So last weekend I play tested GSH 1.2 which was intended to fix the turtling problem. It’s taken a long time to get round to this test…… Having people willing to play the same game again and again to help you refine it is actually kind of hard to get.
The solution I was trying out was a rather large change. Rather then stone heads producing a steady trickle of VP’s and inviting players to kick them over to stop it – they now produce a burst over a turn and could not longer be kicked over – they would become an eternal block on that resource.
The intention was to force a player to attack – because if they tried to turtle up in a single hex they would run out of space to score. So they would have to go on the attack. With the added bonus that the board would be covered in giant stone heads by the end of the game where as in previous games there can be none on the board at the end – which in a game about giant stone heads seems a bit like thematic fail.
So how did it go? Well it was only a 3 player game – and that always seems to play differently. There’s a very large danger of two players exhausting themselves in combat –allowing the third to become dominate especially if that third player just sits back. And that’s pretty much what happened. I seized a rather commanding lead in points, some body attacked me really hard (much harder then I expected) and weakened us both, well the other player sat back and started to build. The third player then started to pull in points – but neither of the other two of use were powerful enough to challenge him well he concentrated on holding land and gaining points….. In the end the baby lead to calling it off before the end but we both agreed he’d win. Worse the second player – who brought us both down – was close to being lapped in terms of victory points.
I think the rule change would stop the turtling behavior that broke the game- pull back to a single hex and refuse to get involved. I can also see how a player could work a “moving turtle” – where they march slowly forwards hexes after hex – taking the VP’s and then moving on. But worse it does not solve the “disinterested” player problem where one player remains aloof from the conflict and benefits from other peoples conflict. Made worse by the simple combat by elimination which produces a “negative economy” from engagement in violence which is bad.
After the game I did work up a bunch of other improvements I wanted to try. But the more I look at it – the more I wonder if the problem is not more fundamental. That a rules change won’t fix it – I need a serious rethink. Do I shift to giant stone head Version 2.1? Not that I'm sure what I'd change at this point as these thoughts litterally came out as I wrote this entry.....
I'll sleep on it - let my subconcious work. It's smarter then I am anyway......