Chris Cisne
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Wait!

Before you send this thread to the RSP forums to suffer Death By Flaming, allow me to...explain myself.

So as you can tell from the little flag under my name, I'm from the UK. I've been working on a game about our government's austerity policies (the world's most fun theme!) for about two years now (more details below for the curious), and am hoping to do some public playtesting, and eventually to make some print & play files available for blind playtesting.

The thing is, I'm hoping that the game ends up being a piece of entertaining satire, and a little thought-provoking - but above all, I want to make sure that it's a good game. But the game's inherently political in theme, and as anyone who's ever chatted politics with friends/strangers/quadrupeds knows, facts often get ignored entirely and the 'conversations' often end up looking like this:





So what I'm worried about - and maybe I'm being silly here - is that the game's theme might be such an instant turn-off to some people that any redeeming features or flaws the prototype may or may not have will be lost amidst a bunch of raised hackles. Just look at what happened when War on Terror was announced...

If the game has any good aspects I'd love to be able to make the most of them; but what I'm most concerned about is if the game isn't fun. And if it isn't fun, I want to know that someone didn't enjoy themselves because this mechanic needs changing, or that card is unbalanced (that way I can try to fix it), rather than because the theme personally offended them before they'd even started playing.

Now I've read a lot of playtesting advice which talks about how important it is to know your audience - you probably aren't going to get much useful feedback showing your early prototype of an 18xx game to an Uno fan for instant, and it'll probably be a waste of everyone's time to show the first draft of your new Uno variant to someone whose games all feature boxes with IBS-suffering European monarchs scowling on them. So for the sake of getting some (hopefully) objective feedback in these early stages, I was wondering if there are any people who wouldn't be put off by a lefty theme and who'd be interested in playtesting such a game?

If there are any such folks in the London area, I'm hoping to bring a prototype to the next Playtest London meetup on the 21st of July, and I'd be really chuffed if you could leave a reply here if you'd be interested in playtesting, just so I don't get cold feet and leave the game at home instead.

...

As for the game itself, if you're interested, here's a little summary:

So, the game's called Privatise! (always good to have an exclamation mark for extra cheese), is for three to five players, and in it you play the role of a MP. The aim of the game, as in life, is to escape from your term in government with more money than anyone else by the end of the game. You also have two 'stats' to keep track of during the game: your clout and your Doom. How much clout you have determines how influential you are: the more clout you have, the easier it is to make money and to make people listen to you. Doom tracks how much anger you've caused among the people: everybody starts at 0 Doom, and when you reach 100, you're out of the game. When only one person is left, the game ends and players count up their cash, with the richest person being an objectively better human being than everyone else.

Each turn is made up of five phases: the Reshuffle phase, the Media phase, the Cuts phase, the BS phase (BS being shorthand for Cameron's "Big Society"...I didn't promise this'd be good satire ) and the Privatise phase. In brief, this is what happens in each phase:

The Reshuffle phase: The last turn's Prime Minister chooses as many role cards as there are players, and players bid clout on these role cards to gain their benefits for the rest of the turn.
The roles all correspond to Cabinet positions: for instance, if you become Secretary of Defence this turn then you get rewarded every time you hurt another player, and if you become the Minister for Equalities then you can take resources from the weakest player and give them to the strongest. One of the role cards on offer must be the Prime Minister.

The Media phase: Each player can pay clout to draw cards from the Media deck. Players pay a small amount of clout to look at a certain amount of cards, and a little extra per card they want to take into their hand. The idea here is that the more clout you spend influencing the media, the more control you have over what appears in the news (your hand), which I think works thematically as well as giving players a choice over how much control they have over the luck of the draw. The Media deck has a distribution of useful and not-so-useful cards, so as players naturally choose to take the best cards early on, the deck ought to give lower and lower returns as the game goes on, increasing the tension and reflecting how as time passes the media grow bored of the candidates they championed in times past.
Media cards cover things from deflecting attention away from your policies by blaming vulnerable sections of society (like immigrants, benefits claimants, etc), to smearing your opponents, to exposing scandals.

