Monday, February 17

Major Changes Afoot

This week involved my quarterly visit to Sheffield as part of the clinical trial that I'm on for a new MS drug. It means four hours of train travel one morning, as well as the hospital visit, which leaves me stuffed for hours for the week at work. So no Vacuum playtest this week :-(

Of course, the wonder of modern trains is that you can sit in a fairly comfy seat, with a coffee and your laptop (plugged in, so you don't run out of battery after fifteen minutes!) and actually get something useful done. I choose to use these days to write blog posts (including this one) and do prototype graphic design :-)

Last week's blog post was my most popular so far this year, with the most interest on Twitter I've ever had - 5 favourites, 5 retweets and three shout outs - so there's some pressure on this week to keep the quality high! I had hoped to do an analysis of Reiver Games sales over time, but unfortunately I'd failed to copy the relevant files to my new laptop when the old one died, so I can't (at least, not today, I still have them backed up somewhere).

So instead, I'll be talking about Zombology again. At last week's Newcastle Playtest I'd played Zombology for the first time since the very beginning of December - it had sat unloved on the shelf for a couple of months awaiting the artwork for the NaGa DeMon winners copies (and my playtest copy of course). We played two games and afterwards I got a couple of pages of suggestions and criticisms from the very thorough discussion.

There was more criticism about the lack of zombie theming (which I've heard before from other people) plus criticism of the complexity:

  • Multiple decks - it's not clear when to draw from which one
  • I was the only player who knew how many rounds we had left and I had to count it each time someone asked
  • Having two different types of cards in hand, some of which you were only allowed to use in specific rounds

Seeing as I'm pitching this up against games like 6 Nimmt! and No Thanks! this complexity is a major problem, 6 Nimmt! and No Thanks! are both very simple games that you can explain in a few sentences and are easy to pick up, even for non-gamers. Theme is less important in a 10 minute game (I've no idea what the themes of 6 Nimmt! and No Thanks! are, despite loads of plays). I think the zombie-flavoured artwork will go some way to alleviate the lack of theme, but there's more I can and should be doing in that arena.

One thing did get positive feedback though, the new scoring was much simpler which was a good thing - everyone was able to calculate their own scores (as opposed to earlier games where I worked it all out for everyone).

I spent most of Wednesday's train journeys working on a new version that addresses these complaints by:

  • Adding a round tracker so everyone can see how far through the game you are
  • Adding some zombie-themed events to theme it up a bit
  • Removed the two types of cards complication
  • Simplified the drawing of new cards

I've added some upgrade cards and some event cards to tie the theme in tighter (you can now get hazmat suits or suffer a zombie monkey ravaging your lab!) plus I use the round counter to introduce some urgency with decks that are named after how bad it's getting out in the real world. I'm hoping to add some art to the back of the cards which also brings that home.

It's a major departure from the last version, but at its core it's still a 10-15 minute game for 3-10 players that features drafting as its core mechanism. I printed it out on Saturday, now I just need to see if it works!


GamesBook said...

I will have a group of 8 (rare occurence!) for a games day on 29 March. Let me know if you want me to playtest the "new" version...

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Derek,

Thanks for the offer. This reminds me that I need to email the NaGa DeMon winners...