Monday, 26 November 2012


So this was my 40th Birthday Party - and amongst the lake of pork and collection of other random but cool presents I got given a box for Giant Stone Head.  And in that box were these......

A big bag of my very own giant stone heads - 3D printed.

Thank you very much - and also damn you - now the final version has to have bits at least this awesome.........

So obviously I had to play with them as soon as possible - so a little fragile we had a play test. 

The good.....
........drawing a card when attacked really worked.  Not to fiddly and meant it was impossible to work out exactly what was happening.
........the reduced build deck worked well.  It's certainly more controlled and seems to present more genuine choices making controlling resources more valuable.

The Bad....
.......once again somebody got out ahead and stayed there.
.......some of the cards really confused people.  The movement cards and the ronga ronga cards.
........getting the balance of the cards is trick - to many ronga ronga cards and you've a worhtless hand.  To few and you've got limited options.  Same with movement cards as well.'s still running a little long.
...........the feeling was that the Giant Stone Heads are generating to much in the way of VP's.
.............the end condition was good and stopped it dragging on with an awkward last turn.
................I'm not sure where in the turn order to go is good anymore.

So there is a raft of changes I want to do - and I'm not sure which to do for this version. 

I want to......

..... reduce the points for building a GSH - so the fighting and the violence has more impact.  Keep GSH at the end of a turn unless you've flipped them for a VP.  So taking a GSH and keeping a GSH are similar in terms of points - but taking one is easier as you don't need a card to get the point.  So offenses is rewarded but defence is possible.  And your able to try and build up a bundle of points to score.

......remove the pool mechanic as it seems not to be doing that much and just give people a lowish population cap.
..... change the cards so that everything can be dropped for either an attack point or a defence point while also having another function.  So people have more flexibility.  This might well mean the build decks values need to be reviewed because cards might be just better then men then and at the moment taking "good cards" gets you 2 cards more then "ok cards" where as "good men" is just 1 more man then "ok men".

I'm not sorting out the turn order problem at the moment.  I don't have a clever idea.....

Which all of which is a lot to sort out in one go.  But as always the problem is - if I know I'm going to change it why put people through a play test with a version I think is flawed?

Started talking to people about production.  I see a number of significiant problem areas.
1) Making hexes.  Here I have an idea - I might need a conversation with a friend with a laser cutter to make wooden hexes.
2) Getting bits.  here I need a wholesale contact - assuming a wholesaler bits dealer will deal with an order as small as mine will be (at most 2,400 pieces).
3) Box.  No idea about this one.
4) Printing - rules and player aids and score board.
5) Cards.  This is the one I'm really stuck on.  Card runs are expensive unless you do lots and lots

Friday, 16 November 2012

On the interrelatedness of all things.....

Or at least when designing games.

So after a pretty good play test I wanted to make a pretty small list of changes.

One of which was updating the resource cards to make a more limited but more distinct range of options for players. And I think I have the values for that.

But I also wanted to change game end - specifically with respect to making the game a little shorter. Easy enough - got a good suggestion about that last play test.  But changing the resource cards changes the rate at which giant stone heads go on the board - thus changing the rate the game ends.

Worse - I know I want to change the hexes (blance and quality of resources) at some point which once again changes the game end.

I have three options.

1) change the cards.
2) change the cards and the game end rule.
3) change the cards and game end rule and the hexes.

One bit of advice was 'don't change two things at once' otherwise you don't know which change is responsible for the alteration in behaviour. And yet play tests are rare things for me - and each time I play test with a rule I suspect I'm going to change of feels like a waste.

I'm going to go with number 2 - it seems a reasonable compromise - and I'll need some information before changing the hexes.

I need to sort out the quarry - which in turn means a change to some action cards that relate to it. So my 'minor' update looks like it will impact on resources, hexes, action cards, and game end........

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


So two things I really approve of in game design are…..
The micro turn – take a single action – onto the next person – and back round to you it comes sharpish.  Much better then the ponderous mega turns where one person does everything and it’s impossible to plan as the world will be a very very different place when it comes to your turn.

The second is the existence of “roll then do” – games like “roll through the ages” where you roll our dice and then see what you can do with that as opposed to “decide then pass/fail”.

So it’s a little odd that Giant Stone Head fails to have the micro turn – although the turns are not supper long – and the rough notes of These Dark Satanic Mills seem to have heading towards the “decide then pass/fail” dice mechanic…….

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Play Test and Games

This weekend I headed over to Midcon where I got to play some of my essen purchases (libertallia - solid and fun; luna - which hurt my brain the 1st time but I got into my stride for the 2nd game).  I also found my first "wish I had brought game" in the shape of tzolk'in which has the coolest dial based mechanic in it.

But what I want to talk about is ugg-tect a much dafter game - in which you play as a team of neandorthols trying to build a monument in which only one of you can see a card - in which you communicate via a prescribed list of gestures, noises and bashing people with an inflatable club.  A genuine classic of stupidity - and a really clever idea.  Placing limitations on players and making a game out of what would otherwise be a frustating situation - as the ugg-tect keeps saying the same thing and you all look confused and go "ug?".....

We also snuck in a play test of GSH - five players all of who had played a number of versions over the years.  Including one person who played the last playtest - and seemed impressed about how much a fairly simple change made.....

So the defensive obsession went away - since stone heads are now just a source of VP's for other people - which caused a more more fluid game of violence.  It's - as always - not quite right.

The build cards need work - specifically there needs to be less of them and each one more clearly defined.  This has been something I've been thinking about for ages - but it's time has arrived.
It's still far to possible to get worn down and beaten up - but the addition of a card each time your attacked should short that out.

It's also been suggested that the end point is hexes out of trees - and I've decided I like that.

Also RongaRonga cards appear a little on the weak side - for all that there steal a point mechanism is clearly vital......

Now what needs to be added is some sort of defensive thing people care about - somebody suggested that the quarry allows you to score for holding a unfinished stone head at the end of the turn which could be interesting.  Also the idea that ronga ronga reward you for holding certain things - rather then just killing lots of people.  These I need to think about but the first two changes are definitely going in.