The Cuts phase: So on the board, there's a deck of cards representing public services (schools, hospitals, etc), and at any time five of them are displayed face-up on the board. Each player must carry out at least four cuts to any service(s) during this phase, by placing tokens on the relevant service cards. Each service gives a player a certain amount of money per cut carried out, but also inflicts a specific clout/Doom penalty. The player with the most cuts on a given service gains a financial bonus (the player with the second-most cuts on a service gains a smaller bonus), as does the player who has carried out the most cuts on the most services.
In addition, there's a cuts track on the board, and each cut made raises a marker one step up the track. Certain steps on the track are marked with a symbol which means that all players suffer 1 Doom when the marker reaches that point, and as the marker goes further along the track (ie, as more and more people get thrown into unemployment) these spots become more and more frequent, meaning that the cuts track acts as an increasingly-Doomful timer on the game.

The BS phase: Each player is dealt three cards from a BS ("Big Society") deck (in addition to receiving three during set-up). BS cards have a points value on them of between 0 and 4, and players can play up to 6 BS-points worth of cards during this phase.
BS cards include things such as implementing policies which make you rich at the cost of damaging the country, helpful spectacles such as Royal weddings and the Olympics, playing faux pas on your opponents, getting yourself embroiled in lucrative (but risky) scandals, and crushing protests and strikes.
Talking of which, hidden among the BS deck are cards representing those protests and strikes: these cards inflict an initially-small amount of Doom on all players when they are revealed - but protests and their effects can simply be ignored by the players. (There's no mechanic for this: the players just have to agree to ignore the protest, and then it doesn't affect them. It seems quite true to life...) However, each time a protest is ignored, there's an increasingly large chance that the next protest will erupt in anger, and when it does, all future protests and strikes hit the players with a much more damaging 'militant' value...

The Privatise phase: During this phase, players bid clout on the public services we met in the Cuts phase, to see who gets the right to sell them off to the private sector. Each service gives a certain amount of money to the person who wins the bid to privatise it, and inflicts a certain clout/Doom penalty on that player too as the absence of that service is felt by society.

After that, the current Prime Minister chooses new roles up for grabs in the next Cabinet reshuffle, and the next turn begins. The game goes on with players' Doom increasing from cuts, protests, strikes and privatising services until they hit 100 Doom: when they do, they have to escape from the angry mob with as much money as they can, to live out their lives in a sunny tax haven. The actual escape is done by a small, timed dexterity mini-game: innocuous enough that it doesn't upset the game, but hopefully engaging enough that it gives players a sense of excitement and achievement when they get eliminated by Doom, and provides a satisfying "bang!" to the end of your game.

Well, if you read all that, I guess I'd just like to say thank you very much! I've been working on this for a long time and the game's gone through a lot of iterations - if anybody would be interested in playtesting in the future, or in coming along to Playtest London on the 21st, I'd be delighted to hear from you.
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Clay
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Breothain wrote:


If the game has any good aspects I'd love to be able to make the most of them; but what I'm most concerned about is if the game isn't fun. And if it isn't fun, I want to know that someone didn't enjoy themselves because this mechanic needs changing, or that card is unbalanced (that way I can try to fix it), rather than because the theme personally offended them before they'd even started playing.

Now I've read a lot of playtesting advice which talks about how important it is to know your audience - you probably aren't going to get much useful feedback showing your early prototype of an 18xx game to an Uno fan for instant, and it'll probably be a waste of everyone's time to show the first draft of your new Uno variant to someone whose games all feature boxes with IBS-suffering European monarchs scowling on them. So for the sake of getting some (hopefully) objective feedback in these early stages, I was wondering if there are any people who wouldn't be put off by a lefty theme and who'd be interested in playtesting such a game?



You might want to try the exact opposite strategy as well. If they hate the theme but enjoy the game that will let you know you're really doing something right.
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Bishop of East Anglia
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I'm, I'm afraid there's been a mistake. The man who has been speaking to you is an impostor. He is not in fact the Bishop of East Anglia, but a man wanted by the police. I am the Bishop of East Anglia and anyone who doesn't believe me can look me up
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this sounds good. Any game with the same victory condition was Junta sounds fantastic. I'm not sure anymore what my politics are as NZ continues to roll toward the far right and the spectrum is skewed.
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Chris Cisne
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The Message wrote:
You might want to try the exact opposite strategy as well. If they hate the theme but enjoy the game that will let you know you're really doing something right.


Oh definitely - it's just that for these early playtests, I'd want to err on the side of caution. In essence, I'd rather get a couple of false-positives and then have to chuck the game later down the line if it turns out to be genuinely rubbish, than abandon something that might actually be fun simply because someone early on didn't like the fact I made fun of their preferred newspaper.

