Friday, 30 September 2011

Gasp - another play test!

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...... 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Slow Progress Is Slow

I now have a version 1.1 of Giant Stone Head I want to play test - but actually getting round to that play test is proving tricky......  The fact that everybody at Magic Nerd Club is not battering down my door may well tell me something important in and off it self.

In fact things have got slowed up I've started working on another board game - Holy Writ.  This one has not even got to version 0.01 yet but I'm hopeful.

But since somebody visited me yesterday I should do the honest thing and post more content.

A while back I promised to post why I really really hate a game called innsmouth escape and now seems as good a time as any other.  Please bear in mind I played this game about 3 years ago - so if I'm sketchy on details that's why.

So briefly - Innsmouth Escape is a cthulhu themed board game - in which one of you plays a poor bewildered soul chased by the villainous deep one's around the most well known coastal village in Geekdoom.  Hounded you attempt to free your companions before you are brought down and doom overtakes you all.

That sounds good - and indeed might be.  It's not the game we've got.  I remember clearly - checking the rule book with total disbelief when the person explaining the game told me a rule.  When the human is finally brought into conflict with the deep ones they all get to roll a D6 and might inflict a wound.  The human being as 12 wounds.  After that conflict the human automatically kills every single deep one that's found him.  Wipe them out.  All of them. 

As the human player moves around the board at lightning speed - he can uncover items - items of dark and sinister power that he can use.  The deep ones on the other hand plod slowly forwards.  Before the end we started assuming we were the carebears - trying to hug the man and bring him back to his sense while he raged and slaughtered us...... because

Thematically it would have worked if the human player had been an evil mage and those hot on his heels - the forces of law and order.  Non-magical and utterly out of there depth.  Trying to desperately track him down and finish him off before his evil plot could be completed.....

But lets talk about some of it's rules failings.  Well firstly it claims to be for 2 to 4 players - but it's clear it's never been play tested for anything other then 4 players.  Because it was just about balanced (if poor) for 4 players but a 2 player game simply cut the forces of the deep one by 2/3.  Making the game impossible for the deep ones to win.....

So we've got all of that - and then - and then it messes up it's core game play.  It's a hidden movement game.  What's the core game play of hidden movement like scotland yard - a mental battle between the hiden and the chasers as they try and think "what has he done.....?"  So when the pursers move like snails - and the human can literally move from one side of the board to another - that sucks. When it's a bloody grid board - so you don't have choke points or different ways of moving - that's even bloody worse!

As a deep one you had to scatter your people and hope he appeared in the same space as them.  Once - ONCE - something happened - we got to see one of his cards and were able to work out he was going to be in one of three places - so moved to respond to that.  And throw 12 deep ones at him.  That he slaughtered - hid -healed up and went on like nothing had happened.    That's the core bloody game play and they messed it up.

If I can't do better then that - I deserve bloody shooting.