Sunday, 24 June 2012

Version 3.00 playtest....

....was greeted by somebody going "you've changed a lot since last time."  Which was a rather fair comment.

Broadly the changes worked.  The new resource cards worked - and were much quicker and easier then fiddling things out - but they were felt to be quite samey and needed work.  Which is something I expected - good idea not sure about the values was the feedback.  The death spiral also seemed much less dramatic - one person got hammered down but soon bounced back.  Also need tie breakers for when people have the same values.

Also the board got covered in stone heads - which was a dramatic improvement in terms of name and theme-  and by the end of the game it did feel like you'd messed the island up since there was nothing but stone heads.  Space became a vital resource.

One complaint was that once again there seemed no point to violence if you were at the top of the tree - yes you could do stuff but it would be undone by those going after you.  Stopping your opponent getting VP's  and playing RongoRongo cards did not seem to a viable position.  People seem to be very defensive (not me then I'm playing like I think it should be played). 

The movement cards need sorting - to make them more viable and/or easy to see when there worth using.

A RongoRongo card that activates just for winning a fight might be useful - no bonus VP - just the steal affect to give people an incentive for attacking the wining player.

Renown - originally a reward for violence is now fiddly and adds little. 
Villages and the pool of warriors - not sure they now do much.....  Also at 1 strength they seemed to get burned down a lot - and two they seemed to be pretty much left alone.
The work out resources then work out turn order is fiddly.  And because taking top slot means going first just having more resources is not seen as that useful a thing.

Two good suggestions....

1) Defenders need something to make combat risky because once your out of defensive cards (or perceived to be out) you can be torn apart quickly.....
2) At the moment it's all about building stone heads - there needs to be more point to holding them.  Possibly not through the game - but at the end of the game. 

One other crazy idea I had well typing this - to help balance out the turn order thing - everybody declares there "grudge" for that turn and that's the only person you can attack......  That feels thematic and also funny.  Might make players get cut off if players there are not able to attack seal them in.....

Need to work out what happens next - basically - Stabcon is coming up in a week and I need to take something to play.  Do I bounce another version out the door or do I play test this one another time?  I kind of want to play test this one again...... 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

All Change!

So despite at least one friend of mine telling me that Giant Stone Head is needs to be refined - not redone I've just redone most of it.

This is because the last couple of play tests have been ok - but the games a bit fiddly and there seems to be a distinct lack of building Giant Stone Heads which is a significant problem in a game about Giant Stone Heads.  The resource system was also fitting less and less well into the game I was trying to write in my head - quick and dirty, up and down, low stakes but lots of it combat. 

So version 3.00 walks onto the stage - and who knows - maybe it will melt under the burning heat of an actual play test - but currently I like it.

In the last version you had resource - which allowed you to take cards and then trade some of those cards in for men or giant stone heads.  This new version the person with the most reources gets to pick where they want to go in the turn - and then in turn order every player picks a "resource card" which gives a fixed number of men, cards and stone heads.  This hopefully creates a tension between going first for best card and going last which allows you to react to take your move knowing that nobody will nip in after you.....  It also means that the death spiral/stream roller effect should be reigned in a lot - since even if your down to one hex your still going to get a card.....  And finally the "not building any giant stone heads to ensure I keep going last - convert that into physical dominance and spurt at the end" will work less well.  Because yes you might be able to keep going last - but other players will be getting better picks on the resource cards.......

This has involved rewriting how villages works - although "the pool" is still present as a limiter on the number of men you have.  Renown now exists but is now used to boost your value for determining your turn order so there's an uncertainty element there.  Equally the idea of sacrificing cards has gone - cards are now just cards.  Which means I hope that cards other then plus to attack and plus to defence will be used as people will have them in there hands.  Along those lines I've made is so that the Rongorongo can be played if one of two different conditions are met.  So hopefully they will see more use - as players see more opportunity to fulfill them causing more movement on the victory point track.

We now also have empty spaces - so giant stone heads can be built at first without ruining peoples economies - so it easier to be an early builder.

I also dropped the event deck and moved to a known game end condition of the last tree being covered.  And there's been a general slim down of play and correction of terminology so I call things the same consistently.

Even if this works - I'm back to square one regarding balance and values.  How many men should a resource card get - how many cards and how many GSH?  What is the difference between a good card and a bad card - to little and there's no point to choosing first and to much and you've got the same death spiral effect?  Will going last still be good if holding onto resources is bad?  How many spaces should the board actually have to create a game of decent length for 3, 4 and 5 players? 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

So - latest play test.....

.... some serious blank faces when trying to explain the rules.  Seemed to lift once play was started - and two of the three new players seemed to get it. I don't think it ever clicked for the less gamer of the three - and well they did ok they were pretty passive.

One player called it "oddly complicated and oddly simple".  Which did not strike me as a good thing - although is suspect some of that is unclear terminology making things confusing.  

We had two player eliminations - and the winning player was once again the person that ignored giant stone heads and went for resources.  Not as bad as the time Cuss broke it - as they gambled on a long game and got it rather then Cuss massive one round swing - and if the game had ended quicker they would have lost.

The trouble is being an early stone head builder drags you down - and taking an early lead in Victory points means ending up with a bad turn position.  But when the person at the back does not use that to catch up but rather focuses on resources they turn into a bit of steam roller of exactly the sort you don't want.

And after a while a player starts spiraling inwards - and unless player combine the problems can spiral out of control.  In this game - I'm pretty sure I could have stopped the one player taking a dominate physical position but I needed to protect my own villages to much because I was going first and I was not sure the other player would have left me alone....

So what I'm thinking - and I'm mainly getting these ideas down in written form to get something more solid for my subconscious to tick over.....

Resources turn into cards - which turns into a direct advantage - leading to the possibility of a card gap.  Worse a player can end up without the resources/people to take the actions they need to do anything. 

There is also still a lack of giant stone head building which in a game about building giant stone heads is a bit of a problem.

So what to do?

The idea kicking around my head at the moment is that resources give you first pick from some sort of card row - in which each card provides a bunch of different values.  So many new men, so many cards, so many stone heads.  So yes more resources gets you "the best card" but the gap between best and worst in terms of resources is not so great - and players will be more inclined to build stone heads because they won't suffer so much from the act especially if there getting the stone heads "for free" - there not diverting resources into building them..... 

This of course fundamentally impacts on the purpose of "renown" - which was meant to be used to encourage players to attack - because they had to attack to build stone heads.  With a mechanism for rewarding you for hitting a player doing well - rather then kicking the weaker player.  But it's not really worked - it's complicated things - and the last two players have just used it to power war machines to crush everybody else.

Also cards become - well cards - not a resource to be spent and so a slightly more situational card might be worth holding onto......

The role of villages fundamentally changes as well since they'd no longer be the force that controls the flow and supply of warriors.

If I'm honest with a change of this sort -  I'd be keeping.....

1) The combat
2) The cards
3) The hexes and resources.
4) Events

And not a lot else - which is a major change and a half....

Which is an odd design decision - when the last couple of play tests have been described as "fundamentally playable" and change of this sort run the risk of throwing so very much other stuff out of wack.

Time to let my subconscious think on it.