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Subject: First playtests of El Presidente rss

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Mark Caldwell
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The rules and cards for the game can be found here http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/339283

GAME 1 - 7 PLAYERS
Now, I have explained the rules and we have our hot chocolate. We start the bidding for El Presidente. Nobody before me has really bid, so I feel compelled to bid so the others can get a feel for the game. I shouldn't have worried because Little bids all his money and becomes El Presidente.
THE REIGN OF LITTLE
He distributes the hats and then in the first turn he decides to keep all the money! (not really suprising if you know him). We go round the table having our turns, and everyone is grumbling about not getting any money when somebody makes Little discard all his ill-gotten gains, and then Freddy plays a card allowing a free coup this turn. El Presidente is dead, long live El Presidente!
THE REIGN OF ME
I persuade everyone to vote for me on the basis that I will be much more generous. Fools. As El Presidente my first action is to declare that the purpose of my government will be to be generous to my friends and to screw my enemies. And everyone sitting on that side of the table is my enemy and anyone on this side is my friend. The other side of the table tries to organise a coup as my friends and I reap the rewards, but then I am betrayed by my security minister. The new presidente is one of my enemies. Uh oh.
THE REIGN OF ARI
This new government isn't really working out well for me. It isn't long before I've had enough and raly support from the old Junta for a coup. Unfortunately, after I declare the coup the rats vote for chris as El Presidente
THE REIGN OF CHRIS
Chris is very magnamanious throughout his presidency, giving everyone money at least 1 turn in 2 or 3. He also has a couple of properties generating income for him. Everyone is very happy with his Presidency and it continues for a while when we start to realise he is winning! At this point Freddie and Little have been fighting a petty territorial war over the control of some properties for some time, and do not have many armies. I persuade the old security minister to hold a coup, but Chris bribes enough armies to win the ensuing vote, and then goes on to keep all the money in his last turn and win

PLAYTESTER COMMENTS
All positive, I won't blow my own horn by listing them, but they all thought it was perfect.

WHAT I LEARNT
Players needed to start with an army so they could vote in early coups, as well as only having to buy one army before being able to Coup.
I was worried that the players would be able to misuse the system and gain too much power to be ousted, but as you can see this wasn't a problem. I was also worried they wouldn't understand the concept of keeping enough other players happy so they would vote for you but they learnt this very quickly.
 
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Mark Caldwell
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GAME 2 - 8 PLAYERS

I don't remember this game as clearly, it was also a bit longer. Here are the points I remember.
1. I become president and instead of alienating half the board I decided to screw just one person, to see how they would enjoy the game in that scenario. I picked a player who had not played the game before. At first they were amused and a bit annoyed, but then that player went on to win the game later. After the game he told me that the thing he liked about the game was that even when he was losing he was still enjoying playing.
2. We found that the Security Minister is an imensely powerful role. I was worried about Security Ministers getting out of control, but power-hungary Security Ministers caused more than one coup of the government just to get rid of them, which is what I intended.
3. Non-gamer freinds: Subject A played it for the second time and still loves the game, even discussing strategy etc. Subject B played it for the first time and picked it up easily. He revealed after the game that he didn't win when he could have in order to prolong the game.
4. Forming a strong alliance with a couple of other players: I was worried this would allow for an easy victory, so I tried a secret alliance. We became president twice, but the other players just couped us when they thought we weren't giving them enough money or looked like we were in a strong position.
5. One player tried a strategy that had me concerned when I designed the game: He conquered everyone's properties at the start to provide himself with a large income. However other players just took them back when they realised he was making a large ammount of money.
6. The endgame. It becomes very difficult to win when you only have 1 army to go, because everyone else can gang up to stop you from winning. I noticed that because of this the game lasted longer than I wanted it too and a few players were on 6 armies and could not win without staging a coup which would cost them 2 armies. I added cards to the even deck to allow for victories in these situations.
7. Bribary wasn't a very commonly used tactic. This didn't concern me because the purpose of Bribary was just to differentiate between armies. But I removed all the pretty much useless bribary-related cards from the deck
8. We ran out of armies (see point 6) I added more armies to the deck to solve this.
9. Players were discovering new aspects of the game as the game went on, such as how the Admiral can be a blessing or a curse.

