Saturday, 20 April 2013

So turns out.....

....coming up with ideas for nine powerful but hopefully not over powerful cards was pretty easy.

Now if they are actually balanced or if there game breaking - that will have to wait till a play test to find out

The cards are....

Declare peace with one person for one turn - this is basically adding back the recently removed 'Invite your neighbor' card - which always seemed a little over powered.
End a conflict and retreat attackers bits without resolving. 
Remove enemy big man - and gain 1 attack or defense. Not sure if this should be +1 or +2 a 3 point swing is good but not that much better then a standard card, well a 4 point swing seem pretty damn good.
Cancel card just played - and take into your hand.  Improved version of totally taboo
Get a card out of the discard pile or search through the deck for it - a classic gaming power that's not in the game.  While not powerful it does mean you can pretty much get the card you need.
Steal 3 cards from an opponent - which is going to ruin somebody's day.
Score an extra one for each head you flip - does not allow you to flip heads.  Could yield about an extra 4/5 VPs if played right - but you do still need a way of flipping them. 
Put your big man into this fight from off the board.  Seems like just a 2 point swing - which it is - but provide they live - saves you the cost of bringing them on next turn which is also plus 1 person.
Take an extra man, an extra card, and an extra giant stone head. Not a game changer - but a nice boost.

So questions to be answered - who gets these bonus cards and when do they get them?

I think that on turn 2 and turn 3 - everybody but the last two players in the turn gets a card (so in a 3 player game the 1st player gets on, in a 4 player game players 1 and 2 get them, and in a 5 player game players 1 to 3 get them).  The first player draws as many cards are going to be given out - keeps 1 - and pass the remaining cards to the next player - who keeps one.  So 3 players - draw 1 get that.  5 players - draw three - keep 1 and pass 2 on.  Not sure about the user interface for this to make sure it happens and does not get forgotten.....

So onto the next bit - RongaRonga cards - creating opportunities to gain VP's and hurt people who are doing well.  These have to be changed because

Thursday, 18 April 2013

i ain't dead

Sorry about the extended radio silence – after deciding that I was not going to push for Bristol Comic Con – the drive went out of me – which combined with a trip to Japan rather pushed GSH to the back burner.  As for Japan – well curry donoughts are ace and I’ll say no more. About it.
A play test!  I think this was the first time with the new card mix.  Took about 2 and half hours – reasonable length of time – but still feels overly long to me for the amount of game you get.  It’s only  4/5 turns in total – with a chunk of book keeping and with more down time in there then I’m happy about.   
5 players – 3 of which were in a tight group at the front – and two of which languished at the back.  One of those people got kicked at the start – and then made the mistake of grabbing and holding the quarry for multiple turns – while losing everything outside of it.  And the other had the problem that we went for a big burst of violence – that ran straight into a horrible defensive card combo that killed him stone dead – and left him a bit broken.  I also think they did not use the advice that going last is generally best – and let other people take that advantages spot in the turn order.
The feedback was good – they all got and understood the game – and seemed to enjoy themselves. 
There was a decent discussion about changes and how to cut down the book keeping - and the idea was raised that there might not be major rules problems rather it might be a peoples interaction with the game that’s the problem (user interface seems a good term).  Counting resources is a pretty minor bit of booking keeping – but it seems to slow things down a lot as we work out peoples build order.   Turn order – which has fundamentally the same mechanic – is much smother.  So the suggestion was that we create a track for resources – and see if that helps smooth it out.
Feels very sticking plaster to me – and it also feels very much like this issue is the elephant in the room that I’m not addressing.  The niggling doubt that won’t got away no matter how much I tweak.  I have had this before – were I ignored that feeling about a major issue the drive to attack – and kept tweaking and tweaking until I finally gave in and accepted that I was just wrong and a major change was needed.  I postponed the game production in order to have the time to get things right – so lets get things right.
There is a very big trap I need to avoid – earlier version actually did not actually have proper incentives for attacking but people did it anyway because that’s what the game was telling them to do.  And I need to avoid that from happening again.
I think there are two unrelated problems with game play – I should point out that when I’m writing this sort of post I’m often working out what I think as I go along.  So sorry if it’s a bit of a ramble. 
The first is the entire building and placing portion of the game – and without doubt it’s the best it’s been – but it still takes up way to much of the game time and breaks up the flow of the game something rotten – with almost no interaction between the players.  It’s not helped that the turn order jumps around every turn preventing people getting into any kind of flow – but I think that’s really important.
The second is that the end of game is a bit flaccid.  People know the scores and there are no major surprises at the end of the game.
I think the second problem has a simple fix - make victory points secret.  That injects an element of uncertainty into the last turn but in doing so it utterly breaks the current way of deciding turn order – and removes what is meant to be an important negative feedback mechanism to stop people who are winning from just keep on winning by giving them last choice in turn order – which is hopefully the least advantageous one. 
Good job I’m thinking about reworking that portion of the game then. 
Assuming we want to keep the “winner picks turn order last” if victory points are secret then we have to pick up another characteristic to count as ‘winning’ for determining the turn order – some examples are examples are how many stone heads you control, number of hexes you control, the number of men you have, the amount of cards you have, the number of resources you have.
Number of stone heads you control is tempting – it’s got a connection to VP’s after all.  But the ultimate goal of this is to smooth out and speed up this entire section – and there seem no better way of doing this then using a number you were going to work out anyway.  So the amount of resources it is….
The simplest way of doing this is to take the build cards in the order highest to lower and then use the same order for movement.  So the person who gets the best build card – also gets the first movement (which is generally the worst). 
 This is an idea I’ve been thinking about for ages – but I’ve always avoided before (I don’t think I’ve ever brought it in before – sometimes I forget – the versions blur together if I’m honest.)
I’m rather uncertain about this because it could well introduce a perverse incentive – where players try and maintain a low resource total (and thus not attacking or taking territory removing a key part of the game) in order to move last because it’s a bigger advantage then taking the first pick of build cards.  Fix that by making the gap between the build cards bigger and you end up with a positive feedback mechanism where players with the most resources get the best cards and they keep on staying at the top because they have more men and more cards.
Resources actually provide two things - superior access to build cards but they also provide the space to build the giant stone heads that win you the game.  At the end of the game that space is at a premium and highly valuable – but in the beginning space has little value because there is so much of it.  This means that at the end of the game the need for space will mean that players will be fighting over resources – if not for access to the build card then access to the space to build a giant stone head for the vps. 
So we need to make the earlier picks high picks of build cards more valuable then just cards on general – but I think not the first pick because that's just based on placement – rather then having emerged from play.
So what sort of bonus could they get?
It could be bonus victory points – but that feels rather bland.
It could be ongoing additional resources – extra men/cards/giant stone heads – which sounds like it might be a bit of an overly positive feedback mechanism.
It could be a one off chunk of people/cards/giant stone heads – but that is both a little bland and also positive feedback.
The idea I think would work would be a powerful one off card. This does present a couple of problems – not least of which is coming up with a roughly 6/9 new cards with interesting effects that over powered but not to overpowered.......
Secret VP's
Special one off cards if you take a build card higher in the sequence at the start of the 2nd/3rd turn.
Needs to rework the rongaronga card – and in general I need to think about the entire portion of the game which is how the cards open up opportunities for you – because I think the game is at it's best when it's about spotting opportunities for mischief and going for it......