This week, for the first time in many, many years, three game designs have been in my head simultaneously: Zombology, Codename: Vacuum and my new idea for a two-player St. George and the Dragon themed game that I mentioned last week - which I'm calling Codename: Dragon.
At Newcastle Playtest on Tuesday we played Zombology. I'd missed the second Newcastle Playtest in November, so it was the first time any of them had seen it since the very first version/play at the beginning of November. Dan had played in those two early games and Alex and Michał had turned up during the second of those two early games so they had seen the early version, but not played it. We were playing a four player game, so I tried out one of the ideas Konrad had provided via email during NaGa DeMon: taking out one of the suits with fewer players. It seemed to work well.
The scoring still feels pretty clunky though, so I've been thinking about how to make that a smoother experience. I think the next thing I'm going to try is numbering the cards from 1-10 again, instead of 1-5. I switched to 1-5 in the first place to make it easier to count up the value of the cards you had collected. But since then, I stopped scoring the face value of the cards you collected and just counting the number of cards. The downsides of having low numbered cards is when working out which suit was the most successful. You end up saying: 'Which suit has a five? Those four, right, which of those four has a four? Three of them do, ok, so that rules one out, how many fours do those three have? That one has two, so does that one, but that one only has one - right now we know suits suits are scoring.' Seamless! Clearly this is a right chew-on. If the cards went 1 to 10 then it would be easier to see which had the high cards, instead of two 3s and two 4s per suit there would be a 6, 7, 8 and a 9 which would mean you'd be able to spot the differences more easily (I hope!).
I'm also considering making the requirements for higher numbered cards a number of cards played. Currently, to play a 5, for example, any player has to have played a 3 or a 4 in that suit. If instead, the 5 (or will it be 10?) required a certain number of cards out in that suit it might make them easier to play (while still meaning that you need to play the low numbered cards first). In fact, while I type this, I've had another idea, maybe you score face value of your cards in the most successful suits and -1 point per card in the rest (a bit like Coloretto).
Anyway, I've now got loads of ideas of further things to do with Zombology over the coming months. I'm also speaking to an artist about getting some exclusive art done for the NaGa DeMon winners. I've started contacting them to get their shipping addresses, but with the art to sort out it's going to be at least January before I ship them.
During NaGa DeMon I'd pretty much shelved Vacuum - I didn't play it during November at all, a noticeable break from the usual once or twice a week - so that I could concentrate on making headway with Zombology. Last time I played I got some really good feedback from Dan, my co-host for Newcastle Playtest. He pointed out there there are effectively six resources in Vacuum (the five card symbols, plus cashy money), and that the Population and Trade mechanics are a bit dull - just get as much as you can. It's made me think about several things, but the one I'm most keen to try is that you get points for your income, rather than your stockpiled cash. That would mean that you no longer need to keep track of the money you've accrued, just how much you can make in a turn. I'd need to change several things to interact better with that idea, but I'm going to try it out first to see if it's worth the effort. I meant to play Vacuum last week at lunchtime, but had to blow it off after leaving work just after lunch on Monday to take The Daughter to the doctors after a fall at nursery and a bumped head :-( She's fine, but that stuffed my hours for the week.
Dragon popped into my head just over a week ago. I was trying to think of another quick and simple game that I could do for NaGa DeMon next year. I was thinking that instead of trying for a game that plays lots of people, I could go for one that plays two, that would be easy to get playtests lined up for. The idea in my head was a simultaneous action selection game with dice-based combat and uneven player powers (clearly, George can't breathe fire). With the thought so quickly established, I decided to give up on getting it done next November and instead crack on. I've installed Evernote on my phone and started sketching out ideas for how the game could work. I'm not that far from making my first playtest copy I hope, though this close to Christmas I'm struggling to find much time for games design.
With three games on the go I worry that I'll struggle to make decent progress on any of them, especially with limited free time. Still, if you've got the ideas in your head, you just have to run with them!