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Subject: Development Diary - Entry #1 rss

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Jack Neal
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I decided to depart from my usual practice of posting to my blog about playtesting for this game, mainly to keep the content over here where it is more likely to be read and keep it to the closest to those likely to contribute.

I set up the game at 11:00 or so, still waiting to play Steam but not able to get my wife or kids into starting a game earlier in the evening. I decided to set up my second two player game and begin play after spending part of the evening marking up a paper copy of the rules with grammar mistakes, etc.

This game was much different in character than the first, mainly because the investment track stayed within the top two rungs. Morale-crushing events simply didn't come around and it seemed to be within each side's best interest to keep cube values higher so their investments didn't tank. The only hiccup involved one bankruptcy played by a card early on which was reverse easily enough by the 'Oil Prices Falls' event - the only one that boosts the Investment Track. Each player typically used their shares like crazy to get shares, then try to boost their majority company. The first turn ended with Yellow taking an early 10-8 lead, then 18-16, then 24-21 in the third turn.

On the final turn, Green had 4 Personal Shares compared to Yellow's 1 Personal Share - since Yellow won the right to go first on turn #3, Green elected to keep his Personal Shares. More relatively benign events were played at the top of the turn. Yellow was set on padding his lead, but Green laid a card that caused remaining regional and personal investments to require one Personal Share to play. This was a big blow to Yellow since he couldn't easily pad his lead. Green and Yellow made investments. Yellow opted to buy a share in one remaining bank and played an event card which added red and yellow cubes to each Bank. Funny thing is, this event is usually a mean one late in the game because red cubes are usually tanked - but in this game it boosted a few of the banks that Yellow was the majority owner in - and if you own the Bank with the highest value then you earn another 3 VP with the Minority Owner receiving 1 VP.

Green did not have enough events to bring down the market. Instead, he decided to add shares in the remaining banks where he could. At the end of the game, he made one final move to move one red cube from the Midwest to a bank that he had majority ownership in.

At the end of the game, the top three banks had values of $34, $33 and $25. The last red cube was enough to put that last move to good use. By the time it was all said and done, Green won 30-29.

A few lessons on this play:

- I need to add some details to the rules as to what to do with discarded cubes from events. The idea is to bleed the bag dry, but I realized that I didn't explicitly state this.

- Some of the Event Cards need some more text on them to explain where things should go.

- I ignored some rules that I had written - which usually means if you didn't miss them, they weren't important enough to keep. I had neglected to play an Event Card of a listed region for some of the regional investment options. I think my aim was to use the Region portion of the Event Card more, however, I think it's an unnecessary condition to remember for these events so the rules will be amended. I also failed to properly enforce my minimums when scoring banks for the players and simply tallied up shares. I don't want to get rid of the minimum dividend (cube scoring) mechanism for the banks, so I will have to observe this next time. I'm not sure what effect in this game it would have had in the end since most banks usually had a good combination of cards and cubes. But since the end of the game was so close, everything counts in large amounts.

- The game played much differently this time - the market never tanked. It could have easily done so if the cards were played differently, but the mechanism to tip markets early never pulled the market down. It created a different dynamic than what I was hoping to play against, i.e. declining markets, red cubes being slashed, etc. The play was tentative and revolved around making risky investments and having them pay off.

- The Bond play in a boom market is particularly strong as it throws yellow cubes into the bond area in turns #2 and #3. Typically, it seemed like players would burn through their personal shares quickly early and budget later on. It seems like in boom times, if one player took from the bond area (the first player usually), it created a run on the bond market which would drain players of yet more Personal Shares. At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep this dynamic in there, but I'm actually amazed at how it works. If you decide not to take the riskier bonds, you are probably more likely to want to kill the market.

- In two games so far, I haven't even bothered with the Reorganization player action (trading three cards for a Personal Share). I have rarely moved cubes between banks although it did come in handy for some positioning in the later rounds of this game. I still want these options in place.

- I rarely moved cubes from regions to banks. This nullifies the effects of about a third of the event cards that involve messing with the regional cubes. The main reason for this is because it is cheap for players to throw in their own event cards into whatever bank they own. The cards typically have a good spread of values and since the majority of the cards favor yellow and red cubes in larger amounts, it makes sense to play them. However, the cards go away and cubes stay and the end game was decided in part by regional cubes and permanent investments that had been made through the game. Again, this is a point of interest to me. It almost seems like a waste to expend a card for the sake of moving a cube, but the cube tends to stay in place and if conditions change, it is very difficult to back out of that investment. I thought about scaling back the cube values on the event cards, but I really like the distribution that is on there now and it makes deciding short/long term that much harder to judge.

- Game clocked in at one hour from set up to shut down. I can live with that.

In short, the game is progressing well. I still have to try this game with the wife and I doubt I will try this out with my 7 and 10 year old kids simply because I think there's a lot going on.

I am pretty pleased with the way this game plays so far. There are moments near the beginning and middle game where shares are flying and most of the moves have high short term benefit - almost to the point of feeling worthless. However, there are a number of options on any given play that compound and gain worth regardless of the worth of the investments.

Next play tomorrow night with a simulated three person game - or if I can convince the wife to help out, I'd much rather have her input on things. She is savvy on the mood and feel of a game and she usually articulates any nagging suspicions I may have.
 
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Jack Neal
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Liverpool
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Modified graphics on cards, uploaded latest changes in rules... looking to playtest again tonight.... more later.
 
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