Monday, February 3

Cut Out The Middle Prototype

As I mentioned last week, Codename: Vacuum has returned to the fore after a couple of months in the wilderness. I've been making some quite significant changes to a couple of the core decks recently: Trade and Population and I've finally got around to working on a version where the corresponding advanced decks reflect those changes.

When I make a new version with large changes my process tends to be two stage:

  1. Make a new version with the new rules and what I think will be a decent set of cards that apply to it
  2. Make a second version quite quickly after that which fixes all the problems I had failed to foresee

I started down that road last week, doing the new cards on the computer ready for printing to take to Thursday lunchtime's playtest with Dave. However, now The Daughter is back at nursery the inevitable happened and she came down with a filthy cold complete with fever and sleepless nights (I swear her nursery is actually a secret black lab for testing bioweapons), so printing went out the window.

I turned up to Thursday's playtest with the same old version as before, but a bunch of new rules and new versions of cards in my head. Dave, my co-conspirator has played Vacuum probably 70-odd times, he knows it really well. So we just played the new version. I told him what the new cards would do, and we just ignored the cards as printed and played with the new ones. It flagged up a few problems, and along with a new strategy that Dave was trying (using AI to draw lots of cards with his usual very lean deck) it flagged up a few problems - before I'd even printed them out!

This meant that I could correct the cards on the computer on Friday and Saturday during The Daughter's naps, and I've only got to print and cut them out once - saving card, ink and precious time (or so I thought...). As well as tweaking the cards to change a few things I've also added some more artwork to the player mats (which were being re-designed anyway) and the backs of the event cards. Of course, this new version will have other rough edges, so I don't want to over-invest in its artwork - I'll have to make another version reasonably soon to fix those problems...

Having an experienced playtester like Dave was really useful though, testing things out before I had printed them. I've also tweaked the AI card as well now to fix the other problem that Dave found.

Sunday night I had time to print it and get it cut out. Or at least I should have been able to do the printing. I'd bought some cheap 'Canon-equivalent' inks on Amazon. They were £18 for 15 cartridges (instead of £12 for one!). I'd already noticed that the ink bled more than the official ink (so the text looks a little blurry) but it turns out they also block up the nozzles more, so I spend Sunday evening running nozzle clean after nozzle clean with the test pages in between and ended up wasting loads of card - each time I thought I'd fixed it the artwork came out green again. In the end I replaced the (brand new!) magenta cartridge with another one, ran a couple more cleaning cycles and eventually got it printed. Now I've just got to cut it all out tonight ready for Newcastle Playtest tomorrow.

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