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Subject: Development Diary - Entry #3.... rss

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Jack Neal
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My brothers had come into town for my grandfather's funeral and the youngest one had decided to come into a day ahead of his siblings. After a couple games playing Steam, I reluctantly offered up my copy of Downturn. He had been intrigued in the description of it the times we discussed it over the phone and it seemed to be up his alley. We both had played 1960 heavily when it was first received and we are definitely the two main gamers in the family.

I went through and proceeded to explain the rules. He read them but decided to jump right into play shortly after midnight.

We got about halfway through and he began contributing comments to the flow of the game. He saw a lot of potential, but there were portions of the game that seemed to not work quite right. We shuffled cards around, scribbled on the game board and generally made quite a mess of things. The good thing is that we agreed on the parts that needed help and there weren't too many suprises in the feedback I had from him.

We made the following adjustments which will be incorporated in the electronic rules within the next couple of days:

Problem:

The emptying of investments from regions to banks was stagnant.

Resolution:

We decided to make the bank keep investments that were played to each bank. A direct proportion wouldn't work. We then decided to divide the number of cubes coming in by two. So, for example, if during the course of revealing investments you had 1 red cube, 3 yellow cubes and 2 green cubes invested, at the end of the turn the bank would have to pull one yellow and one green cube from the region if possible. This satisfied me thematically as well as the investments played from cards in the hand would too temporary and this made for some more longlasting decision making. It also circulated cubes back into the board more quickly and made the regions more dangerous to invest from as green investments eroded.

Problem:

The Maximum Cubes on the banks never really came into play.

Solution:

The solution to #1 dovetailed nicely into this problem. Simply put, no one could make a face-up investment that would put the bank over it's maximum cubes. The bank at this point would be saturated by its own debt load.

In reality, this still needs a little work and feels clumsy as the limit didn't come into play until late in the game. I want to further restrict investments and I may resort to a cube + card count instead. The arithmetic must be easy enough to look at with a passing glance.

Problem

Bonds were attractive but did not change in value based on the market.

Solution

The bond market would turn into a dead sea of green cubes. Sometimes they were pulled and sometimes they weren't. At first we thought of simply doing a negative of the cube's value on the market, but we decided that you can't really "lose" on an investment of this type; nor should you gain from it either. We hastily scribbled up a bond track above the investment track on the board and assigned values for green and yellow cubes. At the end of the game when the market had eroded, these points seemed weighted sufficiently to maybe tip a close game in someone's favor. It would be impossible to win the game on bond investments alone, which was good.

Problem

Turn order was confusing.

Solution

An auction is used to determine which player gets to draw first (similar to 1960). This is simple enough, however, scoring is done in bank order and certain event cards are ambiguous in how they should be resolved. Besides the obvious mending of some of the card narrative (note: It was fun saying, "I meant to do this" and writing on a card. It was the equivalent of making up a rule...), I decided after the game that the players would instead bid on the "leader" for the turn. Similar to Galaxy Truckers, the leader decides the order of how an event is resolved if there are any ambiguities. This makes the auction for player order more tense.

This particular facet will get fleshed out.

Other Clarification and Changes

The board and cards will be cleaned up a little, but we both agreed that there was a lot to like in this game. I also privately decided to bump the Personal Shares to 21 shares and to reduce the Bank Save action to three collective shares from the four that it currently is.

We managed two plays before 3:30 AM and the two games played very differently. There was a fair amount of cooperation between the two of us, but when the gloves came off, we had a lot of good card plays on both sides to tip the game in our favor. Downturn might be more random than some people would like and the influence of events on the game may be daunting for some, however, the anxiety and panic of the recent recession seemed to reflect this and thematically it fits the game.

Justin's insights on the game corrected a few portions that I found deficient and as such, he gets co-designer billing.

edit: Fixed bold.
 
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Jack Neal
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The changes mentioned above (and some others) are up at the main game page at www.jkntech.com.


 
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