Normally I wouldn't even consider this to be an issue, but then again, when War on Terror was announced this happened...

Sam - thanks! I keep wanting to get a copy of Junta (or Viva) one day...nothing like a pair of shades to immerse you in the theme. cool
 
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Bishop of East Anglia
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I'm, I'm afraid there's been a mistake. The man who has been speaking to you is an impostor. He is not in fact the Bishop of East Anglia, but a man wanted by the police. I am the Bishop of East Anglia and anyone who doesn't believe me can look me up
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Breothain wrote:
The Message wrote:
You might want to try the exact opposite strategy as well. If they hate the theme but enjoy the game that will let you know you're really doing something right.


Oh definitely - it's just that for these early playtests, I'd want to err on the side of caution. In essence, I'd rather get a couple of false-positives and then have to chuck the game later down the line if it turns out to be genuinely rubbish, than abandon something that might actually be fun simply because someone early on didn't like the fact I made fun of their preferred newspaper.

Normally I wouldn't even consider this to be an issue, but then again, when War on Terror was announced this happened...

Sam - thanks! I keep wanting to get a copy of Junta (or Viva) one day...nothing like a pair of shades to immerse you in the theme. cool


I'd happily look at the game as I like satire. The more biting the better.
I just don't do dexterity games so expect me to slam the end on medical grounds.
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RanDomino Nickelmaster
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You might want to merge the roles and phases to create a variable turn mechanic like in Puerto Rico. So for example when someone takes the Press Secretary role then you do a Media phase; when someone takes the Health Minister role you do a Cuts phase; etc. There could also be static effects from the roles, and if everyone starts each turn with no role then there might be some opportunity to create tension between taking the role for its phase and taking the role for its static effect (since if you take it earlier in the turn then you get to use its static more, but it might not be the phase you want).
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Andrew Rowse
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I'll be at the next play test London meetup, and will be interested in playing. I'm sure a lot of other people will be as well!
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Greg
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I won't be in London for a while, but I'm not a million miles away. Drop me a line if this gets to the PnP playtesting stage or if you're still working on it when the next big UK convention rolls around.
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Chris Cisne
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Hi guys, thanks for the replies!

Sam and Greg, thanks a lot for the interest - I'll try and make PnP files available after the playtest at the end of July, just to see what tweaks can be made before sending it off to be played blind.

And thanks Andy for your offer too, it's very encouraging - I had fun playing Zombies at Your Heels at Playtest London, so hopefully my game will be able to entertain you in return!

RanDomino, thank you for the advice, it's a good idea. For the way Privatise is at the moment though, each of the phases needs to take place each turn (to ensure the cuts-protest-privatisation combo of increasing Doom keeps moving the game along towards its end), and with less than five players that might be an issue if roles were tied to phases. Hopefully (though playtesting will tell!) five phases won't be fiddly: the idea is that each of them is discrete and easy to 'do', with only a little overlap in purpose between the Media and BS phases. So a player's turn ought to be as straightforward as:

(1) Bid on a role (at the moment the 20 roles all provide static effects, some of which change in usefulness depending on the state of the game; bidding of course helps the players to self-balance their powers, and there's always one more role available than there are players, so the person who wins no bids gets to take their choice of the two least-valued roles for free);
(2) Draw/play cards which tend to help your 'stats';
(3) Make money, with a light area/majority control mechanic;
(4) Draw/play cards which have a variety of effects (e.g. helping you, attacking other players, pushing your luck) and deal with protests;
(5) Make money by bidding on services.

Hopefully each of the phases has enough going for it that they each have a strong presence in the game, but I'll definitely keep your idea in mind as we playtest!

Ooh, one last thing Sam: I totally get how the dexterity mechanic might not work for everybody - it's really just a small thing at the end of a player's game to see how much of their money they manage to escape with, so by all means just treat it as if you've escaped with all of it. (I'll certainly make sure to include an escape/dexterity-free variant in the rules for those who might prefer it.)

