I had no evening plans for my second night in London, so I had a good few hours to spend on my Jorvik and Artist prototypes. I finished off colouring in the Jorvik prototype and coloured in the Artist prototype and did a bunch of solo playtesting on Jorvik. Soloing a game doesn't give you the full experience (and in particular it's bad for hidden information or bluffing games), but it will give you an idea about whether the basic mechanics work and will give you a feel for card distributions, etc. If you keep ending up with the same cards that you haven't used, then there are probably too many of them. Generally I think things are starting to work, there doesn't seem to be any first player bias (both first and second player were winning games), but there is definitely more work to do. A few of the stage three cards appear to be too numerous, and there were several cards I wanted that I hadn't made, so I'll probably swap out some for those new types. Another problem seems to be that whoever scores highest in the first stage also scores highest in the second and third stages, and hence wins. The second stage is supposed to be the great leveller, but it's not working that way at the moment. I'll probably down-grade the stage one cards to make them less powerful.
I've also tweaked my Artist prototype to fix some problems we had with it last time I played. There was an advantage if you were lucky enough to be given two scoring areas adjacent to each other as some pieces only scored if you controlled both areas. I could have just removed those pieces, but I liked them, so instead I made all the scoring cards double so they covered two areas. I've also coloured in the pieces to work around some problems that came from the pieces just having the colour written on them (which wasn't visible enough). Doubling the size of the scoring cards' areas means that each player now has less to remember (a cause of frequent card checking), and a player shield (which I'll make when I get home) will mean that the cards can be kept face up and yet hidden, so memory will be less of a problem. I've also got some ideas to make things a bit more interesting which I can try out next time I test it.
I feel like I've made some progress on both games tonight, although from my description it might not sound like it!
In other news, It's Alive! got the thirty ratings needed to become ranked on BoardGameGeek today. Its officially the 1558th best board in the world. I would expect that to move up in the coming months as it gets more ratings (which will slowly outweigh the dummy Bayesian ratings), hopefully we'll break the 1000 barrier in a few months. Fingers crossed.