This week has been a game of two ends, like football (that's soccer for my largely American audience).
In the first half, I've been chatting via email with the two designers I played a prototype with at last week's Newcastle Gamers about setting up a Newcastle playtest meetup once a month at a local pub. Dan seems to be very keen (and far more organised than me!) so this might actually happen, starting next month. I'm going to try to get both a new version of Codename: Vacuum and a version of my new Codename: Proteome idea together for the inaugural session. The Proteome idea is a complete reboot, significantly different from the prototype I made and played once in February last year, although bizarrely uses a very similar set of cards. The Vacuum idea would be a major change as I mentioned last week to separate out the Trade (and to a lesser degree Population) strategy from a dependence on owning locations and hence the Military strategy.
Which leads me on nicely to the second half - Ding, ding! Change ends.
The second half of the week has been all about the Trade strategy of Codename Vacuum. I've been through several ideas in my head some which add extra components, some which add extra complexity and some which simplify everything to the point of making the Trade strategy dull as ditchwater. The Trade strategy as it stands in my current prototype was designed to add another form of direct interaction between players on top of the Military struggle for controlling locations. As it stands it doesn't really succeed - you trade with the neutrals if you can, and the player with the least cash if you can't. There's not a lot of interesting decisions to be had there, or in fact, much in the way of player interaction.
So I've spent my hours walking to and from work thinking of half a dozen new ideas to make Trade interesting again. The constraint being that if you get your arse handed to you in a Military beat down, you can still Trade effectively. I've gone through ideas featuring adding corporations to locations with little discs in the players' colours, taking corporation cards out and into play like locations, adding resource types to locations and a few others. I want try out a few of them, but ideally without coming up with significantly different art/cards until I'm happy with the idea. I played with Chief on Thursday lunchtime, trying one of them out.
Ideally, I want something that: separates Trade from a dependency on locations, adds player interaction, simplifies the game mechanics, doesn't make the locations too similar, oh and I want the moon on a stick. Surely, that's not too much to ask?
The first idea I tried on Thursday: letting players bring the corporations into play like locations, and then getting coins for them every turn with points for the number of corporations you had 'incorporated' at the end of the game. It didn't really seem to work at all, though Chief said he liked the idea. Back to the drawing board I think.
Anyway, all these ideas have got me thinking about significantly changing Vacuum. A fresh injection of ideas can only help at this stage: at best I'll introduce some changes that significantly improve things, at worst I'll try out some ideas and ultimately reject them.