The whole idea of an 'escape' to spice up the game end (basically present because it's possible to get pushed over 100 Doom and out of the game in pretty much any phase, which could be a bit anticlimactic if you were preparing to bid on a juicy service card or expose someone's scandal later in the turn) has gone through a number of changes, and it's definitely open to being replaced by something entirely new if needs be.
(At the moment, the game features black dice (or Black Blocks, to use a pun) which are rolled to see if ignored protests turn militant; the current escape mechanic sees players pushing a stack of these dice along a track while a timer ticks down, with players losing money if they don't reach the end of the track in time, and also if the dice in the stack collapse and show certain results. Nothing too punishing, but it hopefully means that players get to go out with a bang - a bit like how in Space Cadets, even when you've won, you have to engage the Jump Drive before you can really win.)

Thanks for the posts everyone, I really appreciate them. Let me know if there's anything else you'd like to know!
 
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Greg
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Reading that, it seems that doing n-1 bids for roles every turn could get annoying, especially for the player who wins the first bid and therefore doesn't get to play the game anymore until all of the others are concluded. Might it be better to have one bid and have players select roles in order based on that bid, rather than bidding on individual roles? Or is there some way to make the bids on all of the other roles simultaneous somehow?
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Chris Cisne
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x_equals_speed wrote:
Might it be better to have one bid and have players select roles in order based on that bid, rather than bidding on individual roles?


This seems like a great idea Greg - more elegant than doing n-1 bids like you said, and it probably ends up with the same outcomes in a fraction of the time.

I guess that to ensure there's no ties in the selection-order, nobody(or only one person) would be allowed to pass until there'd been one full round of bidding? (I was intending bids to be done in order of clout, from lowest to highest, so even with no first-round passes I don't think there'd be a risk of people being forced to bid more than they're comfortable with due to turn order/seating arrangement/etc.)
 
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Greg
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Thanks

I'm not sure about "no passing" as a thing. Suppose player 1 has £50 and player 2 has £40, then player 1 could bid £39, player 2 is not permitted to pass and so must bid £40, leaving them with nothing. Actually what happens if player 1 bids £40? Player 2 isn't permitted to pass but is physically unable to offer a higher bid.

You could make it so that when someone passes they are inserted at the back of the order, which would discourage passing but still keep it optional to avoid exploits like the above.

Alternatively you could switch to a different bidding system, such as the one where everyone conceals their bid and reveals simultaneously.

Or you could start at £1 and increase it one pound over and over until a player says "done" at which point they pay the amount and are placed in the lowest available space in the order. That might have some interesting properties.

There are loads of bidding systems out there, I'm sure someone who's an expert on them will wander by this thread sooner or later
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Chris Cisne
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No, thank you

I don't think the situation where a player could be bled dry by bidding would happen, as bidding for roles would take place in order of least bidding-resource (clout) to highest. So if Player 1 has C50 and Player 2 has C40, player 2 would actually bid first at whatever level was comfortable for them. (I guess if two or more players had the same amount of clout as each other then bid-order between them would be determined by their proximity to that turn's start player.)

The idea of being able to pass at any time, but being put to the back of the order if you've passed without making a bid, sounds good since like you say it means that the poorer Player 2 couldn't (for instance) bid all of their 40 clout out of spite on a role, just to force the richer Player 1 to spend more of their C50 than would be sensible. (Players that pass after having made a bid use their last bid-value to determine their position in the selection-order.)

So, if players had the following clout:

Player 1: C50
Player 2: C40
Player 3: C20
Player 4: C21
Player 5: C35

Then a bid to determine who gets priority in picking roles might look like this:

Player 3: Pass (spends C0)
Player 4: C1
Player 5: Pass (spends C0)
Player 2: C2
Player 1: C3
Player 4: Pass (spends C1)
Player 2: C4
Player 1: C5
Player 2: Pass (spends C4)
(Player 1 spends C5)

And the selection order is Player 1, Player 2, Player 4, Player 3, Player 5.

How does that sound?
 
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Greg
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That seems to have avoided the no-pass round (having made an argument as to why it shouldn't be a problem?). That systems looks like it'll work just fine. I can imagine it having some order effect properties, but strategising around that might wind up being part of the game since order is influenced by clout which is something that you can influence in various ways.
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Chris Cisne
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Just as a quick heads-up, I'll be bringing along a prototype of Privatise! to the Playtest London meeting this Sunday in Vauxhall Bridge Road - if anyone's going and is interested in trying the game out, give me a shout at the event.

In the meantime, here's a naff photoshop of some of the types of cards in the game (in ultra-basic prototype form) for your viewing pleasure:


With apologies to the Daily Mail.
 
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