Monday, September 29

A Breaking Change?

Not much to report on the game design front again (apologies to those of my readers who are coming here for game design!). I've not played many games this week, just Eclipse (for the second week on the trot) at Games Night. I tried to arrange another Zombology for lunchtime during the week, but yet again couldn't raise a quorum for it.

I have had an idea for Zombology though. Ok, that's a little disingenuous. Several of my playtesters have had the same idea, and after months of brushing it off as something that would over-complicate the game, I've finally decided to give it a try.

It's all been sparked by The Wife's criticism that she didn't feel like she had any control. When she said it it made me think back to a bunch of other people who had had the same criticism. So I thought about it, and 'I've had' this idea that might help. Zombology is a drafting game, like 7 Wonders, where every turn you play a card from your hand and pass the rest on to the player on your left. I like the fact that the draft gives you some knowledge about what's available in this particular game (since not all the cards are dealt in each game), and it allows you to play cards based on the knowledge of what you've passed to your neighbour. The downside is that if you're dealt a handful of great cards that can't be played yet, you have no choice but to give them to someone else.

The idea I've shamelessly stolen from my playtesters is to play a card, and keep a card, from each hand, passing all but one of the remaining cards on. Suddenly there's twice as many decisions to make in the game, which card to play and which one to keep each round. Do you keep the same one over many rounds and play it at the end, or play the kept card and chose a different one to keep next round? Do you keep an event card to prevent another player from playing it, or keep an excellent science card for the end game?

The pros of this idea are hopefully:
  • You feel a lot more in control
  • Twice as many interesting decisions
  • Opportunities to block opponents' attacks
  • No changes to the cards necessary

The cons are likely to be:
  • The cards going round are more crap as everyone is hogging the good ones
  • More decisions means longer play time
  • Might require sweeping changes to the cards

Notice something about the last item on each list? The change is an incredibly minor one, just a couple of new lines in the rule book, no card changes or new artwork required. But I fear it will drastically change the dynamic of the game, making it far easier to win and unbalancing all the strategies I've spent nearly a year balancing to a fine point. Once I've tried it a few times I should know whether I need to go back to the drawing board again, re-building the decks from the ground up to fix the balance again. Of course, it might not even help with the control aspect, so at least I don't need to make any changes to try it out.

In other news, this week's free time has mostly been spent making a board game app for my phone. I make a trip or two a month to Manchester with my boss (usually) on the train. That's six hours that's often spent playing games on my iPad. I'm making an app for my phone for a simple game that I can't get on the iPad. It's not something that I'm going to publish, seeing as I don't have the license to do it, but it'll be fun for my own enjoyment and I'm learning new stuff as I make it. It's already playable if you know the rules, but it doesn't restrict you at all, so it's very easy to make illegal moves. That's the next step - make it force you to play by the rules!

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