take a shot at the proposed 3-player variant which is a holy war “race game”. Islam must build a seminary in Turkey and Orthodoxy and Catholicism must build one in the Holy Land for the victory. This countering objectives and ‘pushing past one another’ intrigued me.
Dan was Islam, Dan R Orthodoxy I was the Catholics. After subduing the Balkans I headed for Turkey to slow Dan who had a good string of conquests in Syria and the Holy Land. Orthodoxy was on a big march south but was kicked out of some key provinces slowing all their hard work. Dan had reached his first stage of enlightenment and drew a powerful card that helps the building of seminaries. Alas, I had some revolts and was unable to beat Dan to Turkey and unable to attack him before he could build his winning building. Game over. Dan R and I thought this was way anticlimactic, and decided we needed to try it again.
This time I was Islam, Dan Catholics, and Dan S Orthodoxy. I made my way to Syria and then Turkey. Dan R flew across the Mediterranean toward Turkey and attacked me in Syria. I lost to the Crusaders and he then sieged the Holy Land, where my defense bonuses gave me the advantage, sending all Christan armies back home. Orthodoxy spread quickly down the Caucus mtns and confronted me in Turkey where my army was quite large and ready for any attack. First Orthodox, then Catholicism was turned aside with few losses on my side. Without major armies, the forces of Christendom were unable to stop the construction of my Holy place in Turkey, fulfilling my victory conditions. The game was much more balanced, tense, and interesting overall, but people need to know that they must hurry to the Holy Land, or Islam needs to miss some roles, for it to be competitive.
After the game Dan R and I thought it was still a little unbalanced. It becomes too much of a race game, and doesn’t showcase the neat conversion mechanics well enough, still the second game had some interesting combat and difficult choices. Plus it was very quick, ending in under an hour.
We decided on a few rule tweaks that could remedy the situation. Islam must build and hold a seminary for at least one turn. Since when you erect a seminary most of your followers go away leaving just the building, thus a much reduced defense. I also thought that Dan should devise another 3-player play test scenario where the goal is a certain amount of enlightenment or souls. Dan also needed to lower some of the special abilities for all religions, as the level of achievement would take too long in a play test for most people. Dan R also suggested a bid mechanic for turn order that worked pretty well in crucial situations, but is probably more appropriate for larger epic games. Finally I would like to see some mechanic to invest my followers to mitigate against the Acts of God (AOG). Since the AOG are chosen at random, I’d like some way to buffer myself against complete annilahiation. Dan’s done that somewhat by allowing Holy Places built in certain locations to have powers, but in shorter play test games, these advancements need to happen sooner. Finally, it may add complexity but it would be interesting to erect 1-2 different buildings or 1-2 different’ functionaries or units, that help in conversion, protect against Acts of God, or help militarily. I was thinking of a building that could “call” or “pull” followers from adjacent religions would be interesting too.
So in conclusion Salvation has great ideas, simple game play, and intersting choices, but may need a few small tweaks for quicker play testing games for the general public, and the base rules for the epic, ‘conquer the world’ games.
tim Tim TIm TIM TIMMY!!
I think Dan is lucky to have such a great play tester at hand, you suggestios sound great, I hope I can do half as good a job on H&H for you ,
Which should be sooner then later!
Great write up ,thanks for sharing