Clearly a game which features a human knight and a dragon also needs to mirror the asymmetry of that match up - the knight needs to feel in mortal danger throughout as he takes on a vastly more powerful foe. At the same time the dragon needs to feel frustrated as the nimble knight dances around his vast unwieldy bulk delivering small wounds which slow add up over time to a threat.
So the game needs to be, and feel, different to each player. Initially the asymmetry was fairly superficial. The knight had far fewer hit points than the dragon, and the dragon was limited in his actions by a smaller pool of dice that were required to perform an action, requiring the dragon to pause more frequently to recuperate and regain his dice.
Some of the first feedback I got back during NaGa DeMon 2014 was that the game felt too samey, so I tried to change the actions available to each player to make the dragon feel more powerful but clumsier - which I chose to do by making his actions work well with good dice and do nothing with poor dice. Sadly this just broke the bluffing aspect for the dragon player, as his choice of dice (the possible bluff) was now: He's doing x or wasting a turn - so clearly, he was doing x.
When I came back to Dragon Dance at the beginning of this year, turning it on its head improved some things (the theme feels tighter now, as does the reading the tells bit) but broke others - the dragon's options were too few and too samey. It felt much less interesting as the dragon.
Over the last couple of weeks I've been trying to think of a way to make the dragon's options:
- More thematic
- More powerful
- More lumbering and unwieldly
While somehow making it not so powerful that it always wins effortlessly in the first couple of turns!
I had hoped to do something in the early mornings while away in America, but by that point inspiration had yet to strike so I had to settle for just finishing the Print on Demand version of Zombology and reading books.
Inspiration finally struck at the beginning of last week, which meant I was well placed to work on it while I was away in Manchester at the end of last week (I missed Newcastle Playtest last week because after five and a half days away in America I had another couple of days away the week after - I chose to spend some time with my family in between instead).
I want the dragon to feel clumsy and slow, very powerful, very dangerous, but clumsy and slow. Fewer action cubes (the dice equivalents in the new version) is part of that, but the new cards with three possible actions on them (an attack, a defence and an action) mean that the dragon feels very similar to the knight, and since the dragon's cards were all very similar, the choice of card wasn't very interesting either.
So I've decided to further rein in the dragon by reducing his options. Now each of his cards contain two out of the three options: attack, defend and action. As a result, I hope the choice of card will be more interesting (Attack/Defend? Attack/Action? or Defend/Action?) but the dragon will feel more restrained and hence clumsier, which will also give the knight a little more information, hopefully making the game less heavily weighted towards the dragon (I want the dragon to win a bit more than the knight, but not 100% of the time like it is at the moment!).
In other news, during a meeting with my boss's boss on Friday he ordered a copy of Zombology! There's only one of the limited edition left now, almost done!