PLAYTESTER COMMENTS
Well they didnt see the problems I saw with the endgame I mentioned above, but they did bring up the point that the Finance Minister's power was too weak. Originally the Finance Minister just got to open the bidding, so I added in the extra ability.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The game turned out just how I wanted it to, after the first two playtests. Is this a common experience for other designer's? My only remaining concern about the game is that the game does not neccessarily reward the most skilled player because of all the diplomacy involved. In fact the player who can keep the most other players happy thoughout the game often seems to win. If anyone has any comments about this game, please let me know.
 
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Clinton Paris
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Post Falls
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evil lincoln wrote:
My only remaining concern about the game is that the game does not neccessarily reward the most skilled player because of all the diplomacy involved. In fact the player who can keep the most other players happy thoughout the game often seems to win.

I'm not sure this is necessarily a bad thing, but it depends on what kind of game you are out to make. There are lots of games in the Diplomacy genre (Lifeboats, Intrigue, etc.) where this is the primary design element.

Do post more!

meeple
 
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Mark Caldwell
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crparis wrote:
I'm not sure this is necessarily a bad thing, but it depends on what kind of game you are out to make. There are lots of games in the Diplomacy genre (Lifeboats, Intrigue, etc.) where this is the primary design element.


You are right of course, and this is the aim of the game. When we play, players who just keep their head down and are innocuous often get voted president as they are not seen as a big threat. It remains to be seen whether this is an idiosyncracy of my play group.
 
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Geo
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Is this game another version of Junta?
 
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Mark Caldwell
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GeoMan wrote:
Is this game another version of Junta?


Pretty much, the rules and cards are here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/339283

I have never played or read the rules for junta, but I think it is differet in many ways
 
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Mark Caldwell
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GAME 3 - 9 PLAYERS

My gaming group voted to pull out this game again, so who am I to say no?

THINGS I LEARNED
One of the cards I added was a complete brain snap, and just increased the length of the game without being useful in any way. That card got played once and made the game go much longer. It made each player lose an army, which basically increases the victory points needed each time it is played.

The fixes made from the last session were very successful, and they made the endgame much better and quicker. It is much easier to win now once you get into a winning position yet other players can still stop you. The endgame is overall much more exciting and fair.

The admiral hat/role can be very harsh on a player who does not have an alternative source of income and is in a very good position as it stops them from attacking other players properties to gain an income stream. As it is usually a "punishment" hat this can actually happen often. This can isolate a player from the game for a long period of time.

I haven't worked out a fix to this as it requires several conditions. The player must have no income stream and be a runaway leader or on the outer with the ruling Junta. The Admiral hat is great because it introduces a lot of strategies to the game and automatically makes someone discontent with the ruling Junta. Many coups start with the Admiral. A possible solution would be to give the Admiral the ability to cycle through cards quicker so that they can find a way out of their situation more quickly.

The game is very fun to play, but it does get tiresome at the 2 hour mark. It needs to be finishing earlier. Tonight it took 2.5 hours. The reason it took so long tonight is that there was a very generous El Presidente who only kept one money card each turn and distributed the rest. This equal distribution of money caused everyone to gain money and thus armies at a more equal rate, prolonging the game. She also stayed in office a long time (as you would expect with those policies). 2.5 hours may not seem like such a long time for 9 players, but the game is not a very complex one, so it would be more suited to 90 minutes - 2 hours playing time.

To fix this I am introducing a rule that increases the number of armies available to purchase each turn as the number of players increases. This will counteract the effect of the armies being shared out amongst all the palyers and will increase the possibilities of a player buting 2 armies in one turn. Previously this has been a very rare thing, and requires a lot of skill so it gives players something to work towards. It also benefits those with more money especially El Presidente at the expense of the Generalissimo which I think is a good thing as it will balance their power more. If this does not work I may just reduce the number of armies needed for victory.

An interesting strategy that is commonly used towards the end of the game is to give the Security and Admiral hats to the same player so that they can not just make themselves Generalissimo and win the game. There are cards that allow hat swapping and so on, so it is still quite posible for that player to win the game using the Generalissimo
 
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