Saturday, 29 September 2012


Well I've got another version of GSH ready to go - a new idea added into the game which I hope might solve the problem with both attacking and a lack of surprise at the end of the game.  But while that's fixed until I play test I'll have no idea how it's gone.

Which is why I've been trying to make progress on another game - I was thinking about reserecting "Kill Him You Fools!" but the one that's been poking at my brain has been "these dark satanic mills" a classic Victorian resource management game with a twist.  This whole thing arose out a love of the Martin Wallace game - Brass , the steampunk music of 'The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing' and far to much hanging round with Dr Geof.

It's been very different process so far because Giant Stone Head was based on a dream - and while my subconscious apparently can not game design very well (how well my conscious mind does is yet to be decided) it gave me a solid framework to build on.  This time round I've not got that firm base - just a theme and a bunch of ideas and I've been finding it hard to pin things down. 

Take the cost of things - the cost of one thing depends on the cost of everything else.  In the end I abandoned trying to get it to make sense and just throw some numbers onto some tiles so I had something to work with.

This time I remembered a key piece of advice - print it out and try playing it on your own before you show it to anybody else because that can show the obvious crazy.  What it actually showed was that yes it seemed to work - however the numbers were a bit off so making progress was glacial.  Easy enough to correct I think.  I might even apply the rule of two - if you are not sure if a number is right - don't up it by one - halve it or double it.  That will give you a much clearer picture of what is actually happening. 

Of course since I can not even get Giant Stone Head play tested- starting a new game does seem rather foolish but then common sense would make me ask why was I even doing it at all......

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A playtest - a palpable playtest!

It’s been really quiet over here which reflects a general lack of gaming but specifically no chance to play test the GSH.

But that ended Monday night when our regular RPG got cancelled and nobody said “nooooooo” quickly enough when I suggested playing GSH…..  Somebody said they wanted to play a “new game” and I pointed out that nobody had played this version of GSH before……

Good stuff – it was a tight race to the end – with lots of violence and chaos – and using cards to do cunning stuff.  The new cards definitely worked – and added a nice bit of uncertainty and chaos to the game.  The “peace card” is now simple to play – but seemed to work well enough……

People got confused about the population cap increase rules – but somebody made a suggestion which is functionally the same but about 100 times easier to understand.  So that’s going in no matter what..

It’s not perfect – went on a little long – the board is quite samey so there does not seem that much to fight over at first (later one space becomes a premium) – the build cards are not very diverse.  But they all felt tweakable issues.  That the framework of the game was right – you just needed to hit the right combination of numbers and the problems would go away.

But there are a few structural problem – attacking is not very well rewarded.  The combat is by elimination – so attacking costs you as much as it costs the defender leaving you with less to defend yourself. 

Equally at the end of the game – going last is very powerful and the result tends to be known before the end of the game.  There is no hidden information to add an element of uncertainty over that last turn.  Worse you can find yourself in a position where you can no do much to affect your – or even other peoples position.

The now departed renown mechanic (no flowers) was an attempt to solve this but it never quite worked – it was fiddly and people (including me) forgot about it.

Likewise RongaRonga cards were meant to drive attacking behavior - and they do but maybe not enough – but as a man who ended up with a hand of the damn things last night there just not that useful.  So perhaps they just need to be more powerful – that would change that.  But at the same time they can currently cause a three point swing (gain 2 and reduce opponent by 1) which is as good as a stone head….. (The card mix may also need playing with – a few less RongaRonga cards might not go amiss…..)

I need something that will fit into the flow of the game – provide an element of the unknown – and reward attacking.  I’ve had an idea – currently called “trophy taking”.

There will be a deck of special items – ownership of which will give you a VP.
You will also get a card at the start of the game which gives you bonus VP’s if you hold a particular item and negative VP’s if somebody else does.
A small number of items will be face up next to the board.
When you win a fight – your opponents pieces do no go back to there pool – you collect them.
At the end of the turn the person who has killed the most gets to pick a card (and then the dead return to your opponents pool ready for the next turn).

What I think should happen is…….

a)      People have an incentive to attack as that is the only way to get a card – but this will mainly happen when the card there interested in comes up
b)      At the end of the game people will be unsure about what’s happening – and always have something to fight over (that last card) – in fact I’m rather hoping it will cause a massive blood letting frenzy in the last turn. 

If that works – that just leaves game end condition to get right.  Tiny Tiny steps.