Little Blog Adventure

A gaming "sketchblog"

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Playtesting Round 3- FIGHT!

PROTIP: If your game board is larger than the average restaurant table, don't go to Anchorpoint to test your game.

We ended up playing the game in an empty corner on the 3rd floor of Queensway. Not the best location, perhaps, but we made do.

As for the playtesting itself, we think we've got unit balancing down pat- we made a change to the Dean unit to make him more formidable, as befits his rank. He now attacks using a 4-sided die with a x4 multiplier. So he either hits for 4, 8, 12 or 16 damage. Quite a bit more satisfying than him attacking with a 20-sided die and repeatedly landing 1s and 2s, methinks. He also moves 2 squares per turn, to prevent a situation where he gets hemmed in by opponents and is unable to attack them (since he only attacks in diagonal directions). This is necessary since the death of the Dean (oh dear we need to revise our terminology!) spells defeat for a player. The Alex unit, who's L-shaped knight-like attack is delivered with the 20-sided die, is the most useful unit in the game but also the most vulnerable with his limited health. These changes make the game a bit more strategic and exciting- since your strongest units are also your weakest and most vulnerable.

We've also decided to cut down unit health points by 5 across the board to make gameplay more speedy- especially since we're going to place LTs on the board which will give health bonuses to units which land on them. Also, we've changed the rules which determine defeat: a player can only be defeated if his/her Dean is killed or his/her Dean's office captured- we took out the 3rd option of defeating all units other than the Dean since a Dean faced off against a weakened opponent, say with one Dean and a student, could conceivably still win the day

In addition to LTs, we'll also have squares which bestow upon a unit a damage bonus, card squares and a University Health Centre square which gives health bonuses to all of a players units (we may have to make this a one-time-use square to prevent abuse). We're implementing a rule for the health squares whereby a player who lands there must vacate the square within the next turn. This to prevent camping.

Speaking of camping, that's one of 2 main issues we were left to grapple with after the session. There's a risk that in a 3 or 4 player game, one player may choose to simply sit in his section of the board, watch all the other players annihilate each other and then destroy the survivor, who will no doubt be weakened beyond any possibility of gaining a victory. We discussed several possible solutions- including a penalty for staying in your own section for too long (we mooted this one) and having attacking players get a bonus whenever they defeat another player.

We rather liked this idea and Weiwei came up with this implementation: a player who defeats another player gets to revive a dead unit of his choice. This makes no difference to a player who's at full strength (presumably a player that good needs no extra help!) but is quite a big deal for one who's faculty strength is at it's ebb. It also encourages reckless use of the Alex unit if a player is in a position to sacrifice it to defeat another player. However, this still doesn't fully solve the camping problem!

An example to illustrate- a camper at full-strength versus a player who has a Dean, a Student and Alex (at full strength, just being revived). Unless the camper is very, very stupid, there's really no way the other player can win. We mulled over this problem for quite a while and finally decided on this solution: let the players solve it themselves. :P

OK that sounds like lazy design but there's a (hopefully) sound reason for this! See, we can't think of a reasonable penalty for being a camper. And really, being a camper should be a valid tactic. But with a few judicious hints (or if those don't work, a few OBVIOUS ones) players will soon realise the folly of letting another player camp. So we're going to add a rule to allow adhoc alliances. Players can choose to gang up on other players. A camper will soon find himself overwhelmed if 2 (or even 3!) other players decide to attack him/her simultaneously. The battle, then, gains a psychological element. What about the reverse case- players repeatedly ganging up on 1 lone player?

Well, bullying is certainly possible, but it's up to that player to try making other players a better deal than the one they have at the moment! After all, alliances can't win the game. Only individual players can. So any alliance is doomed to dissolution. No point being loyal to a player(s) game after game.

So that's that, we hope. I mentioned a 2nd main issue we have. We've got to redesign our cards. We need to do that anyway- there's not enough of them at the moment and not enough helpful cards to make taking the risk of landing on a card square worth the while of a player. But we also need to take into account the fact that we've added attack squares and more health squares, which make some of the cards irrelevant.

Here's my idea- there will be a few cards that produce rather drastic effects and a lot more which have movement effects (forcing the unit that landed there skip a turn for bad cases and making other players skip their turns for good cases). We'll have to test out our new game system again to work out further niggles, but I think we've got a fairly fun game on our hands here. :-)


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